Monday, October 30, 2006

Since I've been working from home for over a decade, I've built up a lot of experience with instant messaging, the Cadillac of communication systems. On a typical day I'll IM with anywhere from 5 to 15 people, ranging from friends to coworkers to family. I have become the Michael Jordan of IMing, or at the very least, the Michael Jackson of IMing (Insert Mark Foley joke here).

During my cyber travels I have encountered many people who are not the Michael Anything of instant messaging, and, in fact, really suck at it. It is for these people (none of whom read this blog) that I officially present....

Mike's Etiquette Guide to Instant Messaging With Mike

Instant messaging is one of society's newer forms of communication. Consequently, many people believe that the rules of etiquette are not fully formed. For example, if you and I were talking face to face, it would probably be inappropriate for me to start masturbating during the conversation. Would the same be true for an IM conversation? Let's review the rules and find out!

Rule #1 - Don't Leave Me Hanging

One of my ex-coworkers had the annoying habit of asking me a question in IM and then not sticking around for my reply. A typical exchange with him would go like this:

Ex: How's the project coming along?
Me: Which one?

* Me staring at computer screen*

Me: Nice chatting with you.

This happened all the time. He treated IM like a telegraph machine. He'd fire off a message, and then check back hours/days later for the reply. Dear Ex. Stop. Project is going well. Stop. Please send food and water. Stop.

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes things in the non-virtual world take precedence over an IM conversation, but these types of exchanges were the norm with this guy. It was never clear to me exactly what he went to go do after typing a message. I generally assumed he was either wandering away from his computer, or having a bong hit, or maybe dying a little bit. Regardless, it was super annoying.

If you're going to start an IM conversation with me, then, for god sakes, finish it in a timely manner. If you can't finish it, then give me some sort of indication that you're going to go do bong hits. That's ok, I just need a heads-up.

Rule #2 - Essays Are For English Class

Let's review the name of the technology here. Is it called Lengthy Messenger? Nope. Carefully Considered Composition messenger? Uh uh. How about Dissertation Messenger? No, that's not right either. It's called Instant Messenger.

Some of my IM friends like to compose vast epics. Since my IM program indicates when my IM buddies are typing to me, I can sit there and imagine their wondrous prose before I even get to view it.

"Ok, 5 minutes have gone by. They've probably wrapped up the exposition by now.... Alright 10 minutes. Man, I'm feeling famished, but it can't be long now. Surely he's getting to the climax of his post..... Oh, I knew I should have plugged in my catheter today. Come on, denouement!"

Long typers are the worst. Break up those IM posts, folks! One sentence at a time would be perfect. If you're using more than one period in most posts, you may be a long typer. I'd also appreciate no more than 2 commas or one semi-colon per post.

The worst kind of long typers are the ones that start their missives by first firing off a short attention grabber.

You: Hey Mike
Me: Yo!
You: Four score and seven years ago I started typing this message blah blah blah....

Quit it! If you're going to spend the next five minutes typing, why did you grab my attention first? So I could sit here in anticipation of the Gettysburg Message? That really cuts into my internet porn time.

Rule #3 - Context Is King

I get a lot of IMs that say something like this: "problem fix"

Then we have a 5 minute conversation like this:

Me: "Problem fix"? Is there a verb in that sentence? Is it "fix"?
You: Yeah
Me: So, you need a problem fixed or you fixed a problem or you're some sort of problem junkie and you need a fix?
You: Ha ha
Me: Which one? Dammit! Do you need a problem fixed?
You: No. I fixed it.
Me: Super! Which problem would that be? One of the 30 work issues we've discussed today? My remorseless eating problem? Global warming? HOW ABOUT A LITTLE CONTEXT?!?!

I can't see your facial expression, or the post-its on your monitor, or any other piece of data that might give me the slightest clue what you're talking about. All I can see are the characters that you type, so imbue them with meaning, please. I'm going to need nouns and verbs in every sentence. Easy on the pronouns, please.

Rule #4 - Learn To Type

I know lots of people can't type. Some of those people are still pretty quick at the hunt-n-peck method. I'm willing to cut them some slack. However, the keyboard is the most important communication invention since the mouth. If you're not going to IM with all your fingers, then maybe I'll decide to start talking without my tongue. How would that be? Annoying, right?

Let's learn to use our tools. It's what separates us from the lower animals.

That's all for now. As for the question of whether or not it's ok to masturbate while IMing, well that depends entirely on how well you type with one hand.


tinyhands said...

More proof that IM is perfect:
IM = 999 (roman numerals). 9 is an excellent number in many asian cultures. 3 of them even moreso. Also 999 is the upside down number of the beast (not the number of the upsidedown beast) which negates the beastiness making it good.

zelda1 said...

I have yet to IM, not that I don't know how, my son taught me, but I just don't know what to say or who to say it to. So, I don't, but it's nice to have the rules.

Mike said...

Louie, please do the analysis on SMS now.

Zelda1, these aren't THE rules, just the rules to IM with me.

Janelle Renee said...

I'm going to print out these rules for the next time I'm on IM. I still have a phobia about the silly thing, but alas, it's just me who's silly.

(I also see that I'm a big Rule #2 violator. If you're reading this, Moral Turpitude, I'm sorry!)

Kat Campbell said...

IMing drives me nuts. I like complete sentences. I like long disertations about... just about anything. I'm pretty sure that if I were IMing you, you'd have new rules to add to this list. So I won't. IM you.

Tasty said...

"...that depends entirely on how well you type with one hand." Unless you have toys. Too much information? (Good thing I make myself laugh?!)

Mike said...

JR, attack those fears! Grrr! ATTACK!

Kat, I'm also in favor of complete sentences in IM. Verbs and nouns go together like instant and messaging. Dissertations, however, are not INSTANT.

Tasty, that toy option is less useful for me, but thanks for sharing. ;)

carey said...

I brk rule #2 2. but thx 4 gdelnes.

Mike said...

Carey, although I'll admit that those abbreviations are annoying, I won't actually make a rule against using them. I'm a modern and reasonable man.