IMing in the Real World-- Mine
In an effort to answer Doc and David's need understand Instant Messaging and Buddy Lists, here is how IMing works in my world.
IM offers me opportunity to keep connected with people. Buddy Lists are threads loosely joined in the fabric of my life.
1. I work remotely (by choice) with several Fortune 500 clients all over the country. These clients pay me for access to my knowledge about community building and usability. Instead of emailing or calling me, I openly invite them to IM me to ask a question or for an opinion. It is exceptionally useful when I am testing something remotely, and the client is making major changes. IMing makes the work go fast-- and it's cheaper than a phone call.
2. During teleconferences or training by phone: one of the groups I work with quietly and privately forms an IM chat group and will make private notes and comments via IM to one another or the IM chat group. Remind people to turn off the computer audio to avoid embarrassing results. ;-) I can be a very effective way of getting key points made when the Q&A session starts. Or you can use it to discreetly direct a conversation.
4. IM as Parental Control. Don't laugh. I have friends and family members who use IM to check on their older kids when they are at work. Cases in fact:
1. One friend works at the University of Iowa Computer Center, 65 miles from home. His 15 year old, Jason, comes home from school and IMs his father at work. Then Jason does his homework, chores and he can ask his parents about what he can or can't do/or ask permission to have/watch/eat/go while his parents finish their last two hours at work.
2. Another lady I work with remotely lives in Denver. She is a single mom with three kids 22 miles away from her office. She uses IM talk her kids at home after school, and she just installed a webcam. She has been doing this for three years very successfully. This technology allows mom to know what's going on at home and get her work done. On days she is on the road, she can IM via her cell phone or the kids check in with Grandpa, who lives in Hawaii. BTW it must be working because her oldest daughter just got accepted to Yale.
3. I get "check-in" reports from my niece and nephew everyday when they get home from school via IM from Rock Island, Illinois to Diamond Bar, CA-- a scant 1700 miles away or Doug's nephew in the next town West. Because I'm home working, I'm their "Official Back Up Adult" when Mom and Dad aren't available or in case of emergency. The kids in Illinois use it to check on me whenever the California landscape starts shaking or their is a blizzard/tornado back there.
The key that makes all of this work-- is a cable modem or dsl installed with a firewall at home so it is not eating up a businesses bandwidth.
5. My high school class is planning for our 30th class reunion this year. Many of us live all over the country. We wanted to be involved in planning the reunion and we hated cla$$mates.com. We decided to save the some money on cla$$mates and long-distance phone bills, so-- we posted our IM names in a private email list. Because some people were on MSN and others on AOL or ICQ, we all are using Trillian (www.trillian.cc) in order to keep in touch and plan for our big three day reunion. Out of a class of over 850 people, we have nearly 350 IM names, and 600 email address-- and it looks like we will have the largest turnout ever for a class reunion in the high schools history. The group as decided instead of having one of those expensive printed memory books-- we're putting up a website with a page for every class member. IM made it possible to make group decisions and include everyone in the planning.
5. Keeping in touch: I have large number of people we try to keep in contact with from previous jobs, friends. Even the breeder of our new baby Schnauzer, Andy, who lives in Iowa, keeps in touch with us and sees pictures of her prized puppy via IM.
From where I sit my Buddy Lists are loosely woven communities. My Buddy Lists are a direct reflection of the people or representative groups of people who interact in my life.
Most people do not give out their IM point of contact because: 1. they protect their privacy or feel they are too busy to take an IM. 2. They feel they are being "watched" on IM. 3. They are concerned about security issues, normally from a lack of knowledge or understanding how to safely setup an IM program. And 4. people feel that by giving someone your IM name, you are giving them permission to interrupt you. The forget that they have the tools available to control who can and can't contact you, in a manner that works best for them.
BTW-- if you look in the left column, you will see you can IM me from here. Thanks to Jennifer for the help in setting it up.