Instant Messaging

Vol. 1 No. 8 – November 2003

Instant Messaging

Interviews

A Conversation with Peter Ford

Instant messaging (IM) may represent our brave new world of communications, just as e-mail did a few short years ago. Many IM players are vying to establish the dominant standard in this new world, as well as introducing new applications to take advantage of all IM has to offer. Among them, hardly surprising, is Microsoft, which is moving toward the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) as its protocol choice for IM.

A Conversation with Peter Ford

Instant messaging (IM) may represent our brave new world of communications, just as e-mail did a few short years ago. Many IM players are vying to establish the dominant standard in this new world, as well as introducing new applications to take advantage of all IM has to offer. Among them, hardly surprising, is Microsoft, which is moving toward the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) as its protocol choice for IM.

Articles

Beyond Instant Messaging

The recent rise in popularity of IM (instant messaging) has driven the development of platforms and the emergence of standards to support IM. Especially as the use of IM has migrated from online socializing at home to business settings, there is a need to provide robust platforms with the interfaces that business customers use to integrate with other work applications. Yet, in the rush to develop a mature IM infrastructure, it is also important to recognize that IM features and uses are still evolving. For example, popular press stories1 have raised the concern that IM interactions may be too distracting in the workplace. This concern suggests that we still need to fine-tune the interface design for IM so the benefits of quick, lightweight communication can be gained without creating a distracting burden for users. How can the industry meet the demand for robust platforms and standards for IM without locking out innovation and development?

Beyond Instant Messaging
JOHN C. TANG, SUN LABS
JAMES “BO” BEGOLE, SUN LABS

Platforms and standards for these services must anticipate and accommodate future developments.

The recent rise in popularity of IM (instant messaging) has driven the development of platforms and the emergence of standards to support IM. Especially as the use of IM has migrated from online socializing at home to business settings, there is a need to provide robust platforms with the interfaces that business customers use to integrate with other work applications. Yet, in the rush to develop a mature IM infrastructure, it is also important to recognize that IM features and uses are still evolving. For example, popular press stories1 have raised the concern that IM interactions may be too distracting in the workplace. This concern suggests that we still need to fine-tune the interface design for IM so the benefits of quick, lightweight communication can be gained without creating a distracting burden for users. How can the industry meet the demand for robust platforms and standards for IM without locking out innovation and development?

In this discussion, we want to demonstrate how research prototypes that explore future directions can be used to guide and inform current efforts to develop an infrastructure. Our experience in using and studying IM has identified future opportunities in what we will refer to as “awareness services.” That is, beyond the instant text-chat capability and sense of presence among online colleagues that IM provides, what other cues of activity should collaborators share to help coordinate their work? When a person you want to contact is not present, what information can the system provide to help you coordinate contact in the future? Even when you are physically present, can the system provide cues for when you are mentally receptive, or “available,” to being interrupted?

by John C. Tang, James "Bo" Begole

Broadcast Messaging: Messaging to the Masses

“We want this and that. We demand a share in that and most of that. Some of this and - - - - in’ all of that. And their demands will all be changed then, so - - - - in’ stay awake.”1 Comedian Billy Connolly wasn’t talking about messaging when he said this, but I don’t think there is a more appropriate quote for the voracious hunger we have for information as a result of the messaging-enabled, network-connected world that we take for granted every day.

Broadcast Messaging: Messaging to the Masses
FRANK JANIA, IBM

This powerful form of communication has social implications as well as technical challenges.

“We want this and that. We demand a share in that and most of that. Some of this and - - - - in’ all of that. And their demands will all be changed then, so - - - - in’ stay awake.”1 Comedian Billy Connolly wasn’t talking about messaging when he said this, but I don’t think there is a more appropriate quote for the voracious hunger we have for information as a result of the messaging-enabled, network-connected world that we take for granted every day.

We have instantaneous access to petabytes of stored data through Web searches. With respect to messaging, we have an unprecedented number of communication tools that provide both synchronous and asynchronous access to people. E-mail, message boards, newsgroups, IRC (Internet relay chat), and IM (instant messaging) are just a few examples. These tools are all particularly significant because they have become essential productivity entitlements. They have caused a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Many readers can attest to feeling disconnected when a mail server goes down or when access to IM is unavailable. For some of us, network outages are now as inconvenient as a blackout.

by Frank Jania

Curmudgeon

IM, Not IP (Information Pollution)

Respected technology commentators say that they now prefer instant messaging (IM) over e-mail as their medium of choice for computer-mediated communication.1 The main reasons are that e-mail has become an overloaded channel for readers and that you can’t be sure to get a timely response from the recipients of your e-mail.

IM, Not IP (Information Pollution)
Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group

Respected technology commentators say that they now prefer instant messaging (IM) over e-mail as their medium of choice for computer-mediated communication.1 The main reasons are that e-mail has become an overloaded channel for readers and that you can’t be sure to get a timely response from the recipients of your e-mail.

Yes, e-mail is suffering. Indeed, it’s very close to the breaking point where it will stop being useful, whether for personal communication or for company newsletters. Here are some representative user comments from a recent study of e-mail newsletters:2

by Jakob Nielsen

Articles

Nine IM Accounts and Counting

Instant messaging (IM) has become nearly as ubiquitous as e-mail, in some cases—on your teenager’s computer, for example—far surpassing e-mail in popularity. But it has gone far beyond teenagers’ insular world to business, where it is becoming a useful communication tool.

Nine IM Accounts and Counting
JOE HILDEBRAND, JABBER

The key word with instant messaging today is interoperability. Various standards are in contention.

Instant messaging (IM) has become nearly as ubiquitous as e-mail, in some cases—on your teenager’s computer, for example—far surpassing e-mail in popularity. But it has gone far beyond teenagers’ insular world to business, where it is becoming a useful communication tool.

The problem, unlike e-mail, is that no common standard exists for IM, so users feel compelled to maintain multiple accounts—for example, AOL, Jabber, Yahoo, and MSN.

by Joe Hildebrand

Opinion

On Helicopters and Submarines

Bernoulli vs. Archimedes - Whenever you see a movie that's got a vehicle that's part helicopter and part submarine, you know you're in for a real treat. What could be cooler? One second, the hero's being pursued by some fighter jets piloted by some nasty dudes with bad haircuts, dodging air-to-air missiles and exchanging witty repartee over the radio with a megalomaniac bent on world domination; and then, just as the hero is unable to evade the very last missile, he pushes a button, the craft dives into the ocean, and is surrounded by an oasis of peaceful blue.

On Helicoptersand Submarines
Marshall T. Rose, Invisible Worlds

Bernoulli vs. Archimedes—Whenever you see a movie that’s got a vehicle that’s part helicopter and part submarine, you know you’re in for a real treat. What could be cooler? One second, the hero’s being pursued by some fighter jets piloted by some nasty dudes with bad haircuts, dodging air-to-air missiles and exchanging witty repartee over the radio with a megalomaniac bent on world domination; and then, just as the hero is unable to evade the very last missile, he pushes a button, the craft dives into the ocean, and is surrounded by an oasis of peaceful blue.

The sad part is that no one is going to be building one of these sweet babies anytime soon. As noted in Intuitor, a Web site that analyzes “insultingly stupid movie physics”:

by Marshall T. Rose

Articles

Sentient Data Access via a Diverse Society of Devices

It has been more than ten years since such “information appliances” as ATMs and grocery store UPC checkout counters were introduced. For the office environment, Mark Weiser began to articulate the notion of UbiComp (ubiquitous computing) and identified some of the salient features of the trends in 1991.1, 2 Embedded computation is also becoming widespread.

Sentient Data Access via a Diverse Society of Devices
GEORGE W. FITZMAURICE, ALIAS
AZAM KHAN, ALIAS
WILLIAM BUXTON, BUXTON DESIGN
GORDON KURTENBACH, ALIAS
RAVIN BALAKRISHNAN, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

Today’s ubiquitous computing environment cannot benefit from the traditional understanding of a hierarchical file system.

It has been more than ten years since such “information appliances” as ATMs and grocery store UPC checkout counters were introduced. For the office environment, Mark Weiser began to articulate the notion of UbiComp (ubiquitous computing) and identified some of the salient features of the trends in 1991.1, 2 Embedded computation is also becoming widespread.

Microprocessors, for example, are finding themselves embedded into seemingly conventional pens that remember what they have written.3 Anti-lock brake systems in cars are controlled by fuzzy logic. And as a result of wireless computing, miniaturization, and new economies of scale, such technologies as PDAs (personal digital assistants), IM (instant messaging), and mobile access to the Internet are almost taken for granted.

by George W. Fitzmaurice, Azam Khan, William Buxton, Gordon Kurtenbach, Ravin Balakrishnan

Uprooting Software Defects at the Source

Source code analysis is an emerging technology in the software industry that allows critical source code defects to be detected before a program runs. Although the concept of detecting programming errors at compile time is not new, the technology to build effective tools that can process millions of lines of code and report substantive defects with only a small amount of noise has long eluded the market. At the same time, a different type of solution is needed to combat current trends in the software industry that are steadily diminishing the effectiveness of conventional software testing and quality assurance. These trends include:

Uprooting Software Defects at the Source
SETH HALLEM, DAVID PARK, DAWSON ENGLER, COVERITY

Source code analysis is an emerging technology in the software industry that allows critical source code defects to be detected before a program runs. Although the concept of detecting programming errors at compile time is not new, the technology to build effective tools that can process millions of lines of code and report substantive defects with only a small amount of noise has long eluded the market. At the same time, a different type of solution is needed to combat current trends in the software industry that are steadily diminishing the effectiveness of conventional software testing and quality assurance. These trends include:

  1. Increasing CPU performance and decreasing memory costs, which enable the development of larger, more complex software.
  2. The emergence of the Internet, which creates an unpredictable execution environment for most software and attaches a security risk to every software defect.
  3. Increased demands for software quality fueled by the growth of embedded systems and software services.

Source code analysis addresses these trends by effectively searching for violations of programming rules down all executable paths through the source code. The types of rules amenable to automated analysis encompass a wide variety of properties that programmers have long known and have long struggled to obey without any help from development tools.

by Seth Hallem, David Park, Dawson Engler