diamond geezer

 Friday, July 23, 2004

IM online

Blogging is two-way online communication, of a sort. I write something, you lot comment on it. Then I might comment back and sometimes a sort of conversation starts up. Admittedly there are a lot of other blogs where the conversational aspect applies far more than here, but even then it's not true two-way interaction because blogger and reader are never quite equal. You might choose to email me instead if you have something particularly strong to say, although that's the online version of letter-writing and there are long pauses between replies. Or you might want to pick up the online equivalent of the telephone and start up a conversation using Instant Messaging.

IM is great, as you'll know if you use it. You can talk to someone down the road or on the other side of the world without paying for any more than your existing internet connection. You can communicate as fast as you can type, but you also have the opportunity to pause and think of a suitable response before replying with your next comment. You can keep in touch with people you might never ring up and actually speak to. And with broadband you have an always-on connection to people you really want to talk with. My best mate moved from London to San Francisco last year but we still chat virtually virtually every day. I know when he's having lunch and he knows what time I go to bed. Sometimes he even waves back.

The first online messaging system I ever used was IRC, a channel-based connection tool with rather a techie feel to it. You could never ever call it user-friendly, with arcane rules and inbuilt hierarchies, but at the time (1988, and for me 1997) it was cutting-edge revolutionary stuff. The discovery that there were other people online and that you could talk to them in real time gave the internet one of its first killer applications. Changed my life anyway, completely and utterly. And then in 1995 there was ICQ, a squeaky pop-up messaging programme, adding colour and sound effects in an attempt to build an international online community. Remember the little green flower logo? My ICQ number is way up in the 86 millions, but that still makes me an early adopter. Both IRC and ICQ have fallen by the wayside in recent years, the former now full of Germans and the latter absorbed by up-and-coming AOL.

These days we have three big messaging clients - MSN, Yahoo and AIM. The global corporations are in charge, enticing us to set up an account with them and sign away our souls. The three systems are incompatible, naturally, so to talk to everybody you have to register with all three. Me I went one better and downloaded Trillian, an ingenious portmanteau program that allows me to chat to users of all three systems (and more) simultaneously via just one application. Highly recommended for avoiding multiple window overload and the surreptitious advertising that's creeping in on the official portals these days.

But you probably know all this already because you use online messaging services yourself. Fancy a chat? I've spoken to some of my readers already and very pleasant it's been too. I posted three of my Messenger IDs on here last Saturday and a number of you were kind/daring enough to add me to your list of online contacts. I'd not say no to a few more of you signing up if you were interested (MSN: dgeezr, Yahoo: dgeezr, AIM: dgeezr). Don't expect me to reply straight away because I'm offline all day while I'm at work, but we might fit in a chat some other time. I would say a special hello to Kev and Anni and Uncle H and Alan and Peter and Andy and Storme and Dave and Maddie and Jag and Chz, but I don't need to say hello on here because they said hello to me on there. Hello to the rest of you?

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