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I’ve been using ICQ a

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2000

I’ve been using ICQ a little bit over the last couple days. It’s interesting how the communication that happens via instant messaging is different from other types of communication:

- IM messages tend to string along from topic to topic, one topic at a time. Very rarely, two topics may be going at the same time. There’s very little context from one message to the next…it’s almost stream of consciousness. It’s sometimes difficult to change the subject without interrupting the flow of the conversation.

- Email messages cover a variety of topics at once, often with extensive context from past emails built in. Email conversations, even those between two people, often splinter into different threads. Changing the subject is easy….you just introduce it in a new email or append it to a reply to an existing thread.

- Chat conversations are a lot like IM conversations, except shorter.

- Phone conversations convey more information in a shorter time span simply because most people talk faster than they can type. Plus, you can glean information from the person’s tone and inflection. Natural speaking pauses allow people to change the subject easily.

- In-person conversations offer the most information in the shortest period of time. Unlike most of the other types of conversation listed here, you can’t really do other things while talking with someone in person. With email, IM, and chat, you can surf or balance your checkbook while waiting for people to reply…and there are any number of things you could be doing whilst on the phone.