• This is getting ridiculous

    Can I have a single messaging platform yet? I just performed an accounting of the various ways I send messages to friends, family, and coworkers:

    • AOL Instant Messenger (through Apple's iChat)
    • SMS
    • Beluga
    • Twitter
    • Skype
    • email

    This is getting out of hand. I don't even use Facebook. And with the coming of iMessage and who knows what else, I'm sure it will only get further fractured.

    There are 16 thoughts on this idea

    1. Mohammed Mudassir Azeemi

      did you try Pidgin? What it did is it integrated all those client in to one. But i understand what exactly the problem you are referring to. I think every other vendor (GTalk, AIM, Twitter, Facebook, MSN et el) are in hunt of “more users” and something that liberate user from there island, won’t make them happy. Until something comes up like HTML Standard, so as most of the browser adapt it some by100% some by 90%, we will have something similar. A very subtle but powerful standard that allows different vendor to adapt it and then you can chat with any one to any one (regardless of platform).

      Seems like still we have to spend 5 more years in bewilderment for it! My hunch on Messaging Standard.

    2. Ljuba

      I share your frustration, but luckily iMessage doesn’t make the situation worse on iPhone. It sits right on top of SMS with no additional setup. Text messages are sent to people without iOS 5, free iMessages to people with it. I’m not exactly sure how it works with iPod Touch and iPad users though, so you could be right there.

    3. amanda

      This is getting ridiculous

      Can I have a single artistic expression format? I just performed an accounting of the various ways I create art:

      * painting
      * playing guitar
      * writing poetry
      * singing
      * dancing

      This is getting out of hand! I don’t even take photos!! And with all the crazy art software out there, I’m sure it will only get further fractured.

    4. Rogrrr

      amanda, even though on first sight, your comment is very original, it does not hit the central point. Peter’s blog is not so much about the (communication) channels themselves but about the (communication) platform! Even though your hint is correct – we need different kinds of expressing art / communication for different contexts it would be quite nice , if we had a single house, studio, atelier / communication platform to go with: One platform or tool to use to send different messages to different people (animals?) over different channels (SMS, phone, e-mail, video chat, text chat, snail mail, video stream, radio, recorded messages, “olfactory transmitter”, “tactile transmitter”, “taste transmitter”…). No?

    5. Rachel

      I joke that with technology, I now no longer know what’s a service, a company, a language, a feature, or anything. Had to Google Beluga – I only knew its real world counterpart.

      What about a combination of all-in-one aggregators (Trillian, Adium etc.) and something like journaling (Evernote/Outlook’s ‘Journal’ feature/delicious etc.) that tracks what applications and docs you opened and when? It’s a cludgy work around, but something that makes the workstreams of communication and context easier is one way to address the multiplicity of platforms to communicate on. It’s hard to keep track of the source of communication as much as the method – did I get that great link via a Facebook status message, or a blog post? If so, having context helps do that keeping track – knowing what time you send the communication can snap you back to what medium you were using and how you can retrace your steps.

      Ironically, I’ll give the Blackberry OS one benefit here – once you sync up your accounts, *everything* can show up in the default activity stream – emails, IMs, phone calls, Blackberry Messenger, Facebook, Tweets, etc. It’s a bit overwhelming, obviously, and not filtered by priority (i.e. friends versus event listings) but it’s an interesting idea – even if the experience is pathetic in so many other areas though. And I’m afraid Mohammed’s comment is spot on – every service has its own dedicated channel to reach more customers, as opposed to using what an existing standard or service is. The trick is to unify the messages or channels so that we can keep up with the deluge.

    6. James Thompson

      as i undersand, your complaint is not that there’s a variety of means of communication. but, rather, that those means don’t occur under some unified mechanism. you want a superphone.

      for example:

      superphone_twitter
      i have a message for no one in particular. as an artifact, the message provides value to me and (sometimes) to others. maybe it asserts me as an authority. perhaps it delivers (in my approximation) some profound truth. perhaps it is therapeutic– a sort of confessional. you pick up the receiver and know that there are potentially 1000s of people waiting on the other end of the line. etc etc etc

      superphone_IM
      i’m having a conversation. the conversation is near-synchronous. that is, it’s real time but it hasn’t any of the pauses and um’s of 100% synchronicity. it provides a filter. it also has a memory of what’s been said in a format that is easily digestible (text). this gives the conversation longevity, allowing a person to return to it after an extended time and immediately reenter that zone. etc etc etc

      just to reiterate. i know that your point was not that you didn’t understand the PURPOSE of the various modes. but, rather, that you wish form some form of consolidation. press 0 for face-to-face, press 1 to initiate text-based conversation , press 3 to speak to 1,532 people sitting in a warehouse in Detroit.

      i can understand that need. the iphone is trying to solve this for you, but not even it has made the vast and growing field of options seem digestible. and i think you’re right: it’ll only become more fractured. it is a tendency of our species to continuously seek out modes of communication that give rise to new capacities. it is the trend of any evolving species to develop evermore complex modes of communication. our interactions must become more nuanced.

      this could all be solved if we were all connected at the brain. some day…

      i for one am shocked that practically all my means of communication can be distilled down to 6 or 7 interactions– most of which are enabled by technology.

      what do you think of this: me communicating to you via the comments section on your blog? there are so many undercurrents here. why didn’t i just email you directly? why did i provide my website address with this comment? am i looking for fans? am i looking for a job? that’s one benefit of complexity: it gives clues about intent. it tells a story. as these means of communication become more fractured, that story becomes richer.

    7. peterme

      @James Thompson–

      You are getting close to what I was thinking about.

      My concern is that, with so many ways for people to contact me, if I’m not attending to all of them, I can miss potentially important and urgent messages. (I can also get overwhelmed by trivia). That I have to cycle through multiple apps and devices to make sure I’ve got my bases covered is onerous.

    8. crazyidea

      This might be a dumb idea, but what about something at the client level? Is it possible to write a small program that does this:

      -Runs persistently on your computer.
      -Just accepts text, copies it to the operating system’s clipboard, and pastes the text into multiple windows that you have open (Twitter, Instant messenger, BBS, etc).
      – Lets me preselect the destination window(s) before I type (mode 1).
      – Lets me type my text, then choose the destination window(s). (mode 2).

      Pros: Seems like this could at least save you SOME mouse-clicks and keystrokes. It would also be useful to remote engineer types, they could use it to send commands to several terminals at once (kind of like the excellent clusterSSH tool).

      Cons: It would be hard to write the part of the program that “sends” the message in the destination window. Most of that social media stuff has a send or post button on the Web page. Some of that stuff is client based (like old-school AOL/Yahoo/ICQ chat clients).

      So maybe a client solution could make it easier…seems like somebody

    9. crazyidea

      …cut myself off there (above), but it seems like somebody smarter than me could write a destination-agnostic text forwarding tool. And it just might fit on a floppy disk….

    10. James Thompson

      Yupppp, I wonder how that would pan out. I like to examine virtual interactions through the metaphor of the physical world. The various virtual modes of communication feel like different spaces to me. You can think of them as rooms in a house.

      When I walk into the Twitter Room, for example, I feel like I am in a room occupied by millions of people of varying presence. A colossal space where everyone speaks intermittently. It’s loud. Some people are louder than others. Some are heard better than others. Surrounding me are my acquaintances who, I expect, will sometimes listen to me when I speak. And If I say something really intriguing, my words may resurface in their conversations with the people around them. If you say something insane like “Osama Bin Laden is dead,” the whole room just explodes– a wave that spreads out at the speed of a retweet.

      And, of course, the other virtual modes of communication occur in very different looking rooms. The one thing that remains constant in those rooms is me. I adjust myself to fit each circumstance, but I am still the same person.

      I wonder what it feels like when communication occurs in one place (the Writing Room), and messages are forwarded to each room (by, say, a little messenger puppy). By not delivering the messages to the rooms directly, I do lose some sense of those spaces. I might forget their customs or lose touch with their changing tone.

      But like I said, across those platforms, I myself never change. I might not want a Writing Room, but I wouldn’t mind the doors to each room being closer together so I don’t have to walk so far. And the doors shouldn’t be opaque. One-way window?

    11. Etienne Delagrave

      Actually, I think it’s great that there is many!

      For example, an SMS as higher degree of importance or urgency than email and it’s great. For that matter, the fact that, on a blackberry, an SMS as the same visibility as a email is stupid. Because of that, I can’t be trusted to deliver an important message.

      (BTW, iMessage is going to be integrated with SMS in the iPhone)

    12. Matt

      I wonder if we make the mistake of thinking about communications choices as purely functional, at the expense of the emotional subtexts they send to the recipient or wider world?
      It’s a fashion thing. Corporate email is a business suit to hide behind, with signature and serious font; Twitter is my slogan t-shirt; Skype is sleeves rolled up. This proliferation is a part of the richness of our digital culture.
      And as multiple modes of messaging come in and out of style, senders use the differences to tacitly calibrate the kind of attention they expect of recipients, especially when communicating with people they know well.
      All the “unified” messaging interfaces I’ve seen threw away these vital signals, which is not to say they could not be preserved, just that it’s a harder problem than at first appears.

    13. Sarah Davitt

      Oh, it gets worse. WAY worse.

      Try doing it on the global scale where Orkut is still a legitimate social network, or with international students who don’t check their email, cell phones get lost, times zones, and organizations keep creating social networks to ‘keep track’ and ‘build capacity’ and its gotten to the point where I.just.don’t.care.anymore.

      And I think that may be the next challenge for the flat structure/wisdom of the crowds folks. How to maintain communication when everyone is frozen in the proverbial ‘seven minute silence’ while everyone is talking!

    14. Rogrr

      This has become a quite interesting thread. Very interesting metaphor of you, James Thompson, keeping the house/atelier methaphor with different rooms, transparent, but closable doors which are not too far apart from each other. Let’s add Etienne Delagraves: “not all doors have the same size and transparency” and Sarah Davids: “some doors can be eliminated and the rooms content joined with an other rooms content” and we are “nearly there”, hehehe 😉 🙂

    15. Sarah Davitt

      Since the thinking has launched itself into the construction of place–

      “Memories lodge in places that are distinct. Axes orchards, platforms, boundaries, openings, canopies, and markers, when interwoven with our movements through them and the light that plays across them, set out an intricate web of relationships that can ensnare moments from our lives and hold them for safekeeping. Places, humble or grand, that become palaces for memory meld these them into compositions, with rooms and spaces complexly ordered in patterns both familiar and mysterious, enlivened by ornament and association and intertwined with gardens , water and evocative imagery” (Chambers for a Memory Palace, pp. 299)

      And in the words of someone else’s grandpa – “get off my lawn.”

      I wonder how much the digital tools we use (or not) become like memory palaces, they are our homes, where the ‘like button is as ubiquitous as the teakettle, and the ‘send’ feature like a stack of our favorite books. And that to enter another place, digitally, where the books and the kettles are not where you left them, or worse, not there at all, feels like trespassing. The new place is one where we do not belong. Perhaps we even belonged there once (myspace?), but its like someone came in, and redecorated your bedroom, while you were away, and somehow your head just cannot return to it.

      I would love to research the use of communication tools and find out what makes people “switch” is there a critical mass of value that is supported by visual design as well as community design. That you might feel at ‘home’ when you don’t feel like you belong, if enough of your friends are there and the somehow left the light on for you.

      And later, how much this connection to place is based on keeping people out, or at least, existing with constructed walls encapsulating the familiar, and blocking the unfamiliar.

    16. Doug

      Seriously, just unplug everything and ‘talk’ to people. Your such a bunch of communication addicts.

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