March 12, 2004
IM at Work

Jenny, the Shifted Librarian, reports that only two participants at this year’s Computers in Libraries conference raised their hands when asked if they used instant messaging in their work. She calls this the most depressing moment of the conference.

I’ve seen this too. For whatever reason, maaaaaany people seem resistant to the idea of using IM in the office environment.

In fairness, there are some good reasons why basic IM isn’t really appropriate for many offices; for one thing, if you’re just using off-the-shelf services like AIM or MSN, all your IMs are flying around unencrypted, and being passed through a third party’s servers, so there’s lots of opportunities for sensitive information to leak out.

But if that’s a concern (and most companies have a lot less truly “sensitive information” than they like to think they do), you can get enterprise IM packages from Microsoft, IBM, AOL, and other vendors that address all those issues.

So what’s holding people back? Best I can figure is that it’s just a cultural thing; people associate IM with ‘chat’, not with ‘getting work done’. Which is a shame, since I’ve found IM can make me much more productive when used appropriately.

Maybe it’s a problem that’ll be solved actuarially, as kids who grew up with instant messaging move into the workforce?

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at March 12, 2004

We're a distributed group at my workplace with most of us in the midwest, some on the east coast, some on the west, and many out of the office at various times at random locations. We actually make fairly extensive use of IM at my workplace. When you can't just peek over the cube wall, IM provides a great and reliable alternative. When it's logged, it also provides a great audit trail when trying to remember what someone said they would do at a later date.


Posted by: adam on March 13, 2004 2:51 PM

That has been my experience as well, when using IM to coordinate with geographically distributed colleagues -- it does come in very handy.

Wonder why more people aren't picking up on that?

Posted by: Jason Lefkowitz on March 13, 2004 3:42 PM

I think many corporations fear the potential for spam or security exploits via IM. Given how porous email and other applications have been, the concern isn't entirely unfounded.

Posted by: Scott Mace on March 17, 2004 8:57 PM
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