I am interested in IT, technology and gadgets. Not obsessed but interested and curious.

Recently, I find colleagues making increasing use of technology in the workplace to try to help distributed teams to communicate more effectively. Or maybe they’re just geeks who are afraid to pick up a telephone.

People use Web conferencing to share desktops.

This is an excellent use of technology. For example, I recently tried to help a customer in Copenhagen by remotely accessing the servers over the network from my kitchen fully equipped home office. The speed was slightly sluggish and the experience was a little frustrating at times but certainly much better than laboriously dictating (’l’ ’s’ ‘space’ ‘slash’ ’t’ ’m’ ‘p’) over the phone or getting on a plane.

I have also used Web conferencing using VOIP which was fantastic as it freed up the fingers to do the actual typing as well as pleasing the financial director.

People also use chat conferencing either instead of, or curiously in conjunction with, the ubiquitous (and much loved) telephone conference calls. I am always a little nervous here in case I direct the wrong words to the wrong person, particularly with my sense of ‘humour’.

People also have a increasing tendency to use instant messaging rather than email to communicate internally.

This last development is the one I am slightly uncomfortable with for reasons I find it hard to articulate but I’ll try:

  • The opening line ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’ or ‘Are you busy ?’. It’s like a blind date. What do you say without sounding idiotic ?
  • Sometimes, if you are busy, this interruption and context switch can be unwelcome. Setting your status to ‘Busy’ doesn’t always work.
  • The person initiating the conversation normally wants something. It is easier to ignore or defer an email. I find it impossible to ignore an IM indefinitely.
  • Sometimes the conversation is so long winded and interactive, a simple phone call would have been 10 times more effective and quicker. Waiting on tenterhooks, with baited breath, in suspense watching ‘Alan is typing…’ for 2 minutes.
  • The termination of the ‘conversation’ isn’t always clear. Have we finished ? Is the dialogue over ? Are they still thinking ? Or are they waiting for you to respond ? Can I close your IM window yet ?
  • And finally, the real reason, I suspect - using Instant Messaging conjures up images of angst ridden, spotty teenagers messaging away in txt speak together. You feel slight soiled by the experience. In fact, I am sorely tempted to address #5 by signing off ‘C U L8R, M8!’