Instant messages and phatic expressions

Instant messages are meant to be instant. That’s the whole point. Please don’t start instant message conversations with “throat-clearing” phrases. Just say what you were going to say! Specifically:

  • Hello or Hi: Wastes time forcing the recipient to write “Hello” back. Ensures that an IM exchange always takes at least a minute.
  • Hey Mike: See above. Even worse because the recipient has to either personalize the response (“Hi Joe”) or else appear rude by simply saying “Hi.”
  • You there? or You busy?: My status message has already answered these questions.
  • Got a minute?: Irrelevant. Typical instant message exchanges should take much less than a minute.

For the geek crowd: think UDP. Send a message; maybe it’ll reach the recipient, maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll get a response, maybe you won’t. If you’re OK with this, use UDP. Same goes with IM. If you’re OK with a connectionless protocol, use it. If not, consider using the telephone or email instead. But just as you wouldn’t try to implement TCP over UDP, you shouldn’t use telephone protocols over IM.