Ming the Mechanic:
IM Usage

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 IM Usage2003-12-02 11:30
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An article: "How does IM usage compare to that of other communication media?", describes a study of IM (Instant Messenger) usage. IM is often accused of being a big time waster for employees who sit and chat all day about nothing while they should be working. But that isn't really my experience. To me IM is a very efficient and business-oriented tool. I rarely do smalltalk over IM. But for years I've related with business clients almost exclusively though IM. OK, when I last had a job-job, I used IM for more social stuff, for sending out jokes and so forth. But my experience there too was that it allowed me to better concentrate on work, and that it allowed a social dimension of a workplace to happen at the same time, rather than only in coffee breaks. Anyway, these are some of the findings of the study described in the article:
  • Although a common impression of IM is that it's used primarily for simple questions and quick clarifications, we found that was true only about 28 percent of the time.
  • Despite the perception that IM is commonly used for social purposes in the workplace, we found that was rarely the case. Only 13 percent of the conversations we monitored included any personal topics whatsoever, and only 6.4 percent were exclusively personal.
  • Concerns that IM might distract people from their work proved to be unfounded. The majority of the workplace IM conversations we observed, 62 percent, focused entirely on work-related matters.
  • Independent of function, we discovered that 23.6 percent of our study group's "conversations" consisted of one person sending one or more messages without getting a response within five minutes. Although this represents a sizeable percentage of the conversations, it's low in comparison to estimates of unanswered phone calls (62 percent) and failed attempts to start impromptu desktop video conferences (75 percent).
  • Many articles in the popular media and in journals mention that people frequently switch from IM to another form of communication, such as phone or face-to-face, particularly when conversations become complex. We found that media switching was not common, occurring only 16 percent of the time, and they almost never (3 percent) happened because the conversation became too difficult to conduct via text.
  • Not all of our findings contradicted popular notions of IM use. For example, IM conversations are thought to be quick, and indeed the conversations we monitored lasted about 4.5 minutes. That is also consistent with many other types of impromptu communications (whether face-to-face, over the phone, or by way of desktop video conferencing). Also, IM users are commonly reported to switch frequently between IM conversations and other desktop activities, and we found that to be the case. In 85 percent of the conversations, at least one user multitasked during the IM interaction. But perhaps surprisingly, only 23 percent of users carried on multiple simultaneous IM sessions—and only infrequently at that.

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    1 comment

    4 Dec 2003 @ 06:48 by Ann O'Nimous @ : attention
    AFAIK, no-one monitors the minds of workers when they *don't* do IM. Oftentimes it's lost in mindspace.

    Maybe IM lets you focus your attention (that scarce resource) much better?  

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