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delirium happy

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Instant message protocols
delirium leaving
In this case, when I say "protocol" I mean "etiquette", and not "a set of agreed upon rules for communication between computers".

I have a problem with instant message programs (and for that matter, aso with IRC). The thing is, I am always (well, almost always) connected on various IM services, and on IRC. This is not in and of itself a problem. The problem is that I'm absolutely lousy at remembering to set or unset myself as away, as appropriate. This means that there is only a very weak correlation between my away status and whether I'm actually at a computer.

This is made even worse by the fact that whether I'm actually at the computer does not necessarily have any bearing on whether I'll be available to talk to. If I'm doing something in the same room which is neither terribly interesting and important and notice that someone is trying to speak to me, I might go and speak to them. On the other hand, even if I am at the computer then I might be about to go elsewhere. Or I might be doing something requiring my attention. Or something full screen. Or I might just not feel like talking.

And to make things even worse again, I often switch between these various different states quite rapidly; for instance, after finishing doing something else, I might sit down at the computer, check my friends page and my email, then get bored and go off and do something else. Even if I could remember to set/unset away, I'm not sure it would make sense to mark myself as unaway for those 5 intervening minutes.

And the final problem is that often I'm not really sure whether I feel like talking or not up until the point when I someone sends me a message.

And I tend to worry that by all of this, I'm ending up driving people away, and distancing myself from others, which I definitely don't want to do. So I'm wondering about what the appropriate protocol and etiquette is in these sorts of occasions.

If someone sends you a message just as you're about to leave the computer is it right to ignore the message, or is it right to reply to it saying "hi; I'm just leaving so I can't talk now"? I tend to do the former because I worry that the latter will sound like "hi, I don't like you so I want to find some excuse to blow you off", but I suspect that this may not be very sensible. So what's a good way of replying which is both friendly and polite, but does allow you to stil leave instantly?

Secondly, if someone sends you a message when you are at a computer but don't feel like talking for whatever reason, what's a good way to reply? Again, I normally plump for the "pretending that I'm not actually there" reaction, which, again, is probably not good. Generally, my thoughts tend towards "I like you, and I'm happy that you want to talk to me, and I want to talk to you too, but not now because my brain is sucking, and I just want time and space alone" but I don't really know any good way to communicate that.

Thirdly, what's the right thing to do if someone sends you a message when you aren't actually at a computer at all, and don't see it until considerably later on? I don't like saying "you wanted me for something?" since in all likelihood they just wanted to say "hi" and maybe chat a little. I also don't like just saying "hi" back to them if I don't have anything much to say, because conversations that stall after 4 lines tend to annoy me. And I also don't like just not replying at all (though that's what I normally do) because then it looks like I'm ignoring the person in question. So what should I be doing? Does it make a difference if the person is still online when I see the message? What if they're marked as away?

And if you think that there's anything else I should do to make myself more open and approachale via IM, please tell me. Likewise if you can think of any good ways for me to overcome my chronic problems with setting myself as away, so that people might actually have some sort of idea if I was around or not.

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This is why I generally avoid chat. I feel exactly the same as you about this stuff, so basically I don't log on IM chat unless I know I want to chat with people, which isn't very often.

I only go on kimble and barakta's IRC channel, which doesn't have the rules and whatnot of most chat. If I vanish without setting myself away, then I know I haven't offended anyone, and it's just assumed I got sidetracked or something like that. If I don't feel like chatting, I can say just that and set myself away, or log off without anyone feeling offended. Hell, I've napped while on IRC before. :D This is the joy of chatting with a small group of friends you trust and who know you. Any other chat I find stressful.

So I guess I have no real answers for you, I just wanted to say you're not the only one to worry this stuff.

I really ought to pop into that IRC channel at some point, to say hi at least, or possibly to hang around again a while. I haven't really done so regularly since I moved from Canterbury. I don't suppose one of you could email me the server/channel details, could you? (provided I'm still welcome there, and that it isn't constantly full of bitching about me and laughing behind my back and stuff, of course)

Totally welcome, and I guarantee there's been no laughing or bitching behind your back or anything. :) Emailing you now.

I definitely have the same problems. My usual tactic is to say "hey, i gotta run, sorry" or "hey, sorry - forgot to set an away message." Stephen, on the other hand, does something that drives me absolutely nuts-- he NEVER puts up an away message, under any circumstances. The only way of knowing whether he's likely to respond or not is to check his idle time, but often it just indicates that he's sitting in front of the computer reading a book.

I have the exact same problems with IM. I'm really more of a e-mail/letter writing person, as I always like to have a lot of time to devote to planning what I want to say and I'm uncomfortable with being put on the spot.

With regards to your first question, I always reply to say "Hi, I'm about to do this, hope to catch up with you later". Think of it in real life as bumping into a friend on the street, but not being able to engage in a detailed conversation as you have to be somewhere else - it's nice to say hi and explain that you have to be going rather than pretending that you haven't seen them. Most people, especially those who live in different time zones, appreciate that they may just miss you and shouldn't be too offended or feel that you are avoiding them.

I deal with the second question by either using a custom away message that my friends understand to mean that I don't want to be disturbed unless it's really important or simply by answering honestly. It doesn't need to be eloquently expressed; what you said was perfectly understandable and wouldn't make me feel uncomfortable or feel that you would hate to talk to me.

For the third question (and I have this problem all the time because I hardly ever set my away messages), I have a habit of not doing anything if that person is away, but if they have gone offline I will write an offline message along the lines of "Sorry I missed you but I was doing x at the time." I usually add a personal message to this as well, such as a comment about one of their LiveJournal posts or what is happening in their life and finish up with an "I'll catch you up later" or similar phrase.

I can't really offer any help on the away status problem as I think something drastic like a light gate that will set my status to away when I cross the room would be the only solution for me. My friends usually rely on autoidle to tell that I'm there after a prolonged period away from the machine by watching my idle status, but this isn't the best solution as I'd rather have some time to check my e-mail and settle into my chair before people begin to message me.

Well, I can only speak for myself...

If I actually need to talk to someone, I usually say so immediately. Otherwise, I'm basically just pinging to see if people want to chat (except not using the word 'ping', because that's developed more urgent 'are you there'-ness in usage). Since I usually talk on IM at work, I'm also often not away when I'm marked as such (since I'm automatically away after half an hour) and sometimes away when not marked as such... But since I'm basically online all the time in some form, I figure conversation will happen at some point, so that's all right...

If I message you and you don't reply, I figure you're doing something else. I know that you're rarely "away" on AIM, so I take that into account and assume you're sleeping/shopping/reading/doing something that requires your attention/feel like being alone right now, etc. For me to assume that you're avoiding me specifically and that you dislike me specifically, I need more direct evidence. Like, for example, if you were to say "I don't like you, go away"

Usually if someone messages me and I'm physically there I talk to them for a little bit, but if I'm feeling quiet, I just naturally don't say all that much and the conversation dwindles.

If they're away by the time I get the message, then I respond if it was important, but not if it was just "hi".

I gave up IM'ing you, mostly because I only really IM people for two reasons: either I need to get in touch with them urgently because of some out-of-band event, or I'm bored/tired/angry and want someone to entertain me / whine at, both of which I feel are unfair services to ask you to provide.

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