Instant Messaging, or IM, is a form of real-time communication where two or more people can carry out a private, instant conversation by typing messages back and forth. To use IM, a user either downloads IM software onto a computer or uses a web-based IM service.
The web-based IM service does not require any special downloads, only a web browser and internet access. Popular IM programs include AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Google Talk. The caveat with each of these major IM programs is that you and your friends must all be using the same program. For example, if you use AIM and wish to chat with your friends, they must also be on AIM. In the last few years, "multiprotocol instant messengers" such as Trillian and Meebo have made life easier for IM fans by allowing users to log in to multiple IM networks at one time. With Meebo, an AIM user can chat with a friend on the MSN network.
How do you find out if your friends or family are available for a chat? By adding them to your Buddy or Contact List. All IM programs allow you to save your buddies so that you can see when they’re available online. Once you get into the DO portion of this task, you’ll see what that means.
IM has been around for more than 10 years, but it’s only in the last five years or so that it’s gained massive popularity. We’ve all heard about how teens prefer IM to e-mail, but it’s not just the teens who are using IM. In a study published in September 2007, a whopping 84% of undergraduate students surveyed indicated that they IM on a daily basis. Going back to 2004, a Pew Internet study found that over 40% of adult internet users use IM to varying degrees. With statistics like that, you may have already used IM. If you haven’t, don’t fear! This task is designed to get you chatting in no time.
Libraries all over the country have been using IM to provide one more way for patrons to get in touch and ask questions. This Library Journal article gives you a flavor of IM reference in public libraries.
Take a look at this list of Illinois libraries providing IM reference service. Select a few Illinois libraries and explore how each presents IM reference to its patrons.
IM can have a language of its own. Acronyms keep typing to a minimum but can be hard to decipher if you've never seen them before. This Acronym Dictionary from AOL will help you sort things out.
Are there IM acronyms for adults? Here’s a bit of humor from David Pogue’s blog at New York Times.
Since you're already set up with a Google account, you're ready to go with Google's IM application, Google Talk. You'll use it to chat with other friends who are in the Google network.
As with any "real life" IM experience, you'll have to find out which of your friends you can connect with by asking their screenname and which service they use. Half the work has already done for you since you know all of your co-workers will be using a Google account.
Man/Woman can't IM alone, so you'll need to grab a partner for this one. For the sake of this exercise, it will be helpful if you and your partner are logged in to Google Talk at the same time.
- Go to Google Talk. Click on "Launch Google Talk" and then sign in with your account.
- Ask your partner for her/his screenname. In this case, it'll be the full Gmail address.
- Add your partner to your Contacts list by entering their Gmail address into the "Search, add, or invite" box. You should see your new contact in the list and s/he should appear as "Available" if you are both logged in at the same time.
- Start a chat session with your partner. Open a chat window by clicking on your partner's name from the Contacts list. You'll see an open whitespace with a field for typing at the bottom. Start typing and see what happens!
- Besides chatting with text, you can also send links to websites, videos, and more. Feeling adventurous? Visit YouTube, the web's largest and best-known video site, and search for a video with a library theme. Share the video with your partner by copying the video's URL and pasting it into your chat box. It's like magic!
- Now that you've had a chance to see IM for yourself, reflect a bit on your experience. Write a blog post about your time using Google Talk. Have you used any other IM programs before? Were you surprised by anything? How do you feel about IM as a mode of communication?
BONUS CHALLENGE (optional)
If you're already using an IM program besides Google Talk, why not set up a Meebo account so that you can monitor all of your Buddy Lists?
1. Go to Meebo to sign up for an account. You'll want to configure your accounts so that Meebo signs in to all of them at once. HINT: When logged in, look for the "Accounts" link on the left.
2. Share your experience using Meebo by blogging about it. Is Meebo something that you might find useful?
Moving right along to Thing 4: Social Networking: