What I Use IM For
Om's post over on Web Worker Daily made me think about the role of IM in my daily life. IM is actually a big part of my life, mostly during the work day. The reason: I work at home and I am generally pretty isolated from the rest of the world (except what is going on at home).
IM is my "water cooler." It's how I talk to many of my co-workers. Not just the ones in my "home office" down in California, but our offices worldwide. I often find I am working late and someone will pop online in a different part of the world, and we will IM back and forth on work-related stuff. I also use IM to talk to non-work related people. Yeah I probably shouldn't be working on "work" stuff late at night, but the fact is, when you work at home, it goes both ways. You can take personal time during the day and "work" time during your evenings. I draw the lines clearly when I need to.
My problem with IM is that I have too many clients: Adium, Gizmo Project, Skype, and for work, Sametime. I wish I could use one program to manage it all, but between the VPN and having to run them on different operating systems, I can't easily do that.
For those times where I don't want to talk to people, which I have to admit are rare, I will simply close down my IM applications, set the status to "Do Not Disturb," or ignore incoming messages. Pretty simple, really.
And as far as my IM ettiquette with others, I always ask if you're there/available/whatever. Never assume the other person is really there unless they were typing to you within the past couple of minutes.