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Instant Messaging for Dummies

By Christine Louise Hohlbaum



Modern technology has created possibilities considered unimaginable in the past century. As writers, we can live anywhere in the world and still stay connected with our editors, families, and acquaintances. Through mobile technology, we can have a conference call on a Thai beach, provided the bar has wireless Internet access.


How important is it to be in contact with your network, you ask? In today's world of instant connection, it is imperative.


Much like Skype.com, Yahoo! Messenger with Voice 7.0 allows you to talk with someone via an Internet connection. What you need are a set of speakers and a microphone. For privacy purposes, some people opt for a headset which contains both.


I recently sent invitations to my entire list of contacts. The upside is I now have forty-plus new names of people I can chat with whenever the need arises. The downside is interruption is almost guaranteed whenever I'm online.


The good part is you can change your status at any time: from "stepped out" to "on the phone" to "busy," you can indicate the degree of your availability. Another advantage is to sidestep potential spam filters which no longer guarantee your e-mail's delivery. Send your contact an attachment via the instant messaging function, provided he or she is on your list of allowed contacts. Both parties must agree to be connected to the other, thereby significantly reducing any accusations of one spamming the other. You cannot instant message someone without his or her prior permission.


Admittedly, after trying out Yahoo!'s voice messaging system, I discovered the sound quality is less than desirable. For what it is worth, I offer you two suggestions.


This link allows you to download the free beta version of Yahoo! Messaging with Voice 7.0: http://beta.messenger.yahoo.com/download.php.


Follow the instructions. If you have dial-up, you could be in for an hour wait as it downloads to your system.


The second suggestion is Skype.com, whose sound quality is far superior to Yahoo!'s:

http://www.skype.com/download/skype/windows/downloading.html. Oddly, I get an echo effect from my friend in Amsterdam while it is clear as a bell when I chat with my friend in Nevada. Living near Munich, I am much closer to Amsterdam than the Nevada desert so it has little to do with distance.


At this juncture, it is worthy to mention instant messaging (IM) etiquette.


  If you "knock" on someone's door, make sure the person has time. Just as with a phone call, ask the person if now is a good time to "talk."

  Do not drop the conversation without telling the other person you are leaving your desk or busy with someone else. If you do lose your wireless connection or there is a blackout in your home, be sure to tell the person via e-mail, a phone call or another IM what happened.

  At the bottom of the IM window, there is a message which indicates if the other person is typing a message back to you. Give the person time to respond before changing the subject. If you type a mile a minute, allow for the other to catch up to you!

  Do not harass a person by IM'ing him or her constantly. As writers, our laptops and desktops are our desks. You wouldn't bother your colleague every day with miscellaneous information. Would you?

  Set up an appointment to IM. It's the best way to assure your communication is both desired and warranted.


We live in a technological world with infinite possibilities. Using this new-found power wisely can strengthen our relationships and connect our global village in immense and powerful ways.


Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of several parenting books and a CD-Rom, The Author's Companion: A Self-Guided Course on Book Promotion, lives near Munich, Germany, with her husband and two children. She offers private PR consultations to book authors. Add her Yahoo! and Skype.com ID to your system (both are CHOHLBAUM). To subscribe to her marketing tips newsletter, visit http://www.authorscompanion.com.




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