Thursday, June 17, 2004

On the etiquette of instant messaging at work:

Here's a typical interaction:

Coworker: Hi?

Lorenzo: Yes?

1 minute wait

Coworker: quick question

another two minute wait

and so on. So, I've got the worst of both worlds. I'm supposed to drop everything, and wait while the slow-fingered formulates the question. And it's usually a question that isn't particularly urgent, and could have been handled fine by email.

It's really annoying. So, here's my set of guidelines for instant messaging with coworkers:

  1. Make sure, before you send an instant message, that you actually need such instant response.

  2. In the first message you send, include the topic of the conversation.

  3. Please don't say "quick question" unless you are looking for a yes or no answer, or something as straightforward. I've had "quick questions" suck me into hour long debugging sessions.

It's not that I am not willing to work with people. It's a question of how much respect do you show other people. If you IM me the way as in the example above, for something not at all pressing, you are telling me that my time is of no value to you. It may very well be the case, but telling me so this way is not a way to get me to happily help you. Showing a lack of consideration for my time in the ways I am complaining about will have the following possible effects:

  • I may be inclined to ignore instant messages from such a person.

  • I will have a negative attitude towards anything such a person wants from me, and I might be inclined to throw up all the red tape I am supposed to.

  • I may add that person to the list of people that cannot see if I am on-line.

It's all about respect, people.

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