I’m spending a lot more time on instant messenger chat than I used to. And I have to admit, I really enjoy it.
In part, it’s a way for me to stay connected with friends: I’m living up here in Maine, and most of my friends aren’t. Hanging out on IM means I spend a lot of downtime idly chatting with one person or another, and yet, I’m at home, with my cat and my knitting, and often also watching something, and my life is good and contented.
I am more of an introvert than I used to be, so I’ve settled into a rhythm here where I spend most of my life going home after work and doing low-key things with online social content, a couple of times going out to do things locally in a given month (movies, events, whatever), and then every couple of months go somewhere else for the weekend or a longer trip. (I need to figure out my next Boston trip, and in March I’m going to Minnesota, and in April I’m going to DC for a conference and a couple of days of vacation on the end. And then I’ll come back and hermit until June or so.)
Part of it is the Big Project: we do a lot of little behind the scenes IM chats to sort out small bits and pieces. And we do larger group chats for major plotting and planning. And since I’m the main repository of documentation keeper for the project, I often get pinged with “Hey, can you hunt up this bit of data for me?” (Which is awesome. I like that.)
I do almost all of my chats in Gmail itself: sometimes I’ll pop one out into its own window (especially now I’ve moved to the iMac and have screenspace again) but mostly I just have a little row of chats across the bottom of my screen. I’ve previously experimented with Adium, but mostly, Gmail works. I also just downloaded Atlantis, a MUSH client, for a community I occasionally chat in that uses a MUSH as the base.
(The one place I don’t do a lot of chatting is via the iPad: I have tools set up for it, but because multitasking works differently there, I’m very unlikely to have it open unless there’s a specific need. Well, and the iPhone, but that’s because I hate typing on the iPhone keyboard.)
However, there’s two places where things get tricky. One is that searchability of chats is about as complicated (for the project) as email. Lots of common terms and words, not always a lot of unique stuff unless I have something that can pin down a date. On the other hand, that’s about content, not about the form of the information.
The other is that very long chats sometimes error out in Gmail – I’ll occasionally have 300, 400, 500 line chats (especially larger group ones) where I’ll try and open the transcript, and get an error when I try to click on the ‘click here for the whole thing’. (If you get this, what works for me is clicking out of the chat folder into the inbox, back into the chat folder, and then trying to open it again. usually works.)
I keep thinking about some way to index them (which would probably be a spreadsheet and a quick summary of what we discussed) but that would require more actual effort, and, yeah. Let’s admit that’s probably not happening.