August 6, 2020

What sucks about Instant Messaging?

Richard @richardesigns

What do you hate, detest or cry yourself to sleep about instant messenging?

(i.e. Whatsapp, Slack, Hipchat, Twist, Zulip, Skype, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn Messenger etc)

The floor is open.

  1. 6

    Constant interruptions. That's why I don't use instant messaging much.

    1. 1

      Yes that and when you do message someone, they don't reply back right away 😂

      1. 1

        Should they though? Does it depend what the person's role is? Like if they're an emergency responder you'd want an immediate response! But if they are a developer, or a designer say should the fact it's IM alone mean users should reply instantly?

        If someone rings me while I'm in the theatre I don't answer. Seems fair.

        1. 1

          You missed the joke by a mile.

          1. 1

            oh man. Sorry pal. I still can't see it. I shall just have to exist in ignorance! I'm sure it's very funny :p

            1. 1

              You must be fun at parties :P

              1. 1

                I'm the life of the party. Yep. A real party animal.

  2. 3

    Maybe I'm old. But, for me, synchronous, real-time messaging platforms are terrible for communications other than casual chats.

    Conversations are constantly overflowing with new messages and catching up takes a lot of time and effort. There are crude tools like an indicator of where new messages start, but with long conversations I frequently lose track of what I've read and what I haven't. So I'm never sure I checked all the latest messages or overlooked something important.

    There's also a lot of noise and the platforms don't provide effective tools for isolating the content I want. Searching also returns a lot of noise.

    I vastly prefer asynchronous platforms like email or discussion boards.

    1. 1

      Honestly don't think it has much to do with age, but a personal preference of working style. I happen to agree with you on this point and I am probably not what you'd call old (although the nineties seem like yesterday!)

      Do the quiet majority accept the norms in IM because that's what we've become used to? Slack, Messenger, Whatsapp are so ubiquitous nowadays do we stop to ask what's working well and what's not working well in those platforms.

      'Catching up on group chat' is a national pastime and one I would gladly retire!

  3. 3

    It's not so much to do with how IM's work but rather the implementation: The fact that no one figured out how to deal with notifications. Most people I know are incapable of formulating a constructive sentence and as a result each time they send you something, it often looks like:

    • hey
    • how are you doing
    • i have a small question
    • do you remember when we were discussing {that} thing
    • martin said something about {x}
    • and how {x} would solve {y}
    • what was {x}
    • do you remember?
    • or should I ask someone else?

    At which point any phone has turned into a ferret on cocaine. It's incredibly irritating.

    1. 1

      It's unfortunate when you put a lot of effort into writing asynchronous comms that allow others to reply when they have a chance.

      Meanwhile you just receive a steady stream of "Yo, can we chat?" or just straight up calls without any prior warning.

    2. 1

      The vibrations from my Whatsapp notifications call into question the structural integrity of my home at times.

      Your analogy is funnier though.

      Since when did it become ok to write a single line to someone and expect an immediate repsonse?

      1. 2

        IM's are not meant to be urgent. That's what calls are for.

    3. 1

      This makes sense. Type - enter. Type - enter. Repeat. Do you find it hard to re-focus after the distraction?

      1. 2

        Not a problem with focusing for me, it's pure irritation and in most cases this results in pure rage.

  4. 2

    Getting ghosted, doesn't work when networks are glitchy, can't send big files, stress of having to answer if you get pinged instead of being able to ignore it like email

    1. 1

      Do you use an IM platform in work or social or both?

  5. 2

    Being instant. It's not the tool but the people who uses it. It's better to use when you need instant communication with someone, but instead you get random memes at 3 am.

    Back in the day on irc, you would wanted to be online as much as possible, you only get "notifications" when you mentioned and needed in a conversation. You only get pinged when someone dm'ed you, but it was rare if you were a guy. So the whole convo was in the rooms and you'll join in when you have time, get the most out of it when you want, easy to scroll back. That was great. It wouldn't drain you when you are off.

    With the icq, msn revolution. You'll be buzzed only when you are online which was also nice. It lacks the community aspect of irc, was good for one on ones but it seems it wasn't good enough too.

    And the whatsapp, telegram age. It sucks. Group chats not easy to follow, one on ones as I said memes at 3 am.

    So what's these questions about, I saw "Why emails sucks", and checked at.im which is unavilable.

    1. 2

      Thanks so much for your comments. I remember MSN. They did a great job of losing all their users! haha.

      This is all about a new project I'm working on with @crowdhailer called https://plummail.co

      At.im was a misguided domain choice from last week that is not what we're going with!

  6. 1

    Type first, Think later.

    I've switched to email completely for my Business communication, even nearly halted personal chat communications.

    1. 1

      This is an interesting approach. The follow up question is surely then, what sucks about email? If anything. Perhaps email is perfect.

      Do you handle your personal communication inside email too?

      1. 1

        what sucks about email? If anything.

        Email by itself is perfect IMO as it had been for decades, my only concern was it's federated nature facing threat from a particular behemoth, but now that email is starting to trend again with new players - e.g. ProtonMail, Hey etc. my concerns are alleviated a bit.

        Do you handle your personal communication inside email too?

        I try, but it's hard to force 'meaningful conversation' as an agenda to friends & family.

        You might be interested in another indie hacker's post today reg email and my comment on that.

        1. 2

          Really interesting thoughts. Thank you. Letterloop is so cool, spotted them earlier today. Great comment.

  7. 1
    • For me, this would be the forced presence (online) status. Not only is it a big invasion of privacy, but it also tends to cause anxiety and forced expectations.
    1. 2

      Agree. Everytime I go to Slack now it pops up saying 'do you want to set to active'. NO. No I do not.

      Being active in an IM platform is like being constantly connected to a group phone call when anyone can interrupt you with whatever they please at any moment.

      1. 1

        True that! It's like have an external open pipe to your todo list.
        This behaviour is the default on WhatsApp. Signal for example feels like the traditional SMS.

  8. 1

    Our product Uclusion was born of our frustration with group chat + Kanban boards for development collaboration. Now we use our own tool and Instant Messaging is relegated to chat about real time or not relevant to a story information.

    1. 1

      Makes good sense. Uclusion looks cool.

  9. 1

    sometimes it becomes a habit to send messages without thinkinh to one person, e.g. to a friend or a spouse. so you may send ANY randow stuff, including "the person next to me is stinky" or "i'll eat a bucket of ice cream when I get home".
    be careful with this habit when you enter another chat or a group :)
    I had a fail once hehehe

    1. 1

      Oh dear! We've all had IM fails, some worse than others. I offended my entire family over a comment about a teapot once. Awful it was. so embarrasing.

  10. 1

    I think most messaging tools are just fine, the problems start with the culture around them. Namely, the expectation of constant availability or having long meandering discussions in a large group chat that isn't relevant to everybody in the group are the biggest pains off the top of my head.

    I think the biggest feature I see lacking in most of them is some way of isolating topics and organizing past discussions. Everything seems to be based around groups of people or high-level categories, but it'd be great to have a way to label discussions to make them easy to find and keep on-topic. "Standup for 2020-08-06", "Discussion re: Feature X", "Database Anomaly - Anyone know why?"

    1. 2

      What do you think of a feature where you could break messages out into a new topic if the conversation in a thread goes off the original topic?

  11. 1

    Synchronized communication over text is slow and cost much more than you think, because of the constant interruptions.

    Instant messenging is not inherently bad, but in the context of work this is probably the worst system to use.

    1. 1

      3 hours on Zulip - 30 minutes on a phone call. Genuine user story from us last year. IM had to go!

  12. 1

    It interferes with deep work and drastically lowers productivity across the world.

    1. 1

      Have you read Cal Newport?

      1. 1

        All his books and most his blog 😃

  13. 1

    I hate that most of sent messages are garbage with no value, but sometimes you get something important you want to access later. But it is gone in the history, really hard to store it in some way. We actually plan to address this in OrgPad by integrating messaging into the entire platform.

    1. 1

      Great idea. You could link to fixtures in the platform as well maybe.

      Clever search and referencing are essential.

  14. 1

    What sucks to me is the way we use it, a.k.a more and more for any communication purposes.

    Once upon a time I was working in a company who was only communicating with slack (without paying, of course). No emails. It was impossible to follow what was happening, and difficult to know what would happens.

    I'm ranting here, but I remember the "Beginning of the Internet". The forums. The blogs. It was so easy to come back to old stuff. To follow again conversations which happened 3 months ago. Now we have Slack and Discord, and it's difficult to come back in time. It's like a regression to me.

    On top of that, if you have too many people speaking together, forget about following something, even in the present.

    Instant messaging is good if you have an urgency, or if you want to speak about something casually. Otherwise, it's just a good way to disturb everybody. If you were focusing on something else, you just lost some time and energy.

    Did I say that I hate notifications? 😅

    1. 1

      Hhaa. yea you might have mentioned it.

      I'd like an IM that deletes all sent messages 2 hours after they were sent.

  15. 1

    I think you could separate this question into two classes for me.

    First there's Whatsapp, Messenger etc that I use to talk to "anyone".
    I most dislike how inefficient these become as the number of people in the conversation increases.

    Second the team communication ones
    For these I most dislike the pretense of asynchronous communication. There is no way of knowing how quickly someone needs a reply and messages are often so short you need a bit of back and forth to clarify what's being asked for. But maybe that was just the last place I worked using Slack wrong

    1. 1

      Ok, so two distinct scenarios. IM at work, IM in personal life.

  16. 1

    This comment was deleted 7 months ago.

      1. 1

        Not sure I quite understand this?

        1. 1

          The original comment which is now deleted was about discord pinging a lot. So, in that context, I told him to just mute all servers so as to minimize notifications as to only when you specifically mentioned by someone.

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