Tag Archives: Online chat

Watching TV With The Community


Been watching the veep debates on Livestation, which has an interesting feature: a live chat connected to the program with some LiveStation folks guiding the discussion.

It works pretty well: It’s great to be able to watch TV with a bunch of other people, though I had one eye on that chat, and one eye on some Skype, Google Talk, twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed chat windows too.

This makes all sorts of sense, and I commend Livestation for doing this kind of thing. The IRC format is a bit old school; it would be nice to see something beyond the noisy chat format. Or, even better, being able to drag our other communities into the window to watch together.

But that’s down the road. This is a good way to share information—live and visual—and I think this is an exciting way forward.

Update: Livestation points out that the chat is directly connected to Al Jazeera via Russell Merryman, Head of New Media, who was feeding comments through to the studio to guide the post-debate discussion.

The Way Chat Should Be


Great to see that Google Talk is adding improvements. I just noticed this one, for example: Drag a photo into a chat window and it appears in the chat itself. Click on the picture and a little progress bar lights up on the right as the recipient accepts the picture.

Resize the window and the picture resizes:


This is good stuff, especially when you compare it with Skype, which for some reason no longer allows dragging of files or links into a chat.

Chat, in short, needs to fit the conversation. And conversation involves sharing things, looking at things together, and generally connecting to each other.

Switch to Google Talk. Skype, get your act together.

The Skype Marketplace Gets A Dating Service

In my AWSJ/WSJ.com column on Skype a few weeks back (subscription only; sorry) I talked about how Skype might change the way we communicate online — in part by introducing lots of interesting new business models. Well, it seems to have started.

German website Someonenew.com has today announced it has launched a dating website using Skype:

Someonenew.com, a unique dating web site, which allows users to chat in real time to each other using the power of Skype is proud to announce the launch of a new German-language Web site http://de.someonenew.com.

The site now allows German-speaking consumers to search and find other German speakers to chat with and create friendships.

Within the next year Someonenew.com will add French, Italian, Russian and Portuguese to the site. This multi-lingual version of the site was created in response to the company’s growth in the international market and plans for continued expansion. It also reinforces the company’s dedication to consumers and getting new audiences excited about real-time dating.

It’s pretty straightforward:

1. If you haven’t got Skype… Get Skype and install it.
2. Sign-up to SomeoneNew and create your profile.
3. Start searching for someone to chat to.

Already 2,654 people have signed up. Not a lot, but a start. The point about this, of course, is that it’s nothing to do with Skype. Skype is the marketplace, with (as I type this) about 2.5 million people online. That’s a lot of people.

The Idea of Availability

I can’t remember who I was talking about this to but, stuck at the airport Starbucks again I thought I’d blog my thoughts while they’re not too addled by caffeine.

I have Skype, I have Packet8, I have GPRS, I have landlines, I have Instant Messaging. So why is IM the smartest of the bunch? Because it knows when I’m available, and it tells anyone I want the same information. If I’m not online, then I’m not available on IM, so there’s not much point in reaching me. Telephones don’t have this feature: Users have no way of telling whether the person they’re calling is available (or where they are, or any of that kind of information). Why not?

Of course it’s not just a question of being online, but being ‘available’ in the sense of wanting to accept calls.
Skype also has this feature because it doubles as a chat program, but that illustrates the complexities of these different tools. Do I want to accept calls from people I’m happy to IM with? (Say it’s 6 am where I am, do I really want to talk business with someone in their afternoon timezone, or do I always want to chat to my niece in the middle of the day?

Tricky questions, but I’d like to hear from folk who are working on this concept of communication. How do we offer both the caller and the called great leverage over communications without further invading privacy, or introducing new layers of social mores?

First off I’d like to see VoIP allow, if it doesn’t already, services that enable users of the same service to see whether other users are near their phone (if they permit this information to be available). Maybe this kind of thing already exists?

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/]

The Ugly Instant Messenger

I’m a big fan of Trillian, the IM aggregator, but I had to download and install AIM, AOL’s Instant Messenger last night for an abortive video conference. Sheesh, what a monster it is (AIM, not the conference). Do AOL and the other biggies still not get it?

For sure, Trillian is something of a parasite. It piggybacks other free instant chat services and makes money off them. But it does it very, very well: The Trillian interface, whatever the skin you put on it, is a masterpiece of simplicity, understatement and intuitiveness. Compare it with AIM or ICQ (both owned by AOL) which are behemoths, and, in the case of ICQ, an embarrassingly bloated caricature of the old Elvis Presley. (ICQ is now available in a ‘Lite’ version which supposedly sheds most of the rubbish, but it’s still ugly.)  

What’s more, AIM is intrusive. It loads on start-up without asking; it loads (painfully slowly) an ad-window, and it leaves icons trailing like empty beer cans behind a truck. I had to look closely at the contact window past all the ads and hernia-inducing graphics to find out who was an online buddy and who was an ad. Yuck.

I know these guys need to make money. But they don’t have to hoodwink users and bombard them with rubbish to do it. And they have all their priorities skewed anyway. Instead of trying to load these programs with silly extras and ads, they should be working on interoperability: The business model will start to come once all these services can hook up with each other. For now I’m sticking with Trillian, knowing I can talk to anyone I want in the same list. After a while you don’t even notice which service they’re using. How about that for branding?

News: Where Online Chat Is Going

 It’s now pretty clear where this Instant Messaging thing is going, and why Yahoo and Microsoft have suddenly started blocking third parties from piggybacking their services. Microsoft have announced a hook-up with news agency and financial data transporter Reuters allowing users of the Messenger network to chat with the 50,000 members of Reuters own internal network (used mainly by traders).
The idea, of course, is that the (alleged; probably much smaller) 100 million MSN users can go straight to their broker through a secure chat window. Or, as ENTnews puts it: “In theory, the combination could allow logged, real-time communications among traders and their clients. What better medium than IM for messages like “Buy!” or “Sell!” that can be immediately acknowledged by a broker?”
Expect to see more of this among the big boys. Yahoo are probably next up. This is not going to help ICQ users, for example, to chat with Yahoo Messenger users, but it is likely to make IM software more secure. Companies like Reuters are not going to allow instant messaging near their networks if it also brings viruses, hacking or can be easily eavesdropped.

Update From The IM Wars Front

 Seems like the IM wars aren’t over yet. Further to my postings about Yahoo and Microsoft Messenger apparently blocking third party chat aggregators like Trillian, seems the latter’s patches don’t seem to be enough to keep folk connected. CNET reports that Yahoo has begun blocking Cerulean Studios’ Trillian software from communicating with its own instant messaging software as part of its plan to limit third parties from piggybacking on its service.
On Thursday, some Trillian users began reporting an inability to communicate with their Yahoo Messenger contacts. A Yahoo spokeswoman on Friday morning confirmed that Trillian users’ inability to access Yahoo Messenger was the result of recent policies put in place by the Web giant. A day after last week’s Yahoo announcement, Trillian released software patches that were aimed at allowing it to continue accessing Yahoo and MSN buddy lists. But as of this week, CNET says, those patches do not appear to be working.

News: More Bad News For Chat

 Bad news for those of us who use third party programs to collect all our instant messaging accounts. I use Trillian, which does a great job of allowing me to access ICQ, Yahoo, AOL and MSN from one window. Not for long, though: CNET reports that Yahoo is planning an upgrade to its instant messaging software that will block access via such third-party IM applications. The reason: to protect IM users from unwanted spamming from advertisers.
Yahoo’s announcement, CNET reports, comes on the heels of similar news from rival IM software maker Microsoft that it plans to bar third-party client software from gaining access to its MSN Messenger IM applications. On Oct. 15 Trillian users will also lose access to the Microsoft IM client.
I think the spam argument is specious. I can well understand Yahoo and co not liking folk such as Trillian piggybacking their (free) chat services but to blame spam is just silly. To do in the same breath as suggesting they’re in favour of some general standard that would allow folk from, say, ICQ, to chat with someone from MSN is also pretty pathetic. These services have been around for more than five years now, and that no such standard exists is absurd. That’s why I’ve used Trillian and I’ll continue to do so.

News: Instant Messaging, The Productivity Killer

 A revealing survey by network security company Blue Coat Systems on instant messaging: Three quarters of British workers use it for personal purposes in the office, including abusive language (50%), conspiring against colleagues during conference calls (40%), sexual advances (nearly a third). Americans appear to be better behaved: less than one in five participants said they used IM to comment on senior management or to flirt. One explanation for the disparity, according to Reuters, is the Big Brother notion. Nearly 60 percent of British respondents did not believe or were unsure whether their IM conversations could be monitored by their employer while 71 percent of US respondents believed — correctly — that IM messages could be traced.
I’d love to see some good, cheap small network chat programs to replace ICQ and AIM in the workplace, but so far I haven’t found a good one. Chat is a great way to communicate quickly; if users know they can be monitored, they’ll keep their flirting, outrageous language and Byzantine plotting to a minimum.

Software: A Way To Avoid The Messaging Nasties

 Do a lot of online chat, or instant messaging (IM)? If you do, you’re as vulnerable to nasty folk trying to do nasty things to your computer as using email, including viruses, worms and other ways to get information from your PC, take over your PC or just to make it stop working.
The good news is that Zone Labs, who make the excellent Zone Alarm firewall (a firewall is a piece of software that tries to keep out some of these nasties), will today launch a product to specifically target IM threats to your computer. IMsecure Pro 1.0 IM traffic and blocks malicious code and spam, encrypts messages sent between IMsecure users and allows users to set rules on outgoing messages and block features such as file transfers and voice and video chats.
IMsecure Pro works with Yahoo’s Messenger, Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, and America Online’s AOL Instant Messenger and costs $19.95. A free, dressed-down version of the product for personal and nonprofit users will be available by the end of the month. Given how useful Zone Alarm is, I’d keep an eye out for this. At the time of writing the product had not been posted.