Conversation Headers

Alternately: Can I ask you a question?

Having read Skumby'sHi!! How are you?! I was thinking about how it extends to text-based conversation. Much of my human interaction currently is via. text-based mediums, such as MSN, SMS, Jabber, IRC and Sametime (although, luckily, not the version that's inflicted on the public :)).

Starting with IRC, specifically, support channels for various topics (ie. freenode's ##c++ and ##java), where people will go for help and support (from volunteers). In general, when a new body turns up, there are basically three things that happen:

  1. They get it right, ie. they don't do one of the below, this doesn't, however, necessarily mean that they're going to ask a "smart question".
  2. < new> hi?
  3. < new> ne1 have ne experience with {blank}? or
     < new> can i ask a question about {blank}?

Both of those questions are complete time-wasters (and would never get to "How are you?!"), the second set admittedly yields some information (maybe even enough for a no), but contains no information that wouldn't be in your "smart question" anyway. Grr.

On to MSN/Jabber/Sametime.

If someone contacts you, they want something. Three categories again:

  1. They're bored, and want you to share something interesting you've done.
  2. They've something absolutely positively awesome that they can't wait to share with/inflict on you.
  3. They want something non-social, ie. something physical, or help, ie. for you to actively do something.

All three of those will probably start with a "Conversation Header" ("Hi!" "Hey." "How're you?" "Fine thanks, you?" "I'm okay, thanks... say.."), which is of no value to me as the receiver.

Even worse: I leave myself connected to MSN/Jabber/Sametime(/IRC) 24/7 (or as close to as possible). Why? So people can contact me. I might not be sitting there reading what they write, as they write it, but I'll (almost) definitely read it at some point. How does the "Conversation Header" 'help' here? It stops them giving me even the slightest clue what they were wanting to talk about. Grrr.

On to SMS: the ultimate communication mechanism.

I love SMS. It fixes all of the above, everything:

  • Charging per message.
  • Limiting the length (160 chars on real phones).
  • (according to reliable sources, my sister (no, I won't link to your myspace page)) makes it much easier to type properly, and complete hell to try and write txt spk, thanks to predictive text.
  • No guarantees on reply times.

So, in conclusion, to make the (textual) world a better place, etc.:

Bah, humbug.

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