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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much of a pain modern communication has become. Weren’t electronic forms of communication supposed to make our lives easier and better? That may have been true 10 years ago, when our choices for messaging were limited to email and maybe one IM client, but it sure doesn’t feel that way to me anymore.
I try to keep my communication as simple as possible, which right now boils down to email, IM and phone, chosen in roughly that order depending on circumstances. The frustration is that I need to keep a list of ways to contact each person in my head. The list is basically: how can I best contact this person at a given time of day and day of week? Many people can’t access personal email at work, so work email is the only option. Some people are on IM while at work but not otherwise, and vice versa. Other people love texting. Some have adopted Facebook for all communication. A smaller bunch are only contactable at night with online game messaging like Steam or in WoW.
I won’t even count the many other streams like Twitter and MySpace since I avoid them.
The image below is an attempt to encode my thought process when contacting someone into a decision tree. (Click to enlarge) I glossed over some of the complexities like “Am I at a computer, on my iPhone, driving, etc?”
I think a smartphone makes it more difficult to find a good answer because I want everything to be the same whether I’m at my desktop at home, work laptop, or iPhone. I’ve tried to come up with a product idea that would solve this, but none so far. I want to click on a persons name and have it figure out how to route the message.
If I only messaged when at a computer then a partial solution might be found with some of the newer multi-IM clients that also support social sites and email. When you get to using multiple devices it seems a hosted service is required. A service that managed your global inbox, so all IM, email, texts, Facebook messages, etc, is interesting but starts to blur the line of when to show you as truly “away” for IM, which defeats a lot of the purpose.