teradyneezeri: (Default)
[personal profile] teradyneezeri
Something which I have seen that continues to bother me is the reduction of status states in regard to messaging systems.

Originally, you would see many different status states, along with the option to provide a status message to go with it. Often, this message was given only when someone attempted to message you, though some would display it along with your information. XMPP, ICQ, MSN/Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger all have this feature, with XMPP and ICQ having the most choices for status states.

Most protcols use a few basic status states: Online, Busy, Away, and Offline. XMPP, Skype for Desktop, and ICQ also have a state called "Do Not Disturb", which is designed to be a set when the user does not want notifications while still appearing as online. XMPP and Skype also have a setting known as "Invisible", allowing the user to appear as "Offline", but still able to send and receive messages.

Today, quite a few modern applications either do not have status states, or only have two: Online, or Invisible/Offline. Skype for Metro/Mobile, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts provide only the two states, while mobile-first messengers such as WhatsApp and Telegram simply report the time that the user was last known to look at the application.

These messengers have a major flaw, known as "assumption of availability". When using the protocols, if you access the application, the service assumes that you are Available (Online) without polling you to set a status. This causes other users to assume that you are available to chat, which in turn causes a socially-backed assumption that you will reply to their messages.

Skype has begun to disturb me. Built into Windows Phone 8 and installed by default on Windows 8 (and soon to include Windows 10), if you access the application, it will often assume that you wish to be set as Online. I have found my account set to this state countless times, even after manually setting it to Invisible within the app itself on my phone.

I try to keep myself set to Invisible when I do not wish to chat, as only the desktop client (Windows Desktop, Mac OS X, Linux) reports the proper status message outside of Online or Offline. Otherwise, I would keep myself to Do Not Disturb. I do need to keep the service running, however, as my mates and I use it to communicate when we are busy and in our bedrooms. Both Calyo and I use XMPP, but Sildrae uses Skype as his primary contact location.

The biggest issue is that people will see me set to Online, and instantly message me, despite actually being set to away. Skype for Metro/Mobile, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Telegram are infinitely inferior products because of this issue, as they cause a lack of communication to equate to "being ignored", when in actuality the user is likely not paying attention to their device.

Of course, there is also one other issue with status states: even when the client provides the properly, many people ignore them. I could count the number of start in the sky before I would reach the number of times someone repeatedly tried to send me messages on a protocol that was clearly reporting me as Away, Do Not Disturb, or even Invisible.

Although it is only my opinion, I believe that the assumption comes from the same source as the decision to do away with status states: people do not pay attention when attempting to contact someone. They assume that, because they have a client set to any state aside from "Offline", that they must be available to chat and simply trying to be selective of who they speak to.

I only wish I were exaggerating this point, but I have even witnessed someone attempting to repeatedly message me while I was set to Invisible, simply because I had posted a status update on Twitter. They later admitted that they were frustrated when I had not replied, even though I was not actually at my PC when they attempted to contact me.

Status states seem to have become a relic of the past in the minds of many modern application developers, allowing them to assume that the user is always connected in some manner, and likely always paying attention to their devices. This is very much a Silicon Valley mentality, and somewhat disconnected from real world use cases (as with many of Silicon Valley's enhancements of technology). I shudder to think of what may happen if this continues.

August 2015

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