Spimming around

commentary Instant messaging spam -- or 'spim' -- is here and showing all the characteristics of a precocious sibling to its older brother, e-mail spam. In true annoyingly talented younger child style, it has achieved its first landmark well ahead of its fellow family member.

commentary Instant messaging spam -- or 'spim' -- is here and showing all the characteristics of a precocious sibling to its older brother, e-mail spam.

In true annoyingly talented younger child style, it has achieved its first landmark well ahead of its fellow family member. Last week, 'spimming' (a hideous term -- there are sometimes when your writer is not particularly grateful for tech's contribution to the language) scored its first arrest.

Teenager Anthony Greco last week became the first person arrested on suspicion of spimming after allegedly sending 1.5 million messages to members of the MySpace.com online networking service.

It is evident that spimming will replace spamming as online public enemy number 1 much more quickly than most of us expect. According to tech researchers, there are more than 100 million users of instant messaging worldwide and -- by next year -- instant messaging is poised to outpace e-mail as the preferred way of messaging in the enterprise.

Yet, despite the news, there are many more problematic issues involved with the use of instant messaging in the workplace than spimming. Its spontaneity and ease of use make it far more open to abuse (such as time-consuming discussions or taking the lazy way out in making communications that should be done in person) than its comparatively slow and cumbersome predecessor, e-mail. Every employer your writer has worked for has found it necessary at some point to issue stern reminders about limiting instant messaging use to work purposes. Yet even those charged with administering such policies confess they may catch themselves instant-messaging a colleague who sits close enough to be within whispering distance anyway. One senses that instant messaging will in many cases require either much tougher enforcement of the sorts of acceptable use policies devised for e-mail or the application of new policies that seek to deal with its particular problems.

Your writer actually thinks workplaces would function much more effectively and more productively without instant messaging. Human interaction -- the whole gamut of communication that takes place -- is part of the DNA of successful, aggressive, team-oriented corporate cultures. Bloodless e-discussions (and I don't care how many cute -- read annoying -- emoticons are involved) are not. At the very least, companies should trial instant-messaging-free days and see how they do....

This is obviously a topic that elicits passionate responses, as one colleague just instant-messaged your writer accusing him of blasphemy and another took rather blunt issue with this piece's conclusion. What do you think? Is instant messaging a blessing or a curse? Does spimming rank that high in the hierachy of instant messaging problems? E-mail us at edit@zdnet.com.au and let us know.

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