Safe Distance


A good while back, I mentioned having something like nine IM and VoIP accounts, none of them truly interoperable with each other.

Fast forward two years, and I now have five landline numbers, more bandwidth than I can possibly make sustained use of, a bunch of pseudo-trendy social network accounts, and a couple more IM accounts.

And let’s face it, Jabber as a unifying standard has failed. Skype has failed too, but mostly due to their insistence in gazing ever inward towards the center of their own navel, and SIP is only victorious because it is now the lingua franca of the new networks operators are rolling out.

And, of course, things like Twitter and Jaiku may have changed the way people keep their friends informed (and may even have provided a nice overview of what IM ought to evolve towards in social terms), but they are less than useful when it comes to having a single method to letting all your friends in on what you are doing – and I don’t expect the situation to improve even if they suddenly start adopting stuff like OpenID and cross-broadcasting updates.

Which they won’t, because they’ll want to stick to promoting their own community and targeting that with ads rather than becoming pure infrastructure and devalue. But what they don’t realize is that Metcalfe’s Law won’t apply to them, and they’ll just perish anyway…

Worse still, all of them are pretty poor at helping you keep your private life separate from your work.

Anyone who’s a regular visitor here will know that there is just about zero purely personal information on this site, as well as even less pertaining to my office hours.

So it should come as no surprise that, in a purely copycat (but long overdue) move inspired by a colleague of mine (who, by the way, has so far demonstrated a lot more common sense than average), I decided to drive yet another wedge between my working hours and my private time and set up separate IM accounts for each.

And guess what, I’m going with MSN (i.e., Windows Live). Why? Because you’d be hard pressed to find anyone (that isn’t a geek or was advised by geeks) using anything else here in Portugal, and because I already had an MSN passport account for Microsoft betas.

Office 2008 isn’t the only thing needing serious fixes

The sad thing, however, is that I have been finding out (the hard way) that the Mac MSN client is still sub-par when compared to its Windows incarnation.

Not only does it not allow for managing users and groups in the same way, it hangs repeatedly and takes a very long time to do such basic operations as moving a user from one group to another. Plus it makes it pretty damn near impossible to rename groups, failing to do so until the fourth attempt or so.

There’s even a particularly annoying buddy that I simply cannot remove (although that person is no longer using that particular account).

In short, the current MSN client for the Mac is a shambles when it comes to managing large buddy lists, and the Yahoo one would outshine if it were not for the fact that there are about three people still using Yahoo on my buddy list (which used to number over one hundred contacts back in the early 00’s).

So I am, of course, using Adium to do the brunt of the work of adding buddies to my work account, moving them from group to group, etc. I cannot, however, get rid of the old groups no matter what I try, so I decided to simply hide empty groups from the buddy list.

And no, Pidgin on Windows or Linux doesn’t do it any better – after all, they both use libpurple, and I did try.

I also expect to withdraw from sites like Twitter and Facebook once I’ve had enough of poking around at them trying to figure out precisely what sort of diluted sense of identity people derive from them.

For now, I suppose, keeping a presence there is a necessary evil when it comes to understanding what people are doing online – not to mention trying to divine the reasons behind the kind of valuation they have.