May 14, 2000
Last Revised: November 2, 2005
Over the last 2 decades*, I have studied
in and experimented with modes of communication extensively, both in
the context of business operations and personal/social life. Each mode
has its pros and cons. Optimal results are often achieved thru a
The purpose of this article is not to
make you an expert in understanding the different modes. Rather, it's
to give an overview and awareness of the issues and aspects, so that
you can ask the right questions, as pertained to your goals and
* My own
use of "online chat"
started in 1981, in the era of CompuServe,
and numerous BBSs. It became known as IM (instant messaging) a few
years later. Implementing business IM
was what prompted the writing of this piece. The focus here is not IM
itself. Rather, it's the combination
of modes, and contrast
| Different Modes
landline phone (includes cordless)
wireless mobile phone
2-way radio (FRS, GMRS, Ham)
VoIP + POTS gateway (Vonage, etc.)
VoIP via Internet (commercial or self-op)
VoIP via LAN (as digital PBX plumbing)
VoIP via Wifi (as gateway to POTS)
Traditional Internet News Group
Webcast (streaming video/audio)
Dropbox & Upload Sites
SMS (text messenging)
FAX via phone line
FAX via Internet (POTS gateway)
remote control session
smoke signal, tin cans, semaphore, Morse code, telex
| Aspects of Each Mode
ease of operation
bulkiness of apparatus
popularity and ubiquity
resilience under adverse conditions
versatility (1-tool, multi-purposes)
authenticity (source verification)
integrity/accuracy (content alteration)
cost (fixed and variable)
"call" setup time
Comparison of Modes - with
you can see, the spectrum of criteria is vast. The various modes are
scattered across the multi-dimensional space of features,
functionalities and costs.
Their respective uniqueness and purposes
are largely self-explanatory. However, there are a few notable
clusters of modes with overlapping characteristics, subtle
distinctions, and warrant in-depth comparative analysis.
Goals of Communications
Instant Messaging (vs. email & phone):
- Real time interaction (like
- Easily and accurately
convey detailed technical info such as URLs and error messages (like email).
- Simultaneous sessions with multiple
- No long distance phone charges. Works globally.
- Single uncluttered log per
conversation, vs. threads of scattered email
- "Follow-me" accessibility, wherever the user
- Presence and status indicators.
- Discreetly respond to simple but urgent
matters, while in meetings, or while on phone.
- In the presence of a visitor, staff can
discretely communicate w/ back office to determine actions
- Less intrusive/demanding than phone,
accommodates slightly delayed responses.
- Seamlessly switch between synchronous (instant)
& asynchronous (delayed) interaction modes
- Send sound, images and URL in collaboration.
- IM accessible via mobile devices.
Email Advantages vs. Phone:
- Non-intrusive. Minimize interruption.
- Time I spent in thinking does not cost you!
- Time you spent in formulating the question does
not cost me.
- Provides a trail of written records, it covers
everyone, and is helpful from the technical point of view.
- Facilitates full/partial delegation. I can have
part or all of the research done on my behalf, with my supervision.
- Can leverage previous work.
- Forces you to structure & clarify the
- Voice messages are error prone for detailed
- Can include error messages and log files, etc.
- I can work at 11:30pm California time and
Email Advantages vs. FAX:
- No busy signals
- No dedicated line or troublesome switches
- Retrievable from hotel room when I travel
- Much faster transmission
- Physical space efficiency
- Auto-file, keyword searchable
- Editable content
- Can include color pictures, sound &
- Can provide hot links
- Far superior legibility