|First Published: 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 sensible combination.
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 objectives.
|face-to-face, in-person meeting
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
Also: smoke signal, tin cans, semaphore, Morse code,
Aspects of Each Mode
popularity and ubiquity
resilience under adverse conditions
versatility (1-tool, multi-purposes)
authenticity (source verification)
(fixed and variable)
"call" setup time
Comparison of Modes - with Overlapping Features
|As you can see, the spectrum of
criteria is vast. The various modes are scattered across the
multi-dimensional space of features, functionalities and
Their respective uniqueness and purposes are largely
self-explanatory. However, there are a few notable clusters
with overlapping characteristics, subtle distinctions, and
warrant in-depth comparative analysis.
Goals of Communications
Benefits of Instant Messaging (vs. email & phone):
- Real time interaction (like phone).
- Easily and accurately convey detailed technical info such as
URLs and error messages (like email).
- Simultaneous sessions with multiple participants feasible.
- No long distance phone charges. Works globally.
- Single uncluttered log per conversation, vs. threads of
- "Follow-me" accessibility, wherever the user signs-on.
- 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
- 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 problem descriptions
- Voice messages are error prone for detailed technical matters
- Can include error messages and log files, etc.
- I can work at 11:30pm California time and respond
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 & video
- Can provide hot links
- Far superior legibility