Welcome, Jason.

You have 48 buddies signed on.

Of these, 47 have been idle for more than 12 hours.

I admit it, I was once like these folks. I naïvely left my AOL Instant Messenger client on 24/7, utilizing away messages to inform people of my whereabouts. After a few instances where I returned to find ten IM windows asking where are u????? because I had neglected to set a message, I stopped.

Now, I am a full-time student at Carnegie Mellon University. This university worked closely with MIT to develop such protocols as AFS, Kerberos, and Zephyr. They sit unused. Why?

AO-fucking-L Instant Messenger.

It, along with e-mail, has replaced FTP as a means of file transfer. It has been installed, repeatedly, on every public computer available, even though scripts like depot and RevRDist remove it promptly upon reboot and/or logout. It is a very useful program for chatting with people. However, everything is good in moderation. AIM is not used in moderation.

When a buddy of mine signs on, I can set any order of alerts: a simple sound effect played at reasonable volume, a small text display, or even a speech alert. The same goes for when he or she signs off. Newer versions of the AIM client will even display alerts when users go on-line and off-line while you have chat windows open with them, so you don't pour your heart into 1 KB of HTML while their connection is being punted. However, when people go "away" on AIM, there is little to do unless you're using the official OSCAR client with its hacked-up semblances of "Buddy Alerts."

The fault traces back to AIM's core design. Before the client was available elsewhere, Instant Messaging was a feature accessible only to AOL subscribers. As a result, no off-line messaging feature was available. Instead, you could send e-mail; if the user's screen name were k3wld00d69rofl, you could send e-mail to k3wld00d69rofl@aol.com and be reasonably sure that your message would get through. AIM lacks such off-line messaging features, so (my screen name)@aol.com won't work as an e-mail box or even a forward until I pay $9.95 to $23.90 for AOL access. What's the easiest way to dodge the lack of off-line messaging? Easy! Never go off-line!

The biggest whine I have with AIM lurkers is that they pollute my list. When I want to view a list of buddies to speak with, I want to see how many are on-line. Unlike AOL daughter company ICQ, which has multiple away states and the ability to sort the list by degree of awayness, there are the following states in AIM:

  • On-line.
  • Off-line.
  • Idle for n minutes.
  • Away with message m.
It is very possible to segregate overly idle people into a separate group, but no client I have found does this.

If you're not at your computer, and don't expect people to message you urgently, and won't be returning any time soon, get the fuck off of AIM. Seeing "away in some place 400 miles from here!" for 48 hours straight is not my idea of "instant" communication.


I feel better now.

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