Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Email Uncool, IM Rulz Research from Penn State, noting the negative reaction to email use among 'third generation internet users' (i.e. teens), who strongly prefer IM for peer-group interaction. (The press release is not yet on the web, so I include the full text here.)

A new generation of Internet users views email as a relic of the past, preferring instant messaging for communication with their peers, according to a Penn State researcher.

"For the first time, a standard, everyday tool like email is no longer being used by a specific youth culture," says Steven L. Thorne, associate director of the Center for Language Acquisition in Penn State?s College of the Liberal Arts.

These youths, roughly 18, 19 and 20 years old, are third-generation Internet users and to them, email is akin to getting dressed up for a job interview, an uncomfortable formality to be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

"They use email to contact their employer or professors, or to ask their parents for money, but not for age-peer interaction," adds the Penn State researcher.

This observation came as a surprise to Thorne who, in a project funded by the U.S Department of Education, was exploring online communication as a means to help students learn French by connecting them with university students in Bretagne, France.

"I hoped to use the Internet to link people up, get them fired up about building friendships so they would be more invested in learning the language," says Thorne, who also is associate director, Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research (NFLRC), in Penn State?s College of the Liberal Arts.

Thorne and his collaborators chose Net Meeting, a real-time conferencing program that allows users to exchange text and video messages from anywhere in the world. However, they worried that the time difference would limit the students? opportunities to interact. To avoid this problem, they also required participants to exchange a number of emails as part of their semester grade. Interestingly, some of the most compelling intercultural interactions occurred when students chose another Internet communication program, AOL?s Instant Messenger (IM). The students? reaction led Thorne in an unexpected direction.

"From my advanced age," the 41-year-old Thorne laughs, "because I am not part of this young IM generation, email does not seem an entirely objectionable choice. But objectionable it was."

While many students spent hours of IM time with their "keypals," most sent only the required number of emails. In one case, a Penn State woman opted not to send any, despite the negative effect on her grade and an apparent infatuation with her male French contact.

"It was obvious to me she had a crush on this French student, and so had even more motivation to reach out than just the grade," says Thorne. "There is pretty clear evidence in what the students did that they would not use email for peer relationship building."

In an article published in the May issue of the journal Language Learning & Technology, the Penn State researcher proposes that Internet communication tools are simply that -- tools -- and, as such, are subject to what he terms "cultures-of-use." In other words, while 40-year-olds might use email to plan an after-work get-together, third-generation Internet users would not dream of it.

"These are habituated IM users," explains Thorne. "They have been using the Internet to communicate with each other for five, six, seven years now and have developed specific preferences. In educational settings this is paramount. For example, as one of the designers of this project, I chose the wrong tool. How they use the Internet in everyday life outside of the university has everything to do with how teachers should use it in the classroom."

In a broader context, as these third-generation Internet users hit the job market, they will undoubtedly carry with them their cultures-of-use for Internet communication programs. Currently, IM is largely frowned upon at the office, but Thorne sees small pockets of users already beginning to transform the workplace.

For example, an undergraduate recently applied for a position with an employer located some distance from Penn State, he recalled. The company's recruiter herself had graduated from college recently as well and to save travel expenses, the two women decided to use IM to conduct the job interview. While that may be unthinkable to many, this is a generation that has grown up talking to each other while sitting in front of a computer.

Thorne says it is possible that IM may encroach further into territory currently reserved for email. "I can also see some other new technology coming along and supplanting IM. I wish we were better able to predict the future," he notes.

100 Million Customers and Counting: MSN Messenger Extends Worldwide Lead Among Instant Messaging Providers
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As several would predict...once the engine is started not much can stop the bulldozer now!

Wired News: A TiVo Player for the Radio

Wired News: A TiVo Player for the Radio Several electronics makers are releasing new products that promise to do for radio what the TiVo digital video recorder has done for television.

I want 'pause' for radio...although recording wouldn't be bad either!

Boston Globe Online / Nation | World / Verizon battling on broadband

Boston Globe Online / Nation | World / Verizon battling on broadband Babbio said it costs Verizon about $5,000 per location to replace a pay phone with a WiFi ''node'' that fits inside the phone stand and to upgrade network connections to broadcast an 11-megabit-per-second Internet connection within about a 300-foot hot-spot range. Verizon will offer the service exclusively to its own DSL customers who get special access codes, hoping the perk of free WiFi will boost interest in DSL. Gowing acknowledged that ''it's just not completely secure. You probably don't want to be shopping online when you're sitting at the park'' in range of a WiFi transmitter and computer hackers who may be trying to ''sniff'' data from the air, Gowing said. ''It's good for e-mail and casual Web surfing, but if it's something intensely private and secret, you probably don't want to be doing it at a hot spot, whether it's one of ours or anyone else's.''

Tuesday, May 13, 2003 Comment: Corporate messaging will grow Comment: Corporate messaging will grow The market for IM for corporates is currently fairly small in the UK, but analyst firm Yankee Group points out that there are 25 million business users in the US, and it predicts 150 percent compound annual growth through to 2005.