• United States
IDG Enterprise Consulting Director

A different kind of Vortex

Sep 26, 20036 mins
Data CenterLinuxMessaging Apps

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.Hamlet

William Shakespeare,

Dear Vorticians,

I always promise to be brief in these missives and, generally, fail miserably at that goal. But today, I must be. I’m swamped from traveling and I simply want to share more of the great mail I’ve received on the glories and evils of instant messaging and presence technologies.

First, a couple quick asides. I couldn’t resist passing along a link to a New York Times story about the Oregon Vortex, which is currently for sale for a mere $3.5 million asking price. The Vortex is a 22-acre lot “billed as a mysterious point where some laws of physics are temporarily suspended as the result of the confluence of magnetic fields.”

Visitors and the current owners say that, in the Oregon Vortex, objects defy gravity – balls roll uphill, brooms stand on end – some people feel relief from lifelong pain and others get nauseated by the weird visual perspectives and, perhaps, all that magnetic energy. Longtime attendees of VORTEX – the conference, not the mystery spot – may recall that some of the original companies presenting at VORTEX also defied gravity, at least until the stock market crashed.

I’m trying to convince our VP of events, Robin Azar, to buy the Oregon Vortex and to move the conference there. It’s perfect, except for the nausea. You can read more at:

Also, I couldn’t resist at least a quick passing comment about the statement SCO released this week praising HP for indemnifying its customers against legal claims in the ongoing, and extremely depressing, battle between SCO and the open source community. SCO says: “We are gratified that, alone among the major Linux vendors, HP has taken a strong stand to protect their customers by indemnifying them against possible legal difficulties stemming from their use of Linux.”

That would make SCO the only gratified party in this whole mess. HP’s announcement is a shrewd marketing move – a calculated risk, if you will – not validation of SCO’s claims. In fact, HP said it considered legal action to try to stop SCO. Maybe we’d all be better off if HP, like IBM and others, was fighting this. How would you solve this mess? Peacemaking – or warlike – thoughts to

Anyway, I’m prattling on again. Here are the notes from readers about the emergence of instant, always-on communications.

Vortician Wes Hirschhorn wrote: “As with many technologies – you could include the telephone for starters – there are always going to be those who use them for unintended purposes, or who don’t know how to use them (appropriately). My own experience with IM in the workplace is that it can be a very helpful tool when you need a simple answer in a hurry. People will still ignore it, like they do the phone, though you can usually tell when they’re just trying to get work done by their blocking percentage.

“IM can also create some alienation among teams when people use it to communicate, for actual work-related info, with a person who’s only a cube or two away, instead of going to see them or using the phone.

“Yes, there is the constant opportunity for clowning around, hacking and dissemination of sensitive company information, but that’s what acceptable use policies and security software are for.

“I do find it annoying that you can’t configure the windows not to pop up on top of whatever you’re working on so that your work doesn’t end up in the IM window by mistake. It would seem simple enough to have the conversation windows minimized until you click on them and simply flash, as they do now when you have an incoming message.

“On a more personal note, my wife and I use it to stay in contact and make family arrangements on the fly. I may be starting work for a government contractor soon and don’t think I’ll be able to use any sort of IM. Guess it’s back to the phone and making a

list of things to check on in the meantime.”

This from Vortician Pat Brown: “People think spam is bad? Wait until everyone is connected through IM. People will be chattering back and forth without regard to anyone else’s needs. Heaven forbid you don’t answer them IMMEDIATELY. They’ll just send a dozen more to say ‘What’s up? Where are you?'”

Vortician Andy Oliver added: “Interesting column on IM. However, the real concern for network managers is not users being pinged when they don’t want to be pinged. What should keep network professionals up at night is the huge security threat posed by viruses and worms, which can enter through insecure public IM systems. The fact is that most companies don’t formally manage public IM use within their organizations (per the Yankee Group). It seems organizations don’t fully realize the extent of the risk to network security through employees using unsanctioned IM. That might be a good question to ask readers. Is IM a potential health hazard to your network, rather than just an inconvenience to some?”

From the global front, Vortician Guillermo Rodriguez wrote: “I read your article about IM and I disagree about the impact. Here in our company, we started to use AOL IM as a tool to communicate with each other. It was very useful when you were in a meeting to request quick information from your coworkers. Also, people could send private comments among the participants of the meeting. It was an excellent tool to receive a faster answer from a coworker, especially if this person does not provide a quick answer by e-mail. IM reduced a lot of e-mails.

“The problem: Our IT department has the impression that the use of IM has overloaded our internal network. They decided to block the ports to access the IM network. Now, we do not have IM and productivity goes down because it takes more time to get an answer. It has been very frustrating having it, and not having it now.”

Thanks all. Keep the comments coming at

Finally, this item about communications overload. The owner of the U.K. mobile company Phones4U has banned the use of e-mail within his company, describing it as a cancer that needed to be removed.  In a Reuters article, the owner ” . . . described himself as a slow typer who has yet to send an e-mail on his own. (He) introduced the measure this week because staff were spending too much time with internal e-mails rather than dealing with customers. He calculated three hours per day off e-mail multiplied by the number of staff affected by the ban (600-700) multiplied by the average employee wage will translate to monthly savings of 1 million pounds ($1.63 million).”

Hmm. Maybe you shouldn’t be reading this. Bye for now.