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Racing to instant messaging

Feb 17, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

So there I was Googleracing with my friend Sandy and this particular race was more like a cross-country marathon than a sprint. And she pointed out that . . . pardon? Oh, what is Googleracing?

Ah. Well, have you heard of Googlewhacking? This is a fabulously geeky pastime wherein you try to find two English words that, when typed into the Google search engine, are found on one, and only one, Web page (the definitive site for aficionados is

Since then, other games have emerged such as Googlisms, which searches for statements about people and things, and Googlespolling (my name for it) whereby you search for pages with misspellings in the hope of finding amusing gaffs. For example, go to Google and search for physic readings. But I digress.

Googleracing is yet another game played with Google. The game starts when two or more people are on a telephone call when a question comes up that no one knows the answer to. The Googlerace begins to find the answer and the person who finds it first wins.

In the case of the race I had with Sandy we were talking about a business project, and the conversation wandered. We wound up arguing over the exact words of the Saturday Night Live sketch where Dan Aykroyd, playing the part of a politician in a debate, turns to his female opponent and says “Jane, you ignorant slut.”

Turns out that even with Google’s help finding the script for that show is tricky. But Sandy’s search discovered the only two sites with the complete text in something like 50 seconds.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, so Sandy was in San Francisco and she pointed out that we should really be chatting using instant messaging. When I first came across instant messaging I thought it was neat but not of much value to business. At the time, none of my business clients and colleagues were on it so it didn’t seem too useful. How wrong was I? Very.

It turns out that quite a few of my business associates are now using instant messaging, and it seems that instant messaging is becoming a critical component of corporate communications. There are several reasons for this.

First, instant messaging is immediate and less intrusive than other messaging methods. Second, instant messaging is low impact – messaging products are free or low-cost, the management overhead can be as low as you like, and the bandwidth use is trivial. Third, it provides a new dimension to communications – the awareness of the availability and status of the other members of your team, your department or even your whole organization.

Of course, in a corporate setting you might want to ensure (or require for legal reasons) strict control of instant messaging. And because there are lots of related collaboration tools that don’t interoperate, there’s also the Tower of Babel problem to solve (or should that have been Tower of Babble?).

Products such as Envoke from Asynchrony Solutions are emerging to address these issues.

Envoke makes instant-messaging systems secure, auditable bridges between different collaborative systems such as CUSeeMe and Lotus SameTime, and provides multiple client interfaces: A Web portal, a stand-alone Java client, and a Palm OS client for wireless communications.

An interesting extension to the Envoke system is an API that can add computer service connections to instant messaging. For example, a back-office database could be queried interactively just like any other instant-messaging user.

This kind of depth of service will make instant messaging part of your communications strategy rather than the liability that a user-driven ad hoc solution will be.

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Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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