Business Spotlight

Ground Rules in the Instant Messaging Age

Instant messaging, whether via apps such as Messenger, iMessage or Whatsapp, are a core part of our everyday lives.

But the ground rules of how to conduct ourselves in these digital social environments are by no means black and white. In school, we may have been taught how to respect each other and all the social cues that come along with meeting other people, but we were never taught how to communicate via instant message.

Although the education system in the UK is trying its best to keep up to date with the swiftly moving times, the reality is that the entire population is behind the curve. So, what’s the result of millions of people of all ages and backgrounds grappling with a new social technology at the same time? A whole heap load of mixed signals, crossed lines and wholly unnecessary conflict. Whilst it might be true that some people may always struggle with the social niceties in life, there are a few ground rules that you can follow to avoid ruffling any feathers in the world of instant messaging.

Set your Status

In work-based chat groups and even personal chats, setting a status can be an easy way to communicate whether or not you’re available to talk. These settings should be used with caution, leaving yourself labelled as ‘busy’ for days on end will eventually arouse suspicion that you are not, in fact, busy at all. Paying close attention to a person’s basic status, and also making note of their written status can tip you off as to whether now is the right time to start your conversation or not.

To read receipt or not?

Read receipts can be the bane of online social interactions. Gone are the blissfully ignorant days of the written word, when you could send a letter with a shrug, unsure of it a message would ever reach someone, let alone if they would read it. In the modern age of communications, the sender can now see when a message has been delivered and if it’s been read, which can lead to some frustrating social situations. No one likes to be ignored, but this can often feel like the case when we know someone’s seen our message but has yet to reply.

Do you know who you’re talking to?

Despite how advanced and impressive our technology might appear, it is still fallible, and airtight security, especially when dealing with work-based communications, is something that can be incredibly difficult to achieve. We might be able to lock our messaging apps behind firewalls and passcodes, but all it takes is a skilled hacker, or a particularly smart criminal, to break into our devices and wreak havoc on our social lives.

Abbreviating to infinity

Have you ever seen a message so packed with abbreviations that you’ve found it difficult to discern what is even being said? Whilst the notion of ‘text-speak‘ has been lampooned to death since terms like ‘lol’ and ‘wbu’ have entered into the mainstream consciousness, that hasn’t stopped people from using them. Although many, like the aforementioned, are now considered to be well-known, it can be dangerous to assume that all parties are aware of the definitions. Such assumptions could lead to misunderstandings and the failure of communication.



Working Within 3D Spaces

Max Tucker is a freelance developer with 15 years of experience working withing the architectural visualisation niche. We were able to sit down for a chat with Max on a particularly rainy day in October 2018, to discuss what working as a dev is like in one of the fastest-moving industries, where fidelity and definition, and the ability to plumb the depths of realism, can be the difference between success and ruin. 

You started your career in AV over 15 years ago, just how much has the industry changed since then? 

Immeasurably. Visualisations are something that the layperson will rarely deal with, they’re very much a professional product that is required as proof of concept for projects that can cost an absolute fortune. I had no clue about them at all before I took my first role. I’d spent a couple of years working in IT and had been teaching myself to code on the side. I was given a shot by an architectural firm that wanted to dip their toes in some digital waters, and they saw hiring me as a cheap way of doing just that. In the years following my hiring, the world of AV became intertwined with digital, until my role had become indispensable.

So, it was really a case of right place, right time for you then. Do you still deal with the nitty-gritty codework that you made your name doing?

Not anywhere near as much as I used to. I now work more as a consultant than anything else. I had the good fortune of making my name in the industry right when it was taking off, so I’ve since been able to build authority in my field and take my ideas to new firms who are looking to modernise, or otherwise vamp up their offering. Highlights in my 15-year career have been setting up a digital visualisation department with Ernst & Smith in London and developing a virtual reality 3D workshop with the help of Uniform.

Talking about virtual reality – how do you see this emerging technology changing the architectural visualisation world? 

It already is! I mentioned the work that I did with Uniform, but that was really the tip of the iceberg. Their team are developing some really wild concepts that are going to hopefully revolutionise the way these images are presented to the client. Of course, in order for these technologies to truly take hold, the wider industry still needs to adopt the hardware that is necessary to create these worlds. That means high-end processing units as standard and more affordable, reliable headset technology. The biggest obstacle in the way of virtual reality truly dominating is the glacial pace at which the industry moves.

So it’s a people problem then? 

Isn’t it always? Whilst you’ll always have a minority of innovators pushing inexorably forward, more often than not there will be an army of stubborn individuals firmly digging their heels in, afraid of change and what it could mean to their day-to-day lives. Whilst I understand that human beings crave routine and reliability, to a certain extent this reliance is hobbling our progress. I’m expecting big things from the next generation of developers. Their ideas, their ingenuity and ease with which they navigate the digital landscape could lead to some huge leaps forward!

Dangerous Love Games of the 21st Century

Famed American architect and systems theorist, Buckminster Fuller, once said this about our relationship with technology:

Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.

Whilst he may have been talking about the stockpiling of nuclear armaments and development of even more powerful weapons technology, you can undoubtedly apply this snappy theorem to Western society’s reliance on technology for the kinds of jobs that would once have been assumed to be hopelessly entwined into the human experience. The process of finding a partner has been the subject of numerous self-help books, the focus of hundreds of blogs and the topic of much debate by radio talk show hosts for decades now, but it is only recently that our use of technology has started to intertwine with what has always been assumed to be a chemical process above all else.

Recent surveys have suggested that around half of young people (aged 18-34) in the UK have used a dating app at some point, however many have suggested that they do not enjoy using them. Surveys take in the US suggest a similar trend with 30% of respondents to a YouGov survey stating that they know someone who has met a romantic partner through an online dating service.  Whilst casual online daters might only think of the ‘big players’ when first dipping their toes in the water, there are literally thousands of services available online, seeking to bring two (or sometimes more!) people together.

As a divorced marketing professional, with an eye for a good deal, I’ve tried my hand at most online dating services which has led to various outcomes, some of which I’ll not be sharing here, but what I will be talking about is how each online system changed my perception of the ‘dating game’ and how this affected me as I continued along the dusty dating highway.

My first pit stop on the road was with a service that has long been associated with my age group: Plenty of Fish. Although I’ve been informed friends that PoF has changed a great deal in the last few years, I still found it to be an antiquated system, made no better by the kinds of folks that I found on there. The UI for the mobile app was left a little wanting and I found entering my details a bit of a chore. In seeking to appease their middle-aged clientele, the developers behind this service have created a rather ugly beast that, whilst I’m sure still gets results, left me wanting in terms of aesthetics.

Finding the frigidity of the men on PoF in line with the system that they used, I took a sharp turn onto a younger woman’s app: Tinder. Whilst my two grown daughters cringed at the prospect of being dropped into the same dating pool as them (I initially had the age settings as wide as possible), they were soon helping me pick out photos and laughing as I fumbled my way through the first carousel of ‘lucky’ guys. Out of all the apps I used, I had the most fun with Tinder. There was a spontaneity to using it that was genuinely engaging and I jumped on more than a couple of opportunities for evening drinks when I was twiddling my thumbs during the week.

Whilst I had my fair share of fun on Tinder, I did eventually grow tired of the endless torrent of matches and inappropriate propositions I received from men who would rather chance their arm with a sexual gambit than engage in a real conversation. The app I ended my journey on was Hinge. The marketing slogan for this service is ‘The app designed to be deleted’, a memorable line that flies in the face of most modern app technology. I’ve yet to delete Hinge, but do appreciate the level of personalisation that is available and, even better, the men seem to care a little more than other communities I’ve engaged with.

I’ll end with a quote that writer Robert M. Pirsig had to stay on technology:

Technology presumes there’s just one right way to do things and there never is.

He’s not wrong. When attempting to navigate the often twisted road of personal relationships, it can sometimes to help to try as many tools at your disposal, but remember that these are not the only ways of reaching your desired destination.