Missed Manners

I'm of an age where I missed the initial enthusiasm for instant-messaging. Oh sure, I was aware of AIM and the whole chat-til-you-retch thing, but it seemed to me the kind of technology best left to teenyboppers. With the advent of iChat, I have a better appreciation of its utility. However, coming late to the party as I have, I can't help thinking that I've missed out on some of the finer points of the process.

For example, at what stage in the exchange do you acknowledge that both parties have sent their final farewells? I mean, if you tap in "OK, thanks, talk to you later!" and your buddy types back "Have a nice weekend!" are you then obliged to follow up with a "You too!" at which point they reply "Bye" and then you feel duty-bound to enter "¡Hasta la vista!"?

Is there some code phrase I've missed that signals "I'm really done now, so shut the hell up!" Sure, you could just flip on the red dot to indicate you have nothing more to contribute or quit the program altogether, but that smacks of yanking the phone cord out of the wall in mid-goodbye.

And speaking of the red dot, when is it cool to lob a message at a red-dotted individual? For instance, is it kosher to use the red dot as a kind of answering machine as in: "Hey, I know you're not available to chat, I just wanted to let you know that I can see your house from across the valley and your rumpus room appears to be on fire. Have a nice day! :-)?"

And, as the red dotter, does one need to create Away messages that are more stern than others? For example, must I create a three-tiered system that reads "Away," "Racing the clock," and "Drunk and Ornery: Enter at Your Own Risk?" so that my buddies have an idea of just how welcome their intrusion is likely to be?

Given that Apple hasn't issued a tech note on the subject, I'd like to step in and establish the Breen Standard for iChatting. Revision 1 of that standard states:

1. When the party of the first part issues the words "Bye," "Goodbye," "Have a nice day," "Have a great weekend," "Talk to you later," "Sayonara," "See ya! (or its derivative 'cya',)" "Keep 'em flying!," "Over and out!," or "For the love of all that's holy, would you put a cork in it!" that party is formally released from the exchange.

1a. Typing "Don't do anything I wouldn't do," "Hasta pasta," or "TGIF" will result in the immediate suspension of your iChat/AIM account.

2. The red dot may be ignored in situations similar to those where a hotel's Do Not Disturb sign is unheeded -- in the case of emergency or when a particularly ripe scent emanates from beneath the door.

3. Those who wish to be undisturbed yet fail to issue the red dot must reply politely as well as graciously sit through the seemingly unending narration of their buddy's dull day.

3a. Typing "Don't do anything I wouldn't do," "Hasta pasta," or "TGIF" in an attempt to cut the conversation short through a form of iChat sepuku will cause your home folder to be immediately deleted.

A little rough, I grant you. I'll continue working on it and issue a white paper when it's ready. In the meantime, have a nice holiday and don't do anything I wouldn't d....

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