Skype and social networking

Stuart Henshall thinks Skype could be a good online social networking tool, I don’t agree, Skype is a one at a time (currently one to one) communication mechanism. You can only talk to one person at a time, and whilst you’re in that conversation you’re out of communication with everyone else, even if they develop an answerphone system, you’ll still have to listen to each message. Speech is a very slow medium of communication, and it requires full attention. You can’t talk on skype whilst in your office, or in the middle of cooking a meal, or doing any other task that takes you away from your computer momentarily. (I have a bluetooth headset which solves some of the problems - but popping to the toilet, or to the door, or somewhere out of bluetooth range is still impossible)

The most important feature of instant messaging systems, is not the communication, but that you can communicate whilst doing other things - you can SMS on the train without having everyone hear your business, you can IM in the office, you can talk to the person sitting next to you, and still be in the middle of conversations. Instant messages aren’t immediate, and don’t need an instant response, audio exchange methods don’t cope with this

I communicate with maybe 5 people a day by phone, I couldn’t communicate with more, it would simply take to much of my time - skype is no different, it’s also no cheaper, my phone calls are free (or rather effectively unmetered). Voice calls are also invasive, I’m not going to call someone with relatively unimportant points - the kind of thing that’s important in maintaining social ties with those you don’t want to devote a lot of time to. Also of course an important way to stay in touch with those who are too important to currently devote any time to you, but important for the future development of your career etc. Staying in touch with these, keeping your name in their scopes, won’t work if you’re going to rely on Audio techniques.

Skype is a useful tool, but voice networking, is very different from IM/email networking, they can both be important parts, but they are not substitutes for each other, just like the letter is’t always a substitute for the visit.