Are You There?

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I feel guilty whenever my boss mentions this blog to me, because invariably it's when I've gone at least a week without updating it. And, yes, I'm sure it no coincidence. And yes, I submit to Catholic guilt often.

So, here I am flying cross-country home from Denver (yes, I flew into the blizzard last Sunday), pondering all the 200 or so messages in my in-box, which include all manner of security technologies and services, the requisite planning memos from the editorial team and a little gem of a press release about instant messaging from AOL.

Since many of us use AOL Instant Messenger extensively to communicate on deadline (and with a growing number of sources), I feel strangely remote whenever I'm cut off from it. I've got access on trains, when I feel it's rude to talk on my cell phone but sending messages is OK. But planes are another story altogether.

Anyway, you'll have read about AOL's launch of a program to encourage intra-community communication between groups of people who use instant messages at work. It's also got four new partners on board: Antepo, Jabber, Omnipod and Parlano. That's in addition to AOL's own AIM and ICQ services as well as instant messaging technology from Netscape and Apple.
I don't know about you, but I think it's only a matter of time before instant messaging becomes much more widely used in business settings. If my company's own experience is any indication, antispam technology is still woefully outclassed by the bad guys even while the need to respond INSTANTLY to certain internal messages threatens to consume. What's cool about the stuff AOL is working on is that it will let communities communicate company to company.

Of course, the danger is that your "buddy list" will become so large that it becomes just as unmanageable as e-mail. Worse yet, what's the etiquette for declining someone's request to enter your inner circle?

Still, anyone working on a grander messaging solution for their customers should be thinking about instant messaging.

Before I sign off, just had to share this interesting yet totally non-technology-related item that slipped into my e-mail. An enterprising solution provider called ReturnKey Systems from League City, Texas, has designed a kiosk being deployed in airports that lets passengers mail contraband that can't make it through security (lighters, scissors and now lighter) back to themselves.

It's automated mailing kiosks (AMKs) include touch screens and all manner of cool software, including address verification, image capture and item identification. The AMKs have been deployed in airports in Minneapolis, Washington, Austin, New York, Houston and Newark, N.J.

What will they think of next?

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