You might remember, a few weeks back, Facebook came out with news on the new messaging service that it wants to roll out – Project Titan. Not the email killer that many thought it would be, many people seemed to be puzzled about what (and why) Facebook was expending its energy on (sounds like Wave eh?). Facebook described the system as a means of unifying messaging across multiple modalities and to my mind, it is merely the completion of an idea that Google started with Chat that could send messages to SMS, Chat and Mail. A few fewer weeks back, Kik Messenger was kicked off of RIMs BIS network. It is claimed that Kik is violating some copyright or patented technology that is property of RIM. Many people understood this one right away. Kik was, and is, basically BBM (Blackberry Messenger) lite “for the rest of us”. It doesn’t have the group sharing elements of the BBM platform, nor does it integrate with anything other than the address book, but it does the “killer” thing that BBM does. Deliver messages fast and allow for a means of knowing the status of a sent message.
Fast forward to this week as I finally pulled the messaging part of my phone plan into the tail end of 2009 with a limit that is more than 100 or so messages. People who know me, know that I don’t like txting long back and forth conversations. I had this disposition for two reasons, the first was that it would chew through my allotted message limit very quickly and second that it would suck down battery just as fast. For this reason, I preferred using Google Talk or other messaging systems. So when Kik showed up, I quickly grabbed it, longing for a return to those heady days that I was still a Crackberry Addict and could send messages instantly and know when they were read. I know you can do the same thing with SMS, but who really wants all that noise within the system? BBM and Kik have it integrated and noise less. But, unlike BBM and Kik, Google Talk records all the messages that users send, and there are utilities to do the same with SMS, but not with BBM/Kik.
Scoot ahead to this afternoon, when out for my afternoon walk around the Legislature, it struck me why and how all these elements come together. There are three desires we have when communicating. We have the desire to know that we can reach our audience specifically, we want to know that they have seen our message and then we want to be able able to move through the messages that we have sent and received. I’m sure this is nothing new to communication studies (or allied discipline) people, and it isn’t really new to me either, but what it new in my mind is that there is now a potential pathway that, through the use of technology, would make it easy for people to experience the three desires. The problem is that the tools that would enable this confluence is currently behind one wall or another.
But there is hope, and for all that Facebook doesn’t do well, it might be that Facebook has in place, at least in principle, the ways and means to build a system that allows for the confluence to occur. If the final form of Titan is truly “input independent”, then it would make sense that Kik/email/SMS/Chat/enhanced smoke signal/what have you, could all be used to interact with the stream of messages that are stored in Facebook. Ideally, the transfer of messages would also be fast and feedback as to the status of the message would also be available without extra noise. I’m also sure, that like Google, Facebook is going to keep each and every one of those messages forever.
Ok, so where am I going with this? The world outside the classroom has figured out why it is important to keep messages and make sure they flow in a manner that alerts those involved as to their status. Why hasn’t education? Why is education thinking that messages only last for, at the most 12 weeks? Why is there no way to know if anyone involved in the communication cycle has received a message, or indeed who would have received the message in the first place. Unless formal education enables this form of communication, I think it will fall even further behind where it is now in terms of preparing students for the connected and engaged world that they will see in their future and that they are starting to see in their homes.