Online Instant Messaging

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There are many benefits to using online instant messaging as an effective communication tool among friends and coworkers. These programs provide the kind of immediate feedback that is not possible through email. It also allows participants a level of privacy that is not available in chat rooms or on Internet forums. Most users will develop a friends list from among acquaintances who utilize the same program. Whenever an individual accesses the Internet, many of these programs will inform all of the friends on the user's list that the individual is online. Getting started with online instant messaging is really very simple. Once a user has chosen a program from the many that are currently available, they will simply need to download software, choose a nickname, register, and begin. The simplicity and anonymity that is provided by these services can, however, lead to a number of problems. Parents and schools are justifiably concerned about inappropriate contacts that children might make through instant messaging, or IM services. For this reason, most schools will block the installation of this software from their computers. While young people enjoy connecting with friends through IM, it is also possible to communicate with predators without being aware. There is software available that allows parents to monitor their children's IM contacts. While some see these products as an invasion of privacy, others feel that such protective steps are necessary in a world that can be hostile to the innocent and unsuspecting. Educating children on the pitfalls of these programs is a must. Any suspicious behavior should be reported to the administrators of a service or to local law enforcement.

There are a number of popular features that may be available with online instant messaging services. In many cases, a user can customize the appearance of their IM program through animations, scenes, and sounds that are widely available. Some programs even allow users to share digital photographs and images within the conversation window. Even mobile phones are becoming part of this popular trend since there are a number of IM services that provide mobile phone capabilities. A variety of plug-ins may also be available. These plug-ins are features that allow users to do more than just chat. The ability to listen to music, watch videos or a number of other features can be achieved through these add ons. Games that can be used in conjunction with IM software have become very popular as well. Unfortunately, IM activity is not free from the possibility of virus infection. As with other Internet communication tools, there are some basic protective steps that users should follow. Accepting downloads or opening unknown files via instant message can be dangerous, particularly if the source if the file or download is not someone that the users knows outside of the Internet realm. Frequently updating security software is a must to remain completely protected against these viruses. The most updated version of an online instant messaging program can give added protection as well. Utilizing anti spyware may also be helpful.

In addition to these practical precautions, there are a number of other things to keep in mind when enjoying online instant messaging. The selection of an IM nickname should be done with care. Anything that tags a participant in any way is not a good idea. If the user is a minor, this could put them in danger of becoming a target for online predators. For example, "CincinnatiCindy15" could act a a magnet for inappropriate solicitations by predatory individuals. The more general the nickname the better. Anything that identifies the user in too personal a way should be avoided. As with email addresses, it is important not to share an IM screen name too freely or to post these names and addresses in public places. Taking extra precautions here can help to protect against messages from undesirable users. Personal information should remain private. If someone presses for a phone number or physical address, it is generally not a good idea to give this information out, particularly if the corespondent is known only through the Internet. Generally speaking, it is not wise to give out personal data in and instant messaging conversation. Additionally, meeting in person with someone who is known only through online instant messaging can be downright dangerous and should be avoided. Unless IM activity is part of keeping in contact with fellow employees, participating in IM conversations while at work can cause a number of problems and could even cost a user their job.

Millions of American enjoy online instant messaging on a regular basis. In some cases, the programs may be used as a means of interoffice communication. Others use the software for purely social reasons. While it is true that these real time messages are very popular among young people, the use of these communication tools spans a wide variety of age groups. The Bible discusses the attitude that believers should have toward one another. "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous." (1 Peter 3:8)

Part of the fun of online instant messaging is learning to master text talk. There are a number of abbreviations and acronyms that can simplify an IM conversation. For example, "2moro" and "2nite" will obviously translate to "tomorrow" and "tonight." "A3" means "anyplace, anytime, anywhere" in IM circles. For the more text literate users, there's "AYTMTB" or "and you're telling me this because." The number of text talk phrases is endless. With care and precautions, IM participation can be a fun way to communicate via the net.

Online Web Conference

A cost-effective online web conference employs high-tech tools to communicate with participants from city to city, coast to coast, or continent to continent. Thanks to today's high-tech Internet conferencing solutions, corporations can enhance communications and boost sales without worrying about balancing the budget. Even shoestring operations and Mom and Dad shops can compete with corporate moguls for a space in the cyberspace marketplace. Gone are the harried conference calls made hurriedly with one eye on the clock. Executives don't have to gloss over important details or delay making overseas calls until the rates go down, often at the risk of offending foreign associates. Digital innovations have broadened businesses' arsenal of state-of-the art telecommunications and paved the way for conducting an online web conference with ease.

Today's savvy corporate executives have low-cost, high-tech solutions such as streaming audio and video, podcasts, instant messaging, Internet fax email, and voice over Internet protocol (voIP) to promote a corporate brand or communicate visually and audibly with foreign and domestic associates. A web-based assembly can include domestic department heads and offshore executives and provide seamless, high quality delivery of presentations, visuals, and proposals. High-tech tools enable participants to discuss and agree upon issues and have questions answered immediately. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Attendees are able to discuss and negotiate lucrative contracts without interruption, and regardless of language barriers. Some high-tech online web conference tools utilize digital language conversion devices which translate foreign speech into English and vice versa. Small and large corporations can conference and compete on a global scale to realize greater profitability.

The advantages to hosting web-based conferencing are obvious: huge savings in airline fares, car rentals, hotel accommodations, conference center fees, and long distance or international calling. Corporations can meet with associates across town or across the globe without spending a cent. Once companies install high-tech IP addressable web cams at strategic points with microphones and speakers, they have the capability of broadcasting real time meetings all over the world. Executives and sales reps don't have to spend time and money on expensive airline travel or staying at luxury hotels. Meeting attendees can be notified via email or instant messaging; and cost-effective cameras can bring participants as close as the office PC. Attendees log onto the IP address or corporate website to access a pre-scheduled online web conference and log on using password-protected user IDs. The real-time conference commences when each participant has successfully logged on.

While an online web conference is in session, attendees may use headsets or inconspicuous ear bud microphones, along with strategically placed web cams to participate audibly and visually. Some participants who may not play key roles during the session may choose to simply listen and respond later via instant messaging or email. Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is another method of communicating with meeting attendees without spending long distance or international calling dollars. Internet telephony can be programmed to coincide with cyberspace conferences using digital technology. Long after the initial conference, participants from all over the world can listen to streaming audio broadcasts transmitted over a home or office PC. Corporate video tapes are uploaded to a website and downloaded on demand by anyone with Internet access.

After an online web conference, corporations can use any number of digital tools to collect data and participant feedback. Online meetings can be supplemented by instant messaging, which enables attendees to text and respond to one another in real time. Instead of running up long distance business charges, executives can easily hold brainstorming sessions online to hash out the finer points of a contract or share insight on a specific topic. Small and large companies can share a webinar with other team members and department heads at training sessions by saving audio and video tapes for future airing. The Internet enables users to download videos and view meetings or training sessions again and again on demand.

The key to a successful online web conference is planning. Conference hosts may want to limit web-based meetings to 150 attendees for sessions consisting of no more than six hours at a time. By issuing advanced notices prior to holding an Internet conference, attendees can be sure of how to log onto the IP address and use access codes to bypass corporate firewalls. Meeting organizers may also post conference notes on the corporate website and invite attendees to log onto home pages to download materials and information, such as agendas, charts and graphs, or contracts. Organizers can collect pre-registration data using online forms, or have attendees email inputs and feedback electronically. By properly preparing attendees well in advance of real time meetings, conferences can go more smoothly without fear of technical difficulties or misunderstandings.

Preparation for an effective online web conference also includes hosting a "dress rehearsal" featuring all of the high-tech audio and video devices at each location. Organizers may want to schedule a dry run to gauge audio and video transmission at each site. Corporate technicians may want to approach preparing for a live webcast just as television crews set the stage for a live taping. Adequate lighting; simple, uncluttered backdrops; and negligible background noise are essential for an effective web-based meeting. Soft artificial or natural lighting should accent facial features without making attendees or presenters appear garish or ghostly. Technicians should adjust room lighting directed onto the presenter's face without creating shadows or deep facial lines. Test microphones to check for the right amount of volume at each site; and suggest that presenters follow a loose script to avoid having too many sound gaps or pauses. With high-tech web-based tools, proper planning, and adequate preparation, an online meeting can accomplish corporate goals and save money at the same time.



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