My fondest tech wish for 2014: a global away message
Like most members of the Pocketnow team, I tote a lot of gadgets. After all, “Captain2Phones” isn’t just a Twitter handle – it’s a lifestyle. It’s also a massive, ridiculous understatement: at any given time, my online persona is logged in to many different mobile devices, all of which titter and chirp incessantly when even the most minor of messages arrives. Couple that with a very busy inbox and a slew of friends for whom the enter key is a form of punctuation
and sometimes I just want out. I want a way to say to everyone, all at once, “I’m gone for a while. Your messages will go unanswered until I’ve finished this novelty Romulan Ale energy drink which I’m sure is safe to consume.”
We used to have the ability to do this, back when AIM was the Facebook of instant messaging solutions. Remember away messages?
They soon become corrupted as people started using them for advertisements, vapid quotations, and the passive-aggressive forerunners to subtweets, but even in the midst of all that noise, away messages still served an important purpose: they told whoever was trying to talk to you that you weren’t there. Or that you were there and ignoring them; either way, you weren’t answering anytime soon.
To be clear, away messages still exist: you can use them on nearly every major IM platform, email providers have offered vacation responders for years, and even some smartphones are starting to bundle the feature (to the consternation of Luddites everywhere).
But all those are specific, siloed solutions. Sure, there are a glut of responder apps on the various app stores, but none is broad enough to encompass all the forms of communication available to today’s mobile consumer. The smartphone of 2013 (and soon 2014) can call, text, tweet, Facebook-IM, Snapchat, and even send smoke signals. How hard could it be to code an app that would interpret inbound traffic from all selected sources and deliver a tailored response if I click an “away” button?
Okay, probably pretty hard. I’m not a developer, and I haven’t consulted with Joe Levi on this idea. But it’s not impossible, right?
Don’t answer. I already know that the answer is “no, it’s not impossible.” I have a smartphone that can tell me that far-off speck of light in the night sky is Jupiter, that a storm is likely in the next hour, and that the bus I didn’t know I wanted to catch is 16 minutes away. It’s plenty damn capable of telling my messaging companions that I’ll “brb lolz,” no matter what platform they’re texting on.
What do you think, readers? Is this asking too much? Am I being too lazy? Should I just set up away messages on all the umpteen messaging services I use, enabling and disabling them one-by-one as I pop in and out of showers, movies, dinner parties, and the other phone-verboten events that make up my life? Or is there a better way?
The comment section beckons; use it for good.