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?

Author's personal collection. (Haha no, not really.)

Author’s personal collection.
(… Ha! No, not really.)

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.

Insert "Data uses Android" joke here.

Insert “Data uses Android” joke here.

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.

The Pocketnow TLDR is a series of sub-500-word editorials aimed at getting you in, out, and back to life. Comment is always invited below, as well as on FacebookTwitter, and Google Plus.

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About The Author
Michael Fisher
Michael Fisher has followed the world of mobile technology for over ten years as hobbyist, retailer, and reviewer. A lengthy stint as a Sprint Nextel employee and a long-time devotion to webOS have cemented his love for the underdog platforms of the world. In addition to serving as Pocketnow's Reviews Editor, Michael is a stage, screen, and voice actor, as well as co-founder of a profitable YouTube-based business. He lives in Boston, MA. Read more about Michael Fisher!