Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Texting Means Never Having to Say Goodbye (slate.com)
101 points by imartin2k on March 30, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 75 comments



It really depends on whether you are having an actual realtime conversation with a person; that comes with expectations of full attention, immediate responses and usually has good-byes too.

On the other hand, email or forum threads don't have good-byes either, and neither did many IRC chatrooms.

IM used to be akin to a telephone conversation, now it's more like email chain. This is necessary, because we don't have short windows that we dedicate to being online anymore (during which the expectations are higher). If we treated all incoming messages as telephone calls, that'd take all our time. The result is that IM has a priority just above an email, but below everything else (phones calls, offline things happening, etc).


But how can you not have a realtime conversation if every online medium is realtime and the only thing making it not realtime is maybe your self-control, or that your battery died? In this sense, I'm not aware of any non-realtime media (which is why I created one).


Nice! So you've built "non-realtime email" which gets delivered once a day. Maybe it would make sense to bundle it with its opposite: "realtime texting". Basically it would work like phone calls, but for text. One person initiates with a wordless ping, the other responds, then they can exchange texts, there can be at most one conversation per person at a time, and if you close or unfocus the app for any reason, the conversation stops.

I think these two things together could cover most of my personal communication needs, though it for work communications I'd still need faster-than-daily email.


Hi cousin_it. Thank you! Not sure about the realtime text bundling. I like the idea, but I'm afraid it would encroach upon the non-instant space the app provides.

> though it for work communications I'd still need faster-than-daily email.

This is the most requested feature. Will definitely head in this direction.


Hi Dmitry!

First, thanks for making the platform. I find it interesting, because it mirrors how I use email with an email client, especially when traveling: retrieve messages - write responses later - send them whenever.

To that end, I have two considerations:

1)The defining features of your service (daily collection / sending) are easily client-side. I can already configure my desktop email client to behave like pony.gg with a couple of clicks.

So it would make a lot of sense, I think, for you to release an email app. Yes, there are many email apps, but for people who can't resist setting email retrieval interval to <5minutes, less is more.

Then the users will be able to keep their @bigcorp.com / @work.org address, while having the full benefit of your service.

2)On the other hand, you can also enforce these features server-side, allowing people to use their favorite IMAP clients. Just allow, say, one 1hr window in a 24hr time span for retrieval, and the same for sending (so people in different timezones can all get their email at 7am, but won't be able to get new messages after getting their email for the first time that day; same with sending).

Are there any plans to have 3rd part email client support?


Hi Roman,

Thank you so much.

1) This is on the way. For a first version, this webapp actually wraps nicely in Cordova, and I intend to publish it in the App/Play stores. Alternatively, you will be able to install it as a PWA. Either way, you will be able to compose offline. I think it would also work well in Electron.

2) This is a bit tricky because Pony is more "email compatible" than it is email. Concretely, (i) Each message can only have one recipient. (ii) There is no subject line (iii) You send things by putting them in the Outbox and letting time pass. I've given it some thought and I think there are ways to smooth all this over and adapt it to IMAP, but I think the result might be clumsy.

And there are "philosophical" considerations as well. Pony provides you with a non-instant space to communicate that is separate from the instant everything else. I think combining these two spaces would possibly take something away from the Pony experience?

> The defining features of your service (daily collection / sending)

By the way, while that is a feature, I don't think it's the defining feature. I think the defining feature is providing a space where people can correspond reflectively instead of reactively. When you've got an email client configured some way, you can always unconfigure it. With Pony, there is no way to make it non-instant. So unless you are rushing to make a pickup, there is reason you'd be rushing to hit send when you compose a message, or worried more messages might come and distract you. There are other apps that batch your email, but there are no apps that give you space and freedom to think like Pony.


> the only thing making it not realtime is maybe your self-control

You could similarly ask how can people get any work done if they can also watch youtube videos all day?

These days people do have to have self control, because all kinds of entertainment is just a click away, so people have to consciously set aside those to get things done.


> These days people do have to have self control, because all kinds of entertainment is just a click away, so people have to consciously set aside those to get things done.

Oh definitely. I mean It's not that people don't have self control. The problem is exactly that: we have to constantly vigilantly exercise it. I think technology shouldn't make you constantly exercise self control or anything else. I mean, not unless you want to.


> I think technology shouldn't make you constantly exercise self control or anything else.

Always having access to all kinds of online content makes you constantly exercise your self control by itself.


> Always having access to all kinds of online content makes you constantly exercise your self control by itself.

Oh I think I understand now: yes, exactly, and that can be pretty tough. I don't understand why everything needs to demand your self control. Specifically, why do these technologies that purportedly help us actually force us to discipline ourselves? I think that should be our first clue that these technologies aren't actually doing what technology is for, which is helping us, making us better, increasing our various capabilities. Instead many of these technologies quite literally have the opposite effect. But I love technology and believe in technology in principle, so I created an email platform that, unlike basically everything else, does not make you exercise self control and actually works to improve you.


No it doesn't. It lets you do so, but it also lets you build up the habit of getting distracted and spending 4 hours.

If you haven't done that in the past 2 years, consider the fact that you either:

- Never had the problem this is trying to solve, in which case you should consider responding to this like a lactose-intolerant responds to a lasagna restaurant: its not for you.

- Found a solution to this problem that you've learned to exercise so effortlessly that you forgot it was a hard problem, in which case you should please share it.


Because everything has trade off.


For sure, but to what extent?


There was a time when everyone I knew was on Yahoo or MSN messenger. Then suddenly everyone stopped using messengers. The biggest problem with messengers was synchronous communication. Once someone started talking to you, you pretty much had to stay glued to the computer until the conversation ended. It was great for some conversations but a big inconvenience for the most part. Most people started hiding behind the invisible mode until there came a time when everyone was invisible and you didn't have anyone to talk to.

Next gen. communication tools like fb messenger, WhatsApp etc. solved this problem by making the default expectation asynchronous. It was a huge step in evolution of messaging.


It feels like a regression. I don't really enjoy conversations with these tools. It's not as fun to converse with someone over the course of days when each message is some hours after the last. It is also not clear when people might want to talk. Synchronous IM was better because it was clear when people were available to talk, and when they were they would be attentive enough to have a real-time, fulfilling conversation. I haven't experienced that since MSN died.

Now everyone is always available on their phone, but also not truly available at any time. Presence indicators don't mean much any more because people may be online just to view Facebook, or on their phone only momentarily.

I think another contributing factor to the decline in quality of IM conversations is the use of phone keyboards. They are so much worse to type on than a real keyboard that I believe it changes the nature and quality of conversations people have considerably, for the worse.


> It is also not clear when people might want to talk. Synchronous IM was better because it was clear when people were available to talk

That's why async is great, because people can answer whenever they like.

> when they were they would be attentive enough to have a real-time, fulfilling conversation

For this kind of conversation IM is not a good medium. In case of a real time, attentive convesation a phone call is much better, isn't it?


They can answer whenever they like, but when I choose to read their reply I will have lost some of my train of thought or maybe lost interest in the topic. It doesn't allow for the same quality, or at least type, of discourse in my experience.

>IM is not a good medium

It certainly was a good medium - I had lots of great conversations on old IM services and so did countless others. See this related thread from the other day [1]

You could talk to many people at the same time, unlike a phone call. You could more easily do it at the same time as your homework, watching a film, or doing something else on the internet.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19370281


You have to reinvent whole new protocols for those async conversations in the process, though, or misunderstandings or even outright failings in trust can ensue (as this article points out in a couple of examples.)

Any time you completely change a fundamental understanding of how something is done - especially something as critically foundational as communication - you end up having to build new rules quickly, or risk destroying either that foundation or trust in the new protocol.


> Presence indicators don't mean much any more because people may be online just to view Facebook, or on their phone only momentarily.

Presence indicators combined with status messages (e.g “walking the dog”) were the original inspiration behind Jack Dorsey’s conception of Twitter.


And behind WhatsApp. Messaging came later.


> I think another contributing factor to the decline in quality of IM conversations is the use of phone keyboards. They are so much worse to type on than a real keyboard that I believe it changes the nature and quality of conversations people have considerably, for the worse.

I am not so sure about that. I remember conversation from my 3310 and it was way shorter blip of words. I love word drawing, it speeds up my writing by a 5x factor (or 3x or 10x, don't know).

The thing is you never really know if the other party is up for long sentences because you can't tell if he's behind a computer keyboard or a phone (or god forbids, a tablet). It usually means "I am on the phone, talk to you later")


Yes, I think smartphone keyboards are obviously much better than a dumbphone, but worse than a PC keyboard. The problem is that now smartphone keyboards are used so much more frequently, in so many more situations. You can often tell when someone is typing from a phone in a IM message, an email, or a Hacker News comment.


> Yes, I think smartphone keyboards are obviously much better than a dumbphone

Really? I could imagine some (or maybe even most) people are faster on a smartphone, but for me it's "obviously" worse.

I'm tremendously slower on iOS/Android on-screen keyboards than I was with T9. I could text really fast using T9 on a hard keypad without even looking down at the screen, despite only really using it heavily for a year or two. Then I got a Blackberry Curve, a kind-of-but-not-really-smartphone with a full hard QWERTY keyboard -- there I was similarly fast.

Then came the iPhone and screen-only Android phones and I got much slower and less precise, and touch-typing is a total crapshoot. Despite having used them for almost 10 years now, I don't think I've ever recovered to anywhere near the speed I had with even a T9 keypad.

I think the key difference is a hard keyboard (or even 10 digit keypad). I'm not saying smartphones aren't enough of an improvement in other ways (obviously, since I've chosen them over dumbphones for a decade), but I really miss the haptic feedback of actual keys.


I wouldn't even say smartphone keyboards are strictly better than those of feature phones. Ones based on physical keyboards expecting fingers on the homerow aren't suited for one-handed use. Meanwhile dumbphones get tactile feedback on top of T9 (introduced to me in highschool by a girl who was upset by my "slow" replies prior).

It seems the parent has luck with word drawing, but I remember looking into alternative keyboards a couple years ago and not being impressed. The most enjoyable and fastest writing I've done on a mobile device is with 10-key Japanese input[0]. Unfortunately I do not regularly talk to anyone in Japanese.

[0]: Couldn't find a good article or webpage on this. You can hopefully grasp the core concept from http://miku.sega.jp/flick/en/. Since Japanese phonetics all end in -a, -e, -i, -o, -u with the exception of ん ~ n, the flick directions are symmetric. Coupled with how more than decent Japanese IME is and a few extra keys to navigate the suggestions, modifiers and other common input (brackets, commas, etc. operated by the same flick motions) you can get very fast and precise. I don't get to use it often, but it's a joy when I do. They even made a game out of it :)


> I think another contributing factor to the decline in quality of IM conversations is the use of phone keyboards. They are so much worse to type on than a real keyboard

If I am at a place by myself then I just talk, using speech to text. Speech recognition is pretty good these days, I usually only have to fix small things in the resulting text (names, etc.), and it's much faster than typing a longer message.


But there are red/green dots in the chat pop-up on facebook.

I believe mobility and the smartphone made it asynchronous because every knew you could be answering on your phone but not be with your phone in your hand all the time whereas old school messaging app expected you to be sat down in front of a computer and it usually meant you'd be available for some time.

Concerning invisibility I always thought it was a cool factor: "I am not here, don't need to be" combined with "I am not wasting time on messenger" and a lurking/stalking thing.


How so? The only thing that changed was like the article said. Back in the Yahoo/MSN messenger days, the only way that you could use the messenger was to be at your computer. With FB Messenger and WhatsApp, you are always available. You can turn notifications off, but that’s about it.


> Once someone started talking to you, you pretty much had to stay glued to the computer until the conversation ended.

Why? Were there no chat history in those tools?

Couldn't you just sign off if you had other things to do, and answer later in the same conversation?


It was a social expectation rather than a technology thing. Sure, you could leave a conversation and restart it later. But that was similar to physically walking away from someone. Unless you're finished or really have to do something else, you usually don't walk away.


It's still strange when you write to somebody and you see the person is online, but doesn't reply.

I guess turning off online status completely is the way to go. Maybe it should be off by default. What's the point of showing it if the person can answer anyway when he has the time?


The difference before is that people didn't have 24x7 connections, so if they were online it meant they were dialed up and sitting at their computer. Now 'online' means nothing as we're all always online.


I had asynchronous chat conversations on AIM/Yahoo/MSN/GChat/etc. with dozens of people for over a decade; it was normal and expected for conversations to be as synchronous or asynchronous as either participant wanted.


Just to add another anecdote; I had the same experience as viraptor. It was expected that you said bye if you were leaving, and the ghosting equivalent was to be online but not reply to a message. I knew a few people that used it async but most were not like that.


A few people actually took it very personally when the common behaviour started to change. At some point an "internet etiquette" document started making rounds with "if I'm online it doesn't guarantee I'll respond immediately".

That was around the good old times when we argued whether utf-8 posts are acceptable, whether top-posters deserve life sentences, and other very important things...


Same experience here. Among my MSN friends it was also common to say "brb" to pause the conversation for a short amount of time. In contrast, I've never seen that in WhatsApp conversations.


Ah, yup! I had forgotten about that. Brb and afk. It did really feel like you were being ignored if the person wasn't responding. Also, having to let people know if you were going to be gone for an extended period of time, like a week or more. Summer camp! That was the worst. This girl I was online-dating went to camp for a few months and came back with a new boyfriend, lol.


My memory is fuzzy but I don't recall any central server saving the messages- nothing could be sent to you if you were not online. Which, considering dialup hogged the phone line, was most of the day.


Coming from IRC and ICQ and AIM and all that, most of my conversations were asynchronous in one sense.

But in another sense, they weren't, as I would often elect to set my status across my services as Away in order to curb the expectations of some people who were particularly in need of attention.

I guess that part hasn't changed, though. Just today I had to explicitly set boundaries with someone about how often they can realistically expect to command my attention away from my task at hand and toward my phone.


> Couldn't you just sign off if you had other things to do, and answer later in the same conversation?

Sort of, but back then the expectations were different. It would have been uncommon, and sometimes impolite, to come back to a conversation several hours or minutes later as if there was no official end.

Feels weird now but having lived in the original chat room era, in which our parents' phone calls interrupted our internet connection, it was pretty different back then.


I have many long distance friends that I keep in touch with and have for years. Some I haven't seen IRL in nearly a decade. Looking now, almost none of our text conversations have any sign of "goodbye," sometimes picking up even months later on the same topic as the last thing we were discussing. Very interesting.

Side note though, my favorite part of this article, ironically, is the part in the first paragraph which she illustrates as something young people will dismiss: That Salt Lake City has the longest city blocks in the nation. I have lived here my whole life and have always known we have mega huge blocks, but wasn't aware they were the biggest in the nation, and it appears they could be the biggest in the world. This has interesting implications[0] and as someone very interested in urban planning I was taken aback by this and thought it funny that she used it as an example of something people find dismissable.

[0] https://www.governing.com/columns/urban-notebook/gov-salt-la...


This was a problem as soon as ICQ and other instant messengers appeared in the '90s.

Now, the issue seems to have resolved itself thanks to the emoji. Whether it's a Slack or a text, the appearance of a thumbs up emoji is a friendly, succinct way to say "we're done now."


I believe it's a particularity but french speaking people use `++` to end the conversation.

It comes from `À plus` which roughly translate to `See you later` but uses plus sign because of the sound.

It's even funnier because you used to write a single `+` then the other party replied with `++` but that usage has fallen and I only see the double plus sign these days.


+++

Was the same command to take an AT compatible modem from data mode to command mode and cause it to disconnect. Are you sure that’s not where it originated?


Yeah, it was used on IRC and then on messenger/AIM/ICQ by kids who couldn't have known about such commands. There are some slight variations around like "pluche" for comical effects. That and the fact I never saw it outside french speaking chats.

There could be a tiny chance that it comes from something else but that's highly unlikely.


Yeah. Thumbs up is the mildest form of rudeness imho.


An ex-friend and I never signed off. We had an ongoing conversation that died down to only me writing messages, and then I stopped. It's still there in WhatsApp. Frozen in time. (The person is fine and posts public updates on FB and elsewhere.)


Was it the lack of response that made them an ex-friend?


The lack of multiple responses over an extended period of time seems like as big a hint as you can get.

If you're standing next to someone and they ignore your attempts at getting their attention, how long should you continue before finding something better to do?


I think the point of this article is the difference between standing next to someone and online conversations. While I agree that is a major hint, especially in certain cases (especially in the sense of the stalker-esque men hounding women through DMs on social media), I've had very long periods of non-communication with long-distance friends I still consider "close" that pick up much later, sometimes with multiple messages on either side with varying degrees of response.


It just depends on the nature of the message. If one side is just amassing a list of things or a complete idea to digest on the recepient's own time, with the mutual understanding that people lead busy lives, it's a bit different than say, someone repeatedly ignoring a particular request or general attempts to start a live conversation.


In this case it's better to remove that person from the contact list, isn't it? He knows in both cases he is ignored, but if he's removed as a contact then he at least knows he shouldn't send messages in vain.


That seems more extreme than just becoming less than friends. Why tarnish a good rolodex? A contact list isn't a friend list.


Rolodex? What's next, a Filofax?


This is a natural tendency of text-only conversations.


The one I hate is the "are you around?" / "are you there now?" type message.

I hate synchronous online communication. Just ask the question, and I'll respond some hours later when I have time. If you want synchronous, schedule me in person.


What I hate is when a coworker starts a conversation with “hey” in our Slack group and waits for me to respond.

If they just tell me what they want, I can decide when to answer the question and whether it requires me to do research or go into a long explanation.


Nah.

Some questions are time relevant. I need an answer before x, unless y, if z. I don't want to write all the caveats every unnecessary time. Then how long do I sit around in case you certainly, maybe, probably, possibly got it?

Since texts and earliest days of ICQ just about everyone I know opens with ping, answer with ack or nack / silence. Super easy to decide whether to even ask... :)


Well in general it's always a nack when I get that kind of message. I don't want to be pressured into starting a synchronous conversation if I don't know what the conversation is going to be about.

"Hey got a minute?" => no

"Hey got a minute for A?" => yes

"Hey got a minute for B?" => no


Agree, and a key point here being that the colloquial "minute" can be a very different actual amount of time for A and B.


This was one of the challenges my company faced when building a product that enabled SMS as a support channel. SMS conversations never "end" in the way that webchats do and also have a different ebb-and-flow. Completing a "call" involves spurts of near real-time messaging along with large time gaps (hours or days). Our early customers also spent a lot of time convincing their own customers that they were talking to real humans and not bots.

Traditional call-center metrics were tough to apply though CSAT improvements were dramatic and almost instantaneous. Despite the lack of features compared to web chat, people really responded to SMS. I'm sure that was due to convenience (people are in their SMS/messaging client anyway) and that our customers staffed the lines with real people, rather than bots.


A.K.A. "ghosting" in online dating parlance


I appreciate the asynchronous mode of comunication that text messages afford. Conversations there do come to an end sometimes -- but usually that means a big change or end of the real-world connection between the two people messaging.


[flagged]


Look at this guys profile. He keeps spamming his service. This is poor taste dude.


I looked at his profile and I don’t find his posts that out of place. Yes he plugged his product a few times but it was always somehow connected to the topic and added value.

You copy pasting “He’s a spammer, look at his profile” to all his old comments 2h ago feels more like a spammer and is just childish.


I am talking about my service but I think it's unique and clearly relevant to the conversation. That it's on multiple on threads is because this topic is so prevalent right now. I'm trying to make a positive impact on people's lives by offering the type of communication platform no other company has ever been willing to try. Cheers!


No, you are jumping on threads one after the other to promote your product. This is going to backfire on you if you keep doing it.


You shouldn’t comment multiple times in a post promoting your thread. Once is fine.


Absolutely. That was an error. I thought I deleted one, then left the other. By the time I noticed both were up, it was too late to delete. I apologize for that. I am new here. Was having some trouble earlier as well: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19498218. I really respect this community and do not seek to offend.


Because of your tasteless marketing tactics I guarantee you I will never use your product.


So your app that you’re advertising is just email without notifications? I fail to see the relevance to the discussion. You can turn off notifications to sms or instant message services too.


> You can turn off notifications to sms or instant message services too.

That's absolutely right, but then you can turn them right back on again. That's the factor that makes all the difference. With Pony there's no way to turn those notifications on and off, so you don't have to regulate yourself.


This doesn't sound like it has a lot of utility, I'm sorry to say. Weird thought to build something on the premise of "people don't have enough self control to not check their email more than once a day, so we will make sure they check it EXACTLY once a day!"


Correct. That’s right, except you can set up a notification to receive an email if you received a pickup/delivery that day. You get at most one such alert per day, and only if you get something. I should make that clearer.


I have absolutely no idea what your experience is, but like... the one friend I’ve kept in touch with over the years, we communicate almost entirely over text (IRC) and meet up a handful of times a year. Your first paragraph here isn’t one of universal fact, it’s one of your own personal experience.


You're right. I didn't mean to make it sound universal, because it's not.

What I meant to say is that even though you can keep up on IRC and other instant media, the fact that they are instant often drives you to communicate reactively, instead of reflectively. Does that make more sense? Sure, you can be asynchronous if you don't look at your messages or regulate yourself so you have time to process before you reply. But I think no matter what, the instantaneity drives us to be reactive, even the most mindful among us.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: