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Everyone seems to be communicating via instant messaging, but does the idea of responding to short conversation bursts (or reading Twitter posts) make you want to crawl into a small room and lock the door? Joe Kissell looks at how his introversion feeds his aversion to instant messaging (and how he uses that to his advantage). This week also brings news from Adobe, as the company releases a beta of Lightroom 2 (disclosing that the next version of Photoshop on the Mac will not be 64-bit capable) and updates the Photoshop Express terms of service concerning Adobe's usage of users' photos. In other news, Adam explains how to fix corrupt Eudora mailboxes (from recent first-hand experience, of course), AT&T lowers its cancellation fee for new subscribers, Glenn and Joe talk Time Capsule and backups on the MacVoices podcast, Glenn gets confirmation from Apple that Time Machine backups to AirPort Disk aren't supported, and we (finally) reinstate the printer-friendly mode for viewing TidBITS articles on the Web. Lastly, in the TidBITS Watchlist, we note updates to Daylite, MacSpeech Dictate, YummySoup, NetworkLocation, Default Folder X, and Things. Apple joins in the fun with updates to QuickTime, iTunes, Front Row, Keynote, and the AirPort Admin Utility for Graphite and Snow AirPort base stations.

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Time Machine via AirPort Disk Is Unsupported, Apple Says

  by Glenn Fleishman <>

Apple confirmed for me last week that a feature for using hard drives attached via USB to an AirPort Extreme Base Station is an unsupported feature. The company declined to provide further information. This feature was available in the betas of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, as has been widely reported, but was removed from the public Leopard feature list and from the shipping version of the operating system. Apple had been working on providing me a definitive statement since my review of Time Capsule for Macworld was published on 21-Mar-08.

What a "lack of support" means is that if you attempt to use an 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station for Time Machine backup, you won't get any help from Apple's technical support, something that readers have already told me. I've been receiving reports that USB-attached drives work erratically with an AirPort Extreme. TidBITS editor Joe Kissell and I have been discussing the strange array of scenarios in which you find an Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) volume that's shared by the AirPort Extreme server not appearing automatically for Time Machine. (See "MacVoices Podcast Covers Time Capsule Ins and Outs," 2008-04-03, for links to the podcasts. I also talked about Time Capsule and this problem in a podcast on 26-Mar-08 with Jason Snell, editorial director for Macworld.)

This option to choose an AirPort Extreme-connected drive first appeared with the release of several related firmware, driver, and operating system updates on 19-Mar-08 (see "AirPort Update Extends Time Capsule, Adds AirDisk Support," 2008-03-19). I speculated at the time that this addition was an error on Apple's part, perhaps due to a debugging feature left turned on that wasn't properly turned off before the updates shipped. This was buttressed in part by the way in which Time Capsule drives - whether an internal drive or ones connected externally via USB - appear via Bonjour in a list of selectable volumes when setting up Time Machine, but AirPort Extreme disks do not.

For more background on this situation, see the original response I had in "Time Capsule and Its Associated Rage Factor, 2008-01-17" and details on Time Capsule's USB drive support in "Time Capsule Ships with Support for USB Drive Backups," 2008-02-29.

Somewhere along the line, Apple changed the name of this concept of sharing drives from USB over the network from "AirDisks" to "AirPort Disks."

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AT&T Lowers Cancellation Fee

  by Glenn Fleishman <>

Exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier AT&T will reduce its cancellation fee for ending a cell-phone contract before its term, starting with new contracts on 25-May-08. On that date, 1- or 2-year contracts will have an initial $175 cancellation fee that will be reduced by $5 each month during the contract term - $60 per year. This is part of a trend among carriers to remove fixed cancellation fees.

Existing contracts won't see a change in their penalties. But based on previous offers made to me by managers at cellular company mall kiosks and freestanding stores, it's pretty easy either to get the fee paid by a company that wants you as a customer, or to have the fee waived if you have multiple lines, one or more of which has already gone free agent with the expiration of a contract.

AT&T has tried to provide the semblance of openness, a new meme for the cell phone industry prodded by several efforts on the part of Google, and notes in their press release that customers can also choose month-by-month plans, bring their own phones or devices and rent a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) a month at a time, or use AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service which requires no contract commitment.

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Printer-Friendly Mode Returns to TidBITS

  by Glenn Fleishman <>

Fans of the plain-vanilla method of displaying Web pages suitable for printing (or even simplified on-screen reading and PDF making) will be happy to know that we have restored our printer-friendly article formatting mode.

As regular readers know, over the last two years, we've overhauled nearly every aspect of how TidBITS is written, edited, staged, published, and composed into email issues. Somewhere along the line, we stuck a to-do note on the virtual wall saying, "Remember to bring back printer-friendly articles." (See, for instance, "Designing a Modern Web Site for TidBITS," 2007-09-10.)

At the top of every article you'll now see a Print link with a page icon next to it. Click that, and you're taken to a nearly color-free - to paraphrase Dr. Hibbert from The Simpsons, "Black is not a color" - page in which the links are referenced by number and listed neatly at the bottom. Images are also removed. As an example, try viewing this article in printer-friendly mode.

We hope we've saved a tree or two by restoring this mode for those who prefer to print articles from the Web.

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MacVoices Podcast Covers Time Capsule Ins and Outs

  by Tonya Engst <>

If you want to know more about Apple's new Time Capsule or about how using Time Capsule compares to making backups with the newly available option of using Time Machine with a drive attached to an AirPort Extreme Base Station, tune into a recent pair of MacVoices podcasts, which bring together the networking perspective offered by Glenn Fleishman and the backups expertise brought by Joe Kissell.

In MacVoices #873 they talk about the pros and cons of Time Capsule, plus how it works under the hood. In MacVoices #874 the pair continues the conversation, looking at who Time Capsule is well-suited to, how backing up to Time Capsule compares to backing up to a drive attached to a regular AirPort Extreme Base Station, unexpected differences between the two Time Capsule models, and recommendations for which of Apple's hardware-based backup solutions to use.

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64-bit Controversy Accompanies Lightroom 2 Beta

  by Jeff Carlson <>

Adobe announced the availability of the Photoshop Lightroom 2 public beta last week, but a post on an Adobe blog generated almost as much attention. In addition to adding new features, the Lightroom beta is capable of taking full advantage of the 64-bit processors found in Mac Pro models. (64-bit support is also included with Lightroom 2 under Windows Vista.)

The rub is that Photoshop, Adobe's image editing powerhouse, won't gain 64-bit compatibility on the Mac for at least two revisions. In a blog post, Adobe's John Nack explained that the discrepancy between Photoshop and Lightroom is due to Photoshop's Carbon code base:

"At the WWDC show last June [2007], however, Adobe & other developers learned that Apple had decided to stop their Carbon 64 efforts. This means that 64-bit Mac apps need to be written to use Cocoa (as Lightroom is) instead of Carbon. This means that we'll need to rewrite large parts of Photoshop and its plug-ins (potentially affecting over a million lines of code) to move it from Carbon to Cocoa."

As Nack elaborated, the lack of a 64-bit version of Photoshop isn't a crippling blow to the Mac. In fact, most of the blog post is devoted to heading off wild speculation about Adobe's or Apple's intentions (and pointing out that Final Cut Pro, iTunes, and the Mac OS X Finder are all built in Carbon). A 32-bit Photoshop CS4 will no doubt run just fine. It will just not have the capability to handle very large amounts of data (more than 4 GB) at once.

As for the actual software released last week, Lightroom 2 adds a number of new features such as multiple-monitor support, smart collections (the capability to group photos automatically according to metadata), and a clever method of suggesting related keywords as you tag your photos.

Lightroom 2 can also apply edits to select portions of an image instead of just to the entire image. (Aperture 2.1, released the previous week, added this capability through a new plug-in system; see "Aperture 2.1 Adds Plug-in Capability to Edit Photos," 2007-09-07.)

Existing Lightroom owners can participate in the beta until version 2.0 is released by entering their serial numbers. They can also invite friends to try the beta for the entirety of the program. For everyone else, a 30-day evaluation period is available. The software is a 24.7 MB download. The Lightroom 2.0 beta is installed independently of earlier Lightroom versions, so photographers can evaluate it without putting existing libraries and workflows at risk.

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Adobe Adjusts Photoshop Express Terms of Service

  by Jeff Carlson <>

Shortly after Adobe opened the public beta of its Photoshop Express online photo-editing service, several early users who actually read the site's terms of service noticed language that, in effect, gave Adobe almost free reign with images that people uploaded and publicly shared in galleries (see "Photoshop Express Offers Free Photo Editing on the Web," 2007-09-07). Adobe has now posted revised terms that clarify the company's usage.

The new wording goes into effect on 10-Apr-08, and is marked in red on the Web page listing the terms. Section 8a now reads (additional language in italics here):

"Adobe does not claim ownership of Your Content. However, with respect to Your Content that you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Services, and unless otherwise specifically agreed in any Additional Terms that might accompany individual services (such as, you grant Adobe a worldwide, royalty-free, nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other Materials or works in any format or medium now known or later developed."

To my surprise, the offending language (everything after "... you grant Adobe...") remains. However, the new clause's pointer to the Additional Terms of Use document reveals limitations to Adobe's usage that were present at the beginning; Adobe has clarified the link between the two documents. None of this language is new:

"Adobe does not claim ownership of Your Content. However, we do need certain rights from you, with respect to Your Content, in order to operate the Service and in order to enable you to do all the things this Service affords you the ability to do. Therefore, with respect to Your Content, you grant Adobe a worldwide (because the internet is global), royalty-free (meaning we do not owe you any money), nonexclusive (meaning you are free to license Your Content to others) fully sublicensable (so that we can permit our affiliates, subcontractors and agents to deliver the Service on our behalf) license to use, reproduce and modify Your Content solely for the purposes of operating the Service and enabling your use of the Service. With respect to Your Shared Content, you additionally grant Adobe the rights to distribute, publicly perform and publicly display Your Shared Content (in whole or in part) for the sole purposes of operating the Service and enabling your use of the Service and to sublicense Your Shared Content to Other Users subject to the limitations of Section 7 below. These limited licenses do not grant Adobe the right to sell or otherwise license Your Content or Your Shared Content on a stand alone basis. Further, you may terminate Adobe's right to distribute, publicly perform and publicly display Your Shared Content by making it no longer shared. You may terminate the remainder of Adobe's rights by removing Your Content from the Service."

Adobe also clarified its stance on being able to claim revenue from ads and other initiatives that appear on the same page as a user's content, by editing section 10a:

"You agree that Adobe may derive revenue and or other remuneration from the Services including from portions of the Services that include Your Content. For example, Adobe may display Adobe and/or third party paid advertisements and other information adjacent to or included with the Services and adjacent to or in connection with Your Content, and you agree that you are not entitled to any compensation for any such advertisements. The manner, mode and extent of advertising or other revenue generating models by Adobe on or in conjunction with the Services are subject to change without specific notice to you."

The 10-Apr-08 implementation date is there to give any existing users time to review the new terms. Comments from people at Adobe indicate that the company wasn't attempting to grab rights it shouldn't have, and it's good to see that their lawyers clarified the language.

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How to Fix Corrupt Eudora Mailboxes

  by Adam C. Engst <>

Although Eudora 6.2.4 has taken some body blows from Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the email program largely keeps on ticking. That's not to say that it's as stable as it used to be, and I'm experiencing more crashes and oddities than in the past. Most recently, I was doing something with an in-progress message in the Out box and Eudora got confused, started chewing CPU time, and wouldn't respond to the keyboard or mouse. After a while I gave up and force quit the program by Option-clicking Eudora's Dock icon and choosing Force Quit.

Unfortunately, when I relaunched Eudora, all the messages in my Out mailbox since 14-Feb-08 showed a recovered status (a ?) instead of the correct status, and all of Eudora's automatically saved versions over the few days were visible. (When you use Eudora's auto-save functionality, it saves copies of your message as you type, but doesn't erase interim versions until you compact the mailbox, which happens automatically at various times and can be invoked manually by clicking the mailbox size box in the lower left corner of a mailbox window. To turn on auto-save on 2 minute intervals, click this x-eudora-setting:11520=120 URL within Eudora.)

But when I started checking out some of the interim versions of messages, it became clear that the problem went deeper, since message summaries for the recovered messages no longer matched their contents, and message contents no longer even filled in the appropriate fields in a message window. Clearly the mailbox's table of contents had become corrupted. In other programs, such a problem might require relying on a special database utility. But this is Eudora, which was developed when text files and resource forks ruled the Earth.

Long ago, Eudora creator Steve Dorner had told me how to fix a corrupted mailbox, and it's something that anyone can do by following these steps:

  1. Quit Eudora.
  2. Duplicate the Out box file, which is stored in ~/Documents/Eudora Folder/Mail Folder by default, so you have a backup copy. If you're nervous, make another copy on the Desktop. You can throw these out when you're done if everything goes well.
  3. Open the Out box file using a plain text editor like the free TextWrangler from Bare Bones. It may be a bit slow to work with a very large mailbox (mine was over 30 MB), but it should be able to handle the file.
  4. Copy the first line of the file, which should look something like the line below, and paste it on a line by itself at the very end of the file.
  5. From ???@??? Fri Jun 16 22:52:45 2006

  6. Save the file, being absolutely certain to save as plain text with Mac line breaks (likely the default in a plain text editor like TextWrangler).
  7. Launch Eudora again, and open the Out mailbox.

In theory, that should cause Eudora to realize that the table of contents, usually stored in the file's resource fork, is corrupt and to rebuild it by looking at the mailbox data itself. You may lose Eudora-specific data such as status and label, since that information exists only in the table of contents, but that's much less of a worry than not being able to access the messages at all. If it works for you, great, and you're done.

However, in my case, although this fix solved the problem of the messages not matching their message summaries, all the dates on the problematic messages were set to the same date. That wouldn't have been the end of the world, but I was unhappy about it, since I like to know when I sent a message. Referring to some more advice from Steve Dorner, I followed these steps (I used Tiger, and I expect they'd work in Leopard, but I'm less sure of Panther):

  1. Option-click the ? status for one of the messed-up messages to select all of them (insert obligatory "I can't believe other programs lack this insanely useful shortcut!" comment).
  2. Transfer the selected messages to a new temporary mailbox by choosing Transfer > New. Call the new mailbox tempBox.
  3. Quit Eudora.
  4. Now you need to delete the resource fork from the tempBox mailbox. Run Terminal and navigate to the folder containing the tempBox mailbox. (The easiest way to do this is to type "cd" and a space, drag the folder containing tempBox to the Terminal window, and then press Return.) Now enter this command:
  5. cp /dev/null tempBox/rsrc

  6. Launch Eudora again, open the tempBox mailbox to rebuild the table of contents, and verify that the dates have been fixed.
  7. Select all the messages and transfer them back to the Out box. Once they're back (Eudora may warn about losing headers or images that can't be found - don't worry about it), Option-click the unsent status (a hyphen) for the transferred messages to select all of them, click the status for one of them, and choose Sent from the pop-up menu to reset them all to the Sent status (a checkmark). (If you were performing this task on a mailbox other than Out, they'd all come in with an unread status (a bullet), and you could change that to read or replied or whatever). You can delete the empty tempBox mailbox.
  8. Lastly, go through and manually delete any interim versions of auto-saved messages. If you see four messages with the same Subject line, delete the first three, since the last one is the final version.

Some users have reported troubles with Eudora's tables of contents when running under Leopard, and they've worked around the problem by switching from Eudora's default method of storing the table of contents in the resource fork of each mailbox file to storing it in an old-style .toc file. You can toggle that setting in Eudora's Miscellaneous settings panel; there doesn't seem to be any harm in trying it, although Eudora will complain if you have any mailboxes with names longer than 27 characters, since the old-style .toc files date from the time when filenames couldn't be more than 31 characters. Just rename those mailboxes in the Finder when Eudora isn't running.

I tried this workaround but almost immediately ran into a problem where reading messages in certain mailboxes wouldn't update the status of those messages. It's possible I needed to delete the resource forks in those mailboxes manually, but unless I start having a lot more troubles, I'm going to stick with the normal resource fork approach to storing tables of contents.

For those of you who aren't happy with the workflow changes required by other email programs and are sticking with Eudora 6.2.4 as long as possible, I hope these instructions will keep your mailboxes healthy. But remember, there's no substitute for frequent backups, and if you're running Leopard, you should be backing up via at least Time Machine as well.

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Instant Messaging for Introverts

  by Joe Kissell <>

From time to time, someone I know asks me an ordinary and reasonable question: "What's your iChat (or Skype) ID?" My usual reply is to give them the information along with a big disclaimer: I'm almost never logged in. In fact, let me be completely honest and say I thoroughly dislike instant messaging (IM) except in a few specific situations. For months, I've been thinking about why this is - both the technological and psychological aspects - along with whether it somehow exposes a fundamental character flaw, and whether it's something I should attempt to change. Having experimented with a variety of approaches to instant messaging (as well as its close relative Twitter) and having done a considerable amount of introspection, I'm inclined to think that my personality type is fundamentally ill-suited to instant messaging. Specifically, I'd like to advance the thesis that - for some people at least - an aversion to instant messaging is a natural consequence of one's temperament, and that this is neither good nor bad in and of itself, though it does of course have consequences.

This notion has been difficult for me to come to grips with, because I'm a self-professed computer geek since way back when, someone who lives and breathes technology. For me not to be excited about a common modern mode of communication seems contradictory in some way. In addition, my dislike for IM has caused - well, continues to cause - practical communication difficulties. So I wanted to explore what's underneath this, partly for my own benefit, but also as a courtesy to others out there who may find themselves in a similar situation and would like to commiserate, share their experiences, or simply know they are not alone. And I want to offer suggestions from my personal experience that may help others to make peace with instant messaging, to one extent or another - or to better understand those who seem to have the same trouble with it that I do. Ultimately, I can't offer a solution that will magically and perfectly bridge the gap between IM lovers and IM haters, but I hope I can at least shed some light on what the situation looks like from both sides.

I Is for Introvert -- Let me begin by stating that, like 25 to 50 percent of the world's population (depending on who's counting), I'm an introvert. A common misconception about the word "introvert" is that it means someone who's shy, withdrawn, afraid of crowds, or lacking in social skills. If you've ever seen me give a presentation to a large Mac user group, you'll surely know that description doesn't fit me at all! I will happily stand in front of hundreds or thousands of people, give a speech, answer questions, make jokes, and generally take charge of keeping the group interested and involved. If anything, I have a reputation for being long-winded in social situations, telling stories that go off on one tangent after another - and for being among the last to leave. I like people, and I think I'm reasonably competent and comfortable in a crowd of any size.

However, given the choice, I do generally prefer to be alone. If you asked me which would be more fun - going to a lively party where I'd be socializing with a couple dozen other people or sitting in a quiet corner reading a book - I wouldn't even have to think about it: I'd much rather sit alone and read. All things being equal, I prefer smaller gatherings to larger ones, and I prefer solitude to company. To put it differently, being around other people seems to drain my energy, whereas being alone (or with smaller, quieter groups) gives me more energy. When I've spent hours around other people, I need to be alone to recharge, whereas for an extrovert, it's typically the opposite: being alone saps energy, and being around other people restores it.

Psychologist Carl Jung (himself an introvert) first developed the notion of the introvert/extrovert distinction as a way of describing whether a person's focus tends to be more inward or outward. The categories don't represent simple binary states; there's a long continuum between wholly introverted and wholly extroverted, and everyone falls somewhere in between. In addition, a person may exhibit introverted characteristics sometimes and extroverted characteristics at other times. A variety of personality tests reveal where on the continuum a person's tendencies lie - whether you're strongly or weakly introverted or extroverted. One such test is the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which employs the idiosyncratic spelling "extravert" rather than "extrovert," and which uses the terms primarily to indicate one's manner of spending and drawing energy. Another good example is the Kiersey Temperament Sorter.

Introversion and extroversion are often referred to as "preferences" or "attitudes," but such terms misleadingly suggest that either characteristic is merely a matter of choice. In fact, being an introvert is much like being left-handed: even though you may have another fully functional hand that you could use, you didn't choose for your left hand to be dominant and therefore the one you can use more naturally, comfortably, and effectively. Although the influence of nature versus nurture in the development of introversion or extroversion has been much debated, research strongly suggests that introversion is in some sense "hard-wired" in the brain. Once a person has developed one tendency or the other, it's as difficult to conceive of changing it as changing one's dominant hand.

In decades past, left-handed people (like my grandfather) were forced, sometimes violently, to write with their right hands, based on the belief that right was right and left was abnormal and therefore wrong. Today, even though lefties are still very much in the minority, most people think such attitudes are ridiculous and even offensive. But comparable enlightenment about introverts is dawning more slowly. I routinely hear people talk about introversion as a problem that needs fixing or as a trait that one should actively try to suppress and change. True enough, extroverts tend to be the movers and shakers, the squeaky wheels, and the stars. On the other hand, many introverts have famously risen to positions of wealth, influence, and authority - both in the real world (Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Julia Roberts, Barbara Walters) and in fiction (Batman, Jane Eyre, Dr. Jean Gray, Harry Potter, Mr. Spock). The point is: there's nothing wrong with being an introvert, and this characteristic need not keep anyone from success or happiness. Introverts can learn to work with this trait rather than against it, while extroverts would benefit from understanding introverts better and in some cases making accommodations to interact with them more effectively.

I learned about introversion and extroversion the same way I learned about Macs: by experience and by reading. If you'd like to learn more, I suggest (in addition to the links already given) reading the book "The Introvert Advantage" by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., as well as "Caring for Your Introvert" by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic; "Introverts of the World, Unite!," an interview with Rauch by Sage Stossel; Extraversion/Introversion by Susan A. Santo, Ph.D., of the University of South Dakota; and Spectatrix, a blog my wife runs about life as an introvert. (And, no, that's not a contradiction!) And if you'd like an easy way to find out where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, try Quick Quiz: Extraverted or Introverted? at Your Office Coach.

From considerable reading and from personal experience, I've learned that introverts have a number of other tendencies. And taken together, these traits may shed some light on why I (and numerous other introverts I know) have a hard time with IM, Twitter, and the like. For example, introverts typically need to concentrate on just one thing at a time, and are often particularly sensitive to interruptions and distractions. Now, I happen to think "multitasking" is a concept that should never, ever be applied to human beings (regardless of personality type), but be that as it may, I can certainly say that I'm easily distracted, and having more than one thing to think about actively at any given time is sure to make me both ineffective and grumpy. Chatting online while also working on another task, therefore, is unthinkable. (For additional perspective on what multitasking might mean to an introvert, read Personality Types and Multitasking by Carol Kallendorf, Ph.D., at BizWatch Online. Note that I'm not only an "I" ("introverted") in Myers-Briggs terminology, but also a "J" ("judging"), which apparently makes me the personality type least amenable to multitasking!)

Another typical introvert trait is wanting to compose one's thoughts carefully before sharing them (either verbally or in writing). Once again, while this doesn't prevent me from carrying on verbal conversations at a normal speed, it makes rapid-fire online textual conversations rather unnerving. For me, interacting with other people in real time online is just as draining as interacting with other people in person. So my feelings about participating in, say, a lively multi-person chat are about the same whether we're talking about iChat or a party. I can hold my own in the conversation and it's generally fine, but because it takes a lot of energy I prefer not to do it very often.

Although I can't speak for every introvert in the world, I can say that I genuinely enjoy connecting with other people. I like to know what my friends are up to and I like for them to know what's going on in my life. But when modes of communication like IM and Twitter become the default way of sharing this information, that leaves us introverts in a pickle. If we're never logged in to iChat or rarely post on Twitter, our friends and colleagues may assume we're avoiding them, or that we aren't interested in their lives. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The disconnect manifests itself by way of technology, but the reasons behind it are much deeper.

Quiet - I'm Thinking -- The introvert trait of not dealing well with interruptions comes into play in a couple of different ways with IM. First, naturally, is the whole notion of something popping up on one's screen demanding an immediate conversation. Let me give you a personal perspective on this. Unlike many people, when I'm in front of my computer, I'm working, which means I'm concentrating on something. I'm writing an article, or a book, or an email message, trying to come up with exactly the right way to phrase some sentence or express a certain point. Or I'm programming, trying to solve some logic problem. Or I'm reading an article. Whatever the activity, it's something to which I am predisposed to devote my entire attention. If the phone rings, or my wife asks me a question, or an iCal alarm goes off, it breaks my concentration in a way that's frustrating to recover from. I lose my mental place, and it takes me a long time to get back into that same train of thought and finish whatever I was working on. I'm not saying I need to write an entire book without any interruptions, but when my mind is actively juggling information, I need to complete that particular thought (or block of code, or paragraph) before moving on to something else.

This is why I love email as a mode of communication. I get many dozens of messages every day, but I can answer them whenever I want. I don't have to look at them right in the middle of this paragraph; I can wait five or ten minutes - it doesn't matter (though in practice, I usually answer email very quickly). Voicemail can make handling phone calls similarly convenient. But instant messaging isn't like that. If my status shows that I'm online, then people expect an immediate response, and even though I could choose not to respond, I'd still have the blinking, bouncing, or beeping notification interrupting my train of thought - it isn't an improvement for me.

So in terms of IM status, I never consider myself "available" in the sense of "interruptible." Ever. There is no time of any day, under any circumstances, when I think to myself, "I really don't mind being interrupted now." If I'm not at my computer, then most likely a phone call or a knock at the door won't seem like an interruption. But if I am at my computer, I'm concentrating, which means I'm not "available" - I do mind being interrupted. And if my status shows that I'm unavailable, as it invariably does when I'm logged into iChat, most people will refrain from trying to start a conversation - meaning I might as well be entirely offline. (Of course, an "unavailable" status does convey some information, but I'll return to this in a few moments.)

(As an aside, if you guessed from the foregoing that I'm also not the kind of person who is constantly making and receiving cell phone calls, you're exactly right. I do own a cell phone, but I spend maybe 10 minutes a month talking on it. I don't follow the typical mobile urban lifestyle - I don't have a commute and dislike being considered "on call" when I'm not in my home office. Sure, I'd love to have an iPhone for the remote Web browsing, email, and all the rest, but I've come to accept the twin sad facts that I can't justify the cost of an iPhone given the amount of calling I do, and that I'm unwilling to carry around both a cell phone and an iPod touch. Oh well.)

Can I IM You Now? However, even though I'd theoretically prefer never to be interrupted, there are certainly urgent situations in which interruptions are not only acceptable but absolutely necessary, and IM may be the handiest way to get someone's attention in a hurry. Being perpetually unreachable can irritate your coworkers and lead to misunderstandings. Unfortunately, current IM software - and iChat in particular - hinders me from making myself provisionally available for "just in case of emergency" interruptions. Let me explain.

I've tried using iChat's security features to grant or deny access to certain people - for example, letting only important colleagues see when I'm online. That prevents interruptions from random people who just want to make small talk, but it forces me to keep iChat updated with my status, and that's a real problem. Some people manually change their iChat status constantly - you can be sure that it always reflects not only their availability but the exact task they're working on at the moment. I've tried doing this myself, but invariably I either forget to change my status after a few hours or simply get fed up with having to keep telling my computer what I'm doing. I can't be bothered to inform iChat of my current mood or activity over and over throughout the day.

Of course, iChat can automatically change my status from "Available" to "Away" when my computer is untouched for a certain period of time. But I never want to advertise myself as being "available," so that doesn't help. iChat can also indicate that I'm "idle" after a period of inactivity, but only if my status was previously "Available" - so that's no help either. I could create a custom "Away" message (say, "Busy") and stay logged in all the time with that status. But because "Busy" never changes to "Idle," my status then provides no clue as to whether I'm at my computer - it only says that my computer is turned on and iChat is logged in, which could be the case 24 hours a day. If I always logged out or put my computer to sleep when I stepped away, a "Busy" status would provide more information, but once again, that forces me to do extra tasks that I wouldn't ordinarily do and will in all likelihood forget.

Apple (or perhaps an enterprising third-party developer) could solve this problem for me by making the "Away" setting behave the same way as "Available" - automatically switching to "idle" after a few minutes without input. That way, I could stay logged in all the time - with my red-badged "Don't Disturb Unless Absolutely Necessary" status - but colleagues would still be able to tell whether I'm actually at my computer without my having to update iChat manually every time I get up.

(Adam Engst also addressed part of this issue in his article "iChat Status Report" (2004-03-29) - namely, the fact that iChat offers too few options for setting one's status. Alas, Leopard's iChat is in no way improved in this regard.)

A Little Birdie Told Me -- So far I've been talking about status in the simplistic sense of "Am I interruptible?" But even though many people use their iChat status to indicate things like their mood or what they just ate for lunch, that isn't the best tool for the job. Enter Twitter, which makes it very easy to supply your friends with exactly those sorts of brief "what I'm up to" updates. Other TidBITS staffers have voiced varying opinions about the service. Adam Engst didn't like Twitter at first ("Visions of the Sublime and the Inane," 2007-06-18) but, after seeing how it was used at the C4 conference, he came around to thinking it was useful after all, as he explained in "Confessions of a Twitter Convert," 2007-10-07). Tonya quickly followed suit, though she uses it somewhat differently ("Twitter Turns Out to be Fun and Useful," 2007-08-24). Glenn Fleishman liked it but then decided it was too overwhelming ("Conversions of a Twitter Revert, 2008-01-02) - and then got sucked in yet again, as a way of maintaining some social interaction after officemate Jeff Carlson started spending more time at home with his new daughter.

Twitter is a way of learning what other people are thinking and doing (and telling them the same about yourself) with a minimum of effort. Unlike IM, receiving a tweet in Twitter doesn't obligate you to carry on a conversation, so even if, say, Twitterrific is running in the background and pops up every time someone I'm following has something to say, I find it much less intrusive and bothersome than IM. I don't always read the tweets, but I often do, and I learn some interesting things that way.

However, when it comes to the flip side - posting my own stuff on Twitter - my introverted nature causes problems again. For one thing, being the inward-focused type that I am, the very thought of constantly telling the world what I'm thinking or doing makes me tired and gives me the vague sense of not having enough solitude and privacy. I like feeling as though I'm snug in my comfy cave, minding my own business and getting my work done. Having to (virtually) poke my head out at regular intervals to announce what I'm up to requires too much energy. It also feels like a self-imposed interruption, and like all interruptions, it breaks my train of thought. Needless to say, no one has to post every hour or even every day, and in practice I generally lurk with quite infrequent posts, but then that defeats the purpose of the system by not letting the people who are following me know anything useful on a regular basis.

I realize, of course, that Twitter's 140 character limit strikes most people as being so brief that it requires essentially no thought or effort at all to post a tweet. How can that be an interruption? For me, it's not the number of characters that's the problem, it's the need to mentally shift gears and add another task to my list - "Decide what to say." You'll recall that introverts like to choose their words carefully and deliberately, and so for me, even a one- or two-sentence tweet requires thought and consideration. That ends up being another task on my already full schedule, so it happens infrequently.

Two years ago, none of my friends or coworkers would have expected these sorts of frequent glimpses into my mental state throughout the day, because Twitter didn't exist. But now its use as a networking and community-building tool has become so common that some people have worried that I don't like them if I don't interact with them regularly on Twitter! This troubles me - of course I still like you! - but it's tricky to solve the problem in a way that respects the needs of both "innies" and "outies."

The View from the Other Side -- To this point, I've been saying that introversion is a normal, healthy state for a great many people, and that it could help to explain why some of us find otherwise useful technologies - IM and Twitter - uncomfortable or even distasteful. The implication is that all the introverts of the world should (quietly) stand up (in a corner) for their rights and insist (in a carefully and kindly worded letter) that the other half cut us a break and lay off all the beepy flashy instant messages. (Or, to put it less kindly, "Hey, we don't need to change - you change!") Well, it's not necessarily that simple.

Several people I discussed this issue with expressed dismay at having had relationships deteriorate due to an unwillingness on another person's part to adapt to changing technology. For example, people who don't use email don't get evites, and so they end up being excluded from parties. Once someone has adapted to a new mode of communication, it becomes harder to communicate with people who use the previous standard, so more often than not, we won't make the effort. (How many personal letters did you write on paper and send in the mail last year?) For better or worse, the wave of technology sweeps us all forward, so if you avoid assimilation - no cell phone, or no IM, or no whatever-the-next-thing-is, you'll find yourself left out, and perhaps misunderstood. And for certain tasks, regardless of your issues with a particular technology, there just isn't another suitable way to get the job done. (Try getting a pizza delivered to your home without using a telephone or a Web browser.)

Without a doubt, there will be times when even the most introverted among us has to just suck it up and deal with the unpleasantness for a higher good - say, maintaining a relationship or keeping a job. And almost certainly today's versions of IM and Twitter will be greatly improved, or replaced by entirely new paradigms, within a few years, so perhaps the problem will improve on its own. But in the meantime, I'd like to suggest that the decision is not merely "you do it my way or I'll do it your way." Introverts and extroverts (or let's say, more broadly, those who think IM is icky and those who think it's great) can meet in the middle.

Suggestions -- Despite my complaints about instant messaging from my viewpoint as an introvert, I don't refuse ever to use iChat. In fact, I find it a wonderful tool for doing certain tasks, not the least of which is giving remote presentations (see "Using iChat Theater for Remote Presentations," 2008-02-20). But for my own sanity and well-being, I can't be logged in whenever I'm using my computer, and I can't keep my status constantly updated. Similarly, I do use Twitter, just not in the way that some people expect. If you're an introvert struggling with IM, here are some things I've tried that you might try as well.

The discussions I've had with other TidBITS staffers while working on this article have made it clear to me that the question of how personality types affect the ways one communicates is a complex one; it's a topic that tends to produce strong but mixed feelings. I don't pretend to have all the answers, or even an entirely satisfactory solution for myself. And, of course, I can't prove that my theories about why I feel and behave the way I do are correct. But what I hope to have done is shed at least some light on an increasingly common source of grief. If you have opinions or experiences of your own you'd like to share, I invite you to discuss this topic on TidBITS Talk. Just remember: introverts may be in the minority, but then, so are Mac users. There's no reason we can't all get along!

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