Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Working with Instant Messenger.

Personally i could not work without instant messenger (IM) in all of its guises. I use trillian on my main dev machine to talk to friends, colleagues and peers around the world. I do it without thinking and i do it without negatively affecting my work; it is a tool of life and work. I use it to discuss tech within the game/engine, to setup meetings, to discuss scheduling issues, to setup tests... essentially anything work related (and some not work related things).

Recently i did a poll on a well populated games dev only forum. I started the poll based entirely on a single conversation with a friend at R* San Diego who said that R* do not allow IM usage. After a few hours it became apparent that around 10% of developers do not allow IM usage in any form, the other 90% largely given open access.

So why is it some companies simply don't allow it?

It seems that IM usage is a worry to the powers that be who think maybe details that should not be discussed outside of work might be discussed over IM which could indeed be considered a security leak if the receipient is not employed by said company, on the other hand what about internal only IM. I would ask, how likely is it that someone would spend the time (and money) to infiltrate another persons messenger account in order to log the conversations that would require that person to be logged on in the first place. I don't know how easy/difficult this is (and maybe my opinion would change if i knew) but it seems very unlikely that this is happening and thus i question the decision to remove such a useful tool from developers.

I also heard some rumblings that certain companies believe IM is a distraction and they need to remove any and all of those lest the peons get too engrossed in something other than work. Personally i think that people who use IM as a distraction at the expense of their work will likely find another distraction if / when IM is removed.

In the past i've worked for Activision and EA, two of the largest publishers, both of whome encourage IM usage. EA has an SIP setup internal to each studio that provides access to ALL. ATVI don't actively help people setup IM but they do not discourage it either, many of the studio level heads use it. It is a useful element of everyday developer life.

So, my opinions are known... what are yours?


Tony Albrecht said...

I find IM invaluable. I work remotely with three studios in various corners of the world - two encourage IM usage and one allows no internet access during work hours (other than a single dedicated computer). I have a good working relationship with the two studios that have IM - we maintain a good flow of communication. The other studio is a struggle to work with.

The instant feedback of IM is invaluable for a remote environment.

Andy Firth said...

which studio allows no internet access?

I know of a couple... R* mentioned above and Rare (tho that info is relatively old)

Tony Albrecht said...

It's a small independent studio just outside of LA. It's not public knowledge that this studio is working with the ones I do, so I don't think I should name it - sorry.

Andy Firth said...

fully understand, we work with external devs too.

I almost came over to your office (assuming you're in the brisbane office) back in Jan 2004 btw... but decided to go to Neversoft in LA instead.

Matt said...

Even better, in our office we have setup an IRC server. This allows a "one to many" type of communication. If the whole team is on the IRC channel, a simple "Where is X located?" can get answered in mere seconds.