This site maintains a table cross-referencing the most popular “secure” messaging apps (WhatsApp, Signal, Skype etc.) against their security features, so that you can make an informed decision.
When I first went to university, in 1999, I got my first mobile phone. Back then, messaging features on mobiles were a bit more simplistic than they are today.
For example, phones were only just starting to appear that could handle multi-SMS messages. For those without this feature there was a new skill to be learned.
With practice, we got to be particularly good at cutting out messages down to the requisite number of characters to fit into a single SMS: just 160 characters.
We even learned how to meaningfully split messages in our heads, with indicators (ellipses, or numbers showing message parts), to carry longer concepts. (4/19)
Even when multi-message capable phones came out (I got one in 2000), these skills were still useful. At 10p or 12p per message, you soon learned to be concise.
Nowadays, this skill has lost its value. With more and more people having “unlimited SMS” plans or enormous quantities of credits, there’s no need to be brief.
If you’ve got an iPhone, you don’t even get told how long your message is, I hear. You just keep typing. And that’s not uncommon on other kinds of handset too.
Your phone’s still splitting your message up, in the background. Putting markers in, so that other phones can understand. And these markers are human-readable.
Just in case your message is going to a phone that’s over about 12 years old, your smartphone makes sure that the markers would be understood by humans. (9/19)
So now we’ve got smartphones talking to each other in a language that humans designed to talk to one another in. Does that feel really strange to anybody else?
I looked at my phone while I wrote a message, today. I noticed that number in the corner, that indicated that my message would span 3 texts. And I didn’t care.
Why would I? It’s a vestige of an older form of communication. Someday, it’ll look as primitive as the paintings on the walls of caves, daubed by early humans.
But for now, I remember. And, somehow, the skill I learned all those years ago – a trick that’s alien to almost anybody younger than me – has a new, fresh use.
Twitter. 140 character messages. A little bit less than a text, which seems strange. Are they really trying to make us even more brief than those early phones?
The skill is still the same. Think ahead. Prune. Plan. Snip. And, if you absolutely must span several messages, make it clear to your reader so that they know.
I see a whole new generation of people learning this skill that I once learned. It’s not the same (it never will be): they don’t pay 10p every time they tweet.
But you know what? It’s just as pointless now as it was the first time around. If you want to say something, say it. If 36p is too much, risk a 10-second call!
And in the case of the Twitter generation: if your message doesn’t fit on Twitter, then it probably doesn’t belong on Twitter. I’m a 160-character-or-more man.
I’m not sure I’m cut out for the Twitterverse with its 140-character limits. But it’s nice to remember how to think in 160, just like I have in this blog post.
When I relaunched Abnib the other week (which I swear I didn’t expect to have to do, until people started complaining that I was going to let it die – this genuinely wasn’t some “marketing” stunt!), I simultaneously brought back Abnib Chat (#abnib), the IRC channel.
I blame Jen for this. She told me that she missed the long-dead #rockmonkey chat room, and wanted it (or something similar) back, so I decided to provide one. Hell; if Jen wanted it, maybe other people wanted it to? And it’s an easy thing to set up, I thought.
Personally, I thought that the chat room would be a flop. I’d give it a go, of course, but I didn’t hold up much hope for its survival. When Abnib first launched, back in 2003, the Abnibbers were all students first and foremost. Now, they’ve all got jobs, and many of those jobs aren’t of a variety compatible with sitting on an IRC channel all day. And at night? We’ve got money, nowadays, and homes, and spice, and all kinds of activities that consume our lives on an evening. Many of us get what our younger student selves would call an “early night” every day of the week, and there’s always so much to do that shooting the breeze over a laborious IRC channel simply isn’t compatible with our lives any more.
Looks like I was right. Here’s the channel activity for the first fortnight of the new Abnib Chat:
Sure, the 1st of the month was busy, but not very busy: in actual fact, many of the people who were “around” were only around briefly, and one of those – Guest1332 – didn’t even identify themselves.
We’ve all got new ways of communicating now. Some folks are using Twitter (I occasionally read the feeds of those who write in a way that I’m permitted to see, but I don’t “tweet” myself). Others use Facebook (for a given definition of “use”, anyway). Others still continue to blog (that’s the medium for me: I think I’m just a little too wordy for anything less). In any case; we’re like Abnib: The Next Generation, and we’ve got reliable transporters and replicators and all kinds of cool shit, and hanging around in an IRC channel just feels kind of… backwards.
Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Star Trek recently.
Anyway – unless people object to that, too (seriously?), I’ll be turning off Iggy later this month: so if you’ve got something important to say to him, say it soon! I’ll leave the “Chat” button on Abnib because it’s lazier than removing it, and you never know if somebody might find a use for it, but I think it’s time to declare the channel “dead”.
My boss, Simon, and his family have recently gotten a new puppy, called Ruby.
Apparently the little girl’s full of energy and bounce and is taking up a lot of time while she gets settled in to her new home. While talking on an instant messenger with my boss earlier this week, he was telling me about how he’d had to get up in the middle of the night and take her for a run around the garden, because the little tyke was still full of beans and not sleepy. And that’s why I made one of those fabulous moments in instant messaging: when you type something that can be read multiple ways:
Dan: Puppy eating time?
Obviously, I had meant:
Dan: [Is the] puppy eating [i.e. consuming a lot of your] time? [Poor you, you're not getting much sleep.]
Just three words. So simple. But a split second later the other, inevitable way of reading it became clear:
Dan: [Is it] puppy-eating time? [I want to eat your puppy!]
Shit. That’s not what I meant! I tried to correct myself:
Dan: I don't want to kill your puppy!
Then I realised: what if my boss didn’t read it the wrong way at all? What if he already understood that I was asking about how much time and energy the new family member was taking up… if that’s the case, then I’d just made myself look like a psychopath who’s contemplating killing his family pets. I backpedalled:
Dan: That came out all wrong. I mean: of course I don't want to kill your puppy - I just didn't want you to think that I did, in case you thought that for some reason.
That didn’t help. This was just going from bad to worse. Then, salvation came:
Simon has reconnected.
Simon: Sorry, had to reboot - did you get my message about our new puppy?
The new version of AvAngel.com is under full developmental swing… and within a week or two it’ll be uploaded. Of course, you know what we’re like for deadlines, so don’t hold your breath – but if you don’t believe us, catch Dan online (e-mail him for his ICQ number) and he’ll show you what he’s working on!
The new site will include a brand new interface and a host of new features… I’m not going to give away too much unless you catch me online or come round to my house, but I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.
Oh, and for the time being, I’ve uploaded my new CV, ‘cos I’m looking for a job…