Why I Don’t Like those ‘Who’s Online’ Toolbars

Who's Online

It all started with Facebook. A little blue bar on the bottom saying who was online. I turned off the online chat. Then MySpace did it. Then YouTube did it.

I don’t mind that they have these little “Widgets” around the site. Still – You should really ASK me before assuming I want that option turned on. Especially if you add the bar.

It’s not that I don’t want to connect with friends. It’s not that I don’t want to be social. However, when I am deep in work, I really don’t want people messaging me at the wrong moment. Especially since some of these items create sounds – with no way to turn off.

Think about it. You are showing your Boss how to do something. You are on a GotoMeeting session showing off some websites that help with your brand. You get up on Facebook to show how that cool application will post to the social network site, when you get and IM “Dude – This girl does all kinda crazy http; // bit . ly / someurl”.

OK, maybe you as the masses might not be on that level yet, but you might in a couple years. I wasn’t there last year, but now I am doing more online meetings and PC requests than ever. I got off of IM’s like Yahoo and MSN Messanger because of this phenomenon; The ability to contact someone at anytime.

I did it because I have a little bit of ADHD. If I am engrossed in a project, someone might message me and we’ll get into a long back – and – forth conversation. In the meantime, I may loose focus on what I am doing. It’s not a multi-task issue. I multi-task all the time. Just now, I am working on remixing some music I recorded, adding to my own Podcast show notes and writing this article.

Maybe it’s because of the special attention – The conversation happens in real time as oppose to something I can write – then review – then post. Don’t take too long on replying to a message, or else you might just get a “Dude – you still there?” post. Sometimes, websites take certain advantages to our good nature.

For example: Have you ever gone into Facebook and turned off ALL email notification, then a month later find that they are emailling you again? You go into the settings and find they put up a new radio button on how to contact you and turned it on?

These are small privacy issues, but we are still talking privacy here. If Twitter was to inform people that I was online, I would most likely ask for a privacy button, or stop using the program alltogether.

Now I have said this before: If you are online, in some ways you forgo your privacy. I could run a program that could tell me everytime you use your computer, then send you a list of when and where you use it from. I would need specifics from your computer to do that, which would take a bit of legwork to do.

I will go online to talk at times. Then I can choose my program and turn it on. When I go on uStream, for example, I would like to talk to people. When I call up my IM – same thing.

There are those who love the toolbar; For that I say “Use it to your hearts’ content”. However, don’t assume I want to use it. Ask me if I want to use it – That way I am not surprised when someone says “Check out this Hottie…” when my boss is looking over my shoulder at my computer screen.

About J Powers

Podcaster, Blogger, IT Specialist. Been working in IT for over 15 years. Supported Windows 95 upon initial Launch and have worked in desktop, server and Web site support roles. Started Geekazine in 2007 and launched 5 shows from it. Speaker on many topics in Podcasting and technology. Also a musician.