There are actually situations where texting is superior
Once upon a time, wireless text messaging, or more simply, texting, was a domain dominated by teenagers, especially teenage girls. You'd see them at the various teen hangouts like Ala Moana or Pearlridge, holding their various devices and furiously thumbing out messages. You could almost hear the messages being sent, in a sort of abbreviated valleygirl-esque accent. OMG! Dnt u no! LOL!
Then a funny thing happened. Texting caught on with actual grown-ups. People discovered that there are actually some business situations where texting is a superior form of communication. Many have come to view texting as a happy medium between email and phone calls.
Relative to texting, email can be cumbersome and slow. Even handheld-based email software requires more effort than simple one-to-one texting.
For example, texting can be done during meetings or presentations to instantly exchange information with other attendees. Of course, discretion is a key, pulling out your device and thumbing away can be viewed as rude behavior. But if done properly, texting can be no more obtrusive than taking notes.
Texting can also be much more prudent than conducting cell phone calls in public, especially for those people afflicted with "cell yell." Communicating with colleagues while you are in a hotel lobby, coffee shop, or airport can be much more private than sharing confidential information over the phone, especially when the connection is less than stellar.
While there are some similarities to instant messaging, such as AOL Instant Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger, the differentiator is that wireless text messaging is portable. You can take it with you wherever you go, whether you use a Blackberry, Treo, cell phone, or a more specialized device like a Sidekick. Dragging along even a small laptop is far less convenient.
Of course, there are times when texting is inferior to email or phone calls. Distribution of a spreadsheet to a number of folks is something that can pretty much only be done via email. Real-time, multi-party communications can currently only be done via conference calls, either over the phone or via video conferencing. Multi-party texting is a relatively new service with a few small players, but it is expected to become more widely available in the near future.
One final word of caution. While the use of "text speak," or abbreviations such as "k" for "OK," or "u" for "you" is considered appropriate for business-related texting, be careful not to let such mannerisms creep into other forms of communication. This is true even for email. Using text speak in such situations tends to portray a less than respectable image.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org