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Broadcasting Information via Display Names in Instant Messaging

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Association for Computing Machinery


Many instant messenger (IM) clients let a person specify the identifying name that appears in another person's contact list. We have noticed that many people add extra information to this name as a way to broadcast information to their contacts. Twelve IM contact lists comprising 444 individuals were monitored over three weeks to observe how these individuals used and altered their display names. Almost half of them changed their display names at varying frequencies, where the new information fell into seventeen different categories of communication supplied to others. Three themes encompass these categories: Identification (who am I"?), Information About Self ("this is what is going on with me") and Broadcast Message ("I am directing information to the community"). The design implication is that systems supporting person to person casual interaction, such as IM, should explicitly include facilities that allow people to broadcast these types of information to their community of contacts."


Smale, Stephanie; Greenberg, Saul (2005): Broadcasting Information via Display Names in Instant Messaging. Proceedings of the 2005 ACM International Conference on Supporting Group Work. DOI: 10.1145/1099203.1099218. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 89–98. Sanibel Island, Florida, USA