Instant messaging can be a time sink. I love communicating with people, which is the main reason I keep this weblog going. However, as most academics, I have much going on and can't afford to have many lengthy discussions. I've also learned there is no clean way to end an IM conversation. So please feel free to IM me but don't take it personally if I rudely keep the conversation short.
Just because the nice icon on the home page says I'm online it doesn't mean that I am at my computer and available to chat at the moment. Often I am and I will but if not I will eventually see your message and respond. If there is really is something important that you want to discuss with me via IM we can setup a scheduled time via email. I often do this with phone calls so why not IM too?
I've also discovered IM conversations can be recorded, posted on the web and could be used in a court of law. I need to be careful about what I say.
I have already had some interesting research conversations and ideas for weblog posts via IM. The last post came in part because of some IM questions about the Feigenbaum-Fortnow paper. Email became a powerful research tool when email use hit a critical mass among computer scientists sometime in the mid-late 80's. I believe IM will also follow that curve and I hope to keep ahead of it and perhaps nudge it a little bit.