I got lots of thesis reading done today, as well as spending a good couple of hours conversing with friends and family members back home. More friends around the world should install Skype. Since arriving in Oxford, I have spent hundreds of hours exchanging text messages with 126 different people. That said, while an hour or two spent exchanging MSN messages can certainly keep you abreast of what another person is up to, the psychological significance of even a twenty minute phone call seems much greater.
For a conversation between two computers running Skype, there are no fees at all. All you need, in order to use Skype, is a Mac or PC with a high speed internet connection (pretty much any university network is more than fast enough), headphones, and a microphone. There are even Skype compatible phones. The headphones aren’t really required, but if you don’t use them you can get odd echo effects from the 80ms delay that tends to exist for messages between Oxford and the west coast of North America.
While I can use Skype to call normal phones (Canada to the UK costs €0.017 a minute), it always seems like something of an imposition on my part – especially since most of my friends can only really be reached on cell phones. Seeing that someone is online and interested in talking is a useful affirmation of the wisdom of giving them a ring. I haven’t personally been in the habit of leaving Skype running, even when I am at home, primarily because so few of my friends use it. That said, I will make a point of remaining online more often, so as to reward those who take the advice above.
PS. On account of today’s atrocious weather, I was unable to produce a photo worth putting online. Next time I get a good batch, I will backdate one to this entry.
PPS. This ongoing discussion of the moral importance of inequality is highly interesting.