AZD asked on the Facebook what it means to "ping" someone. She said that many people over the age of 35 seemed to be asking her to do so, of late. To which I replied that her old friends were nerds and posted the link to a wikipedia article
without any further explanation. It was an overly curt response making me come off as an insulting jackass.
Some were embarassed. Some thought I was rude. One person disagreed with me, saying that pinging is the same as IM'ing. That it's a term from the dialup days and that traders use it too.
Rather than explain myself further there, I started to unpacking the whole concept.
First, it's not a terrible thing to be old and a nerd. If you are enough of a nerd to remember the "ping" utility by firsthand experience, you have come by your internet access by authentic and legitimate means. Massive cool points to you.
Second, it's possible that for a lot of people pinging is IM'ing. For this kind of person to ping someone is just to speak to them by text over IM or other device. Communication received not through speech.
This does not begin to unpack the feeling, the flavor, or the intention of the request when I make it.
Obvious Disclaimer: this is not the exact truth, only my take on it.
Essay: What Ping Means To Me
Back in the day, if you wanted to send something from one machine (computer) to another, you needed confirm that there was a live connection and that the other machine was on, functioning and able to receive what you wanted to send. It would be a shame, a waste to send it all only to have it be lost because you did not check first. Perhaps a tragedy.
Ping is a very small program written to send the smallest message from one machine to another. It asks, "Hey, are you there?", waits for a given amount of time for an answer, and then let's you know. With a positive response, you have a level of confidence that your next message will get through and be safely received.
Ping acknowledges that in communication the attention and receptivity of the receiver is essential. That listening matters and is an active part of the equation. That responding matters. That this shared agreement matters. That communication requires an active channel in both directions.
It is pragmatic. It is courteous.
Sometimes people get mad at me for not knowing something because they sent it to me by text or email or chat. Sometimes I get mad at people for the same reason. But the thing is. We cannot assume that everyone on the planet lives their life waiting to hear from us. Sometimes they are. Especially now that so many of us carry so many networked devices with us. But carrying it doesn't mean that the other person is or should be glued to it. They might be eating a strawberry or making love or watching a movie. They might be taking a much needed nap or working or savoring a moment of silence. They might be talking to other people, face to face. They might be basking in sunlight.
Ping them. Make sure that they are there and can pay attention. Make sure that they are in a state where they are receptive to communication and can respond. Establish that agreement and then proceed.