iMessage has solved a problem we’ve had around the Macgasm virtual office these days, and it’s in a way that not too many people would expect. Communicating with all the writers in an effective and immediate way has always been a struggle. Some writers use Skype, some use AIM, some use Google Talk, and others use nothing at all, but every one of our writers uses iMessage.  Problem solved with a team group message.

Solving one problem, however, has opened up a whole new number of challenges with iMessage that we never really thought about up until this point: there’s no mute options and there’s certainly no way to unsubscribe yourself from a group chat.

Having created the group chat from my account, I now hold all the writers hostage. I’ll pretend that it wasn’t intentional for a moment, and explain a little further. We have a couple of contributors in London, England, a couple in the heart of North America, and one or two more on the Pacific coastline. That means there’s an eight-hour swing between some team members. That can get annoying pretty fast for anyone being held hostage in a conversation.

A specific example, courtesy of our good friends Eugene and Marilyn. Late last week we were getting all social in the group iMessage chat. It turns out Eugene was trying to “sleep” and his phone kept going off all crazy-like while Corey Woodcox was attaching every meme image from Reddit in our chat. At first, we thought the solution was for Eugene to delete the message, but as it turns out, I held him hostage because I created the chat. There was no way for Eugene to shut us up; instead, he had to opt for either turning off his phone, or turning off his notifications in entirety, just so he could get some sleep.

We moved on at that point, but then just yesterday we woke Marilyn up at six in the morning with our W00TZ and our Huzzah comments about being included in Flipboard, Pulse, and Flud. Being an awesome team member, Marilyn decided to post on Twitter about the experience: “Someone at @macgasm owes me coffee. #WhenTimeZonesAttack #DamnYouGroupiMessages.”

The more I think about it, the more it’s obvious that a mute option and an unsubscribe option for iMessage is a must-have moving forward. I understand that iMessage is an extension of the SMS network, but phone-to-phone communications have evolved since then. Currently, your options for stepping out of a chat are all-or-nothing. You either have to turn off all notifications for iMessage, which isn’t the best case scenario if you still want to be notified of messages from other, more sane, people. Or, you can turn your phone off entirely, which isn’t really an option for those who use their iPhone as their alarm, which, I guess, can also be extended to putting your phone in silent mode as well.

Muting a particular chat could be an excellent way to keep active group chats, like our team chat, silent, without having to completely silence the service entirely. Also, giving people the ability to remove themselves from group chats would also be a sanity saver.

I love being able to hold everyone hostage and make sure that they get the information I keep passing on to them, but I can understand that they get annoyed by it from time to time. iMessage has been the best solution we could find for our group chats. The technology means I can reach people directly in their pockets instead of having to wait for them to be in front of a computer or checking their email. That’s pretty huge. I admit we’re not using the technology like Apple anticipated, but I feel like there’s a real opportunity to extend iMessage to an all-encompassing chat network, in the way that many of us expected an iChat for iOS to eventually become, should that ever become a reality. Muting particular messages and removing yourself from others will be a huge first step in reaching that goal.

Come on, Apple. Make it happen. Pretty please.

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