Part of the reason I love IM and dislike the phone is that I have a better chance of telling if the person on the other end is interruptable before I interrupt them when we’re talking via IM. Phones don’t have statuses, so I get shy.
Most the time IM statuses make sense. People are either available or away. It’s not rocket science. But Google just had to mess with a good thing and use an “Idle” status that every other chat client I’ve used interprets as “Away.” Not only that, but if you were once available but haven’t done anything for a couple of minutes, it sets you to Idle. If you were once busy but haven’t done anything for a while, it sets you to Idle. Both look exactly the same, and both look like you’re “Away” from any other chat client. This means that I now have no clue if you’re available, and that the only ways I might have a chance at guessing are if I remember that you tend to use Google Talk through the Gmail page or the Gtalk client or if you add clarifying text to your status.
Dear Google, if you’re going to do Idle statuses, you should really stick to something that means “I used to be available but I haven’t chatted in a while,” and this should not look like an Away status to every other client out there. If people were Away and have been for a long time, chances are they’re still Away, so switching to Idle doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If it makes a difference, though, you could have another status that means “I used to be away but I haven’t checked in for a while.” This way we’re return to a land of less confusion.