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Essential Chatting Apps For Traveling Chroniclers – Journalists, Filmmakers, Authors

Use them all.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic- Being a writer is not a job for hermits. That image of Salinger slaving away over a typewriter in his shed in the woods of New Hampshire is misleading. Salinger didn’t talk with many people during his decades of exile, but he was very much in touch. In those days, being in touch meant reading newspapers and magazines and sending letters. Apparently, the dude’s P.O. box would overflow with reading material and letters daily.

Today, that format is obsolete but the methodology is still just as relevant as it was then. To write well, you need to be in touch.

I look at my BlackBerry and I sometimes laugh. It is chock full of chatting apps:

Signal

Telegram

Cypher

Wire

WhatsApp

BBM Enterprise

Skype

LinkedIn

Twitter

I have WeChat on an iPhone (I don’t trust Chinese software)

Why do I need all of these chatting apps? Because in different parts of the world people use different apps for daily communication. People also have their preferences. Being available on all of them means being easily contactable. It means being able to easily contact others. I need other people’s input, expertise, and perspectives for my stories.

You’re probably going to notice a contradiction here: I don’t have Facebook Messenger, which is probably the most popular chatting app on the planet. While I realize that this cuts into my goal of being easily contactable, I’m going to eat the loss, as I personally can’t bear using that wicked company run by that heinous little twerp any longer. Delete that shit.

Yes, WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, but the way that it’s encrypted is supposedly different, and it’s usefulness to be would make it more difficult to part with … as much as I’d like to. WhatsApp is also acceptable for professional communication — I just interviewed a CEO at a Fortune 500 company the other day through a WhatsApp voice call — whereas FB Messenger is not (Facebook had zero professional value for me).

I like chatting apps as they give me a way to have quick, streamlined communication with a large array of people. And, perhaps most importantly, people respond quickly:

If you send someone an email, the acceptable window for a response is 24 hours. If you send someone a text this number drops to 24 minutes.

If I’m writing a story and I have a quick question, I don’t have 24 hours to spare — I need an an answer immediately.

Likewise, it is a lot easier for someone to send me a tip via a chatting app than it is for them to try to dig up my email.

My favorite messaging app is BBM … but nobody outside of Indonesia uses it. I would say that, realistically, Signal is the most effective — it connects to phone numbers like WhatsApp and can be used as not only a chatting app but an SMS client. Next up on my list is Telegram. WeChat is the standard when in China or when dealing with people with a China connection. It is also by far the most technologically advanced messenging app out there. Then there’s Skype, which is clunky, unintuitive, and expensive — and should soon be rendered obsolete by better functioning and cheaper competitors. At the bottom of my list is Twitter, which isn’t really a chatting app but the DM feature functions as one. Twitter is good for cold calls or to find out about people / organizations that you previously didn’t know about.

Basically, my work revolves around chatting apps. If you want to walk this path, use them all.

Filed under: Blogging, Journalism, Travel Writing

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3548 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Astoria, New York

12 comments… add one

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  • Trevor July 1, 2019, 10:17 pm

    man, delete all that shit….

    i have hangouts for 2 people, whatsapp for a dozen or so, my cell phone is for work purposes only, though some ‘thing’ need to send a text for confirmation… tax office, whatsapp, when i re boot my phone from scratch..

    i am a big emailer!!!

    i had a row with my dad. so i uninstalled skype.

    Gmaps, is my favourite app ever. i used to use snap speed, but samsung photos app on my phone tweaks my pics enough, but cymera has a great pixelization tool to block out details or faces.. i dont use the weebly app,

    oh congratualtions to ur wife !!!!!!

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    • Wade Shepard July 3, 2019, 11:04 am

      One of the biggest benefits of these messaging apps is that it allows us to maintain text communication with people all over the world in a way that SMS doesn’t.

      But, yes, email is still essential!

      Skype is cool as it allows cheap-ish international calls to cellphones … and the other person doesn’t even know you’re on Skype.

      I guess the goal is to be able to have “normal” communication with people from anywhere no matter where you are in the world.

      I have been looking at Google Fi though … although it would demand a big, let’s say, compromise for the convenience.

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  • Trevor July 2, 2019, 5:51 pm

    How r u liking Proton Mail.. a buddy of mine uses it too..

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    • Wade Shepard July 3, 2019, 10:58 am

      I like it. Streamline and not giving my data to big tech companies. Haven’t even had to pay for it yet. I recommend it.

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  • julie July 2, 2019, 8:45 pm

    Instead of Skype, try Zoom. Has a lot of functions like share screen, record meetings, lots of participants, view meeting on speaker or gallery view. It has great compression so I can still video even on scrappy connections. I pay $150 a year. Love it.

    dont work for them or anything, just fyi…

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    • Wade Shepard July 3, 2019, 10:57 am

      Thanks for the suggestion! I actually just used Zoom for the first time yesterday for a conference call. It worked well. I may look into getting the paid version — I just entered someone else’s conference. Does it allow for calls to regular phone numbers? That’s probably my #1 use of Skype.

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    • Trevor July 3, 2019, 8:19 pm

      150 $ a year to speak to people.. wth no way ho-zay

      Been working alone for 3 weeks. Best 3 weeks ever!!

      I upgraded to my own domain thats the only subscription i need. Deleted netflix !

      I must be addicted to commenting on vbj

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      • Wade Shepard July 4, 2019, 1:17 pm

        Yes, it’s a little much if you don’t use it all the time. If you do, it’s nothing. It’s interesting how all of these platforms who offer basically the same thing are all competing against each other. It will be interesting to see who wins. I’m looking forward to it, as it’s getting irritating that every time I join a teleconference I have to download some new app or program … which kind of goes against the sentiment that I expressed in this post haha!

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  • Georgiy Romanov July 13, 2019, 10:32 am

    Wade, if it possible, please add my contacts to your list. I could help you if you want to know more about Russia or Eastern Europe. How do I can send them to you?

    Georgiy.

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    • Wade Shepard July 13, 2019, 1:16 pm

      Hello Georgiy, Your phone number would probably be best. Just send it to vagabondsong@gmail.com and I will add!

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      • Georgiy Romanov July 13, 2019, 2:02 pm

        Got it!

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        • Wade Shepard July 14, 2019, 10:36 am

          Excellent! I like Telegram better than Whatsapp, but either is alright.

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