I’ve been logging my instant messenger sessions for a number of years. Most people don’t have a problem with this, especially after I explain why I do it, which I will get to shortly. I generally do not have logs that actually go back very far. Currently I only have around two years worth of logs, most of which are inaccessible at the moment. I do have a few select logs that go back further, but I only keep those for historical purposes. A reminder of friends lost (not over this, just kind of drifted apart). All of this though is irregardless of the fact that I do keep them in the first place.

Why log chats?

That’s really, really simple. I have been more than once caught unawares by others where I, or someone else, was quoted as saying something that I don’t rightly remember. Because my memory is imperfect (even more so than the norm, I believe), I started keeping logs. I’ve never had much use to go back through them except to pick up conversations, if possible, where left off. In all that time, I’ve only been told I misquoted someone once. Unfortunately the log of that particular conversation is one of those that are currently unavailable (which really doesn’t matter, it would serve no purpose, really, to show who is right and wrong in this particular case).

That is the main reason I keep chat logs.

There are other reasons?

I also keep chat logs for a number or other reasons. URLs I haven’t visited yet but would like to, or just don’t feel like bookmarking. Information that is pertinent, but I don’t have the time to record elsewhere (such as phone numbers, addresses, etc.)

That’s all I do with them. 99% of the time I don’t even bother going to the directory where the logging takes place.

Doesn’t that take up a ton of room? What about modification?

I keep all logs in plain text files. Because they could be easily modified, they aren’t very useful as evidence, I would imagine (though there is the issue of easily accessible info such as date of creation and date of last modification). Currently, with just over a years worth of logs, only takes up 14.6MB on disk (actual size is around 5 MB, see this image).

Can you turn off logging for specific users?

I don’t know, but it’s definitely something to look into. I’ve had at least one person tell me that they felt that their privacy was violated and because I do keep logs, no longer wishes to IM me. I’m sorry that person feels that way, and I can look into selective non-logging of conversations, but I feel that keeping logs helps keep me safe, especially legally. I’ve already once been (wrongfully) accused of sexual harassment. I’ve already been threatened multiple times with the prospect of false accusations of several sorts. At least with my instant messengers, I can help to mitigate such threats and protect myself in the event that such a threat actually materializes.

Don’t want me logging my conversations with you? If I know you well enough, I will have no problem at the very least going through on a regular basis and deleting your specific log files from my computer. If that’s not satisfactory, well, I’m sorry. Then you should also know I keep all my emails (as well as I can), both sent and received. Some I keep for the same reasons I log chats, others I keep because it reminds me of something that really made me smile.

It only takes me not keeping logs once with the wrong person to put my butt in the sling. I’d rather this not put a crimp on any of my friendships or acquaintanceship, but I cannot reasonably see me not doing so at all for at least the foreseeable future.

If this makes you uncomfortable, I truly am sorry.