Monday, December 29, 2008

The Presence of 2008

The year is ending and with it come the old year review and the new year's resolutions. I love these times.. you get to just sit and think on what happened and what the future holds..

I'm sitting and writing this post, while watching twitter popups via my favorite desktop client (Twhirl). I'm doing that because there's a mini war going on in south Israel right now, and this is where I grew up, where my parents still live actually. As I'm writing this, they announce the area a closed military environment.

Twitter is a big hit. In Israel, my friend Niv Calderon suspects there are around 1000 users in Israel there's no way of really knowing, but the last few days will probably bring more people in: most of the breaking news are coming from this presence server. True, there's a lot of extra information, chats, PR, but there are also many updates much faster than even the fastest news sites (I'm not talking about the TV).

Which brings me back to the resolutions thing. Presence is here to stay, and it was proven in the Obama campaign (that is very poorly replicated in Israel now). The economic crises will be the final step that is needed: people will learn how to make money of it, I'm sure. I have a few ideas of my own that I wrote about in my Hebrew blog, and I will post more about it later here. I know less and less people that are avoiding using and publishing their presence on line - even people that left Facebook in the past for privacy reasons are now coming back - you can't avoid it - it's affecting our lives too much and you just miss out if you're not there. The move is almost complete - digital presence is almost equal, or least a huge part, for physical presence.

In the field of XMPP vs. SIP, the question is harder. Tsahi Levent-Levi writes about it in SIMPLE vs. XMPP Showdown and reaches the same conclusion I did at the beginning of 2008: "We will end up with two different presence protocols - one dominant with Internet companies (XMPP) and the other by service providers and unified communication vendors (SIMPLE).".  Today I feel differently: In the field of presence and IM (and event related implementations) XMPP will win. It will not happen in 2009, companies have invested too much in SIP, and it will not happen in legacy systems, MMS, VOIP. It will happen where XMPP shines as a simple (pun intended), standard, easy to use (very important!) protocol - that instead of getting extended more and more - is using other standards when possible (for example, OAuth for authentication). And I'll explain why:

Simple - XMPP is XML based. This brings with it some good and some bad news. The point I'm making here is that those news are KNOWN. Some have solutions (offloading XML processing for better performance, for example) and some don't, but the field is very wide and keeps getting better (since there are many people looking to improve it). By doing it's not only much easier to learn XMPP, it will improve faster too.

Standard - SIP is standard, but it's the bad type of standard: It's a standard made by the SIP community for the SIP community. The XMPP standard uses other known standards and re-uses them in a way that suits the needs.

Easy to use - I also refer to as 'easy to learn' - what is easy to learn and use will become more popular, period.

Another point on XMPP as wining the Internet and the SIP wining the mobile/cellular - the Internet will eventually win the mobile, if it hadn't already. What does that tell you about the protocol that won the Internet?

Happy new year and world peace!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Your presence and your relationships

Your every day presence and the way you present it changes by the person that is viewing your presence. You don't always express your feelings to the man in the grocery store. You smile when you're sad when meeting strangers, and most of the time, the closer the person is to you, the closer they get to the inner circle of your presence.

Digital presence is not that different. We have so many ways to express it, and we usually choose different ways to express different presence information to different crowds.

I have Facebook chat, Facebook status, Facebook messages, Twitter, Twitter direct messages, email, sms, gtalk, MSN messenger, phone and face 2 face. Without noticing, I created a strict hierarchy in those options that is related to my circles.

My outmost circle, people are hardly know or don't have any direct contact with, I use mostly Facebook. Facebook messages for me is the less favorite way of communication. FB Chat is also down there - only for people I can't chat with any other way.

After that circle, comes the people I know better. I have their MSN (mostly old friends and MS freaks), I follow them (and sometimes they even follow me) on Twitter. At the top of that list are my gtalk friends - people I actually emailed in the past. Emails are also high up there - I don't often write people long messages that are not work related. If you're getting one, I have a lot to say to you, and the bonus is double - you get my email and get into my gtalk :)

Then of course, SMS, phone and f2f, in that order, which are on the border between digital and physical.

How is your list ordered?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Real life Micro Blogging

While sitting at Cezrar (hebrew reviews), my favorite lunch place near work today, I saw this draw board on the wall behind the bar.

I asked the barman what was it, and he said they just added a board there, and it started to be a place where the bar team started leaving one line messages to each other: Enjoy the day, good luck on your trip tomorrow, we had a great evening, etc.

The concept is so close to microblogging, and yet, these people come from a totally different position. They don't know Twitter, they almost never used Facebook. They just started it because it.. well.. logical thing to do.

I can't think of a better example to make my point at why Twitter is so successful.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Presence, Translated

It's easy to go around, talking about presence to people who live the net, who know Instant Messengers and Twitter and Facebook status. It's easy to discuss it with my peers, who live this world with me on a day to day basis.

While running with a good friend of mine, telling him about a lecture I was about to give in BGU (Ben Gurion University) about Presence, he asked me what Presence was, which struck me as odd, because the answer didn't come to me so easily - I found that when you try to translate all the buzz words to Hebrew, which also means you can't use any predefined idioms, you have to really fine tune your definitions. I liked the idea a lot.

I usually start on Presence from the Instant Messaging perspective. It's easy, it's known, it's simple, and it is where Digital Presence started, it's not the real beginning, of course, but hey - nothing digital is really new, it's all imitation of life.

Presence started out as a enumerated list of things you could be, or your limited status. Offline, online, later busy, in a meeting, etc. It was a predefined list, set up in both string value and meaning by your service provider. Some decided that in a meeting was a curtsy status, and your friends (or are they?) could still approach you. Others decided that it was your gate, and if you're set as busy, you are busy.

Later on the status turned to free text, in addition to the preset status. You could add anything you'd want and in terms of functionality, it would mean nothing. Those were tiny messages for your friends. "In Tel Aviv", "Studying for my finals" were common uses. Later it expanded to even more useful pieces of information, "Looking to hire Java developers" - amm.. is that still presence?

And why not? Presence is not only a description of my general status now (busy), it's more like "what I am doing now", or even "what I am now", and if you want to go even further "who I am". It sounds a little heavy, but my presence is who I am. What I am now is made from who I've been before, what I'm thinking and feeling now, and my plans for the future. If I think of my next Ironman race, a year from now, is it not my current presence? If doing so makes me busy, not only because I'm writing about it, but also because my mind is elsewhere, is it not the most accurate presence description about me you'll ever get?

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

The way chat was, is, will be

Digital chat started out years ago, almost at the same place, and immediately diverged into two groups. Ubique and ICQ, both Israeli startups that were later bought by American corporations (AOL bought ICQ and Ubique, which later was bought back and re-sold to Lotus, and eventually ended up as part of IBM).

Ubique brought the idea of enterprise PIM server and product, while ICQ brought the same idea to the Internet. In a way both were equally successful, yet ICQ much more famous.

In those days, the difference between the product was pretty straightforward. Enterprise PIM brought security, command and control (always a requirement from CIO's around the world) and the sense of trust - you knew who you were talking to on the other side, and you know that while they (mostly) talked business, they would not be hackers and crackers, or other evil entities.

Public PIM, on the other hand, brought the possibility of connecting to new people, chatting for fun and pleasure, connecting, and getting yourself out there in a way that was never possible before: immediate and easy. You were not required to be technically savvy (like IRC) and you could chat and pass information quickly and easily (much more than email, forums, etc).

The coming of social networks brought some change to that. With the popularity of MySpace and Facebook, and with Facebook bringing the concept of real identity social network to the larger population, and then chatting within your social network, we received a kind of combination between public networks, not related to our business, not controlled and monitored (we hope) in the same way enterprise PIM can (and sometimes are) controlled, with the option of adding people WE choose to the network, and yet - receiving some kind of security and trust - only we allow people in, they are mostly identified by real identities, and with some minor care and responsibility - it's not that hard to identify the hoaxes and fakes out there.

From here, it's not yet decided what will happen. Social networks are going into the organization, enterprise PIM are stepping out. Mobile social networks and chats are changing, creating a new market that also quickly tries to enter the web and enterprise, and vice versa. We hear stories of startups creating 'facebook for the enterprise'. We hear about enterprise social network being hosted and offered to the public and the enterprise at the same time (ning offers something like that). I guess it's the mixup before they all become one big market. Our digital world will be one. What new ideas will come from it?

Monday, July 7, 2008

When Twitter goes Business

When I see posts on Twitter on CIO.COM, talking about Twitter's Potential for Business Users I know that microblogging is getting enough traction to go mainstream.

Jack Dorsey started Twitter to

make a more "live" LiveJournal. Real-time, up-to-date, from the road. Akin to updating your AIM status from wherever you are, and sharing it.

(see twttr sketch).

When they chose to limit the size of each message to 140 characters they wanted to allow quick SMS updates from anywhere, but that was the move that I believe resulted in Twitter being a genius product: forcing the users to update in quick, sharp notes, teaching them to summarize only what they have to write, and more importantly - allowing people to quickly consume all the data from all their contacts, so all you need to do is have a quick look on the site (or favorite aggregator or desktop client) and you know what the status is.

I saw an article Haaretz (Israeli newspaper) once describing it as extending your presence, or your body, to include your friends, in a way that you'll feel your friends in the same subconscious way you feel your legs, hands, etc. I liked this concept.

Once the concept caught, and people started using it in all kinds of ways, all kinds of user interfaces, and through different types of software (XMPP updates, web sites, desktop clients, different aggregators, etc.) it was only a matter of time before we'll see the enterprise catching up on the new concept. This continues the general trend of Enterprise 2.0, where the web leads the way and the enterprise adopts the most successful or needed parts of this progress, a trend of which IBM is one of the leaders with Connections and Sametime products.

The real question is what parts of the microblogging concept will catch in the enterprise? Which parts will give us the greatest advantage when we deal, unlike the open Internet, with real people that can be authenticated, with software the the CIO office can control if needed (everyone using the same technology or client, if needed), etc.

I love Twitter, I love microblogging, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for this technology.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Who controls your presence identity?

Working on my Windows OS, I usually have all my different IM's open: my Sametme for business related chats, my gtalk for personal friends (and people Google decided are connected to me), my MSN Messenger for older connection that were not upgraded to gtalk, and Skype for people I need to VOIP with (usually people from different countries, really.. )

I like having each IM with it's original software. I think it works better that way, and as long as I keep my contacts more or less around the definition above, I can easily disconnect one group over the other, have different presence and availability etc.

When I moved to the mac, things change. I'm not sure the native chats are better anymore, or even if they exists. I want to get connected, and I want to get connected fast. I quickly installed Adium and Skype, and that was that.

Yesterday I was introduced to Digsby which is also a multi network IM client, that also connects to Facebook (and does video, and has several other interesting features, but this is not a review of Digsby), and one of my contacts complained that it's pretty annoying that I appear so many times on her contact list - because she's connected to me all over the place as well.. "why can't it recognize who you are and just display your presence information to me?" she complained. And she has a point.

Lets say that was a possibility. Who's responsibility would it be to do this presence aggregation? Mine - it's my presence, I know where I appear and now, and I am probably the only one who knows what are my contact details on each network: IBM address on Sametime, my Google email address on gtalk, my Hotmail on MSN, etc. I should also be responsible for making sure the presence is aligned in all of these networks (or do I?). However, there are two problem with this approach:

  • I don't care - I don't see the problem (my contacts do). Why do I need to bother to solve it?

  • Even if I cared - synchronizing all my networks is such a pain! My only chance is using one of the multi network client (as I just started using above, but only on my Mac) but then I'd loose the option of controlling my groups..

If it was her responsibility though, then she would need a way to recognize that it's me on all of the networks (while Facebook in way made that possible, forcing people to use real names, not all networks followed - or should follow), and then the presence aggregation rules are pretty complicated (although possibly that latest is the correct one).

I guess the solution should be a combination of the two - I want to control who knows me and where (what I call, in general, my Circle Of Trust), I want to control synchronization and aggregation rules of my presence, and my contacts should control whether they want to use those "recommendations". The whole system has to be very straightforward and highly open, so all networks would use, preferably controlled by a single system, so I'm not dependant on a client installation, or currently used network..

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