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..

Powered by Qumana

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Communication Overflow

Shai Tsur of Giza writes about worse communication, and joins a few other blogs that write about information overflow that we're seen these days.

The fact that we live through an age of information overflow is quite known. The growth rate of web pages, blogs posts and rss feeds and other sources of information is very hard to follow. There are many technological solutions that try to help us, like Outbrain and some parts of the Google Reader.


But that's only the beginning. What about all of our profiles in different social networks? What about our profile in different enterprise social networks (like IBM's Lotus Connections)? And the important information (or is it?) that our family, friends and colleagues (aka contacts) create?

Some people define presence as my current status, or even my Instant Messenger status line, I believe mostly because this is where it started to get popular. Once I set with Jeff Pulver and Ohad Pressman and we defined it once as near real time thing: it describes you but it's not that important if it's now, 5-10 min from now, or even by the end of the day, because presence is not only your status, it's also how you feel, what your near term plans are (I'm going to lunch soon!) etc.

Some people took presence and added location to it, calling it context. I'm not quite sure why the location itself changes the essence of presence - for me it's just another aspect of it. Presence is who I am, around now. Part of who I am is where I am.

These days I'm wondering where it would all lead. I'm wondering who will control my presence information: would it be me, or my friends, or maybe some kind of combination of the two?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Digital Presence

What is presence, really? Is it my status line on my favorite IM client(s)? My status line in Facebook, or maybe in Twitter? Maybe my real presence is not even digital - it's where I am, what I feel, what I plan.. is presence actually me, in real time, or is it like we usually call it - near real time, which basically mean that a few tens of minutes later are the same as true real time?

Wikipedia poorly defines presence as "current communication status" (here), but in way better itself under the definition of telepresence:

Lombard and Ditton (1997) went a step further and enumerated six conceptualizations of presence. First, they wrote, presence can be sense of social richness, the feeling one gets from social interaction. Second, presence can be a sense of realism, such as computer-generated environments looking, feeling, or otherwise seeming real. Third, presence can be a sense of transportation. This is a more complex concept than the traditional feeling of one being there. Transportation also includes users feeling as though something is “here” with them or feeling as though they are sharing common space with another person together. The fourth concept is that presence can be a sense of immersion, either through the senses or through the mind. Fifth, presence can provide users with the sense they are social actors within the medium. No longer passive viewers, users, via presence, are given a sense of interactivity and control. The sixth and final concept is that presence can be a sense of the medium as a social actor.

And if we could define Presence, will it tell us where it's going? Is digital presence slowly copying the real world presence, and slowly catching up, or is it defining a whole new thing? Will the end result be some kind of combination of historical presence coming together with digital presence? Is the field and how we view it constantly changing?

And lets not forget - how does it really work? What are the underlying protocols the make our presence work? What is the difference between them, and why use one or the other? What services are out there that help us achieve presence, who makes them and how..

This blog comes to discuss all of these subjects and more. I've decided to do this one in English and not Hebrew (unlike my other blogs) in order to possibly increase the crowd that can read and reply. Welcome!