Presence: Potential and Questions

November 28, 2006 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Attention Management, presence | Leave a comment

I am a big fan of the potential of presence. Not the available/busy + idle time indicator you see in your instant messaging tool today, but rich presence that:

  • utilizes more data and sensors to make decisions
  • offers more granularity about what you are available to accept (my concept of “matrixed presence” which is internally represented by a grid of presence states on one axis and groups on the other)
  • breaks open the “black box” of a message to allow content and sender-aware decisions about how to disposition the message
  • is part of the information worker’s operating system and leveraged and extended when needed (not just from within IM)
  • has a more usable interface for setting of rules and state

I see presence as the key enabling technology for attention management. By “enabling” I mean that it is infrastructure that can sit beneath many other technologies that affect the number of messages and amount of information that is fired at us such as e-mail, collaborative workspaces, IM, SMS, RSS, and a host of other acronyms. Presence is part of what I define as an “attention response engine” consisting of rich presence, a rules and scoring component, and a routing and switching component.

But at this point, it seems the potential of presence simply raises more questions:

  • How practical is this? Can technology do this well enough to be, on the whole, beneficial? Will people ever take any effort to manage their presence?
  • Isn’t the human side of the equation more of an issue (e-etiquette, bypassing technology channels, gaming the system) which means this will never succeed? Isn’t the problem within ourselves, not our technology?
  • Is this still presence we’re talking about or some space age AI system?
  • Will vendors ever provide this if they can’t directly make money off it?
  • Are real people actually asking for this?
  • Doesn’t this invade my privacy? What is the role of separate identities?
  • Will I ever trust a computer to make decisions for me on who/what to allow in and who/what to reject?

In researching my overview of attention management (tentatively titled “Techniques to Address Attention Fatigue and Info-Stress in the Too-Much-Information Age” and scheduled for release in January) I’ve examined these issues and think I have come to some, well, enlightenment if not answers. I’ll post up some of my thoughts as I go and appreciate any feedback on what you’d like me to address.


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