Alec Saunders on “New Presence”

December 22, 2006 at 10:14 am | Posted in Attention Management, presence | 2 Comments

Alec Saunders (CEO of iotum) posted out a wonderful visionary piece on presence called “New Presence” and the Voice 2.0 Manifesto. It does a good job of pointing out the potential of presence, the set of data and sensors it needs to have to function, and the need to somehow break up what he calls the “walled gardens” that independent presence systems have today.

I’d like elaborate on some of the comments I posted to his blog entry and to relate his vision of presence to the Rich Presence model I introduced in my telebriefing “Stop Interrupting Me! Effects of Communication on Info-stress and Attention Fatigue” (conceptual model posted up here). Incidentally, I still like my term “rich presence” better as it implied more functional rather than just ‘new and different”.

When the Voice 2.0 Manifesto was written, it identified presence as the enabler of conversation, allowing parties to easily determine each others willingness to engage, and by which technology.

Lord knows I have way too many conversations and would have way more if my spam filter wasn’t working and I didn’t have caller ID.It’s the quality of the conversations that is the issue. I want presence to enable higher quality conversations that are more relevant and important to me. In essence, presence is one of the key enablers of attention management.

Alec posts up a good diagram of all the profile, context, and relationship data involved in his future vision of presence, similar to the “data” and “sensors” on my conceptual architecture but his has some great additional detail.But from his description I am wondering where the brains are in his model.Where does the information get crunched for a particular message coming in? In my conceptual model of an attention management system I define an “attention response engine” with Rich Presence, Rules & Scoring, and Channel Switching & Routing components. Deciding where presence stops and the decision making kicks in has been a matter of debate between myself and Mike Gotta.

Alec has a good listing of new applications that rich presence would enable, but I believe presence must be valuable to end users, not the vendors. If the end users don’t get enough out of it, the vendors will be left high and dry. Per my pushing/pulling definition of “attentional technologies and capabilities”, the issue for end users is: does this quiet my life, pushing back noise and pulling the messages most important to me in my current state forward?

…the simple confusion around protocol standards. Ironically, this ought to be the simplest piece to solve. Standards are simply codified ways to describe information. The tussle between SIP / SIMPLE, and XMPP must be resolved before New Presence can effectively move forward.

I think there are a lot more standards needed than simply resolving SIP/SIMPLE and XMPP. Standards on how roles and relationships are defined, interests, rules and scoring, preferences must all be defined. XMPP is extensible, but that doesn’t mean it defines these extensions.

These are not criticisms, just adjustments to a visionary piece. I think we are both thinking in the same direction. My hope is that a solid enough vision of presence can be created to encourage vendors to actually move forward with something easy to use and, while not perfect, a lot better than we have today.



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  1. Hi

    I’m interested in the whole subject area, and have been wondering if ‘Presence’ is going to be too intrusive, or interruptive, for even the most assumed of relationships. My opinion is that software won’t ever be clever enough to work out whether the circusmtances are right to open, or continue that conversation. I can see how IM adds value to my day, but that little green light hasn’t added anything for me. I’d be interested what you think. My own conclusions are leaning towards finding easier ways to book conversations in advance, some sort of brokering – plus a good way to record progress and to escalate actions to myself or other people on any particular topic. In particular, something that stops me putting the phone down, and then instantly remembering I had three other things I should have been talking about with that person or group.

  2. Matt, there is a continuum from where we are today with the extreme vision of presence as a system that correctly determines your receptivity to any given message using all possible data and sensory input. Right now there are may technical hurdles that limit how far you can go on that continuum. But if and when those hurdles are gradually overcome, people, or more specifically, organizations and communities, will determine where their comfort zone is on that continuum. There are different industries, jobs, and work styles that lend themselves to different spots on the continuum.

    In the end, the pain of inaction (not keeping one’s presence up to date) must exceed the cost of action (getting better tools and keeping them up to date) before action is taken.

    Presence to me doesn’t interfere with booking conversations in advance. Requesting meetings and mutually accepting them is always going to be a polite way to make time for those things you find important.

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