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Calendars and buddy lists: both flawed presence metaphors

I’ve had a fascinating backburner conversation concerning the role of calendaring in the New Presence model.  Calendars are a marvelously rich source of input to New Presence engines, including:

  1. Whether the calendar owner is generally free or busy at the moment.
  2. What the calendar owner is doing, and potentially also with whom.
  3. The expected location of that activity.
  4. The expected duration of that activity.

The first two inputs are very valuable.  Location and duration, however, are less reliable, as they are mere expectations.  Who, after all, hasn’t had a meeting go long, or be cut short early?  Happens all the time.

But are calendars good metaphors for exposing presence information?  Microsoft has experimented with that metaphor some, but alas it is a flawed metaphor. How do I show the presence information of my 300 or so “buddies” in a sufficiently dense format to make it useful?  How do I show unscheduled conversations?

To be clear, the buddy list is also a flawed metaphor.  Who really cares what my 300 “buddies” are doing right now?  What I really want to know is whether the people I need to communicate with are available when I need to talk.

The time is ripe for another application metaphor for exposing presence. 

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