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The Value of Presence

Steve writes about the decreasing value of Skype presence, as more and more hard handsets, without the presence feature, start to use the Skype protocol.  Presence is becoming an ignored feature.

It’s not surprising.  Presence, my friends, is a broken idea.

  1. Presence tells you nothing about the person using the PC at the other end.  Skype, for instance, doesn’t indicate that I am talking when I am in a call.  It merrily puts the call through, expecting me to interrupt one caller for another.   All that presence really tells you is that there is a human being using the keyboard.  It assumes that if the keyboard is in use, the person is available to talk.  If the keyboard is not in use, the person isn’t available.  What if the person using the keyboard is a developer or author, and hence most likely busy when the keyboard is in use?
  2. Presence gives the user little to no control over who can reach that person.  It’s a very blunt instrument.  I am available, or not, depending on how I set my presence.  How, short of going into “stealth” mode, can I use presence to indicate that I am available for one person, but not another?  How can I use presence to express my willingness to communicate, rather than the physical reality of being at the keys?

Many enthusiastic users of IM in business now turn the feature off.  It’s become one more unwanted interruption.  That’s too bad.  There’s a lot of promise, but it will take a new generation of presence coupled with tools like the iotum Relevance Engine to really achieve the benefits we all want.

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