Presence might or might not mean I'm available

There's an intersting conversation bubbling in the VoIP blogs surrounding a manifesto post published by Alec Saunders on Tuesday titled "New Presence" and the Voice 2.0 Manifesto. The gist of the discussion is: if I choose to be accessible (I have), then I have a problem (I do). And a solution simply doesn't exist... yet. Alec's notion of New Presence is compelling, regardless of the label applied to it.
Written by Marc Orchant, Contributor on

There's an intersting conversation bubbling in the VoIP blogs surrounding a manifesto post published by Alec Saunders on Tuesday titled "New Presence" and the Voice 2.0 Manifesto. Alerted to this sweeping discussion about the issues raised by our increasing accessibility as we join each new communication network by Andy Abramson (who chimes in with his thoughts here), I find myself clicking through to equally engaging analysis and opinion from Phoneboy and my old friend Ken Camp.

None of these posts are brief and all are brain-stretching in a good way. If you struggle with the many channels you leave open for others to connect with you, there's great food for thought in each and avery one of them. Personally, between Skype, Gizmo, GTalk, Twitter, MSN, AIM, Yahoo!, SightSpeed, my mobile phone, my office phone (SkypeIn which forwards to my mobile), and my home phone, I surely have a lot of potential inputs to manage. My solution, imperfect though it may be, has been to use aggregation tools like GAIM or Adium to reduce the number of apps I have open and set up some intelligent cascades for other channels. But it's far from ideal and I still either miss interactions I'd like to engage in and get interrupted far too often when I'm in conversation with someone I really need and/or want to talk to.

Looking at it with my GTD hat on, the issue relates to the idea of interruptions and how we can manage the ones we can't control and avoid the ones we can. As Andy points out in his post, I could bounce around to all of these channels and change the state of my presence as my availability changes but that's simply not going to happen. It's too much work and I have too many devices, services, and applications to engage in an eternal round-robin of preferences changes worthy of a Greek myth.

So, if I choose to be accessible (I have), then I have a problem (I do). And the solution simply doesn't exist... yet. The gist of Alec's notion of New Presence is compelling, regardless of the label applied to it (I gravitate towards availability from the labels currently banging around but it lacks dimension). I think Ken, as usual, is right: the problem isn't the ideas bing discussed so much as the words being used. Presence, availability, context, and relevance all matter. A unifying term that can be applied to reflect the implications of a complex model like New Presence would certainly fill our inherent need as word-driven creatures to apply a label to compound concepts.

I have no idea what that term might be. But I'm enjoying the conversation and the weighty notions being expressed.

A few choice excerpts from the post mentioned above to whet your appetite and get you clicking follow.

Alec throws down the gauntlet:

Today, we live in two extremes.  It’s not uncommon for some of us to be talking on the phone, while being pinged on Skype, with multiple IM sessions running.  In the middle of it all, the mobile phone will start ringing.  Or, the converse is true and we shut down all communications for some peace and quiet.

Andy packages the issue from his hyper-connected perspective in his introduction:

We're living in a world where just being online doesn't mean, "I'm available for you this way now." As a matter of fact when I'm chatting with one person, or in a SightSpeed call with someone else, or taking a call which came in over Gizmo, or on my mobile phone, none of the other applications know I'm busy, so the audiences I'm "broadcasting" my availability to haven't any clue what I'm doing unless of course if I change the status on all the tools...NOT. I'm too busy and in a day the number of different things needing my attention, or any knowledge worker is well beyond where it was 10 years ago.

Ken nails it nicely from a business perspective, saying:

I sad Pfffft several times earlier. Let me reiterate, Pfffft. Technical problems are but a mere distraction. I know for Alec and others directly developing solutions they're real. I'm a customer. They do not exist. There isn't a single technical problem in this whole area that isn't easily solved. The problem isn't technology. The problem is that nobody outside the unified communications sector cares enough to buy it. There is no business driver at the moment. None.

And Phoneboy adds an entirely new dimension to the conversation by tossing the issue of identity into the mix:

The problem I have isn’t a presence problem, it’s an identity problem. I have too many identities! I know a larger subset of people that have that problem rather than a “presence management” problem. And I think I have a solution: a single identity for all networks.

How about you? Have you come up with a solution that addresses these issues in your work? Are these prolems restricted only to the hyper-connected among us or are they harbingers of an issue that, to one degree or another, affect a larger percentage of the population and are just now being articulated?

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