Getting Presence Right II – A More Comprehensive Perspective

Earlier this week iotum’s Alec Saunders brought to our attention, in a post appropriately entitled "Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself", to a benchmark list of ten essential attributes of mobile presence complied by Jared Benson in the idlemode blog, Voices for a Better Mobile Experience. Jared aptly articulates the customer pain as:

My mobile lets me reach others and be reached anywhere I go. But I’m not satisfied. I want to know whether the people I’m trying to reach are reachable. I want to let people know when I’m not reachable, and what form of communication I prefer when they’re trying to reach me.

Tying them into my previous posts on presence (An Interruption 2.0 Manifesto and Getting Presence Right) where I talked about the power of combining iotum’s Talk Now with Blackberry Messenger:

1. Presence should not be interruptive. The Blackberry Messenger/Talk Now combination is largely passive in that you have to view your Talk Now screen, at your discretion, to see the latest state of your Talk Now Contacts in context. In effect, you control your interruptions by determining when you will view the screen and identifying those particular events for which you want to receive audio notifications. (For an experience with overwhelming interruptions check out my post on Fring and its "Fringing pinging".Late update: Andy has just given up on Sitofono because he suffered from overbearing "disruptus interruptus" .)

2. Users must set/maintain their own presence information. Already discussed in the Interruption 2.0 Manifesto. And the presence information needs to be used not only for voice but also for IM/text chat sessions. The fact that Blackberry Messenger requires a correspondent’s PIN number puts a "permission-based" limit on the number of IM contacts you will interact with and messages you will receive. If integrated into Talk Now’s back end this could be fully managed.

3. Setting presence should be quick, simple, and easy. The UI needs to be intuitive and a no-brainer to garner rapid adoption. Simply look at how "ease-of-implementation" and "ease-of-use" has been a major factor in driving Skype adoption.

4. Presence should accommodate for a contact’s different phones. The biggest challenge here going forward will be how to combine mobile and VoIP phone services (such as Skype) such that they all have synchronized information. I want mobile for geographical flexibility but Skype for all the auxiliary real time conversation services it provides.

5. Presence should allow users to display different statuses to different groups. Self-evident truth that needed to be brought out; iotum’s Relevance Engine understands groups and communities — in context.

6. Mobile presence should include communication preference. Will that be GSM (wireless), Skype?VoIP (wireless or brandband) or fixed (PSTN or VoIP) landline? Will it be voice or text chat?

7. Presence should include a universal visual/icon system for quick reference. Try Talk Now to experience this concept in action.

8. Presence should allow connections to other mobile services. Linking Talk Now to Blackberry Messenger would be a start. But, as mentioned above, how can this also be linked to forthcoming location based services or even any forthcoming mobile Skype infrastructure.

9. Presence information should be seen anywhere a contact is referenced in the mobile UI. Talk Now needs to extend its presence information into the Blackberry’s Address book and also the contacts available on Blackberry Messenger. But not only referenced in the mobile UI; reference should also be extended to availability in my Skype Contacts on my PC (or other web-based IM services with contacts).

10. Presence should be maintained by a non-carrier third party. iotum has the architecture, databases and server infrastructure required to make this a carrier independent service.

One of the issues not addressed here is how do you extend presence information when your laptop PC is not connected to the Internet or your mobile wireless device is not connected to the wireless network (GSM or WiFi)? We all drive into underground garages or tunnels without radio connections at some time. (There was definitely no GSM or WiFi when I went through the Chunnel last week.) So a "last known status" "off-the-air" indicator is also needed.

And finally, the productivity benefit of getting presence right: we will all know that we have got presence right when there is no need to make speculative phone calls that go unanswered and to leave voice mails with their perfunctory but etiquettely correct introductions and all the access time involved in both leaving and retrieving voice mails. Blackberrry Messenger, Talk Now and mobile email à la Blackberry should resolve these issues for both synchronous and asynchronous real time communications. Recall Alec’s post, What is the Real Impact of New Presence?, on the financial and ARPU implications of having 82% of all business calls end up in voice mail demonstrating, for example, that "an increase of 7% in connection probability represents an increase of 10% in minutes used".

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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