Blair brings up a direct concern (security) and an indirect concern (surveillance). Both are credible issues. Any social presence platform would clearly need to include a policy management component that would integrate with security and identity management systems within an enterprise to support authentication, authorization and related demands (e.g. logging, audit, archival, and records management). An enterprise would require the capability to impose certain policies on a social presence platform to satisfy governance, risk, compliance or other demands. Additionally, any such system would have to have a permission model with access controls that enable people to manage their own “presence”. But I don’t see this as any more of a roadblock than what we expect from other tools – not just those related to UC but also those related to social software in general (e.g., e-mail, calendar, blog and wiki platforms). So while a valid comment, it applies equally to existing tools almost universally. In fact, I point out the need for such functionality in a recent most on microblogging within the enterprise. To be clear – yes – any social presence platform will need to be secure, integrate with existing infrastructure, and support some type of federation model for interoperability with the external world.
The inferred point regarding surveillance is more interesting and properly points out the social dynamics involved as we share “lifestreams” of information about ourselves as we go about our activities. In a blog entry posted in April of this year (Participatory Surveillance: Co-mingling Intimacy & Exposure), there are pro and con arguments that are equally valid concerning how people interact in a mediated public space. Some people will feel very comfortable while others will become rather nervous as they are “followed” by people they may not know – even if they are other employees. Such a concern reinforces the need for controls that allow users to limit their visibility, to filter what they share or to even block someone from tracking them. But – other people and groups may find such capabilities quite valuable in terms of improving shared situational awareness and enabling people to self-synchronize with the conversations or activities of others. There’s no right or wrong – just the need for a social presence platform to include controls that each person can customize how much or how little they wish to expose.
The last point regarding “business presence” vs. “social presence” I believe is more of a contrived debate. The term “social” is often inappropriately equated to “play” or to “waste of time”. Organizations will tell me “we’re pursuing corporate social networking” or “we prefer to user the term ‘professional networking’ rather than social networking”. I don’t mind if people want to label something differently but to a great extent “it is what it is – no matter what we call it”.
What is “business presence”? Are we going to limit presence only to the meta-data status of someone (on the phone, in a meeting, etc)? Is business presence going to be limited to some set of formal states?
What are "corporate/professional networks"? Relationships are hugely influenced by underlying social constructs. Our desire to understand the social aspects of how work gets done and how people leverage informal connections has been a long-sough goal of those involved in knowledge management, organizational development, learning and other initiatives related to community-building.
We should drop the notion that there are not social aspects to business. Artificial labels are necessary at times (i.e., business presence, corporate or professional networking). However we should acknowledge that work is a social environment and we need to catalyze those social dynamics to support business strategies that help drive growth and innovation.
I totally agree with you and I agree that social networking and UC and presence are all tied in together (I love your term social presence). I do have a concern about mixing social presence with business presence. Do I want my calendar information and status information available to someone who follows me because they want to hear what I have to say about UC, for example? And security can be an issue as well - people can know when I'm out of the country on a family vacation, meaning there's no one home guarding the house, except my cute little dog which they can see pictures of on my social networking sites. So I agree with the concept, but feel that it will require lots of rules, permissions, security settings, etc. that we have to think about.
President and Principal Analyst, COMMfusion LLC Co-Founder, UCStrategies.com
Dave felt that I was perhaps too hard on UC vendors. I disagree. Clearly federation is a challenge - especially intranet federation. And yes, we can move the food around on the plate and do a better job with the current presence model. But the bigger problem is "that vision thing". Once large vendors get to a point where they have a product in the market for some time (IBM), or are building a product that targets a given market that they have long sought to enter (Microsoft), there is reluctance to push the reset button and take a fresh approach if that approach impacts the existing product. UC-presence will continue down its current trajectory (remember, I'm not saying that UC-presence is not valuable - just that it is limited and can only be advanced so far).
Other vendors (Cisco, Jabber) also seem entrenched in this narrow view of "presence". If a vendor wanted to disrupt the status-quo, I would imagine that delivering a social presence platform might be an interesting way to open up new dialogs with business and IT decision makers and get some media attention as well. It will be interesting to see if a project associated with SAP (called "ESME", which stands for "Enterprise Social Messaging Experiment") gains traction in this regard.
What UC vendors should find the strength to admit (and Avaya is the first one to arrive at this point) is: (1) presence is much broader than how UC has defined it, (2) presence needs to be an independent capability with open interfaces to a variety of different applications, (3) SIMPLE has become an inappropriate standard for the next generation of presence, and (4) social networking trends are foreshadowing where presence needs to go.
I expect IBM and Microsoft are going to protect their current investments, will try to position "rich presence" as defined within the UC world as actually being "social" and come up with tactical ways to bridge it to social networking trends. Right now, neither is offering a "vision" of presence beyond the products they wish to sell. I expect Microsoft to continue to limit integration and interoperability of its proprietary "rich presence" services with other vendors. IBM will play better with others - but it's still about Sametime and not a step towards social presence as I see it evolving.
I would hope that UC vendors are getting ideas from folks like Attensa, NewsGator, RSSBus or Gnip; leveraging work being done at Project Rome or Apache Abdera - and learning how to exploit microformats as well. These are some of the core elements I feel are necessary to deliver a social presence platform that works with existing UC platforms but is not tied down by the presence baggage of those systems.
Perhaps you were a tad too hard on UC vendors for doin' a what comes natural in using UC-centric presence models. Application-specific presence isn't the cardinal sin - lack of (presence and other) federation is the real problem.
Presence information is valuable and adding custom presence states that are appropriate for specific applications can add great value to a solution.
For example, for UC applications, it might be useful to have presence states that differentiate between speaking on the phone handset versus the speaker. This distinction is useful because more care must be taken speaking on a call that is being broadcast over a speaker. But if this custom presence state doesn't follow open standards and can't be published to other systems, its utility becomes vanishingly small.
It is gauche to design closed-system communications offerings (and social networking services, collaboration applications, etc.) which can only work for people within the walled garden system.
Once enough of the market understands how useful presence is, systems with non-standard, unfederated presence models will have to get with the program, or be left behind.
Disclosure: I'm employed by Jabber, Inc., a company that has so much belief in the Power of Presence(R) that the phrase is our company tagline and a registered trademark.