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Peter Saint-Andre on Presence

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In the run up to the inaugural eComm 2008 I'll be doing pre-conference speaker interviews. Peter Saint-Andre kindly volunteered to be the first on. I know Peter and he is very hard not to goof around with due to his easy going Leo nature. So we only managed half the planned questions and took twice the time (which I had to cut short right at the end). I'm not sure if this one was an interview or a chat between friends. But certainly for a warm up for future interviews, it was a lot of fun.

The interview can be downloaded here in mp3 format (it's 48 meg in size and 50 minutes in length).

On discussing what presence is Peter took the view that it was real-time digital identity and expanded that to say it was attributes about oneself that were short lived, such as geolocation such as to represent a "me-now". I went off script at that point to discuss application possibilities by data mining past "me-now's" i.e. processing stored past presence states to empower new applications (such as the stranger standing near you likes the same movies type thing).

Peter said the main question of emerging presence is working out how to communicate how we are interacting with the world both online and offline and how that can be routed to the right people; how that sharing can act as a catalyst and prompt for communications and interaction, for discovering others Etc. Peter spoke about how we are moving offline aspects of oneself online and moving online aspects of oneself offline as well as how the Internet has given us the ability to share personal states (such as "mood") outside of our small home circle.

I cast up notions of presence resolution and granularity (i.e. share geolocation attribute 'California' with some contacts but finer grained 'San Francisco' with others). I also cast the notion that contact identifiers are part of that real-time identity which Peter spoke. I think Peter did well rolling with these off script very difficult questions being flung at him! Peter was pushing (as ever) open standards angle wherever possible so I had to be a bit mean and ask him if SIMPLE was an open standard also. We also touched on manually setting fine presence states (i.e. "grooming") and the automatic computation of presence states.

If I had to conclude my impression of the chat, I'd say that we are heading into an era of super connectedness between people, people and machines, and across the offline and online worlds. Evolved presence and lifestreams will be very much the plumbing to build that highly-wooven fabric.

To save others Googling up things we referenced during the chat here are the links: 

  • David Gelernter's notion of "lifestreams" see the project page and the original Wired article. You may also be interested in his manifesto.
  • The reflections of Margin Geddes on an article by Douglas Galbi.
  • XEP-0108: User Activity specification.
  • Jim Bennett's notions of an amphibious future.

I'd also like to thank Peter for volunteering to give up his 15 minute speaking slot and switching to a 5 minute lightening talk so that others could be added to the schedule.

The next planned interview will be with Dr Norman Lewis who will be delivering a keynote. Norman was formerly the Director of Technology Research for Orange, UK and who now is pouring all his energies into the start up Wireless Grids Corporation.

PS The conference is only 9 weeks away so if you plan to come, I'd get into gear :)

eComm 2009 Conference

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