To Appear Offline or Not to Appear Offline, that is the Presence Question

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To Appear Offline or Not to Appear Offline, that is the Presence Question

Presence is a valuable tool used in a variety of consumer and business applications, including Microsoft OCS 2007, Skype, AOL's AIM, Windows Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and more. Businesses which used to ban IM applications (block it on the firewall, Group Policy, etc.) are starting to see the productivity value in IM and have implemented IM solutions in the enterprise. With the convergence of voice, video, and chat in applications such as Microsoft's Office Communicator, rich presence functionality enables your fellow co-workers to know if you are on the phone, in Do Not Disturb mode, away, working at home, on vacation, etc.

Knowing your co-workers presence certainly improves how, when and if you interact with them. However, not every employee wants their fellow co-workers tracking when they sign-in or are away. Two hour Friday lunches anyone? Executives, CEOs, and managers may not care what employees below them think, and they never want them to see when they are or aren't there. This is where the "Appear Offline" presence state comes in handy. Most IM applications allow this, including Skype, MSN Messenger, and others. However, when it comes to business IM applications such as Office Communicator, you may not want to allow employees to "Appear offline" or at least you'll want to restrict the privilege to just executives and managers.

By default Office Communicator does not support "Appear offline" since the whole point of Microsoft's unified communications strategy is to "share" information to improve communications in the enterprise. However, you can easily add it by doing the following:
Just be careful about enabling the "Appear offline" presence state in any corporate IM solution. If everyone enables this feature, then you defeat the whole purpose of presence. However, with Group Policy and corporate procedures in place, certainly executives, managers, etc. will find this privacy feature useful. As for the rest of the minions, you must share your presence so we know you've been on a 2-hour lunch break. Or at least you'll feel somewhat guilty knowing your presence status hasn't changed to Online in a couple hours.

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Handy, I guess - but I have found away to be just as helpful as "appear offline"

EnThinnai, a UC application targeted for enterprises have a different approach. Firstly, the buddy relationship is not mutual - I can share my presence with you, even though you are not sharing. This means, an executive can decide when to share presence with whom and when. Second, the presence status could be customized to each person in my buddy list. Third, you have to explicitly ask for my presence and this request is logged for my subsequent review. This will discourage eavesdropping.

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