FOWA: The Future of Presence (Felix Petersen & Jyri Engeström) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

Felix does Plazes. Story: in 2004, original idea to build some location-based service for networks. Geo-annotated database of Wifi networks. At some point, where is the benefit for the everyday user? (Some nerds find it exciting to add data to a database, but not for everybody…) User base strong in certain cities rather than certain countries.

Jyri does Jaiku. Story: in 2006. Help people have a better social peripheral vision. We spend a lot of time physically disconnected from people we care about. Presence or activity stream. What are you doing right now? Not just things that people type, but also items automatically generated by what you’re doing online.

Brian: are Jaiku and Plazes “presence” apps?

FOWA 2007 101

Felix: presence is kind of a by-product of the network, software stuff. You’re connected to the network, and that makes it possible for the tool to broadcast your presence. But at the beginning, could only be somewhere if there was wifi… which is a problem! Need to be able to add small messages. (e.g. “I’m at the airport, leaving for London” — or “just here for another 20 minutes”) Coordinates don’t give you a lot of context.

Jyri: we’re still figuring out the language to talk about these services (e.g. “micro-blogging”). The important part is bringing people together, by enabling them to have this social peripheral vision.

Felix: actually, lots of services have been used like that for a long time, but we didn’t have specific tools for this. E.g. Felix used his blog in 2002 to keep people updated on where he was, and to send links rather than by e-mail. Shift from *push* to *pull*. *steph-note: ditto.* Lots of presence updates all over the place. Now it’s made more explicit by our tools that we’re doing that.

Brian: exciting idea, get all these things to talk together. How are you guys designing your systems to be open?

Jyri: social network portability… importing your friends/buddies from one service to another. Would it make sense for me to import my dog-loving friends from Dogster into my professional network in LinkedIn? *steph-note: I think it could make sense, if there is structure to the network. Maybe your dog-loving friends have great professional opportunities for you, but you’re not aware of it because of the circle in which you interact.* Getting rid of silos (IM, phones, e-mail…). The answer isn’t “everybody go on Facebook”. We want Facebook to be a player in a larger system which is *the internet*.

Felix: more about interoperability. Hard to figure out: harmonisation of the objects.

Brian: [Jeremy Keith’s lifestream]( *steph-note: the colors make it really readable*

Felix: as long as people are able to get their data out, it’s already a good thing.

Brian: Jaiku Mac client allows you to see what your friends are doing in a granular way. *steph-note: need to check it out*

Jyri: the image that comes to mind when you say “social network” is the graph of the relationships. But there’s a problem there: people are connected to one another [through some type of object](, for a reason. In Jaiku: reporting on the actions that people have performed on these objects (tagging a photo, favoriting a video…).

Felix: at the beginning, was just “I’m here now”. What is the “shared object”? In Plazes, I could share the location, but not “me being at FOWA tomorrow”. That’s where it confused people. No way to share or reference it. Blogging was a step forward because you can reference a single post, and do things with it.

Brian: are you building tools that many social networks might use, or are you building communities?

Felix: are we a community or a service? We’re a service, but we’re socially enabled. A service that different people can use in different ways, but it’s a social service.

Jyri: what’s going on on the web has to do with becoming more fluid. e.g. in social science, people are not just talking about social networks, but knots in the social network — transient. Jaiku is based on Jabber, so very different from usual LAMP systems. Creating a load on other servers to pull feeds — unnecessary load, and not real-time. A photo on Flickr has comments on Flickr, but also on Jaiku — not good, we’d like that to be one conversation. But very difficult to do. XMPP protocol to keep conversations in sync, maybe? This is a different approach to what we’re used to when building web pages.

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Weak Ties [en]

[fr] Plus que de savoir quels parfaits inconnus sont à l'endroit où je suis, je voudrais savoir quelles personnes avec lesquelles j'ai des liens faibles ("weak ties") sont dans le coin. Quelqu'un qui a commenté sur mon blog, par exemple, ou qui a participé à la même conférence que moi.

Kevin Marks says [we need a Weasley’s clock]( rather than a Marauder’s map. I generally agree with this. Most of the times, I’m more interested in knowing where (and when) the people I know (or the people I have weak ties with) are, than in knowing which complete strangers are where I am (or in letting complete strangers know who I am).

Unfortunately, in most systems, it’s too much work to get people on your “buddy list”. [Stowe](’s [talk at SHiFT]( encouraged me to take a second look at [my Plazes account](, which I had more or less given up on using because it systematically placed me at the other end of the country when I logged on.

I might be very interested in knowing I’m geographically close to somebody who commented on my blog, or on whose blog I commented. Or somebody who was at SHiFT but that I didn’t actually get a chance to talk to. What if a system like [Plazes]( was capable of doing that?

I finally understood at SHiFT what weak ties were, and I think this idea has all to do with them.

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