Friday, April 4, 2014

They call me mister «red»

This of course, is an inside joke due to my constant busy status. But there is another dimension to it I want to address. How available is your presence for those not on a computer?

Everyone who is familiar with UC should by now be familiar with the colors; green, yellow, red and red+ (or purple). Most of us respect the colors more or less the same way:
  •         Green = Send a message immediately, and kind of expect (?!?) an answer right away
  •         Yellow = Send a message, but not expecting an answer right away, as the receiver is clearly “away”
  •         Red = Send a message and say; hey, see you are busy, but can you still answer me this
  •         Red+ (purple) = Most user block incoming messages when set in DND, and if you are in the very “exclusive” club of a person’s “workgroup” in Lync, I hope it is urgent IF you choose to disturb.

The above set of rules are (in most organizations I’ve been working with) kind of unwritten law of how we interpret status colors in the client. This is fine as long as you have a client in front of yourself. What if you were walking down the hallway, past an office, and wanted to talk to someone inside an office.

How do you know what color the person inside is?

What if you walked through a shared office space with 10s of workers? You have a question you know most of these workers should be able to answer, but which one is “green” at the moment?

I am not saying you should not talk to people at all, but I have learned some would really like to be left alone when they set themselves to busy or DND. And kind of expect people to know their client status all of the time, even if they're not at a computer.

The answer to this is to extend the presence information from a computer client to a plain visible light on your desk. I have come across and testet two products for the job. That is Busylight and Blync.

I have been using Busylight for a year, and I am very happy with the size, shape, sounds and functionality of the device. Even better, in the new beta software there is a busy-on-busy feature, forwarding all your calls to the forwarding destination when you are already busy in a call (a most welcome feature!).

Blync is the newcomer and the challenger in this game. It has a different shape and some other features than the Busylight. It’s bigger and more obvious then busylight, but behaves much the same way.

There are subtle differences between the two, and I would suggest choosing the one with the features closest to a particular need.

Here is my highlighted set of features:
  •         Flash on IM (is red and can be confusing)
  •         Flash on new call
  •         Blink when on a call (to differ busy from really busy)
  •         Busy on phone only (ignores calendar presence)
  •         Manual override presence status (Presence liar?)

  •        Plays a sound and plinks on new call (handy when computer speaker is of, and you are not close to your desk)
  •         Color manipulation
  •         Second call treatment (default or busy-on-busy beta)
  •         Hotkeys for “Fast dialout” of a number selected in ANY program (beta)
  •         Hotkeys for “Answer” or “Drop” calls (beta)
  •         Wakeup sleeping screen on incoming call (beta)

Here is a shot of the two products at my desk (Blync set to: “Busy on call only”)

What I am trying to get through here, is the importance of projecting a PC client’s presence status to the material world. This way we can all understand when a person wants to be left alone or is available for talk.

As I said, I have been using Busylight for a year, and everyone in my office know exactly when to talk to me or when to walk past me (Mr. Red it is!). There is never any doubt when I need to be left alone as I am one of those who like to be undisturbed when focusing on certain tasks. The train of thought can be seriously derailed by a single “Hi, are you available”. But if I’m not seriously troubleshooting or programming something, I really appreciate a good discussion or a loose chat. All I’m asking is for people to respect my status. With my status so available, there should be no doubt.

In my opinion, every UC rollout should include presence extenders like this. It should be a natural part of any deployment.