Researchers live and breathe the maxim "the right information, in the right place, at the right time". But how often do researchers, when finally packaging up their findings, know exactly what the "right time" and "right place" are for their customer?
Are they sitting at their desks, or in a meeting, or travelling? Are they online? If yes - how so? At a desktop, wirelessly? Are they reachable by mobile phone? PDA?
Providing research (or news) content in the context of the end-user at any particular point in time is not always a primary consideration. Email is by far the most heavily used channel for delivering research content - but is rarely the most appropriate.
"Presence" indicators may offer the way forward. If you're familiar with Instant Messaging, you'll be familiar with those little faces (emoticons) that indicate an IM user's current status e.g. "I'm Available", "Out to Lunch", "Not in the Office".
Imagine, then, the potential of a far more ubiquitous presence management system, where you are aware, at any one point in time, of the presence, availability (context) of your research customers. There is an increasing body of thought and writing on this phenomenum - this recent article by John Fontana in NetWorkWorldFusion provides an interesting slant:
"There is a killer on the loose under the covers of instant messaging, and no, it isn't malicious; it's a killer application that has the potential to revolutionize the way companies collaborate and communicate."
As a researcher, you may be part of a geographically dispersed team, but you may also work collaboratively with your colleagues on projects.
Knowing where your team-mates are and whether they're available to help you at any particular point in time could be useful.
"BuddySpace aims to provide enhanced capabilities for users to manage and visualise the presence of colleagues and friends in collaborative working, gaming, messaging, and other contexts. Of particular interest is the role of graphical metaphors for presence, including maps, logical layouts such as building schematics and project timelines and abstract artistic layouts such as graffiti walls. We are also studying the semantics of presence, in order to move beyond simple flags such as 'online' and 'busy' to include rich contextual and spatio-temporal information more appropriate to one's focus of activity."
Beware of geeks bearing 'presence'