Presence Pitfalls

Away messages, busy icons, and green dots. Online presence is becoming common and people are relying on it more and more.

Outlook does a good job of tightly integrating Windows Messenger presence. If the person is in my Messenger client, I'll get presence icons in emails from them. This is nice, but I really don't find myself using it that much. What would really be useful to me is tight integration with the out of office reply.

Summer is the season of vacation. Every week there are a handful of people that I need to work with, but they are on vacation. I know this because the email I sent them came back with an out of office reply. That's great, but that information is just a blink. I read it, delete it, and then forget 2 hours later when they are returning to the office. How come Outlook, especially Exchange connected Outlook, can't integrate that presence? Make that icon work for me. Instead of an away icon, show me the out of office icon. Let me hover over it and see their out of office message.

While we're at it, if I'm sending a message labeled high priority or scheduling a meeting to a known out of office recipient, Outlook should warn me. Finally, you could take this out of office data and generate a report showing who is out for the current week. It would be very helpful. I can barely remember when I'm supposed to be on vacation. I don't know how I'm supposed to remember when you will be.

Note: I'm running Office 2003 at work, so if things have progressed since then, let me know and I'll retract my rant.

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