instant messaging and presence awareness, showing custom dashboard with
user-selected status lights (a), tear-off tool bar (b), user-selectable
'look and feel' set to 'Mac Aqua' (c), custom editable maps with live
status lights (d), power-user mode (e), library of world, continent,
and country maps (f), and scaleable 'cluster' nodes (g) for CoAKTinG
project partners in Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, and Southampton.
What's the Problem?
- Collaborative knowledge work often relies on opportunistic
interactions; for remote collaborators, such interactions need
to be kept simple, meaningful, relevant, and manageable.
- Popular Instant Messaging tools (ICQ, AIM, MSN, Yahoo!) are
effective in their niche but fail to address meaningful
knowledge exchange and coherent workgroup practice, e.g. the
ability quickly to find the right source of key knowledge
according to stored interest and geographical profiles.
- Knowledge workers are largely unfamiliar with (or even
uncomfortable with) the unique opportunities afforded by
high-impact, low-effort, low-bandwidth, large-scale
- Presence awareness requires more than knowing
'online/offline/away/busy' status: some grounding in
geographical reality and an enriched presence-signalling
capability could pay huge dividends.
- Collaborative knowledge work of course involves people-people
interaction, but there is more: knowing the status of devices,
locations, and documents can be just as important.
Towards a Solution
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
approprite to one's focus of activity.
BuddySpace generalizes the concept of 'Buddy List' (popularised by
Instant Messaging tools such as AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, MSN
Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger) to provide multiple views of
collaborative workgroups according to users' needs and tastes. Our aim
has been to provide a personal 'dashboard' or 'radar screen' so that
one can observe the availability and 'interaction state' of colleagues
worldwide in a manner that exhibits the following desirable
- immediate: real-time updates need to be
pushed instantly to users rather than pulled in by
request -- the push approach helps keep updates more palpable
- peripheral and therefore non-intrusive: users
lead busy lives, and dislike being bombarded with yet more
information, so we aim to keep awareness of colleagues available
in a compact manner that can be noticed peripherally
- customisable: some people prefer simple or
hierarchical lists, some prefer visual maps, some prefer status
lights, and so on; some prefer a 'Windows' look-and-feel, some a
'Mac'-- we need to cater for diverse user preferences and
- scaleable: we have to provide ways to indicate
the presence of potentially enormous numbers of people, even
given that these numbers will be filtered down for personal use
-- researchers inhabit workspaces with many hundreds of
colleagues around the globe; the Open University has well over
150,000 students online; large peer-spaces like music swapping
communities have many millions of users connected
- interoperable: with several hundred million
users of the 'Big Four' (AIM/ICQ/MSN/Yahoo!), it is crucial that
any approach allow interopebility with systems to which our
users already subscribe; this is one of the many reasons we
built BuddySpace entirely on top of Jabber
provides gateways to the 'Big Four' products.
- cross-platform: we need to service a community
not only on Windows, Unix/Linux, and Mac desktop and notebook
configurations, but also on PDAs and mobile phones - we
therefore develop entirely in Java
- XML-literate: for future intelligent
applications, communication transport needs to be about more
than just string-transmission; another we adopted Jabber is that
it is based entirely on a generic XML transport architecture,
ideally suited for this purpose.
- open source: for the research community to join
us and to gain leverage via our research output, we have ensured
that BuddySpace is open source, available on
- clean: BuddySpace adheres rigorously to the
Jabber specification, which means that it interoperates with
other Jabber clients and servers without danger of the rogue
behaviour that non-standard implementations inadvertently allow
(e.g. the semantics of users inhabiting multiple groups is
undefined in some clients, and can cause crashes).
- extendible: BuddySpace deploys a plug-in
architecture which means that additions, such as new
visualizations, and new concepts such as gaming interfaces, are
BuddySpace fulfills all the above criteria, and provides a
compelling user interface that can be highly compact, yet provide
users with an important 'feel-good' factor, akin to seeing nearby
office lights turned on when entering one's office building at night.
By studying the semantics of presence, we can also augment the
existing impoverished presence states in a principles manner,
providing capabilities that are more representative of the way real
users work. Forthcoming capabilities will include automatic location
updates via mobile devices, and the use of semantic matchmaking via
intelligent profile handling, in order to help users quickly find and
filter colleagues of particular interest.
Take a Guided Tour
See a QuickTime Movie Tour
Try a Demonstration
Public version 2.1 is downloadable from http://buddyspace.sourceforge.net/
(follow 'Download' links).
Technical requirements: Any modern platform (Windows 95/98/ME/2000/NT/XP,
Unix/Linux, Mac OS X) with 64MB RAM supporting Java Runtime Environment
1.3 or 1.4, which itself is downloadable via links from the above site.
(Oxford University, Open University, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory)
- a massively-distributed personal computing project to analyse complex
climate changes; the project deploys a semantic portal based on Magpie,
and uses BuddySpace to foster peer collaboration.
IM to Enhance the Online Language Learning Community (Open University
Department of Languages + Knowledge Media Institute) - BuddySpace
and Jabber generically form part of several Open University course
activities, looking at new models of peer collaboration for distance
Collaboritive Advanced Knowledge Technologies in the Grid (University
of Edinburgh, University of Southampton, Open University) - as part
of a wider collection of tools (with Compendium, I-X, and HyStream)
to enhance next-generation meetings and goal-directed teamwork, BuddySpace
supports peripheral presence awareness, synchronous collaboration
management, and opportunistic real-time information exchanges.
- Eisenstadt, M. and Dzbor, M.."BuddySpace:
Enhanced Presence Management for
Collaborative Learning, Working, Gaming and Beyond", JabberConf
Europe, Munich Germany, June 2002 [PDF
Other relevant documents:
Eisenstadt, M., Dzbor, M, and Komzak, J.."From
Buddy Lists to Buddy Space: Enhanced Presence Management for Collaboration,
Learning and Gaming" , (Presentation
at Pulver.com Voice On The Net / Presence and Interworking Mobility
Summit (VON/PIM Europe), Helsinki, Finland, June 10-13, 2002) [PowerPoint,
- Buckingham Shum, S., De Roure, D., Eisenstadt, M.,
Shadbolt, N. and Tate, A. "CoAKTinG: Collaborative Advanced
Knowledge Technologies in the Grid." Proceedings
of the Second Workshop on Advanced Collaborative Environments, Eleventh
IEEE Int. Symposium on High Performance Distributed Computing (HPDC-11),
July 24-26, 2002, Edinburgh, Scotland. [HTML
format, PDF format,
MS Word format - original].
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Also available in DOAP RDF (Description Of A Project)