Instant Messaging is all about presences information
which, in turn, comes down to your status message. Without
presence info and status messages, Jabber would just be a slightly
faster version of email. Icons on the contact list enable
your user to tell at a glance if someone is available to read any
messages you may send.
In order for status to actually mean anything,
it must be as accurate as possible. There are two parts to
persons status. The first is the status type that is broadcast
to everyone that has you on their contact list. In Jabber,
- Available (Default)
- XA (Extended Away)
- DND (Do Not Disturb)
It should also be possible to do an "Invisible"
mode with the newer versions of the Jabber server. Invisible
mode can be very useful for people wanting to protect their privacy,
or not wanting to start chat sessions with friends if they are short
of time. As soon as the user elects to send a message to someone,
they should show up on their contact list, but as "Invisible".
There should be some way (ie a "visible list") for users
to permanently set certain users to always see their presence when
they are online as invisible.
The user should be able to change his or her status
at will, using an easy to access menu.
The second part of a users status is their status
message. This allows the user to optionally leave a short
note, saying where they have gone and/or when they might be back.
There are a few things you can do to help out your
user with his or her status message. First you can include
a range of default ones ("Out to lunch", "Away",
"Asleep" etc) so they don't have to edit them straight
away. You can let them customize them, and sort the ones they
choose most often near the top of the list, to make them easier
to pick. You should include an auto-away option where the
users status changes to "Away" after a period of mouse
and keyboard inactivity. If the users screensaver is running,
you can be pretty sure that they are not at their computer, and
their status should be set to reflect that. Obviously if they
screensaver goes off due to the mouse or keyboard being used the
status should revert back to what it was previously.
A nice idea is to write a custom windows screensaver
so that the user can choose to have his or her away message displayed
on the screen when they are way from their desk. This serves
to inform anyone who physically comes looking for the person as
to their whereabouts and gives some idea when they may be back.
It also serves to remind the user what they have their status message
set to in case it is no longer appropriate.