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11th Nov 2005 | 19:36

Foolish, I know, but I'll get stale if I do nothing but email. This week I are been mostly writing a draft proposal to be given to my senior management team, suggesting that I should implement a Jabber service for Cambridge University. All comments and suggestions welcome!

http://www.cus.cam.ac.uk/~fanf2/hermes/doc/jabber/proposal.txt

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Comments {19}

The Uitlander

from: uitlander
date: 11th Nov 2005 20:33 (UTC)

You mean you're suggesting to the CS that they implement something akin to the 'message' functionality they had on phoenix 30 years ago?

[yes, I know. 'luddite' etc]

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Richard

from: captain_aj
date: 12th Nov 2005 15:32 (UTC)

Did Phoenix's system have the ability to message users on other remote servers? ;-)

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The Uitlander

from: uitlander
date: 12th Nov 2005 15:36 (UTC)

Yes. I believe we called it 'e-mail' ;-)

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Ben Harris

from: bjh21
date: 12th Nov 2005 16:18 (UTC)

I observe that you're using a trivial mapping between CRSid and JID, with the consequence that it will be practically impossible for people to suppress their JID in the directory. You at least need to explain why this isn't a problem.

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 12th Nov 2005 18:40 (UTC)

There are several paragraphs on Jabber's privacy mechanisms. Constructing email addresses from CRSIDs isn't a problem, so I don't see why it would be for Jabber. In any case, the directory doesn't currently have a slot for people's IM IDs.

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Andrew

from: nonameyet
date: 14th Nov 2005 07:17 (UTC)

I'm assuming that you are in close and regular contact with wiki-type people (IIRC the CS have an internal wiki, and CARET's "CourseWork" has a discussion board as well a wiki) ?
I mention this because (as a deskbound luddite welded to email) it isn't
clear to me where people draw the line between immediacy and permanence. (At some level I'm see a wiki as the archive of a chat room).

"Presence" is clearly a desirable feature.

Does jabber handle "not present" well - can I tell it that I'm not jabbering at the moment and that the sender's client should email or text me instead ?

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Andrew

SMS gateway ?

from: nonameyet
date: 14th Nov 2005 07:23 (UTC)

> the sender's client should email or text me instead
Mentioning text (SMS) makes me realise that people may ask that jabber messages appear on their mobiles: I doubt that all students have 3G or IP phones, so that means SMS. If that can be done without a per message charge I'd like to know how; if not we need to be ready to tell people
we aren't doing it ?

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 14th Nov 2005 13:20 (UTC)

wikis

I have some idea of what's going on in that space, and I think the richer our set of communications mechanisms the better. Of course the downside is that this makes choice of venue harder - but only if you insist on fixing the venue up front. A better model is to start off with whatever seems most convenient and move as the participants and content change. For example, a sketchy blog post may turn into an email discussion that refines the ideas, which get posted on a wiki page as a more formal record, which is collaboratively edited by people who are using IM to co-ordinate.

not present

I need to examine this in more detail. Jabber servers usually archive messages that are sent to you when you are offline, and deliver them when you return. There is an extension which allows you to publish "reachability" over other media (phone, etc.). However I can't find any specifications for redirecting messages when offline. It would be relatively simple for a server to do so unilaterally, but it would be better if there was a way for a Jabber client to configure its behaviour.

SMS

It's probably not feasible for us to deliver Jabber messages over SMS, because of the cost - I don't think free SMS gateways would let us abuse them this way. It might be possible to use the University pager system, but that's a bit of a minority audience. However, there's still the lack of appropriate specifications.

multi-media

Jabber is essentially a text-based system, though it is not limited to that. There is a set of extensions which allow clients to exchange byte streams with each other, either in-band within the Jabber protocol, or out-of-band using SOCKS5 (TCP and UDP). At the moment the only defined use for this is file transfer, but it's likely that Google Talk uses something based on Jabber's session initiation extension for its IP telephony facility.

The relationship between IM and telephony is currently up in the air, because Jabber is esteblished in the former space and is moving into the latter, whereas SIP is established in the latter space and is moving into the former. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

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Andrew

Video chat

from: nonameyet
date: 14th Nov 2005 07:46 (UTC)

People will want to hang video conferencing off the presence service.
Is jabber tied to one video standard, or does it have just have fields
where I can name my preferred and alternate video chat addresses ?

[ Reading back, I clearly haven't decided whether I see Jabber as a presence-extension of lookup.cam.ac.uk or as a messaging gateway. ]

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Arnhem

from: arnhem
date: 14th Nov 2005 10:32 (UTC)

[ I don't _think_ there's mention of this aspect in your document, but I may have been applying the wrong mental keyword searches ]

It occurred to me just now, while sending someone an email about our calendar facilities, that calendars integrate with both the main aspects of Jabber - "presence" is closely related to the "people away" calendars we (try to) maintain in my department, and IM is a particularly nice way of doing reminders for events (email is the usual kludge for this, but is substantially less adequate for the purpose).

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 14th Nov 2005 12:46 (UTC)

Jabber presence is somewhat orthogonal to whether someone is in the office: I hope that people will use Jabber when away in order to keep in touch, and its idea of presence is somewhat higher resolution than a leave diary - Jabber is immediate whereas leave works in terms of whole days planned some time in advance.

For event reminders IM seems like a good solution. It's probably easiest for departments to do this by deploying a little Jabber server of their own, in order to avoid authentication hurdles with the central server. Then the interesting functionality can be done quite simply based on one of the many client libraries.

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Arnhem

from: arnhem
date: 14th Nov 2005 13:09 (UTC)

I think my model of this is that Jabber presence and leave calendars can usefully interact. That is, that where a leave calendar entry exists for a day, it's nice for jabber presence to automatically include this information.

In terms of use in practice; the primary motivator for having leave/absence calendars is the problems (and indeed embarrassment) our senior administrative secretaries have when someone phones them out of the blue and asks to speak to a member of staff, and they have to admit that they don't actually know where they are, how to contact them, or indeed what country (/planet/universe ...) they're in.

To be useful for this purpose, there needs to be a single point of inquiry that receptionists and administrative secretaries can use when trying to track down a member of staff. The design issue, I suppose, is whether this single point is jabber presence, informed by leave calendar information, or a third agency that combines the jabber and calendar information. [ I don't think that having the leave calendar informed by the jabber presence is compatible with sanity ... ].

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 14th Nov 2005 13:27 (UTC)

I agree that they are useful together.

I don't think it would be possible to alter someone's Jabber presence information based on the contents of a leave calendar. Presence is the kind of personal information which must be under a user's control: there would have to be some way to bypass user authentication in order for anything else to be able to change it. On the other hand, it would be fine for a departmental staff location service to subscribe to someone's Jabber presence if they allow it.

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The Wandering One

from: maxleon
date: 29th Nov 2005 01:03 (UTC)

It's an interesting concept, which is probably going to be useful to some research groups or societies, but I don't see it being used University wide at this point. Just remember how some supervisors were opposed to CamCORS.

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 29th Nov 2005 14:34 (UTC)

Obviously I don't expect it to take over the world instantly, and of course it isn't going to be obligatory like CamCORS - just another means of communication.

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The Wandering One

from: maxleon
date: 29th Nov 2005 23:00 (UTC)

Well, another system to maintain (ie play with), right? :)

On an unrelated note it's unfortunate that CUS may go...

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 29th Nov 2005 23:21 (UTC)

On an unrelated note it's unfortunate that CUS may go...

Any particular reason? If so you should email cus-futures@ucs.cam.ac.uk.

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The Wandering One

from: maxleon
date: 29th Nov 2005 23:29 (UTC)

Tony, yes I know. Being a member of ucam-itsupport mailing list I do get regular reminders from Pat. Really, as far as I am concerned as long as I can run my semi-official web site AND use Raven/etc I am all good. Which reminds me that I am not sure whether PWF (people.pwf) supports Raven, because if it does, it's not too big of a deal. My CUS usage is very low key, I don't even use my email account there anymore.

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 30th Nov 2005 01:10 (UTC)

Given that I can't tell who you are from your username, you can hardly be upset if I assume you are ignorant about the proper channels when you complain in an inappropriate place :-) AFAIK, people.pwf only does basic static-file web serving - I don't know if it has any access control features. If it's important to you, you should ask the appropriate people.

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