Title:
PUBLICATION OF CUSTOMIZED PRESENCE INFORMATION
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A presence aggregation system provides a presence aggregation server that allows for the defining and inclusion of custom presence states that are distinct from a set of default presence states that are provided by the presence aggregation system. When one or more custom presence states are defined and included in the presence aggregation system, a publisher at an endpoint is able to publish any of the defined custom presence states or default presence states as an indication of the publisher's presence. When a publication is made, the presence aggregation server may generate an aggregated availability of the publisher across all of the publisher's endpoints, and publish the aggregated availability to each of the publisher's endpoints. The presence aggregation server may also provide the publisher's aggregated availability to the subscribers of the publisher's availability information.



Inventors:
Chavda, Ankur (Seattle, WA, US)
Venkateshaiah, Setty (Bellevue, WA, US)
Rao, Sira P. (Bellevue, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/539125
Publication Date:
11/29/2007
Filing Date:
10/05/2006
Assignee:
Microsoft Corporation (Redmond, WA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
G06F15/16
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
CHANG, TOM Y
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PERKINS COIE LLP/MSFT (SEATTLE, WA, US)
Claims:
I/We claim:

1. A computer-implemented method for publishing custom presence states, the method comprising: providing a set of default presence states for publication, wherein each of the default presence states indicates a presence; receiving a publication of a custom presence state for a publisher, wherein the custom presence state indicates a presence for the publisher; and wherein the custom presence state is not one of the default presence states provided in the set of default presence states; and publishing the custom presence state to at least one subscriber.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the custom presence state is received as a user state publication.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the custom presence state is received as a generic state publication.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the publisher is a human user.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the publisher is an application.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the custom presence state is published to at least one subscriber upon determining that the custom presence state is the publisher's aggregated availability.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the custom presence state is published to at least one subscriber upon determining that the custom presence state is the publisher's current activity.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the custom presence state comprises at least one localized custom string and a corresponding locale identifier that identifies a locale.

9. The method of claim 8 further comprising, upon determining that an endpoint of the subscriber to which the custom presence state is published supports the locale identified by the locale identifier, displaying the localized custom string corresponding to the locale identifier on the subscriber endpoint.

10. A system for publishing custom presence states, the system comprising: a component that receives from an endpoint a custom presence state publication for a publisher, the custom presence state publication comprising at least one localized custom string and a corresponding locale identifier that identifies a locale; and a component that publishes the custom presence state of the publisher.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein the custom presence state is indicated on the endpoint via a user interface displayed on the endpoint.

12. The system of claim 10, wherein the custom presence state is indicated on the endpoint via an API of an application executing on the endpoint.

13. The system of claim 10, wherein the component publishes the custom presence state of the publisher by sending an indication of the custom presence state to at least one endpoint of a subscriber of the publisher's presence information.

14. The system of claim 13 further comprising a component on the subscriber's endpoint that, upon a determination that the subscriber endpoint supports the locale identified by the locale identifier, displays the localized custom string corresponding to the supported locale identifier on the subscriber endpoint.

15. The system of claim 10, wherein the component publishes the custom presence state of the publisher upon a determination that the custom presence state indicates an aggregated availability of the publisher.

16. The system of claim 10, wherein the component publishes the custom presence state of the publisher upon a determination that the custom presence state indicates a current activity of the publisher.

17. A computer-readable media encoded with computer executable instructions for publishing custom presence states, by a method comprising: receiving at least one definition specifying a custom presence state, the definition comprising at least one localized custom string and a corresponding locale identifier for the custom presence state, such that any one of the defined custom presence states may be published by a publisher as an indication of presence.

18. The computer-readable media of claim 17, wherein the definition of the custom presence state is specified by a human user.

19. The computer-readable media of claim 17, wherein the definition of the custom presence state is specified by an application program.

20. The computer-readable media of claim 17 including: receiving a publication of the defined custom presence state for a publisher; and publishing the custom presence state to at least one subscriber.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Continuation-In-Part (CIP) of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/419,947, entitled “User Presence Aggregation at a Server,” which was filed on May 23, 2006, and identified by attorney docket number 418268300US2, which is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/392,472, entitled “Aggregating User Presence Across Multiple Endpoints,” which was filed on Mar. 28, 2006, and identified by attorney docket number 418268300US, and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/392,991, entitled “User Interface For User Presence Aggregated Across Multiple Endpoints,” which was filed on Mar. 28, 2006, and identified by attorney docket number 418268300US1, the disclosures of which are incorporated by reference herein in their entireties.

BACKGROUND

Users of computing devices (e.g., laptops, cellular phones, and personal digital assistants) often need to communicate in real time. A common form of real-time communications is provided by instant messaging services. An instant messaging service allows participants at endpoints to send messages and have them received within a second or two by the other participants in a conversation. The receiving participants can then send responsive messages to the other participants in a similar manner. To be effective, a real-time conversation relies on the participants' becoming aware of, reviewing, and responding to received messages very quickly. This quick response is in contrast to conventional electronic mail systems in which the recipients of electronic mail messages respond to messages at their convenience.

When an initiating participant wants to start a real-time conversation, that participant needs to know whether the intended participants are available to respond in real time to a message. If not, then communications via conventional electronic mail, voice mail, or some other mechanism may be more appropriate. For example, if the computers of the intended participants are currently powered off, then a real-time conversation may not be possible. Moreover, if their computers are currently powered on, but the intended participants are away from their computers, a real-time conversation is also not possible. The initiating participant would like to know the availability of the intended participants so that an appropriate decision on the form of communication can be made.

Presence servers are increasingly being used to provide this availability information. The availability status of an entity such as a computer system or a user associated with that computer system is referred to as “presence information.” Presence information identifies the current “presence state” of the user. Users make their presence information available to a presence server so that other users can decide how best to communicate with them. For example, the presence information may indicate whether a user is logged on (“online”) with an instant messaging server or is logged off (“offline”). Presence information may also provide more detailed information about the availability of the user. For example, even though a user is online, that user may be away from their computer in a meeting. In such a case, the presence state may indicate “online” and “in a meeting.”

In an instant messaging context, a publishing user (“publisher”) may provide their presence information to a presence server that then provides the presence information to subscribing users (“subscribers”). Thus, a presence server may use a subscriber/publisher model to provide the presence information for the users of the presence service. Whenever the presence information of a user changes, the presence server is notified of the change by that user's computer system and in turn notifies the subscribing users of the change. A subscribing user can then decide whether to initiate an instant messaging conversation based on the presence information of the intended participants. For example, if the presence information indicates that a publishing user is currently in a conference telephone call, then the subscribing user may decide to send an instant message, rather than place a telephone call, to the publishing user. If the subscribing user, however, needs to call and speak with the publishing user, the subscribing user needs to monitor the presence information of the publishing user to know when the call can be placed. When the subscribing user notices that the publishing user's presence information indicates that the telephone conference has been concluded, the subscribing user can then place the telephone call. RFC 2778 is a specification relating to presence information in instant messaging systems. RFC 3856 is a specification relating to presence information using the Session Initiation Protocol (“SIP”).

Although the usefulness of the published presence information depends on the types of presence states a publisher can publish, current presence systems restrict the publisher to a limited number of presence states. For example, current presence systems typically support the publication of a limited number of presence states which are typically hard-coded into the presence systems during the development of the presence systems. Unfortunately, the limited number of presence states typically supported by current presence systems do not allow a publisher to meaningfully describe his or her presence state in many instances.

SUMMARY

A method and system for publishing custom presence states by publishers is provided. A presence aggregation system provides a presence aggregation server that allows for the defining and inclusion of custom presence states that are distinct from a set of default presence states that are provided by the presence aggregation system. When one or more custom presence states are defined and included in the presence aggregation system, a publisher at an endpoint is able to publish any of the defined custom presence states or default presence states as an indication of the publisher's presence. When a publication is made, the presence aggregation server may generate an aggregated availability of the publisher across all of the publisher's endpoints, and publish the aggregated availability to each of the publisher's endpoints. The presence aggregation server may also provide the publisher's aggregated availability to the subscribers of the publisher's availability information.

This Summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This Summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended to be used as an aid in determining the scope of the claimed subject matter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a block diagram that illustrates components of a presence aggregation system, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 2 is a data structure diagram that illustrates example logical data structures of the presence aggregation system, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of the presence aggregation system, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of the aggregation module in determining an aggregated machine state, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of the aggregation module in determining an aggregated availability, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 6 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of the aggregation module in determining a current activity, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram that illustrates the publication of a custom state, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 8 is a block diagram that illustrates the publication of a custom state, according to some other embodiments.

FIG. 9 is a display diagram showing a sample user interface displaying a drop-down menu containing a list of selectable custom presence states, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 10 is a display diagram showing a sample pop-up window containing a list of selectable custom activities, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 11 is an example data listing that illustrates multiple custom state definitions, according to some embodiments.

FIG. 12 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of an endpoint in displaying a view of a current activity, according to some embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A method and system for aggregating user presence across multiple endpoints at a server is provided. In some embodiments, a presence aggregation system provides a presence aggregation server that allows for the publication of presence states of a publisher from any of the publisher's multiple endpoints. A presence state includes an availability value and an activity. An activity may specify an activity token and/or a custom string. For example, a user may publish a state that includes an availability value that indicates that the user (e.g., publisher) is online. As another example, a machine may specify that it is active by publishing a state that includes availability value that indicates that the machine is online. When any one of the publisher's endpoints publishes a presence state on the presence aggregation server, the presence aggregation server generates an aggregated presence state (also interchangeably referred to herein as an “aggregated state”) of the publisher (i.e., the availability of the publisher aggregated across all of the publisher's endpoints) and publishes the generated aggregated state to each of the publisher's endpoints. The presence aggregation server may also provide the publisher's aggregated state to the subscribers of the publisher's aggregated state information. In some embodiments, the presence aggregation server may generate an aggregated state of a publisher when a presence state publication for the publisher expires. For example, a presence state publication may expire when an endpoint becomes offline. In some embodiments, the presence aggregation server may generate an aggregated state of a publisher based on specified triggers. For example, an endpoint may publish a presence state that indicates that the publisher is going to be busy at 2:00 P.M. In this instance, the presence aggregation server may generate an aggregated state for the publisher at the indicated time.

The presence state publication focuses on the publisher. By focusing on the publisher, the presence aggregation system provides a “person-centric” presence model in that the publisher is able to specify his or her presence for the desired modes of communication. The person-centric presence model simplifies the communication process by allowing a person to think in terms of “I want to talk to this person” instead of “I need to call the person's cell phone.” For example, the publisher is able to indicate that communication by phone or an in-person meeting at the publisher's office is more convenient for the publisher than sending an instant message. A subscriber receiving the aggregated state of a publisher is able to use this information to make decisions on how to best communicate with the publisher. If the aggregated state of the publisher indicates that the publisher is currently away, the subscriber can send an instant message but will not be upset if a reply is not received. In this manner, the presence aggregation system allows a publisher to more accurately indicate their availability to communicate across all the publisher's endpoints, and the subscribers of the publisher's aggregated state to obtain a better indication of the availability and willingness of the publisher to communicate.

Throughout the description, the following terms will generally have the following meanings:

The term “activity” refers to a descriptor for what a user is doing at a moment in time. For example, a calendaring application can publish calendar type states that contain in-a-meeting event information.

The term “aggregated availability” refers to the availability associated with a user (e.g., publisher) across all of the user's endpoints.

The term “aggregated presence” refers to a combined presence of a user across all of the user's endpoints. Aggregated presence can include information beyond aggregated presence states. For example, aggregated presence can also include a machine's idle time, indication of location, etc.

The term “availability” refers to a user's willingness and ability to communicate. As such, a person's availability is a representation of how “available” the person is and/or whether the person can be interrupted. Availability is designated by a numerical value. The higher the number, the less reachable/available the person.

The term “callee” or “publisher” refers to a user that is the target of the presence-based communication (e.g., real-time communication). The callee or publisher is the person that publishes the presence information.

The term “caller” or “subscriber” refers to the user that is viewing the published aggregated availability information. The caller or subscriber is the user that initiates the presence-based communication to the publisher or callee.

The term “endpoint” refers to a single logon session of the user. Endpoints are typically synonymous with devices.

The term “presence” refers to information that is useful for determining a user's availability.

The term “state” refers to blocks of information that represent factors that influence a person's willingness and availability to communicate.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation server provides containers for publishing presence information. The presence aggregation server provides each publisher a “status” container, and only the publisher has permissions to view the contents of his or her status container. Each status container contains a collection of zero, one or more presence state publications for its respective publisher. The presence aggregation server monitors the status containers for a change in the state of a publisher (e.g., a presence state publication that changes the publisher's state). Upon detecting a change in the publisher's state, the presence aggregation server generates an aggregated state (i.e., an aggregated availability and/or a current activity) of the publisher and publishes an indication of the aggregated state in the publisher's status container, thus notifying each of the publisher's endpoints of the published aggregated state. The presence aggregation server may also determine the publisher's computing device (also referred to herein as a “machine”) that is the most active, and publish this information to the publisher's status container, thus notifying each of the publisher's endpoints of the publisher's most active machine. Each of the publisher's endpoints can then use this information to, by way of example, determine whether or not to “auto-accept” a request to communicate. The publisher's computing device is a device used by the publisher to create an endpoint.

The presence aggregation server allows each publisher to define a collection of one or more containers, to specify an access control list (ACL) for each container, and to specify the publications that are to be included in each container. The ACL specifies the entities, also referred to as “members,” who are allowed to subscribe to receive the publications made to each container. For example, the publisher may specify members of a container by specifying membership types of individual entities (e.g., Joe Smith), a group of entities (e.g., Project A Marketing Team), entities with a common characteristic (e.g., within domain acme.com), and so on. The presence aggregation server allows entities to subscribe to receive a publisher's publications, including the subscriber's aggregated state and other published presence information. If the subscribing entity is a member of a container as determined by the container's ACL, then the presence aggregation server adds that entity as a subscriber of that container. The presence aggregation server then notifies the subscribers of the container of the publications made to that container. The publication may be the publisher's aggregated state as well as other presence information. For example, when the presence aggregation server generates an aggregated state of the publisher, the presence aggregation server can publish an indication of the aggregated state in each of the publisher's containers, thus notifying the subscribers of the publisher's aggregated state. The presence aggregation server may allow a publisher to publish presence information directly to the publisher's containers. For example, a publisher may define a container that is to be made available to subscribers who are coworkers and may define another container that is to be made available to all other subscribers. In this example, the publisher may want to publish more detailed presence information in the container that is available to coworkers. For example, in addition to the aggregated state, a publisher may also want to inform the coworkers that the publisher is “in a meeting with John,” while not providing this additional piece of information to the others.

In some embodiments, a presence state publication may be of a type “user,” “machine,” “phone,” “calendar,” “conference,” or “generic,” as shown in Table 1 below.

TABLE 1
State TypeDescription
UserA preset state a publisher can manually set
MachineA state of the endpoint machine (endpoint device)
PhoneThe state of a publisher's phone
CalendarEvents in a publisher's schedule (e.g., Outlook schedule)
ConferenceTriggered when a publisher is in a multiparty conversation
or if the publisher is presenting in a collaborative session
GenericAll other states

A user state is manually provided or specified by a publisher and, as such, provides an indication of the publisher's intent. For example, the presence aggregation system's client application executing on the publisher's machine, and which the publisher may have used to create an endpoint, may provide a user interface through which the publisher can access a list of user states, such as those listed in Table 2 below.

TABLE 2
User StateAvailability ValueDescription
Online3500Publisher is reachable
Busy6500Publisher is busy
Do Not Disturb9500Publisher should not be interrupted
Be Right Back12500Publisher is not currently reachable
Away15500Publisher is not at their desk
Appear Offline18500Publisher wants to be offline

As shown by the example user states in Table 2, a publisher may indicate his or her intent to communicate as “Online,” “Busy,” “Do Not Disturb,” “Be Right Back,” “Away,” and “Appear Offline.” Each user state has a corresponding availability value that is a number that represents the availability of the subscriber as indicated by the user state from more available to less available, where the larger availability value corresponds to the less available state. For example, from amongst the six user states listed in Table 2, “Online” is the most available user state and “Appear Offline” is the least available user state. The publisher can specify a user state by selecting one of the user states from the displayed list. When a publisher selects one of the user states from the displayed list, the client application determines the availability value that corresponds to the specified user state, and publishes the availability value as the publisher's user state in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server. For example, if the publisher manually specifies a user state of “Online,” the specified user state will be published in the publisher's status container as a user state availability value of 3500 (e.g., user state; avail=3500). When a user state is published, the presence aggregation server stamps the publication with a publication time.

A machine state provides an indication of whether the publisher is reachable on the machine. In some embodiments, each endpoint publishes a machine state. For example, the client application may monitor the publisher's machine for events such as keyboard activity or inactivity, mouse or pointing device activity or inactivity, activation of screen saver or machine lock, and other events that provide an indication of the use of the machine. When such an event is detected, the client application determines the availability value that corresponds to the machine state, and publishes the availability value as the publisher's machine state in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server. A list of example machine states and corresponding availability values and optional activity tokens is provided in Table 3 below.

TABLE 3
MachineAvailabilityActivity
StateValueTokenDescription
Active3500NULLPublisher is actively using the device
and is reachable
Inactive3750InactivePublisher has not used the device but
is still likely to be reachable
Unknown3750InactiveThe device cannot determine if the
publisher is reachable
Away15500NULLPublisher is probably not at the
device and is not reachable
Off18500NULLPublisher is not logged on and
definitely not reachable

As shown in Table 3, an endpoint may indicate the machine state as “Active,” “Inactive,” “Unknown,” “Away,” and “Off.” Similar to the user states listed in Table 2, the machine states listed in Table 3 are ranked according to their indication of availability from more available to less available, where the larger availability value corresponds to the less available state. Moreover, from Tables 2 and 3, it can be seen that the machine state of “Away” indicates a less available state that a user state of “Do Not Disturb.” For example, the client application can determine that it is being currently used and, from this, determine a machine state of “Active.” In this example, the client application can publish a machine state in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server as a machine state availability value of 3500 (e.g., machine state; avail=3500; activity token=NULL). The activity token, when present, is a text string that represents the particular machine state. The activity token is typically provided by the publisher (e.g., the client application that published the machine state). In another example, the client application can monitor hardware activity to determine a machine state. When a machine state is published, the presence aggregation server stamps the publication with a publication time.

A phone state indicates the state of a publisher's phone. For example, the client application may detect that the publisher is currently engaged in a voice over Internet (VoIP) call and publish a phone state. A list of example phone state availability values and corresponding optional activity tokens and custom strings is provided in Table 4 below.

TABLE 4
AvailabilityActivity
ValueTokenCustom StringDescription
6500In a callIn a 1 on 1User is speaking with one
conversationperson
6750In aIn a multipartyUser is speaking with more
conferenceconversationthan one person

Similar to the user states listed in Table 2 and the machine states listed in Table 3, the phone states listed in Table 4 are ranked according to their indication of availability from more available to less available, where the larger availability value corresponds to the less available state. The activity token, when present, is a text string that represents the particular phone state. The custom string, when present, is a text string that further describes the particular phone state. For example, the custom string may describe the phone state in a specific language, such as Japanese. A client application may include both an activity token and a custom string to allow older clients (e.g., older versions of the client application) that do not support translations of the token to display a detailed text description of the presence state. The activity token and the custom string are typically provided by the publisher (e.g., the client application that published the phone state). For example, the client application can determine that the publisher is currently conducting a one-on-one conversation. In this example, the client application can publish a phone state in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server as a phone state availability value of 6500 (e.g., phone state; avail=6500; activity token=“In a call”; custom string=“In a 1 on 1 conversation”). When a phone state is published, the presence aggregation server stamps the publication with a publication time.

A calendar state indicates the state of a publisher's calendar. For example, the client application can interact with a calendaring application to determine that the publisher is free, in a meeting, out of the office, etc., and publish this information as a calendar state. A list of example calendar state availability values and corresponding optional activity tokens and custom strings is provided in Table 5 below.

TABLE 5
AvailabilityActivityCustom
ValueTokenStringDescription
3500NULLFreePublisher has no meeting
3500NULLTentativePublisher has a meeting they
have not accepted
6500In a meetingIn aPublisher has accepted a
meetingmeeting
3500Out of OfficeOut of thePublisher is not in the office
Office

Similar to the user states listed in Table 2, the machine states listed in Table 3, and the phone states listed in Table 4, the calendar states in Table 5 are ranked according to their indication of availability from more available to less available, where the larger availability value corresponds to the less available state. The activity token, when present, is a text string that represents the particular calendar state. The custom string, when present, is a text string that further describes the particular calendar state. For example, the custom string may provide additional details regarding the particular calendar state that is not provided by the activity token. The activity token and the custom string are typically provided by the publisher (e.g., the client application that published the calendar state). For example, the client application can determine that the publisher has no meetings. In this example, the client application can publish a calendar state in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server as a calendar state availability value of 3500 (e.g., calendar state; avail=3500; activity token=“NULL”; custom string=“Free”). When a calendar state is published, the presence aggregation server stamps the publication with a publication time.

A conference state indicates the state of a publisher's conferencing activities. For example, the client application may detect that the publisher is currently participating in a conference and publish a conference state. A list of example conference state availability values and corresponding optional activity tokens and custom strings is provided in Table 6 below.

TABLE 6
AvailabilityActivityCustom
ValueTokenStringDescription
9500NULLPresentingParticipant in full screen
mode
6900Urgent-UrgentPublisher is presenting (Do-
Interruptions-interruptionsNot-Disturb) but certain
Onlyonlysubscribers should see a
“Busy” availability
6750In a multipartyIn aePublisher is speaking with
conferenceconferencmore than one person in
the same conversation in a
mode other than Instant
Messaging

Similar to the user states listed in Table 2, the machine states listed in Table 3, the phone states listed in Table 4, and the calendar states listed in Table 5, the conference states listed in Table 6 are ranked according to their indication of availability from more available to less available, where the larger availability value corresponds to the less available state. The activity token, when present, is a text string that represents the particular conference state. The custom string, when present, is a text string that further describes the particular conference state. For example, the custom string may describe the conference state in a specific language, such as Japanese, or provide additional details regarding the particular conference state that is not provided by the activity token. The activity token and the custom string are typically provided by the publisher (e.g., the client application that published the conference state). By way of example, the client application may detect that a conferencing application, such as MICROSOFT's POWERPOINT, executing on the publisher's machine is in “full screen” mode. From this, the client application may determine that the publisher is currently presenting in a conference. In this example, the client application can publish a conference state in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server as a conference state availability value of 9500 (e.g., conference state; avail=9500; activity token=“NULL”; custom string=“Presenting”). When a conference state is published, the presence aggregation server stamps the publication with a publication time.

Generic states include the events that are not published as either a user state, a device state, a phone state, a calendar state, or a conference state. For example, the client application executing on the user's machine may detect an event that is not a user state, a device state, a phone state, a calendar state, or a conference state. In this instance, the client application can publish the event as a generic state in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server. In addition to indicating that the publication is a generic state publication and providing an availability value, the client application may also provide an activity token and/or a custom string that represents and/or additionally describes the published generic state. When a generic state is published, the presence aggregation server stamps the publication with a publication time.

In some embodiments, the client application may provide an application program interface (API) which allows events detected by other applications to be published. For example, applications such as a calendaring application, a phone application (e.g., VoIP application), another conferencing application, etc., can detect events and request that the client application publish the detected events in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server.

In some embodiments, a third-party application or device may directly publish events in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server. For example, a private branch exchange (PBX) device may be knowledgeable of the presence aggregation server and may have the necessary privileges (e.g., credentials) to publish presence information for a publisher in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server. When the PBX device detects an event, such as the publisher being currently engaged in a telephone call, the PBX device can publish the detected event by determining an appropriate availability value that represents the event. The PBX device can then publish the availability value as a generic state in the publisher's status container on the presence aggregation server. The PBX device may also provide an activity token and/or a custom string that represents and/or additionally describes the published generic state.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation server determines an aggregated availability of a publisher by considering the publisher's presence state publications across all of the publisher's endpoints, and publishes the determined aggregated availability. The presence aggregation server monitors the status containers for changes to the publishers' state. Upon detecting a change to a publisher's state (e.g., a presence state publication to the publisher's status container), the presence aggregation server generates an aggregated availability for the publisher as the least available state across all of the publisher's endpoints. The presence aggregation server identifies the most available machine state from the published machine states, and only uses the most available machine state to perform the aggregation. To determine the publisher's aggregated availability, the presence aggregation server checks the publisher's status container for a publication of a user state. In the case where there is a user state publication, the presence aggregation server extracts the publication time of the user state publication, and sorts the other presence state publications (the identified most available machine state publication, phone state publications, calendar state publications, conference state publications, and generic state publications) in the status container by publication time, and eliminates the presence state publications that are older than the user state publication. From the remaining presence state publications, the presence aggregation server extracts the availability value from the least available state, and assigns this availability value as the publisher's aggregated availability. In the case where a user state publication is not present in the status container, the presence aggregation server extracts the availability value from the least available state from amongst the most available machine state publication, phone state publications, calendar state publications, conference state publications, and generic state publications, and assigns this availability value as the publisher's aggregated availability. The presence aggregation server then publishes the generated aggregated availability (e.g., a value representing the aggregated availability, an indication of an icon representing the aggregated availability, a default string representing the aggregated availability, etc.) in the publisher's status container, which causes each of the publisher's endpoints to be notified of the publisher's aggregated availability. The aggregated availability can then be displayed at each endpoint. The presence aggregation server may also publish the generated aggregated availability in one or more of the publisher's other containers. This causes the publisher's aggregated availability to be sent to the subscribers who have subscribed to the containers, thus notifying the subscribers of the publisher's aggregated availability.

Table 7 below contains a mapping of availability values to corresponding aggregated availabilities, default strings, and descriptions.

TABLE 7
AggregatedDefaultAvailability
AvailabilityStringValue RangeDescription
OnlineOnline3000–3999Publisher is reachable
BusyBusy6000–6999Publisher is reachable but
is engaged in another
task
Do NotDo Not Disturb9000–9999Publisher is reachable but
Disturbdoes not want to be
interrupted
TemporarilyTemporarily12000–12999Publisher is temporarily
AwayAwayprobably not reachable
AwayAway15000–15999Publisher is probably not
reachable
OfflineOffline18000–18999Publisher is not reachable

As shown in Table 7, a range of availability values maps to each aggregated availability. For example, the availability values in the range 3000-3999 map to the aggregated availability “Online.” Mapping a range of availability values to a single aggregated availability allows for a ranking of availability values within a class of availabilities. For example, the phone state “In a multiparty conversation” in Table 4 above and the calendar state “In a meeting” above in Table 5 above will both map to the same aggregated availability “Busy.” Even though both of these states result in the same aggregated availability, the phone state “In a multiparty conversation” is ranked lower (i.e., less available) than the calendar state “In a meeting” because of its larger availability number (6750>6500). As such, if the publisher's aggregated availability is to be chosen from these two states, the phone state “In a multiparty conversation” will be selected as the publisher's aggregated availability.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation server determines a current activity that a publisher is engaged in and publishes this information. The presence aggregation server may publish a current activity as part of the aggregated state. To determine the current activity for a publisher, the presence aggregation server identifies the most available machine state from the published machine states. The presence aggregation server then checks the publisher's status container for a publication of a user state. In the case where there is a user state publication, the presence aggregation server extracts the publication time of the user state publication, and sorts the other presence state publications (the identified most available machine state publication, phone state publications, calendar state publications, conference state publications, and generic state publications) in the status container by publication time, and eliminates the state publications that are older than the user state publication. From the remaining presence state publications, the presence aggregation server removes the presence state publications that do not have a corresponding activity token or custom string (i.e., the state publications that do not include an activity). If there are no remaining presence state publications, the presence aggregation server publishes an indication that there is no current activity. If there are remaining presence state publications, the presence aggregation server selects the activity from the least available of the remaining presence state publications as the current activity. The presence aggregation server then publishes the current activity of the publisher in the publisher's status container. The presence aggregation server may also publish the current activity in one or more of the publisher's other containers. In this instance where the presence aggregation server publishes an indication that there is no current activity, the endpoint (e.g., an application executing on the endpoint) may select the default string that represents the publisher's aggregated availability as the publisher's current activity.

In some embodiments, a presence state publication may include multiple activities. Each activity included in the publication may have a corresponding indicator that specifies a condition under which the particular activity is to be considered valid. For example, a publication may indicate that the publisher's activity is to be “Out of the Office” if the availability value is greater than 15000, and that the activity is to be “Online” otherwise. As another example, a publication may indicate that the publisher's activity is to be “Out of the Office” between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and that the activity is to be “Free” at the other times during the day. One skilled in the art will appreciate that the condition indication for an activity may be specified in other ways. For example, a condition indicator may include a combination of availability value ranges and a range of times.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation server determines an aggregated machine state for a publisher and publishes this information. The presence aggregation server identifies the publisher's most active machine state as the publisher's aggregated machine state, and publishes this information in the publisher's status container. The presence aggregation server may also identify as the most active machine the machine from which the most active machine state was published, and publish an indication of the most active machine in the publisher's status container. Each of the publisher's endpoints can use this information in multiple points of presence scenarios, for example, to automatically respond to a request that have been received by all of the publisher's endpoints.

Custom Presence Information

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation system allows for the publication of custom presence states by publishers. The custom presence states are distinct from the default presence states that are provided by the presence aggregation system. For example, in addition to providing a set of default presence states, such as the presence states listed above in Tables 2-6, the presence aggregation system may support the definition and inclusion of one or more custom presence states into the presence aggregation system. Once the custom presence states are defined and included in the presence aggregation system, the presence aggregation server allows for the publication of any of the defined custom presence states or default presence states as an indication of presence for a publisher from, for example, any of the publisher's multiple endpoints. By way of example, a company that is using the presence aggregation system may also be using a customer support application that allows the company's employees to interact with customers via instant messaging. In this example, it may be beneficial to the company if an employee can publish his or her presence status as busy servicing a customer (e.g., “Busy—Talking to a Customer”) when the employee is interacting with a customer. Unfortunately, “Busy—Talking to a Customer” may not be one of the default presence states that are provided by the presence aggregation system. In this instance, a system administrator of the company can define a custom presence state for the presence status “Busy—Talking to a Customer.” Once the custom presence state is defined and included in the presence aggregation system, an employee can use the presence aggregation system to publish the custom presence state as the employee's presence status (e.g., an employee can use the presence aggregation server to publish a presence status that indicates his or her intent to communicate as “Busy—Talking to a Customer”). In this manner, the working set of presence states in the presence aggregation system can be expanded, and the presence aggregation system can be tailored to the needs of its users.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation system provides a description schema, such as, by way of example, an Extensible Markup Language (XML) schema, for defining the custom presence states. For example, a definition of a custom presence state may include an identifier that identifies the instance of the custom presence state, an availability value, and optionally an activity token, one or more localized custom strings and, for each localized custom string, a corresponding locale identifier. The availability value is a number that represents the availability corresponding to (indicated by) the custom presence state. The activity token, when present, is a text string that describes the custom presence state. A localized custom string, when present, is a text string that further describes the custom presence state, and which is localized to the region identified by the corresponding locale identifier. A locale identifier, when present, corresponds to a specific localized custom string and is a number that identifies a region of the world. For example, the locale identifier may be specified as a combination of a language identifier and a region/culture identifier. The presence aggregation system may maintain the defined custom presence states in one or more files, such as XML files.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation system may provide a user interface through which a system administrator, or other knowledgeable user, can define one or more custom presence states. The user interface may be provided on the presence aggregation server or the presence aggregation system's client application. For example, the system administrator can use the provided user interface to input the information (e.g., availability value, activity token, localized custom string, local identifier, etc.) that is necessary to define a custom presence state. Upon receiving the input information, the presence aggregation system can create the custom presence state in the system. In some embodiments, the presence aggregation system may provide a programming interface, such as an API, through which a program, such as an application program, can pass one or more custom presence state definitions for inclusion in the presence aggregation system. For example, an application program may include in a file, such as an XML file, one or more custom presence state definitions that conform to the description schema for defining a custom presence state. The application program may then pass the custom presence state definitions to the presence aggregation system through the provided application interface to create the custom presence states. The programming interface may be provided on the presence aggregation server or the presence aggregation system's client application.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation system's client application may provide a user interface through which a publisher can access a list of the custom presence states that are defined in the presence aggregation system. The publisher can then use the user interface to view the list of custom presence states and select a custom presence state in the list for publishing. When the publisher selects one of the custom presence states, the publisher's endpoint can publish the selected custom presence state as a user state publication on the presence aggregation server. The user interface may also allow the publisher to edit one or more of the custom presence states that are defined in the presence aggregation system. For example, the user interface may include a selectable command or control to request editing of a custom presence state definition. When the publisher activates the selectable command or control, the client application may display a window that displays a list of the defined custom presence states. When the publisher selects a custom presence state, the client application may display a window through which the publisher can edit the definition of the selected custom presence state. The user interface may also allow the publisher to specify which of the defined custom presence states are to be included the list of custom presence states. This feature allows for the definition of many custom presence states in the presence aggregation system, and the ability for the publisher to include in the list of custom presence states the custom presence states which are applicable to the publisher. In some embodiments, the user interface may also allow the publisher to define and include a custom presence state in the presence aggregation system.

In some embodiments, the client application may provide an API which allows applications, such as third-party applications, and devices, such as a PBX device, to publish custom presence states. For example, an application may detect a presence status for a user. Upon detecting the presence status, the application may generate a custom presence state definition for the detected presence status and send the generated custom presence state definition to the client application for publication using the API. Upon receiving the custom presence state definition, the client application can publish the defined custom presence state as a generic state publication on the presence aggregation server. The API may also allow the application to query the client application for a list of the defined custom presence states in the presence aggregation system. The application can then determine if a previously defined custom presence state adequately represents the detected presence status and, if so, publish the previously defined custom presence state using the API. In some embodiments, the application or device may directly publish custom presence states as generic state publications on the presence aggregation server.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation server aggregates a publisher's custom presence state publications (e.g., published as either user state publications or generic state publications) and the publisher's other presence state publications to determine an aggregated availability and/or a current activity of the publisher. An availability value specified in a custom presence state publication may end up being the aggregated availability of the publisher. Similarly, an activity (i.e., activity token and/or localized custom string(s)) that is specified in a custom presence state publication may end up being the current activity of the publisher. The presence aggregation server may publish the aggregated availability and/or the current activity in one or more of the publisher's containers, which may cause the publisher's aggregated availability and/or current activity to be sent to the subscribers who have subscribed to the containers into which the aggregated availability and/or the current activity is published. Each of the subscribers' endpoints can then display a view of the published aggregated availability and/or the current activity of the publisher.

In some embodiments, an endpoint can generate a view of a published current activity by determining whether the current activity specifies an activity token. If an activity token is specified, then the endpoint determines whether it understands the activity token and, if the activity token is understood, then the endpoint displays the activity token as a view of the current activity of the publisher. If an activity token is not specified or the specified activity token is not understood, then the endpoint determines whether a custom string is specified. For example, a client application used to create the endpoint may be an older version of the presence aggregation system's client application or a third-party client application that does not understand (support) the specified activity token. For each custom string that is specified, the endpoint determines whether the custom string can be rendered on the endpoint. For example, the endpoint can query the operating system on the endpoint to determine whether the operating system supports any of the specified locale identifiers. If a locale identifier is supported by the operating system, the custom string that is associated with the supported locale identifier can be rendered on the endpoint. If any one of the specified custom strings can be rendered, then the endpoint displays the custom string that can be rendered as a view of the current activity of the publisher. If a custom string is not specified or none of the specified custom strings can be rendered, then the endpoint displays a default string that represents the aggregated availability of the publisher as a view of the current activity of the publisher. The specification of localized custom strings allow for the publication of a presence state in one region and a rendering of the published presence state in another region in the language that is appropriate for the rendering region.

Although the locale identifier is described in conjunction with a custom presence state publication, any of the other presence state publications (e.g., machine presence state publication, calendar presence state publication, etc.) may specify a locale identifier. For example, a machine state publication may include one or more localized custom strings that further describe the machine state that is being published and, for each localized custom string a corresponding locale identifier. Similarly, a calendar state publication, conference state publication, and phone state publication may include one or more localized custom strings that further describe the presence state that is being published and, for each localized custom string a corresponding locale identifier.

In some embodiments, the presence aggregation system may provide localized default strings that describe the aggregated availabilities. For example, for each of the aggregated availabilities listed in Table 7, the presence aggregation system may provide one or more localized default strings that describe the corresponding aggregated availability. The presence aggregation system may provide each specified localized default string with a corresponding locale identifier. An endpoint, such as a subscriber endpoint, is then able to display a view of a localized default string that represents a publisher's aggregated availability, and which is appropriate for the region (locale) in which the endpoint is located.

FIG. 1 is a block diagram that illustrates components of a presence aggregation system, according to some embodiments. A presence aggregation system 102 is coupled to entity devices 104 via a network 106. The entity devices correspond to entities that may be publishers or subscribers. The presence aggregation system includes a receive update module 108, an update publication module 110, an add publication module 112, a receive subscription request module 114, an add subscription module 116, a create container module 118, a container store 120, an aggregation module 122, and an expire publications module 124. Some or all of the modules may be provided on a presence aggregation server or multiple presence aggregation servers. The container store contains the containers of the publishers (created by the create container module) and other data structures used by the presence aggregation system. The receive update module is invoked when a request to update a publication is received from a publisher. The receive update module invokes the update publication module to update the publication and the add publication module to add a new publication to a container. The receive subscription request module is invoked when a request is received from an entity to subscribe to a container of a publisher. The receive subscription request module invokes the add subscription module to subscribe the entity to the specified container or containers. The aggregation module processes the presence state publications in a publisher's status container to generate an aggregated state of the publisher. The expire publications module is periodically invoked by the presence aggregation system to clean up the expired (stale) publications in the containers in the container store. Although not shown in FIG. 1, the entity devices include components of the presence aggregation system to define containers and their ACLs, to send publication updates, to send subscription requests, to receive notifications of updates to publications, and to receive publications from the presence aggregation system.

The network is typically a communications link that facilitates the transfer of electronic content between the attached devices. In some embodiments, the network includes the Internet. It will be appreciated that the network may be comprised of one or more other types of networks, such as a local area network, a wide area network, a point-to-point dial-up connection, a wireless network, and the like.

The computing devices on which the presence aggregation system may be implemented may include a central processing unit, memory, input devices (e.g., keyboard and pointing devices), output devices (e.g., display devices), and storage devices (e.g., disk drives). The memory and storage devices are computer-readable media that may contain computer executable instructions that implement the presence information system. As used herein, “computer-readable media encoded with computer executable instructions” means computer-readable media comprising computer executable instructions. In addition, the data structures and message structures may be stored or transmitted via a data transmission medium, such as a signal on a communications link. Various communications links may be used, such as the Internet, a local area network, a wide area network, a point-to-point dial-up connection, a cell phone network, and so on.

Embodiments of the presence aggregation system may be implemented in various operating environments that include personal computers, server computers, hand-held or laptop devices, multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based systems, programmable consumer electronics, digital cameras, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, distributed computing environments that include any of the above systems or devices, and so on. The user devices may be cell phones, personal digital assistants, smart phones, personal computers, programmable consumer electronics, digital cameras, and so on.

The presence aggregation system may be described in the general context of computer-executable instructions, such as program modules and components, executed by one or more computers or other devices. Generally, program modules include routines, programs, objects, components, data structures, and so on that perform particular tasks or implement particular abstract data types. Typically, the functionality of the program modules may be combined or distributed as desired in various embodiments.

FIG. 2 is a data structure diagram that illustrates example logical data structures of the presence aggregation system, according to some embodiments. The data structure includes a publisher table 202 that includes an entry for each publisher. Each entry identifies a publisher and points to the publisher's container table 204. The publisher's container table contains an entry for each container of the corresponding publisher. Each entry identifies the container (e.g., by name) and contains an ACL, a subscriber list, and a publication list. The ACL specifies the entities who are allowed to subscribe to the corresponding container. The subscriber list identifies the subscribers who are subscribed to the corresponding container. The publication list contains an entry for each publication of the container. When a publication is made in a container, the presence aggregation system uses the subscriber list to identify the subscribers that are to be notified. When an entity subscribes to a container, the presence aggregation system uses the ACL to determine whether to grant or deny the subscription. One skilled in the art will appreciate that this is only one example of the logical layout of data structures of the presence aggregation system. The data structures of the presence aggregation system may be tailored to the space/computation requirements of the presence aggregation system. For example, the subscriber list may be provided in a separate table, such as a subscriber table. Each entry in the subscriber table may specify a publisher, a subscriber, and a list of publications (including their versions). The presence can use the combination of tables to determine what versions of the publications should be seen by the subscribers.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of the presence aggregation system, according to some embodiments. The presence aggregation system monitors the status containers for changes to the states of publishers. When a change in a state of a publisher is detected, the system, in block 302, determines an aggregated machine state of the publisher and publishes the aggregated machine state in the publisher's status container. In block 304, the system determines an aggregated availability of the publisher. In block 306, the system determines the current activity of the publisher. In block 308, the system publishes the aggregated availability and the current activity as the aggregated state of the publisher in the publisher's status container and the publisher's other containers which have been designated as being appropriate for the publication of the aggregated state. The publisher can designate the containers that are appropriate for the publication of the aggregated state.

One skilled in the art will appreciate that, for this and other processes and methods disclosed herein, the functions performed in the processes and methods may be implemented in differing order. Furthermore, the outlined steps are only exemplary, and some of the steps may be optional, combined with fewer steps, or expanded into additional steps without detracting from the essence of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of the aggregation module in determining an aggregated machine state, according to some embodiments. The aggregation module processes the machine state publications in a publisher's status container and notifies the publisher's endpoints of the single aggregated machine state for the publisher's most active machine. In block 402, the aggregation module selects the most active machine state (i.e., the machine state publication having the lowest availability value). In block 404, the aggregation module checks to determine whether there are multiple most active machine states. If there is more than one most active machine state, then, in block 404, the aggregation module selects as the most recently published most active state. In block 408, the aggregation module returns the most active machine state. In some embodiments, the aggregation module identifies the machine that published the most active machine state, and returns an indication of this machine (i.e., the most active machine). If two machines (e.g., respective endpoints on the two machines) published the same machine state that was determined to be the most active machine state, the aggregation module identifies as the most active machine the machine that most recently published the most active machine state. For example, if a Machine A published an Active machine state at 1:00 PM and a Machine B published an Active machine state at 1:30 PM, the aggregation module identifies Machine B as the most active.

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of the aggregation module in determining an aggregated availability, according to some embodiments. In block 502, the aggregation module determines a valid set of states from which to generate an aggregated availability. The valid set of states may include the most active machine state and any user state, phone states, calendar states, conference states, and generic state publications in the subscriber's status container. In block 504, the aggregation module checks to determine if a user state is published. If the aggregation module determines that a user state publication is present in the status container, then, in block 506, the aggregation module removes the states that are older than the user state from the valid set of states. For example, the aggregation module identifies the states in the valid set of states that have publication times that are older than the publication time of the user state, and removes these older states from the valid set of states. If, in block 504, the aggregation module determines that a user state is not published, or subsequent to removing from the valid set of states the states that are older than the published user state in block 506, the aggregation module, in block 508, selects as the aggregated availability the least available state (e.g., the state having the highest availability value) from the valid set of states. In block 510, the aggregation module returns the aggregated availability.

FIG. 6 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of the aggregation module in determining a current activity, according to some embodiments. In block 602, the aggregation module determines a valid set of states from which to determine the current activity of a publisher. The valid set of states may include the most active machine state and any user state, phone states, calendar states, conference states, and generic state publications in the subscriber's status container. In block 604, the aggregation module removes from the valid set of states the states that do not have a corresponding activity token. For example, some publications may not specify an activity token. In block 606, the aggregation module checks to determine whether the valid set of states is empty. If the valid set of states is not empty, then, in block 608, the aggregation module selects the activity from the least available state as the current activity. In block 610, the aggregation module returns the current activity. Otherwise, if the aggregation module determines that the valid set of states is empty (block 606), then, in block 612, the aggregation module returns an indication of no current activity.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram that illustrates the publication of a custom presence state, according to some embodiments. This figure illustrates the publishing of a custom presence state by a human user. A human User A 702 at an endpoint 704 initiates the publication of a custom presence state by selecting the desired custom presence state using a user interface 706, and activating a control to publish the selected custom presence state. The presence aggregation system's client application may provide the user interface on the endpoint. In response, User A's endpoint publishes the selected custom presence state as a user state publication in, for example, User A's status container on presence aggregation server 708. The presence aggregation server may then generate an aggregated presence state for User A by aggregating User A's presence state publications, and publishes the aggregated presence state in, for example, a container that is subscribed to by User B 710. When User's A's aggregated presence state is published into the container that is subscribed to by User B, the presence aggregation server sends an indication of User A's presence (the aggregated presence state) to User B's endpoint 712. User B's endpoint may then generate and display a view 714 of User A's presence.

FIG. 8 is a block diagram that illustrates the publication of a custom state, according to some other embodiments. This figure illustrates the publishing of a custom presence state by an application 802, such as a third-party application using an API 804 that is provided by the presence aggregation system's client application 806 executing on, for example, a publisher's endpoint. The application initiates the publication of the custom presence state for a publisher by generating a custom presence state definition for a detected presence status of the publisher. The application then sends the generated custom presence state definition to the client application via the provided API. Upon receiving the custom presence state definition, the client application publishes the defined custom presence state as a generic state publication in, for example, the publisher's status container on presence aggregation server 808. The presence aggregation server may then generate an aggregated presence state for the publisher by aggregating the publisher's presence state publications, and publishes the aggregated presence state in, for example, a container that is subscribed to by User C 810. When the publisher's aggregated presence state is published into the container that is subscribed to by User C, the presence aggregation server sends an indication of the publisher's presence (the aggregated presence state) to User C's endpoint 812. User C's endpoint may then generate and display a view 814 of the publisher's presence.

FIG. 9 is a display diagram showing a sample user interface displaying a drop-down menu containing a list of selectable custom presence states, according to some embodiments. User interface 900 may be displayed by an instance of a client application signed onto by a user to create an endpoint. The user interface allows the user to view a list of the custom presence states that are supported by the presence aggregation system and from which the user can manually specify a custom presence state for publication. The user interface allows access to a subwindow or drop-down window 902, which displays a list of custom presence states 904 that are available for selection by the user as the user's presence status. As depicted, “Meeting with a Customer” and “Out to Lunch” are the custom presence states (i.e., the custom activities that correspond to the custom presence states) that are available for selection by the user. The list of custom presence states may be a subset of the custom presence states that are defined and supported by the presence aggregation system. Drop-down window 902 also displays commands 906 and 908. Command 906, depicted in the figure as “Reset Status,” is a command that the user can activate to clear out the current user states or the customer presence state that is currently being published. Selecting any one of the displayed user states or the custom presence state causes the selected state to be published. Command 908, depicted in the figure as “Edit Custom Activities,” is a command that the user can activate to display, for example, in a pop-up window a list of custom activities corresponding to the defined custom presence states that are supported by the presence aggregation system. Using this pop-up window, the user can specify the custom presence states that are to be included in the list of custom presence states. In some embodiments, the user can also select a custom presence state displayed in the pop-up window for editing.

FIG. 10 is a display diagram showing a sample pop-up window containing a list of selectable custom activities, according to some embodiments. In particular, pop-up window 1000 is displayed when command 908 in drop-down window 902 shown in FIG. 9 is selected, for example, by a user. The pop-up window displays a list of custom activities 1002, a checkbox 1004 next to each listed custom activity, and an OK control 1006. The custom activities in the list of custom activities correspond to the custom presence states that are supported by the presence aggregation system. As depicted, “Meeting with a Customer,” “Out to Lunch,” “Working from Home,” and “At an Offsite” are the custom activities that are listed and which can be selected for displaying in drop-down window 902 shown in FIG. 9. The checkbox next to each custom activity can be selected to “choose” the corresponding custom activity. As depicted, the first two checkboxes corresponding to custom activities “Meeting with a Customer” and “Out to Lunch” are selected. When the OK control is activated, the selected or chosen custom activities are listed in drop-down window 902 shown in FIG. 9. In some embodiments, the presence aggregation server allows a user to select up to a predetermined number, such as, for example, four, of custom activities for displaying in drop-down window 902 shown in FIG. 9. In some embodiments, the custom activities included in the displayed list of custom activities in the pop-up window may be selected for editing. For example, the user may select one of the listed custom activities for editing by positioning the cursor over a listed custom activity and double-clicking the right mouse button. This may cause another pop-up window to appear through which the user can view the current definition of the custom presence state corresponding to the selected custom activity, and with which the user can edit the definition of the corresponding custom presence state. In some embodiments, the pop-up window may provide an “edit definition” control (not shown) which can be activated to edit the definition of the custom presence state corresponding to a selected custom activity.

FIG. 11 is an example data listing that illustrates multiple custom state definitions, according to some embodiments. As depicted, the data listing contains a “<custom states>” section 1102 that contains a multiple number of custom presence state definitions 1104. Each custom presence state definition specifies a custom state ID, an availability, an activity token, and zero, one, or more custom strings and, for each specified custom string, a locale identifier (LCID). The custom state ID specifies a value that identifies the custom presence state that is being defined. The availability specifies a value that represents the availability corresponding to the custom presence state that is being defined. The activity token specifies a text string that describes the custom presence state that is being defined. Each custom string specifies a localized text string that further describes the custom presence state that is being defined. Each LCID specifies a number that identifies a language and a region (locale) of the world. For example, LCID of “1033” may identify “English—United States,” LCID of “1031” may identify “German—Germany,” LCID of “2057” may identify “English—United Kingdom,” and LCID of “1036” may identify “French—France.” A custom string corresponding to an LCID of 1036 may be a French text sting that describes the custom presence state localized to France. Similarly, a custom string corresponding to an LCID of 1031 may be a German text sting that describes the custom presence state localized to Germany, a custom string corresponding to an LCID of 1033 may be an English text sting that describes the custom presence state localized to the United States, and a custom string corresponding to an LCID of 2057 may be an English text sting that describes the custom presence state localized to the United Kingdom. The activity token and the custom strings and their corresponding LCIDs are optional and may not be specified in a custom presence state definition. As depicted, the first custom presence state definition may be for the custom activity “Meeting with a Customer,” the second custom presence state definition may be for the custom activity “Out to Lunch,” and the last custom presence state definition may be for the custom activity “At an Offsite” displayed in pop-up window 1000 in FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 is a flow diagram that illustrates the processing of an endpoint in displaying a view of a current activity, according to some embodiments. By way of example, a subscriber's endpoint may have received from the presence aggregation server an indication of a publisher's current activity. In decision block 1202, if the current activity specifies an activity token, then the endpoint continues at decision block 1204, else the endpoint continues at decision block 1208. In decision block 1204, if the activity token is understood by the endpoint, then the endpoint continues at block 1206, else the endpoint continues at decision block 1208. In block 1206, the endpoint displays the activity token, for example, as a view of the publisher's presence on the endpoint, and then completes. In decision block 1208, if any custom strings are specified, then the endpoint continues at decision block 1210, else the endpoint continues at block 1214. In decision block 1210, if any of the specified custom strings can be rendered by the endpoint, then the endpoint continues at block 1212, else the endpoint continues at block 1214. For example, the endpoint can use the LCID corresponding to each specified custom string to determine if the corresponding custom string can be rendered. In block 1212, the endpoint displays the custom string that can be rendered, for example, as a view of the publisher's presence on the endpoint, and then completes. If multiple specified custom strings can be rendered, the endpoint may determine the custom string to render based on a priority scheme such as, by way of example, a ranking or ordering of the locales. In block 1214, the endpoint displays the default string that represents the aggregated availability of the publisher, for example, as a view of the publisher's presence on the endpoint, and then completes.

From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that specific embodiments of the presence aggregation system have been described herein for purposes of illustration, but that various modifications may be made without deviating from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, one skilled in the art will appreciate that a publisher may publish presence information directly to one or more of the publisher's containers. In response to such a publication, the presence aggregation system can notify the subscribers who have subscribed to these containers the presence information published by the publisher. As another example, one skilled in the art will appreciate that a publication may have a corresponding expire type that indicates the condition or conditions under which to expire the publication. For example, the expire type may indicate that a publication is to be expired after a duration of time, after the publisher logs off from all of the publisher's endpoints, when the publisher is no longer using any of the publisher's machines, etc. Accordingly, although the subject matter has been described in language specific to structural features and/or methodological acts, it is to be understood that the subject matter defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or acts described above. Rather, the specific features and acts described above are disclosed as example forms of implementing the claims.