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July 2004 Archives

July 1, 2004

More at Your Fingertips

Macromedia Flash Lite 1.1 announcement is yet another signal to pay more attention to mobility devices. We are nearing a point where things we are accustomed to finding on a PC can now be adapted to small mobile devices. I wonder what new uses this will be put to?

Last week I mentioned an article on developing Flash applications for Pocket PCs, well you can now bring the similar Flash UI to cell phones as well via Macromedia's latest development called Flash Lite 1.1.Flash Lite is the Macromedia Flash profile specifically developed for mobile phones. Flash Lite has seen explosive adoption by Japanese consumers and developers alike, and now it is quickly gaining adoption from operators and manufacturers outside of Japan.

This growth is driven by the powerful Flash rendering engine that delivers consistent experiences across operating systems, processors, and screen sizes. It is supported by the strong community of Flash developers around the world. The initial feedback is clear: Flash dramatically accelerates the development of great content and interfaces for mobile phones.
Copyright: Copyright (c) 2001 by BostonPocketPC.com Boston PocketPC]

July 2, 2004

Facetop

This is neat.


I'm sure that many of you have had poor experiences when participating to phone or video conferences. Now, a new video conferencing interface, named Facetop, improves the level of collaboration by blending transparent images of the user filmed by a video camera on the computer display. This results in a 'ghost' image of the user on the screen. When he points at something, "his video reflection appears to touch objects on the screen."

The computer scientists also developed a two-user version in which the 'ghost' images of the two users appear side by side. Both can alternatively take control of the desktop, again allowing a better collaboration. You can expect a Mac version within months and a Windows version in two years. You'll find more details and pictures in this overview.

[Smart Mobs]

July 19, 2004

Comment Spam Control

Ive been down in the Arizona desert and watching my blog collect or is that attract comment spam as if it was a sweet sticky desert for all spammers. Ive said before that this is wrecking blogging and certainly kills the conversational aspect.

Are some blogs more attractive to spam? Why me? At the rate of last weeks spam it began to feel like a personal attack. I finally had to turn off the e-mail advice for new comments when I was receiving 3-5 comment spams per minute for over eight hours. Each was from a different DNS. With a combination of MT-Blacklist and MT-Bayesian Ive been able to correct the 3000+. Still it is the usual time waste.

Im still ambivalent about MT3.0 Ill probably upgrade although recent searches suggest that there are no realistic solutions yet for comment spam.

July 21, 2004

My Blog Rules

After spending the last 10 days with my head applied to strategy in the Arizona desert for DiamondWare, I found that each day was another day where not blogging irked me. In the end my blog rules and both parties are going our separate ways. I found myself in a situation which was effectively taking my blog and voice away from me. That was never my intent, and my interest remains with building innovative new products at the intersection of social software, collaboration, VoIP and mobility.

I think it is unlikely that I will be at a loose end for long. My blog has already proved that to me on numerous occasions.

So these are some thoughts for bloggers and companies that are negotiating on blogging. I'm sure there are other possible lessons out there. What is your blog worth to you? If you were blogging and see yourself in a situation where the environments takes you away from it then consider what it means. Less accelerated learning, reduced access to external experts, and reduced profile. Blogs also test companies. Do they want to be closed rather than open? Will they run scared rather than lead? Etc.

I now know that blogs can take on a life of their own. I titled this post "My Blog Rules" slightly tongue in cheek to write some thoughts on the rules that have to happen for bloggers and companies to work together. I'd add there are enormous benefits for the organization that has the guts to acquire a free thinking dedicated blogger.

1. You will get someone who is likely to promote the category and the industry.
2. They will provide expert insights and capture inquiry and information from external sources.
3. They will 'play' with the thought leaders in the category in a trusted environment. Result - accelerated learning and access that can eventually lead to some level of promotion for the company's products
4. They bring visibility to the company's products and brands. As an employee you are likely to highlight strengths of your products. Robert Scoble does it so well. It does not stop him from commenting on and learning from other products or brands in the category. Benefit - tease and ease the process of truly communicating your offerings step by step, rather than a one-shot corporate webpage.

Blog Rules:

  • For blogs to work there must be trust. Let it be a warning to you when an employer is critical of your blog, or implies that they must approve every post you make first.
  • Blogs are strategic, but the messages must be personal. Planning out a blog strategy and topics in advance fails to account for the immediacy of the daily events and the need for responsiveness.
  • Make sure the company is large enough to have "personalities" blogging --- otherwise own the company. The blogger is likely to become an important public face.
  • Think through where the blog should be on what URL. Is it better at blogperson.com or under the corporate banner? What is best to harness the blogger and readers?


    Warnings to other Bloggers:

  • Your blog may be perceived as a personal asset and not a corporate one. You personal blog can become a corporate asset but only if the conditions above apply.
  • Corporate positioning is a must. If the company isn't mature enough or is afraid to enable the blogger to talk about "category" developments then blogging will be difficult.
  • If topics and content are limited then you may lose your friends, lose access to thought leadership and potential partnerships and associates for the company - or even simply good press.
  • If the company fears balanced perspective on other products then you will find life difficult.
  • Blogs require a time commitment, if you are not getting it or there is no time left over for it then it is not valued. My target has always been in the ten hours a week category. That includes the use of my newsreader. Make sure your employer signs off on the time commitment to the blog.
  • If the company asks you when you will transfer your blog URL to the company then they really don't get it.


  • July 22, 2004

    VoIP Extension Strategies - Closed Gardens

    Verizon announced a move today into the VoIP market. Accelerating towards VoIP by major carriers is now inevitable, however this move lacks the innovative edge of British Telecom's move with Yahoo last week. That move is easy to communicate. Remember you had your first phone, then you got a bedroom extension! Now you can take it with you on your laptop on vacation etc.

    When I first saw the BT announcement my response was not the one reflected in this article which suggests it is wrong to charge consumers landline prices for VoIP connections. Actually this is a perfect transition strategy and I expect many more to follow it. The key reason it will work is consumers don't want to change their telephone numbers. If you don't believe how difficult it is read Rich Tehrani's tirade on Vonage in this months Internet Telephony Magazine. His experience is not his alone. While AT&T have plenty of numbers the majority of the ITSP's (Internet Telephony Service Providers) can only provide limited area codes. This will be a topic for another day.

    A partnership with Yahoo will let BT users make phone calls from their PC, but with no price advantage over existing UK tariffs

    The service, called BT Communicator with Yahoo Messenger, combines voice over IP (VoIP) technology with Yahoo's instant messenger service. BT says it will let users handle various communication methods, such as phone calls, Webcams, text messaging and IM, from their PCs through a single application. BT also said that it expects to add the ability to make multi-way video calls next year.
    BT launches consumer VoIP with landline pricing - ZDNet UK News

    The point missing in the BT announcement is the "closed garden" reality of the Yahoo/Communicator offering to consumers. While I've heard complaints about Skype's lack of SIP interconnectivity here we have a brazen large carrier consumer play applying the same tricks. We'll need a more open interconnect strategy if VoIP is to reach it full potential.

    BlogOn

    I'll be at BlogOn tomorrow. Looking forward to a great discussion on Social Media.

    July 23, 2004

    BlogOn Morning

    BlogOn is a conference established to further the ideas behind "Social Media". Blogs, wikis, and social networking focussing on the relationships and the power of individuals to form groups. I gave up on the Wi-Fi although it is clear from a few other blogs that others were online. This was another of those everyone with laptop open types of conferences. They are becoming so "normal" (at least where I hang out :-)) that conferences need to start changing the way people engage. Some of the smartest people I keep finding are in the audience.

  • For example what's the electronic equivalent of a flipchart session? Eg break people into mini-groups electronically and let them have a quick debrief. A singular or central IRC channel may not be effective.
  • Some research tools. Each session could finish with a brief online questionnaire. Some stats and open ended questions would add additional value and discussion.
  • Where are the social networking opportunities? I'm still surprised that none of these conferences seem to associate with Ryze or LinkedIn. LinkedIn even had a booth there but did nothing to accelerate networking as far as I could see.

    At the end of the morning these items that kept me thinking:

    Microsoft & Channel9
    One of the things I like to get out of a conference is case studies. One I've not paid enough attention to over the last few months is the action at Channel9. MS appears to be doing an exemplary job at engaging customers in new conversations. The result is Microsoft is learning faster as an organization. It may seem obvious, but companies get trapped. It becomes difficult to scale a message to the all the groups that depend on your platform.

    Currently Channel 9 has 700000 unique users per month of which 8000 are participating in the registration required forums. I think there are great lessons here for how the organization can balance an open approach, with listening for honest feedback. Video interviews are a key component that is making this successful. Take a look. Note they said it only took 2-3 weeks to get this up and running.

    Social Media and Mobility:
    Mobility wasn't a big topic and yet I believe it is a key driver for the future of Social Media. While there were a few comments on camera phones little was said about moblogging. I have a strong feeling that many of the tools we talked about this morning will only really come into being when they are integrated with mobility. While discussion centered around social media, the media was for the most part print / text centric. There should be more digging into what social mobility means to media and how that changes the conversation..

    I liked this little anecdote -- recently at a meeting invited at the last minute and showed up. Wished I was on a teleconference with these people couldn't use my tools to see more about them.... I realize that I feel like I was in the stoneage... When you become reliant on these new capabilities you feel you have lost something
    .

    Companies PR and Social Media
    In a world of social media the corporation loses control of the timing of when items are released. In a social media context the news about decisions winds up in blogs before it ever reaches corporate headquarters. This is something that bloggers know but many companies are just starting to come to grips with.

    I heard that the average journalist writes 10 stories a month and the number of media jobs is in sharp decline. When confronted with a chart showing Google and Yahoo News with traditional news services it provides an interesting contrast. Neither Google or Yahoo have news editors. This suggest a basic fundamental shift in journalism as it is being replaced by algorithms.


  • July 24, 2004

    Skype Chimera

    Last week I pondered a Register article by Andrew Orlowski on Symbian Founder Insights who commented that Skype was a Chimera. I'm still trying to figure out what he meant.


    It's like a magic trick. Skype is not offering a whole product in a mass market. It's in a small market and it's a chimera. Skype couldn't roll out their service to compete with anything, globally. OK, they might be able to, but it would be an awful and probably still couldn't get it to work everywhere you go. That's even true for 3G, now!
    Symbian founder on mobile past, present and future | The Register

    Now I thought I understood the definition but I still went to look it up. This was just one of the definitions.
    "A terrible monster, thought to have been wiped out shortly after the Mage Wars. Chimeras are horrible monsters that attack and kill anything that moves, and have the ability to neutralize all elemental magic. Chimeras are the mortal enemy of dragons." This may be a more correct definition. An organism combining tissues derived from two or more genotypes. .

    So after 9 plus months after the beta surfaced is Skype still a Dragon slayer?


    July 26, 2004

    Skype and SIP?

    Skype announced additional deals last week with ITSP's (Internet Telephony Service Providers). Now it looks like Skype may have uses SIP (Session Initiation Prototcol) to provide the interconnect. If so this is both a big deal and a stark contrast to comments made at the time of VON Canada. I've never heard anyone at Skype say good things about SIP, although on that score they are not alone. Now there are also good reasons why Skype may be using SIP and this post (with comments by Skype PR) alludes to the possiblity.

    A Skype spokeswoman says Skype was approached by a number of network operators with a view to terminating its commercial traffic, "but only a few could meet our interoperability requirements. We chose those that could provide SIP interoperability and a decent price."
    Boardwatch

  • Strategically Skype isn't large enough to press large ITSP's into a proprietary interconnect protocol. Concurrently many ITSP's spooked by Carriers entering the VoIP space have embraced SIP as their new interconnect protocol. An open market is their incentive. Skype too needs an open market. Example
  • Moves like BT's Communicator may use a SIP interconnect still look pretty proprietary. The question is will consumers get to use the SIP soft client device of choice. MSN and AOL have made some SIP related annouchments recently for corportate rather than consumer applications.
  • SIP is a must do for Skype to work in any future enterprise environment. Interoperability between desktop clients, Sip phone devices, portable PDAs and other mobile handsets will be required. Access to "numbers" remains a must. Few ITSP's can yet provide broad area code number coverage.
  • There is a numbers game involved. We don't know how long the contracts are for or whether they are exclusive. SIP would enable more rapid interconnects with other ITSP's as prices fall.

    The companies working with Skype include Teleglobe, iBasis, Colt, and Level3. as an observation these carriers appear to be more global than US centric in their connenctions.

    "These companies are visionary in recognising that terminations to the legacy public telephone network can be expanded with the advent of Internet telephony and the global proliferation of broadband," he said. "We will now move quickly and offer SkypeOut calls to landline and mobile phone numbers around the world." ElectricNews

    Can anyone shed some more light on this?

  • July 27, 2004

    Skype 1.0 Released

    Skype releases Version 1.0 including SkypeOut which enables PSTN calls. I hear there is a revision coming in the rates although they are not currently available on the site. Maybe something to do with Slashdot. Some recent new features.

    File TransferFile transfer is an expected addition. The question is whether the file transfer is slowed down or managed so as not to affect audio packets and sound quality. File size is limited to <2mb, thus music sharing is out. ( I got this wrong. 2GB and sending a large file is no problem.)
    SkypeMe StatusI'd like the opportunity to personalize my own away message. Similarly, an SMS inhancement like Yahoo's could add a further additional revenue stream
    Splash Screen PlacementFinally you can locate Skype where you want on a second monitor
    New EmoticonsThink they still need a new artist. There should be a row option so all are visible without a click option first
    PSTN Error MessagesI'll have to do some more experimentation to understand the changes

    Skype - Release Notes

    SkypeOut Rates Blow-Up

    SkypeOut launches with rates way up versus the "beta" version. Some of the early adopters are hopping mad with more than one thread in the forum. Here is a comparison of the rate changes. This PR mistake are very similar to MT's announcement of new license terms. The community was outraged there too. For my two cents:

  • The change in rates is just poor communication. The rate card was easy to find and well known for weeks. It's not surprising that "we" thought these were real rates. For that matter I blogged the link here and promoted Skype based on the impact at at less than US 2 cents per minute. The only PR answer is for Skype to immediately credit all "early" users with outstanding credits with 50% more value. In good faith that is what people paid for. And just like the MT case you better listen.

  • The new cost strategy should still be put in context. The rates internationally are good however locally they are much less attractive now. I have a Vonage line with a 500 minute plan for $15 / month. That's three cents a minute. Now they charge me extra for Overseas. So a call to New Zealand is effectively 9 cents per minute compared to Skype's new rate of 3 cents. However Vonage does provide me with an inbound line. Skype minutes are also roll-over minutes with a 180 day limitation. My mobile minutes (four lines) effectively average out at 10 cents a minute.

  • I'd expect that SkypeIn's DID direct inbound call system will now present some pricing challenges. The biggest single problem is getting people to either change their old numbers or close an old service and open a new one. It's a hassle. For similar reasons to not changing bank accounts frequently we are are careful about our phone numbers. Skype may now be in very messy territory. We have our IM handles, we have our phone numbers, while Skype connected them conceptually first, the question is now can Skype retain that advantage and get there at the lowest cost?

  • The noisemakers above will not give up Skype for their PC to PC call quality is still unmatched by the old telephone system. It's time that Skype said a little more about their audio quality. It's more than a few tricks with good echo cancellation. Possible learning is that Skype still doesn't have the leverage and the numbers to get the "rates" low enough. In users and potential paid users it is still smaller than Telecom New Zealand or some other small countries. Frankly I'd run some conjoint research on price points at this stage. Skype also needs some other reseach done quickly. Listening to the forums and bloggers won't provide a balanced view. Todays pricing model is not "disruptive" enough at this point in time. That will take an edge of Skyper's fanaticism.

  • Concurrently the thrust for PSTN interconnect has apparently impacted on innovation. Conference calls were an innovation, lots more could be done in that area. Similarly, audio quality still presents opportunities. The expansion to other operating systems is admirable but must be consuming enormous resources. It's nice to finally have file transfer but we still don't have a conference text channel (like IRC). I could go on. Concurrently enterprise plans remain very "secretive". If Skype can really still move so fast then it is time to open up more dialogues. There are enough SME's using Skype now to capture some interesting research.

    I remain bullish on Skype, however some of their strategies must change. In particularl rethink interconnect strategies, viral marketing approachs and "broader" PR communication methods. Through all this I'm sure they had a tough day today. We should really be congratulating them on 1.0 instead a combination of Slashdot and 1.0 events clearly brought down servers today adding to confusion. These quotes came from the forums.

    You should know that I was completely shocked when I found out about the rate change. Why shocked you ask? After all you have argued that it's right there in the license agreement, indeed it did say Skype was in beta and that the service was subject to changes. The answer is quite simple but also quite powerful, at least in my humble opinion: I like many other longtime users trusted you. By "trusted" I mean that I, not even for a moment, thought that you would even consider raising the prices on average over 30%, especially without any explicit warning whatsoever. In fact I trusted your service so much that I recommended it to friends, family, girlfriend, various online forums, even my grandmother who lives across the ocean. Of course it is well know that forum.skype.com :: View topic - A sad day for Skype fans

    The majority don't buy the "subsidizing" line below. More likely one ITSP provided really aggressive rates and through testing they found that they couldn't cover the world. Putting together the latest four party deal... meant higher rates although a better chance for connect quality.

    For example, they are about 90% lower than the price I would pay with fixed line telephony to call my brother in Singapore. We were quite explicit during the beta period in notifying that it's a beta product and subject to change. In reality, we were subsidizing the cost for these early users == paying you to use SkypeOut, until we could work out the kinks. If you look on the bright side, our early beta users were rewarded by being there early. You can still decide if you think our rates are attractive. We don't expect to get many new customers if you don't believe that they still are. forum.skype.com :: View topic - SkypeOut: How can I get my money back?
  • Where is Blog Innovation Today?

    Since returning to my blog and comtemplating where to next I've been asking myself a set of questions. These include: What's happened to Blog Innovation? Are blogs and their formats "mature"? If so why, or if not why not? I'm sure that blog innovation is not moribund and hasn't stopped. Still I started thinking about this as I considered revising my format today. Last time I just generally experimented however the standardised formats now appear fairly static. For example with all the Typepad blogs are we just seeing the standardization of blogging online like Amazon standarized online retail? Is it fair to accuse Typepad of killing innovation in a category that still needs it? Or should we complement them for enabling the case for standarization in a way that makes it easy and idiot proof for newbies?

    What do others think? What are the most innovative new functionalities appearing in blogs today? Then really do the majority of blogger really care? Would changing the blog format too much upset them?

    What new blog genre is required if we are to reinvigorate the category? Is it something with additional photo or audio input? Something else? Each of us probably have a few regulars that visit the page (What do they really want?) and those that arrive as a result of Google searches are looking for context may also get some delight from discovering more. For the rest this may be a mute point as an RSS feed is an RSS feed which limits blog art in that format. Concurrently comment spam is killing comments while trackback is still misunderstood.

    As I finished this post I was pointed Jeanne Sessum post. I also noticed a new Flickr feature. The Flickr Daily Zeitgeist. Looks interesting and Flickr is still making progress.

    Mobility and Message Control

    Russell captures the frustration and the complexity of linking mobility with our texting and presence desires in this post below. I know I use less SMS and I certainly use my Agile Messenger but so far the synching he wants eludes us all. For those with data connections this could be made a whole lot easier if my laptop was the equivalent of a traditional bedroom extension for my mobile phone. Now all these things could be synched plus I could get better sound quality when at my desk. I'm not sure the answer is SMS to the co-workers phone, rather the point is to deliver a short text message. Having presence available would provide additional confirmation of "appropriateness". Mobile Carriers hold the keys to this converging future. In a VoIP world they can go direct to the users with the offer.


    I want my phone to work with every single messaging app we use here. I want to be able to send an SMS and have it alert people via IM, get copied to people's phones, send off emails and get logged to a central blog available via RSS. I want people to respond and have those messages go back to the original user wherever they are. I don't want to think about it either, I want it to "just work".


    SMS messages are so great because they're 1) Reliable 2) Available to everyone and 3) easy to use. No setup, two fields to fill out (or just one if you're replying) and off the message goes. It's no wonder people are sending billions of the things - they're just damn nifty. But I spend all day online at work, so I want SMS to cross that border into my PC-based world. I want it to skip the gap from my pocket into my office.


    When I get a message, I don't want to have to stop, look around for my mobile, click a few buttons and get some info that I can't immediately copy into a window on my PC. I mean, I'm sitting in front of a full keyboard and can type 60+ words a minute... why am I click on on this damn keypad again?


    I wonder if what I'm looking for is integration or remote control? I think integration. I want to step out of the office for a sec and ping the IM client of a coworker without making an effort. Yes, I have Agile Messenger and yes I have their phone numbers. But I want to use SMS as what I'm doing is definitely under the definition of "short message" and maybe that coworker isn't particularly down with SMS just yet and isn't sure why his phone beeps randomly at him every once in a while.


    [Russell Beattie]

    July 28, 2004

    Broadband Parasites

    Jeff Pulver's blog posts come without any fulll feed subscription so I scan the titles from time to time and then visit (I can provide the full feed template!). Today this took me to a post of Broadband Parasites, however what I found most interesting was this quote on his original paper from one year ago. Jeff is not alone in thinking that mobility is the real VoIP play.

    To keep things even more interesting, think about using the internet to peer between broadband based voice over broadband service providers and wireless service providers. If/when this is done correctly, it will have an impact on the importance and strength of what is and was the "legacy phone network." The Jeff Pulver Blog: The Rise of the Broadband Parasites

    Om Malik's VoIP Daily » IP Mobility unplugged


    From Om Malik:
    I have long believed that the mobile operators should be the ones to integrate VoIP offerings. Forget Vonage, if Verizon Wireless offered a VoIP service (over my DSL or cable modem) that integrates with my wireless device, enabling me to synchronize my phone book (on my phone and via outlook on my desktop) I would sign up right away. And with the integration with at home VoIP with my mobile phone, I would be less likely to churn from Verizon when Cingular comes up with a better pricing plan. Tim McDonald

    It won't be just voice and data specific. It a knowledge society where people collaborate, communications will be the marriage of high quality multimedia, voice and all enabled by broadband. The network today treats me as a fixed part of the network. I think the network in the future would be intelligent enough to see me as a person. Greg Mumford
    Om Malik's VoIP Daily » IP Mobility unplugged

    Then like HP's latest announcement for IPAQ we know the converged devices are coming.


    However, on the flip side, a VoIP implementation in the shape of mobile over WLAN (MoWLAN) may also be a way for mobile operators to eat more of the fixed-line operator's PSTN lunch in both the home and enterprise. Kineto Wireless, a US-based start-up, certainly seems to think so and so it should - the company manufactures the kit that makes MoWLAN possible.

    "By offloading [cellular] traffic onto the WLAN network they [mobile operators] can put themselves in a position to offer competitive 'homezone' tariffs and displace more fixed-line traffic."
    a title="Telecommunications Online " href="http://www.telecommagazine.com/default.asp?journalid=2&func=articles&page=0311i05&year=2003&month=11&srchexpr=sonus">Telecommunications Online
    Telecommunications Online


    July 30, 2004

    iTunes Phone

    It was inevitable that iTunes would converge with mobile phones. It also completely true to form that Apple would come out fighting about Real Networks Harmony move. Both these players work in walled garden worlds.

    Taking that old alliance into the digital media era, now the iTunes capability will be included in all of Motorola's mass market music phones, the two companies said,
    ......
    - what operator in its right mind will allow music on and off a phone that it controls, to a PC? So far, music offerings from carriers, such as MMO2s dedicated music player, have been focused on keeping users within the walled garden. In the PC environment, the operator has no chance of making a margin on the music or on the download data communication time.

    The It was inevitable that iTunes would converge with mobile phones. It also completely true to form that Apple would come out fighting about Real Networks Harmony move. Both these players work in walled garden worlds.

    Taking that old alliance into the digital media era, now the iTunes capability will be included in all of Motorola's mass market music phones, the two companies said,
    ......
    - what operator in its right mind will allow music on and off a phone that it controls, to a PC? So far, music offerings from carriers, such as MMO2s dedicated music player, have been focused on keeping users within the walled garden. In the PC environment, the operator has no chance of making a margin on the music or on the download data communication time.
    The Register

    Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod," executives of Real Networks said in a statement. "Harmony follows in a well-established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility."
    The New York Times

    Operators are too concerned about users circumventing networks rather than fostering connectivity. From the RIAA to Apple and the carriers all are trying to create walled gardens. A much broader look is required at the opportunities and the convergence now being enabled. Consumer rights are increasingly being threatened by these moves. The technology must flow with peoples lives and needs while making it happen seemlessly.

    Skype Millions n Millions Served

    One thing I've always wondered is why Skype doesn't embrace better statistics. Many years ago McDonalds actually counted the number of people served. Then one day it became billions and billions and all of a sudden that statistic no longer was relevant. Yet in the early days it provided a nice measure of success. By contrast Skype's number of downloads, registered users and number online is not enough to fuel a community and give it perspective. Communities play an important role in both generating and providing statistics.

    The statistic that Skype and users don't have is "total minutes" we spend Skyping. With the advent of SkypeOut Skype can clearly monitor the number of PSTN interconnect minutes and controls the account billing function as well. However nothing tells me whether I Skyped PC to PC for 20, 200 or 2000 Skype minutes last month. It's in the call list but unlike my cell phone there is no total minutes. At a minimum the start tab should have a "minutes" this month number.

    Two days ago I blogged about the SkypeOut rates backlash. In the forums many were just taken aback. Since then Skype has provided beta testers with a 5.00 Euro bonus. Something they didn't have to do, and unfortunately it still backfired or didn't completely quell the raging in the forums. I think what many wanted was a trust statement Skype and simple apology. "We screwed up." How can we fix it? Then gather the feedback. Then test solutions in a this is what we are thinking. The result would probably have been the same althought the community would have participated.

    Not having statistics is an opportunity lost. The reason rates are not as low is likely to relate to both Skype's commitments (how many millions of minutes, their interconnect approach ( SIP? or are H.323 minutes cheaper?) and what their data and best guesses were. What Skype had was some guesses at minutes but little factual data. Then they had to take some risk and sign a contract.

    If Skype had been more upfront in the forums about negotiating the best rate on behalf of the community they could create two value equations areound statistics in one shot. One, I know how many minutes Skype saves me a month. Then some paid minutes vs free minutes also provides additional information. SkypeOut is unlikely to be too important to me in the short-term. However the number of minutes I make PC to PC simply dwarfs my interconnect minutes. At the risk of someone saying you spend all your time on Skype I'm pretty sure that Skype now has the majority of my telephone minutes. Many of those of minutes I would never have had at one time. In that sense Skype has really grown my minutes and thus the market for minutes. These statistics would also confirm the "value" that Skype creates for me.

    Skype could consider incorporating a minutes update report --- "number of minutes connected" each time clients re-log on. Given Skype's founders background and the animosity to spyware this could be a real PR nightmare. It could also be a PR win. Skype should consider exploring in the forums under what conditions they could collect additional user data. For example in the next software update install a minute counter and number of calls counter and enable users to turn it off if they want. The case is simple Skype needs this data if it is to grow. Like the "users online data" it will be available to all. A radical step would be to take this one further with "paid minutes to lower rates". This would be like public television in the US. You might show it at certain times every month urging people to call to get to a new lower threshold. May also encourage some to use it more.... rather than wishing they had when only on vacation or business overseas. Similarly, even if a percent turn off the statistics counter you can then measure and provide a number on the percent of people participating. You actually only need a very small portion of the community to participate to get reasonably accurate numbers.

    I'm not focussing on the rates anymore. I know they are still fair although not as disruptive. The whole discussion has become too focused on the "penny" and not enough on the value added for using the services. PSTN interconnects make it too easy to forget the audio quality, conference calling, and presence. Plus there are many additional value added services that could be worked in. I'm sure the new "account" page provides even more opportunities to stimulate growth from gift cards to multi-party accounts etc.

    Skype Free Weekend

    Just earlier today we are talking about statistics. Now we have a confirmation that SkypeOut is overwhelmed. In the meantime Skype Free Calling


    As a result of overwhelming demand and unforeseen call traffic to the regular telephone network, we are unfortunately experiencing technical difficulties which impact call completions and quality in the SkypeOut network.

    For your troubles and while we resolve these matters, even if you were or are able to successfully complete a SkypeOut call, we will not be charging for any minutes/calls made after today Friday 30 July 2004 10.00 am British summertime [GMT 1h] -- until our quality and reliability has improved and another announcement is posted here. Current estimates indicate this to be on Monday 02 August 2004. So while call durations will still show up on your call list and Account Overview pages, we commit to go back and credit all calls made during this time period retroactively once we've addressed the telephone network issues.

    In the meantime, we sincerely appreciate your patience and support, and will be doing everything we can to ensure the superior level of call quality to which you've become accustomed. In addition, Skype to Skype calls will be unaffected during this time.
    forum.skype.com

    July 31, 2004

    Interconnect Billing Changes

    Via Martin Geddes upcoming changes to interconnect policies. Restricting the flow to bits is not good for you and me.


    an impending change in the US in the way carriers settle for internetworking. The traditional solution has been for payments to be made to the party terminating the call by the party that initiated it (who is collecting the money from you for making the call). The future approach is called "bill and keep", where no such settlements are make......

    Not only should the network be dumb as possible, but it should say as little as possible about how to make dollars flow in the opposite direction to the bits. In that way capitalistic evolution ensures only feasible and sustainable interconnect settlement models emerge, at both the connectivity and application layers.
    Telepocalypse

    About July 2004

    This page contains all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in July 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    June 2004 is the previous archive.

    August 2004 is the next archive.

    Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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