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October 2004 Archives

October 11, 2004

VON and PopTech

I'm hoping a trip to VON and Poptech will get me back into the blogging habit.

I’ve been asking myself why one falls into a trap of neglecting their blog for a few weeks. It’s not complete neglect although time has played a role. Plus I’ve got posts that were drafts and just never posted. So perhaps I should question why I didn’t post them?

I think the answer is I’ve been looking at some really exciting new applications in social networks, collaboration, VoIP and what Skype’s new API will mean. I’ve run some reviews and updates for myself on all the well-known products and some newer lesser know ones. Some have changed and some are still dogs. It’s left me with screeds of information and not in a format for easy sharing.

I’m also off for VON in Boston next week. There is a bloggers dinner planned on the Tuesday night and then later in the week I’ll be at PopTech. So if you are going to be at either of these event ping me and let’s meet up.

Open Minded Telecom

A great post on why PoIP is not open, rather too closed. It's worth a broader discussion.

So I paid a not insignificant amount of money to hear marketing pitches from AT&T and Vonage, telling me how they are open and building open platforms. Open platforms that you and I can use after our snowball fight in hell. These are independent closed platforms that operate on a model like that of putting my own apps in my car, only after GM approves it and I make a business deal with GM.

Mike McCue said some great stuff, e.g. "What we want is the ability of anyone to write any application for the telephone."
As attendees asked about APIs and real web services platforms, like those being offered by Ebay, Amazon, Google, and others, we heard the Phone-over-IP (PoIP) folks first tell us they were already open (by their definition) and besides they will build all the applications we will ever need, so there is no need for a web services model. Example quote: "None of our customers are asking for a better 41
Mr Blog

October 12, 2004

Google - through the looking glass

Good scenarios are often better with age. I caught this one by chance. It's worth reading and provides a real appreciation of the strategic value created when it was written. The shame is... this was probably not done for a client and not part of a collection of scenarios.

August 2009: How Google beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic Web (Ftrain.com)

Please note that this story was written in 2002.

It's hard to believe Google - which is now the world's largest single online marketplace - came on the scene only a little more than 8 years ago, back in the days when Amazon and Ebay reigned supreme. So how did Google become the world's single largest marketplace?

Wondir Land- Building & Connecting the People Web

October 13, 2004

Linksys and CallVantage.

Andy writes that the convergence between Call Vantage and Linksys is a perfect marriage. Frankly I'm not sure I get it. Is everyone who sells a router now going to give away the phone portion of the component with the hope we all engage a VoIP provider? Why can't ATA boxes mimic Skype or alternatively use a SIP registry like FWD? How difficult is it? Why don't Linksys, NetGear and others just provide free telephony? Plug your cord into the router and viola the phone rings. All part of the initial router setup. No fees unless you want to connect to the PSTN. Want more there are options.

This is a short-term offer. It will be obsolete well before this time next year. The only way for them to make this much more appealing is to enable "free calling in network". Now that would be a typical telephone company strategy. Buy two routers and sign up for two accounts and you can call your friend for free.

More appliance options for VoIP are coming. What's being identified here is that people turn off their computers but never their routers and modems. Phone services that run with a cable or use WiFi will just become a one-time payment. It's getting easier to give up that landline everyday.

Linksys to Deliver New Home Networking Options for
AT&T CallVantage Service

Wired and Wireless VoIP Devices Simplify and Enhance
Home Networking and Broadband Phone Service

AT&T and Linksys®, a division of Cisco Systems, Inc., today announced the offering of new Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) devices that combine the capabilities of a wired or wireless router with an analog telephone adapter (ATA), giving AT&T CallVantageSM Service customers simplified options for their VoIP home networking needs.

The new AT&T CallVantage Service Certified Linksys equipment consist of a Wired Router with 2 Phone Ports and a Wireless-G Router 2 phone ports, which will be available in retail outlets by the end of October.

These new devices help eliminate the need for multiple devices for broadband telephony and computer networking when a user wants both. In these situations, these devices make it easier and more economical to set-up AT&T's broadband phone service solution.

[VoIP Watch] (post cut by me)

October 15, 2004

Friendster Phone Stupid Execution

Friendster links with Glophone in a too late (a least a year!) too little (no imagination) introduction to VoIP. This effort is similar but different to the Morpheus launch that went nowhere some months back. The key difference is there is no ATA box required, instead just the GloPhone software client and a PC of course.

So why's a phone on Friendster a bad idea? Friendster demonstrates short-sighted thinking.

First this is just a soft phone. There is no presence associated with it. It's just a business deal where GloPhone can extend their reach and potentially acquire a new customer. They even offer to add some dial-up options in the future. I can at least see which of my buddies are online on Flickr and even Ecademy. This won't bring Friendster closer to real-time interactions and personally I think that's a shame. One of the latent opportunities for adding voice is the opportunity to explore introductions to friends of friends. (Would I be a good match with X etc.)

Second firing up or logging on to your GloPhone via Friendster defeats the purpose of integrating social networks and communications. Either the GloPhone remains running on your desktop or it's turned off until you think about calling someone again. In the Friendster case we require "profile" calls and access depending on your how much access you want to grant. I'm sure there is a great group of people out there that would like to experiment with talking to others. There are also some mighty rude callers. So the second component that is required is some form of simple reputation or warning.

Then the call system must provide some calling context context. (eg seeking activity partner, travel companion etc.) An inbound number or even a name is not enough. Particularly as this Friendster phone is open to the world. All these are easy things to do when one connects the phone with a text messaging application. Thus for those Friendsters that are not logged in, but able to take a phone call as the soft phone client rings... the caller ID data should include the Friendster profile and the call context. Some opportunity for personalization makes sense too.

Aphone is an always on application. While many of the social networking sites can be adapted to provide an excellent caller ID service and potential for marketing personal messages with auto-call backs, they won't replace my "buddylist" and my ability to simply and quickly control my presence. This has to work on my desktop and soon must be integrated with my mobile.

Finally, it makes little sense to create this connectivity without access to a billing or charging system. While calls may be free, the opportunity to say send gifts (eg a 99 cent music file via iTunes) needs the same type of functionality that exists on cell phones when one downloads a new ring tone. Similarly I'm sure new options for the mighty e-card will also appear. At a few cents these will be fun to send. And in that last aspect that is the rub. Where one wants premium caller ID services users will pay a little more (pennies) to their social network while voice connections will speed things up and make them more personal.

October 17, 2004

Siemens Device Promises Skype Integration

I believe other opportunities for connecting Skype to cordless devices will soon emerge. Should Siemens like a tester, I'd be happy to try this out. I'm not sure how much it is going to cost.

The Gigaset M34 USB is a small, easy-to-use USB adapter for computers. It offers you an incredible array of options. Calls on the Internet reduce your costs. Messenger services are equally possible. Thanks to the Internet alert function, you can see which of your friends are online and when.

Naturally, the Gigaset M34 USB also functions like a conventional ISDN radio adapter, which provides computer connection to the ISDN basestation for cordless Internet surfing.

To enable the Internet telephone function, the Gigaset M34 USB comes with the respective software from Skype*. Just connect the Gigaset M34 USB to your computer. It will pass the telephone signals from the Internet on to your Gigaset S440/445 or Gigaset C340/345. So you can make calls with your Gigaset S44 or Gigaset C34 handset instead of a headset and enjoy perfect quality of service. Gigaset M34 USB - Siemens - Gigaset Portal

October 18, 2004

Iterative Blogging: BlogDoc 1.0

Last week I stumbled across a potential blogging application that I've not entertained or seen used before. The solution jumped out when asked how blogs might be applied to an iterative document. I realized then that the pitch we were making for using blogs as part of a researching tool was ahead of the learning the client needed for an initial blogging project. I think what jumped out was something with viral potential to grow, and also concise enough that only one or two people need really commit to get it going so the benefits can start to emerge.

For the purposes of this example think business plan or a similar structured document with a fixed number of sections that will require a number of re-writes. At first glance this appeared to be a perfect application for a Wiki. I know others would even advocate forums for such development. In this case the organization had already experimented with wiki's and so far they have failed to become part of their collaborative landscape. So this small team was looking for a new vehicle from which they could update on iterations more effectively, provide a "living" state of the document now, enable both a comment format and enable version control and integrate it more effectively with e-mail and current work practices. Plus create learnings on blogs.

What we found ourselves suggesting was an Iterative Blog, one that would be designed and laid out to provide:

Key Iterative Blog Elements:

  • The latest version of the document (template retrieving the last post in each category)
  • Version Control by section (all the posts in that category and associated comments)
  • A lifestream of all updates. (the master blog, a time log of all changes and reissues)
  • Authoring Information (contribution by author and commenter)
  • Comments - Comments by version / section release and comments by time.
  • E-mail notification of updates and RSS / Newsreader integration.
  • Release Notes: Using the "Extract: function" a short release note can be captured and related to each "sectional reissue".

    Extending Functionality with Additional Categories:

  • News: This is news on progress, particular data or investigative findings, thanks for inputs, recognition etc. These are primarily process and planning updates.
  • Scanning: Data that may affect the outcome or provide additional context for the document. This data can also be assigned and associated with the document to enable a live form of footnotes and substantiation.
  • Meetings or Forums. Specific dates and timing reminders.

    Creating additional structure around the document while providing specific responsibilities for sectional content means the latest post in any category / section captures a stream of updates supported with release notes.

    I'm still pondering the advantages of this versus the same document in a wiki. However I think the difference here is the formal assigning of it as a project and the contained format that the assignment of categories provides. Rather than recent changes… this format secures / provides the opportunity for commentary and context. As releases are issued the old discussion is not buried, rather one can see the full development of the document over time.

    I think this is an important distinction for circumstance where the evolution of thinking might later be shared or where one might want to understand the evolution of the document and track down authors and comments. By contrast a wiki makes more sense for a policy or instructional document. Where best practice and a more static and permanent document is desired. It's quite possible that the document created above could be migrated into a wiki at the end of the creation project.

    What I'd hope to learn from implementing a project like the above would include:

  • Did we create new and less foreign avenues for participation (eg lower the bar for a non-blog / non-wiki culture?)
  • Provide additional functionality around the document blog format that enables the blog environment to grow. (For example the Scanning and Reference Function?)
  • Can this approach to the "plan" then lead to additional blogs in support. Particularly Status or team development blogs that may include insights and learnings on the implementation and achievement of the document objectives. Typical headings may include Perfomance, Plans, People and Policy items.

    I'd appreciate it if you have examples of the above, or similar that you ping me or provide me with a reference link. I'd appreciate it.

  • October 21, 2004

    PopTech Bloggers Dinner TONIGHT

    Blogging PopTech? Networking at Poptech. Come and join the unnofficial POPTECH Networking Community.

    Bloggers Dinner: 6:45 - 8:30 TONIGHT THURSDAY 21 October

    Join up at Zaddick's Pizza & Mexican, on 20 Washington Street, right around the corner from the Opera House, Camden Maine.

    If you need an invite to the PopTech networking group and can't access it directly let me know. Assuming you can please join up and RSVP for dinner.

    See you there


    October 25, 2004

    VON Fizzles Pop!Tech Flys

    I attended two conferences last week. Starting in Boston checking out VON and then moving on to Pop!Tech. Which conference was better? Can or shoiuld one make a comparison? Is it fair to compare an industry conference with something looking at the "New Renassance? At a moment in time when VoIP is flashing on our TV screens, and general awareness is blossuming where is VoIP's renaisance? Where was the direction at VON? Why was Pop!Tech so much better. Where would your money be better spent?

    Here's my take on VON with a contrast for Pop!Tech. There are many posts on VON see Andy Abramson, and Martin Geddes two buddies at a bloggers dinner held on the Tuesday evening. It's fair to note that my visit to VON was limited to exhibitors ( I couldn't afford the steep fee). However, I didn't leave thinking I'd missed much or anything new on the presentation front. While I've seen posts from Andy Oram I left with Martin's view., The key news gets out and the corporate speak was available everywhere. For the most part sponsors speak, end of story. My best chats where the one's forbidden at the entry. A sign saying roughly no hawking or case presentations. I had three really good one's while there (separate posts to come) with three CEO's that where thinking beyond the booths. Guess that proves networking works.

    So why a "negative" on VON. The exhibits had no imagination. If you wanted to learn where the industry was going you would have to ask yourself why emerging VoIP players weren't even there. Then the price cards were out. Broadvoice announced a $19.95 package with unlimited calling to 21 countries. (they couldn't clarify whether that applied to cellphones or not! Don't know the fine print!). I knowVON isn't a show for "Consumer" products and yet nowhere did I see either the home or the office of the future really promoted. As for mobility and presence I'd have expected them to be more visible. IM systems? Well there was the FWD Communicator which IMHO doesn't come even close to matching Skype. It's key claim to fame is the integration with other IM systems so when you want to call someone it sends you an IM enabling a communicator link. I found a buddy on the system.... just dialled him from the demo PC.

    Contrast with Pop!Tech. Here's the overall. Pop!Tech is not blasted with sponsors and sponsor presentations. It also was designed to make you think. Pop!Tech was seeking a new a broader understanding and with a definition of a new renaissance naturally much broader than VON's. However that is just what you need when new perspectives are required. Many PopTech presenters had a book or two to their names. The presentations were of the highest standard I've seen grouped together for years. As I fly home I'm convinced that managers may still have to attend industry conferences. I'm also convinced that they are not the venues for enhancing your competitiveness, or finding new avenues for success.

    I know one buddy at VON said to me.... "Stuart you are finding this a little boring...." I had to agree. He set me straight.. He had made many connections with suppliers that could potentially help him with channels, manufacture etc. in the future. Fair enough, I'm not planning to create a hardware co for VoIP applications tomorrow. Still I think his final summary on VON was a title I almost applied to this post. "Whistling in the Graveyard!".

    So what I'd like to know is where should aspiring VoIP investigators go? I'd have to recommend the next SuperNova run by Kevin Werbach. He's got a much better perspective on where the industry is going convergence and sponsors and company presenters are not quite as dominant. The lesson for Kevin from PopTech would be to bring in some more independents with a track record of good thinking. Examples would include Russell Beattie and Martin Geddes. I know not everyone would agree with them. However their blogs are as good as books. I'd also recommend taking the time out and considering spending your money on PopTech instead.

    October 26, 2004

    Stars of Pop!Tech

    There are a few presenters I'd like to single out at Pop!Tech for sheer brilliance, something new, or just plain guts. I've noted a few links and for now you can access a few MP-3's here on the web. Pop!tech's overall format mentored by Bob Metcalfe comprised of two or three presenters per session, and then the usual expert panel questions moderated by Bob with a few limited questions from the audience.

    Poptech 01_introduction.jpg

    The best overall session in my book was the first one on day one. It's what every conference wants. It set the stage with Joel Garreau, Malcolm Gladwell and Frans de Waal who introduced the art of chimpanzee politics, power and fairness. Malcolm Gladwell was also brilliant on "preferences". I will pre-order his new book "Blink" (The Tipping Point was a favorite)and you can listen here.

    Thomas Barnett: Put his blog on your read list. You can listen here. Ethan Zuckerman sums it up perfectly and made a brilliant presentation captured in more detail by David Weinberger .

    I could go on. Here is a collection that links to all the graphic artwork created by Peter Durand. Richard Florida, Janine Benyus, Ben Saunders, Spencer Wells.

    I really enjoyed Ben Saunders presentation. It was simply inspiring. Ben Saunders Alex Steffan from World Changing one of my favorite blogs--- Listen here.

    Where did Pop!Tech fall short on presenters? Janine Benyus was the only woman this year and I know the organizers know this. More foreigners would be appropriate. Coming out of the presentations a theme for India, China, Brazil, and Africa emerged that suggested conferences need new solutions for bringining in more foreign input. Dina Mehta made this point perfectly. I think there are some format changes that could help here. There's no way that a US based researcher can tell the story with the impact of someone that lives there. I have a few ideas for Dina that I'll post separately..

    This criticism is a little unfortunate, for one of the real benefits of Pop!Tech was how it enable and brings together a great audience. Audiences make conferences. I'd guess 40% women, and while the average age was probably late 40's the ushers where design students and there were many local people that had been coming and bringing their kids since Pop!Tech kicked off eight years ago. In that alone Pop!Tech has created a community. Add in the venue and you quickly understand why people go back year after year. I'm certainly hoping to go back next year.

    For now like Scheherazade I am in a state of PopTech recovery.

    Bloggers Dinner and Event Capture.

    Bloggers dinner at PopTech. I think 28 bloggers turned up at the PopTech bloggers dinner at PopTech. Master blogger David Weinberger has the most copious notes on events and interpretations. See his blog for posts. Halley's Comment and Buzz Bruggerman were also very active in the backchannel along with the constant stream of extra links from Jerry Michalski. Buzz has the full list. Hope he posts them soon.

    I'm also beginning to draw some conclusions about blogging, it's role and conferences. I purposely decided not to blog PopTech verbatim or even keep detailed notes just flowing to the PC. Instead for the most part I wrote notes on old fashioned paper. It was a question of space. The Opera house is beautiful and a tight fit for typing on one's knees. I also think my expectations are changing. Now I believe that someone will blog almost the whole thing verbatim. You can certainly get a brilliant graphic record from Peter Durand. So why blog it? Wiki's are even more helpful for providing a group record where they are executed. Maybe I'm just getting lazy.

    poptech bloggers.jpg

    October 27, 2004

    Skype API

    News of Skype's API is leaking out slowly with a few rumors here and there. I'm been quiet as I've been in the beta forum and some of my best Skype buddies have been busy readying some new presence solutions. However the Skype API forum and API details

    It's now possible to build Skype tools into your own website, or other applications. Nobody officially knows this, of course, because, typically, Skype Technologies hasn't actually announced it -- but if you download the latest build today, you'll spot the innovation in the install log.

    What on earth is a Skype API? Skype is an instant messenger, but specially designed to allow non-expert users to talk to each other over the Internet. The trick is available with rival IM services like MSN, AOL and Yahoo but many users find it hard to set up. Skype's install is comparatively idiot-proof. And the API means that programmers can add the Skype IM features to their own work. PCWorld

    The first big surprise will be a Skype Presence Server developed outside of Skype. It will enable a new market for presence. A market where you and I can choose who brokers our presence information and when and where it is shared.

    It looks like you can do quite a bit. The first is part of how a USB phone can use the API. The second is what third party software can do. And it looks like you can place calls, IM, view a user profile, and probably some more stuff. You can even have two apps use the API at the same time.

    This could get interesting. Documentation for the API is expected to be released in November, and some companies are quietly working on easy to use API wrappers to allow Skype to be used through Java and web apps. RossCode.com

    This slow leak style appears to be the norm for Skype now. See also NewWire

    The Skype API has huge potential. It will immediately provide opportunities not available with other messaging services and has potential to grow a whole new market for information services. My belief is simple. If Skype's API release is successful then not only will growth accelerate, it will gain a huge innovation advantage, bootstrapping on resources that as a small company they could otherwise not afford. That's been the successful software model for awhile - releasing beta versions and getting developers to build their own applications around it.

    I see opportunities for new applications. If you are ready to release your Skype API application let me know.

    October 28, 2004

    Conversations - Another World

    What methods are available for bringing more international conference content to America? For me an important theme running across Pop!Tech was the global world. While we had a few foreign presenters and participants in the audience there really weren't many. There were plenty of excursions to 'foreign" places, many maps that looked similar, and yet these interpretations were "researchers" rather than Brazilians, Africans, Asians, etc. I know the message got out and for cost reasons is a difficult task for conference organizers. Still I know Andrew Zolli wants suggestions for next year. Dina blogged the problem very succinctly below after we watched the Bhutan presentation. I believe Dina could also be part of the solution.

    Some thoughts as an Indian in an audience that is primarily American - The theme of the conference is The Next Rennaissance and a lot of the presenters yesterday and this morning talked about developing countries and how the world order is changing - India is one of them. Naturally, from an American or first world perspective given the location of the conference and the composition of speakers and audience.

    What bothers me a little is that presentations like the one on Bhutan earlier today only reinforce ''exotica'' - they in no way are telling us why and how these nations must be embraced as one world, how these nations have real people, real development, real innovations that might often surprise the first world. And that the first world could learn a lot by sharing. Alex Steffen touched upon some of these - but i havent seen enough of it yet, or any depth. And what about commitment ?

    The sense i get from many of the speakers so far is the attempt to tell or 'warn' America to wake up to the potential and growth happening in these parts of the world. I just wish they had speakers from these nations who are actually affecting and changing the future in those parts of the world, through work they are doing.

    I feel the audience here would benefit from hearing their stories, diving deeper into projects that are on, and then moving the conversations to how the first and third worlds can come together as one community to chart the course for the development of our world, which is indeed one world. Dina Mehta

    Dina has been working on an ethnography project around India for the last year. Dig a little deeper and you learn she also has a talented sister Sherna Dastur whose last film won some international prizes. So my suggestion would be to find a small sum - sponsorship for these two to document 12 "India Changing" insights, captured in local language, with a linked commentary. Creating stories though a more impartial lens. An element of human voices and the more gritty side of some of the challenges.

    This just seems like the right opportunity to me. Comment on Dina's blog and make her write a proposal for next year. How's that as a plug for a blogging buddy?

    There are some other possibilities for Pop!Tech conversations too. I was just amazed at the number of people that had been there more than 5 times... some 8! Many of this core community was local. I'd think that they could provide a very interesting commentory on change too. Clearly this conference has a life. Some of these we got in the very well organized lunches which grouped us nicely together with different people at different cafe's. Still I'd really like more opportunities to find the real nuggets of wisdom in the crowd. I realize that I missed meeting so many neat people.

    About October 2004

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

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