Main

Chat & IM Archives

June 23, 2003

Dissecting the ChatRoom

How does one think through new product development for chat? Last October I found this an intriguing question and with a little help developed the exploratory framework below.  Today it is perhaps more relevant to the learning required to enhance collaboration with emerging social software. The target of this chat exploration was focused on determining the consumer frameworks to aid decision-making.

I really appreciated the recent comments to the buddy list envy.  So it seemed natural to step from IM to CHAT.  May also open up some thoughts on IM. Afterall an exercise like this could similarly apply to IM.

Visit chatrooms and one soon realizes how dynamic the conversation is, even if you don't fit in. While many may delight in referring to chatrooms as a waste of time, I have a feeling that they are an emerging world. Perhaps fantasy or a warped reality, yet lump them with broader collaboration tools and new avenues open up for exploration.

So in this post I'm purposely sharing some diagrams (click to expand), without all the words.   Last October when these were done I thought there may be a mulit-client possible in this area.  (There still is - or could be.  I'd be delighted to do it! I'd add this is all inferred it's not from a statistical sample or at an x% confidence level.).

For others the model and segment names will either provide the justification or a few laughs. 

Why do this? What research objectives might you consider? (From a chat perspective).

  • To provide a dynamic framework for understand the chat /IM market, and the various need segments within it.
  • To determine the relative strengths of the various brands, how they are positioned within the market, and how they are positioned to satisfy the needs fo the various segments within it.
  • To identify what opportunities exist in the chat market for new brands / products (Use this for collaboration building, not necessary to restrict it to MSN/AOL and Yahoo!)

Chat is to the digiworld, like the street, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, diners, bingo halls, and the PTA meeting is to the physical world. It why I'm sharing a model with you that draws on my food and beer days.  (This is adapted from the Heylen Model for those in research)

Why is chat interesting

  • Rapid expansion is reaching critical mass. Like IM - CHAT skews younger.
    • Instant messaging: 59 percent of those aged 19 to 34, compared to 49 percent of those aged 35 to 54, and 45 percent of those 55 and over.
    • Chat: 47 percent of those aged 19 to 34; 37 percent of those aged 35 to 54; 31 percent of those 55 and over.
  • Access new business opportunities - growing corporate interest
  • Service not yet a money spinner --- new entrants
  • Rapidly increasing functionality around voice, video and mobility….
  • Emerging promotion and marketing opportunties.
  • Peer to Peer evolving communities… becoming more realtime…
  • And as we know instant messaging is a super e-mail that lets two or more people hold a real-time conversation online.

My temptation is to say more about why chat communities are posed to forever change marketing.  However this post is about disecting the chatroom, what goes on and the bare minimum detail to infer the life inside. 

These are stories framed around a dynamic segmentation.  One size does not fit all.   By dynamic this approach reflects that as a market evolves and chat users become much more sophisticated they may not just have one set of Chat needs solved by CHATTING in a particular situation, but can be motivated quite differently at other times. The guess is that chatters often select and act in different occasions in the same week. They may very well approach this using different brands.

Our Hypothesis There are two fundamental dynamics, which drive consumer CHAT behavior.  (click to enlarge diagrams)

  • First an occassion based dimension around usage, frequency, times etc
  • Second a horizontal based axis around social dynamics and orientation

             

Two additional elements. Trust / Transparency and Involvement. These provide an inverse interplay around the social dimension which affects our interpretation of usage/frequency occasions

  • First levels and types of Trust and Transparency in groups and between individuals
  • Second the type of involvement be it extroverted or more introverted; telling or listening, controlling or facilitating, testing or supportive…. Etc. >

 

This enables six segments to be defined.  They are not all equal in size or profit potential.  Approaches to brand, product/services and the needs in each segment are different.  Even where products should be launched, lifecycles etc can be defined.  Typically a chart like this is provided with stories, encounters, (collages help).  Examples would include names from chatrooms.  Much could be said about the use of colour, fonts, size, the impact of music, welcoming rituals, emoticons etc.  

 

This final chart may encourage a few to really consider the Exploring dimension.  This realm is i'm certain the largest segment --- (American SUV territory, or Bud territory) and biggest opportunity. For online auctions this space is eBay.  If one ever needed to think though the ramifications of social software it is in this realm.  For my two cents this is where "fast trust" and digital identity solutions will really make a difference.  The opportunity exists to enable this within corporate communities. 

Is chat like beer?  I can't be certain. I do believe that chatters can be comfortable in more than one environment. Just like a fancy restaurant serves a long neck beer, in another setting clearly a can or even a mug may be more appropriate.

Traditional chatrooms were limited to words yet today, voice and cam’s are becoming more commonplace. Perhaps more importantly these's a whole world here growing rapidly running 365/7/24. It different to our physical world and yet similar. It’s only now that we can begin to see how people live virtually – and accept that is part of life that we can begin to look at the sheer variety of online exchanges that a person might have. Particularly when we think consumers and traditional entertainment or out of home “friendly connections”. Think for the moment about the venues and exchanges we have day to day… from the coffee shop to RSA, and Nightclubs and Bars, to more passive theatre. Then add in online gaming etc. 

It's late.  I hope you still know where to go for a drink after playing with the Chat Map. They tend to serve them up in room 9.

Dissecting the ChatRoom

How does one think through new product development for chat? Last October I found this an intriguing question and with a little help developed the exploratory framework below.  Today it is perhaps more relevant to the learning required to enhance collaboration with emerging social software. The target of this chat exploration was focused on determining the consumer frameworks to aid decision-making.

I really appreciated the recent comments to the buddy list envy.  So it seemed natural to step from IM to CHAT.  May also open up some thoughts on IM. Afterall an exercise like this could similarly apply to IM.

Visit chatrooms and one soon realizes how dynamic the conversation is, even if you don't fit in. While many may delight in referring to chatrooms as a waste of time, I have a feeling that they are an emerging world. Perhaps fantasy or a warped reality, yet lump them with broader collaboration tools and new avenues open up for exploration.

So in this post I'm purposely sharing some diagrams (click to expand), without all the words.   Last October when these were done I thought there may be a mulit-client possible in this area.  (There still is - or could be.  I'd be delighted to do it! I'd add this is all inferred it's not from a statistical sample or at an x% confidence level.).

For others the model and segment names will either provide the justification or a few laughs. 

Why do this? What research objectives might you consider? (From a chat perspective).

  • To provide a dynamic framework for understand the chat /IM market, and the various need segments within it.
  • To determine the relative strengths of the various brands, how they are positioned within the market, and how they are positioned to satisfy the needs fo the various segments within it.
  • To identify what opportunities exist in the chat market for new brands / products (Use this for collaboration building, not necessary to restrict it to MSN/AOL and Yahoo!)

Chat is to the digiworld, like the street, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, diners, bingo halls, and the PTA meeting is to the physical world. It why I'm sharing a model with you that draws on my food and beer days.  (This is adapted from the Heylen Model for those in research)

Why is chat interesting

  • Rapid expansion is reaching critical mass. Like IM - CHAT skews younger.
    • Instant messaging: 59 percent of those aged 19 to 34, compared to 49 percent of those aged 35 to 54, and 45 percent of those 55 and over.
    • Chat: 47 percent of those aged 19 to 34; 37 percent of those aged 35 to 54; 31 percent of those 55 and over.
  • Access new business opportunities - growing corporate interest
  • Service not yet a money spinner --- new entrants
  • Rapidly increasing functionality around voice, video and mobility….
  • Emerging promotion and marketing opportunties.
  • Peer to Peer evolving communities… becoming more realtime…
  • And as we know instant messaging is a super e-mail that lets two or more people hold a real-time conversation online.

My temptation is to say more about why chat communities are posed to forever change marketing.  However this post is about disecting the chatroom, what goes on and the bare minimum detail to infer the life inside. 

These are stories framed around a dynamic segmentation.  One size does not fit all.   By dynamic this approach reflects that as a market evolves and chat users become much more sophisticated they may not just have one set of Chat needs solved by CHATTING in a particular situation, but can be motivated quite differently at other times. The guess is that chatters often select and act in different occasions in the same week. They may very well approach this using different brands.

Our Hypothesis There are two fundamental dynamics, which drive consumer CHAT behavior.  (click to enlarge diagrams)

  • First an occassion based dimension around usage, frequency, times etc
  • Second a horizontal based axis around social dynamics and orientation

             

Two additional elements. Trust / Transparency and Involvement. These provide an inverse interplay around the social dimension which affects our interpretation of usage/frequency occasions

  • First levels and types of Trust and Transparency in groups and between individuals
  • Second the type of involvement be it extroverted or more introverted; telling or listening, controlling or facilitating, testing or supportive…. Etc. >

 

This enables six segments to be defined.  They are not all equal in size or profit potential.  Approaches to brand, product/services and the needs in each segment are different.  Even where products should be launched, lifecycles etc can be defined.  Typically a chart like this is provided with stories, encounters, (collages help).  Examples would include names from chatrooms.  Much could be said about the use of colour, fonts, size, the impact of music, welcoming rituals, emoticons etc.  

 

This final chart may encourage a few to really consider the Exploring dimension.  This realm is i'm certain the largest segment --- (American SUV territory, or Bud territory) and biggest opportunity. For online auctions this space is eBay.  If one ever needed to think though the ramifications of social software it is in this realm.  For my two cents this is where "fast trust" and digital identity solutions will really make a difference.  The opportunity exists to enable this within corporate communities. 

Is chat like beer?  I can't be certain. I do believe that chatters can be comfortable in more than one environment. Just like a fancy restaurant serves a long neck beer, in another setting clearly a can or even a mug may be more appropriate.

Traditional chatrooms were limited to words yet today, voice and cam’s are becoming more commonplace. Perhaps more importantly these's a whole world here growing rapidly running 365/7/24. It different to our physical world and yet similar. It’s only now that we can begin to see how people live virtually – and accept that is part of life that we can begin to look at the sheer variety of online exchanges that a person might have. Particularly when we think consumers and traditional entertainment or out of home “friendly connections”. Think for the moment about the venues and exchanges we have day to day… from the coffee shop to RSA, and Nightclubs and Bars, to more passive theatre. Then add in online gaming etc. 

It's late.  I hope you still know where to go for a drink after playing with the Chat Map. They tend to serve them up in room 9.

September 11, 2003

YEP SKYPE - P2P Telephony

I did a little further checking on Skype this morning. Try this search. Here's another article from InfoWorld With 10000+ users in a week I think it will blow all previous viral records.

I also looked up Stowe Boyd's Corrante blog on IM to see if it was being reported and then e-mailed him. Within minutes he was calling me. Very cool. I'm easy to find "stuart_henshall". I'll confirm the sound quality was much better than any Yahoo or MSN voice connection I've ever had.

It also turns IM on its head. It's ring centric. All those adults.. that are failing to understand messaging... understand how to make calls. Yep your PC will soon be ringing. Now what I want to know is:

  • What will the impact be on corporate systems... I'm sure employees will bring this in when they realize they can call anywhere... and not be logged on /via the corporate system? Will this add corporates to the sharing process? Will there be an enterprise package?
  • How will we control spam calls, telemarketing calls etc.
  • Will telemarketers who have been put on a "do not call list" have to comply with this service? Legal Issues?
  • Which blogger will give me an online/offline MT plug-in for my blog.
  • How soon will conference calls be available?
  • What will regulators and the tel co's do to make it illegal?

    We could create a list of questions a mile long with this one. My perception is it is really disruptive. It has element of my "Circles" post in it. Then even Microsoft employees have said this is a forefone conclusion. See Darknet. I'd hope that the communications companies have been thinking about this. If not time to start on some scenarios! This is a consumer centric world. It's small pieces loosely joined.

    I'm also seeing comments about Spyware. I'm less concerned. I don't think that is the business model they are going after. At the moment anyone can call me. I just got a call from a kid in Finland. Clear as anything. However I don't need robo bots on this one.

    Design Media: Usable Digital Media Skype, P2P telephony: A new P2P telephony software, Skype, is offered by the company that brought you Kazaa. One disadvantage is that, no one knows what spyware will come with this installation. But the advantage of p2p telephony offered by skype is, clients that are NATed or are behind firewlls can initiate the calls. Clients on publicly routable IP addresses will be able to proxy to NAT’ed nodes and route calls. Also, call quality is increased by keeping multiple connection paths open and dynamically choosing the one that is best suited at the time.
    You can call me to discuss this post!
  • September 12, 2003

    Skype Accelerates --- Start Tracking Growth.

    There's plenty more out there on Skype today. The number of users online has doubled (from my observations) in a day. Currently there are 10049 users online. This is up from the 4500 approx early yesterday....... I noted yesterday. They claim 160000 downloads. So at this point probably close to 10% of the Skype population is staying online.

    How many users will they need to have more computing power than the traditional switching networks? With 10000 online now.. Only 5% to 10% are actually staying online. I'd guess we can expect this to increase. If not it suggests consumers are using a particular strategy with the system perhaps wary of being connected P2P all the time. Eg... Use a current IM client turn on and switch to Skype for Voice. From a brand point of view the associations with Kazaa are both good and bad and I'm going to address that separately. Why isn't the % participating higher? Well many will have problems with mics and sound. Others won't have got their buddies on yet. Not everyone does it immediately. Easily fixed (get a headset) see the helpful hints below.

    Things that ... make you go hmm

    160,000 Skype downloads in 12 days Skype helpful sound tips
    Here's a Miss Cleo prediction: Skype is going to be huge. Yesterday I tested (while working on a few technical support issues actually), chatting with several folks on both broadband and dialup and I remain very impressed with the sound quality. Remember, it's still beta software, and thus there are some kinks, but it is catching on fast. Here's a few helpful tips:

    Stowe Boyd also reports on his take at Corrante IM I've also received a number of comments and trackback about "Spyware" concerns (any proof anyone?) and comments read the Eula. I've read the Eula - as much as one reads it... What should I be scared of there? Where is Larry Lessig on this? John Robb remains equally enthused.

    Seem worthy to note... that from my perspective this is another one of those "blogging accelerates knowledge sharing" examples. I went to IMPlanet this am. Looking to see what they might be advising. Nothing! There is an IM conference in less than a month. Enterprise focus or not I think they should be hustling to "think outside the box". Bloggers are beating the papers on this one! Combined Skype and blogging demonstrates how viral the "knowledge exchange" really is.

    My rec... keep watching feedster on this one.

    Good Skype Review

    An excellent overview of Skype. Note Robin's comments re Vonage and similar services.

    Please Skype Me: Disruptive P2P VoIP Technology Allows You To Call And Talk Free To Any Windows PC - Robin Good' Sharewood Tidings

    The advantage(s) of this over other similar new services like Vonage and Free World Dialup is that Skype does not rely on a centralized infrastructure to maintain the directory of users and to route each and every call. This means that for those services based on a centralized infrastructure costs scale proportionally with their user base while providing quality and reliability becomes always more difficult to achieve.

    Where I'd disagree with advice later in the article which recommends accepting calls only from friends. I'm happy for example to accept calls from around the world. However I will check the info button before answering. Or I can simply treat it as one to call back. You can't always answer your computer. If I don't know / recognize your name or it is made up.... and there is no country etc. then the caller isn't providing enough info to encourage appropriate courtesy.

    September 13, 2003

    Skypdicted - Skypers - Evolve Quickly

    Ah emerging words and phrases. I see 12349 Skype users online now and just took up TDavid on his Call Me invite. He's put into practice what John Robb said you could do yesterday. Now I understand just how simple this is to do!

    I may just find the Skype logo and put it on my main blog page later. For now you can "Click n Call" Me on Skype


    Several searches to this blog for Skype information, not to mention when I first looked at Skype this morning I saw 11,000+ users online which was the most I've seen online to date. And as of the time I'm writing this there are 11,507...."
    skypers (pronunciation: sky-purse) - people who call you the moment before you get out of your chair to do something else. A skype equivalent of eBay snipers. [TDavid]

    We also exchanged info round post #456 from Russell Beattie's Notebook.

    Someone needs to wire this up with my mobile phone. I mean *now* not some day in the future. Here's how I see it. First a native Symbian app on the phone accesses the Bluetooth connection to a PC and streams voice each way. At 1650 bytes/sec for GSM-encoded voice, Bluetooth has more than enough bandwidth to handle it. This would allow your Symbian device to act, believe it or not, as a phone. On the PC side, a Bluetooth server sits and acts as a gateway between the serial port and the P2P voice app.

    Now - I don't want the client to just be a dumb headset with a mike. I want to be able to start the app up, get access to my normal address book, choose someone I know has the same setup, and to attempt to make the call via BT. Now if the call doesn't go through, I want it to swap to a normal GSM connection and then dial that one.


    David also runs a weekly live broadcast for his Scripting School. By next week Skype will have enhanced his service for his international followers. Also had it confirmed that you can't go in and hack the ring file. Customized ring tones will be a pro option!...

    September 15, 2003

    Skype Changing Social Networks

    It's all really intriguing. This question of whether and how we should codify relationships with the majority of effort around centralized data solutions, negotiating standards and adoption. I'm thinking there is another route.

    Right now Skype has 18869 users online with 240000 downloads. That is more than any of these social networking tools Ryze, Ecademy, Linkedin, Tribe etc.. have ever had on concurrently. The founders negotiated no standards they are simply providing a phone system that works. See Cnet and the quote below.

    Let's tie the interesting discussion on relationships and social networking software that's emerged over the weekend to whats happening with Skype. The discussion started with Liz Lawley here and then a great perspective by Danah Boyd here and Matt Mower adds more here. Summed up in Marc's blog as well where he says.

    However if Matt knew what it took us to even broach the subject of multi-granularity to the RDF camp and get it expressed in FOAF, he'd know that you gotta walk before you can run. Since everyone's concept of 'friends' is this binary yes or no sort of attitude, it has repercussions across all sorts of issues: user experience, profile interchange, the semantic web, ecommerce and multimedia personalization.

    Whether it be for a foundation of federated social networks, enhancing one's digital lifestyle aggregation or as a basis multimedia personalization - putting identity into CONTEXT is what it's all about. Identity doesn't work as a stand alone concept - putting folks into a frenzy about privacy and security. It only works - when it's put into some real-world context.


    Well we have a new real-world context. whats interesting is it is driven by voice not text. Most of the above remains driven by text, transactions and regulations. What I want to know is whether or not we should talk. Some text and a profile or additional infomation may help. Around the telephone call are all sorts of "understandings". I'll be interested to see if we have to reinvent them as a result of Skype.

    I fully expect people to leave AIM, Yahoo and MSN for Skype. Skype's already carrying a profile. It could be made significantly richer and I'm sure progressive disclosure could be enabled quickly. My question is what access do I want to enable. My buddies and buddies buddies? Those that have read or linked to my blog? Sure! The doctor's office, dentist etc. Yep. Then those that perhaps I don't know but are prepared to provide a verified profile, including those verified to contain no adult content. Concurrently with these lists we have an emerging phone system that may be linked to our knowledge assets. Why can't Google and Technorati be linked to Skype? If Technorati can search Skype blog urls and match with owner names... then we would accelerate exchanges. It could easily be made smart (online or offline) and provide a notification!

    Thus blogging / knowledge assets would also have a Skype contact number capability and whether they could be reached now or if they are offline you could offer a notification service perhaps even using Skype that so’n so is now online. Potentially you could make this a Technorati call. You become the call forwarder thus brokering the intro. Ie this person has linked to your blog and is available to talk to you. Similarly when I send a trackback pin, should I have an option to ping Technorati that I'd be willing to talk to the pinged author? There's a lot that could be done here. I imagine Feedster too could start searching online Skype users and link back to retrieved postings.

    Similarly I'd like someone to tell me quickly how I add an additional input section to my comments like the e-mail address that enables a Skype callback. Be a lot easier to thank people that way!

    Kazaa co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom have a new target: the telephone industry. They've launched Skype, which they claim is the first Internet phone service to use peer-to-peer software. In just its first week of availability, 60,000 people downloaded the free Skype software. Other voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, such as Vonage or Free World Dialup (FWD), needed several months to attract the same level of interest. Tech News - CNET.com

    Separately, where there has been some negative blogging around the Eula and possible future charges keep the following in mind. First it is now proven and could be duplicated. Second this is a global phenomena and any charges will have to work accordingly. Lastly, real disruptive change happens when the cost factor means the new product is 10 times cheaper. That can only happen if everyone get online. Pressure your friends and I bet more than a few new businesses emerge.

    October 8, 2003

    Skype and Glance

    How do you Skype in a teaching or mentoring mode and enhance the experience? I had just that experience today when introduced to Glance a simple service for instantly showing a live view of your PC screen to anyone you choose.

    I began by introducing Skype functions from sending contacts to sharing further links though text IM. Then Charles began sharing with me exactly what he was seeing on his screen after we both logged into Glance. All of a sudden I could see exactly what he was looking at on his computer. If I had been the instructor it would have been perfect for sharing a presentation or opening a document and pointing to specific points while we talked. I know you can synch what you are looking at in Groove. However, here I didn't have to install anything extra. I just keyed in the simple URL and I was looking at what he was sharing. (I then moved it to my second screen, thus retaining the flexibility to continue the chat and other searches that I was doing.)

    Had I had a Glance account then there is no reason we couldn't have had instant two-way sharing.

    Unfortunately Glance only offers a one day trial. That's not really long enough for me to work out how to commit to $20 to $40 per month. I could easily run one-on-one blog training etc with it. A two way application would be preferred. I'd see a neat opportunity to match this with TDavid's talkback broadcast approach. I'd keep it in mind if I was running an online class. If I got 25-40 to sign up tomorrow for a one hour class on Newsreaders at even $10 per head it could be an interesting proposition. It makes a conference Skype even more interesting.

    Is it too expensive? Depends on your criteria. I'd think this is the type of additional functionality that could be enabled with either a plug-in to Skype or some enterprise version. Surfing together while speaking opens many new doors. Browser to browser is better than text box, hyperlink, open, is he looking???

    Instant Communicator

    Don't ask Skype to add "stuart is typing" in the text window anytime soon. While all major IM's have this it isn't clear for how long. Seeing it is a big boys game Has Skype already filed their patents on IC (Instant Communicator)? Yet how enforceable will they be?


    Microsoft has won a patent for an instant messaging feature that notifies users when the person they are communicating with is typing a message.

    The patent encompasses a feature that's not only on Microsoft's IM products but also on those of its rivals America Online and Yahoo. The patent was granted on Tuesday.

    Patent No. 6,631,412 could serve as a weapon in Microsoft's battle for IM market share. Microsoft is investing heavily in IM as a springboard for selling communication software to businesses. News: Microsoft pockets an IM patent


    Can the text box change color when the other person is typing? Could we enable a light key stroke sound in voice mode? What about just using the Glance type program earlier today to simply show what they are typing - erasing - typing and then commiting to the record. Could be time for a better solution.

    Flashtalk or Skype?

    Flashtalk is a new "talking instead of typing" application. It's not Skype and potentially aimed at a different market. I've already discarded it unless someone gives me a real good reason to continue.

    Quickly compared to Skype it doesn't offer a text chat function, is less intuitive and is a little too e-mail centric re adding friends for my liking. I managed one call using their "Find a Friend" function. The voice quality was less than I've experienced on Skype. On the plus side add more search capabilities and the dating sites will have to change their execution. It demonstrates how this would work. There can't be many on it for I'm still waiting to be connected to another friend.

    home_player.jpg

    A person identifying themselves as Stuart Henshall is using an amazing new communications product called FlashTalk, that lets people speak to each other over the Internet, without any per minute or per call cost, much like instant messaging but without any typing.
    Stuart Henshall has defined this email address (xxxxxx ) as their primary email address when using FlashTalk, which allows people within the FlashTalk network to contact Stuart using this email address.


    December 1, 2003

    Skype Doctor Calling

    Ross Mayfield blogs on Skype and Estonia. He must have saved a Windows machine in reserve! I too know the little country impact from days in NZ. Adoption is even higher when the solution is created there and the population begins to take on the world. I like his example of the doctor and wonder how many of these calls are being made straight into small offices there? I'm sure many people like bypassing the operator! We want the operator when we want a filter, however when it is our doctor we really don't want an operator at all. Similarly, putting the doctor in a call que is not an efficient use of their time. Giving friends better access to your desktop for messaging, voice, and voice mail makes a lot of sense. Let your computer play operator. The Estonians are finding out quickly how to do it. Those horrible "hello" messaging systems... and number of the extension dial in the name etc. are doomed!

    Before long there may be a market for Learning Journeys to Estonia! Skype now claims 3.3 million downloads.

    You may know that Skype, the P2P telephony platform that is all the rage in early adopter circles, is being developed in Estonia. You may also know that the little country that could is dear to my heart. But you might not know that in Estonia, Skype adoption has already crossed the chasm.

    When something big happens in a little country, word gets around fast. Even my father-in-law is using Skype to call us (instead of our Vonage line). Family doctors are using it to set appointments and communicate with patients. I don't have any country-by-country statistics (do you?), just personal anecdotes that regular people are using Skype in droves instead of calls. People are using it for more than saving money with call quality above standard (better than mobile) -- but because the mode of use differs it is gaining a different culture of use.

    [Ross Mayfield's Weblog]

    December 8, 2003

    Wrinkles for Skype Hype

    Thoughts on Skype, Skype Problems, Skype Limitations, Skype Hype, Skype Product Development and Viral Marketing. A few things pushed me towards this post.

  • Continuing comments re the proprietary nature and performance
  • My son's Skype usage
  • Impact of potential Skype conferencing features
  • Continued "phone" perspective.

    Continuing Comments:
    Useful perspective was added by David Beckemeyer advocates taking a broader perspective. This market is changing quickly. There's a lot more in play than just POTS and calling granny. I'll take him up on his challenge to take a look at Free IP Call. So far I've not had much success with these types of services. I've not had the trouble that Robin writes about. I'm happy to try new things. The biggest pain is getting functional buddy lists. In organizations that can be forced. As an independent that just means run them all.


    I want to encourage you to think about employing a SIP-based solution, if not now, please keep it in the back of your mind.

    The advantage of SIP for all of us is that it is an interoperable standard, being embraced and adopted by many vendors. SIP is like the 802.11b of VoIP. It means we can (soon) buy phones at Bestbuy and like email, if we have a SIP address with one provider, we can still make calls to people on other providers.

    Skype, on the other hand, is like Compuserv. It is a proprietary closed system. It might even be that Skype today offers a better overall product experience in practice, so I can understand why people use it. SIP-based products and services have to compete........ (read it)
    Unbound Spiral Comment:


    There is no reason not to SIP. Just the functionality that most SIP phones are giving me are less that what I'm seeing over the horizon on my desktop. Instead concentrate for a moment on what my 15 year old son does.

    Gaming:
    He's recently become addicted to playing America's Army. This is not about whether it is good or not it is about the impact that it has. He's found that double teaming with his buddy using Skype increases their chances of success. So he's running the full game sound and listening to his buddy while in the action. I know now that they can't wait until Skype offers a conference capability. The pack mentality of young men on Skype is a scary thought. This won't just apply to America's Army. He plays "Warcraft" etc. The difference is he will be able to choose who is on his team. He's never managed to do that with Socom a PS2 Game.

    In a post on why "Skype Growth is Slowing" I noted that the always on number had slowed while downloads continue apace. Today some 3.5 million downloads.

    Imagine a little scenario for a moment. Skype announces a conferencing capability (see CNET) and provides the first 5 hours free. My son patches in his friends. They win games together. When his five free hours are up his buddy starts the hosting process. Ultimately they will either buy it themselves... or get Mum and Dad to buy it. If as expected this is less than the price of a new game for a year... they will be into it.

    In the theoretical world above, our kids become the first "visible society" members. By staying visible they get called into a game, added to the team. Having persistent identities easily shared within their circles closes the gap between individual PC pursuits and group online action. There is much more Skype could do with games if they would just open up their API. 3-D sound, player positioning etc. That's being promoted by Diamondware who has just won an award for this type of technology. I'm sure they understand player velocities and location. The release confirms tested by the military.

    Conferencing:
    This little scenario also illustrates the opportunity that exists in the business world. Many of us have adopted headsets for interviewing, and typing away at the PC. Using the Skype interface the conference addition could include conferences that your buddies are in and their topic when not private. There are some neat refinements possible to that solution which really impact on the virtual office. In the physical world I'm used to walking down the hall and we have some peripheral sense of where people are. That's not true in todays virtual world. The Diamondware publication above confirms this belief and opportunity. When conferences become visible then collaboration and project management is almost sure to be accelerated. Note this is different from chatrooms for it is difficult to monitor more than one at once. And the one you are monitoring you are participating in, idle or mute.

    Yesterday's post on Accidental Communities begins to illustrate the power of this peripheral vision in another way. To date it was only in the hands of the smartest site managers and network analysts. No more. Those connections can be pushed to personal desktops and become part of PKM - Personal Knowledge Management. This will enable the smart caller id systems and other RSS transport of content and connection information.

    Phone Thinking:
    On the phone we make "connections". With the exception of a few individuals no-one is really experienced in the multi-connect impact of conference calls that can be done on a whim. The phone paradigm and the IM paradigm is built round 1 to 1 and not many to many. Microsoft can offer an option tomorrow for their IM system. Select "text based" or "phone based", similarly so can the others. However, why add to the central server system to handle conference calling. Advantage Skype and P2P telephony, until MS and AOL adopt a similar approach. Could Passport become the Skype cloud?

    I should be able to do other things too. Like drag and drop invite buddies into conversations. See that other meeting rooms are occupied and see the topic. So I can text in... "when you talk about customer x" pull me in. I'm afraid that the telephone discussion only serves to make the course of action that Skype or its followers take even more disruptive. Let's make it a practical example. I'm using Spoke to ease my way into making a new business contact. Spoke locates my best connection and then waits until the "connector" has approved that they will do a voice introduction. Then when all of us are online together and available... the system initiates a call. This has major benefits. No e-mail requests. No connection, message waiting, an easy "yes lets extend this conversation. This can be extend further when an additional caller comes on line while 3-D sound helps the memory by placing them in a location. That is something I've never had on a phone call and am yet to see. This will make for a nice pictorial circle.

    Communicator Connect:
    Skype may not be the answer for this. However, get their conferencing capability running and enable the "ID Exchange" companies to plug in and they will create a new demand where there was none before. Before you know it social networking software may really have value. Ask yourself. Can Skype plug in Friendster, Tribe, Ryze, Spoke etc? See Skype Social Networks / Yellow Pages. Maybe a deal with Match?

    Viral Pricing:
    I'd like to close with an observation. Many may urge me to make a second post at this point. I won't. I want to suggest a viral aspect for the potential conference calling premium package. I found myself testing Glance the other day. They have a one day trial offer. In fact for me the first trial didn't go all that well. It was too slow. However I wrote them and suggested I was just the type of guy to test this product out. They generously extended the trial and I have had some better experiences with it since. However, I don't really have a regular use for it. So how should you charge to enable the viral aspect to take hold? You simply create a scale. A user that uses it infrequently, maybe two or three times a month remains free, unless the sessions are talking hours. Each time they use it they have the potential to infect others. I'm assuming the real target is "sales presentations, training etc". A new user that become a heavy user quickly will find themselves paying for the service. Make 20 presentation in two days and on the third you will be paying... Make 6 in the first month and then the 10th in the second month... and you start paying.

    What is the learning? Provide conferencing free for limited periods. Those that use it irregularly will infect others and get an even bigger feel good factor. It will make them even less likely to turn it off. Turn conferencing off or make them pay immediately and they simply won't. They have to become comfortable using it first. Watch out WebEx.

  • December 9, 2003

    More on Web Presence

    Following last nights web presence posting; a follow-up discussion


    Enterprise collaboration faces a number of challenges in the years to come. IM systems today are where e-mail was back in the late 1980's islands of common use separated by protocols, vendors, and the network itself. Test Center Lead Analyst Jon Udell and Senior Analyst P.J. Connolly debate whether Web services will be the catalyst for the transformation of collaboration, and how......
    InfoWorld: P.J. Connolly and Jon Udell

    February 10, 2004

    Tom Coates on ETech

    Tom Coates has a great set of posts coming out of ETech. Wish I was there! This is the summary of day one in total. Is it Flickr over Orkut already? I have an account ---not yet enough time to check it out. When will these sites bring voice in???

    So ETCon Proper Day One ends and I'm basically high on some kind of highly emotionally charged intellectual hysteria-generating buzz. So far I've only managed to write about the things that have caused me frustration and irritation - probably because irritation can be easily quantified and described while the enjoyable papers cause an explosion of possibilities that are hard to collate and contain. The papers I've found most stimulating today have been threefold:

    The first two in particular I can't rave enough about and have pushed me into some kind of weird euphoric intellectual trance - but I think it's best that I talk about them later when I'm feeling more centred and can produce a more rational response. The Castranova piece on cyberspace economies intrigued me and stimulated me because of the question-and-answer component rather more than the paper itself - which was more of a bringing-up-to-speed piece for people who haven't been reading Terranova or read Richard Bartle's Designing Virtual Worlds.

    But it was the final talk of the day that was the most heady, but more because of the launched product and the play around it than the talk itself. I'm going to let Cory describe what was launched because - frankly - I'm a bit fried:

    Flikr is a social image-sharing application: it's a mechanism for creating ad-hoc chats, using a drag-and-drop GUI interface that lives inside your browser, and share images from peer-to-peer and within conversational groups.

    I've beta-tested this at various points and at each time I've been struck by Ludicorp's amazing combination of utilitarian, usable interface aesthetic and genuinely witty whimsy. As Ben Ceivgny, a developer on the project, said:

    We collect images with cameraphones and so forth, but we have no good mechanism for advancing them out into the world. Here's a mechanism for batching them into a locked-and-loaded tool for firing them into the world.

    I'm not a Ludicorp adviser, but I have been beta-testing it. It's bloody good fun and I highly recommend it. Much much better than Orkut - introducing Flickr!

    Read the comments

    [plasticbag.org]

    February 13, 2004

    Go Flickr Go Figure

    Final questions. Could Flickr stimulate a new visual chat language? Will cameraphoneaholics adopt it? Will it change how people share phone pictures? Will it expand and grow the market for chatrooms (they use the word forums)? Will anyone really go beyond looking at the interface and wishing that someone would solve and integrate the "chat " and "presence" problem? Who else thinks that screen space is now at a premium?

    There are days when I want to rave about emerging social software and others when I want to rant. Today I realize I'm just going to have to break up my efforts. I've been playing with both Flickr and Gush side by side this morning. That's probably not a good idea for they are radically different and will serve different audiences. As always each one has a little of what I want and is not really what I want at all. In the end they both leave me feeling a little empty.

    This post is only about Flickr, the emerging story of a small band of programmers launching a new product on the world. They've met their deadline and now shipped (probably) not quite sure what they have unleashed. So lets start with the Flickr announcement by Stewart Butterfield at Etech...


    It is too hard to figure out how to use, even though everything is easy-as-heck drag and drop. But people aren't expecting drag and drop. When I demo it, people REALLY, get it. I worry that the people stumbling in will just stumble out again without understanding what is going on.
    Sylloge: We ship!

    I have to concur. See too Scobleizer . It's still at a stage where personal demonstrations matter. Ross says: "best social software at ETech" and Judith makes a very relevant connection to Greg Elin's Fotonotes It is only this afternoon that I start to get the drag and drop going when experimenting with more pictures and dragging others into conversations. Alan Reiter should introduce this to the camera phone audience. You can e-mail your pics direct to your shoebox in Flickr and then share them with friends.

    The other night I posted Tom Coates entry from ETech. He said it was much better than Orkut. It's actually not a comparison at all. As I've experimented I've come to the realization that it serves a different purpose altogether. Like Gary Lawrence Murphy I'm not sure I can give it rave review.


    The paint isn't quite dry and of course it is getting rave a-lister reviews --- their innofateful share-hook is that real-timeyness ... which seems to mean signing up for yet another disconnected IM. Hard to say other than the caution, "Flickr is built on Ludicorp's platform for messaging and event distribution" and Caterina's comment "today George and I were trying to greet every single person that came in ..." TeledyN: My Friend Flickr

    Then "Where's my mind" see's behind the screen and get's the extra meaning. This post stopped me from abandoning it and drove me forward while eWeek gives it the quick heads up PR overview. Guess I was also lucky to get welcomed to Flickr by Frank Boosman one of their advisors today. Still how many hours should one spend on these things?

    From an end-user viewpoint, Flickr is chat photo sharing social networking. If you think about it from a photo sharing-centric point of view (which is only one way of looking at it), the social networking determines with whom you want to share your photos, while the chat provides a narrative context for them. But it's subtler than that. Is Flickr a photo sharing application? Yes. Is it a chat service? Yes. Is it a social networking tool? Yes.

    From a technical standpoint, Flickr is built on Ludicorp's existing engine technology, which means it's a Flash front end communicating with a J2EE back end using an XML-based protocol. pseudorandom: Flickr Launches


    The thec really did impress me and yet I was instantly frustrated. Almost all the pictures I have on my hard drive were taken on high quality. The system won't upload them at higher than 500mb and I didn't have the time to convert them. An auto converter is mandatory, I'm not going to resize etc them one by one. I wanted to share some MP3's straight away but I'm betting that is not on. I'm not sure what all this photo sharing does for bandwidth and I'd bet the RIAA would have something to say about music sharing. Later I just grabbed images from Google to share. On the other hand Frank doesn't say enough about the forum component. We could see thousands of forums (PictoChat Rooms?) just like you see them on the IM platforms. "Adult" channels may pose a challenge for Flickr.

    There is potential for things to come. When in a chat session with another right clicking on their name provides the typical Macromedia (cam/mic/etc) settings. If you want expansion then "voice" activation will be a must add. These functions already work in other platforms, why not here too? Bandwidth again? Flickr also provides another example of why we increasingly need a multi-screen setup on our desktops. At least it can reside on my second screen (I note Dina's added one too! - I must blog the rationale!). Otherwise it simply takes over my desktop and hides any work I may want to do.....

    The net net is this. I'm not recommending my friends try out Flickr, IMHO it is too difficult and too time consuming to get them to play and little things will get in the way. This is in stark contrast to Orkut where connections are quickly made. Flickr also has a ratcheting up of relationship status. This is frustrating. Really does everyone have to start as an acquaintance?

    If you want to experiment with Flickr I may leave it on for awhile, although I don't think I'll be here in a week. I became frustrated as hell when I first logged in and created a profile around "stuart henshall" then logged out and created one for "stuart" and then deleted it. I wanted "Stuart" instead. Now it won't let me have it (or the old one back) and set up e-mail address conflicts. Concurrently I registered something a little less obvious, but don't know "socially" what it is best to be in under. Frankly some pseudonym seems smarter. Why's that? This is a place where you may begin by sharing many photo's with people you don't know. In such a situation where the norm already appears to be "cryptic names" I think I find my full name too revealing. I'd also say the same about Yahoo chat. This is not a place where I'd want to be taken too seriously.

    Next little gripe would be around "online contacts". There is no double click functionality in Flickr. Instead hold the button and then initiate what you want to do. I find it weird. I want to double click to start a conversation with an online friend. I can right click if I want an alternate. Later you can DRAG someone new into an already going conversation. Seems you can't drag to initiate. The drag and drop the picture in is great! As noted that's a real threat to Yahoo style chats. When people first arrive Flickr should provide a few pictures or make it clear you can select some easily from the public gallery. Possibly some of these pictures will become tomorrow's smileys, more importantly it confirms the intent and the type of behavior they are trying to encourage. That is chat with pictures. Be interesting to watch what sort of visual language that becomes.

    February 24, 2004

    Supersonic Skype

    I've taken some flak recently for my "SkypeMe" middle name. Similarly I've had a few comment from different quarters that Skype will never be a real telephone company. With that comment I probably agree. My point is that Skype is leading us somewhere new.

    From time to time my work involves me in scenarios and strategy. I tend to press the boundaries of the possible. By now if you are reading this blog you will know I also like the devils advocate and contrarian roles when appropriate. For that divergent thinking is part of the real role of scenarios for minimizing risk and maximizing learning. Through that lens Skype remains an early indicator. Like Napster and Kazaa (for that matter) it is a radical change in the way things operate.

    Much of the debate around Skype focuses on the telephone industry rather than seeing something new. Skype may be the airlines and aircraft while POTS remains the train tracks and trains.

    I also believe there are a number of lessons from presence to mobility that "old style" telecom providers fail to understand or aren't actively pursuing. Most of the marketing I see remains phone centric rather than about communications. The type of new and emerging functionality that people includes things like can I handle my voice mail while on a plane? Of course you can, just most people have yet to experience it. Similarly in a car. Concurrently I've been more interested in the opportunity for new information markets around Skype type functionality. The future of call waiting, caller id etc. Even 0900 style numbers provide opportunities. No much is new here. Just the opportunity to tie it into computing applications and the big screen. Skype's biggest risk and challenge may just be the exchange on the desktop that just accesses the lowest cost solution whereever I am using the highest quality sound.

    Similarly I still get comments re MSN and Yahoo. What out Skype they are coming. From what I can see MSN has had more than six month to launch a voice centric version of their IM product, Yahoo the same. Both however have significant issues with increasing "voice" which I'd guess is much more expensive than brokering test messaging. Thus theyy have two problems. To compete with Skype for consumers and SMHO they must adopt a P2P approach and they must adopt a sound codec that is better than the one they currently use which is I think SIP compatible. Similarly they have to solve their NAT problems. MSN and Yahoo don't deliver on voice. Yahoo can deliver a fairly good but sometimes delayed webcam in conjunction with a clear Skype call even at full screen size.

    This is perhaps not the ultimate in communication. It's also not a full telephone system. However Skype has started a battle that the telecom giants are not well equiped to handle. That battle is around sound quality. It's also a challenge for mobile providers. I know there are also other technologies out their that are better than Skype. I expect they will continue to improve. I also see headset operators whether Nokia or Motorola or HP adding WiFi and bluetooth capabiliies everywhere. Then we will see which "quality" level is preferred.

    So.... Will Skype fly fast enough and high enough to break more than just the sound barrier?

    March 11, 2004

    Integrating Communications

    A great summary by Rajesh Jain on converging technologies and telephony. Reading between the lines I think Rajesh may just want to try out a Nokia 9500. Me too! Add to it the BT Communicator / Yahoo announcement for their new VoIP IM service today for another indicator of rapid change.

    Nokia recently announced the 9500 model which is a Wi-fi enabled successor to the 9200 Communicator series. In another announcement Skype developers said they had plans to port their popular P2P net telephony software to PDAs. Can unified telephony become a reality, made possible with the convergence of Wi-fi, VoIP and cellular services? These three stories speculate on various outcomes.

    One Person, One Phone


    Indoor Wi-Fi coverage would be offered by cellular carriers as an added service. Subscribers would likely have to pay an extra $5 to $20 a month for it, says Ken Kolderup, vice president of marketing at Kineto Wireless in Milpitas, CA, but they’d get cheap Internet calls when they were on the Wi-Fi network. And by providing more reliable service indoors, the cellular carriers would be able to fully compete with traditional telephone companies...

    And Kineto has developed a network controller that can be installed on a cellular-telephone company’s network to bridge cellular and Wi-Fi. If a cell-phone user is indoors and near a Wi-Fi access point, his or her phone would sense the stronger Wi-Fi signal and tell the controller that it should route any incoming calls through the Internet, and ultimately through the local access point. Three carriers in the United States and Europe are now testing Kineto’s technology; Kineto expects dual-mode service to be available this year.

    Net2PhoneÂ’s VoIP play


    Net2Phone, one of the oldest Internet telephony services in the US announced Voiceline, a VoIP service that is custom tailored for the cable operators. A prime example is St. Kitts’ lone cable provider, The Cable, which is going to roll out VoiceLine to provide their customers with a reliable VoIP service using their existing infrastructure and with minimal cap ex. Cable operators can also choose Net2PhoneÂ’s PacketCable Managed Telephony, a managed broadband telephony service. I have a feeling that Net2Phone and Vonage will be butting heads in their bid to capture the private label VoIP market.

    Could WiFi Kill the Cellular Star?


    New voice-over-IP (VoIP) phones promise free wireless calls while at work using special phones that let you run voice on Internet packets. But this technology is only now maturing, previously beset with long delays and poor quality phone calls. I tried out a VoIP phone from Clarisys recently, along with a Vonage SoftPhone on a laptop. The phone was wired into my laptop, but I could make and receive calls through my laptop anywhere on my wireless home network. The quality was decent and my phone conversations were nearly normal.

    [E M E R G I C . o r g]

    March 16, 2004

    Social Networking is Broken

    This slightly facetious statement: "My social networks are broken... at least I think they are." reflects my conclusion that the social networks I've been playing in are for the most part associative networks. While they have a social element the socializing for the most part takes place by blogs, forums, IM / e-mail, phone and in face to face visits.

    After 18 months of experimenting with formalizing relationship structures through Ryze, Orkut Linkedin etc they are really no more useful to me now than before I found them. Oh Orkut is a wonderful place for assembling connections but recently they really suck. Here I am with all these friends and they expect me to recategorize them. Would you try demoting your friends? Try it - see how they like it.

    So how broken are they? Well which one should I turn to if I want to contact someone through one of them? If they are on more than one, which messaging system should I use? The newest? The one I contacted them on last time?

    So now I have these planetary social networks each with their own orbits spread across the heavens. So while I've visited all these places I can't remember the name of the ship that offloaded me last. That's about as damming conclusion as any user (dare I say consumer) of the SN product can draw. However, lets face facts. For the most part none of these social networks are on my desktop, unless I happen to have their page open. And then with the exceptions of Ecademy, Tribe and Flickr they don't let me know whether any of my friends are online or not. As most of the people I really work with either don't use them or are as sporadic as me I still little chance of finding spontaneity within. They all fail for none of them provide the things I really need.

    I saw a post from Stowe Boyd today, planning a review of enterprise social networking services. It made me curious. The dating ones are excluded. For that matter so is MSN, Yahoo, AIM etc from the list. Skype too isn't included. Some little "scream" at the back of my mind tells me that the bundle of failing social networking services listed in Stowe's may not get to the heart of solving the enterprise problem. He wrote up Xfire just days ago. I made an association with Skype on it yesterday. No it is not enterprise ready. But others have the conferencing linking capability. I also tried to get my 15 year old son using Xfire. He discarded it in seconds, "I can do this stuff already" --- not as neatly I respond, "does it have voice?" --- nope, basically end of discussion. Maybe it is only about associating people. However I hope these services will offer something more. For if that is all they are there will be an upcoming backlash.

    For the life of me... When is IM not a social networking device? (Have you ever seen a 12 year old girl reconnect her buddies after taking a new name?) That looks like social networking to me. When are introductions by e-mail not social networking. Or a speakerphone call? It's time to put a stop to categorizing these "things" as social networks. Call them "Associative Networking Tools" or "Structured Association Tools" or something similar. Then you can create a bucket for them. The reason there is no real business model is they are just part of / or component towards building our capabilities to enhance "presence" and connectivity. Most of the friends I network with in this realm also have IM. But step outside and look at the real world and usage is sporadic at best. If we can't get our friends to adopt one of three messaging systems how can we hope to get them to adopt one of one hundred social networking services? Via Dina this comment from Jenny Levine sums it up.

    It's time to refocus the debate and bring in new functionalities and capabilities. For me that integrates with mobility. There's a program which I don't expect to take off any time soon for Nokia 3650' called Pmatch. pMatch allows 3650 owners to learn of others with similar interests or information, without revealing their own personal, private data. In a similar vein Trepia or AirCQ are using proximity and presence to enhance connections. I know not everyone can make the list. Judith had a list of 100. A readable report can't cover them all.

    What have we learned.

  • We don't socialize rather only associate through the Orkuts while we socialize using messaging, telephone and face to face visits.
  • The opportunity to connecting through friends is much greater than generally understoood. Some successes have been achieved.
  • Virtual connections mean managing ones connections and presence has never been more important.
  • Structured services are creating problems where there were none before. From categories to access. And designating "artificial" forced levels of buddies or friendship.
  • Fragmenting association systems does not enable better connections.
  • Integration on to my desktop (address book / IM systems) at minimum and preferably into my cellphone is required for there are few you can synch with and while one can upload addresses you can seldom download.
  • The sites themselves are seldom responsible for the association, the connective knowledge is broader than the networking sites. eg blogs, blogrolls, online forums etc.

    Judith Meskill has been encouraging me to dive into her posts on autonomic networks. This wonderful post has some great questions, and left me with the question at the beginning of the post.


    If you utilize one or more of the current entrants in this swell of online SNS offerings [such as LinkedIn, Friendster, Orkut, Ryze, and/or Tribe] - what value, if any, do you derive from them? And, harkening back to the citation with which I started this post, has one [or more] of these services assisted in helping you to successfully reduce the 'traffic congestion' at the 'intersections' in your life? And, in closing, any insights, comments, or ponderings on the recent and future blurring of lines between 'wetware,' 'software,' and 'hardware' in an infinitely connected wireless world?
    Judith Meskill

    I see this morning that Heath Row is reporting on a discussion of "The Asthetics of Social Networking" at SXSW. Read Molly Steenson's comments. They may just jell with the above.

  • March 17, 2004

    iTALK2U - Skype Clone?

    Is the P2P telephony space too crowded? Here's a potential Skype twin that may just emerge. Litfiber has announced iTalk2u --- although no "beta" can actually be downloaded. Beta supposed to be released in May.

    Note:

  • Litfiber recently went public,
  • All Litfibers announcements have a strong "Homeland Security" emphasis. This may be politics. It may also suggest a new political play in the VoIP arena. (What do others know?). Now what sort of Spyware are we talking about? What's this mean for iTalk2u?
  • If Litfibers strategy is to own the towers (their site says 200 but from a source I heard they control 2000? of 2600 nationally??? a key footprint) then this is not just a Skype play but a WAN development to really fill their 770 strand highly underutilized pipes.

    From their site.


    italk2u.jpg
    Litfiber is proud to announce that it will be releasing its BETA of its new VOIP product iTALK2U in May 2004. The product will be based on two initiatives while focusing on its users needs:

    (1) Homeland Security: The number one concern associated with any large organization is communication, also the need for security, speed, quality, hardware cost and bandwidth cost to name a few.

    If that’s not enough, What communication suite can offer features that include all that a major Telco would offer? Includes all of the security features that a government institution would require and provide a solution to have low maintenance, bandwidth and hardware cost?

    (2) General Public Use : The number one concern to a public user is "ease of use", with the introduction of ICQ, AIM, Kazaa, Skype, MSN messenger, Yahoo and "Multi IM's such as GAIM and Trillian to name a few, multi user communication seems to be a very important issue with the internet user.

    Among other growing concerns is privacy: NO "Spyware" or "ADWare" or ect...ect...

    I think the question to ask is why so many products? Is it that no one has built a product that services all the needs of a internet user? Is it that cost is prohibitive to a end user or a service provider to implement?

    In steps “iTALK2U”! a new revelation in P2P communication to serve the Security industry as well as the common internet user.

    Here is a short list of some of the features:

    - Global users directory
    - P2P Platform
    - IM
    - VOIP Calling (PC to PC, PC to POTS, PC to Mobile Device)or any combination.
    - SMS
    - File Transfer
    - NSA1 encryption
    - E-Mail to Mobile Device
    - Customizable skins
    - Automatic program updates
    - Community input and more!

    See also the Yahoo Newsrelease, Additional Information

  • Continue reading "iTALK2U - Skype Clone?" »

    March 21, 2004

    Mobility Games

    I've been souping up my Nokia 3560 again over the weekend. I've added an Photographer, Opera Browser and Agile Messenger, plus numerous games. This is in addition to the Kablog and BlogPlanet aspects I've already experimented with. Some real successes and some troubles with Bluetooth along the way.

    Expermimenting with Photograhers panorama function.

    04-03-22.jpg

    I found most of these via these links for getting the most out of the Nokia 3560 and the Symbian platform. See this PAGE for links. Plus here is the Symbian wiki and MySymbian appears to be a good source.

    04031.jpg First up, mirror images... Photographer! It adds new functionality to your camera. From a 5X zoom, to a panorama camera plus masks and trick effects. Next weekend I may just try one of the video products that enables videos longer than a minute. (Example: 3GPP Camcorder Pro -- I upgraded to a 128kb card in the phone.) Althought I'm not about to make music videos. For mobloggers take a look at TextAmerica, or Mobi2pic which also enables short movies in your MT blog.

    I added the Opera web browser. I've still learning the keys to fast surfing and the response via GPRS is fairly mediocre. I won't be doing a lot of surfing using this method. Number one like was being able to Google anywhere and click quickly to Google news. Will have to bookmark a few more sites. Opera likes a lot of memory, so no other programs run at the same time. It uses the full screen very effectively.

    agile_messenger_1.gif
    The program I've found most interesting in the last week is Agile Messenger. This is Trillian for the cellphone. It enable concurrent connections to all the major IM providers, AIM, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo. Thus it's the closest you can come to managing presence on your cellphone! Wonder if Skype might launch a stripped down text only messenger for cellphones? That could be an interesting product. Let me share --- subject to some further testing. I made a laptop to bluetooth to Cellphone to Internet Connection and then made a short Skype connection before being dropped. My neighborhood isn't the best for this. I think a GPRS connection should be similar to a dial-up modem but am sure it can be slower. Maybe it is just latency in this type of connection?

    This resulted from the last leg of the weekend experiments which got bluetooth running on my T-40 laptop pairing it with the 3650. My first experience with bluetooth failed. I used a D-Link USB bluetooth adapter and returned it after n times trying to install it and make it work. I finally got it working after ordering a Belkin card via IBM. I'm not that enamoured with Bluetooth. My bluetooth headset had to be returned (it was not Nokia) because it was incompatible with the 3650. Still to get my Internet connection it took a final hint from T-Mobiles technical department. Setting that weren't installed or explained at the store when I bought the plan. I am not alone. See this discussion for problems installing you are not alone. However if you have a T-Mobile Internet account $19.99 per month you can use it all you want. That's a good deal... still careful you end up like Joi Ito. So I checked the rates for global roaming $15-$20/mb! WOW!

    April 5, 2004

    Scanning

    After a vacation the newsreader is full of posts. I missed out on VON and WTF last week so along with the normal Skype review I keyed in a few Feedster searches. The fragments below reflect some I noted and my method for getting back to blogging quickly this time. They relate to Skype, IM, mobility, presence and change

    Om Malik on VoIP: Why Skype is No Different Then see the chaning codec Skype is using and follow these links from the Skype Forum. They will lead you to Global IP sound whose news releases arrive a few days before Skype updates. Pretty easy to read between the lines re OSX, Linux etc. Global IP Sound - Newsroom - Releases

    Some useful reinforcement from Om Malik on : The Incredible importance of Instant Message clients His links identify MSN IM as the stealth softphone client. While he says: The greatest advantage of these IM clients is that they are already sitting on our desktops, have been built for an IP-everywhere world, and are one upgrade away from becoming phones(my bold). (The real magic needs to happen at the back end!) We should start the clock ticking on Skype! Add Mobile Pipeline | Data & Voice | Microsoft Scores in VoIP Arena. See also Smartphone thoughts

    Fastchat again demonstrates the rapidly accelerating convergence of IM and Mobile phones. The barrier to trial is simply more cost. $30/year and 2 cents per outgoing message. More features than Buzz2Talk , while Aglie Messenger provides the presence and IM integration without the push to talk functionality. See also fastmobile Andy writes it up hereVoIP Watch: Move Over SKYPE here's FASTMOBILE, however these are not the same thing. It will be worth looking into push to talk behaviors vs texting behavior in more detail. "With a FastChat enabled device anyone using FastChat can pretty much Push To Talk to anyone on the Internet. Now that's delivering voice communications ubiquity TODAY".. So if Liz Lawley will pardon my interruption I can only image how frightening this dimension might be to her. I'd also like to come back to interruptions and Dave Pollard's posts separately. If anyone has the appropriate equipment and wants to experiment with me on Buzz2Talk, or FastChat let me know. Push to talk has some specific benefits, as does always on and for some always off.

    Heath Row also made great WTF notes that included TV on cellphones in Korea. See George Gilder's comments

    Korea has 40 times the amount of bandwidth that we do. And they accomplished that in three years. When you have 40 times the amount of bandwidth, that's 75% penetration.
    When you have a true deployment of broadband in a country, including wireless broadband, the whole economy changes. In 2003, there was around $450 billion a year of commercial transactions on the Internet in Korea. A third of their economy was transacted on the Internet. If we had a third of our economy transacted on the Internet, versus our 2%, the business models that were deemed Quixotic and absurd because of the bubble would have succeeded. Grocery transactions are done on the Web all over Korea. Webvan and those other dotcoms would have prevailed there. Fast Company Korea
    There is additional data there about TV on your smart phone. Anyone remember a few years ago the Canadian startup that began rebroadcasting American TV. They were closed down by lawsuits. I tried to watch a TV broadcast today. it's still to slow. There is a real need for sites offering these services to provide a text messaging solution. I'd pay the 2cents or 5 cents just to get the setting in the phone in one click. See:
    The new service of Telefónica Móvil -- live TV on your cell phone -- was introduced in Chile with full print ad pages in major Chilean newspapers. Smart Mobs: Live TV on Your Cell Phone

    I also saw lots of links to Clay Shirky's latest post "Situated Software" a wonderful illustration of how student assignments create real value and insight. The thought seems completely consistent with Nicholass Carr who asked in HBR not so long ago ... "Does IT matter?" The basic systems approaches that Clay outlines and the open non-proprietary methods used to achieve them by the students are the zero-based budget techniques for tomorrow. Lee Bryant also argued this well in Smarter Simpler Social over a year ago.

    April 21, 2004

    The Online Presence Spiral

    - The Online Presence Spiral - an interactive experience that is engaging, accessible, immersive - not just IM indicators but sound quality - active cams, mobility etc. Emergent thoughts that we need a new "Presence Formula".

    This post represents rough notes on how online presence is being redefined by new audio solutions. These are creating a sound spiral and an unexpected tipping point for tel co's and cellular phone providers while redefining consumer / user audio expectations.

    Driven by IM systems we are becoming increasingly accustomed to knowing; available, away, do not disturb, not available, invisible and custom forms thereof. In parallel there has been a growing interest in the social networking sites like Ryze, Linkedin, Orkut, Tribe etc. Most of these haven't had the critical online mass to activate an effective 'presence" indicator yet. They also fail to have the immediacy of an IM buddy list. Learning gained in social networking software will be applied to IM systems in the next generation. In fact ICQ has recently been releasing upgrades. As will more complex access profiles which further refine definitions of availability, access, privacy, security etc. However this focus on presence and "presence management" is limited an IM style focus on smiley faces and social networking that may limit developments. As VoIP and IM systems integrate interaction designers should take a broader view of presence.

    Let's just step back for a second and consider real life examples…. Eg "you felt his/her presence when they entered the room. Or the speaker carried real presence. Take it further and over the years there have been interests in telepresence from science fiction books to research studies. This objective that i found quickly appealed to me. "To design forms of interactive experience that are engaging, accessible, and immersive". I'd like to think about this as presence cubed.

    The IM style is helping with accessible, however the other aspects engaging and immersive still have a way to go. The point is recent posts on "Presence Management" are really missing the broader picture. The post I've seen from Dina, and Dave I think support my point of view. They are looking for a much broader integration of presence. In fact presence management is an oxymoron just like Knowledge Management. Similarly telecoms and VoIP providers that simply believe they can step up with a VoIP IM solution are going to find they are continuing to chase the curve. Using Skype as an illustration, it masters the current state of consumer presence pretty adequately. It also redefines voice presence. Our ears are extremely sensitive to vocal cues. And yet we are accepting. We accept or are forced into landline and cellular systems that clip our voices, reduces our gravitas and thus reduce vocal presence effectiveness. The narrow band spectrums simply doesn't compare favorably with a well connected wide band Skype type call. In fact I was told the other day how different I sounded on Skype. Apparently, I had more presence!


    Now imagine you were part of a larger conference call negotiation. You could hear the other party with brilliant clarity. They were restricted to a mediocre cellphone standard. You could easily position each of the individuals and easily decipher the stress or excitement in their voices. Now which negotiation team has the upper hand? If you are looking at new solutions then thinking about presence in terms of availablity indicators and not audio quality will only will only result in an early replacement as higher quality more efficient sound solutions become available. For conference calls you have to have an audio connection that is equal or better than those your are connected to. For the most part the highest sound quality will result in better conversations. It's pretty self-evident. Just like the e-mail that can be misinterpreted. The brain fills in the blanks in poor quality sound.

    Now I would like to know if any commercial or consumer SIP applications so far have been initiated with a codec comparible to Skype. For it is not SIP that is restraining the voice quality it is the VoIP telecom providers that seem to think current sound codecs are good enough. I have a Vonage line. At no time does it compare to Skype quality. It's better than my cellphone at home, and often doesn't match my landline for quality. Via the Register today, Morpheus launched a VoIP solution. They are in fact just playing off their P2P name and number of users. As far as I can tell it is a standard VoIP solution a little cheaper than Vonage. Other than trying to leverage the Morpheus userbase I'm not sure that there is a P2P relationship in this system although they are claiming that with VoiceBox to VoiceBox you get higher quality.

    With Skype we are only just getting a taste of what's to come. As our understanding of "presence" is broadened by better audio experiences the industry will compete and collaborate to bring even more interesting "presence" experiences. Then the solutions won't stop with sound. There will be a huge awakening in equipment solutions too. Just think what happened when we when from mono to stereo, and then how quickly so many have gone to home theaters. The consumer knows Dolby and 3-D sound. While we may not want a total immersion experience for all calls (you may want to listen in on another simultaneously) we will want the ultimate immersion for some calls. The movie industry has already demonstrated what is possible.

    Skype also shows what happens when increased audio presence is combined with appropriate visual cues. Those black heads don't look very friendly now, still when they become real faces and an inbound call is generated then our connection to the caller will be further enhanced. Photo's are a first step that will aid adoption adoption of real-time web cams.

    Consequently I periodically find myself running updated experiments on the latest online video solutions. It is almost a couple of weeks ago since I tried out various alternative with Dave Pollard. I'd read Dave's post and he was willing to try out his new webcam. We started with Yahoo cam and voice. The voice connection was crap and so we soon closed voice and opened a Skype connection why retaining the Yahoo cam. In this instance there wasn't much of a delay on the cam although 2-3 seconds is not uncommon. Still as a free solution I've personally found little to beat it.

    Next we tried out Sightspeed, The cam was much faster, however the voice connection was not up to Skype quality. We retained it for a period. However by that time we were doing what I think we should be doing. We were sharing http links, and looking at other alternatives. The cam had simply disappeared into the background replaces by texting and browser links. From my perspective this is not unusual.

    Durning this week I also tried out CamFrog. While I didn't try the premium edition the basic one didn't provide me with confidence. While these observations and ongoing trials are fun from time to time I'm yet to find a wow solution. Robin Good in particular has shared some great conferencing solutions with me. They do require some customizing to context. It also takes time to master these tools. So ultimately there won't be hundreds of winners.

    What I've found is I'm not prepared in any of these online sessions to put up with poor voice quality. That simply is a killer.

    Second I dislike screen delays. The update has to be quick. Screen synch between individuals fast. Last year I'd experimented with Glance a product that shares your desktop. More recently Bill Campbell generously got me set up on tightVNC. Many use it for remote access to their computer. It's also perfect for sharing your desktop with multiple users. WIth tightVNC working there is no need for expensive services like MeetingASAP, you can share your desktop at anytime. There are other synch capabiliities that MeetingASAP provides however no matter how beautiful the last time I talked to them they could not confirm that the voice quality was not equal or better than Skype. BTW... if you want a cheap conference where everyone cam is synched on a page and one person is showing a powerpoint. Just cram it all on your screen and then tightVNC. The refresh rates on the cams will be poor for other viewers however it will cost you nothing. Everyone will know who's at their desk and watching the presentation rather than making coffee while wearing their bluetooth headset.

    For working with others expecially new people where you have never had a picture before and never met them an early introduction with a web cam is effective. For family and friends it may be appropriate. However my belief is that sharing pictures is a pretty good substitute right now. The issue is most webcams are effectively passive. They provide a head shot as the person is sitting behind their PC. Usually the cam is not directed very effectively. I really don't believe that web cams will be the big thing until they are "active" cams. By active I mean people using them while on the move, out and about. Thus when we get our PocketSkype+ installed in a UltimateWi-Fi PDA with video capability and users are out roaming we will have a webcam usage that really adds a sense of presence along with the mobility and narrative. It still won't be telepresence although we will be a lot closer.

    Finally from what I've seen and been fed about Skype performance and connectivity, their sound solution still eats up too much computing power. Add to that limitations on uploads and downloads to maintain voice quality and Skype video and Skype file exchanges may break what is good. That may provide some opportunities for others. So while Skype may have brokered new connections for some, and thus encouraged additional experimentation with webcams this user is still looking for better sound first and foremost. In that regard so should you.

    What's more this user has learned that Wi-FI Skyping from HotSpots is better than a Mobile phone when available. Thus the paradigm that threatens the landline system may have more impact on mobility than current projections suggest. Some of you may have seen the recent releases of mobile phones like the Nokia Communicator 9500 that provides the traditional cellphone features along with Wi-FI. So now consider the user experience. When they are in a hotspot sound quality goes way up. When they get home their cellphone automatically becomes the home phone and the cellphone and the quality is way up. It's just possible that the mobile providers are entering a sound spiral as well. Then I also know that despite not being to Skype via my mobile phone to laptop connection Dina has proved to me that she can do it. Looks like the Indian cellular structure is more advanced than the US!. That will make cellular connections a commodity just like the landline in time.

    Good place to close. The Online Presence Spiral. The emerging business experience parameters for communications.


    June 9, 2004

    Social Tools + Mobility

    Stowe Boyd has a nice post in DarwinMag this month on "The State of Social Tools". I like the tone and was great to learn that Stowe is now at Corante. Congratulations Stowe! There is a nice clear structure and set of points in the article. Let me share a couple of lines before adding my two cents.

    The big story is that the global computer network is an enormous chat room, enabling us to collaborate in unexpected, complex and novel ways. We are experimenting with new social systems, systems that to an unprecedented degree involve software and hardware.

    The State of Social Tools - Darwin Magazine

    My issue is where is the thinking about mobility and conversation velocity. I infer from the article that this convergence will take place on laptops and desktops although I think the real impact will be felt in mobility devices. Current demos show capability and potential for the social revolution to come. How those handheld / wearable devices work with everything will be key.

    The element that bothers me more and more is that the focus in these discussions on social tools without stepping back and looking at the environment in which we work. The State of Social Tools contains a reference to “voice” yet reads text and desktop centric. The most socialized tool in the workspace after the pen and paper is the telephone. Somehow it isn’t mentioned. Then neither is the cellphone. Are we assuming too much or not looking at where the real revolution must start?


    June 13, 2004

    Yahoo a Better IM?

    Where does Yahoo fit in all the messenger systems? Compared to MSN and AOL it's is not winning on share. Still it recently had a facelift. Download here. From my perspective there is both good and bad. Still it brings some innovative new features worth thinking about.

    The Good:
    Voice Quality: Anecdotally Yahoo voice capability is much improved. I used to use Yahoo for PC to PC voice before discovering Skype last year. The improvement traces to latency reduction rather than a more open sound and richer sound. It still sounds tinny. That's Yahoo trying to save bandwidth through compression. Can't blame them it goes through their servers. This little change is not hyped at all.

    Launchcast Radio: This new feature pipes stereo music right into your buddy list. Plus if you want you can let your buddies know what you are listening to. The song appears next to your name. Then they can double click and listen to the same music as you at roughly the same time. It is not synched so singing is a little weird. Lauchcast radio does not yet link with yahoo chatrooms.

    Radio and Voice in Conversation: It's possible to keep listening to launchcast and hold a voice conversation. In fact this make the voice session more real, closes the gap and hides some of the poor sound quality. Potentiall both parties could be listening to different music.

    Pictures: Your photo is becoming de rigour on messenger systems. Not everyone is revealing a pictures of themselves. Still Yahoo builds in some protection, unlike Skype where unless you block unknown callers you get their picture. I wouldn't assume that all pictures you be what you expect, especially from spammers. Yahoo also introduces their Avatar function.

    Stealth: Now you have the capability to reveal yourself to specific individuals while maintaining invisiblity with others. This needs setting each time one logs on. One step closer to more complex disclosure systems. A plus.

    The Weird:
    Audibles: Whatever were they thinking. You install the new version and audibles and the default setting is "flirts". Even the voices are adult. I wonder who Yahoo's target is. Am I weird? Does it bother anyone else that a kids first experience with an Audible will be a flirt? Mummy probably won't even know. The few comments I see via Feedster appear positive and are from slightly older women. So audibles could be fun. They could also get a few raised eyebrows if you have sound on in the office.

    The Frustrating
    Screen Hog: The whole feature set now takes up more screen space. There is no basic or minimalist setting. For that just move to Trillian.

    Load time: Is it just me or does logging on seem to take much longer?

    From memory, Yahoo's last major update came in advance of MSN and AOL. Frankly it was my favorite, until Skype came along and created an adequate text and superb voice connection along with conferencing. Yahoo and the rest still have something to learn when it comes to adhoc events and single clicks. There are still two extra clicks required for a voice conversation and a unmasked delay while the system connects. Conferences are even more complex.

    So unless Yahoo, AOL and MSN get their act together, then this pronouncement really won't hold much weight. We think???

    "We're making (AOL Instant Messenger) a new front door for communications services," said Ed Fish, senior vice president of AOL's desktop messaging unit. "We think it's becoming the new phone."SocialTwister.com: AOL IM Blurrage

    August 9, 2004

    IM - Facilitating Future Markets

    Combine 330 million IM business users with the 600+ million cellphones to be sold this year and think new real-time collaborative applications. Then consider presence, mobility, and commerce and then ask how you can make it all disappear. Tomorrow's IM solutions exist for those that facilitate connectivity agents. What do I mean? Your PIM can handle millions of micro data exchanges on your behalf without you knowing. It really begins to work when IM and Mobility converge. This is beginning to happen now.

    People are waking up to IM. >"Yankee Group projects that there will be 330 million business users by the end of next year (up from 65 million in 2004)". Stowe Boyd looks at InterComm from a collaboration perspective and wants shared calendaring, tasks and project management and includes a passioned plea to integrate it with blogging. That's before including voice and video.

    While the merits of collaborative solutions are increasingly obvious, the discussion around communication should pay more attention to IM as a data transport. If you are to run a scenario that suggests that IM (or IM / VoIP / Presence / Blog CMS) is likely to replace the phone system then we shouldn't focus just on the voice part, or the click to connect. The real value will be in the zero cost of shuffling almost unlimted data between individuals. This little clip I recently saw sort of supports this. DIM - Hijacking. Unfortunate I don't think it is from a user centric perspective.


    Move over teenagers, the heaviest users of instant messaging are about to become computers themselves. In the beginning, IM communication was strictly a human-to-human affair. A few years ago companies starting sending alerts (and increasingly spam) via IM making it a computer-to-human affair. Now, with the advent of Data over Instant Messaging (DIM) technology, IM is rapidly set to become a computer-to-computer affair.

    Why send data over IM? One reason is that IM infrastructures have solved a lot of tough technical problems such as firewall traversal, multi-protocol transformation, and real-time presence management. Sending messages over these networks allows applications to leverage the investments made to solve these tough problems. Another reason is that many companies already have IM "friendly" infrastructures which means that all the necessary firewall ports are open, the clients are already certified and installed, and operations infrastructure like logging, back-up, and even high-availability are already in place. Thus by using IM for computer-to-computer communication, developers are able to "hijack" all the valuable investment made in IM and use it for a purpose that its creators likely never intended.

    Burnham's Beat

    I tend to think of this as creating an eBay environment for sharing personal information.

    August 10, 2004

    Blogs and Quick Links

    Some advice on bloggers and your startup strategy in the news today. Some get it and some don't. Then it is also a reminder to bloggers that real people are behind the startups and there are lots of them who have done their research. So when one is jaded by new launches it is possible to be too dismissive. I'm both dismissive and ready to hear more below.


    Weblogs could help make or break your startup's marketing strategy. Here's how to get them on your side. Red Herring Article

    In the copy camp another Skype competitor emerges. TelTel. (Note I downloaded this, then one friend got crashes each time they loaded and the other couldn't get it to log in to their server and I couldn't log in this morning.. So I don't know whether it works.) As it doesn't claim to be better than Skype and misses many of the features and comes with a name that sounds like the babytalk dressed in baby blue I'm at a loss to get excited. Oh they are prepared to buy some traffic and testers with a free call bribe. You must have at least three friends on the system, and there is no guarantee the calls will go through. There is nothing new here and I can think of others including italk2u and Peerio maybe phonegaim? (still new) which will probably vanish.

    TelTel is telephony with a new perspective. We are not aiming to reproduce the standard phone. We are looking to combine the best of the familiar features of the phone with the rich possibilities of the internet, coupled with the flexibility and power of your PC. TelTel.

    On the emerging companies with blogs and talking to bloggers I got an immediate response to my earlier IM posting yesterday which linked to a post by Stowe Boyd on InterComm. I still haven't tested out the product although I did look at it in more detail. Glenn Reid wrote me and added a few new details.

    I think you hit the nail right on the head with your observation that IM infrastructure is the "fat pipe" on which business applications will be built. This is exactly where we're headed. InterComm is our introductory product, but we have a very rich protocol that we've developed (called XSIP) that's intended for computer-to-human and computer-to-computer conversations that simply aren't possible with the human-language centric protocols that carry most IM traffic today. Imagine a database in your buddy list that pops up a form interface when you double-click it.

    ....we see IM networks as being more structured and involving business-class data transfer, not just human language.


    As you would expect there is a real depth of thinking to InterComm's approach. So if you are an Enterprise I wonder what your current shortlist for enterprise IM clients is? Anyone know of a list? I still believe that voice and mobility should now be part of any "presence / IM" startup strategy. This is Glenn's blog . He's using metaphors Eg "circles" which i like and I hope he keeps blogging away. I'd also like to see some thinking on IRC vs... IM for groups and teams. The trick will be helping to define this emerging category of products. That's a hard thing to do.

    Getting further away, this also reminded me of a friendly note that pointed me to Pangean Technologies. There is no demo to try out although the claims looks interesting. They have announced some "push to talk" features.

    August 16, 2004

    Chatango

    I've just loaded up the Chatango message application that activates this real-time chat box. It certainly shows the way to the future. The Presence indicator "on" or "off" is really too simple and most visitors using it for the first time will be "anon" unless they decide to tell me who they are. Still I like the idea that it is "real-time" rather than the Zonkboard that I've had there for too long and which only gets sporadic use. Chatango in contrast to Zonkboard doesn't leave a message behind. It's your little exchange with me that then disappears right when the windows are closed. I have no idea what happens if two "anon" visitors are trying to chat at the same time.

    Thanks to TeledyN and Joi Ito for the pointer. As a simple Flash application I presume it could be upgraded at some point to include the extra "Flash Communicator" capabities including voice and video although I'm not sure how useful that would be.

    August 18, 2004

    Visiphone Design Insights?

    In a little item on Smart Mobs there is a post that is much more intriguing. Visiphoneuses visual aids to help you and me improve our awareness of each other. It enables a new form of visual communication to support audio and enhance the communication experience. I particularly identified with the graphics below as a monitor for individual or group exchanges.

    Using an audio-only speaker phone to provide a continuous, long-term connection has several drawbacks: in a noisy environment, it is difficult to know whether one's voice has carried or to know to pay attention to new voices emerging from the phone; long periods of silence make it easy to forget the device, which then takes on the unwanted quality of unobtrusive surveillance.

    VisiPhone displays two parallel visualizations, one derived from the local sound reaching the device (input audio) and the other from the sound emanating from it (output audio). We are experimenting with several designs for the visualizations. For example, one basic design depicts filtered frequency with hue, creating bursts of color when someone is speaking. With this display, one is able to see at a glance if someone is speaking at the other end and can tell if one's own voice has carried over the ambient noise to audibly reach the listeners at the other end.

    Representing Speaker A & Speaker B
    visiphone1.gif

    Representing both Speakers
    visiphone2.gif

    August 19, 2004

    Buddy Buddy Squared?

    I'd like to learn more about the behavior of people that have more than 150 people on an IM buddylist. As a potential indicator of change MSN Scobleizer and AIM have recently increased the allowable size of their buddylist. AIM doubled theirs from 150 to 300.

    While my list of buddies is too distributed across AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Skype to have reached any thresholds, I recently learned from my 12 year old daughter that AIM was limiting her list and she was dumping names. (Many of these kids have more than one handle.)

    Not everyone will be happy about bigger buddylists. Is this an interesting early warning signal? When IM lists contain the contact names and information approaching 150 people will the utility be way ahead of e-mail? I think so! Where's the tipping point? Is it an organization size? Is it the size of your network? For my 12 year old it has already tipped with e-mail hardly ever used.

    There's another post in this, and it has got to do with interruptions, presence, availability etc. For another day.

    September 17, 2004

    Disruption & Convergence

    Where will the new communications companies create value? Two posts today... One tracing to the "End of Telecom" and the other another "End of E-Mail". What will superceed the phone and e-mail as the primary means of doing business?

    Via Om Malik Daniel Berninger's post is a good read.


    As Dan points out in his well worded op-ed, The End of Telecom,
    "The telephone incumbents find themselves in a bind not unlike the railroads with the arrival of the automobile or the mainframe with the arrival of minicomputers/PC's. The much noted convergence of data and voice networks really amounts to a hostile takeover of communication by the information technology sector. The Internet did not get invented to displace the PSTN, but continuous improvement makes this outcome inevitable. "
    In any of those scenarios, the industry suppliers were the worst hit, and so were the profits. In my own piece I have argued that we are still in the middle of a death spiral of telecom, and new technologies like VoIP are only going to accelerate the race to the bottom.

    Om Malik

    Stowe on the case for real-time response and impact on IM.


    A new Corante Brief (available here in PDF): Stowe Boyd Consumer instant messaging has led to a communication revolution that has swept worldwide, and is now charging the face of business. Stowe Boyd

    Finally a link to a resource paper via Denham Grey. Actually it is more of a book and I'm not through it all yet. Yet it may help with thinking through how business processes must change, and where organizations need to be more adaptive in introducing new tools.

    COINs follow examples of the open source ethos, participants are early adopters and they adhere to principles of collaborative knowledge networking. This seems to a fusion of social networks, enabled by web technology and knowledge sharing. Denham Grey

    September 22, 2004

    One Step Beyond the Buddylist

    I sometimes get a little disenchanted as I see yet another article on "presence" as a killer app that starts with buddylists and little icons. (See below.) I don't see much discussion on methods and means to enhance presence and make it even more useful. I'm not using the term "presence" broadly here. This is a brief note that says it is time to start thinking about how presence indicators and information can be integrated in the emerging messaging systems.

    At the simplest level the opportunity exists to create new categories of presence. "SkypeMe" on Skype just an example (you can search Skypers for those with "SkypeMe" now active. Current presence status lists just aren't very imaginative ( They also tend to be single state. Online, away, Not Available, DnD, etc.). The context of sharing presence is also limited to buddies. However there are many opportunities for sharing presence that will come available. For example sharing presence info with an information service. That might trigger news updates, and synch me with people who have similar interests in a story. Also sharing presence information with a vetting service or reputation service may filter and eliminate unwanted interruptions.

    The explosion of interest in presence is also driven by communication companies trying to solve every call forwarding / call location issue ever dreamed up. This feels like a dead end. By contrast there is an opportunity to use IM and presence as a better routing tool. Routing information via IM whether RSS updates, travel advisories, calendar reminders all make sense to me. However, sometimes I'm not available for those services. Thus presence is broadened by extending it beyond the "buddylist" metaphor to enable different forms of access management.

    Then there is another kind of presence. The 'I was there' kind of presence. News events, corporate meetings, gatherings, where presence information may be useful to others for follow-up. A variation would be a document that you wrote being read or reviewed by someone else. In an organization knowing the author is available may be important even if you are not on their buddy list. When we leave presence trails "Stuart was here" on websites or otherwise there can be great benefits. I can imagine problems too! Just an example like spray paint on a rock. In these cases the presence information should have some form of expiry / renewal capability. For example I may participate in an online forum, I forget about it, I may not want to continue broadcasting my presence there. However leaving presence information on another person's blog with a comment may encourge more follow-ups and more interesting dialogues. However, that same info could expire and disappear after a few days, or be controlled in a different fashion.

    Similarly, when I want something fixed, or information from a call center, why do I have to go through that long wait. Why can't I just leave my presence information in a way that gets dealt with when convenient for me. Once its answered my presence data, disappears from the call center. This same methodology could work for call-back requests. Eg I put in a Skype text message a call back request. They may provide different presence information even if my global presence is set to not available.

    The killer app is presence. IM users see evidence of it every day in their buddy lists as a little icon that shows someone is online. But down the road, experts say, presence will separate itself from IM and evolve into a network service tapped by applications and corporate communication services, including telephony Presence applications poised for takeoff
    When one just scratches the surface one begins to see that the traditional IM offerings (MSN, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ) have failed to leverage the opportunities that are hidden in presence . Enabling the connection of "Presence" data to new services, and tying it to call response and connection capabilities and services requires an approach that is more open than these IM offerings have created todate. Concurrently they are also hampered by their own structure and design. As they run centralized presence servers as part of their application broadcasting presence information costs them money. So far they've not seen fit to spin off their "presence operations into separate businesses as the article above implies. However, even then they won't create a presence market. A presence market will exist when an API exists that enables a multiplicity of vendors to start selling different types of presence services. Skype with limited resources, no effective central server, seems perfectly positioned to midwife next generation presence.

    January 27, 2005

    The Intimate Planet - Barlow

    Skype and emotional ties from voice. I've been learning a bit about music and Skype too. Read John's last line. Often there are real surprises when one engages with strangers. I had two quite different ones today as a result of iPodRadio. One finished by pointing me to "The Intimate Planet".

    The bottom line is this: they reached at random out into the Datacloud and found a real friend. And I feel like I have been graced with a real friend in both of them. Given the fact that I've been getting interesting messages from distant strangers since 1985, why do I think the big deal? Why is this different? Because these strangers have voices. There's a lot more emotional bandwidth in the human voice. I'm always surprised by the Meatspace version of someone I've only encountered in ASCII. I'm rarely surprised by someone I've only met on the phone. But one doesn't get random phone calls from Viet Nam or China, or at least one never could before.Skype changes all that. Now anybody can talk to anybody, anywhere. At zero cost. This changes everything. When we can talk, really talk, to one another, we can connect at the heart.

    The potential of establishing a real emotional connection is exponentially advantaged. And I honestly don't think it would have been any different had they been guys. In the days since, I've received another random call from a guy in Australia. We talked, very entertainingly, for awhile. I'm glad to know him too. (He wasn't trying to practice his English. He actually seems to prefer his version. He was just doing it because he could.)

    ..................Anyway, I feel as if the Global Village became real to me that night, and, indeed, it has become the Global Dinner Party. All at once. The small world has become the intimate world.

    I'm beginning to think this Internet thing may turn out to be emotionally important after all.

    BarlowFriendz: The Intimate Planet


    November 4, 2006

    Orkut and GTalk Married Up

    No surprises for me here. I've  been an advocate of merging SNS with real-time voice communications. We're finally at that stage with Google apparently ready to blend Orkut with GTalk. Orkut's on fire in India, and Brazil... thought at one time they owned it. Other pointer? Well just see the Match / Jangl announcement for MatchTalk also in Forbes below. It is still very early days. These new marriages will create some new problems --- we will want solutions for.

    Orkut members will be able to text message and voice chat with other members of the community if they choose to communicate in that way. Google believes the new functions might add a sense of immediacy to member interaction on the social networking site. A Google spokeswoman says some of the functionality of the Orkut site will be built into the free standing GTalk client. Orkut "friends" (and their "presence" status and information) will show up on GTalk users' buddy lists. Light Reading


    The system protects privacy by assigning the couple a unique number that they can use to talk to each other without fear of giving away their real telephone number or other personal details. People with caller ID will see the matchTalk number instead of their actual listing. Forbes.com

    January 31, 2007

    GizmoVoip Truphone Talkster Jajah Mashup

    Mobile VoIP update.  These are my impressions of GizmoVoip, Truphone, Talkster, and Jajah. I've been using and trying to use them all on my Nokia N80i, which I'm still raving about; especially the VoIP functionality. So how well do these programs work?

    First a little perspective. I got them all working in the US over Christmas. As a family we began using GizmoVoIP to call New Zealand in preference to the usual SkypeOut as the Nokia provides an effective Speaker Phone capability. That was worth the extra call costs on these occasions. For the last few weeks I've been back in India. Frankly that is where the real tests and benefits begin. Saved a small fortune already.

    At the apartment I have an Indian quality broadband connection; they claim 275K down and 150K up however this afternoon it was 70K down and I have no idea of the up speed. Sometimes I do see the higher speeds, still this is a long way from our office performance or what I get back in SF from Comcast. After some negotiating with our office network adminstrator (port 5060?) GizmoVoIP and Truphone both confirm connections at both places.

    After the connection part there is really no comparison in services. Truphone works even when my bandwidth sucks. To far corners of the world it connects and I don't have any problems with just silence. You know where this is going. Nokia provides Gizmo as installed on the N80i. However, Truphone in my view has proven to be the much better service. It does have an advantage currently in calling to the US... (free through the end of March). Note not all my buddies have noted the same and I had my first bad call today Jim Courtney on Truphone.

    By contrast GizmoVoIP seems to have a hard time connecting my calls. If bandwidth is tight then nothing definitely happens. As I have money to burn on Gizmo I'd like to use it. I just can't connect any calls. However, they still charge me for some of these attempts. I have a suspicion that these two approaches don't use the same audio codecs. I'm guessing that Truphone's is much more efficient. Ultimately, that's going to be important when HotSpots are overloaded.

    Where else is Truphone better? It's much better in it's voice mail feature. It's now integrated into my Nokia speed-dial. works perfectly. Still there is an even more important aspect that seems simple enough. Truphone I think comes out of the UK. They understand how to dial internationally on a mobile. By contrast Gizmo doesn't. It's simple. I travel and most of my numbers are now entered and set-up to be +919899xxxxxx or +44208xxxxyyyy. Mobiles use the + to get to international. Gizmo wants you to use 00 or 011. By using + it doesn't matter if I specify internet or GSM call, the number works. All those + numbers need editing for me to call them from Gizmo.  This seems to contridict how mobiles work.

    Now having knocked one versus the other. Truphone should come in for a few whacks too. This learning also applies more broadly. Truphone... selling there services to mobiles with Wi-Fi should have a mobile enabled site. While I managed to top up my account it is painful. Give me quickly a mobile.truphone.com. I don't care about fancy graphics. If I'm out of money I want to be able to add it fast from my phone. Gizmo is a step ahead in this regard also providing a link to the Gizmo directory and thus all those free sip numbers. With Truphone I think this is automatic. Still until the whole office is on it...

    So how do these two services relate to the likes of Talkster, Jajah or Rebtel and why should I with a VoIP enabled mobile even be interested. First a little about my Talkster experience. Talkster is providing a very generous $5 with their testing at the moment. I tried a Talkster call to Indonesia and then followed with a Truphone call.  Again Truphone provided the better audio quality and service. (Note this was still using Truphone to call in to me)  Talkster allows you to choose whether you can call in and they will then call out for you. Or like Jajah they will call your phone and that of the party you wish to speak to... simply by clicking on a link.

    First challenge. I wanted to call into Talkster using my Internet connection. Afterall it's a free call to the US.. why pay for that leg. However the link click launches my GSM (not sure if I turn my phone to VoIP first) and thus I set it to call me back on my US VoIP number. So I set it to call me and the other party. We connected, and the quality was adequate. Still the bonus of Talkster is I can enter numbers easily in my Nokia Phone browser. That means I can use it over a GPRS connection when necessary to make a call although I doubt I'd use this often.

    In principle Jajah offers this too. Except their webpage provides buttons that simply can't initiate a call from my Nokia browser. Their mobile client doesn't work with the N80. Still, why do I need a mobile client? What I do need is a mobile friendly webpage.

    Both these services seem to point to a service I'd expect to get from Truphone. Although really it's only really attractive for making international calls. How would I use it? Perhaps to direct calls away from my cellphone to a local number; eg friends house, office etc while making an international call. Both connections then get landline rates. Still I find it hard to find this very compelling.

    Overall my curiosity with all this testing just leaves me feeling that the pieces are still sort of broken. I know what I want is integrated channels that make it easy to talk, message or email with my contacts. With VoIP puts a new perspective on Talk for my mobile the associated messaging, presence, address books etc are just missing my expectations.

    Gizmo has most of these pieces. It's on the Nokia. There are chat clients that run jabber etc. It has simple presence. Still my perception is of a cheap look we can do this demo rather than what was required. Gizmo could have done Skype for Mobile in execution with a SIP and Jabber platform. It still could. Truphone by contrast seems to have the technology more grounded. I'd like to see them connect it up to Gmail / jabber. I'd add more... 

    In the meantime I've been paying Skype for a SkypeIn line. That connection uses SIP. Skype could provide my VoIP in line without any problems. They have my SkypeOut too. They could even set my Presence to Talk/VM only if they still can't deliver a chat client.

    To conclude VoIP in the hand is worth more than VoIP on the desktop. I can kiss that SkypeIn line goodbye. If we thought the migration to desktop VoIP has been so-so. I'd predict that the shift to mobile it will be even faster. And yes I know there are hardly any phones out there that currently support it. One it is compelling. Two the investment required for these new phones is less than laptops etc. They are more personal, more about status, and go everywhere. 

    One day soon I may even write about why I'm not interested in an iPhone.

    Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

    February 1, 2007

    Fring - Fringing Talking - Beyond Skype

    I've just been playing with Fring. I wrote a post some months ago Fringing Interesting. It was a quick glance at Andy's blog today that told me to take another look.

    Download and install was simple and easy to do. At first I couldn't get Fring to connect to my Skype Account or Google Talk. Their support department suggested that demand may have been a problem. Anyways tonight on my lousy home Indian broadband it connected. Initial call quality better than my recent calls with Truphone. And I've been swearing by Truphone. See my previous post. In a day in this world everything can change.

    Possible Impact: (based on six hours of experience)
    Anyone that has a Skype centric-life and has a N80 or appropriate Nokia, can connect with WiFi and manage the interruptions or the beeps will adopt this for their general Skype messaging around the home and office. I will turn Skype on my desktop off for the rest of the week and see how it goes. (This means that Skype has really blown it re mobile) Just obsoleted all those WiFi phones that are coming out. Why waste the $150 or so....

    These elements are standouts.
     

    The Mobile Integration: Nokia makes it hard to keep apps running in the background. Almost all other apps die as soon as you close them. Unless Nokia interrupts your browsing with the call manager you usually find yourself logging back in. Fring is best in class from what I've seen. You can disable the automatic startup (which I have although I'm not sure this will be necessary). Nothing like turning your phone on and knowing (what could quickly become) your favorite app is again up and running.

    A simple hide brings you back to Nokia. Hold down the menu key and a the shortcuts appear and you are back straight into Fring. Very nice. For those that have messed with sorting out UI and navigation for an app that needs to run continuously in the background this is about the best you can currently do. Nokia doesn't provide a windows task bar type facility on their NSeries.

    Chat. I constantly bleep about mobile chat and how everything from the lastest Nimbuzz to a recent test of Talkonit and other mobile chat programs all take you to a separate screen for text entry. The exception was Agile Messenger. Frings clearly taken a good look at the best in class.

    This needs work:

    Whose Calling:
    Name doesn't show when I get an inbound call! What no caller ID!? Hard to believe. This is a huge potential problem. For it includes calls on my SkypeIn number etc. One of the things about Skype is it is clear who is calling. Maybe I am missing something. Still I don't think so.

    What Channel?: I don't get the Fring graphics next to the names. Haven't read the directions so don't understand whether these are google accounts at times or Skype Accounts. As I have to decide which is the preferred channel you are making it difficult for me. I often have two names that look almost the same. Sent two messages to gmail accounts when I thought they were Skype accounts etc.

    Characters: I have a few buddies whose Skype names don't use English characters. I have no idea who these people are in Fring. Similarly you can't currently rename them.

    I've not imported my Nokia address book into Fring yet. It has 1400 records. I'm going to have to set up a smaller list to test that feature. Still the find buddy by search works easily. I don't seem to have all my Skype buddies yet in the list. Guess they will get there.


    Implications:
    What's the business model? See the Register. Not sure what to believe yet myself.

    The interconnects are pretty interesting. Using SkypeOut may be a detriment to Fring with the latest changes in Skype rates and their addition of a calling fee.

    Skype?: Skype has simply lost the high innovative ground. It's worth a separate post. Fring will enable something that Agile Messenger never managed. It's set up well enough already so you can hang out at hotspots and manage your buddylist and simpy chat. If I look at my kids and their SMS usage it would all transfer to chat if they could. WiFi enabled phones like the N80 will take time to proliferate. Still I'm now sorry that I bought my daughter an N73 and not an N80. Fring type programs may even be attractive to blackberry users. 

    Why didn't Skype launch a Symbian mobile app? It's beyond me and yet I have a theory. I'm writing about that next. It may also answer the why Skype is going to miss this party.






    Has Nokia Crushed Skype's Mobile Ambitions?

    Time to pose a fun theory tonight (when I finally seem to have a blogging mood back) and ask if Nokia has had a subtle hand in crushing Skype's mobile ambitions?

    For a few months now my Wi-Fi mobility with the N80 has taken a step into VoIP land. Even  before Fring I was beginning to ask myself... Why is it that Skype is not on Symbian?  There were demos almost a year ago. Fring clearly proves that it's possible and works. So what's the deal?

    Now put yourself in Nokia's shoes.
    They are launching the most advanced Wi-Fi phones on the planet. The N-Series. In fact even Om says just yesterday or the day before that they have overshot the mark. I think not but that's another post.

    Nokia wants these phones to have real impact in the business market. SIP is business. They also know it is going to take some of these global travellers just like me to say... whoa... this hotspot / WiFi thing is better than Skype. No more headset, back to a handset. It feels good. Voice quality ok.. almost as good. Still as we fall back to phones and handsets because the cost now lets us, it feels good and natural. Note I've made about 3 SkypeOut calls in the six weeks. I've made many many calls by comparison on Truphone and GizmoVoip.

    SIP to Win Mobile:
    Oh... what did I say. I've made many calls on SIP. Ouch! It works! Ouch! It never worked as well as Skype on my desktop and I have so many buddies now on Skype... you can't convert me. Still boy oh boy I have SIP now all over my mobile. As of tonight it is full time active with GSM via Hutch, GizmoVoip and Truphone and Fring which means Skype and Gtalk. Gosh... the only buddies I may be missing are long lost on Yahoo or MSN. Doesn't really matter.

    Open vs Closed:
    Isn't SIP open? Isn't Skype closed? Aren't SIP to SIP calls generally free. It is in the SIPphone world. What do mobile users really want to do? Talk! What matters little to Nokia? The cost per minute. So... guess the users will chose. Who provides the best or cheapest SIP plan. Oh doesn't that create choice and competition. Plus isn't Symbian open (although the Nokia call manager is pretty structured - please open it up Nokia!)

    SIP not Skype:
    So you keep egging Skype along, as they are the gorilla in the park.. you feed them stuff that says don't need to be too early on this one and continue not only testing but launch with GizmoVoIP. Probaby help out the Frings and Truphones etc. Why. Nokia benefits from an open platform and communication market. Launching their Wi-Fi phones too soon with Skype would destroy that potential.

    Maybe Skype knows and has buried their plans and gone back to aping the PSTN. Not sure. Still in Nokia shoes I'd keep it tough for Skype now as long as I can.  Every new purchaser of a Wi-Fi phone will soon know the benefits and think SIP or just VoIP.

    Disruptive:

    Did anyone say that VoIP on the mobile wouldn't be disruptive? You have got to be kidding. Accounts are as simple as a new chat account and the best services just let you use your gmail account. It's validated. Once you add your mobile and they send you the SMS so's your mobile number.

    All of this is creating a new mobile operating environment. It will be as convoluted as the desktop with as many different services. Still SIP and Jabber eliminate many of those problems. So is Nokia big enough and the Mobile market fast enough to shift the whole VoIP world off Skype?

    Okay have probably said the obvious now over and over. Nokia break out the Sippagne and i suggest putting free hotspots in every store you have in India in the next six months. Readers! They have a lot of stores in India and probably sold 5 million phones here last month. Do this throughout Asia and do it quick.

    What Next?

    Then what.... Nokia buys Gizmo and SIPphone and launchs Nokia Stores in the US and becomes their own MVNO. I change my phone to packet centric from Cellular. Prepaid minute plans here we come.


    Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

    About Chat & IM

    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in the Chat & IM category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    Brand Futures is the previous category.

    COMsumers is the next category.

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

    Creative Commons License
    This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
    Powered by
    Movable Type 3.32