Spiral Bound

Notes that are Spiral Bound. A collection of clips that catch my attention at at point in time; reposted - no editing with my own title and categorization.

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Spiral Bound: Phil on Skype and Social Networks

October 17, 2003

Phil on Skype and Social Networks

Danah Boyd asks a few questions that Stuart Henshall answers with verve. My own answers to Danah... 

Skypememe: Phil Wolff's A Klog Apart channel for skype product management and technlogy analysisDanah: I’d really like to understand the excitement of social software enthusiasts. What is it about Skype that motivates you?

  1. Skype engages people who believe their ears more than their eyes. Give Skype to someone in the music business. Or to a dyslexic or someone with ADD. Or to someone who listens to sports or talk radio. This is their linear, visually simple medium. Things should fit people.
  2. My Skype addressbook is local. It's unmediated by a third party (unlike my AOL buddy list) and lives on the edge of the cloud, not on a server. This means my addressbook is private. It also means that software/network extensions to my addressbook can scale well and be diverse. My contacts are mine.
  3. I can call anonymously. Just log out as me, log in as Mary Had A Little Lamb, and call someone. Then log out and never use that ID again. Unless they recognize my voice, I'm safe. Anonymity (or at least pseudonymity) is vital in larger communities. This assures that 911 calls are made. That whistleblowers reveal secrets. That journalists get tips. Anonymity enables individuality and civility. 
  4. Skype recognizes the social importance of privacy. Not only is my data kept locally, I control my profile, I control who can see when I'm available, and my conversations are encrypted from my headset to yours. IM, especially at work, is often monitored; phone calls less so. Skype creates a more trusted room in which to talk. Privacy leads to stronger community.
  5. Skype moments are exposed by the software. Those user moments are your impulses to use yellow pages, white pages, caller-ID, call waiting, and file sharing. Those moments can be perceived and aided by programmers. So you will shortly be able to leverage your existing online social networks to find a relevant stranger to call, to populate your address book, to see a thorough profile of the stranger calling you (including whom you know in common), to have a side chat explaining the purpose of the call, perhaps to charge the caller for your time, or to securely share that song you're teaching them to sing over the phone. Skype informs phone calls with everything we've learned about software and the web.
  6. Skype makes calls more like SMS and IM and less like One Ringy-Dingy, Two Ringy-Dingy. Multimodal, contextual, and soon with time shifting.   

In short, Skype promises to bring everything I love about my TiVo to my phone.  

Danah: Do you think that its popularity will be limited to specific communities?

No, but some communities will come first.

  • Early adopters will be computer users. Millions of us.
  • As people buy smarter phones and POTS-to-Skypenet gateways arise, everyone who has a mobile will use Skype-powered services.

If Skype was just the conversation triggered by your connection in your online community, that would be nice.

But it's more.

Skype's address book and phone logs can inform community. How about if people I Skype show up higher in my friends list, or get promoted from my fans list? What if recent frequent callers in my work-related address book show up in my intranet blog's Skyperoll?

I'll always take tacit data from user behavior over expressed content when understanding social networks. For the first time, my telephony behavior becomes useful as a sociocultural informant.

Danah: My skepticism increased dramatically when i read that Skype thinks it’s better than IM clients "Because it works!" What on earth does that mean?

It works as promised. Ummm, that's novel. Exceptional, even. Especially considering that it works over dialup, with encryption, on pretty average machines. Lots of geek cred under the hood to instantly replace hundreds of billions of dollars in telephony infrastructure with a 3 minute download, a headset, and an Internet connection.

From an industrial engineering and user experience view, they slashed the distance from thinking about calling someone to talking with that person. Skype cuts the number of tasks, clicks, typing, memorization and thinking that lead to the call. If both parties have Skype, you can even Skype me in one click.

Skype also helps with discovery. Can you imagine looking for books if Amazon only took ISBN codes? Skype's lookup works well when the other party is online. And this will only get better.

About IM, when you're talking to someone, Skype lets you IM them using its own chat client. A personal backchannel, great for passing urls back and forth.   

Assuming you're running Windows, please try it. Get the feel for it. Skype me or look up someone in a far away city and just ring a stranger to say "hello, how's the weather?".

[a klog apart]
Posted by Stuart, October 17, 2003 2:51 PM
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