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May 2004 Archives

May 1, 2004

Many Bloggers Make a Better Blog

Jenny Daley launched the new look Cheskin blog complete with a photoblog this week. It's been a fun project and you can see today how the Cheskin personality and style is emerging in their public blogging. I can't think of many companies that are sharing their stories and integrating their blogs quite like this. This may be an illustration of where writing together creates something much larger.

Two elements really stand out 1) authors visibility (easy navigation), and 2) a moblog in parallel. Within the cleanly styled company corporate blog there are also individual authors. Each author also has a subscription feed. It's all done using MT. The Topics (categories) are also clearly labeled.

Over the last couple of months particpation has increased with each new author sharing their stories. This is more than an insight into Cheskin culture, it demonstrates their daily work ethic, passion for what they are doing and how they approach it. It's clear their business is about stories and insights and Cheskin is seeing new ones everyday. Were I looking for services this blog tells me much more than the main website. It's more personal, and more involving. It's also up to date and current.

There is an old saying "many hands make light work" and after not blogging for a week I could do with some hands. Cheskin solves this by handing out the work and creating something more powerful as a result. Some organizations wouldn't have the trust for this. My belief is extend the trust and not only do you get many hands you get a better product.

These clips from some recent posts.

From Fresh Perspectives:

Soundtrack of Life
I've just purchased Dell's Digital Jukebox, and I'm a happy camper. Right now I'm sitting on a long plane flight listening to Cassandra Wilson, who has taken me to an alternative reality that I much prefer to the drudgery of a cross country flight
Lee Shupp

Toxic Missionaries
On my way to work this morning, I encountered three men handing out flyers. As I approached them, they stuck their mechanical arms out in front of me hoping to block my passage and be heard. They came within inches of my mid-section and then retracted at the last second
Lisa Leckie

Social Networking Buzz
Every so often, people in the valley start to talk about a new buzzword. Lately, social networking has been the buzzword. The growth and prevalence of social networking sites, such as Friendster and Linkedin, Orkut, and Tribe is generating serious curiosity from many folks in the business community. But are we all talking about the same things? And where does the newness lay?
Maria Flores Letelier

Teen Tastes
I have two daughters born in April (15 years and 3 days apart from each other). Each year, as their birthdays arrive, I begin a frantic search for whatever is new and hip for their age group. With my oldest daughter, I've pretty much given up. She gets money or something she's picked out herself. But the little one is still easy. Want to know what's near and dear to the hearts of pre-teen girls right this second?
Christopher Ireland

Concurrenly Cheskin are moblogging in parallel. I've made my enthusiasm for moblogging known in earlier posts and wonderful to see this being taken on. Dina and I recently set up a Project blog for an ethnography project. It just began to demonstrate the value that blogs and moblogs have to the research process. I'm hoping that the infectious success of blogging externally for Cheskin now creates some great new opportunities to revolutionize projects studying life.

There are some other blogs in the Experience Design space that I look at from time to time. Challis Hodge is one of the best. Similarly Andrew Zoli's blog while infrequent captures interesting insights. Josh Rubin similarly provides a cool blog which really leverages pictures.

May 3, 2004


I was lucky enough to have lunch with Image(25).jpgRobert Mao yesterday. He was over for a session at UC Berkeley on China's Digital Future which unfortunately I'd missed. He's one of China's budding social networking entrepreneurs and bloggers. UUZONE is networking people and reaching out to the world. Robert also has a backgroud in VoIP. Thus it is not surprising that he found me via Skype. Frankly he maybe alone as an entrepreneur in the social networking space who I hear talking about the potential for voice when tied to this technology (when tied to the current narrow SN definition). His company LodeSoft has also released some interesting products. There will be more to come.

Big Bad Skype??

I received this from Ed Prentice. He's one of the guys that really gets it. I just wonder if these guys are going to print my "Skype Business Plans" post on the enterprise next. I've added a few comments to their note for I think they have the shades down.

From the Network World Newsletter. Today's focus: Who's afraid of the Big Bad Skype?

By Steve Taylor and Larry Hettick

The Skype Web site has a quote from the Feb. 16 issue of Fortune Magazine, where FCC Chairman Michael Powell says, "I knew it was over when I downloaded Skype. When the inventors of KaZaA are distributing for free a little program that you can use to talk to anybody else, and the quality is fantastic, and it's free - it's over. The world will change now inevitably."

We're not sure we'll go quite that far, but we do see some issues being raised that can no longer be avoided in several circles. In particular, corporate networks, service providers, and PBX manufacturers will all have to deal with the issue of peer-to-peer applications sooner or later. Let's take them in inverse order.

From the perspective of the PBX manufacturers, what we see here
is a softphone application that will perform a few of the functions of the IP PBX. The on-screen app does a bit of presence management, and you certainly have the ability to have a conversation. This bolsters our argument that the IP PBX has to be viewed as a lot more than just cheap telephony, and the integration of applications into the IP PBX infrastructure is key to the adoption of these devices.

Is this a centralized view or a view of the personal IP PBX on my desktop? The personal IP PBX may require some backup and there are certain advantages to knowledge sharing and networking that can be accelerated by some centralization. Still how well are the traditional PBX suppliers positioned to help with this transition? The IP PBX of tomorrow may not cost very much. The value will be in the services. Particularly, presence, collaboration, real-time adaptation. Perhaps IBM or Microsoft have some advantages in this area?

We're also not sure there's a great threat to the incumbent service providers. Long-distance revenue from individuals who have not shopped aggressively are threatened the most. For instance, if residential users are already paying around three cents per minute for long distance, then moving to "free" long distance isn't a great incentive unless you're on the phone for hours at a time. The incentive is even less for large corporate users, where the domestic long distance rate is starting to creep under a penny a minute. Also, in it's current PC-client format, you're not likely to want to be tied to your PC as opposed to being able to roam around the house with a traditional phone. Then there are the issues like E-911 that clearly point to having at least one "real" phone around.
Think we are missing the point here. This is not cost driven. It is presence and mobility that is creating a tomorrow phone that is WiFi enabled Smart PDA Cell Phone, that may or maynot require your PC to be on. This roaming with the home phone metaphor is a real barrier to considering how it will be. Finally the nail in the coffin is sound quality. Each new friend I turn on to Skype makes the same comment the sound quality potential is way beyond Skype's current delivery.

The biggest threat (and opportunity) that we see is in the control of corporate networks where Skype, as yet another peer-to-peer application, can have a major impact. That's the subject of our next newsletter.

Yep in the Enterprise all these buddy lists, presence capabilities, impromptu conferencing, and collaboration tools can really have an impact. In the corporate environment seeing your buddies buddies will be commonplace. Still Skype's model suggests that Enterprise Skype will aggregate the local P2P activity and manage log-ins for the group. Thus corporate P2P clouds will use the efficiency of all the dispersed computing power and yet retain control of the cloud and provide the supernode functionality providing an additional level of security. Is this still a good guess? Will it help with WiFi security when the PDA becomes the corporate campus phone? Guess I can read next weeks edition.

May 4, 2004

Blogs Going Forward

Smart innovative decision-makers will get blog pilot up and running. I really liked the title of this article. "Social Computing: Getting Ahead of the Blog"
Originally published on 29 March I don't know how I missed it until now. It inculdes this useful set of questions, many of which I have wrestled with recently case by case.

Understanding the different categories enables strategists and decision makers to illustrate multiple solution scenarios. As part of that process, several critical issues need to be examined, including:

  • How do blogs add or detract from the overall business model?
  • How will blogs be positioned versus other communication, collaboration, and information channels?
  • Will users respond to a pull (subscription-based) model?
  • Will a browser model for reading blogs suffice, or will an e-mail client be preferred by users?
  • Will blog proliferation lead to just another source of information overload?
  • To what degree is editorial control and release management required?
  • How will the time devoted to blog-related activities by employees be valued?
  • What leadership, communication plans, and reward/incentive programs are necessary to encourage blog adoption and use?
  • What risk factors do blogs present (e.g., court-ordered discovery, regulatory compliance)?
  • What rights management situations might arise (e.g., copyright)?
  • Will blogs become as credible a resource as other sources of company information?
  • How will blogs be used within business processes as opposed to personal networks?
  • What are the alignment aspects of blogs (e.g., portals, content, learning, and collaboration tools)?
  • How do blogs “fit” into existing infrastructure (directory, security, operational management)?
  • What metrics (e.g., subscription data, page sessions) should be gathered and reported?
  • Are blogs a premium service for certain external activities (e.g., commerce aspects)?
  • Are vendors already on-standard and poised to deliver blog tools, or can they deliver the same benefits within existing technology?
  • What options do emerging vendors, hosted services, or open-source alternatives offer?
  • What are the archival and records management aspects of blogs?
  • What storage implications (e.g., backup/restore) will occur, and what limitations around storage allocation per worker (similar to e-mail inboxes) might have to be established?
  • What content security aspects should be required to protect liability, confidentiality, and intellectual property?
  • How does all this fit into a social computing strategy?
    Social Computing

  • Forget Current Social Networking Models

    David Coursey chimes in to the Social Networking is Broken theme. So if it is broken with no business model where to next?

    Social networks are a good thing. Everybody should have one--and everybody I know does, in some form or fashion. But whether you need an online social network and, particularly, whether you need one whose primary purpose is separating you from your money is another question entirely.
    No Business in Social Networking

    Where to?
    This is a question I've been pondering I just know I'm not getting to it tonight. Maybe someone else in the network will.

    May 8, 2004

    Internet Phone Services

    Rafe Needleman posts a guide to Internet Phone services.

    Consumers and businesses alike will come to appreciate the low monthly rates, useful features, and clear voice quality of an Internet phone service. We reviewed five such services and found one clear winner.

    Internet phones: CNET Editors' guide to VoIP - CNET reviews

    May 12, 2004

    Skype Interconnect Coming

    If you are a startup with a little money in the bank and burning a hole in development costs for interconnects, porting to OSX, Palm and Symbian platforms you would probably be in a hurry to figure out how to generate more revenue.

    Selling prepaid calling plans might just be the thing. Having already adapted to making international calls for free, connecting and convincing other friends and family to Skype may just get a boost from those that use it. "I'm calling you via Skype" costing me a couple of cents.... of course if you get it this call would be free. Apart from that... A $10 calling card might just be the thing. How many could Skype sell? Buy a prepaid card and support Skype. Now that looks like applying the Dell financial model to telcoms. Collect the cash first, then provide the service. It's worked before.

    Now my questions. Will Skype do this with one carrier providing the interconnect or adopt SIP? My guess is start with one carrier and then provide SIP connectivity later. SIP connectivity will tie to the enterprise products.

    Mr Zennstrom said the paid service would allow access to standard telephony.

    "We allow people to make free phone calls because we don't have the same costs as the phone companies," he said.

    "We will make money by upselling value-added services. Shortly, we will allow people to make landline calls.

    "We have a small percentage of users who will subscribe."

    Mr Zennstrom said he was not keen to take on advertising.

    "We had lots of advertising with KaZaA, and one of the things we decided with Skype was to do the opposite," he said.

    "One of the reasons Skype has grown is because people like the product, and if we have advertising maybe people won't like the product as much."

    a title="Australian IT - KaZaA chiefs tackle VoIP (Simon Hayes, MAY 11, 2004)" href="http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,9524843%5E15322%5E%5Enbv%5E15306,00.html">Australian IT - KaZaA chiefs tackle VoIP (Simon Hayes, MAY 11, 2004)

    May 13, 2004

    Personal VoIP Network

    Do you hate dialing with your cellphone internationally? Tends to cost a lot. Here's just another example of how personal VoIP exchanges will change the way we connect and get charged. This is another illustration of the power that is coming to consumers as we move to morphed personal IP PBX solutions.

    Technology from i2 Telecom will let cell users dial their home phones and connect to a voice-over-IP network, then dial anywhere in the world for no extra charge--offering big savings on overseas calls. InformationWeek > Cell Phones and VOIP

    Networld Interop

    NILV.jpg I spent a few hours at Networld Interop in Las Vegas over the last couple of days. I'm only going to report on two items after noting that this show will be at a smaller venue next year. I was also taking a look for future "stand" reference points and filled a couple of pages with what was good and bad. I saw too many "cloud diagrams" they all look the same, found few had a short elevator pitch and the presentations for the most part required free t-shirts to keep people interested.

    As I said two things caught my interest. First for collaborative sharing Advanced Reality and second for some big company thinking Siemens Openscape product provides at least a reference for where "some" industry thinking is.

    Brian Hoogendam President of Advanced Reality introduced me to their products. So far demo's are available for Excel and Powerpoint although according to Brian the same sharing technology can be applied to other applications using a simple plug-in creation formula. On Excel and Powerpoint it was pretty neat . I'm not quite sure why there were at this show. This screen sharing app enabled multiple parties to update concurrently.

    The blurb from their website:

    Presence-AR is the first real-time, peer-to-peer system and enablement platform for adding synchronous collaboration capabilities to existing and new software applications. Presence-AR uses a patent-pending data-centric architecture to provide a full range of collaborative features, and to eliminate the need to modify applications. Presence-AR is the only collaboration platform with support for fail-over and persistence that allows a session to continue uninterrupted when a host signs-off, or is inadvertently disconnected. This enables participants to join and leave a session at will, and supports both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. By providing collaboration on the data layer, Presence-AR:

  • Allows users to collaborate on the same data using different applications
  • Dynamically adapts views of the same data for the capabilities of any access device including PCs, handhelds, and mobile phones
  • Enables collaboration across firewalls, LANs, and dial-up connections
  • Provides secure collaboration through support of encryption, authentication, and access control systems

    Advanced Reality - Products and Solutions

  • Separately take a look at Siemens OpenScape. I gather it is being used within Siemens currently. It does have a tie-in to WebEx to aid and facilitate conferences and similarly will connect to MS Messenger.

    Siemens describes OpenScape as a multimodal communications application that provides presence-aware, real-time communications to quickly and easily synchronize people and information to facilitate action.

    So what was notable? Looking at the laptop screens... It had a dialer, a more detailed "my contacts" (presence re phone, messaging and e-mail) and a list of conferences. Some of the conferences were effectively persistent. In many ways the interface for Convoc's Meeting ASAP provides similar details although more efficiently. On the Siemen's page link above scrolling down does provide a few white papers. They may provide some resouces and facts for the payback that can be achieved from "presence".

    May 14, 2004

    Greed May Kill MT

    Well we now know that MT SixApart or MovableType has really stuffed up. The team that started trackbacks will sink in one storm of their own making. Currently I see 527 trackbacks to this post. In the space of an afternoon I've gone from a 120% avid supporter to a grudging 25% only there because it remains on my server. I paid the donation licenses, and I've done the same for a few companies. I've praised the forums all staffed by voluteers and applauded the plug-in architecture. MT would still be nothing without this community.

    I have 10 blogs behind henshall.com. There are four that are sort of active and public. The others are experiments and development blogs for other projects. Perhaps one would call them a live template library or a demonstration place. They are my repositories for experiments. I'm not a developer although I do know how MT works and what it can do.

    Separately I've executed a couple of multi-author blogs. Those companies could possibly exist within the blog number restriction but not on the authors. 20 authors is nothing. And who in their right mind would set a pricing structure that fails to offer everyone in a company a blog. Note, current MT plug-ins enable you to create additional index templates for sub-blogs by author.

    I don't mind a fee. However, limiting blog by number limits the creativity and number of applications that they can be put to. This is poor economics. If blogs are scarce because they cost money then people will be cautious about setting them up. If authors can't freely experiment whether public or private then the product and the applications will also remain static. This pricing structure will kill an innovative medium. It's not the way I want to let blogs loose in my company. I also don't want a million blogs without purpose.

    A possible simple solution is to set a minimum fee and grant a minimum number of authors. I'd guess about $10 per author is about the right price. No limit to the number of blogs. Thus you probably start at $50 for up to five authors. It's $100 at 10 etc. This means that you will have to sell it to 60 authors to get the $599 they are looking for. Maybe then they will actually integrate "authors" into the database functionality!

    Further limiting blogs to a number is stupid. In a company many will use the same templates. Thus there is no real investment in adding additional blogs. Where they want different looks and feel or changed funtionality then a new custom blog is designed. New template costs time and money although they are relatively easy to set up.

    If I had a research company even the top license for 20 authors wouldn't make sense. It's not the money it the restrictions on blogs and authors. Blogs that involve customers may run for the life of a project. After that they are effectively retired. They may run into an internally syndicated list and thus remain searchable. A new project starts. How long before I'm through 15? And what do I do with my customers in this case? Do they now cost me money to enable them to blog on my platform?

    Finally nothing suggests there is anything really new here. I'm even more bothered now about comment spam. I have to deal with it daily. That apparently is a problem primarily for MT bloggers.

    So bloggers it is probably time to move on. I want a blog-wiki for external communications and a wiki-blog for my internal stuff. My read is MT just created an enormous opportunity for some competitors.

    MT confess you made a mistake. Listen to those that would like to remain customers rather than thinking you should be Oracle.

    May 17, 2004

    VoIP Future

    Jeff Pulver picks up on a theme that I'm now investing a lot of time in. I've bolded his statement where it counts and resonates from my perspective.

    The time has come for the IP Communications Industry to start to move beyond the HYPE of VoIP and start to deliver some of the services which are only possible because of the advent of IP based communications. Some of these services start to become very visible only when we start to blur the line between instant messaging, presence, and voice communication. Throw in things like blogging, social networking and gaming and things just start to get interesting. (my bold)

    The advent of a technology like SIP means that for the first time in the 127 year history of telephony, the same protocol can be used on an end-to-end basis between customers on two ends of a telephone call. This represents a total radical change in the engineering of communication networks and ways, which value added services, can be and will be introduced in the near future.
    I look forward to reading about the next wave of companies, which truly will help redefine the future of the communications industry. My hope is that such services start to arrive in 2004.
    The Jeff Pulver Blog

    May 18, 2004

    Web Conferencing Opportunities

    This little clip out of this weeks Economist highlights the changing nature of conferencing. My feeling is the figures are low, tracing to corporate behaviors and traditional market definitions. The number of new products emerging in this space suggest many more see opportunities.

    Then the number of informal and impromptu conferences I'm now finding myself in has increased dramatically and that traces almost entirely to free services (like Skype) that make it easier than the paid services to run small sessions of 3 to 4 people even on a whim.


    Growing fastest is web conferencing, which usually combines a phone-based audio conference with a visual display (such as a slide presentation or software demonstration) delivered via a web browser. It grew by 40% last year, and hybrid web-audio conferences are now starting to displace audio-only conference calls. There is no need for fancy equipment, since most people already have a phone and a PC on their desks.

    Economist.com | Virtual meetings

    5 Million Skype Softphones?

    I was doing a little Skyping today trying to get a line on the impending roll-out of the PSTN interconnect which for all I know was announced at VON Canada today.

    Whenever Skype launches their PSTN interconnect which I assume will use a prepaid card format and proprietary interconnect agreement (for they have no advantage going to SIP directly) somethings will happen...

    Five Million Softphones will be launched. Has anyone else ever achieved that sort of number? They are claiming 5 million registered users now. If their interconnect deal is sweet they will provide some cents worth of free calling with each upgrade. Then Skype will infect many more households. I'm calling you on Skype on my dime.... cost us nothing if you start Skyping....

    Five Million people get their first PC softphones (most of these have never seen one before, or completely given up on earlier examples). At least 10% will buy a $10 prepaid card (say 500 minutes anywhere on earth) even if just for goodwill and support for Skype. If the ratio is right and they can protect multiple identities through the creditcard number then a $.50 free offer will come with every PSTN softphone upgrade. Sweeter would be options to incent Skypers to sign up new connections. PayPal did this at launch.

    The SkypeSoftphone will likely look nothing like the other softphones out there. It's name driven. Simply key the number in and dial. Even if they add an addtional dialer tab, the message "click on the person" to dial will be clear.... never enter a number again.

    "Skype isn't about making cheaper phone calls it's about communicating better. It's much more convenient, has superior voice quality, instant messaging and conference calling." Niklas Zennstrom Globetechnology
    An that is potentially where this strategy has the biggest problem. Interconnects will result in lower sound quality. The question thus remains will Skype's sound quality remain distinctive enough in an interconnected world?

    Finally the guess is that you will be able to dial out or bridge a non Skyper into a conference call however this interconnect won't allow inbound calling at this time. Neither will you have any presence information for these out of network callers. That will only come later if / when integrated with SIP.

    Time will tell if I am right.

    On the competitive front Italk2U was relaunched in beta --- lousy sound quality does it get through all firewalls now. Don't bother. Then today I saw Peerio which wasn't downloadable when I visited. See Ted Sheldon's comments re the open source aspects.

    May 19, 2004

    SIP Required

    From the notes at VON Canada a debate I too would like to see.

    I would personally like to see a public debate on SIP versus Skype with myself and Niklas on the panel and put the theories in front of the people. If nothing else it might educate a few people. SIPthat.com
    via Boris Mann through Feedster.
    ...we've already travelled down the road of incompatible networks in the IM world, why would we want to do the same thing with Skype? B. Mann

    A nice summary of day one learnings by Buzzcrash.

    1. Convergence is back. And this time it's not going away. Thanks to penetration of broadband internet, convergence of voice, data, e-mail, text messaging, video, etc. on all kinds of IP devices (from computers to 'soft-phones') is taking off. Consumers are benefitting from more, bundled services and lower prices.
    2. As a result, traditional 'telco' provider market is becoming almost unrecognizeable. Obvious new providers/competitors are cable companies with a broad range of IP services including voice, and new VoIP entrants like US-based Vonage.
    3. Canadian telcos understand the game is changing and have done a better job than their US counterparts staking their claims. However, they're terrifed that regulators won't recognize the game change and will subject Telcos to regulation that will tip the playing field in favour of the cable companies and new entrants.
    4. Government for their part, say they recognize the game has changed, want to encourage innovation, and recognize that the playing field must be level. However the CRTC has sent some signals that have the Telcos unnerved.
    5. Analysts predicting that 'bundling will become the defacto pricing model', because voice telephony now clearly a commodity. Also, that innnovation will be the key to avoiding commoditization which isn't really a break through idea.
    6. Everyone anticipating new business models arising arising from shift to IP based communications but not really obvious yet what those will be.
    7. VC's cautioning not to mistake the technology for the opportunity and reinforcing desire for innovation and paradigm shifting business models. Some things never change.

    voip at von canada (buzzcrash.blog-city.com)

    Dial with Skype

    Skype is working with two carriers to enable dialing into the PSTN. It will be interesting to see the rate card when released.

    The basic Skype service will remain free for Internet phone calls.

    Zennstrom revealed agreements with two telecommunications carriers that by summer will allow Skype calls to be made to standard phones anywhere in the United States.....Zennstrom would not name his telecommunications partners in advance of an official announcement. Mercury News | 05/19/2004 |

    a paid version called Skype Plus that will collect voice mail and allow people to call it from regular telephones.

    That will be accompanied by another paid version, called SkypeOut, that will allow Skype computers to call regular phones and will be compatible with regular cordless and headset telephones. MLive.com

    May 24, 2004

    Kolabora - Future of Collaboration

    I'm looking forward to participating in Robin Good's upcoming Kolabora Live along with Eugene Eric Kim. Hope you can join us this Thursday at 12:00 New York Time - 9:00 AM PST . Robin thank you for your invite and being so generous with your praise.

    The Future Of Online Collaboration This Week At The Competitive Edge

    The Competitive Edge is back for its second live event, bringing together two visionary scholars and researchers of online collaboration as it is effectively applied to real world situations inside and outside small and large organizations.

    Stuart Henshall and Eugene Eric Kim are the expert thought-leaders that will be engaging our elite audience of industry experts, marketing VPs and industry CEOs in a live audio/video exchange this upcoming Thursday at 12 noon NY time.

    The Future Of Online Collaboration This Week At The Competitive Edge - Online Collaboration and Web Conferencing Breaking News - Kolabora.com

    For those of you that don't know Robin and have an interest in knowledge innovation, collaboration and conferencing tools subscribe to his latest news feeds. You will find a wealth of useful postings and references there. He's also developing with Kolabora an online network of expert leaders and thinkers across the collaboration space.

    About May 2004

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

    April 2004 is the previous archive.

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