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August 2004 Archives

August 1, 2004

Everything Cell Phones

To me via Smart Mobs.

The handset is rapidly consuming every other aspect of mobile consumer electronics: PDAs, cameras, GPS receivers, MP3 players, DVD players and game consoles. In the process, the SoC companies and intellectual-property (IP) providers that had planned to make a living in each of those areas will be drawn in — for the most part, to their doom.

Convergence is being driven by a simple consumer want: "Don't make me carry a bagful of toys when one will do." Two electronic gizmos in a package are better than one, as long as the form factor doesn't get out of control or the user interface become inscrutable. This is what's happening with second- or third-generation PDA/cell phone combinations, which are rapidly spreading through the ranks of professional users.

At the same time, the very cellular handsets that are bringing them nothing are destroying the SoC vendors' original markets. Free handsets with 2- to 3-megapixel cameras, good MP3 players, decent organizers and good videogames will decimate each of those standalone markets. The only survivors among mobile consumer devices will be high-end niches temporarily beyond the reach of the handset's electronics — professional digital cameras, for example.
EE Timesl

August 2, 2004

Trust in Blogging

"I need a quick fix" kind of bother. This is an addicting medium. Many are thinking and talking about blogging and its psychological impacts. Fresh Perspectives
I'm also addicted to blogging. Blogging is about conversations while organisations are living conversations. Perhaps that is why Microsoft's Channel9 recently caught my attention. "Trust" in blogging comes when organizations start engaging in real voices. Microsoft has more to gain than most. From "evil empire" to "blogging empire" would be quite a transformation. It's hard not to like or respect bloggers you read frequently. Similarly each time you leave something behind whether a comment or trackback the bond strengthens. We know this. When we comment on product quality or read book reviews at Amazon, we are much more bound than to Barnes and Noble. When you build a positive reputation at eBay you don't want to trade someplace else. So companies that enage us in the development community intellectual understanding are likely to profit.

Microsoft is beginning to enage their customers in blogs. By contrast I have no feeling for whether IBM (see this post from Ed Brill) or CapGemini are creating external conversation like this? I don't know if their consulting services can. Thus I wonder if MS is unknowingly disintermediating part of the "consulting" conversation and shifting it to "peers"? Or will these consulting knowledge workers have to become part of their conversations too? Is it just like Linux developers who find value in giving to the broader community?

Mmm... Microsoft appears to be really pushing the envelope with how to build websites that start online conversations with customers. PR Communications

Who blogs anyway? What is the psychographic profile of the blogging population and do these attributes extend to the majority of the market, or just to the nano-pundits? In other words, are most people psychologically predisposed to adopt some form of mass-market blogging or is blogging inherently a niche behavior and application? The Gordon Gould Weblog

..... I include Linux, Apple, Sun, Oracle, Macromedia, and IBM blogs in that. Why? Because it's important that Microsoft employees and executives keep up on what bloggers from across the industry think. I do it out in public to help everyone and to make sure I'm an authority on the tech industry, not just on Microsoft. Credibility. You get it by not just helping yourself. Scobleizer

Again and again in answers to my survey I am told the big advantage of blogging comes from the speed of communication with an audience. However, what I find interesting is that the people who are saying this are the people who build the products. Now, no longer is there a barrier between the customer and the architects of software and products. seattlepi.com

I think the answer is yes!

  • Can Blogs (as a form of mass media communication) communicate facts?
  • How could a blog foster innovation in software development?
  • Can a community really be built through a blog based on a single personality?
  • Can a collection of blogs (based on a single personality) build a community?
  • How do the technological limitations of a blog help or hinder (given the goals)?
    S&TS 349 Final Project: Proposal

    Over the weekend, I got an outbreak of self-referential blogs. Robert Scoble (the self proclaimed "Microsoft Geek Blogger") wrote that Mike Padula is doing a study as a student at Cornell about why people blog. Marc Nozell referenced Fresh Air's interview with Bill Moyers about blogging (among other things).
    Feld Thoughts

  • Then the same level of "trust" doesn't seem to exist in the academic world. Anonymous blogs? Where would the academic discussion leave anonymous corporate bloggers?

    Steve comments about a conversation over at Graham Leuschke's site about anonymous academic blogs
    Lori announces some changes to her own blog (now Stepford-ized for your approval), in light of her recent job search Collin vs. Blog

    In that last-mentioned post, profgrrrrl points to a couple of articles in the Chronicle, Say anything

    You've answered most questions in your About and FAQish areas, except the most important, if you expect humans to trust you.
    Who are you?
    Who are the principals, who are the backers? What is the intent? What is the "birth story"?
    Without these, I see no reason to join.
    Jerry Michalski

    Social Identity - Mobility Changing Meaning

    Clay Shirky links to a mobility piece by Mimi Ito and reminds me of an article I read and never got around to blogging. 'Exploring the implications for social identity of the new sociology of the mobile phone'.

    Mobile phones are transforming the experience of place and co-presence for a wireless generation of Japanese youth. In the past, physical co-presence generally defined who one was socially and interactionally accountable to at any given time, interrupted occasionally by a telephone call or a beeping pager. Now that mobile phones have become a norm for youths in Japan as elsewhere, distant others are always socially co-present, and place – where you locate yourself – has become a hybrid relation between physical and wirelessly co-present context. receiver

    Telephony's Changing Audio Paradigm

    This links to a post written four years ago. Even then "better audio quality" was predicted for telephony. It's part of a changing paradigm. Sometimes it takes a long time for these things to work their way through.

    What can a movie critic, a fat man in a tweed jacket, teach us about telephony? A lot, as you will see. Telephony, because it is so widely used, is about what people want, much the same as making and showing movies.

    What about telephony? Both IP telephony and voice-over-ATM systems have the prospect of delivering a truly better product, in audio quality, in call information, in lightning-quick connection, in integration with PC and Palm-based information, in the richness and friendliness of voice interface. Why use bells and tones and buzzes when you can explain things to the user and offer alternatives? Still, makers of new-style systems seem to think their work is done when it is "almost as good as" phone calls delivered over the very first, and now decades-old electronic exchanges.

    Are the developers of new telephony systems stupid? No, they are merely tired. By the time they have gotten their products to work, with their investors breathing down their necks, they are happy to have something that will satisfy a specification and a business plan, rather than make a customer say "Wow!" But if you really want success, you won't stop until you have something that is really remarkable, not just respectable.

    I often believe that nothing is really very new. Jori Liesenborgs submitted his thesis in May 2000. "Voice over IP in networked virtual environments" At the time his perscription was for 3D VoIP in virtual environments. Today it is reaching the marketplace. Recently testers including myself were impressed with the capabilities of Smart Meeting. Those that have read my blog know I believe in the potential for 3D Stereo VoIP. See also Polycom who recently announced their 3D surround sound and video solution. As we know from Skype IM, conferencing and collaboration tools are converging. Add in 3D environments and we may go from calls singular to connection plural. Then in case you missed it.

    The Q3D audio positional technology brings a surround-sound experience to the wireless device by controlling the position of virtual sound sources in the space around the listener's head. QUALCOMM See also QSound

    August 3, 2004

    Skype Activists on the Horizon

    If you take on the global telecom companies then you are social activists. Activism is probably in the Skype teams DNA. However activism requires a grass root movement and leverage to topple what was. Skype now has a lever in SkypeOut and millions and millions of minutes so now it has to empower the army. There can be no conscription, membership is voluntary. Skype must now understand that the tech alone won't change the world but its users can by participating. It is time for Skype to take a bold step forward and embrace users with a new compact. This little scenario below may scare the VC's. It would be a great step towards changing telecom forever.

    So, create a Skype Members program, add in an understanding of social marketing and activism and a new threat emerges to telecoms. Members programs are not new ideas (eg American Express, mileage programs etc.) although membership participation in this program may swing collective real benefits for the community rather than just the individual. For an example consider how the eBay community works and interacts.

    Create leverage by using Skype's potential for talking billions of minutes served. The paid minutes are a number that Niklas won't be ready to share yet and the PC to PC minutes are unknown. From the markets perspective Skype is either smaller than expected or much larger. It is a no win. However, if they go "open" combining reporting of paid minutes and PC to PC minutes then the data becomes more interesting.

    When "paid" minutes becomes public knowledge as they certainly will given time then they will represent only a small portion of Skype's "connectivity" value. Skype would be understating it's case. As incumbents play their games "paid minutes" can't determine economic arguments or fuel protection into the future.

    Thus Skype should create an open rates dialogue with members as part of an open and transparent policy. This completely changes the playing field. What we have learned is Skype now has the minutes to start wielding power. (The interconnects may still be shakey.) So now they have to rapidly build the number of minutes used.

    When Skype goes public with contract numbers then we as a skype community also reap benefits when together we achieve these targets... get these rates etc. Thus as each new mega million minute threshold is reached Skypers get lower rates. By adding statistic and time we engage users in the conversion. This is part of the daily tracking and monthly community reporting. This is smart business move with additional side benefits. Currently no other VoIP network can match Skype for minutes connected. Thus an important "market" statistic is created. Concurrently traditional telecoms are threatened by "open" VoIP statistics. Should Skype talk minutes then the regulators may have to look at minute costs and values. In Skype's case money spent this month divided by the total of free minutes plus paid minutes is the average cost per minute. No current telecom on earth can match this figure further highlighting inefficiency and the need for change.

    The statistics and numbers game here is Skype’s to be won. The telecoms cannot afford to publish the same data. If they do their share prices will tank. Right now Skype remains a minnow. Soon Skype will be larger than some countries and then one day maybe with enough consumer participation it can present numbers to the FCC and say game over.

    Metaphor Usage for Wiki Wins Praise

    This is a great example from Eugene Kim on how to bridge the digital divide between excellent facilitation and creating a "project" that assembles up the work as one goes along. In his post Eugene explores the value of "creating a book". What's important here is it is not the tool (wiki) it is the concept of the "book" that made this work. He also highlights a simple initial exercise for getting involvement.

    .... the primary group exercise at the event was to write a book. The exact topic and format was not specified -- that would evolve as the workshop unfolded.

    The book exercise solved many problems. .... it built knowledge assembly into the workshop process. More importantly, it made the participants responsible for that assembly, which kept them invested in the content.... At this event, the participants documented the workshop themselves using the Wiki.

    As an initial exercise, we precreated pages for every participant. We then asked people to add some information about themselves, then to go through the Wiki and comment on another page that interested them. Having people write in their own pages allowed us to avoid a massive edit conflict problem. It also gave people a fallback if they were unsure of where to add content, and it populated the Wiki with a lot of useful and interesting information. People are social animals. We like to read about other people. (212)
    EEK Speaks

    I believe there is not enough thinking going into how we shape the leaders and managers of tomorrow. They will learn to use these tools however the discovery and integration of them into learning programs must be focused on managerial and leadership skills and performance. They use them as part of the program. It happens without thinking and as part of enhancing their skills and how they will project themselves and manage their boss, peers and team. So go use the book metaphor and include a moblog learning journey around the organization. Do audioblog interviews of each other. Add in some leadership development or TMI programs. Discuss what it takes to be a principled blog leader etc. Consider management and leadership style. Then let them decide on what the benefits are who should do what and put a program into motion. I'd keep a group like this to 8-12 people and focus on accelerating the leadership of creativity and innovation..

    Now if you are an HR professional I presume you will say... time and efficiency and will these new "things be additive to my workload? I'd suggest certainly not by design, in fact quite the contrary. Still it begins for any organization with an exploratory leap and a small group.

    August 6, 2004

    Seeking Intelligent Presence

    Packet Pick Pockets is the best review I've seen on the FCC ruling this last week. I alluded to this in my FCC post, Martin just says it so much better.

    The way out from the conumdrum of whether to wiretap VoIP is to understand it’s the wrong question. There’s a paradox at the heart of the wiretap concept. Wiretapping is aimed at real-time communications. These are connection-oriented; there is a session in place. But session encryption is (now) easy. Store-and-forward data encryption is hard, because you need to involve all sorts of third party key management and directory services. The very data you want to intercept is the least likely to be interceptable on an Internet-style network.

    So we’ll see a shift in focus from the real-time intercept of transient data on the fly, to after-the-event recovery of transaction data. The real questions are do we force all intermediary application services to retain and hand over copies of stored messages and transactions? And if not, is there a well-defined subset of those service capabilities that should be intercepted? My take is “maybe” and “yes”.
    That said the core routing services "directory, presence and identity" are clearly defineable and limited in scope. A reasonable trade-off is to make it easy for the state to know who is associating with whom, even if the state has no knowledge of the purpose of the interaction.
    Telepocalypse: Packet pick pockets

    Plus I'm warming to the the opportunity to re-think "status" in terms of sharing and who might need your presence information. For example it may be useful for my neighbors to know I am away, or it may help to know to simply have a system that acts as a watchout notifier someone approaches my house while I am gone. Police may receive different data to the Neighborhood Watch. It is too easy with today's simple IM presence to stop with the current definitions rather than thinking about how it could serve us in new ways. I googled "Intellgent Presence" and in a quick search found little. Far from just being visible to everyone, "intelligent presence" may just serve us in ways yet to be dreamed up. I'd think the IM/VoIP platform that enables a "Presence Agents" market may shock incumbents.

    August 7, 2004

    My Feedster

    No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster

    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.


    Business blogging hits the headlines in this week's Business Week. It's a nice article and suggests a new opportunity. To my knowledge no one is yet syndicating top CEO blogs. The url www.ceoblogs.com is available! So here it is. Create a syndicated blog forum that captures Fortune 500 CEO blogs. By aggregating CEO blogs you get some unique opportunities. Afterall all you are doing is aggregating their blogs. They don't like it... they can stop blogging. Centralizing the most important ones will add new perspective to the investment community, corporate direction etc. The Fortune 500 is just one slice of this. CEOBlogs can be sliced by country, industry, turnover etc.

    The criteria is they must be written or audioblogged by the individual. No ghostwriting. They must have a bi-weekly average frequency to stay on the list. When the list volume needs managing readers will become involved Slashdot style. There will be a special section for "registered analysts" comments. Blogs will be assigned industry categories etc. The site may also provide some interesting traffic data. Additionally most commented on... most trusted etc could emerge.

    "There's no fundamental difference between giving a keynote speech in Shanghai in front of 30,000 people and doing a blog read by several million people,"

    Sun expects to start supporting staff blogs within a month, according to Schwartz. Employees won't be censored, they'll only be warned against releasing confidential information. "There's no better ambassador for Sun Microsystems than an employee," Schwartz says. BW Online | August 9, 2004 | Blogging for Business

    Benefits for Ceo? More exposure, part of a syndication. Come closer to people seem more personable. Downsides? CEO's may have to understand what other CEO's are saying. For all of us..... Perhaps the majority of CEO's are boring and can't write.

    So if you are a CEO and don't blog you and your company are not in the rankings. That would be like missing out on Google rankings. CEOBlogs could provide the indices. Similarly, Technorati may uncover new "influence" pools. The owner of CEOBlogs may just write one little summary per day. That would create some real value.

    Who could do this? I'd think it may be an interesting addition to Feedster. Then it would also work in the world of Corante. For example CEOblogs - Corante. I'd also think that Weblogsinc could execute on this as could Red Herring. In the end one will win. While giving the idea away.... I do realize that this is potentially a powerful network enabler. To run CEOblogs may bring you into contact with 500 of the most influential business leaders over time. Providing critical feedback would only enhance your position. There is a business here!

    Perhaps Jonathan Schwartz should put up the money to kick this off!

    August 15, 2004

    CEOBlogs II

    It was nice to get an idea confirmation. The url www.ceoblogs.com was registered within two hours of my CEO post. There will be many CEOBlogs syndication opportunities in the future. The real opportunities may actually come from companies that already have all the CEO information. Dun&Bradstreet would be an example. Bet they just don't have a field yet for "blogs" in their database.

    Charles Coxhead
    provided a quick review of simple tools to create and manage it. Nancy White asks why limit it to CEO's. And here with the new PR wiki it is working. And more over at Blogdigger. In a twist on names we also have a CEOBlog

    August 16, 2004


    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 17, 2004

    Vonage Mimics Telecoms

    Is there a connection between lousy customer service and being an incumbent telecom manipulating for advantage. Perhaps only if lousy Vonage service mimics the old telecom format while incumbents work on raising consumer prices for landlines. That will squeeze them! How much longer can they survive financially?

    Some time ago I added a fax line via Vonage for an extra 9.99 per month which I really don't need and wanted to cancel it. So I went to the website and looked and looked for how to cancel it. It is easy to add services on Vonage. Just a point and click will do. Dropping their services is more difficult.

    Finally after searching a second time for a simple delete option I called customer service. 1-866-Vonage. It took 16 minutes of which I spent less than two minutes with the operator. I have the cheapest Vonage account limited to 500 minutes. Their accounting system lodged the call against my minutes. So I pay for their lack of responsivness. Had they answered at the ring rather than after 14 minutes I'd be a lot happier.

    I'm not quite ready to give up my Vonage line although the only reason I have it is because my cell phone service isn't reliable in the office.

    Separately, each day sees a new player in the ATA - VoIP solution space. Lingo offers international numbers as a option as part of your plan. As you might expect the countries are limited. Still now rather than taking that ATA box to Japan Joi you can simply get a second international line. Bet call forwarding to a local cellphone from either one works too.

    Another way of getting that unique inbound number may come from LibreTel who promises to disintermediate the relationship between "inbound" and "outbound". Costs are similar to a very stripped down phone line. Then there are moves afoot to hike those rates too.

    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

    Representing both Speakers

    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.

    More P2P Wannabe's

    I'm completely bored with yet another stupid P2P telephony play. Last week it was TelTel and this week it is Buzzfon. Oh and I forgot GeckoPhone Really, these aren't newsworthy and the claims they are making are not compelling. Before saying anymore I should add I'm rather jaded so I've not downloaded any of these.

    The similar claims start with everything from dialup connections to fantastic sound quality. Most of them use a dial format and eschew any instant messaging capability while centralizing something in the process. Some are giving away the free calling to anywhere on earth just to get you in the door while the "operators" try to build volume.

    At this point there should be some marketing basics. If these are the products dreamed up post Skype then the designers failed to do their due diligence on the product, explore consumer behavior and work out how to position a better product. Even the feature sets on these products don't stack up much less the real benefits. Let's be clear a better product than Skype is possible and given time and some rapid learning even one of the motley crew above could evolve into something interesting.

    However, these are starting points.

  • Easy to Install: You are up and running in two minutes. No firewall problems. (Skype when are you going to provide a test numbers?) And it must just keep on running. Any early failures will kill it.
  • A clean GUI. You will need to win a design award with your solution. There are a few elegant solutions. Eg If FireFly came before Skype I'd guess it influenced them. Or was it the other way round? What are you going to add that is new or different? Userplane is clean and Pangean identifies some new modifications.
  • Fantastic sound. I've only head one Internet sound engine that provides an experience that may compete with Skype's. So for all these wannabes... I want to know who provided your sound codec. It's not that easy. At the moment if the audio engine isn't provided by GIP's then I'd suggest you better be able to make a story of your own home grown one and if it is not wideband or stereo don't bother.
  • Something new. From presence, to lifestyle provide me with an economic model or insight into why this will be really different. It's not enough to say P2P, you must give me a perspective on how you beat Skype's cost structure and profile. Alternatively create new listening experiences. Plus despite the current infatuation with video, I don't think that is the key driver.
  • Critical Mass. Consumers aren't stupid. I look at each one of these and ask how many will adopt it. If my experience with Multiply invites is any indication (I've not yet responded) people are jaded on social networks. For these VoIP Communications applications it is even more difficult. If you are going to be able to use it you have to have buddies online. Getting buddies onto a new system is no simple matter. Orkut certainly managed an accelerated launch. If you want to operate as a Skype competitor your business model must ramp to 500K users on line almost after a weekend. Unless you have a deal with eBay or an angle like Chatango or a deal with "Friendster" you are going to find it rather difficult.
  • Identity: Think identity not numbers. People are connecting from phones with click to call. How often do you want to dial a number? How often do you type an e-mail address. Numbered accounts are an increasingly an anachronism from the consumers point of view. So each time I see number-centric dial pads I think old telephone, old model.

    On day I may just post little pictures of all the soft phones out there.

  • August 22, 2004

    New Bite in New Toothbrush

    This caught my attention. Why? An example. A toothpaste manufacturer would tell me that toothpaste will be around forever. I'd simply say never bank on forever! Is this toothbrust Crest and Colgates worst fears? Probably not, but worth investigating. What makes it interesting is that this is a platform that Gillette can use for OralB that can't be used by Crest. We can't have the Crest SpinBrush upgraded for "creative destruction" of the toothpaste business.


    Possibly a little more convergence than we're looking for these days, Compact-Impact is selling a  titanium oxide toothbrush called the Soladey-3 that uses solar energy to create ions that “clean and sanitize” without the use of toothpaste. We're gonna have to hassle them for a review model of this one… Via TRFJ Engadget

    August 23, 2004

    Manifesto for Social Networking Required

    When I blogged "My Social Networks are Broken" in March I had already stopped trying most of the new ones. Now with the flurry of posts round Many to Many I'm watching the implosion of SNS... Will they all just collapse into each other or will something new emerge that is useful, integrated and adaptive to the individual? Stowe's posted "Ten Commandments" which is interesting because I was thinking about a "Manifesto for Social Networks" and haven't had the time to go there yet. I began by digesting Adam Greenfield's and recent Many to Many posts lamenting the lack of new prescriptions.

    Before I lose my thoughts or they become dated in the slipstream of fire I'd offer up the following ingredients to take the dialogue up a level strategically. This is not just about spam and e-mail. It is about you and me, and how we connect. When we think social networking services put "individuals" at the center.

    It's my Network:

  • That means I want to own it. It's not yours it is mine and it should reside and be under my complete control. If I want to host it other places ok then, but remember it is my choice. I'll distribute my profile and I'll control or agree with my friends what they can do with it. This network is about two-way relationships and in some cases associated relationships. I remember when I was really frustrated that Ryze had changed my page - (I thought not for the better) when they changed their basic layout to tabs and a new logo. Up till then Ryze had done a fairly good job of nurturing the community. New users came along, dressed up their pages, and Ryze was in the background. Similarly remember the uproar when Friendster challenged Fakesters? All of these networks fail to recognize it is my content that makes them valuable and I'll take it elsewhere or simply no-longer use them if they displease me. Account for that in the design and I may just stay.

  • Social networks should empower people. Unfortunately most of the YASN's have forgotten this basic fact. They try and call us back time and time again, unfortunately they just don't. Few exist on our desktops. Most require an open browser. That's not interoperability. As each of these SNS specializes they should consider how to connect. It's ridiculous that I need to build a profile in each service. I have no way to upgrade or make a change. (Sooner or later someone will make that happen - if not done already)

  • I represent the hub of activity and my participation should reflect the logic in "Stupid Networks". My social networking solution will enable me to connect and exchange with family, friends, colleagues. Each one of those may be a different service. I may use them from time to time. I need to be able to log in and out of them from a central point (my desktop or phone). To me these services will act as my agent, I may contract them for one-off searches (eg find everyone I went to school with to find people like me in the market for a new car.) or for something more ongoing and continuous (eg business connections, matchmaking, personal shopper, home handyman etc.) where a personal referral or a tacit referral can make the difference.

  • Simplify and speed trades in data. Referrals and connections are done through either personal exchanges (voice, F2F) or with some form of data. Data is the unheralded, unexplored frontier for social networks. Most of the data is static. The markets for data are limited or non-existent, and as data exchanges aren't yet automated most fail to see the connections and parallels to business.

    At the risk of saying some things twice. I believe we should look outside the current crop of SNS for the SNS of the future. Blogs are a better model, they are distributed (many have them hosted which is ok). Unfortunately there is no profile plug-in (Typepad has an "about" though I've not seen it as special.). Skype like IM (Instant Messenger) systems are better at connecting in real time, provide presence and new opportunities for file and data sharing etc. IMHO this could be modified to be a SNS Manifesto and these are additional points.

    My Blog is Better at Networking:
    I know the humble blog has been held up as a social network many times. From experience my blog is much better than any of the SNS as a networking tool. One advantage my blog has over all the SNS is I can make connections with people that aren't in any network. I've found some of the non-blogger connections to be the most important of all. I've also found following up on trackbacks and comments much more valuable.

    Create Markets for Connectivity:
    Social Networks should look at how they can facilitate markets for conversation and connectivity. The conversations in most Social Networking Services today are stilted and hampered by poor connectivity. Do you really want to link through three other people to get to someone in LinkedIn? Connectivity remains poor because they lack diversity and depth and the mechanisms to harvest both depth and diversity are lacking. So create a market for me where I can trade different kinds of information about myself. Enable bots or search capabilities that can create unique inquiries and then return helpful connections and results. We all have information to trade, the problem is we don't know what to trade. In a networked world those that facilitate markets win. eBay remains the best example I know. However eBay only really applies to hard goods. I'd like to know who is going to broker "the people's" information?

    Adopt user centric models.
    The solution has to work in my hand, when mobile. The only device I carry like that now is a cell phone or possibly future PDA. To jump into this realm the solution must address "Presence". Without presence real-time inquiry is impossible and pointless. Not everyone needs the same presence information. Non of the social networks I'm a member of require "daily use" in stark contrast to my IM clients for my newsreader.

    Encourage Face to Face.
    A few unique relationships may begin without face to face contact. With both blogging and Ryze I made great contacts globally without any early "live" meetings. Yet each time I meet another blogger / networker at a conference or in their home town the relationship takes on new dimensions and presents new opportunities. Other bloggers have expressed the same sentiments. In fact blogging leads to the desire to collaborate, we just don't have the tools to close that gap too easily. Ryze as an example is encourages F2F through their Mixers and that is one of the reasons for their continued success. However when it comes to collaboration tools after or around the blog it remains difficult. Skype has helped bridge the cost gap and thus opened up new avenues for conversation and reflection.

    Integrate with IM / VoIP.

    I've pushed this thread for awhile. The future of communications is changing. Presence is the driver and it will be controlled from wherever you are. The more seamlessly the better. None of the centralized IM systems enable personal control and even Skype requires you to log-in to a cloud. However I expect Skype will enable "clouds" for corporates, and potentially "personal clouds" down the road. For the moment this is a convenient intersection, where converging technologies create a wholely new set of applicatons.

    No to Accelerated Spam:
    Orkut was exciting when it was built. It emerged almost over a weekend. The viral effect in overdrive. By contrast I'm not sure Multiply is having the same effect. It has certainly spammed me with invites although not as many times as others. See also Clay Shirky's comments on spam.

    Where is my demand? It sits between wanting a better address book and better presence information. I feel the capability in my network and the potential for new connections and new value opportunities. However so far the tools don't let me synthesize these very effectively. The system that bridges this has a neat opportunity. I'm going to download Wired Reach again. I still don't know where or how their business model will work. However, I'm up to trying Wired Reach again. You should read Ashish's blog on "What is P2P" and "Beyond Social Networks", the latter I would have missed if I didn't go looking for a Blog. Clearly Ashish gets it. His blogging will bring him more exposure.

  • August 25, 2004

    Better Futures

    I received three complementary pieces on the future this week. They are worth linking to and reading or at least thinking about. Ming has a pithy play in "Predicting the Future" and looks for something more disruptive than this piece about 2014. I think the disruptions are never where we are looking unless we dig deeper to see some underlying patterns. It is that insight into deeper changes that capture people souls and attention. The other a wonderful interview by Jamais Cascio with Adam Kahane on "Solving Tough Problems".

    For the majority the future just fills in around us. However, Adam's view and Jamais trace towards understandings that are more visceral, that get you at the gut level. In Ming's case there are disruptions all around us, yet without some context and digging we just don't see it. More importantly for the most part individuals don't see, groups see. We need the processing power of the group that embraces diversity. For without diversity we really will have views of 2014 will be much like it is today. What Adam's stories and success brings is the opportunity and understanding to influence the future.

    Then I had a last piece from the Innovation Network who had asked in the previous week "What might dramatically change the world of Consulting within the next 10 years?"
    Joyce Wycoff
    wonders if there's a way to get a glimpse of the changes we can't see and provided these questions in her newsletter.

  • How might bio-tech change consulting?
  • How might consulting be changed by global warming?
  • Could "options theory" change the world of consulting? (side note: Robin Hanson will be talking about the use of options theory in innovation at Convergence 2004)
  • How might the generation of computer and game-proficient youngsters change how consulting is done?
  • So my questions are so obvious!

  • How will "Presence" change consulting? Some think this will be a nightmare, the client knowing where you are and trying to check and time every minute. The other view may be much more integrating with new opportunities created by pervasive connections.
  • How will India and China change consulting?
  • How will information economics change consulting?

    However without context, without important problems these are just questions. The lesson for thinking about the future lies in the problems and opportunities presented today. Then look at the tools which can dig deeply and broaden understanding. Then you too can influence the future.

  • August 26, 2004

    Link VoIP to Activities

    Kevin Werbach tells a nice story in " Not Your Parents' Phone System" and asks "Who is the biggest voice over IP service provider in the US? Every piece that adds to the VoIP stretch puzzle is worth thinking about. While he makes the point (illustrated with Gaming and IM) that VoIP isn't the same thing as telephony he identifies "activities" (watching TV, difficulty with your camera etc.) as the critical focus for identifying where VoIP may provide solutions that depart from traditional telephony and a standalone device.

    It is worth reading. My question is still how fast? We've seen BT's play and Consumers are moving much faster. To counter the go fast trend we still have money pouring into Vonage which makes no sense at all to me.

    About August 2004

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

    July 2004 is the previous archive.

    September 2004 is the next archive.

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

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