UPDATE, Jan 11: The recording of this conference call is now available.
As I mentioned in an earlier post today, Alec Saunders convened a 30-minute conference call today on voice mashups. The call was recorded and will be available as a podcast from his site. (I'll add the link here once I'm online.)
I was traveling down through the state of Vermont today and so while I had no Internet access I did call in and joined the call from my Blackberry. (My wife was driving the car at the time.) I wrote down the following notes on my laptop during the call.
Alec introduced the call, mentioned that it would be recorded and distributed as a podcast. He then muted all the callers except for himself, Thomas Howe, Jim Courtney and Andy Abramson. For callers with Facebook open, they could press a button to "raise their hand" at which point Alec could unmute them. I was calling in on my cell phone while traveling with no Internet access, so for me it was to press "*2" to raise my hand.
Alec tossed out the first question which was "what is a voice mashup?" Thomas laid out one definition which Andy then amplified. Alec then asked if a mashup could involve something like Skype to which Jim described the results of the Skype Mashup contest and the winning PamFax app. Alec asked for examples and Thomas gave several. Alec asked how this looked like to the end-user. Thomas mentioned that it could be a web interface, but it might also simply be a telephone interface. The user would just call a number and do some kind of service. (Thanks for the mention of Voxeo, Thomas!)
Alec asked next "why do people build these?" Thomas... they are lightweight, easy to put together, easy to build for small interest groups (and therefore easy to put together a business case). Most ubiquitous interface is the phone. Business case can be small, but because of the architecture the application can actually scale massively if necessary. Jim... talked about ROI of PamFax... ability to take business documents from one location to another. Andy... mashup apps need to serve a purpose. Small, focused apps will be the general rule. However, that can be repurposed. You can globally deliver an app to small pockets of people who need that application. Andy recommends you look at Salesforce.com's app exchange. Mentions Mashery and the work they are doing looking into how you manage the rights around the use of mashup apps.
Alec - "So how do you monetize mashups?" Thomas... at least 3 hooks for monetization: 1) make businesses run faster, eliminate delays; 2) customer satisfaction - giving users a view into your system without; 3) make businesses more efficient. Question from (Dean - someone on wall) - who is making the money? Thomas - most of the work is in professional services. Focus is on developing apps, not necessarily in sale of apps.
(At this point I pressed *2 to raise my hand to ask a question related to monetization. A few minutes later I pressed *2 again.)
Tony from Voxalot talked about his voice mashup for an Australian dating site that allows users to be anonymous callers. Jim Courtney mentioned that PamFax is getting revenue on every transaction. Tony, I believe, also mentioned that Alec is getting revenue based on the usage of his conference call app.
Thomas... mashup architectures allow you to not have to pay upfront capital costs. You don't have to pay for a phone number and manage it, for instance. You can just temporarily use a phone number. Mashup architectures lower the barriers to entry.
As it was now 10:00am, Alec suggested that we should wrap up the call and throw it out to the assembled crowd for questions. It sounded from the tone of his voice that he wasn't seeing anyone raising their hand (and I was wondering what happened to my *2!). Thomas started answering...
... and then I entered one of those glorious pockets of Vermont where Verizon has no cell phone coverage - and so I was dropped off the call. Since it sounded like it was going to be wrapping up, I didn't bother calling back in a few minutes later when I was back in a coverage area.
All in all it was an interesting discussion. It undoubtedly could have gone on much longer. As I've been wanting to write more about this whole topic of voice mashups, I'll probably have some further posts on this soon.
It was also an interesting usage of Alec's Facebook "Free Conference Calling" application. The Iotum gang has certainly developed that app further and I'll definitely be looking at it again and toying with some ideas about how to use it. The recording feature is certainly an interesting one for someone who likes producing podcasts... :-) (Although it does not seem to be wideband so you are still limited to lousy PSTN audio.)