Posts categorized "Personal"

Ch-changes - Taking A New Job At The Internet Society To Join The Fight For The Open Internet

In the end, my impending job change is perhaps best explained by two quotes: this prescient quote from the 1992 film Sneakers:

“There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!”

and this quote from poet Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

For a longer explanation, read on... but perhaps not on a mobile phone... this one's a bit on the lengthy side...

Bleeding "Voxeo Blue"

voxeologohoriz.pngJust shy of four years ago, I wrote here about joining this incredibly remarkable company, Voxeo, that probably none of you had ever heard of.

I hope I changed that a wee bit. :-)

Around a thousand blog posts later, a hundred videos, too many speaking engagements and webinars to count, many articles, a ton of analyst briefings and media interviews ... and countless tweets, Facebook posts and other updates later... it has been truly an amazing journey.

Along the way I have come to truly love the company - and I don't use that term lightly - and the incredible people who are gathered together focused on making Voxeo THE platform for developing and deploying communications applications. As I mentioned in a recent post, Voxeo is a rocketship, firing into the skies and leaving its competitors behind.

Over these four years, I have been living, breathing, eating, sleeping all things Voxeo... I have been proud to be a "Voxeon"... slice open my skin and it bleeds "Voxeo blue"...

The Larger Battle

And yet... I have never been able to escape the siren call of the larger battle going on all around us. It did not surprise me to find that the Voxeo blog in which I published the most posts is "Speaking of Standards". Listeners to my weekly reports into the FIR podcast have perhaps grown weary of my rants about "single points of failure" and the need for services that are "distributed and decentralized" that allow you to retain control over your information and content. Readers of my blogs have seen my many posts on the theme of "the open Internet".

We have before us a choice of futures.

One choice leads to a future where innovative companies like Voxeo can emerge, thrive, disrupt and succeed.

Another choice leads to a future where what little "innovation" there is exists only at the will of the gatekeepers to the network after appropriate requirements and/or payments are met. Other choices lead to outcomes somewhere in between those polarities.

How will we choose?

Walled Gardens, Redux

The Walled Garden (1)
I began my time online some 30 years ago in the 1980's era of the big "information services". CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy, Delphi, The Source, GENIE... and many other names that have long since faded into history.

People accustomed to the ubiquity of the Web today might find it hard to believe that once upon a time you could only get certain news, technical, financial, movie or sports info on the service to which you subscribed... that you could only communicate with people who had accounts on the same system as you.

It was the era of the proverbial "walled gardens"... where each service tried to keep the walls high enough and the content pretty enough that you would never leave.

The forces of "openness" were around, too. Academic networks like BITNET and JANET on the one end and home-grown networks of BBS's like FidoNet on the other, with other networks and things like UUCP and Usenet floating around as well.

And then came this "Internet", the one network to interconnect them all.

And out of that interconnection and interoperability came the world we live in today... out of that chaotic world of engineers and open standards came this network that is now no longer simply a research network but instead has become critical communication infrastructure... and a critical component of commerce.

And with that rise to prominence come all those who would seek to change the nature of the network... for perceived safety... for convenience... for profit... for control... for "security"...

So now we see services like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and more that seek to provide a nice pretty space in which you can exchange messages, photos and more... without ever leaving the confines of the service... they are a walled garden with just many ways to access the garden and to look over the walls.

Everyone wants to own your eyeballs... to host your content... to provide your identity...

And we see companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft seeking to control a large degree of how we connect to and use the mobile Internet...

And we see a change from "permissionless innovation" where anyone can set up a new service... to a model where you have ask permission or agree to certain "terms of service" in order to connect your new service to other services or to have your app available on some platforms...

And we see countries that want to throw up a wall around their citizens... sometimes to keep information from coming in... and sometimes to keep information from going out... and sometimes to be able to shut down all access...

And we see players who did control our communications systems always looking for opportunities where they could maybe, just maybe, stuff the proverbial genie back in the bottle and regain that control they lost...

It's a crazy time...

As one who has lived through our online evolution, and who in fact has been able to do what I do and to live where I live because of the "open Internet", I don't want to see us return into a fractured world of walled gardens.

We can make a different choice.

And So, A Choice

IsoclogoIn the midst of all this craziness exists a global nonprofit organization that many of you may not have heard of. It has a very simple mission:

to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.

The Internet Society, or "ISOC" for short, exists to promote the idea that "the Internet is for everyone", where "everyone" includes people all around the world... and yes, it includes the corporations, service providers, governments and other organizations, too. To support that mission, ISOC undertakes a wide variety of education and policy initiatives around the world, all with the aim of fostering the growth of the open Internet. Local "chapters" of ISOC have sprouted up around the globe pursuing these initiatives at a local/regional level. Perhaps more relevant to many readers, ISOC is the organizational home of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the group that creates the RFCs and the open standards that describe how the Internet operates today. A significant amount of ISOC's focus is on facilitating the creation and promotion of these open standards. (For those curious to learn more, ISOC's 2010 Annual Report is available online.)

I was actually a dues-paying member of ISOC back in the early '90s, when each month I would read through their print magazine (very ironically, but this was pre-Web) "On The Internet" to learn more about how the Internet was evolving throughout the world. I rejoined again a year or two ago to help in some small way support this very important work. (You can join, too.)

And on this coming Monday, September 19th, I will join the Internet Society as a staff member.

The Missing Link

Missing Link
The particular project I will join within ISOC is a brand new initiative targeted at helping bridge the gap between the standards created within the IETF and the network operators and enterprises who are actually deploying networks and technologies based on those standards. To help translate those standards into operational guidance... to help people understand how to deploy those standards and why they should, what benefit they will see, etc

The initiative is currently called the "Deployment and Operationalization Hub", or "DO Hub", and while that may or may not be its final name, the idea is to find/curate content that is already out there created by others, create content where there are gaps, make it easy to distribute information about these resources... and promote the heck out of it so that people get connected to the resources that they need. The initial focus will be, somewhat predictably, on IPv6, but also DNSSEC and possibly another technology. It is a new project and the focus is being very deliberately kept tight to see how effective this can be,

My title will be Senior Content Strategist and my role will very much be about the creation, curation and distribution of information. Writing articles, reviewing resources, blogging, creating videos, screencasts, etc, Once we have the initial repository built out, there will be a phase next year where we will be out on the conference circuit talking about these technologies and helping people understand how they can get started... and continually adding even more content.

For a guy who loves teaching, writing and "demystifying emerging technology", it's kind of tailor-made. In fact, when ISOC approached me a few months ago with the job description, my wife and I both looked at each other and said "wow, that's me!"

In the end, the goal is to help make it as easy as possible to deploy and use open standards... so that we might wind up collectively making the choices that can lead to an open Internet where innovation can thrive.

I'll still be living in Keene, NH. (Many ISOC employees are remote.) I'll still be blogging in my various blogs. I'll still be speaking at conferences from time to time. I'll be back at IETF meetings again (which I'm VERY much looking forward to). None of that really changes with this move.

Every New Beginning Comes From...

..some other beginning's end. ("Closing Time", by Semisonic)

Leaving Voxeo was decidedly NOT an easy choice. I agonized over the decision for an insanely long time. I work with awesome people who I know I will miss, have been thoroughly enjoying what we are doing and have been looking forward to where the company is going... it has some amazing plans that will even further disrupt the industry!

Some will tell me that I am crazy... that Voxeo is the closest they've seen to a "sure thing"... that leaving is a dumb move.

They may be right.

And yet... recent events in my personal life have highlighted the fragility of our lives and the limited time we have - and the need to pursue one's passion.

And so it is that I end one beginning and start a new one... with the hope that in some small way the new work I do will help companies like Voxeo thrive - and indeed to help continue and expand the conditions that create companies like Voxeo.

We have a choice of futures before us...


Image credits: Gerry Balding, Thomas Gehrke on Flickr.


Two years with Voxeo...

voxeologo.gifIt truly amazes me to realize that it's been over two years since I wrote that I was joining Voxeo. It's rather symptomatic of how well it is going with Voxeo that although I tweeted about this anniversary when it happened 4 weeks ago, I've just been way too busy to actually write anything about it here.

I had all these grand delusions, too, about how I was going to write about all the lessons I've learned... about some of the great things I've done... the people I've met... etc., etc.

But the reality is that I've simply learned way too much, done too many great things and met too many great people to easily write such a post.

So here's the short summary of what I've learned over two years:

Voxeo rocks!

It's a great place to work with tremendous benefits (and we're hiring)... there's a fantastic team of people involved... it's fun to be with a company on the bleeding edge of how communication is changing... that is this big massive SIP-based application cloud... that does disruptive things like give away speech recognition technology (and other products) for free... is focusing on innovation in communication and offering new cloud telephony platforms... and just took a $9 million strategic investment, not because the company had to but because it wanted to in order to seize opportunities and acquire more companies in this economy.

What's not to like?

Sure, we work long hours and have our share of crazy days... but even two years later I wake up each morning excited for the change I can be part of that day. THAT is a key for me...

And yeah, I head up Voxeo's marketing team, so you would expect me to say all this, right? But if so, you haven't been reading my blog long enough. Here and over on Disruptive Conversations I call it like it is... and if I don't have good things to say, I simply don't write it.

So I'm utterly amazed that two years have gone by... and I'm very much looking forward to the next two years... there are many more stories to tell... and I definitely look forward to telling them...


If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either subscribing to the RSS feed or following me on Twitter or identi.ca.



Of eComm and boots...

Out an eComm last week, Jon Arnold posted a set of pictures that included this fun one of me (click for larger version):
danyork-ecomm-boots.jpg

For those not aware... I've been wearing "western boots"/"cowboy boots" for years... in fact, I wrote up a fun story a while back about how Twitter and Facebook helped me find cowboy boots in Ottawa.

(And boots purists will note, of course, that the pair pictured here at eComm are not really real western boots in that they don't have a leather sole. These are in fact my winter western boots that have a rubber sole with a tread. Smooth leather soles don't work too well in New Hampshire winters with ice and snow ;-) And while eComm was in San Francisco, I did have icy parking lots in NH to be thinking about. I'll be able to start wearing the other ones real soon now... )


If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either subscribing to the RSS feed or following me on Twitter or identi.ca.


Technorati Tags: , ,


My new role at Voxeo: Director of Conversations

voxeologo.gifTwo weeks ago, I took on a new role within Voxeo, but rather ironically I've just been too straight out to write about the role change with the Tropo.com launch, our activities at eComm and, well, the new role itself. I've given some teasers in my Twitter stream, told a number of folks out at eComm and outright gave it away in my weekly report into FIR #426, but I haven't written about it. Some of you may laugh, but I also, quite frankly, find it a bit odd to write about, well, me. I prefer to tell the story, rather than to be the subject.

When I joined Voxeo back in October 2007, I wrote about the move and said that a part of my role in the Office of the CTO was this: Basically I get to help tell Voxeo's story. And for the past 1.5 years I've been doing that through blog posts and podcasts over on blogs.voxeo.com, through my external blogging, through my many presentations at all sorts of conferences, through Twitter and Facebook and probably a hundred other venues and services.

Now, though, telling Voxeo's story is no longer a part of my role... it is my role.

After four years in "strategic technology" roles where "social media" was a part of my role, I'm now shifting to head up Voxeo's marketing/communications/PR/AR/events/etc. - not just the "social media" but all of the traditional media and channels as well.

Those of you who know me may not view this as a big shift - I've always had one foot in technology and one foot in communications/marketing/PR. Even in my online writing. Just look at Disruptive Telephony and Blue Box on one side - and Disruptive Conversations and my weekly reports into For Immediate Release on the other. My job roles over the years have oscillated between those poles, sometimes heavily into tech, sometimes heavily into communications... very often a strong combination of both.

With this new position, obviously, communications/marketing/PR is front and center, but of course in 2009 in the Era of Search, SEO, social media and information self-service - technology plays a strong role.

I'm looking forward to it. Voxeo has some great stories to be told. There are some great conversations out there to engage in. Communities to help foster. I have an awesome staff to work with (who, like me, are distributed all around geographically). I report directly to a CEO who twitters, uses Facebook and is heavily into SEO. I am surrounded by some truly amazing people doing incredible work. It will be fun and frustrating and joyous and overwhelming and all the other polarities that come with intense jobs.

As to the job title, Director of Conversations, it's really a recognition that in the Age of Google and Facebook and reviews (in iTunes, Amazon, etc.) and Twitter and everything else, what we think of as "marketing" is increasingly all about joining into all the various conversations that are happening out there. Ten years later, many of the theses of Cluetrain are more true than ever. The conversations are happening. Our challenge is to find the most appropriate ways to join in.

That's the news... with that out now I can thankfully get back to the regular storytelling of this blog...

P.S. One amusing aspect of this new role is that it is now a zillion times easier to explain what I do. The title may be "different", but saying you "head up marketing/communications/PR" is more understandable to most people than saying you "explore and analyze how both the ways in which we communicate and the tools we use are changing and then write/speak/talk about those changes both publicly and to the company and customers" (my previous OCTO role). :-)


If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either subscribing to the RSS feed or following me on Twitter or identi.ca.


Technorati Tags: , ,


Six months with Voxeo...

voxeologo.gifI find it rather astounding to me that it was six months ago today that I announced that I had joined Voxeo. Where did the time go?

It's been a really amazing six months that has so greatly expanded my knowledge into new areas I hadn't played with before. This picture from our "VoIP Platform Overview" page perhaps best shows what I find so interesting about Voxeo's platform:

voxeovoiceplatform.jpg

On the one hand, it's an XML-driven SIP application server... yet it's also a media server... and then there's all the speech stuff - Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Text-To-Speech, etc.... VoiceXML, CCXML, CallXML... and then it's a conferencing server... all based on SIP and using things like ENUM and so much more.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects for me is that on one level we are customer-focused working with individual developers to help them learn to build voice applications. But then on the back-end we have this massively-scalable, redundant hosting infrastructure and we are among the largest consumers of SIP trunks in North America. (And constantly in need of more - a colleague of mine is tasked nearly full-time with working with carriers to find more SIP trunk capacity!)

So it's fun for me to go to an IETF standards meeting because on the one hand I'm interested in SIP as it relates to end users and end user applications, yet on the other hand I'm interested in all the SIP peering standards and other efforts which make it easier for us to connect into the "cloud" of SIP service providers out there. So I get to look at the small end and the massively large end. For a guy interested in SIP, it's pretty wild.

It's also very cool to be part of an organization that has been working with many aspects of what we are now calling "cloud computing" since long before that label came into fashion. Voxeo is all about moving your voice applications into the cloud. Being able to access them from wherever. Whenever. So as there is all this newfound interest in moving computing into "the cloud"... that's where we already are. The challenge now becomes one of learning how to have our "cloud" interact with all the many other "clouds" out there. (And yes, we do have a premise product, too, for customers that for various reasons do not want to push their apps into the cloud - but the hosted version came first by many years.)

Beyond all the technology, it's also been great to get back into a "startup" mindset. Even though Voxeo has been around since 1999, it still retains so much of the passion and drive of a startup. (As well as some of the fun aspects- in Orlando they even have a barista and coffee bar!) There are a great many opportunities to participate in growing the company. The management is incredibly open with employees, too, which is wonderful to be involved with... and there's just some really great people inside the company! (And hey, we're hiring!)

So what are some of the other things I've learned in the past six months?

  • Call Control XML (CCXML) is one of the most under-appreciated standards out there (and something I'll be writing about more). It basically lets you put an XML layer on top of SIP and, well, since all those web application tools speak XML it opens up all kinds of opportunities.

  • WordPress Mu can be used to build a corporate blog portal (blogs.voxeo.com) - that's been both fun and a great learning experience.

  • It absolutely scares me that I now know my way around downtown Orlando and to and from the Orlando airport.

  • There is more to "Orlando" than simply "The Empire of the Mouse" and downtown Orlando is a rather cool place to be.

  • JetBlue's direct flights from Burlington, VT, to Orlando are a truly wonderful addition that I will miss when we move to N.H. (although I understand Southwest has direct flights from Manchester).

  • It is very cool (although sometimes admittedly strange) to have a manager who blogs and twitters and generally "gets" the value of social media.

  • It's nice to be in a company in the telecommunications/VoIP space that is... (gasp)... profitable!

  • I freely admit that ever since getting our corporate laptop, the Apple MacBook Pro, I have become a Mac fanboy!

  • It's wonderful to be in a company with a strong developer focus that gives away free versions of its software for developers to use. I just really happen to like the model... mostly because you get to be surprised by the very cool and sometimes offbeat things that people will do, simply because you give them the tools. Creativity is an amazing thing to nourish.

All in all, I'm not entirely sure how six months flew by... but it's been a great block of time and I'm looking forward to the next six months and many more beyond that. (And no, I'm not just writing that because my boss may read my blog!)

P.S. Did I mention that we're hiring?

Technorati Tags: , ,


My new employer is..........

So here's the story... after my layoff from Mitel and the corresponding job hunt, I became very convinced that I should go down the consultant/analyst route. I had purchased equipment, started setting up the legal side of things and was in serious discussions with several others about allying (and aligning) myself with their own efforts. All looked good and I was excited to get going.

Then I got this email from a CEO of a company I'd never really heard of who said he'd found my blog posts and that it so happened that they were looking for someone doing essentially the roles that I outlined in one of my posts. As they were growing strongly they were looking to expand their "Office of the CTO" and add to their capabilities. I looked at their website and initially wasn't too sure about what I saw. But as I dug in a bit more I was pretty blown away by what I started to see... and got back in touch.

It turns out that there's this company based in Orlando, Florida, whose VoIP application platform is used by one of the world's largest telecom vendors, two of the worlds largest software vendors, and the five largest cable TV networks. They have a community of over 26,000 registered developers with something around 55,000 applications created on their platform. They are some of the technology behind innovative startups like Jangl (more here) and Jott. The company was named by Gartner as one of the "Cool Vendors in Enterprise Communication, 2007". The technology can be hosted in the company's secure, redundant data centers or located on a customer's premise (or OEM'd). They focus on providing extremely high levels of customer service and by default give a 100% uptime Service Level Agreement (i.e. they pay you if there's any downtime). They are focused entirely on open standards and support a very wide range of APIs, including Web 2.0 APIs like JSON and e4x as well as SOAP, REST, etc. They support all sorts of security standards, including some like PCI which are newer. They are all about being an application platform.

And... they've been around since 1999, been profitable for several years and are growing based on profit (versus VC infusions). And they give away a ton of information and functionality through their developer site, including inbound and outbound telephone connections. (Yes, the absorb the cost of allocating phone numbers and outbound dialing in order to encourage developers to use their platform... and 26,000+ developers have taken out accounts.)

And probably most all of us have never heard of them!

It didn't take long for me to reconsider my decision to go down the consultant route. I built a couple of sample applications on their platform and saw how trivial it was to do. I traveled to Orlando and came away incredibly impressed by the company, the technology and perhaps most of all the people.

200710231604So yesterday I was delighted to start working for the CTO of Voxeo Corporation! My technical title is the nicely vague "Director of Emerging Communication Technology" and my role will include: analyzing emerging technology and communicating that information internally, participating in IETF standards work, assisting with VoIP security analysis/communication... and customer/product evangelism through speaking at conferences/customers and developing appropriate blogs and podcasts (and other social media) for both internal and external audiences. Basically somewhat similar to my previous role only this time with an explicit focus on social media, which is exciting because I get the chance to put into action many of the ideas I've talked about here, over on Disruptive Conversations and also in my reports into FIR. And, in a company of <100 people, it's just a wee bit easier to get things done (example, I'm in Day 2 and a server is already being allocated to host blogs, etc.). So yes, I'm winding up getting paid to spend part of my time blogging and podcasting!

Basically I get to help tell Voxeo's story. Particularly, part of what I will be doing is talking about everything else Voxeo can do beyond what you might initially think. If you go to voxeo.com it is all about creating IVR applications using VoiceXML which is interesting to one segment of the population out there... but if you look at the page about their VoIP platforms and services you get a glimpse of the much larger picture. Voxeo has an incredibly powerful SIP-based application platform that can be deployed in either a hosted, on-premise or hybrid model. They chose to focus on the IVR application side because it was an avenue where they could earn revenue. Now they are looking to promote the other aspects of what you can do with their platform beyond IVR apps. There's voicemail... conferencing... call recording... a zillion other things all accessible through open, standards-based APIs. I get to help tell that story.

In the end, Voxeo's aim is to be the platform for people who want to develop next-generation communication applications. Easily. Securely. Reliably.

Not a bad place to be. (And we're hiring!) Don't take my word for it though... join the Evolution community site and create your own hosted application, complete with inbound phone numbers, Skype connections and SIP URIs. There are a ton of tutorials and other information there. Or download the free Prophecy server software, which essentially gives you the same capabilities as the hosted environment. (In fact, you can develop apps on Prophecy and then move them to Evolution for deployment.)

Or wait for me and others to start telling the story in more detail. Your choice.

So that's the story of what's next for me... obviously I'm rather excited and looking forward to it! Thanks again to all the many, many people who were so helpful and supportive over the past few weeks.

And now, I can return to the regular blogging I've been doing here...

Technorati Tags: ,


So I should stop teasing about my new job, eh?

So I should stop teasing about what I'm doing and just blog about it, eh? I will... today. I had every intention of doing so last night but what appeared to be the onset of a severe migraine headache sent me back to my hotel room early to try and escape it. Thankfully, the migraine never materialized and the symptoms gradually went away... but in the meantime I was out of writing commission and my post is only half done.

I do have to admit that it is tempting to continue teasing when a friend says she is thinking of calling every VoIP company in Florida (I've given that info away via Twitter) asking receptionists if she can speak to "Dan York"... that would be mildly entertaining, especially if there was another Dan York out there at another company.

However, I have a whole queue of articles I want to write and I need to get this major one out first, so I will.

Soon. Today.


Going dark for the calm before the storm... (aka "light blogging ahead")

Life takes very interesting turns. Yesterday afternoon I faxed off my acceptance of an offer from a company I'd really never heard of that turns out to be doing some extremely fascinating things. They found me through this blog. We've talked. I've visited. I start on Monday, October 22nd. I'll be actually in a role very similar to what I was doing before, but with more of a direct focus on social media, at least initially. I will still be working remotely from Vermont and will be traveling to similar conferences as in the past. It's exciting and I'm very much looking forward to getting started. Great people. Great company. Profitable. Strong developer community. Been around for a while. In the right space, in my opinion.

For now, though, that's all I'm going to say. More on (or near) the 22nd. :-)

Until then, I'm expecting to be blogging less here and on my other blogs. I'm traveling to a PR/Communications conference next Monday and Tuesday to do a "Podcasting 101" workshop and so I'll probably be blogging about that. There's a hundred things I want to blog about! My queue of articles to write is probably the longest it has ever been. I have about 10 Blue Box Special Editions recorded and awaiting post-production and 2 video podcast episodes to release. There are so many amazing things going on right now in all the areas I write about.......

But there's also the reality that I need to use this calm before the storm to: 1) spend some time with my family, who have admittedly been a bit short-changed in recent weeks; and 2) deal with a whole range of really more mundane issues. You know, things like getting new files set up... getting my office re-organized after the older equipment has been moved out... addressing some household projects that were dropped when the layoff occurred. A whole realm of things like that. And I know that once the 22nd rolls around I'll be doing my usual "pedal-to-the-floor" mode with much less time for such matters - so I need to seize this moment. I don't expect to be writing much. We'll see.

Finally I have to say a HUGE "Thank You!" to everyone out there who offered assistance in ways both big and small. Thank you for your kind words in blog posts and in emails. Receiving those was a wonderful lift, especially on days full of doubts. Thank you for the contacts... for the introductions made... for the links... it was all an incredible demonstration to me of the power of the friendships, the social networks and the communities we wind up being a part of. In the process I have met some truly amazing people at a wide range of companies. It was a fascinating exercise in transparency that did in fact get me to the delightful position of having multiple options to choose from and being able to have a choice. Certainly a wonderful spot to be in - and for that I have to thank so many of you out there. Thank you!

The power of the (social) network is certainly amazingly strong.

Now it's time to go dark for a bit... please do understand if I'm not answering email quite as promptly or responding to IMs or blog posts. I'll be back soon... stay tuned.

P.S. Thank you!

Technorati Tags: