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Posts from November 2010

A *CRAZY* Week In Collaboration / Communications News - A Summary from Dave Michels

No Jitter

This has been an absolutely insane week of announcements relating to the Unified Communications / collaboration / VoIP / etc, etc. space... it's been a while since I can think of a week that had so much news packed into it.

I think it's called... "everyone wants to get all their news out before it is US Thanksgiving and people start ignoring news because of the holidays!"

Regardless of why, the fact is that each day I've watched the Twitter stream just scrolling by with tons of items I'd love to write about. Unfortunately, I, too, have been slammed - and unable to write all that I've wanted to.

Thankfully, Dave Michels pulled together a nice summary over on No Jitter:

Watta Week!

Check there for pointers to stories about Microsoft Lync... Mitel Freedom... Cisco's zillion video announcements... and news from Polycom, Avaya and HP, too.

Some week, I'm hoping to write about each of these myself... but that week is very definitely NOT this week!

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Today's VUC call at noon US Eastern: FREETALK Connect - Skype-connected IP-PBX

VUCIn about 40 minutes, this week's VoiP Users Conference call will start with Jim Courtney talking about the new FREETALK Connect IP-PBX. It includes:
  • Skype connectivity for all phones.
  • Auto-provisioning works with almost all models of desktop and conference IP phones
  • Install wizard configures all basic networking, telephony system and user functionality on the FREETALK Connect
  • Remote administration capabilities that enable the system to be administered from anywhere Internet access is available.

I'm intrigued by the system because it integrates an Asterisk-based IP-PBX with Skype - and is "certified" by Skype. I'm looking forward to hearing what Jim has to say about it.

If you'd like to listen live, there are regular, SIP and Skype contact phone numbers to dial into the VUC. You can also jump on #vuc on IRC to join in the text backchannel.

If you can't join live, a recording of the call will be posted to the episode's web page sometime in the next few days.

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Meet My Spam Honeypot for Telemarketers (Otherwise Known As My Desk Phone)


The phone on my desk rang a second time today. I glanced at the console, didn't recognize the Caller ID and simply ignored the call. A minute or two later a text message buzzed on my iPhone with a transcription of the voicemail left by the caller. I took one look and knew right away:

Yep, another telemarketer!

Just like another call earlier today. As I did my little glance-ignore-wait-for-text-message routine I realized yet again how my communications channels have changed over the years. Here is the reality:

I pretty much NEVER answer my desk phone.

Why not? Pretty simple, really:

The people who I want to speak with already know how to get in touch with me!

And the "how" comes down to: unified communications and mobile.

Unified Communications

For instance, we're huge users of Skype internally at Voxeo. I have everyone in the company as a contact, and am in a zillion various group chats with internal employees. If someone within the company wants to reach me, they will:

  • Check my presence on Skype. Am I online? If so, am I "away"? or "busy/Do Not Disturb"?

  • Send me an IM - asking if they can call me if it's urgent.

Note that second bullet... internal communication starts in IM and then migrates to voice and possibly video if our conversation needs to be "higher bandwidth" than typing.

I can't honestly remember the last time someone internally actually rang my desk phone, because, if I'm not online, there's also...


If I'm not online, or if it's urgent, people know to call me on my mobile phone. I carry it basically everywhere. And whether they dial that direct number or they call my Google Voice number that rings that phone... either way they reach me on my mobile.

It's Not Just Internal

Most of the people who I regularly want to talk to outside my company are also linked to me via Skype or one of the other IM networks (and mostly via Skype) or social networks. Or they have my mobile number. Possibly we've connected via some other way... email... Twitter... Facebook... and if we need to go to voice, we've exchanged mobile phone numbers... or we'll use an app in one of the social services (like Facebook Telephone or Twelephone) that connects us via voice through that service. They don't call my desk phone.

Which Leaves the Desk Phone For What?

Spam! Er... "telemarketing calls". Usually from someone trying to sell me some service that will magically generate millions of leads... or giving me a "personal invitation" to some event. Randomly there might be someone out there who I actually want to speak with - my deskphone number is on my business card, after all - and if so I will definitely return the call after I see the voicemail transcription.

Otherwise... it just sits there as a number out there to attract telemarketers...

How about you? Do you answer your desk phone much any more? Do people actually call you on it?

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Want a USB Bottle Opener?

I have to say this is one of the coolest giveaways I've seen for bit... yes, it's for a service of my employer, Voxeo, but regardless, it's a cool piece of schwag (and I had nothing to do with it):


It worked out perfectly when I wanted to open a beer for a late night of writing blog posts! (Now, whether the beer helped with the coherency of the blog posts is a different topic...)

What's even cooler from a geek point-of-view, is that the contents of the USB drive are all managed using the Git version control system! Adam Kalsey wrote about how he assembled the drive content using git, and particularly git submodules, and then about how he loaded the content onto the USB drives. Pretty cool stuff!

If you'd like to get your hands on one of these USB bottle openers, all you have to do is speak about Tropo at an event or host a meetup - the Tropo team will ship out a meetup kit that includes a few of these.

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Tim Panton: Contrasting Digium and Skype's Developer Programs and Outreach


Longtime telephony developer Tim Panton wrote a great story this morning contrasting recent developer outreach from Digium with that of Skype:

The way to create a new product or service when you already have one.

I do agree with Tim that Digium did a great job in reaching out to the community in developing the Asterisk SCF... and I do unfortunately agree with Tim that this continues to be an area where Skype struggles. Skype is now on perhaps its 5th or 6th iteration of a "developer program"... maybe more... I've lost track, quite honestly, over all these years... still working on finding a program that builds a strong ecosystem of developers around Skype. They've hired some great people at Skype... and I'm hopeful that their newer work with SkypeKit will be positive... but we'll have to see.

[In full disclosure, my employer Voxeo has been involved with Skype's developer programs for a long time, dating back to the first "Voice Services" program back in 2005/2006 (which was later discontinued) and continues to be involved in Skype programs. However, I've not been directly involved in those programs on Voxeo's behalf.]

Tim also pointed to this great TechCrunch guest post back on November 8th about Symbian:

Guest post: Symbian OS – one of the most successful failures in tech history

The final paragraph - and final sentence - is so incredibly critical in this space:

The lesson for Meego, and other pretenders to the crown is, perhaps to look after your developers with useful APIs and powerful tools both inside and outside of your organisation. Find the right balance between efficiency and ease of development. Look after all of your developers and your developers will look after you.

Indeed... "Look after all of your developers and your developers will look after you."

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Video: AstriCon Keynote Demonstrating Asterisk Scalable Communications Framework (SCF)

Want to learn more about the Asterisk Scalable Communications Framework (SCF)? While I wrote about Asterisk SCF last week, Digium has now posted the video of the keynote session. It starts with Digium CEO Danny Windham and then at about the 5:45 mark Kevin Fleming takes the stage. At about 10 minutes Kevin starts bringing some community members on stage to tell some stories... all building up to the actual SCF announcement about 33 minutes in :-)

Regardless of the long buildup, it's worth watching if you want to understand where Asterisk is going... the demo is pretty cool, too!

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Under 2 Hours Left in Skype's Twitter Contest (for a $1500 Apple Store Gift Cert)

Speaking of Skype, there is only a little bit under 2 hours left for you to enter their contest on Twitter for a $1500 USD Apple Store Gift Certificate.

What contest?, you may ask. Indeed, outside of 3 tweets on their @Skype account I haven't seen much to promote this contest... but Skype is giving away a Apple Store gift certificate to some random person who has tweeted out their favorite feature using the #SkypeMac5 hashtag. As you can see from the Twitter search stream for that hashtag, there are some people out there tweeting away...

Official rules and all that are at:

Of course, I probably shouldn't mention this as I wouldn't mind winning! :-)


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3 Interesting Omissions from the Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac OS X

Since the launch of Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac last week, I've continued use it on one Mac and simultaneously using the current Skype 2.8 on another Mac. In using both, I've been struck by a couple of interesting omissions.

One is somewhat trivial but was always kind of fun to see - the 2.8 client listed the number of people online in the bottom right corner:


As a numbers/stats geek, it was kind of fun to see that number change over time, both in terms of hours of the day and also the overall growth. If this number is somehow visible in the Skype 5.0 Beta, I've yet to see it.

UPDATE: This was added to a 5.0 release, but through a typed command, not directly in the user interface as it was in Skype 2.8. You can now go into any chat in the 5.x client and type: /mac users to see the number of users currently online.

UPDATE - 5 Mar 2012: This /mac users command no longer works in at least the Skype 5.5 client for the Mac.

UPDATE - 6 Mar 2012: It turns out that the command in Skype 5.5 for Mac OS X is simply "/users".

UPDATE - 16 June 2014: This "/users" command was apparently removed from the Skype for Mac client sometime in the last two years. It seems the only way to get Skype statistics is from Skype's statistics RSS feed.

Another much more annoying omission is the "Mark All Viewed" button that was available in the 2.8 "history" feature. If you clicked the number of open chats on the right side of the Skype 2.8 contact window, it would show you your history of what chats are currently open with messages in them. There was then this "Mark All Viewed" button that let you very easily "catch up" with all of chats.


This has often been incredibly useful when traveling or having other periods away from the computer. As I've mentioned, I am in a LOT of Skype chats and sometimes when I get to a hotel after traveling, I want to look through some of the most important chats ... and then simply zero out the count of new messages in the rest so that I will only learn of new messages in that chat from that point forward.

UPDATE: This feature was added to a 5.0 release. Under the Conversations menu there is now a menu choice "Mark All Conversations As Read".

Which brings me to the third omission and one that I do miss. With the 2.8 client, you have the ability to sort chats in several different ways through a menu a the top of the "drawer" attached to a chat window:


This allowed me to, for instance, flag some chat as a higher priority and have them appear at the top of the list of chats. Now, the 5.0 Beta does provide a limited version of this in the "Favorites", but the 2.8 client let you assign different levels of priority to different chats.

In any event, this sorting is gone in the 5.0 Beta... we only have the sort by date and then the "Favorites".

None of these are showstoppers to me... my decision to continue with using the 5.0 Beta won't rest on these omissions. I just thought they were interesting things to drop from the GUI. Hopefully Skype will bring bring them back during the beta process... we'll have to see!

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Congrats to Mark Headd for joining Voxeo Labs and


Flickr credit: ecommconf

I was delighted to see the official word go out today that Mark Headd will be joining our Voxeo Labs team to work on promoting our Tropo cloud communications service. For the past few years I've had the privilege of working with Mark as an "external" developer on a range of projects related to Voxeo's platforms. Mark has a very strong interest in "open government" which is also a passion of mine (although I don't get to work too much on issues related to it) and maintains his Vox Populi blog where he outlines many of his various projects connecting voice, IM, SMS and Twitter to various government projects. (Usually using one of Voxeo's platforms or various open source systems.)

One cool aspect about Mark is his flexibility in languages and topics. He's equally at home contributing a series of guest blog posts about VoiceXML, writing about building an IM (and Twitter) Bot for the NY State Senate Legislative API, writing a series of posts about building multichannel transit apps with PHP and Tropo or showing how to connect Phono and Tropo to a CCXML app to enable screen pops via IM when someone calls into an app from their web browser.

Mark has also been the principal developer behind the libraries for the Tropo WebAPI for PHP, C# and most recently node.js.

Beyond all that, he's just a great guy... so I'm glad he's joining the team. I expect you'll see him writing not just on his own blog, but also on the Tropo blog, the Phono blog and undoubtedly some of our other blogs. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Welcome, Mark, to becoming a Voxeon!

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VIDEO: Review of Skype 5.0 Beta for MacOS X, including Group Video

Want to SEE the new Skype 5.0 Beta for MacOS X in action? Over on the Voxeo blog for my Emerging Tech Talk video podcast, I posted a video review of the Skype 5.0 Beta for MacOS X. You can see the new UI and see the Group Video calling capabilities:

I'm using the Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac on my personal iMac, where screen real estate isn't a problem at all and so far it's interesting... it definitely takes a good bit of time to get used to. Over on my work MacBook Pro, I'm still using Skype 2.8.x until I'm really sure I want to make the switch. :-)

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