Posts categorized "Personal"

Remote Working: the Benefits, Disadvantages, and some Lessons Learned in 15+ years

Djurdjica-boskovic-G8_A4ZWxE3E-unsplash-776pxWith so many people now having to learn to work remotely due to restrictions related to COVID-19, what information can people share who have been working from home? Back in October 2019, I realized it was 20 years ago when I started working remotely, and so I sent out some tweets asking for opinions about the benefits of working remotely, the challenges / disadvantages, and then the lessons people have learned. I subsequently recorded podcast episodes on each of those three topics.

The links to the Twitter threads and podcasts are below.At some point I may turn them into longer articles themselves, but in the meantime, I hope they will help some of you with ideas for how to get adjusted to this new way of working.

And… I would suspect many of you might just want to jump directly to the lessons learned… 


Many of the benefits were about no commute, the ability to be present with family, freedom to work and live wherever, flexibility, caring for family, and more.  (Note that a good number of the benefits mentioned (such as working from "anywhere") are currently NOT possible because of the self-isolation / quarantine imposed by the COVID-19 situation.)


Loneliness, isolation, and the lack of social connections with colleagues topped the list of disadvantages, along with the lack of physical activity, home distractions and more.

Lessons Learned

Some of the key lessons that I have learned in over 15 years of working remotely, and that were common in other comments include:

  • Create a separate space (ideally, a separate room) - this is critical if you can do it.
  • Invest in a good chair and other office equipment - since you are going to be sitting in it so many hours of your day! (Or some people now have desks that let you stand, too.)
  • Make time for physical activity - get OUTSIDE if you can! Go for a walk. Go for a run. Or work out in a home gym. Multiple people suggested dogs being a great way to force you to do this.
  • Make a schedule - and STICK to that schedule - it is super easy to work many hours at all different times. Figure out a schedule that works for you,  your employer, your team, and your family - and then try to stick to that schedule.
  • Use collaboration tools - things like Slack are critical for your own sanity so that you are “connected” to other people in your organization. (Granted, you may need to figure out how to not be too connected to everyone and spend your day drowning in notifications!)
  • Take actual lunch breaks - step away from your computer and your home office. Get up and move around.
  • Sit with your face toward natural light, if possible - it looks better than artificial light… and you’ll get some Vitamin D, too. 🙂
  • Lighting IS important, particularly for video calls - you do want to have light shining on you in a way that works well for video. You may want to experiment with different lamps around you or on your desk.
  • Have video calls with other remote workers - make time to connect with colleagues, ideally over video calls. Even if it is just to chat for 5 or 10 minutes. It can help ease the sense of isolation - and they may like it, too! Sometimes if I have a question that I’m going to write in email or Slack, I’ll ask myself, “would it be faster if I just ask them in person?” And if so, I’ll ping them via a message to see if they are available for a video call.
  • Work in different locations - Try sometimes to get out of your home office and work in other parts of the house. Take a laptop and work in another room, or on a deck or yard if you have one. (Granted, this might be hard if you have many people in your household all working in the same building.)

On this last point, you’ll see in the Twitter thread and hear on the podcast all the comments about working from other locations. For example, working at cafes with WiFi, etc. That IS a critical lesson many of us have learned. Successful remote working can involve getting outside the walls of your home office - and outside of your home. Obviously this is currently NOT possible with the COVID-19 situation, but something to definitely think about if you continue working remotely once we are past all of this.

Other remote workers… what other lessons learned would you add?

Best wishes to you all as we all try to navigate this new world of social distancing and working remotely over the next weeks and months!

UPDATE #1 - over on Twitter, someone I know pointed out that this is NOT regular "working from home" (WFH). His text: "I've WFH 11 years. current situation is not normal WFH. you can't go to a coffee shop to interact w people, work out or take advantage of all sorts of WFH perks like normal.
self-quarantine != WFH

I definitely agree, Paul, this is NOT regular "working from home".

Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash. - No, that’s not MY desk… far too clean! 😏

Celebrating 10 Years of Blogging at Disruptive Telephony

DisTel Dec2006

Ten years ago today, on December 18, 2006, I launched this blog with a very short 1-paragraph post:

Welcome to Disruptive Telephony! For a number of years, I have been blogging about VoIP as part of my personal blog, "". However, I'm now in the process of splitting out some parts of my writing into separate blogs. This is one of those blogs. Right now... I'm just setting it up, so don't expect to see much here. Stay tuned, though... much will be happening soon.

At the time, I was living in Burlington, Vermont, and working remotely for the Office of the CTO at Mitel Networks back up in Ottawa, Ontario (where we lived from 2000-2005). Dave Edwards, a friend from Ottawa, left the only comment on that post.

In 2006, the "VoIP blogging" world was quite small - and we all pretty much knew other. Om Malik was writing on his own site (it was yet to become GigaOm). Andy Abramson had VoIPWatch. Jeff Pulver was writing on his sites. Tom Keating at his "VoIP and Gadgets blog" on TMC. Martin Geddes had his "Telepocalypse" site. Alec Saunders had "Saunderslog". And there were a few others...

This was back in the day when we read each others blog posts, commented on them, excerpted each other's posts, etc. And "social media" was not yet a big thing.

It's been a crazy 10 years since... being "restructured" out of a role at Mitel in 2007 after their merger with Inter-Tel, finding a role with Voxeo through this Disruptive Telephony blog (they read this post about telephony not mattering, and then my post about the role I was seeking)... moving to Keene, NH, in 2008... joining the Internet Society in September 2011... it's been a wild ride!

Along the way, I wrote a ton of articles about Skype, SIP, Google and many other VoIP technologies.  MANY relating to security. At one point I seemed to have become Skype's receptionist since no one could find a phone number on Skype's (pre-Microsoft) web site. I wrote about startups that showed great promise, and also about when those promises faded. Many articles on many different topics...

I learned a huge amount and met many great people and made great connections from the writing on this site.

Over this decade of writing, TypePad gives me these stats:

  • 1,209,851 Lifetime Pageviews
  • 331.10 Pageviews/Day
  • 800 Total Posts (including this post)
  • 924 Total Comments

Very appropriately - and with no plan whatsoever - this is the 800th post on this site.

I started using Google Analytics on the site in October 2007 and it tells me I've had 1,817,045 pageviews since time, proving, once again, how difficult it is to track viewers, since the stats are different. More interestingly, GA shows me the top posts that have attracted interest over the years:

1. Google Voice Now Offers SIP Addresses For Calling Directly Over IP (March 2011)

2. Understanding Today's Skype Outage: Explaining Supernodes (December 2010)

3. Did Google Hang Up On Calling Google Voice Via SIP? (March 2011)

4. Will iOS 9 Make My iPad2 Usable Again? (June 2015)

5. What is an Over-The-Top (OTT) Application or Service? - A Brief Explanation (July 2012)

6. How To Set A Skype Chat So That New Arrivals See (Some) Chat History (March 2011)

7. You Can Now Call Into Google+ From Regular Phones - Google Connects Google Voice To Hangouts (May 2013)

8. UPDATE: Will iOS 9 Make My iPad2 Usable Again? (Reports after the upgrade.) (September 2015)

9. Why Is Skype Forcing A Software Upgrade On All Of Us? (Plus The Community Outrage) (August 2014)

10. Did Google REALLY Kill Off All XMPP/Jabber Support In Google+ Hangouts? It Still Seems To Partially Work (May 2013) 

 No real surprises there... my post about Google Voice and SIP addresses STILL receives a significant volume of interest, even though that capability died long ago. For a while, back in maybe 2009-2012, I was one of the main people writing about Skype, and so many of my posts of that era were highly viewed.

A few of my own favorite posts that aren't on that list include:

A. The Directory Dilemma - Why Facebook, Google and Skype May Win the Mobile App War (June 2015 and December 2014) - one of my longer pieces diving into what I see as the prime challenge for new entrants into VoIP / messaging. (The link is to the updated version on CircleID, but the original version was here on this site.)

B. Why The Opus Codec Matters - Even If You Don't Care About Audio (July 2013) - my thoughts on why people need to care about audio codecs.

C. Moving Beyond Telephone Numbers - The Need For A Secure, Ubiquitous Application-Layer Identifier (May 2013) - After SIPNOC 2013, I dove into the whole area around "What do we use as an application-layer identifier for Internet-connected devices?"

D. A Brief Primer on the Tech Behind Skype, P2PSIP and P2P Networks (November 2010) - I kept needing to explain peer-to-peer (P2P) networks to people, and Skype's setup in particular, that I felt compelled to do a deep dive and explain how P2P systems worked. Fun to write!

E. Hypervoice - The Fundamental Flaw In The Proposal (October 2012) - this piece analyzing a proposal from Martin Geddes and the ensuing comment trail make for good reading about different viewpoints on the future of telecommunications.

F. Ch-changes - Taking A New Job At The Internet Society To Join The Fight For The Open Internet (September 2011) - this one is of course a favorite as it explains why I am doing what I am doing now with the Internet Society.

There were many other favorites, like my rant about WebRTC and who we were building it for, but these were the main ones.

Of course, if you look at both of those lists you can notice that with the exception of the two iPad / iOS9 posts and the updated "Directory Dilemma" in 2015, all of these are older posts.

This shows, though, the decline I've had in posting here.  Look at these numbers:

  • 2016 - only 7 blog posts (including this one)
  • 2015 - 25 blog posts
  • 2014 - 28 blog posts
  • 2013 - 30 blog posts
  • 2012 - 40 blog posts
  • 2011 - 154 blog posts
  • 2010 - 90 blog posts
  • 2009 - 52 blog posts
  • 2008 - 110 blog posts
  • 2007 - 234 blog posts

Clearly my velocity has decreased in a serious way, mostly as a result of new responsiblities with the Internet Society and a decreased amount of time for writing here.

I have a loooooonnnnnnnggggg queue of articles I want to write here. The reality is that while some things have changed over the 10 years, many of the same issues are still here.

We'll see where I go with this in 2017. I have a great amount of focus I'd like to give to messaging... let's see if I can make that happen!

Meanwhile... today I will just say THANK YOU TO ALL THE READERS OVER THE 10 YEARS! I'm glad to have helped many people along the way - and I'm glad to have been challenged by many people as well.

I'm looking forward to the next 10 years of writing here... because one thing is definitely for certain: telephony will continue to be disrupted!

Four Years At The Internet Society

ISOC geneva 400It was four years ago today that I joined the Internet Society staff... and what an amazing four years it has been!

If I go back and read my long post here about joining ISOC in September 2011, my passion and motivation continues to be the same - if anything, that passion has only gotten stronger!

As I wrote about last year in my three-year post, the "Internet of opportunity" that we all value is under severe threat.

The big change for me this past year, was, of course, the big change of joining the Internet Society Strategic Communications team in March 2015 (you can also listen to an audio recording).

That's been a wonderful yet crazy change!

If you go back and look at what I wrote last year - or two years ago - it's all about the technology behind the Internet and how we need to improve the infrastructure to make the Internet work better, be faster and be more secure.

The change this year is that now I'm more involved in other areas of Internet Society work, particularly in the public policy space. You can see that in some of the posts I've been writing for the main ISOC blog (scroll down my bio page to see the list). I've been very involved in adding content to the public policy and Internet governance sections of the website - and I've been working on our overall content strategy for a range of different websites (whereas in the past I mostly just focused on the Deploy360 site).

I've also found myself involved in projects such as standing up a web site for our Call For an Open WSIS+10 Preparatory Process... which it was only after getting it all set up that I really sat back and realized we were coordinating a coalition of organizations that was calling on action from the President of the United Nations General Assembly! Quite a different level of advocacy than I've been involved with in the past! (And still open to sigantories, by the way...)

My new role this year has given me an amazing view about all the work the Internet Society is doing around the world... it's truly inspiring to see it all.

Perhaps most inspiring is to see that the work is ultimately about helping people have better lives. Yes, technology is definitely a large part... but the work we do is about how technology enables better communication, connection, collaboration, creativity and commerce... it's the effect on people that matters most.

The new role is crazy busy... I'm definitely NOT sitting around playing Solitaire or Tetris! :-)

But we have a great team... and we as an overall organization are working on getting more focused on what activities we can do to have the biggest impact on ensuring the "Internet of opportunity" is available for all.

I'm VERY much looking forward to what the fifth year brings!

P.S. Recently Russ White published a very nice overview of the Internet Society on the PacketPushers site - and if you're interested, becoming a member of the Internet Society is free and can connect you to others around the world who want to see an open Internet available to all!

An audio commentary is also available:

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...

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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):

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... )

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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 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, 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). :-)

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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:


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 ( - 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?

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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 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...

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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.