Posts categorized "Video"

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… 

Benefits

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.)

Disadvantages

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! 😏


Facebook Messenger's "Instant Video" Lets You Simultaneously Use Video and Chat

FB instant video

The messaging wars continue! Today Facebook Messenger added "Instant Video" to it's iOS and Android app, allowing you to easily share live video while still in a text chat. Facebook has had "video calling" since back in May 2015, but that requires both parties to answer the video call in the same way that Facetime, Wire and every other video app does it.

"Instant Video" is different:

  • VIDEO STARTS OUT ONE-WAY - Only the video of the person initiating "Instant Video" is shown. The recipient sees the video of the sender, but their video connection is NOT enabled. Now, the recipient can start sending video, but they don't have to.

  • AUDIO IS OFF INITIALLY - When the sender starts their video, the recipient receives the video without any sound. They can easily start getting sound by tapping on the speaker icon on the video, but this is great because often you are having a text conversation precisely because you don't want to use audio.

  • YOU CAN STILL SEE THE CHAT - The video overlays the upper right corner of the chat window, but that's it. You can still see the chat messages and continue having your chat.

This last point is quite important and useful. This "Instant Video" lets you add video to a chat, while still allowing chat to be the primary communication medium.

Predictably, there was a great amount of media coverage of this launch today. Some noted that this was yet-another-way Facebook was cloning Snapchat. Others called this an answer to Google Duo.

Regardless, I immediately saw a personal use case. Occasionally I will go to a local coffee shop to pick up muffins for my wife and I. The flavors are always changing. If I don't see one I think she'll like, I often wind up calling - or texting her with the flavors. But it would be actually a bit easier and faster if I texted her "which one do you want?" and then sent her a live video stream where I panned back and forth across the choices. Sure, that may seem a silly use case... but it immediately sprang to my mind.

For "Instant Video" to work, a couple of conditions need to be true:

  • YOU BOTH NEED THE LATEST MESSENGER APP - You need to have the latest version for either iOS or Android.

  • YOU BOTH NEED TO BE *IN* THE CHAT - This is key. You can't just open up Messenger and start sending video to someone who is listed in your contacts. You need to actually be in communication with the other person.

Once this second item is true the video icon on the top of the screen starts pulsating - at which point you can start sending "Instant Video".

I'd note that this is the same icon used to initiate a "regular" video call. However, when you are in a chat with someone else the pulsating icon means you can do this new "Instant Video" style of chat.

I found I really liked the overlay aspect. Here's the view I saw on my end:

FB Messenger video overlay

It worked very well to continue the text conversation while having the video right there, too.

It's an interesting addition as Facebook continues to try to make Messenger be THE tool that people use for messaging. Facebook has this advantage of having an absolutely massive "directory" of users (see "the Directory Dilemma") and so we may see this helping with keep people inside of Facebook's shiny walls.

What do you think? Do you see yourself using this "Instant Video"?


Wow! Cisco To Acquire Tropo's Communications Application Platform

Tropo siteWOW! In companion blog posts today Cisco and Tropo announced Cisco's intent to acquire the Tropo team and platform:

As someone who was at Voxeo in 2009 and helped launch Tropo (and wrote many of the early blog posts about it[1], as well as some of the python samples), I'm thrilled for the team there now that this is happening.[2]

Congratulations to all involved!

Over the years since leaving Voxeo, I've written about Tropo from time to time and continued to watch its progress. I've continued to be very impressed by what they've done over the years. They've truly made it easy for people to create powerful applications using simple programming languages.

It looks like the Tropo website is struggling right now so here is a snippet of their announcement post:


Six years ago we launched Tropo with the idea to make it easy to power phone calls through a simple API. Since then, we’ve empowered thousands of developers to add voice and messaging to their applications.

From our very first sign-up in 2009, to powering thousands of mobile and voice applications, our mission has been the same: to make real-time communications more accessible and productive through great APIs.

Today we’re thrilled to share that Tropo is joining Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group. Together we’ll enable completely new ways of communicating by opening up Cisco’s collaboration products to every developer on the planet (and maybe some off the planet…hey, they need collaborative tools on the International Space Station!)  :)


Knowing a good number of folks at Cisco, too, I think this is a great win for them in that they'll be able to make some of their products and services more accessible to developers.

I remember well back in 2009 when Jonathan Taylor (then CEO of Voxeo) brought in the Adhearsion team and "Voxeo Labs" was set up. Tropo was the first of the Voxeo Labs products, along with a number of others that were released over the following years. I watched as Voxeo Labs was then spun off from Voxeo in 2012 as a separate company and then Voxeo was acquired by Aspect in 2013... and Voxeo Labs was renamed to Tropo.

I watched, too, as the Tropo team continued their heavy involvement with WebRTC and brought that technology even deeper into their various services.

Congratulations to Jonathan Taylor, Jason Goecke, Johnny Diggz and all the rest of the Tropo team on this acquisition!

I look forward to seeing what Tropo and Cisco will do together to make it even easier to create voice, chat, messaging and other kinds of applications!


UPDATE #1: Jonathan Taylor has published a post on Facebook that outlines some of the history that led to this announcement. He includes this information related to Cisco:

We were even more surprised when Cisco approached us about acquiring Tropo. Selling Tropo was the last thing on our minds. But the potential was clearly huge for both companies, and over the course of the discussion, the deal terms clearly quite attractive. So here we are today!

UPDATE #2: A number of news stories are appearing on Techmeme.

UPDATE #3: Writing over on NoJitter, Zeus Kerravala dives into more detail about the acquisition based on his pre-briefing with Cisco's Rowan Trollope. Zeus' article: Cisco to CPaaS Providers: Game On!


[1] Although in the time since I left in 2011, my account was understandably removed from the Tropo site and the author on all those posts I wrote between 2009-2011 was changed to someone else. :-)

[2] In full disclosure, I should note that I am a very minor shareholder in Tropo after exercising a few options upon leaving Voxeo in 2011. I had no knowledge of this acquisition and have not participated actively with Tropo since leaving in 2011.


Join Live Today at 9:00 CDT - Internet Video Codec BOF at IETF92

Ietf square 1Can we create a royalty-free (RF) video codec that can be deployed ubiquitously and become the new open standard for video communication across the Internet?

THAT is the fundamental question of the Internet Video Codec (NETVC) Birds-of-a-Feather (BoF) happening at IETF 92 in Dallas today, March 24, 2015, from 9:00-11:30 CDT (UTC-5). You can listen and participate live using the following links:

You also may want to view the presentation that will be used during the session.

The goal of the overall effort is defined as this:

  • Development of a video codec that is:

    • Optimized for real-time communications over the public Internet
    • Competitive with or superior to existing modern codecs 

    • Viewed as having IPR licensing terms that allow for wide implementation and deployment 

    • Developed under the IPR rules in BCP 78 (RFC 5378) and BCP 79 (RFCs 3979 and 4879)
  • Replicate the success of the CODEC WG in producing the Opus audio codec.

The BOF proposal contains more of a narrative:

The Internet needs a royalty-free (RF) video codec that can become the backbone for universal deployment of video related technologies. Royalty-bearing codecs put constraints on implementors that are unacceptable, but current RF codecs are not yet competitive with royalty-bearing offerings. This dilemma stalls innovation in the space and means large sets of consumers don't have access to the best video technology.

There are efforts underway by several groups to produce a next-generation, royalty-free (RF) video codec, including VP10 by Google and Daala by Mozilla/Xiph.Org. While far from complete, these efforts aim to surpass the royalty-bearing competition. Efforts within other standards organizations like MPEG to create RF video standards have been unsuccessful so far, but have showed that many consumer device manufacturers would support an RF codec.

The success of Opus from the CODEC WG has also shown that collaboration, based on the IETF's principals of open participation, can produce better results than competition between patented technologies. The IPR rules in BCP 78 and 79 are also critical for success. They impose a duty to disclose, and require exact patent or patent application numbers, in addition to basic licensing terms. This allows participants to evaluate the risk of infringement and, if appropriate, design work arounds, in any technology adopted, and assess the cost of adopting such technology. Because it does not force participants to agree to license their patents under RF terms, it helps to encourage participation even by those opposed to such terms (instead of guaranteeing they stay away). In addition to an environment which encourages third-party disclosures, this provides much better chances of success than SDOs which have a "patent-blind" process or which require blanket RF grants.

And the NETVC BOF agenda outlines the plan for the session today.

I do believe that creating this kind of royalty-free codec for Internet video is a critical step to enabling video to be used everywhere across the Internet... not just where people are able to pay to license royalty-bearing codecs. I'd like to see even more developer creativity and innovation unleashed with this action.

I'll be listening and participating remotely. I hope that many of you will join in as well. 9:00am US CDT today (10:00am for me on the US East Coast).

P.S. If you have no idea what the IETF is all about, you may want to skim The Tao of IETF first...



Join Me On VUC Today At Noon US EDT To Talk IPv6, IoT, WebRTC and more...

Today at 12 noon US Eastern (in about 3.5 hours), I'll be part of a panel on the VoIP Users Conference (VUC) talking about IPv6, WebRTC, the Internet of Things (IoT) and much, much more... you should be able to watch it live at live.vuc.me or embedded here:

VUC host Randy Resnick had a scheduled guest be unable to attend and so he asked a group of us to come on for what he is calling a "VUC Vision" session. I will be on there, as will, I believe, Tim Panton and a number of others. I expect the discussion should range over good variety of topics. It should be a good time... you're welcome to join in the discussion.

It's probably best to also join the IRC backchannel where links are shared, questions are answered and other comments occur. You also can visit the Google+ event page for the VUC session today where there may be additional links and info.

If you won't be at your computer, you can also call in via:

  • sip:200901@login.zipdx.com
  • +1 (646) 475-2098
  • Skype:vuc.me

The session will of course be recorded so you can listen/watch later.

Vuc vision 20141003


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Lesson Learned The Hard Way - Google+ Hangouts On Air ...

I learned a hard lesson today that Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) are limited to 4 hours in length.... and to read the rest of the story, visit Disruptive Conversations...

(Good lesson that I shouldn't be posting articles at 1:00am! But leaving this post up here for a bit because there are now social media links out there pointing to this URL...)


VUC Today: The Jitsi VoIP Softphone - Join The Call To Learn More!

JitsiWhat is new with the Jitsi softphone these days? What new capabilities does it have as it continues to expand its support of SIP, XMPP and other protocols?

I've long been a fan and user of Jitsi, in part because it supports IPv6 and is the only VoIP softphone I know of right now that supports DNSSEC, something I'm continuing to experiment with, so I'm looking forward to today's "VoIP Users Conference (VUC) call at 12 noon US Eastern - about 2.5 hours from now.

You can watch it live via a Google+ Hangout On Air, or call in (potentially using Jitsi!) via:

  • sip:200901@login.zipdx.com
  • +1 (646) 475-2098
  • Skype:vuc.me

There's also an IRC backchannel where links are shared, questions are answered and other comments occur.

And for those of you using Google+, there is a Google+ Event you can join.

It should be a good show! (And yes, you can watch it / listen to it later...)


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Alec Saunders Is A Rock Star In RIM's Strange New Blackberry 10 Video

BlackberryOh... my. As anyone who knows me can attest, it's extremely hard to render me speechless... but I admit to sitting here this morning staring at the screen with a rather uncomprehending expression on my face and with my mouth hanging open...

Sometime after my friend Alec Saunders joined RIM last year as their VP of Developer Relations, I said to someone that while I admittedly did view his new mission as somewhat akin to tilting at windmills, he was perhaps just the kind of "rock star" that RIM needed. A very passionate and dynamic presenter... a very charismatic leader who could rally people... a creative guy with a theatre background... someone who thinks differently...

... never in my wildest ideas did I expect that we would be seeing Alec AS an actual "rock star" in a music video! But yes indeed, here he is with two other VPs from RIM in a remake of the famous REO Speedwagon song. (Alec is the main singer.)

Unbelievable.

My speechlessness soon gave way to laughter ... and appreciation for them for doing something rather different. If they were looking for a way to be "remarkable" and memorable, they found it.

Now, somewhat predictably, some of the tech press are calling this an act of sheer desperation and I'm seeing comments in social networks calling it "painful" and "cringeworthy."

But that's the point, really... the video is getting people talking about Blackberry!

Even me, who hasn't really written about RIM and Blackberry here since, oh, last year shortly after he joined RIM. :-)

The video is over the top... I did cringe a couple of times as they twisted lyrics to fit the tune. But it made me smile. And laugh. And I'll remember it!

Will it attract new developers to the BB10 platform? Will it keep existing developers staying loyal to the platform?

I don't know. They have a huge uphill battle to fight. But hey, at least this was something fun and different!

Kudos to Alec and all the folks at RIM for what was obviously a great amount of time, energy and talent into doing something definitely unique!

And here's the full video for those who want the experience:


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Video: What Is WebRTC/RTCWeb All About? How Does WebRTC Work?

Do you want to understand what WebRTC / RTCWEB is all about and why so many people are passionate about its potential for extending real-time communications (voice, video, chat, data-sharing, etc.) into web browsers?

I recently wrote about some of the larger issues of how WebRTC will disrupt telecom, but in this video, "RTCWeb Explained", Cullen Jennings, one of the co-chairs of the IETF's RTCWEB working group, dives down into the technical details to explain how it all works and what the various different components of of the solution are. I particularly like how Cullen covered some areas like "identity" that I haven't seen stressed as much in other pieces about WebRTC. The video comes in at about 39 minutes and is well worth viewing:

For more information, I've put together a page about the broader WebRTC / RTCWEB initiative with links to relevant resources.


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Video: An Excellent Tour Of Voxeo's Awesome New Office!

Voxeo logoMy friends and former colleagues at Voxeo have produced a truly outstanding video giving a tour of the incredible space they have created in Orlando, Florida:

Kudos to the Voxeo marketing team for creating this video! And congrats to Jonathan Taylor and the rest of the team for realizing his vision of creating a truly unique working space and corporate culture in Orlando.

I'd note that Voxeo is quite often hiring and truly is a great company to work for. If you're looking for a job in the communications space with an excellent team of people, you should definitely check them out!

(Full disclosure: I worked for Voxeo from 2007-2011 and remain a shareholder.)


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