Thursday, December 28, 2006

Simplicity on complex things

There is a big wave of thoughts on the word "simplicity" as referred to the way product managers and designers think a new (or rethink an old) mobile phone, game platform, software, a tool... a widget. A thing.

What's the simplest word to say "a thing that can be used"?
In Italian, I would say congegno or coso. Everybody would understand me, given he/she knows Italian.
I bet you don't understand the word. Because you lack the knowledge to interpret the verbal signal, which your brain would have linked to a conceptual model, something "you know".

Simplicity is a matter of "I already know that, it's simple!".
When our brain encounters a new thing, it tries to map it to something known. That is to say, it starts a matching procedure, just like the one that makes me look like certain celebrities :)
After matching a model, Mr Brain keeps going refining the identification process by finding differences and specifying further features. (You are probably thinking "This is generally valid, but you can find a lot of examples which do not work this way." Exactly what I meant :) )

Therefore, if you want simplicity look for already seen things. Look for something natural. Even if there is a really innovative technology that you cannot live without.
If you want innovation please do not try to justify its complexity as a necessary by-product of innovation.

In my experience, I have to say that the real challenge of technological innovation is to make the technology unseen. We are overwhelmed by acronyms -I have the special gift of inventing a new one each day :)- and useless bits of false knowledge that we call "technical jargon".

That's why, in my personal (and professional) opinion, one way to make VoIP live long is to kill VoIP as we've seen it so far. The technology is not always "under the hood", and fighting with proxy configuration and NAT traversal issues is not acceptable for the average user(note).
Therefore, solutions that sell the thing of calling via Internet "as is" are going to die.
On the other hand, solutions that provide you with a "virtual personal assistant", a "calling privacy shield", a "doorbell for your site" (like our Sitofono) are going to be more successful just because they can be understood and matched with something known. Secondly, they will be valued for what they are, but this is a second step. You cannot value what you don't understand, do you?

I've some thoughts about "features" and "simplicity" that I want to discuss with you, but I prefer to write them on a separate post, and with some time to digest this long one. :)

Note: as Steve Krug says in "Don't Make Me Think", his bestseller book on web usability, "the actual average user is kept in a hermetically sealed vault at the International Bureau of Standards in Geneva" :))

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Bug in Firefox VoIP

It seems like Abbeyphone VOW is doing something bad on web pages...

Updated: If you use Movable Type in Firefox, BEWARE of Abbeyphone! by ZDNet's Russell Shaw -- There's this voice over Web platform called Abbeyphone that, in the wrong set of circumstances, has potential to create havoc for some bloggers who use Movable Type via Firefox. I know this because I've had problems on a couple of blog sites. Problems like, right-hand margins getting blown out, and distorting both the post and [...]

Actually, our Firefox VoIP Extension is putting some garbage in nearly all the web pages which contain user numbers as user input: therefore, any application that contains a <textarea> tag may be affected by this bug.
Albeit the application is in beta version, this is the kind of bug that needs attention...

As Luca suggested, the current workaround is to untick "Highlight numbers" in your Abbeyphone for Firefox extension.
But the problem will be fixed in the next version, which is planned in the second half of January.

Stay tuned and:
Thanks for feedback, Russell!

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Find the celebrities that look like you

Some days ago I've received an e-mail from a dear friend, in which there was a photo collage of her, in the middle, and a bunch of celebrities whirling around her photo.
Each photo presents the celebrity name and a "look-alike percentage".
You can see a live example in the sidebar of this blog, just scroll down a bit.

I found it really funny and entertaining, and I started feeding the matching algorithm with a lot of pictures of myself (tanned, recovering from illness, with glasses, a slim period, a fat period, drunk, really drunk...)!
It is not obvious, but each photo carries certain features that make a different match set, therefore you are not always Mel Gibson's secret brother :).

Anyway, it is interesting to note that several celebrity matches are always there, in the top ten, and that tells me that a GOOD face recognition system MUST work with a photo set of the candidates, not only a picture. (I've been working on classifying algorithms for a while, and I personally experimented the importance of considering the variances along with the "average" model, i.e. don't blindly trust the first match result)

Another interesting thing that smells "viral marketing" is the fact that this "nice free face recognition tool" carries a promotional message, which says: is building a social network of families, and is competent on face recognition products.

Instead of building yet-another-youtube-promo-video, they built an application. A nice one, that users will remember to use and spread. As a consequence of that, I imagine they are seeing a great increase in their subscription daily rate...

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Forum Nokia on VoIP

Nokia is always a step ahead. As Luca already mentioned, Nokia has got a VoIP forum section.
VoIP is just a basic application that enhances the utility of their products, and which constitutes a starting point for a new breed of technologies. It is not just VoIP, which is a small tile in a more complex puzzle of product extension and derivations.

Given the latest acquisitions by Nokia (IntelliSync, Gate5, Loudeye),
I think they are preparing the world for a real mobile experience: nonetheless, nokia mobile products (hey, they are not phones, not anymore!!!) are earning a seamless stream of success and awards (and $$$bucks$$$), by giving the possibility of grabbing users experience and share it with their friends.

The WWW is going to be the platform on which mobile devices (NOKIA mobile devices) connect and live on.

Let me remind you an enlightening post by Ken Camp, "How big is the internet", his oversimplified-and-genial answer is: "The whole damn Internet fits in my shirt pocket. It’s that big".

Nokia is really connecting people.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wengo looks for bloggers

Openwengo changes its name and starts a new project, called Wengovisio.
Wengovisio is targeted on bloggers that want to put a web-enabled device on their blog pages. Wengovisio puts your visitors in contact with your openwengo client, for free.

The Wengo philosophy is not new, for us. That's what we call VOW - Voice Over Web, a technology (and vision) which Abbeynet has built during the last year. I see a lot of points in common between Wengovisio and VOW.

VOW is the technology we used to build a Sitòfono, a targeted VOW application for the market segment represented by all the businesses with a website that struggle to capture customers.
Wengovisio is now targeted only on bloggers, but Sitòfono covers perfectly this market segment as well (althoug it doesn't feature video call).

I think that the one-to-one communication battle is starting, these days.

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Hictu! Your ever-updated addressbook

Do you have an addressbook? Do you store it somewhere? What kind of data do you store on it?

Telephony addresses.
Snail mail addresses.
Name/Surname (it's a form of mnemonic addressing).

Do you like it to be updated regularly? That is to say, your friend Bob has changed his mobile phone number, so you have to change it.

Do you want it to be updated instantly? With the most useful and immediate means of communicating with your contact, when you live more than one third of your life online?

Well, your answer is Hictu!
My colleague Giacomo explains the main features and the scope of this stunningly innovative project.

What I miss:

  • A "widget" that allows a simple "add to my Hictu!" by clicking on a link

  • Some note-taking on my contacts, and some more space for contacts to describe themselves.

  • Tagging feature: everything was "stored in a folder/directory" but since the advent of tagging, everything is just put in the heap with a tag. A google-like search engine will do the rest, like my favourite bookmarking site

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Monday, December 04, 2006

posting from (nearly) any mobile to blogger

Luca raised an important point in his blog: how to publish from any mobile phone to blogger? Well, any phone that has at least a gprs connection and a mail client... Us citizens can use the go.blogger interface, while non-us can use the mail-to-blog feature. You just need to provide a secret username in the mail section of blogger control panel, and check the publish box. Then, any email sent to this address will be instantly published. Easy, isn't it?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

PSTN quality for long-distance calls: are you sure?

I've just ended a long-distance call, after 20 minutes of trying to get the call terminated...
And it's not VoIP (well, it's not sold as VoIP but PSTN, is it).

Giacomo and I decided to found a new phone company :) (hey, it's a joke!)

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The paperless and agile office

One of the most interesting books I've read about software development is "The laws of software process" by Philip Armour, which explains why we desperately need to be agile.

In the VoIP world this is more true than ever, since the ground whose our market is based tend to change in few months. We cannot foresee how the market will change in the next months, therefore any project that needs more than 6 months is to be considered unsuccessful -unless a gross amount of luck makes that project the one who preempts the right market path: better give a chance to lotteries, then!

Anyway, an early release of Sitòfono was originally given birth 4 years ago under a under-developed, too avant-garde to be understood version named "Push & Speak". But it wasn't the right time, the right place.

Now, Sitòfono has been boiling in the cauldron for a while, but we were waiting for the right start signal in the market. We think we've avoided early starts, and we avoided another common mistake in software development, named "the curse of creeping featurism". When we don't know exactly what to do with a technology, we tend to apply it in the more perverse forms and manners.

But in this case, we just kept it simple. And this time we are more agile than ever, and paperless.

We work on a week time basis, relying on a wiki, an online calendar, and a simple-yet-effective e-mail alias for the group. Most of our work is based on weekly "sprints" on simple tasks, and the management part of splitting "the.big.project" into smaller chunks is made cooperatively: every monday we build the weekly plot on a 1-hour meeting and sketch the rest of the month in a very simplified work breakdown structure.

On an every day basis we wrap-up our duties in a brief, essential stand-up meeting, and start working. Anybody who's missing the point can ask for an insight without the burden of a formal meeting. That's one of the moment we do brainstorming.

We then move to the coffee room, or smaller rooms we call "pensatoio" (it's like the pensieve cited in Harry Potter).

On friday we discuss about the process: what's working, what hasn't worked. All the relevant items are jotted down the wiki in some place, with some tags and keywords. The search box does the rest.

When we need to discuss about something -graphical-, we work on the white-glass panels that are conveniently placed in our 6-post rooms, called "the cells".

By the time we go home, the glass walls are full of sketches, sequence diagrams,
interface drawings, and so on. We take a shot of the relevant ones
with a digital camera and we store them on the wiki: we call them "efisio drawing files", mocking the Microsoft Visio software - Efisio is the
most common Sardinian first name. :)

Needless to say, the rest of Abbeynet follows different process and organization criteria, depending on the project they are involved into: different project scale, complexity and different timings need to be treated differently, but most of our documentation is paperless, and, most importantly, agile. For instance, the focus group on the multimedia streaming lives in a truly "research lab" environment: fortunately, they don't stink, as depicted in the stereotype of mad geniuses, but one of them resembles a blue boar and he's a gulch of ideas :)

(Obviously, the sky is not always blue, our work is sometimes a bit frenzy. But we always find the time to relax on some sunny seaside lunches at the poetto beach, eating sea-urchins, mussels and spaghetti with lobster-sauce)

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Friday, November 24, 2006

The blogosphere likes Sitofono

Luca is receiving lots of feedback about Sitofono: the experience of calling from a web page is one of a kind, and it is as simple as clicking on a link.

I am particularly happy for the praises from Andy Abramson, Ken Camp, Alec Saunders, and PhoneBoy, since they are the most influential and competent people in the VoIP world.

We are now working on this feedback and we've identified three areas of intervention:

  1. Usability: we are studying alternative interface designs that will convey a better user experience, both simpler and more interactive. You know, Donald Norman is our source of inspiration and spiritual guide :)

  2. Pervasiveness: i.e. improving usability for content publishers, we are identifying a shortlist of content delivery platforms that can be easily enhanced with a widget, a plugin or a component that pops up a Sitofono. Even e-mail signature creation has been automated for the sake of simplicity. If you have a preferred web publishing platform for which you need a Sitofono building wizard, just leave me a comment.
  3. Interoperability: services are spreading all over the world, we'll be making easier integration with a selected bunch of useful services -we'll disclose this list later :)
Just as a reminder, Sitofono is priced 499€ per year and can be linked to wireline phone numebers in a wide selection of countries (60 country codes), including Europe, USA and Hong Kong.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sitofono MashUps

It's interesting, both Phoneboy and Ken Camp have paired our Sitofono with GrandCentral.
And what they both miss is the ability to preserve their privacy with an intelligent call buffer, like Iotum's Relevant Engine.

I think we are just attending a voice mashup event, where the PSTN is working as the "glue". Curious, isn't it?

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Yahoo Go! will be enhanced soon. Or will it not?

The news of a recent acquisition of Kenet Works by Yahoo! makes me think of a brand new version of Y!Go, a powerful -yet unripe- mobile communication platform that features Yahoo! e-mail, content publishing, calendar and lots of other interesting things into a mobile handset, i.e. my Nokia 6630.
As long as the Internet fits my pocket, I admit I like publishing content on the go (like the shots taken last weekend at JazzIn' Sardegna, the European Jazz Expo) and looking for information about a specific topic (like "what's the latest CD by Paolo Fresu?").
In addition to that, I like browsing the news feeds, and check my e-mail.
At present, I do nearly everything with Google reader, google search for mobile, gmail live, but I share my pictures with Flickr and use as a must-have tool.

What I miss right now is the opportunity to talk about these topics online, mobile. Is Kenet Works going to satisfy my needs?
Is Y!Messenger going to be strengthened by going mobile?

Is Yahoo! mobile going to make me churn?

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The tale of the Ghost in the twilight (Airport) zone

Alec Saunders tells an interesting story about airport security and risk.
It is interesting in two ways, at least: I see it as a matter of information transport and risk assessment.

What I see at first is that every airport has its own security problems, but -somehow- they are managed differently depending on where are your source and destination: are you going to or coming in.
It's sort of anisotropic behavior of filters, it applies to information diffusion as well: some information could find the "best" path nearly unassisted. Irreverent news story spreads out regardless of all the security constraints and barriers, good viral marketing stimuli diffuse in the whole blogosphere in just few hours.
The point is that: there is always a path.

The other interesting lesson is that, despite the effort you put as a project manager (or an entrepeneur) to limit the risk of failure of a project, there is always somebody that re-estimates the risk associated with an unforeseen event (Alec's U-turn) without informing the rest of the team (or the superior) so that it could have taken adequate actions.
Alec walked unattended in lots of places, he's a good guy but... who assessed that?
And you, PM, are you managing the risk of your team being underestimating the risks?

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Google Maps and click-to-call service debut along with Sitofono free

Curious as it is, Google launches its google maps click-to-call service for free just the day of
Luca's announcement about giving free Sitofonos for 2 months
It's just another confirmation of where the business of advertisements and one-to-one communication will strengthen.
I haven't had the opportunity to try the service, because I don't live in U.S.:

We're providing the 'call' link as a free service to all businesses. These aren't ads and don't influence the ranking of businesses in the search results. We foot the bill for calls (local and long distance), but airtime fees or other mobile fees will still apply if you use a mobile phone number. Currently, the calling feature works if you live in the U.S. and are looking for a business located in the U.S.

I hope this service is going to be expanded to Europe and Italy, as well!
In the meanwhile, if you want to experience a similar technology but with a completely different business model you can apply for your free two-months period of
for your site and make your voice be heard on the silent web!
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Online advertising growth

[Notice: this post is true advertisement!]

As reported by Mark Evans, Online Advertising Rocking and Rising, there is a steep growth of business in the last year.

We are particularly happy with this: indeed Sitofono is a self-advertisement product that conveys a direct, one-to-one communication on the voice medium.
Luca just announced our promotional offer on "Sitofono the definitive click-to-call"

Sitofono is the right media enhancer for your site:
  • you don't need a complex infrastructure to install inside your company's premises: after you buy it, you get a link to put on your website, that's all;

  • your customers don't need to register to a VoIP service

  • you don't need to install any software on your PC to receive calls

  • you don't need to install a brand new VoIP phone on your desk to receive all the calls coming from Sitofono

  • you won't distinguish calls to your office phone/call center coming from Sitofono from calls coming from normal telephones

  • no variable costs

  • no need to be a VoIP expert to install it a get benefits from it

If you are a passionate blogger and you are interested in a free Sitofono for your blog, just ask Luca:

Abbeynet is going to offer "thirty" personal Sitofono to bloggers who would like to use it in their blogs or outgoing emails. FREE forever, of course ;-)
Again, if interested, please drop me a line .

In a pitch, Sitofono is the right tool that makes your online business be heard on the silent web.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Customer is queen. And what about VoIP?

Here is a clever reasoning: customer is not a "king". It's a queen, actually.
If you are looking at the reasons of VoIP not taking off as expected (esp. on the VC point of view), the feminine side of the market could be one of them.

Anyway, the VoIP blogosphere is populating with "queens", and "kings" are starting to call them in:

What is not sufficiently pointed out is that Women act and think as half of the market (at least), and the general lack of women in VoIP is a signal not to be neglected.
Do you consider me sexist when I say that M and F are different market segments?

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Voice Over Web: great "followers" of the Vision

I am sure they already had this vision in mind, it was only matter of doing it at the right time and in the right place...
The Orkut community now GTalks, that is to say that the orkut community will be enabled with voice features.

We noticed that a lot of orkut users have been using a separate instant messaging program to chat, which just seems like unnecessary work -- clicking around, keeping separate buddy lists, etc. This is why we've built Google Talk into orkut, so you can see your friends' availability and chat with them more easily.

Another interesting point is that, as Skypecasting is coming to blogs soon, as Niklas Zennström just announced.
[...] Skype has had conversations with many social-networking sites about offering services that would allow users to "share content with each other in a conversation," [...]

Imran Ali gets into the voice over anything, which is becoming a new buzz, somehow, and cites a research paper really worth reading:

There are counterposing forces of course, as a paper from researchers at the University of Melbourne illustrates, embedding voice everywhere doesn’t always make for great user experiences.

I agree with this point of view, but I see that tools always need time to be learnt: a lot of communication experiences are now limited in media, tool, scenario. Every innovative tool need to be learnt on how to use it correctly.
Don't take that too seriously, but innovatie technology is like sex for adolescents: you know it's going to be a terrific experience but nobody told you how to do it.

What's really interesting is that we presented this vision at VON Europe, in Stockholm, and reinforced the VOW vision at the VON Italy two weeks ago.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Looking for a job on VoIP?

VoipJobs is where you need to go. Most of the offers are related to U.S. territory, but I think it's going to expand (or to be cloned) on Europe and Middle East.
It is a good thermometer on how hot is the VoIP world, regardless of the "Buzz" that PRs and advocates do on the blogosphere.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Enriching your MObile ONline experience

Google's focus on mobile oriented products should be no news to you. I enjoy the Google apps everyday, and these are the applications I use (or I want to use):

  • Google maps Java Mobile Application is a really useful geo-referenced search engine, which helped me in discovering best paths and pizzerias in unknown places during my last trips by car.

  • Gmail, initially accessible via XHTML is now available as Java Mobile Application (Om Malik reviewed the product in detail): I agree with him, it's really fast and usable, except for some "glitches" which -I am sure- will be fixed shortly

  • Google Reader works perfectly on mobile, and every pure time wasting activity (like waiting in the never ending queue at the post office) is converted in "good time" by reading the feeds

  • YouTube, recently acquired by Google, is rolling out an application for Mobile users: I'm waiting for it!

What I am curious about is this: do the Googleplex inhabitants have a plan about mobile application deployment? I am seeing that some applications are deployed via web (Wap and XHTML), others are both accessible via J2ME and Web, but I have no clue on how Google is going to move in the MOBile ONline Sphere.
As Ken Camp suggests in answering the big question "How big is the internet", the Internet fits in a pocket. The access device takes the form of a smartphone or a wireless pda: this Vision is a winning one, in my opinion, but I am quite concerned about the standardization and the accessibility issues that we are going to face: is Java really the best platform in terms of user experience, or a xhtml paradigm fits better in the space of UI effectiveness and deployment issues?
Will Flash be a true competitor in the world of mobile apps? And, more into the access device topic: is the smartphone the next "killer application" host? What will be the interoperability issues?
Google could be the early adopter that marks the pace on this field, as it has already done in others.

Another interesting clue could be the fact that Nokia is beefing up its innovation and creativity department by building a camp in Palo Alto. Perhaps they are scouting for interesting startups on mobile and wireless applications, just confirming that the business2.0 is there, and it is on mobile.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Sim-One is finally OUT! :)

This fortnight has been full of interesting releases for the world of the web: the first one is IE 7, after a long waiting. The second, but not less important news, is the release of Firefox 2.0, a faster, better, more stable version. The third great news is the minor release of Openoffice, whose success is spreading all over the world.
The fourth is the Ubuntu release, one of the most popular Linux distros worldwide.
And last, but not least, the fifth great news, is the release of Simone (Sim-One), Luca first son :)))


I'm sure he's going to post something this very night :)
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Monday, October 30, 2006

Newspapers and the information paths

Mark Evans gives an interesting advice on how to change the newspapers world business model. In a previous post, he highlights the 5 Ws about newspaper (curious as it is, I've used the same "trick" for my presentation at VON Europe 2006. It is dramatically true that information (the quickest and, therefore, raw) is changing its source-destination path: from the old paradigm of "newscaster to consumers", we are moving to the new one "consumers to consumers". It is sponsored and aided by the Web2.0 revolution (both technological and social aids are present), and it is a business model where the consumer is not anymore the payer.

What is happening is that the whole economics model we used to see (Consumer is the one who pays) is fading out. Well, it already changed years ago, but now it is the model that doesn't work over the Internet, at most.
Consumer is not anymore the direct source of revenues, and some levels of indirection must be taken into account when monetizing the business performance.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

VON Italy photos on Flickr!

I've just published some photos on Flickr about the VON Italy: I've take some pictures of the staff, they were really nice and helpful!

VON Italy report

The VON Italy has been a great happening, with more than 2000 visitors and lots of exhibitors. Jeff presented his vision to the Italian audience, reminding us that the "V" of VoIP actually stands for "Video". It seems to us in Abbeynet that V stands for a lot of "things". And that IP is not the transport layer "over" which we put "things".

On the customer point of view, the WWW is the platform where applications are available to him/her. It is seen as the transport media, as the convergent layer of all the services that build a Rich Internet Application (that is, RIA).
Somebody says that VoIP is not a service but an application, I'd say that it is the third dimension on the "mute" World wide web: it's Voice Over Web.

I've had the opportunity to speak on behalf of Luca, who couldn't be there with us, and I've noticed how our presentation schema, general vision and the market approach is rather different from those presented by other speakers.
Diversity is always a good thing to see in environments. But is this diversity a merit just for us or for the whole market?

Regarding the presentation level, I've received good feedback for being interactive and easy to understand (no big theories, no long numbers, no big schemas), but this has been done at the cost of not really going into things. Those who are interested in insights of our vision can contact me, Luca or Giacomo.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Customized Google voip search engine

Google is always a step forward in user-centered services and community-enhancing tools. THis one is one of a kind, I think, because it allows us to build our own search engines.
I've just built a small one on VoIP related sites.
At present it features a narrow search in few blogs and landmark sites, I'll be pleased if you drop me a line with the sites worth to be included in the search list, or feel free to add new sources on your own.

The Google Coop search engine on Voip is here

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(pun) Voice Over IP? Old story

Voice over IP is old stuff, now a new trend is spreading all over the world. The new buzz word is VUW.
No, it's not a typo of VOW - Voice Over Web, as I usually promote on this blog, but it's Voice Under Water. Take a look at this phone, it's amazing.
And, maybe, useless :)

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Summing up the weekly news

It's been a busy week, with no time (no mind) to write about some interesting news of the last week:

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Microsoft SLAM. Let's see

Microsoft launched a "prototype social software for communicating and sharing with groups of firend and family". It requires a phone number, and a windows mobile device.
Scenarios seem a bit too avant-garde, and practically unfeasible: for this to work, people need to own a Windows Mobile device. I could understand it were an Ipod...

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

The curse of features - part I

When we design a thing for everyday use, we too often incur in the curse of "Creeping Featurism". A nice (and sarchastic) representation is sketched here: "All I've ever Wanted in a Gadget".

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Funny (just funny?) telephony applications

Just to confirm that "ye olde telephone" is still the convergent platform upon which applications are developed, here are few examples.

Call-in-sick and uBreakup, which let you getting rid of awful situations.
Jokes set apart, this is a true demonstration of what are the capabilities of the Web and a telephony application over IP (yep, it's probably a bit of Asterisk and a small investment for a mediaGW). Deployment is easy, scenarios are uncountable.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Pervasive Voice Over Web - it's happening

Our company vision is taking place. We are not anymore the lone pioneers of the Voice Over Web pervasivity. Since we demonstrated it's feasible, lots of attempts and experiments have taken place in the WWW. The most interesing so far are, beside our Abbeyphone VOW, Sightspeed for AMD (as quoted by Aswath) and Busta.
These services differentiate from the yet-another-SIP service provider in what is the application deployment and exploitation: the deployment is online, on the web, and the service usage experience happens in a pervasive way. The uibiquitous presence of various contact tools like "call me via web", "call by gadget, widget, extension, plugin...", "call me via myspace" and so on is the true sign of the need of getting in (better) contact.
Forums, blogs, newsgroups and the other offline/deferred communication mode need to converge on the voice part -whether it's just a voice message or a full audio-video communication, voice is still the easiest, and the most powerful communication tool that human beings can use to share ideas.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Minute stealers 1.0

Jajah and Rebtel are two interesting VoIP applications that allow you to call low-cost from any telephone device to any other telephone device.
The good thing is that you don't need to install any software on the PC, to configure the audio devices, to overcome the VoIP quality issues we are facing these days.

The bad thing is that they are now playing the low-cost business proposition. That's not going to work. Luca expressed his thoughts and doubts about this matter, somehow confirming my point of view and broadening the vision, and Om Malik starts a poll on the willingness of adoption of the two services.

He also calls for comments about the impact on national telcos...
My opinion is that Telecom Italia is the big incumbent, since it owns and manages the twisted pairs (Italian wiring coverage is highly valuable and guarantees an huge competitive advantage), with a wireline market share that is over 80%, a 40% market share on mobile (as TIM), a 100% market share on unbundling local loop markets.
Unless the recent news of splitting and tapping change the scenario, Telecom Italia is going to kill -9 any minute stealer with a flip of a finger.
This is the same for mobile market: any "alternative" competitor willing to challenge Tim, Vodafone, H3G and Wind is advised to be well prepared for war.

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Monday, September 25, 2006


As pointed out by Om Malik, Grand Central seems to be the right application at the right time: protect (manage?) my privacy, don't bother me with techie stuff, let me access via web. It'll be really nice if I can configure my preferences directly on my smartphone (that is, Java or Symbian apps, or even XHTML pages).
What's not really nice is: why do I need to "wrap" my phone address now that everybody in the world has got my phone number? Why can't be the phone provider that offers me this really nice service on my current phone number?

Probably, because ye olde telecom is not innovating -mostly.
Let's see how it evolves.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Good restaurant in Cagliari

I decided to share with you this information: if you happen to come to Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, I strongly suggest you to go to "Ci pensa Cannas", a no-frills restaurant which focuses on seafood and fish dishes. Prices are 20-40 €, wines excluded .

Here is the address and phone number:

Enjoy and, if you care, please leave a feedback!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

VoIP on Nokia E61

Giacomo shows us how to configure Nokia E61 SIP client to use Abbeyphone Voip Service in few steps.
Nokia traces a road on convergence, proposing a client based solution for mobile professionals: whether they are engineers on a construction site, entrepreneurs or sales agents blocked in airports, they will exploit the potential of VoIP as a second line, a second chance, an alternative way of communicating.

Right now, young people can experience new communication forms: nokia has released an interesting application called Nokia Sensor, it is free but unfortunately it relies on a BlueTooth connection between two devices equipped with the same software. What if the application works on a wifi network, thus not limiting to 1-2-1 connections on a very limited bandwitdth like BT does?
What if I can keep communicating with the person I met with the very same application I used to contact him/her previously? What if I can see "status", "emotion", "location"... That is, "Presence"?
I'll call them wireless Venues: I see a potential business for discos and clubs (they need innovation to overcome the curse of boredom young people suffer of), for mobile producers (they sell more phones), for service providers (they provide a wide range of applications).
I think we would not see this kind of applications spreading out in the short-term, but I have the feeling that the act of socializing is more and more technology influenced -and bound.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Firefox VoIP for MacOS X and Linux is out

The new beta version of Firefox VoIP for MacOS X and Linux is out.
Luca is so enthusiast now, because he has recently passed to the bright side of personal computing.
He bought a MacBook, and I had the feeling that, at first, he was desperate about the very limited market availability of certain categories of software.

Well, now Luca and other Mac users can live the Voice Over Web (VOW) experience...
Ah, and Linux users as well, of course! (I haven't had the time yet to try the extension on my Ubuntu...)

Anyway, if you want to try the service and call someone on the old PSTN devices worldwide, you need credit: please take one of these VOWChers and recharge your abbeyphone account, but don't forget to leave me a comment or a short review :)

Here are the VOWChers, follow the instruction in this previous post and enjoy giving Voice Over Web!

  • 69600185632980142472

  • 04818068517103114060

  • 39029262645794985570

  • 64177382343733935652

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Online advertising is going to change

A well known italian webzine called ITNews published an article on a recent survey about consumer behaviour.

The main concept that stands out is that the average, passive consumer is not anymore a valid model. Consumers are classified not anymore on age, income, sex, race. Besides, consumers are now to be classified on the basis of their "behaviour" and lifestyle.

Secondlly,it has been pointed out is that, regardless of the consumer class, consumers are more something-conscious. They can be environmentally conscious, ethical conscious, and even consumer conscious: they know how to evaluate a product, how to gather more information, they do make comparative analyses on similar products.
They won't get lured anymore with just an ad. They want information, which has to be trusted, authoritative, personal.

Banners and text-ads are going to fade off? They wouldn't, at least in the short period. But an increasing need for 121 communication is needed, even on the WWW.
If you want to discuss this topic with me, just call me at +39.070.2339.253. You can use abbeyphone, our VoIP service. Oh, the call is free :)

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

How to rank VoIP blogs, how to select what to read

VoIP has been a buzzword for a while, but now it just represents just a bunch of technologies related to instant communication media and systems.
The hype has gone, since Jeff Pulver moved his piercing eye to the next emerging disruptive technology, IPTV (or VON - Voice Over Net).

Now that the dust is settling I see some reference points amongst the VoIP related blogosphere: they can be ranked on the basis of personal opinion (Top 30 VoIP Blog by or by means of popularity figures (Top 30 VoIP Blogs... according to Technorati).

My idea is that some blogs are just echoing the press releases, few hotspots carry the most interesting and innovative news but they are interesting just for a very limited period, then they fade out. At last, there are blogs that mix VoIP and innovative technologies, that have to be considered as well, even if they don't share a bit with VoIP -apparently. Anyway, most of the blogs don't always maintain an acceptable quality level, there are lows and highs that make them... annoying, at best.

Moreover, I don't have the same amount of time everyday to catalog, filter and read everything that passes by in the stream of incoherent, unmanageable information. Sometimes I've been thinking of building an automated-yet-gross filter to collect just some topics, but it seemed to me impractical for catching new, hot news.
That's why I tend to collect Rss feeds, read titles, filter out what doesn't catch my eye, and leave them there for future reference. But it doesn't work very well.

Conversely, there's one site I find really interesting, and it is Business Week - Innovation.

The first lesson I acquired is: "make things usable, make them easy". Like clicking a link on a website.
(Like calling my phone number +39-070-2339-253 with just a click.)

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hit the gong

It seems to me that "Google & Ebay going out" is just a "sonar" news.
I mean, teenagers are used to request attention by going out with a close friend of the beloved target. In this case, I think that Google and Ebay are just hitting the gong to see how it reverberates on the blogosphere. Then, they have a good sonar-like morphology of the market, what are the trendsetter opinions, what is the general feedback, if that spreads (or spread not) over the WWW.

Big as they are, they don't need market research anymore. They just announce something, then everybody is there to listen and comment on, while they grab all the information that "common" enterprises shall pay for.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I've been on holiday until yesterday, but I was, somehow, online with my nokia 6630 and a gprs connection. Apart from being lazy, I noticed that I was keen on reading the news on the web but totally passive at the interaction level. I've sent sms and some emails, but they were short and with a photo or a wav file -no intention of writing on my blogs: even if blogger allows users to post via e-mail, this is my first article posted by phone. Nice tool, perhaps too tiny to be friendly?

Monday, July 31, 2006

Net neutrality in Italy

The Net neutrality topic is spreading everywhere, also in Italy and in a non-technological news site ( in Italian).

We've already experienced, with our SIP-based Abbeyphone platform, several problems of "anisotropic" networks (traffic from A to B is more subject to delays and packet losses than from B to A) and of insufficient bandwidth dimensioning of certain Italian service providers.

Moreover, there are several ISPs that offer a customized ADSL router or a IAD with VoIP support... Which blocks all the "clear" SIP packets or, worse, it messes up the SIP headers so that your SIP UA would be useless. That's why we decided to make profitable use of our tunneling capabilities in the event of a malformed SIP response...
Call it sneaky, if you want :-)

I understand the fact that a SP has the right to offer a traffic-specialized connection package (link in italian), that is to say "pay X for normal connection, but if you want ultra fast connection on certain services you are going to pay Y" but I don't see the point of blocking other services. As a consequence of this scenario, providers of poor bundled service will experience customer exodus to other, more "libertarian" providers.

Personally, I am scared of what could happen when IPTV will spread to the mass market...

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Video (consumer) is the future?

Somehow confirming my naive thoughts on video-on-demand and personal tv future, skype founders are at work on a software for distributing tv shows and other form of video over the web. Thanks slashdot for the news.

This adds to the "basket of posts" (an imaginary product that stores interesting news and tries to gather a common trend among apparently cluttered news):

The curious thing is that most of VoIP folks are moving on IPTV.

But the question is: who's got the technology tools to build something disruptive?

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Garbage - Version 2.0

I remember a fantastic CD by Garbage, called Version 2.0.
It's a memorable collection of noisy yet attractive music I've lost the interest on some months ago. But it reminds me of a fantastic period of my life.
I just found myself with that very CD at hand, and I started mumbling... Version 2.0 and the Internet.

All this started with a Web 2.0 conference held in Frisco in 2004.
Then, a lot of rumors about the need of a new version of the Internet access has started.

Dick spoke about Identity 2.0
Iotum spoke about Voice 2.0
Shawn Conahan spoke about Phone Call 2.0
Then Luca added some hints, speaking about Communication 2.0

There are some very good ideas in the WWW (some are cited here), but a lot of companies, startups, well-known enterprises in every field which somehow is related to Internet and communication technologies, are looking forward to building something 2.0.

My only concern is that a lot of them are going to bring just...

Revenues 2 0.

That could be a technological bubble we have to be scared of.

Sorry for the pun :-)

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

About Sneaky and Clever communications

I am sorry I couldn't give answers to the questions that Phoneboy poses about being sneaky or clever, about evading a network security mechanism this way or the other.

On the other hand, I feel pleased that I couldn't reply earlier: the news related to skype protocol being cracked can help disambiguate the questions.

One of the points that Phoneboy arises is the firewall traversal method. I think (naively, since I'm not a security admin) that the strategy itself is neither sneaky nor clever. It is just a way to get out of there. To keep offering a service (both Skype and Abbeyphone are free) to those poor fellows that connect from a badly configured network-"badly" is highly subjective here :-)

The main difference is was that Skype protocol is not known, but its greedy strategy is (or, at least, can be easily observed). Therefore, there is was no "easy" way to prevent it from scanning the network. What Skype does, is to hunt for a way out, no matter how much CPU it will devoure.
Conversely, Abbeyphone VOW client just attempts to connect to port: 80, 443, and 25. It tries to connect to our servers (our server is, so net-admins can block it very easily) using TCP connections. Then, our client tries to connect to the web proxy (if any) by means of WPAD. HTTP proxy connections will work if the proxy allows the use of "CONNECT" http command (i.e. it is not "full" HTTP tunneling)
Abbeyphone VOW client attempts these steps just once, without being aggressive. Moreover, what's travelling in the TCP packet is just SIP and RTP, so it is "easily" identifiable.

What I see as an advantage is that the net-admin does not need to open any more port than 80 or 443) to communicate with a SIP-standard service. The net-admin is safe by using abbeyphone (and other hosted SIP platforms as well, of course!) because access is somehow regulated.
The main advantage of having a "SIP walled garden" is that you prevent SPIT and spoofs. I agree that security at the network level is one of our main concerns, but we shall think of security even at the platform/application level.
I've been talking recently with some representatives of a large corporate, who were interested in the abbeyphone hosted platform as a corporate sponsored skype-replacement, which will solve the problem of skype overloading their network... Moreover, a discount policy can be applied to employees...

(I think we should produce some techspec about our tunneling strategies, it seems to be more reassuring to everybody if we describe the working principle...)

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Skype's intrusive nature

In this recent post about Sightspeed, phoneboy stressed the fact that Skype has an advantage: it can "sneak" into enterprises.

Sincerely, I don't see the point in "sneaking": like doing things unseen, it conveys an image of "burglars of the net". Wouldn't be a better choice not to "sneak", but to try openly what the netadmins allow you to do?
Our end-to-end platform (abbeyphone VOW) follows successfully this strategy: firstly, try to connect on a standard SIP connection. If it doesn't work, try to build a TCP tunnel over ports 80 and 443. Try to connect via http proxy, by means of WPAD.
Crystal clear, no "tricks", no "sneaking out": it preserves the network environment security, by passing the network hurdles and still giving full access to the abbeyphone services.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Sitebell. The doorbell of your site

As you can see in the Table of Content sidebar (on the right hand side), I've published my website doorbell. The Sitebell.
Click on the image below, a new page pops up with a button. Click on it and start chatting with me, I'll receive your call on my deskphone all working days from 9:30 to 12:30 and from 15:00 to 17:00 CET.

Sitebell is an application of abbeyphone VOW technologies.
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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Abbeyphone for Libero is out!

To demonstrate the flexibility of our Voice Over Web components, take a look at It is a co-branded webtelephony service with Libero (the most important landing portal in Italy) style and theme.

Rates are quite competitive (especially the Wind mobile terminations), and a bouquet of promotions is to be released soon.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

PhoneGnome API

While reading phoneboy's blog, a news item glittered on the screen: PhoneGnome released its Partner Application Integration API, confirming that the road to interoperable voice applications is paved with good tools.

It is more and more true that the "Telephony network" is going to be a VoIP mashup in the future. And this future is nearer than expected, as VoIP communities peer and interconnect.

What I see in the crystal ball: wi-max, geolocation, web maps, windows mobile, presence based advertisements.

If you want to know more about presence, take a look at this blog: The presence of Presence

Thursday, June 22, 2006


We've been busy. The Firefox component has been "slashdotted", and we are now suffering the Slashdot Effect
You can imagine what's happening now...

Better go back to work. I'm just hoping Italy is winning...

Monday, June 12, 2006

VOWchers are like cherries... VOWcherries!

Hey folks, I've got some new VOWchers for you. Let me remind you how it works:

  1. Grab this number ( 92764206289081407723 ),

  2. go to abbeyphone,

  3. login, (if you haven't an account yet, sign up, it's free and easy, it brings you in with just three steps!)

  4. go to section "recharges-recharge with pin" and put the number into it.

  5. You're going to enjoy long distance calling for about 2 hours, and unlimited, free, video calls with other abbeyphone friends!

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Spy Over Web - An attempt to SOW a new fear?

(Warning: this post may contain an attempt to humor, unplayful and serious people will be seriously affected)

While reading this /. post on intelligence agencies moving to VoIP, I wondered how would evolve the spy scenario if they run into our VOW application and appreciate our mission of making audio-video calls available pervasively on the WWW.

I imagine high management boards of spy agents deciding whether they are going to use a simple Abbeyphone account,
a VOW account to make their own Spy Over Web-SOW application, or if they'd rather buy a Sitebell... well, a secret sitebell of course :-)

Ok... If you don't see me for three days, call the police!

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Friday, June 09, 2006

VOWCHER or Voucher?

Curious... I thought that my free vouchers -sorry, VOWchers- would have been activated in few hours...
The previous two VOWchers are still unwrapped, they have been posted previously here and here in this very blog, feel free to use them.
Here is another one, anyway: 70241522682317856205

Just go to go to abbeyphone, login, go to section "recharges-recharge with pin" and put this number.

You can have a reeeeeally long chat with your friends in Paris, with this VOWcher.


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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Another VOWCHER for you

Fancy a free 2-hours call to USA and Europe? Grab this number ( 72453835861272532082 ), go to abbeyphone, login, go to section "recharges-recharge with pin".

If you haven't an account yet, sign up, it's free and easy, it brings you in with just three steps!

Please note: your account will be temporarily blocked if you try to enter a wrong or already used code for too many times. I expect you'll try just once, then :-)

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Free Gift: Abbeyphone VOWCHER :)

I decided to devolve some money to the first reader of this post. By copying this number: 31025054972961380050 into his/her abbeyphone account in the recharges->recharge with pin section , he/she will acquire enough credit to call landline Europe (i.e. London, Paris, Rome...) for nearly two hours!

Since we are talking of Abbeyphone VOW (Voice Over Web), I'd call this a VOWcher. Er... adhering to the VOW theme can produce really bad results! :-O

Please note: your account will be temporarily blocked if you try to enter a wrong or already used code for too many times. I expect you'll try just once, then :-)

Stay tuned for more VOWchers, they will be published here as well as and in other websites!

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Abbeyphone for Mozilla Firefox is buzzing everywhere!

My CEO Luca Filigheddu has had the great idea of building a small team, which works "under the hood" producing smart, innovative prototypes that would exploit the potential of our VoIP platform, named abbeyphone. Their last creation is not a prototype at all, anyway: it's a real application that'll impact the Web, Web2.0, VoIP and VOW markets like a tidal wave.

abbeyphone for firefox extension
The Firefox VoIP extension gives the pervasive-non-invasive availability of a communication device, which provides a brand new Internet experience to users. It's not just a matter of "features", it's a matter of "experience".

Here is one experience I'd like to describe: people go surfing the net, they got caught by some content they are interested on, they want to contact the publisher.
Whether it is a quality bio-ethic food shop, or a classified adboard, or a "what's on" local site, or even your webmail they all have telephone numbers and the usual: "For further information, call xxx-xxx-xxx". Since now, you had to stand up, look for your mobile or landline phone, copy the number, place the call.

abbeyphone for firefox extension example
With abbeyphone for Firefox extension your call is just a click away, and thanks to the amazing rates that abbeyphone provides for long distance calls (no connection fee, true per-second pricing) you're not going to be worried about telephone expenses!

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Gallery V.2

Gallery is a wonderful web application that let you manage photo albums with a high level of customization and extensibility.
zOOm, a component for Mambo, does not.
That's why I changed the location of my photo album, and I updated the link to the VON Europe 2006 photoalbum

Technorati Tags: gallery, mambo, eiaeia

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mobile Browser Code Reveals a Cornucopia of Applications

I have been too busy last week to get the true value of this interesting news: Nokia discloses the source code of its S60 browser
As far as I am concerned, I see two reasons for this announce to be worth to be read at least twice:
  • the ongoing trend of releasing Source Code, or freely accessible APIs to the public domain. The most important software companies in the world (wide, web :)) appear to be happy with sharing their valued code with others. For Nokia, there is one simple explanation: by opening their code, the Nokia Developer community can build lots of applications at no cost. Consequently, the consumer user base is attracted by the wide range of software products that have been released.
  • the possibility of integrating VOW-Voice Over Web seems to be quite nearer than expected. With little effort, an application that exploits the sofia-SIP stack capabilities and the pervasive presence of phone numbers in the WWW will surely be a best seller (or at least a best downloader) application. Or, do we have to wait for the S60 version of Tapioca?

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

WWW Call Home...

Do you remember ET pleading for a space call home? Well, just call me here via WWW: call me with Abbeyphone just sign in, it's free!

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My solution presentation is online

Pervasive VOW for an important media company

This is the solution presentation I held at VON Europe 2006.

main theme is "how to put the Voice Over Web", in order to find new
revenue streams, add value to a previously established community,
increase the stickiness of the user base. 

It is split in three parts:

  • the solution in general(the five "W"s of VOW)
  • Kataweb experience: a practical application (our first one)
  • Libero experience: a practical application (with a different approach)
Download it here!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Skype and the free telephony model

I am a bit curious on the last Skype move.
They declared that the price wars are going to settle on free PSTN calls worldwide in the next 10 years. Well, they are pushing the thing a bit, I think. They who must not be named are offering free calls from North America to North America wirelines.

It's like breaking windows with rocks that have been wrapped with a leaflet, which says:

"Your glass has been broken? Call 800-555-GLASS and we'll repair it instantly!"

What really scares me is that low-cost VoIP termination is not reaching the expected results, even for the leading service provider (as long as we consider their huge user share).
I foresee a dark future, where lots of VoIP companies will fail to achieve sufficient business performances, having their workforce, their intelligence, and their creativity devoured by the wildest and the bravest.

Voice communication has been already commoditized by telco incumbents, the true marketing advantage is the nomadic experience: mobile phones are the perfect substitution to wireline, but they are still too much expensive, and they miss the interoperability of a smart terminal.
People want a more coherent experience, where communication can be routed and managed with something bigger than a 16-button pad and 2" display: what about a PC with a web browser?
What if it were a TV?

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

OpenErnie is out!

As announced by Thomas Howe during the VON Europe 2006 conference, OpenErnie is out!

Frankly, I consider this as a big leap for VoIP and all the surrounding environment.
I am talking about the big network of technical knowledge and expertise that has been steadily growing, a community that is feeded by the communication issues of the WWW in the present days and the future.
It is a society of skilled engineers, social networking experts, artificial life researchers, psychologists -a society that would need those applications for collaborative working and media content retrieval that constitute their very study matter!

But a bunch of them are just thinking of money. As soon as the marketing issue comes in, we have to consider what is worth, who is going to pay and for what, who is going to make money, who receives some kind of value and who consumes the "thing".
As a consequence of this, all the free reasoning ("free": not as in beer) on the social and technical questions is harnessed by business concerns. Progress can then slow down, unless an open and clever alternative development stream keeps working on it.

That is why I praise the OpenErnie project: I hope you, the reader, will give it the attention and the contribution Ernie needs now.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Just met Ernie's father

Today I've been introduced to Thomas Howe, the "father" of Ernie, the Open applications Platform.
He is a clever guy, he gave us lots of advices and it is really a pleasure to hear him.
He is a bit too quick-speaking, but I feel confident I'll get some acquaintance during the next meetings :-)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Real Presence Experience!

Are you still wondering what's all the fuss about presence services?
Our solution is
  • stable
  • carrier grade
  • extensible
  • hot-plug
  • wireless
  • nomadic
  • standard compliant (VelcroTM)
Ok, we are joking. But our Praesentia Presence Enabler is not.
Come and see it at VON Europe, booth #302, Stockholm Intl. Fairs, Stockholm!

Monday, May 15, 2006

The VON Europe Conference, Day 1

Today we started our on-site activity at the VON Europe Conference: I am positively impressed by the greatness of the Stockholm International Fair and the perfect-as-in-Sweden organization of Jeff Pulver and his staff, albeit being full USA-bourne.

What most impressed me, anyway, is our booth: a 6x6 meters area roofed with a mini gothic vault, which resembles a Benedectine abbey. Uhm, has it been done on purpose or it is just... chance? :-)
It is the highest booth building in the expo area, and it can be seen from everywhere.
You can see the Abbey under construction right here on the left.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hello world!

Hi everybody!
Let me introduce myself: my name is Enrico Marongiu, I work for Abbeynet and my job is to put Voice Over Web.
I started working with a passion for web-based services and applications in late 1998, during the PhD course on Computer science engineering. In my spare time I produced some simple utilities for students, like online marks publications, exam schedule, course programmes.
It was a very basic CMS, I discovered later.

Then I found myself busy with a job-skills database, called skillbank, which was based on PHP and PostgreSQL.
That was the time I started to sense the power of networking, the web-based interworking capabilities. But it was only a glimpse...

In 2002 I started working for Abbeynet, my first task was to put security widgets on our leading-edge technology called push&speak - no, click2talk - no, web2call - no, web2phone - no, clickandspeak - well, it is now called SiteBell, it's like your doorbell on your site.
People that come and visit you at the work premises, usually ring a bell and announce theirselves before getting into contact with you, don't they? So, why don't you put a doorbell onto your www site?