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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