Monday, January 30, 2006

I sort of got in a fight...

No, not with fists or anything like that. I save that stuff for Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings. During the show, I had an opportunity to speak with Mark Spencer a few times, and I think we disagree about a few points. I'm going to think pretty deeply about it and maybe write about it later, but here are the points of contention :

1) Mark said that, in software, anything is possible, so it is not unreasonable to think that Asterisk can be all things to all people. I say that software isn't magic, and nothing can be all things to all people. My question was, "How do you design a car to have ultimate speed and acceleration, while at the same time having the best fuel economy?" His answer is, "Software isn't the same as cars."

2) Mark said that open source changes all the rules, and that is what enables Asterisk to be all things to all people. I say that open source doesn't change any fundamental rules, period. He said that with Open source, you can now make anything at all you wanted. I replied "With an assembler, you can make any software you want as well, and that didn't require open source."

So, here's a fundamental question that needs to be answered. In the absence of any monetary motivation, is software engineering still relevant?

I say yes, of course.

Back from the Internet Telephony Show

Hi all!

I'm back from the Internet Telephony show, and it was really hopping! I was really surprised at the amount of really good customers I met while I was in the Netcentrex booth. Thank you to everyone who attended my sessions - I put PDFs of the presentations on the bar to the right. I didn't get to catch up with everyone I wanted to, so I suppose we'll see each other at VON in about a month and a half.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

January Letter

Happy New Year!

I hope this letter finds you well. I'm still hacking out a living as a consultant. In fact, I'm pleased to annouce that I've signed on a new consulting client : Netcentrex. I'll be working with them over the coming months to work in a pre-sales and product management role. This is a great job for me, as it increases my direct customer exposure. It's been a few years since I've been able to concentrate this much on sales, and I'm very excited about the team I'm working with. I have a lot to learn; they have a lot they can teach me. If you are coming down to Florida next week, I'll be in the Netcentrex booth for much of the show. Please stop by and say hello!

I'm also speaking at the show next week - three times! I'm speaking about the impact, both from a technical and business perspective, of transparency and walled gardens in next generation architectures. I'm also speaking on the session border controller panel, as an interested outsider. Finally, I'm speaking at the open source panel, about how open source can be used to meet customer needs.

To keep my brain balanced, I'm working on an open source application I call Ernie. Ernie is a Web 2.0 platform, designed to enable web designers to easily create and integrate applications that use real time communications. I'm still painting the picture for myself and others, and coding hasn't started yet. One thing, though, it's certainly not a technology in search of an application. We've been collecting dozens of very interesting services that Ernie can enable. If you want to follow our progress, check for updates at

Netcentrex is a big job, but not full time. I've already had two due diligence jobs for two different venture capitalists in the last two weeks! I have another one in a few weeks... a good sign for the entire business food chain. I've also had two small research projects I've worked on - one on the integration of voice and instant messaging and another on soft clients.

Finally, the open source report is really humming along now. I'm writing it with Jon Arnold, formerly of Frost and Sullivan, who now runs his own company. Jon has been deeply involved in our industry for a while, and is an excellent analyst. We're spending most of the day on Tuesday interviewing people for our report. It's my first official analyst report; new horizons everywhere.

Good luck to all of you! I hope to see you in Florida, and if not, I'm sure we'll catch up sometime.

As always, I am very grateful to everyone for their continuing support and friendship.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Free 411 is the future.

Here's a little quiz for you...

Most cell calls in the US cost 11 cents per minute. How much does a 411 call cost? Mine costs $1.50 for about three minutes. Your's much better? Didn't think so. And you thought margins were going through the floor!

So, if you haven't heard of it, there's 1-800-free-411. From their site :

1-800-FREE-411 revolutionizes the 411 (directory assistance) marketplace by offering consumers a FREE alternative to the high cost service provided by traditional carriers. In addition, FREE411.COM on the Internet provides consumers with an easy to use Web-based destination for telephone number lookups. National and local merchants sponsor this service with a 12-second audio jingle about their services, which are played to consumers at the point they make a 411 request for a business in their category.

So, you call, it costs 11 cents a minute, and you get connected. You listen to the add, and off your call goes. Now, here's the great part. If you ask for the local pizza shop, they give you a number, but Domino's pays for their add to play before you are connected. Maybe they offer you a free pizza deal or something. If you like what Domino's is selling, you press 1, and the call is sent to Domino's instead. Good deal for Domino's, huh? They have the ultimate targeted add - this person is hungry. Good deal for you too, right? It costs much less, and maybe you'll get a better deal for your pizza. And, most importantly, good for the Free 411. I hear rumours that they get something like a 5-10% take rate on their advertisements. That's better than Google, by a factor of ten.

Here you go - an excellent voice enabled application.