Thursday, November 30, 2006

Speaking about YouTube

My absolute favorite videos on You Tube are :

White and Nerdy : Yes, I understand. This is me. And I think it's completely hilarious to see Donny Osmond dancing in the back.

Goals. Gotta have'm. Love the physics explanation as well. Who said math was boring? Check the guy who pulls up at the end. Mo Do Chung Shin! (Total dedication to the task at hand.)

Ummm... that's exactly backwards, Verizon

Well, it looks like we now have the first deal struck between YouTube and the mobile carriers. If you are a VCast customer, you can now download a selected set of the YouTube library to your mobile phone. Yipeee! The blogosphere seems to be coming down pretty hard on the walled garden aspect of this... where does YouTube and Verizon get off telling us which videos we can see? And, as I've read, it's clear how YouTube and Verizon make money, but how about the people who added the content?

I think this is backwards in the extreme. I would much rather see a deal that allows me to upload my videos from my phone to my YouTube account, not just the other way around. The fact that I should have access to my YouTube account through my handset without Verizon getting in the way just seems obvious. Boys and girls, can you say disintermediation? I knew you could! And I'm sure the WiMAX and WiFI guys will give it to me, and given the big brother nature of this move, I'm going to take it.

You know what this reminds me of? AOL circa... 1995?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Sheep Market

A not so crazy way to use Amazon Turks.

This year, Aaron Koblin from Design|Media Arts at UCLA wrote his thesis document trying to answer the following questions :

  • Are the results of alienation apparent in massively bureaucratized labor systems?
  • Is there/what is the role of creativity in such a system?
  • And, who is responsible for maintaining culture as these systems permeate our lives.
To do this, he ran an experiment using Amazon Web Services to enlist Amazon Mechanical Turks to draw him a picture of a sheep looking to the left. For each sheep a person drew, he paid about 2 cents. His very excellent report may be read from his web site, and the ten thousand sheep can be see at here.

What I find fascinating is the outcry from people when they found out that he was going to sell the images of the sheep. Of course, this was part of his experiment - how alienated were the workers from the product of their work?

From his report :
The Amazon Web Services Blog picked up the story and embraced The Sheep Market as an exemplary use of the Mechanical Turk system, Jeff from Amazon writes,

“You might look at this and think "What's the point?" or "how does this relate to my business?" Think of this as an example of how to quickly, easily, and inexpensively get 10,000 people to do something for you. Today it is sheep, but it could just as easily be choices of color combinations for car interiors, evaluation of some logos for your business, selection of most important features when choosing a vacation spot, and so forth.”[1]

This is the important point for developers like myself. Web services like Amazon Turks answer the question "How can I make simple human labor massively scalable and available?"

I'm going to camp!

Hi all -
I'm going to camp! Mashup camp, that is. I'm going to be attending the Mashup Camp at MIT from January 15th to 18th. The first two days are a series of lectures and tutorials about creating Web mashups using APIs, the second two days are a get together. From the site:

Mashup Camp 3 will be conducted Open Space style (more about Open Space and unconferences can be found here). Much the same way Mashup Camps 1 & 2 were run, at the beginning of each day, there will be a general assembly where attendees can propose the discussion that they're interested in leading. Attendees will line up for their turn at the microphone, propose a discussion and, on a whiteboard that lists all of the available rooms and timeslots in grid fashion, slot their proposed discussion into one of the available room/times. We'll follow the same protocol as in other Mashup Camps where the details about the proposed discussion are written in magic marker on a piece of paper and then taped into an available slot (this way, they're easily moved). To get an idea of what this looks like, check out the images on the MashupCamp2Grid for Mashup Camp 2. On the second day of the event, one or more blocks of time will be reserved for Speed Geeking! Speed geeking is like speed dating. Developers and others with a technology to demo will set up stations and attendees will spend five minutes at each station before moving to the next one at the sound of a buzzer. Speed Geeking is one of the most popular parts of our events.

Anyways, I'm not sure if there's still space available, but if you show up - look me up! For more info, check out

Stay cool.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

VoIP 2.0 Mashup - Project 1

Hi all -

As I mentioned in my talk out in Berlin, me and bunch of geek friends are putting together a series of VoIP 2.0 mashups in 2007. The first mashup is going to integrate Amazon Turks with Asterisk Voice Mail, and have the turks transcribe the voice mail message. The idea is that not only can you have the voicemail in your inbox, you can have the transcription too. This is cool because you can search for the contents of voicemails, just like you can for regular mail. In the future, you can integrate it with your conference calls too. When we finish it, we'll post the code and do a podcast, so that we can teach others how to do it too.

As for the team, it looks like we've got a full one. Thanks to everyone who asked to be part of this team; I'll give you a call when we do the next project.

Stay cool,

Telephones Making the World a Better Place

If you're anything like me, you wonder what the real benefit to the world our work in next generation telephony is. Thanks to the Onion, I don't have to wonder anymore.
New Mobile-Device Purchase Makes Asshole More Versatile

The Onion

New Mobile-Device Purchase Makes Asshole More Versatile

NEW YORK—The new BlackBerry 8703c has allowed total shithead Robert McClain to assign more work to his assistants while he is gambling in Atlantic City.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Does it make any sense to design a broad-based communications service any longer?

At the recent VON show in Europe, Carl Ford dragged me up on stage to fill out a panel talking about the fight between 3G and and Fixed Wireless mobile carriers. One of the invited, as opposed to the dragged, speakers was Wolfgang B, the head of Internet operations for T-Mobile. As my day job has a good client relationship with T-Mobile, I sort of ducked identifying my self as much as anyone on a stage can. Carl dragged me up because Wolfgang was sort of trashing the whole mobile video space, including a "romp" through the logistics of adult content. He roundly dismissed any new mobile video service, with the flair of a German genius. At the end of his talk, he said "I wish there was a content provider in the audience", and up went my hand.

Of course, the REASON I put up my hand was that not that I claimed to be a P&R guy for Arista records, but I was one person who found himself in situations where I have taken video on the road, and wanted to share them with my friends. In my case, I wanted to capture this really neat Judo throw in my camera, and send it to my Karate teacher. What I was REALLY thinking about wasn't me, but my camera obsessed son, who takes videos of his friends with his phone constantly, and would gladly post them to myspace if he could. So, I made this point, and he conceded that you could specialize the market to such a degree that you COULD deliver that service, but the kids would become disinterested in three months, and how could you run a business on that?

What he didn't say publicly, but admitted afterwards in a side conversation, was that the problem was in the structure of carriers - they were too large, and the opportunities too fleeting, to really take advantage of the very niched application. I hope I didn't offend him when I suggested that the problem was with today's carriers, not tomorrow's.
Here's where my head went - as carriers search for new services, should you just generally rule out any service that's too general? Is it true that a general service will not have enough value to have staying power and resist commoditization? Should you go as far to say that anything that most people would need and pay money for is a non-starter? Talk about contrary thinking... maybe I'm low on my meds.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm a hype-ster!

Oh - I gotta tell you this...

At the end of my presentation, a person raised his hand and suggested that I was a hype-ster, and used every hype term in the book except for Ajax. I hope he's reading this....

Let me tell you, Mr. Smarty Pants, I just MIGHT use AJAX in my new Web 2.0 VoIP Mashup... and you can't stop me. And I might use OOP, and case tools... maybe even think win-win, team based, bottoms-up and get some 360 degree feedback. It all could happen.

But I absolutely WILL integrate Amazon Turks with Asterisk Voicemails, and it ain't bragging if you can do it, and it ain't hype either.

Intersection of Web 2.0 and VoIP

In a recent conversation with my wife, I lamented that I may never have another chance to work at the very beginning of a truly disruptive technology, like ADSL or VoIP. Lucky for me, I'm wrong about ten times an hour. (I better hurry up and finish this post before I get something else wrong!)

We are at the start of a major upheaval in not only technology, but in the basic business models that drive our industry. The intersection of Web 2.0 technologies and business models and the communications industry will result in a massive change in how applications are created and delivered. Don't get me wrong, I'm not shorting my Verizon stock just yet. Bill Gates put it best in 1998 - we overestimate the short term effects of fundamental technology shifts, and underestimate the long term effects. We still only at something like 10% penetration of VoIP into US households with broadband service. We are seeing this fundamental shift, and in ten years, we will point back with confidence to 2006 as the time when the shift occurred.

In essence, the real hope and promise of VoIP is that businesses can truly tailor the business and the communications processes. Make no mistake, our market is still driven by cost savings and increased revenue opportunities that arise from an increased customer base - not by truly compelling features. Name the number of new telephony services you've seen in the past five years. I like ring tones and ring back tones... the Versatel Call Pod idea was pretty cool, but it's a short list. I can name dozens of new web applications I like from this year alone. This is a direct result of the innovation and customization that Web 2.0 provides. The promised land of VoIP comes from this integration.

Tomorrow at the European VON show, I am announcing a project I am leading in 2007. Myself, and a small group of like-minded geeks, are going to spend a few weekend days to create examples of these applications. The first application is going to make a service that will automatically translate voice mails left on Asterisk into text using Amazon's mechanical Turk service. With this, you can not only have a copy of all the voice mails in your Outlook mailbox, but you can have TEXT copies, that you can search with Spotlight or Google Desktop.

The point behind this effort is only to prove that we can do it, and to learn from the experience. We will take what we learn, and publish it to the industry in the form of a Wiki and a podcast. With a litle luck, we'll see somebody take this and add it to their conferencing engine, so I can stop taking notes when I attend a conference call.

I posted my presenation to the right; I tried to record my talk too - I'll see if I can clean it up enough to post.

Stay cool,