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8 posts from May 2010

5 Steps to Enable Google Wave for Google Apps accounts

googlewavepreview.jpgWith Google Wave now being available for everyone, and specifically now available for businesses using Google Apps, I thought I'd just post the 5 steps of how to enable Google Wave for your Apps account. (The steps appear in the video on the Google Apps page, but you have to watch the video to know that.)


You have to be the administrator for your Google Apps domain in order to enable Google Wave.


Next to the "Service settings" heading there is a "Add more services" link. Follow that link:



On the next screen, you just select the "Add it now" button:



Google throws up a page just warning you that you can't get support for Wave through existing support contracts... and other warnings. Just hit the "Yes, enable Google Wave" button:



That's it. Now you can just direct people within your Google Apps domain to go to:

and they can start waving! Here's what it looked like for me:


Now, as noted in the warnings, users in your Apps domain can by default also invite external people into your corporate waves. That may be a great thing... that may be something you want to think about.

In any event, enjoy waving within Google Apps!

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Can't attend Google I/O this week? You can follow along in Google Wave.

Remember Google Wave? The big buzz that we all talked about last year? (And that I wrote a good bit about here.) While some of us may have reduced (or dropped) our Wave usage, Google is naturally using it heavily and as 5,000+ developers all gear up for the big Google I/O conference this week in San Francisco, the word is out that you can follow along in "Live Waves" during the event. This big URL should take you there (assuming you have a Wave account):,!w%252BeRiTZrZkCcw

You should see something like this:


Note that if you are already in Wave you can simply enter this in the search box:

group:[email protected] tag:io2010

If you aren't familiar with the idea of using "live waves" for conference note-taking, you may want to view my Emerging Tech Talk #40 video podcast where I demonstrated how Google Wave could be used this way.

Note: Thanks for Jay Cuthrell for tweeting out this info.

P.S. If you are out at Google I/O, please say hello to our Voxeo Labs team who will be in the Google I/O Sandbox demonstrating Voxeo technologies and how they work with Google services

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Will Diaspora give us an "open Facebook"?

diasporateam.jpgTiming is everything.

Back on April 24th, four NYU students (pictured: Raphael, Ilya, Daniel and Maxwell), set themselves up on a site called Kickstarter with the goal of raising $10,000 so that they could devote themselves to working full-time through the summer on their idea for Diaspora, "the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network". Two of them were graduating, the other two had potential internships... but all they really wanted to do was code.

Three days later they had passed $2500 and were going to start some PR and outreach to relevant blogs.

What they couldn't have necessarily known was that Facebook would choose this time to anger and alienate so many people with their privacy changes...


Their one little idea for a project happened to hit the tech world's radar at just the right time... and landed them with write-ups in tech sites like ReadWriteWeb: Diaspora Project: Building the Anti-Facebook. Business insider discussed "Here's The Privacy Line That Facebook Just Crossed..." and talked about challenges that Diaspora would have. Many other sites mentioned the project and developers tweeted about it.

Then came more mainstream coverage... the Chronicle of Higher Education... then a Huffington Post article... then a New York Times article, both online and in print: Four Nerds and a Cry to Arms Against Facebook... and then even more of the tech media world went crazy... a sampling:

And many, many, many, many more...

diaspora funding-1.jpgTech superstar Leo Laporte deleted his Facebook account on his This Week in Google podcast and promoted Diaspora on the show - and went on to donate $100 to the project. Twitter was filled with comments and links about Diaspora... Very ironically, multiple Facebook pages are up - one by a fan and one by the team... the buzz was all over the tech space...

The end result is that the four guys FAR exceeded their goal... as of this morning they had 4774 backers pledging $174,334! The amount will undoubtedly be more by the time you read this article.

The team has been admittedly overwhelmed and written about how their "situation has changed a little".

You think?


Well... given that it's just an idea that the guys are planning to work on, we don't exactly know yet... but the ideas they describe are that of a "distributed, decentralized social network" that is much more in line with the "open internet" architecture. ReadWriteWeb had a nice explanation:

So what is Diaspora anyway? Instead of being a singular portal like Facebook, Diaspora is a distributed network where separate computers connect to each other directly, without going through a central server of some sort.

Once set up, the network could aggregate your information - including your Facebook profile, if you wanted. It could also import things like tweets, RSS feeds, photos, etc., similar to how the social aggregator FriendFeed does. A planned plugin framework could extend these possibilities even further.

Your computer, called a "seed" in the Diaspora setup, could even integrate the connected services in new ways. For example, a photo uploaded to Flickr could automatically be turned into a Twitter post using the caption and link.

When you "friend" another user, you're actually "friending" that seed, technically speaking. There's not a centralized server managing those friend connections as there is with Facebook - it's just two computers talking to each other. Friends can then share their information, content, media and anything else with each other, privately using GPG encryption.

It's about eliminating Single Points of Failure (SPOFs)... it's about putting you in control.

Just as you can choose to operate your own email server or your own web server... or you can choose to use someone's hosted email or web server... the idea would be that you could run your own "social network" server - or use someone else's hosted social network.

It's not necessarily a new idea... it's what the great folks at Status.Net are trying to do with an open source micro-blogging platform (I wrote earlier about why it matters) so that we can have a "distributed, decentralized Twitter"... and then with the follow-on "OStatus" effort (which the Diaspora guys reference in their latest post)...

The move toward more open communication is going on in other areas, too... it's what has been going on in the world of XMPP for years to bring about distributed, decentralized instant messaging (IM)... it's what the federation aspect of Google Wave could potentially bring us...


In my mind, a key challenge the Diaspora team will need to address is:

How do I find someone in the Diaspora network?

In the centralized world of Facebook, I can do a search and with the right search terms easily find and get connected to some long-lost friend. Likewise, I can search in Twitter... or for another example, in Skype. All of these services have a centralized database.

Simple. Easy.

Contrast that to the distributed, decentralized world of the Web... or email... or Jabber/XMPP IM... you have to either know someone's URL or address... or you have to look it up in a search engine like Google.

It's not as easy as with a centralized service.

I've admittedly sent someone a message on Facebook purely because I didn't know their "best" email address and didn't have time to look it up anywhere. I knew that Facebook would provide that linkage - and I was already connected.

Somehow the Diaspora team needs to solve the directory challenge... not sure how, but I wish them the best with it and hope they do.


Good question... First it sounds like the team needs to grapple with the overwhelming interest and sort out the best way forward.

Second, their going to have to grapple with the enormous expectations now being placed on them!

Third, we all who are watching are going to have to realize and understand that any project like this doesn't just appear overnight... that the first iterations will probably need some work... that it won't slice bread and do a zillion other things on the first day, etc., etc., etc.

Fourth, Facebook may very well make moves to change its privacy policies or make things better in some ways ... and perhaps do just enough to calm people down and cool the fervor for an alternative.

Fifth, the reality is that with 400 million people on Facebook, with more signing up each day, there is an enormous inertia against any kind of change. The other reality is that many, many of those "regular" Facebook users don't realized the importance of these issues and may just not care...

As an advocate for a more open internet, I certainly hope these guys succeed in building out some type of open, distributed, decentralized network... they're off to a great start with $174K committed and perhaps more importantly a list of ~5,000 supporters passionate enough to give $$$... I'll certainly watch the project and help in any way I can...

And if nothing else, they have already raised more awareness around why this is important...

Kudos to them for what they've done... best wishes to them for what sounds like will be a VERY busy summer for them... and I'm looking forward to seeing what they are able to do...

P.S. And yes, in full disclosure, I pledged $10.. it may or may not work out in the end... but I applaud their creativity and initiative... and I'd love to see it happen!

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Jason Calacanis, Facebook, Privacy and the Open Internet

Last week Jason Calacanis ripped into Facebook and privacy in his typical "hold-nothing-back" style:
The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand

He brings a poker spin to the Facebook story and states how Facebook is, in his opinion, "overplaying" its hand:

The biggest mistake most new players make at poker is overplaying their hand. They spend so much time thinking of the ways they can win that they forget all the ways they can lose. Overplaying hands can affect even the most seasoned players, especially after they’ve won a couple of hands in a row.

He goes on to chronicle instances of this, list out companies that he views as getting screwed by Facebook right now and link to a good number of recent stories about Facebook's problems.

As a long-time advocate writing about the need for an "open internet", and someone who has been writing about Facebook and the dangers of its privacy policy and Terms of Service, I was pleased to see Jason's advocacy of "an alternate path":

The Web and HTML grew into the juggernaut they are today because they’re based on open standards that everyone can buy into. No one player has control or dominance over anyone else. Facebook’s very obvious goal is to use the their social graph dominance to control the future of advertising and attention on the Web. Why on Earth are we supporting this?


It’s time for the good people of the world to stand up against Facebook. It’s time to build and support OpenID and the creation of an truly open social graph. It’s time to force Facebook to allow open data portability. It is our data, after all. The road map for the open web has been laid out and supported by the “good guys/gals” at OpenID, Google, Twitter, Open Social and countless others who don’t feel the need to control the industry and manipulate our customers.

He's right on target... although I'm not entirely sure I'd include Twitter in his last sentence (I've written about how both Twitter and Facebook violate "The Internet Way" from an architecture point-of-view). I'll admit, though, that Twitter has not necessarily espoused the grandiose aims of Facebook to own all our content and attention.

We do need open solutions... distributed, decentralized and most importantly... letting us be in control.

I can't help but think back to over 10 years ago when many of us were involved with a similar battle with regard to operating systems... and Red Hat's CEO Bob Young had his proverbial question:

"Would you buy a car with the hood welded shut?"

And the follow-on:

We demand the ability to open the hood of our cars because it gives us, the consumer, control over the product we've bought and takes it away from the vendor. We can take the car back to the dealer; if he does a good job, doesn't overcharge us and adds the features we need, we may keep taking it back to that dealer. But if he overcharges us, won't fix the problem we are having or refuses to install that musical horn we always wanted -- well, there are 10,000 other car-repair companies that would be happy to have our business.

In recent years, we've given up much of that control for the sweet call of utter simplicity. Facebook is incredibly easy to use... anyone can get set up, start communicating with friends, and more... the price of that simplicity is that we turn over control of our interactions, our contacts, our photos and our data to a single corporation that does not necessarily appear to have our best interests at heart.

Is the simplicity worth it?

Can we find a better way?

Can we embrace a more open solution? (As messy as it may initially be.)

Remember... email started out in walled gardens of simplicity, too... as the idea of email matured, we broke down the walls and got to a place where you could control where your email server was. It's time we look at how we do that on the social networking side.

The time is now.... can we do it?

P.S. Might Diaspora be a way forward? Maybe... time will tell... right now it's just an idea...

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Will Everyone Seeking a Job Now Use Adwords? (re: The Google Experiment)

You have to admit, this was a very clever way to use Google Adwords to rise above any other potential job candidates and get a message across:


Kudos to Alec Brownstein for his creativity. Setting ads on 5 people's names... getting interviews with 4 of them... job offers from 2... and now working for one of them at Young & Rubicam (Y&R) New York. All for $6 in Google AdWords spending.

Will this now create a new boom in Google Adwords spending for job seekers? :-)

Alec Brownstein even created a video about it...

P.S. And with this example, what is next? Marriage proposals via AdWords? (Or has that already been done?)

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How do you scale your company's Twitter interaction? Automation can help...

twitterlogo.jpgIf you are successful in establishing Twitter as a channel to interact with your customers... for customer support, service, general inquiries, whatever... if it really works and customers start to view Twitter as a regular channel to contact you on... how do you scale your support of Twitter?

That's one of the questions that has intrigued me ever since I started using Twitter back in late 2006 and have watched the adoption by companies and organizations. Typically Twitter usage at companies starts out with a couple of people... if it's successful, though, what do you do when those people go home at night? Have them keep checking? Wait to respond until the next day? What if they want to go on vacation?

If you are Comcast, you might hire a whole team of people (they did). This piece earlier this month talked about how Staples has grown their "Twitter reps" to 20.

If you have a large call center, odds are that there are modules now that let you connect Twitter directly into your contact center software. Ditto your CRM software... has a component you can add, as do many of the other solutions out there.

Given that I work for Voxeo and we provide a platform to help companies connect their customers to information as quickly as possible, I've been interested to see how we could connect Twitter into what we call "Unified Self-Service" ... essentially the idea that you can have one application interacting with customers across multiple channels.

Back in March, we add Twitter support to our cloud communications service and I have been writing a series of blog posts about using Twitter and Tropo. As part of that, I am starting a series around how to use a Tropo application to help you scale your use of Twitter. Part 1 is now up:

Scaling Your Twitter Support, Part 1: Adding a “Night Service” via

I discuss there how you can add an automated agent to a Twitter account and set it up to be active during certain times. Next up I'm planning to write a bit about how you could write an app to augment a human responding to tweets. Stay tuned...

P.S. And naturally if you want to try this out yourself you can head on over to and set yourself up with a free developer account... copy/paste the code from my blog post and you're off and running...

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NY Times illustrates Facebook's "bewildering tangle" of privacy options

If you haven't seen this graphic from the NY Times piece, "Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options", you really should check it out (click on the image to see the full graphic):


The piece notes:

To manage your privacy on Facebook, you will need to navigate through 50 settings with more than 170 options.

And this is to make it simpler?

The companion NY Times article, "Price of Facebook Privacy? Start Clicking", is worth a read as well, pointing out for instance that the text of Facebook's Privacy Policy is longer than the text of the US Constitution! :-)

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Celebrating my 10th year of blogging!

advogato-logo-1.jpgTen years ago today, I entered the world of "blogging", although that term wasn't widely used yet.

On May 10, 2000, I was out visiting Linuxcare's office (my employer at the time) in San Francisco and was just hanging out in the evening at the office. After hearing about and reading a site called for a while, I went that night and created my account. Advogato was and is a site whose mission is to be a community for free software developers. It was created by Raph Levien not only to help connect developers but also as a testbed for his research into trust metrics. From my point-of-view at the time, the key thing was that a significant number of the main Linux and other open source developers were starting to write at the site. By reading the "recentlog" (list of new blog posts) you could easily stay up on what was happening with many of the projects out there. Since I was the President of the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) and active with Linux International at the time, it seemed a good place to start writing.

It's somewhat amusing to read that very first entry I wrote. I had just picked up a print version of the Cluetrain Manifesto, was just learning about DocBook and CVS and was working on some other projects. I was amused to read this:

In any event, since it's after 9pm and I'm still here in the Linuxcare office in SF, I decided to join this experiment... let's see if I actually keep up with it.

I did keep up with it... writing there at Advogato for four years until the spring of 2004 when a server outage took the site offline for 5+ weeks. By that time, blogging was in my blood and part of my daily routine and so I had to find some outlet for the writing. I had previously started up a 'dyork' account on LiveJournal and so I moved my main writing there even after Advogato came back online. The major reasons I stayed at LiveJournal were:

  • I could use an "offline blog editor" to write my posts on my local computer and then publish them to LJ. (I continue to this day to use an offline editor for almost all my posting.)

  • LiveJournal had the ability for people to leave comments on a post, something Advogato lacked (and still lacks).

I continued with LiveJournal as my main blog site for a while, but around 2005 found myself struggling with a couple of issues:

  • I found my writing was really about two main areas: telecommunications/VoIP and PR/marketing/communications/social media - and that the people interested in one topic weren't really interested in the other.

  • The comment facility was nice, but at the time it was limited to only other LJ users or "Anonymous". There was no way for people to leave their URL as people could on other blogs.

  • LJ didn't support TrackBacks and some of the other newer features that were emerging in the new world of "blogging" and "social media".

Given all that I went looking at various other options and wound up on TypePad where I set up two new blogs in 2006:

  • Disruptive Conversations - how the "social media" of blogs, podcasts, wikis, virtual worlds, etc. are changing the way we communicate

  • Disruptive Telephony - how Voice-over-IP (VoIP) is fundamentally changing the technology we use to communicate

I went on to become a paid TypePad member, set up the Blue Box Podcast there and a range of other blogs.

Today, 10 years after that first Advogato post, I'm writing these days on something like 10 different blogs ... some of which I list on my 'blogs' page and others are listed on Voxeo's list of blogs - posts across all of them I am now aggregating into my Friendfeed account (along with tweets, bookmarks and more). I still use TypePad and while I have a number of issues with the site, the work to move at this point would be more than I feel like undertaking right now. Most of the new work I'm creating these days is with WordPress (or WordPress MU) which I'm using both on the VOIPSA weblog and the Voxeo blog site as well as some other projects in development.

As I sit here and write all this, it's really incredible to think about all the changes we've seen over the past 10 years both with regard to "blogging" and also to all the other tools and services that make up this larger space we've called "social media", but is even now morphing into more of just plain old... "media"!

Some things don't change, though... if I go back to the end of that first Advogato post:

Okay... my first diary entry... and a long one... typical... no one has ever praised me for my brevity!

Ten years later, I'm still working on that "brevity" thing... and using my Twitter account as a daily exercise in just that topic ;-)

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