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8 posts from July 2010

Congrats and best wishes to Frank Eliason and his move from Comcast to Citi

Frank Eliason

For those of us working in social media circles, the name of Frank Eliason is certainly one we've heard. He's been the person behind @ComcastCares and has not only helped put Comcast on the map with using social media for customer service, but also clearly shown to larger businesses how social media can help.  These days he's got a whole team of people working there at Comcast and a sophisticated system in place tracking/monitoring and helping Comcast respond.  As a former Comcast subscriber when I lived up in Burlington, VT, a few years back, I can attest to the speed at which Comcast responded on Twitter.  I also met Frank at an Enterprise 2.0 conference a year or two back in Boston, and appreciated the thoughtfulness with which he spoke about what they've done there at Comcast.

Now, in a post two weeks ago on the Comcastvoices blog titled simply "Goodbye", Frank writes about the successes there at Comcast and how he is moving on. Subsequent articles as well as Frank's own tweets identified his destination as landing at financial services firm Citi to head up their social media efforts.

Yes, it's a loss for Comcast, but in his time there Frank has built up a great team and I'm sure they will only continue to grow and expand their efforts.  Now it will be interesting to see what Frank does over at Citi!

Congrats and best wishes, Frank!

P.S. Jason Falls had an interesting post "A New Chapter in Personal Brands" about Frank's move...

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Does Facebook Change a 25th High School Reunion?

classof85reunion.jpgWhat if you went to a "reunion" already knowing a great bit about the people you are reconnecting with? Would it allow you dispense with all the initial "small talk" and move on to having deeper conversations? Would it make it better? worse? awkward? great?

I'll find out myself on Saturday evening. You see, I'm traveling back down to southern Connecticut where I grew up to attend my 25th high school reunion - and Facebook has added a fascinating dimension to the gathering.


A year or two back (it may even be more now), some people from my hometown created a Facebook Group for people who "grew up in the 70s and 80s" in our town. I joined that group and through that reconnected with a good number of folks that I literally hadn't communicated with in most of 2 decades. (Hmm... using "decades" makes me feel old!) Over time that communication has led to multiple phone calls, great email/message exchanges and even a couple of face-to-face meetings in different parts of the world.

Then maybe a year or so ago as the excellent organizer started planning this Saturday's reunion event, she set up a Facebook event, sent out Facebook messages and otherwise integrated Facebook into the outreach she was doing to find and alert class members. There were something like 300 people in my high school graduating class and obviously over 25 years we've drifted around the world.

The result has been that I've reconnected on Facebook with a good number of people who I can truly call "friends". I grew up from birth in the same town as did many of them... and we shared the same classes, teachers and community activities in our town of then around 25,000 people. We liked each other and hated each other and liked each other again... and all the other dynamics that happen in longstanding communities.


The fascinating part, to me, about the reconnection on Facebook is that - for the people on Facebook - I now go into the reunion already knowing many of the small details that you typically start out with... "what have you been doing for the past 25 years?"... is already partly or mostly answered. In many cases, I already know:

  • where they are living now
  • what people look like now (though not all have posted recent photos ;-)
  • who is married, divorced, remarried, single, etc.
  • who has kids and who doesn't
  • if they have kids, how old the kids are, what they look like, what activities they are into
  • what people do for a living now, and potentially what kind of career they have had
  • what special highlights people have experienced (ex. books written, awards received...)
  • what people like to do in their spare time
  • who likes to place games on Facebook
  • who has an active social life
  • what music they like
  • in some cases, their political or religious views

The interesting part is that this knowledge has come to me NOT from me going out and reading their individual profiles or anything focused like that... but rather just from the "ambient intimacy" of having their updates appear in my Facebook NewsFeed over the past year or two.

They, of course, also probably know way more than they ever needed or wanted to know about me, given my prolific online content creation, be it writing, video, audio, etc.


Will this make the reunion better? worse? the same? I don't know... in some cases I know we'll be able to start out at a deeper level. In at least one case, I know now to avoid political discussions. :-) It will be interesting to see.

Another note is that a good number of people are not on Facebook and so, with them, the conversation does start back at that question: "so, what have you been doing for the past 25 years?" Does that create a disparity between the "strongly connected" set of people and those who are more weakly connected?

All interesting points to ponder as we consider the continued blurring of our lives and how Facebook and other online tools/services continue to change how we connect and communicate.

I'm pretty sure, though, that I won't be pondering any of that Saturday night... I'm just looking forward to an evening getting together with some old friends... :-)

What about you? Have you attended a reunion for a high school or college (or other group) after connecting on Facebook? How did it change (or not) the event for you?

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One Day of Content Creation... 16 posts across 13 blogs

Lately I've been a wee bit frustrated by not writing as much as I have wanted to. As a writer, there's a bit of twisted dynamic that goes on inside your brain... it's almost like you MUST WRITE... or else you just feel, well... blah. I've been feeling that way a bit lately. With all the other responsibilities of life/work/etc, I haven't made enough time to write.

So as I went for my morning walk this morning I said to myself... "you know what, I'm going to write a post in ALL of my current blogs today." And then... so that I wouldn't back down, I posted that statement to my Facebook account. :-)

I knew it was going to be a crazy, busy work day as we're in the midst of preparing for a impending trade show, product launches, publicity campaigns, and everything else... but I said, "Perhaps I can squeeze some posts off during various moments of the day."

Turns out I was able to do it! Sure, not all of them were big or important posts... a few were longer and detailed... others were short posts or update - but hey, they were posts!

I also discovered in the process that what I think of as my "current" blogs consists of some 14 blogs (2 of which are actually podcasts). I hadn't actually counted for a while... so it was a useful exercise for that purpose. There's actually a few others where I could write, but I don't any more. In any event, it's actually quite a lot of area across which to spread my writing.

I'll have to do this again sometime... it was actually kind of fun.

To prove my statement, here's the list:

Personal Blogs

Disruptive Telephony (link)

Disruptive Conversations (link) (link)

Seven Deadliest Unified Communications Attacks (link)

Advogato (link)

Blue Box: The VoIP Security Podcast (link)

Voxeo Blogs

Voxeo Talks (link)

Speaking of Standards (link)

Voxeo Developers Corner (link)

Unified Self-Service (link)

The Tropo Blog (link)

Behind The Blog (link)


Voice of VoIPSA

Current blogs I did NOT update

Emerging Tech Talk

Wellllll, this is actually a video podcast, so maybe I can escape on a technicality... but the truth is that I have the next episode queued up to be released with an impending announcement - and I have to wait for that. Putting up a show today would have meant either: 1) posting a show with an out-of-order sequence number; or 2) posting a show with the next number and then pulling down the queued show and re-rendering and re-uploading with a new show number. The amount of work with #2 didn't seem worth it and #1 is too strange for me.

As of today I am going to stop thinking of this as a "current blog". The reality is that I don't write there any more and I want to leave the current post there at the top so that people who do find the site know how to get to where I am currently writing.

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The Skype/Fring dustup and the importance of quick blog - and comment - response

As I wrote about over on Disruptive Telephony recently, Skype recently was attacked by a startup, fring, for allegedly blocking fring's connections. Today, over on this "Brafton" site, an unnamed author makes good points in "Skype/ fring battle indicates blogs can be good for brand management and link bait.

They point out that Skype was able to quickly respond to the attack with a post out in their own blog. The response post very clearly said that fring's claims were untrue and led to posts like mine that called fring's statement into question - as well as the update or revision of many of the posts that had gone out quickly with the initial news.

It was an effective response by Skype - and a great reminder of the power of having a blog with which they could in fact respond.

However, the Brafton writer goes on to point out something I'd noticed as well. Skype's blog post rapidly filled up with comments - but almost no responses from Skype employees. To their credit, Skype left comments wide open so people left all sorts of comments venting their frustration with various other aspects of Skype's policy.

As of this moment, there are 219 comments on the post - but only 2 are from someone at Skype (Peter Parkes - who is a great guy) answering 3 of the other 217 comments.

Now, many of the comments are purely venting about the lack of a non-Verizon Android app and a hundred other topics. Perhaps the folks at Skype just realized that they couldn't possibly satisfy the comments... and just decided to let people vent. Still, the paucity of Skype comments seems kind of glaring. As the Brafton write indicated, some of those comments express disappointment at not seeing more response from Skype... so the commenters did notice. One commenter ( said:

Wow not many blogs get this vociferous, and you know what, the staggering lack of comment from Skype tells me a lot about their attitude to their customers.

It's curious... in the midst of those comments are some that would seem could have had a response.

The Brafton writer concludes:

The moral of the story is that blogs can be a powerful tool in managing a brand and generating inbound links, but it's important for corporate bloggers to keep a conversation going by responding to commenters in order to maximize blog brand-boosting opportunities.

I agree... the power of having a corporate blog is to be able to respond quickly to attacks that happen in blogs... but posting the initial post is just the start of the response.

P.S. Prior to writing this, I did try to reach out to Peter Parkes at Skype, but his mood message indicates he's on vacation through the weekend. Could part of Skype's challenge be that they only have one person focused on blog response? (I don't know.) Good question for you all - do you have coverage for people going on vacation?

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Frustations with TypePad: Hideous trackback URLs - and inability to easily link between sites

typepad.jpgFor over 5 years, I've been a paying customer of TypePad and use TypePad's blog hosting service for my 5 main blogs (this one, Disruptive Telephony,, Blue Box and Seven Deadliest UC Attacks). In fact, you'll note that one of those,, is what I use as essentially my home page on the Internet. Beyond that, I have about 10 other blogs on TypePad that I've used for various projects, experiments, etc. (Once upon a time the Green Mountain Curling Club site was in my TypePad account. It's not anymore... someone else took it over when I left Vermont.)

Overall, I've been very pleased with TypePad's service. It's generally always worked... no major outages... quick and simple to put up new sites, complete with domain mapping... support has been relatively quick.

But I'm finding myself increasingly hitting limits or encountering challenges with the site - and I'm starting to think about potentially moving my sites... although the headaches involved with doing that make it fearsome to contemplate. Over a couple of posts I want to outline some of the limits I've run into and perhaps find out what other TypePad bloggers have done to combat those issues.

Linking Between Sites

Perhaps my greatest frustration with TypePad right now is the difficulty involved with linking between sites within my own account on TypePad. For instance, today I wrote a post on my Blue Box Podcast blog that linked to two different posts (here and here) over on my 7 Deadliest UC Attacks blog. Given that I have referenced those posts on one of my other sites, I would like to have some mention of that reference on each of the 7 Deadliest UC Attacks posts.

Essentially, I want a trackback or pingback from the one new post to the two old posts.

You see, I guess I've gotten spoiled... WordPress just makes this trivial and automatic. For instance, over on Voxeo's blog portal, here's a post in one blog (Voxeo Talks) that references a post on a different blog (Emerging Tech Talk). Look at this second post... down there in the comments is the reference from the newer post:


What did I have to do to have this cross-blog linkage happen other than link from the new post to the old post?


WordPress tries to send Pingbacks and the pings "just show up" on the other older posts. I don't have to think about it... I just link and it happens.

In contrast, here are the steps I had to go through to link my posts in TypePad.

  1. Go to each of the old posts and find the Trackback URL - which involves scrolling down to the end of the post to find something looking like this:
  2. Copy the Trackback URL- For each post to which you are linking, copy that big ugly Trackback URL.

  3. Switch back to your new post - Either in the web interface or in an offline editor like MarsEdit (what I use).

  4. Open the Trackback field and paste the URL.

  5. Repeat the above steps for EACH post you reference.

  6. Publish your post.

  7. Approve the Trackbacks in the target blogs - For your own sanity, you pretty much have to run comment moderation if you blog is even remotely popular. The result is that Trackbacks get stuck in the moderation queue. So you have to go into the admin GUI and approve the trackbacks:
  8. Repeat the preceding step in the admin interface for each blog referenced - In my case, the two posts I referenced today were both in the same blog, so I could go to one admin interface and approve them both. In cases where I reference posts across multiple blogs, I have to switch to the admin interface for each blog and approve the trackback. Not difficult to do... just tedious and extra time I have to spend.

So... eight or more steps in TypePad - versus zero steps in WordPress.

Can you see the frustration?

What I want is that if I link to a post in one of the other blogs that I own, then there should be some link automagically created back to my new post.

Hideous Trackback URLs

The existing process might be a bit easier if the TypePad Trackback URLs were easy to create. Consider this Trackback URL from WordPress:

And then look at this one from TypePad:

What is simple about the first one? Easy, it is just the blog post URL with "/trackback" added on to it!

That's it.

So if I am linking to a previous post on a WordPress blog, I have to just visit the page once to get the URL of the post (or get the URL from another post) and then simply append "/trackback" to the URL to send a Trackback over to it. I never have to go back to that page. I never have to look down to the bottom of the post to find the Trackback URI. I just add /trackback and go on with writing. Easy to do after the fact as well - you never have to visit the page again.

Now, again, with WordPress supporting Pingback automagically, I don't need to use Trackbacks within my own site... but if I want to - it's easy to do.

The TypePad Trackback URLs, on the other hand, have no pattern I've seen... I must go back to the post page, hunt for the URL at the bottom of the post and copy/paste it back.

Again... not hard to do... just time-consuming.

In the end, I want to run a network of blog sites - and quickly and easily link between them as I post new content referencing older posts.

TypePad really needs to make this easier.

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Bryan Person launches new blog: Exploring the iPad

bryanperson.jpgWant to learn more about the iPad? I was pleased to read in Facebook this morning that my friend Bryan Person is launching a new blog:
Exploring the iPad

Now, Bryan has literally just started the blog up, so the content there is just a couple of posts, but being an iPad user and finding more uses for it every day, I'm looking forward to Bryan's own explorations.

If you're an iPad fan, do check it out...

P.S. Thanks, Bryan, for linking to my video about the Camera Connection Kit.

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Diaspora (Facebook alternative) provides a progress report and video - "One Month In"

diaspora.jpgAs I wrote about before (and also here), I think the Diaspora project is a great idea and regardless of whether or not the guys truly establish a open, distributed Facebook alternative, the reality is that we're going to get some darn good research done into how open, distributed systems can be created.

They said they would keep us updated, and true to their word they now have a blog post out: "One Month In"

For starters, I was not aware that they had taken up residence at Pivotal Labs... which I view as a great move for all involved.

The post gives a view of what they are working on, lays out their plans for the rest of the summer and provides some screenshoots of a working Diaspora implementation.

They also include this video that shows messages propagating from one Diaspora node to six other ones. It's not necessarily super compelling video... but it gives a glimpse into working code. And, as they note, this is communication happening without any browser refreshes and without an XMPP server in the background:

Diaspora Message Propagation (pre-alpha!) from daniel grippi on Vimeo.

All in all it's cool stuff and I'll continue to be interested to see what they come up with over the course of the summer!

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either subscribing to the RSS feed or following me on Twitter or subscribing to my email newsletter. acquired by Alcatel-Lucent

programmableweb.jpgIn one of those strange cases that makes we wonder if I should really be merging this blog with Disruptive Telephony, the folks over at announced they had been acquired by Alcatel-Lucent. I've long been a fan of the ProgrammableWeb site and their long lists of APIs and mashups, so I'm thrilled for them that they have found a way to keep the site going and evolving.

Still, the marriage with ALU just seems a bit... odd... I'm admittedly still trying to wrap my brain around it a bit. The reality, though, is that the "real-time web" is one in which it is all about APIs, and making data accessible to people and developers through open APIs. To that end, it does make a certain amount of sense for a communication company like ALU to look at how it can gain more prominence in "the API game". Perhaps this is a way to gain access to a developer community and, over time, help familiarize them with ALU products and services. We'll see.

I hope for the ProgrammableWeb folks that it does work out like this:

This milestone is a great opportunity for ProgrammableWeb and our community to work with a global organization who gets what open APIs are about, who value the independence of ProgrammableWeb, and who want to grow the open API ecosystem both in the world of telecommunications and beyond. In the end this step will bring PW to a whole new level in terms of fulfilling our mission to be the go-to place for open API developers.

Congrats to the whole ProgrammableWeb team, and, for the sake of the "open Internet", I do wish them all the best continuing to promote open APIs!

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