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14 posts from October 2010

Skype's Fatal Flaw in their Blog Site Redesign

skypeblogs.jpgA while back, the good folks at Skype did a thorough redesign of their blog. They moved the blogs to the "" domain and created a nice portal page that shows blog posts across all their various blogs. That portal page easily lets you see the "top stories".

They added in some great pictures of their primary bloggers. They spent some time just refreshing the overall artwork.

All in all the blog site looks great and the redesign was, to me, very nicely done.


While the form may be quite pleasing, the function is unfortunately not.

Here's the problem... from the "" portal, you can easily get an overall sense of what is being written across all Skype blogs and can visit posts you want to read. However, within a single blog (like this one) you see only a single post followed by this lovely link:


Yes, indeed, there is no way to quickly browse through the contents of a single blog! Instead you have to view each post individually and step through them one-by-one. That may be fine if someone has the time to go through and sit there scrolling down and then waiting for pages to load. But if you just want a quick view of what they are writing about... it's a mind-numbingly slow process.

For instance, I recently wanted to know what was new with the Skype client for Linux (not much, it turns out), so I went to the Skype Linux blog to learn more. The first post was quick and I could easily scroll down and click the "Old articles" link. The second post has 182 comments - and ALL comments are displayed! Given that the "Old articles" link ONLY appears at the bottom of a post, I had to scroll all the way down to the bottom to go back to the previous post.


If I were Skype (and I have no affiliation with them beyond being a very active Skype user), I would encourage them to:

  1. Provide a way to see recent posts for a blog - Either display the posts on the main blog page in full form or as abstracts - or at the very least provide a widget or box that lists titles of recent posts, allowing someone to jump to a post based on the title.

  2. Provide navigation on the TOP of posts - Forgetting about the issue with seeing all recent posts, if I am reading any blog post and want to go to the previous or next post, it's annoying to have to scroll all the way to the bottom. (And yes, my blog (this one) goes the other direction in only having nav links at the top, which is fine for browsing but kind of annoying if you've scrolled all the way to the bottom. I personally like blogs to have both links at the top and bottom.)

  3. Consider not displaying the comments - If they left the blog as it is, I would at least not display comments by default. I personally like the display of comments by default... but if you have to scroll all the way down to see the navigation link, it can be a bit of a pain. I would not display them - as they seem to already do for the first post on each blog - and let people click the "Comments" link if they want to view them all.

What would you suggest? How could Skype make the navigation better?

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"The Traveler's Guide to the iPad" - a great list of apps and tools

ipadtraveler.jpgOver on the Socialized Software blog, Mark Hinkle came out today with a great post called "The Traveler's Guide to the iPad." He also included the great graphic I'm including here on the right. I love to see pictures like this that so aptly capture the intent of the post.

Anyway, Mark's post contains a solid list of apps that any iPad traveler should definitely consider. I'm actually quite partial to the Apple case, but that's just personal preference. I like his suggestion for the Verizon MiFi hotspot - I'm eligible right now to upgrade from my current Verizon data card to a MiFi and am definitely considering doing so.

I do like his app suggestions... DropBox and Evernote, in particular, are two that are now critical parts of my iPad routine. I also love the fact that an e-book reader allows me to read books on a plane that would be too bulky to carry in my already-space-optimized carryons. One addition that Alec Saunders recently turned me on to was "Rocket Taxi", an app that uses your iPhone GPS to find the nearest taxi companies to call for a cab. It's an iPhone app, but presumably would work great on the iPad as well.

There are a couple of other apps on his list that I'll be checking out...

I don't know about others of you who use an iPad while traveling, but for me the iPad has definitely become a key part of my travel routine... so it's great to see lists like this offering suggestions for other travelers.

If you use an iPad while traveling, what apps have you found useful?

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The Power of Facebook as a Tool For Local Response to an Accident

facebook.jpgLast week, I gained some fascinating insight into the power of Facebook for local organizing in response to a need. As some of you may know, my wife was injured last Wednesday when she was hit by a car while out walking. She's doing much better now and our 17-month-old daughter seems so far completely unharmed. We're extremely thankful.

What was fascinating to me, though, was the role that Facebook played in the response to the accident.

When my wife called me to let me know what had happened, I was 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles getting ready to go out for a run before a long day at the ITEXPO conference/trade show speaking on a panel, meeting with analysts and recording some video interviews. There was obviously not much I could do from 3,000 miles away beyond try to reach a couple of people on the phone to see if they could help.

But what I did do was post a status update on Facebook.

What happened next was what we in the security community would refer to as a "denial-of-service attack" on our phone line... our home phone started ringing and pretty much didn't stop the entire day. (And the "DoS" aspect is that we do not have call-waiting, so new callers got a busy signal for most of the day.) Our truly wonderful friends and family in the greater Keene, NH, area reached out to my wife with so many offers of help and support... it was incredibly humbling and VERY much appreciated. Email messages and Facebook messages poured in... to the point that there was simply no way my wife could even begin to answer them all. The word spread from Facebook out through email and phone to other channels, as well, letting people know at our daughter's school, for instance.

As someone remote it was extremely reassuring to me to see the comments on my status updates, to see the posts on my wife's Facebook wall/updates and to see the messages coming in. As I rearranged my schedule and spent most of the day on planes flying home, those messages certainly gave me a sense of reassurance that even though I personally could not be there to help, others were there to help.

It was a powerful personal reminder of the power of a connected community - and an interesting view into using a global tool like Facebook for local action in your community.

And yes, we've had tools for building online communities for 30+ years now.... BBSs, email lists, online services (think CompuServe), web forums... and a hundred other forms. Facebook is only the latest major player in the well-worn space... and 5 years from now maybe we'll still be on Facebook or maybe we'll have migrated to something else.

There is power there, though... the power of bringing people together - and so easily distributing news and information. Much more to write on this, methinks...

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Prezi + ScreenFlow + YouTube = Video/Screencast Awesomeness!

What do you get when you combine a presentation done with Prezi and the screen capture tool ScreenFlow?

A pretty cool way to quickly create a video to tell a story!

This morning our Voxeo Labs team was working on launching a new application called "Tropo AGItate". They had a blog post, but it didn't really go far enough in telling the story of how this new service worked. So our CEO Jonathan Taylor, who has been experimenting a lot with Prezi lately, whipped up a quick Prezi to explain what happens. A group of us collectively tweaked it a small bit ... and then I launched ScreenFlow on my iMac, put Prezi in full-screen mode and recorded the presentation with a voiceover.

It did take me several takes to get the timing down right... but after that I simply went to the File menu in ScreenFlow, chose "Publish to YouTube...", filled out the video description fields... and a few minutes later the video was exported and uploaded to YouTube!

Super simple and easy! And we were pleased with the result:

(Warning to my marketing friends: This is from our Labs team and so is on the geekier side of things :-)

P.S. A tip to anyone who my try this kind of recording themselves... Prezi lets you advance using the right arrow key, so I didn't have to use my mouse at all.

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