Business online safety Regs social networking

Edward Snowden – Facebook charges its users!

Facebook charges its users!

A dramatic byline….. ostensibly it hasn’t broken its vow that it is “free to use and always will be“, and there isn’t a pay-wall being erected around it. That said, with the hefty price tag it just paid for WhatsApp, it may well have to consider things!.

But Facebook has always charged, as has Twitter, and Google and so on. So it hasn’t had a Direct Debit mandate, but they have taken something you have freely offered in return for perpetual use of the site for free, and have marketed that. Your most valuable information; your preferences, your search history, your favourite band, most checked in pub, your beach snaps, all of this adds up to a data-miner’s paradise.

A quick calculation on Facebook’s market capitalisation just prior to the

Business online safety

51 years old and still single? Well yes and no Facebook.

facebook_adI’d be interested to see if anyone else gets this ad in their Facebook timeline. There’s no denying I am 51 years old – this Facebook knows.

Facebook also knows I’m married mind you and very happily so I hasten to add.

It’s one of those links you daren’t click on in case there’s some malware behind it though one would think that Facebook would have that covered. The photo of the girl is very small but she could well be one of the 160 “mature” women referred to. I suppose. I’d be surprised if this website had that many female customers in Lincoln though. Even if we take in the surrounding area.

I wonder whether the business model works. Suppose it must. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this ad. I guess Facebook will take anyone’s money.


Engineer fun stuff ofcom

And the hot news is…

Normally I’m fending off ideas for blog posts. This last couple of weeks I’ve been wading through a soup of Awards Entries which take yonks to write, especially when they limit you to writing your life story in 250 words. Bit of an  exaggeration but those of you who have to do that sort of thing will know what I mean.

So I’ve looked up, drawn breath and thought what do I want to write about. There’s the massive DDoS attack against CloudFlare that was in all the news earlier in the week. “Internet grinds to a halt” – that kind of thing. It didn’t affect us.

Then there was the cable cutting by Egyptian insurgents, demonstrators, rebels, whatever they were. Didn’t affect us though I know one or two people with operations in the Middle East and lots of traffic to Pakistan that were affected. Not us though like I said.

I note today the Register talking about how capital expenditure by network operators is very rarely recovered. I guess that doesn’t apply in our case as we are not just a bits shifter. We are into added value services that generate good gross margin. We are in this game to make money.

If you’re not in the trade you might not have noticed the Ofcom consultation on Narrowband Markets which closed on Tuesday. Amongst it’s various nuggets the Ofcom proposals contain suggestions like “if you get your line rental from BT then they would also be able to compel you to get your minutes from them as well”.  Not good really and I’m to sure that is what Ofcom wanted to say but that is how it came out on paper. Timico responded through ITSPA, that fine Trade Association that looks after everyone’s interests in the Internet Telephony space – that’s yours and mine if you but knew it. I thought about a specific blog post on the subject but no, too tedious! Yawn…

Yesterday’s news was the 40th anniversary of the mobile phone. In those days it was the size of a phone box but, hey, you could stick it in your boot (trunk) and drive it around. That was yesterday’s news. This blog ain’t a retrospective. It’s progressive and funky. Move on.

Today all the broadsheet tech pages, at least the currently free to access ones such as the Grauniad and Torygraph, are talking about the leaks of info about the forthcoming Facebook phone – poetic license intended – more here. It might interest some people but not me. I don’t trust Facebook though I do use it to keep in touch with the kids and have to admit to having two Facebook Pages of my own (here and here). One assumes btw that with modern spellcheckers they never get the Guardian spelling wrong these days, unless they use an American dictionary maybe. Whilst claiming immunity to nostalgia there are still some things worth gazing back wistfully over your shoulders. The Grauniad spelling is one.

I’m a bit of a mixed up kid when it comes to these social media platforms and online privacy. On the one hand I complain about it and say I don’t trust any of them. On the other hand I still carry on using them all in one form or another. It’s unavoidable unless I just take an allotment and spend all my time growing carrots (or peas, beans and spuds – that kind of stuff anyway. Not sprouts as I’m not very fond of them and as for broccoli!!!). #isnotgonnahappen!

Anyway I can’t think of anything to write about today so I’m going to give it a miss. Feel free to post some ideas as comments. If nobody does I’ll take it as an endorsement of my own inactivity and assume that you are either still in Tenerife catching some rays, or skiing in Bognor Regis, WL.

Catch ya later 🙂

Business internet Regs

ISPA on the up – Facebook is new member

Trefor Davies Good news for the Internet Service Providers Association ISPA with Facebook joining its membership ranks. The trade association is becoming increasingly relevant in a world where there is a constant threat of regulation. We have to be careful that regulation does not stymie the explosive growth that has characterised the internet since its inception.

The argument is often a difficult one to get across. For example the debate over preventing access to pornography to children or how to approach the issue of online surveillance for the prevention of crime. On the face of it none of us want our kids exposed to porn and we all want to stop crime but there are wider ramifications to our personal rights and privacy that need to be well understood before anyone signs up to some of these proposed measures.

We have to have a grown up approach to the subject of internet regulation and have to be sensible to the fact that in a world that has moved online the problems have moved with it. It is fair that those that we pay to we pay to protect us should expect our cooperation when they ask for help in doing this. It isn’t always palatable to say no though sometimes it needs doing.

ISPA has over two hundred stakeholders and therefore has a difficult job in treading a line that is seen to be acceptable to all. The trade body by its very nature has also to work in very close cooperation with government departments, often helping to shape draft laws before they hit the public eye.

ISPA does a very good job of this and is also streetwise enough to understand how to approach “problems” such as the Draft Communications Data Bill that can sometimes be thrown out of left field1.  It is therefore an an endorsement of the organisation that the likes of Facebook and Google want to throw their weight behind it and I look forward to working with the ISPA team in 2013.

1 that’s the “on” side for the cricketers amongst us, at least the right handed ones.

End User fun stuff

Facebook promoted posts – uh?

Facebook promoted posts screenshotI linked to that last post on why I want my Samsung Galaxy S3 back from Facebook. I wanted to make sure that none of my friends missed the post otherwise no-one might read it:).

For the first time ever I got this popup/toast/whatever they call it suggesting I might want to pay to promote my post.  I could “move my important news, links and photos higher in the news feed” and the post “will be marked as sponsored”.

payment options for Facebook Promoted postsI’ve never seen this before and certainly wouldn’t dream of giving money to Facebook for the “privilege” of them promoting my post. What’s more there is no mention of how long the promotion will last, what position it will have in the feed, basically nothing that specifies what I get for the cash.

I clicked through as if I was going to buy and found that they wanted £3.47 for this privilege. It was almost tempting to pay theFacebook promoted posts cause a bit of a stir - on Facebook money to find out what happens but I’m sure that most of my friends would think I was off my trolley if I did this.

In an attempt to find out what I would get for my money I searched Facebook for “promoted posts” but it only came up with a few user groups protesting about the fact that Facebook was now offering promoted posts.

Frankly who cares? I guess some businesses might want to sign up but Facebook haven’t exactly done a good job of selling it – at least not to me.


End User mobile connectivity Net olympics

Olympic torch relay, Samsung social media and getting down with the kids

I don’t know about you but I for one am reallytref with Olympic torch in Lincoln looking forward to the Olympics. I have tickets for three sports – footballing in Cardiff, Kayaking in Lee Valley North London and High Diving at the Aquatics centre in the Olympic Park. I could have bought more in the last release, including the much joked about beach volleyball but at £95 just for the ticket I decided I had to draw the line somewhere.

My own Olympic story started on July 6th 2005, the day the winning bid was announced. I was in London, doing some presentations in the City. That afternoon we celebrated alongside everyone else in town, a victory tinged only withOlympic torch in Lincoln a slight hangover as the next day London was under attack with the July 7 bombings.

Some time later I went on a sewer tour to look at the huge amount of latent communications capacity there is in the fibres running underground in the capital. I was told that the sewer runs right through the Olympic Park. I don’t fancy being a guards having to check down there during the games. Then for the last year or so the ISP industry has been starting to think about its requirements to keep the network running during the games. It’s mostly about bandwidth.

The 2012 Olympic games is going to be all about information handling. Of course it is also about winning medals, taking part and all the good sporting stuff but this will be embedded in a communications wrap the like of which has never been seen before.

In the UK the communications build up has been massive and not without its glitches – the ticketing website and process has attracted a lot of criticism. Now that tickets are being dispatched hopefully that memory will fade.

The serious communications infrastructure preparations have been going on for much longer.  BT kicked off its network planning in July 2009 and most UK ISPs will now have
their plans in place on how to cope with the growth in internet usage during the games – basically by buying more bandwidth from BT.

The media build up has also kicked in big time as the torch makes its way around the country. A quick glance at the Facebook page of “Olympics” shows it has 2.8 million “likes”. The London 2012 page has fewer at 379k likes – clearly a newer page and a slightly lesser brand though far more specific to this summer’s needs.

There is a Facebook App “London 2012“ which with only 900 monthly users looks decidedly unofficial although there are lots of links to genuine Olympic resources. Then there is “ London Olympics 2012 “ which is clearly unofficial with only 3,435 likes. I’m not really here to comment on whether something is official or not, the fact is there must be a huge number of social media pages dedicated to the event.

Last night I went to the Olympic Torch event in Lincoln. I was a proud dad as my daughter was dancing as part of the entertainment. Everyone there had a fantastic time. There is clearly a huge amount of support for these games in the UK.

Most of the entertainment was provided by three of the Olympic sponsors:  Samsung, Lloyds TSB and Coca Cola.

The Samsung act was particularly impressive because of its use of social media. It included “Twist” and “Pulse”, apparently a popular dance duo. It was at this point that I realised how out of touch I was. I had pushed myself to the front of the crowd of 10,000 people as I wanted a good view of my daughter dancing. I found myself there with “the kids” – mostly 12 – 16 year olds I’d guess. They knew all the acts and all the words to all the songs.

Anyway at the end of the act Twist (or Pulse – you tell me  🙂 ) went on about how these were the “connected games”. All the dancers took out a Samsung phone and started to take photos of the crowd. Twist was elevated onto a platform and took a photo of the entire crowd. That’s 9,999 people (should have been 10,000 but my youngest son was playing cricket – beat Scunthorpe U12s by 10 wickets!).

Samsung entertainers Twist and Pulse with dancers taking pictures of the crowdHe then told us that the photo had just gone live at People were then encouraged to visit the page to tag themselves using their Facebook ID. I did this – you can see me here (somewhere).

Think about this. The torch is visiting 70 locations. If there are 10,000 people on average at each location then that is 700,000 people being encouraged to engage with Samsung online.  Everone who tags themselves  are effectively providing Samsung with valuable social media marketing data. These people are also all going to tell their friends to take a look at them in the crowd and at the same time they are all uploading their own photos.

There are two types of person going to the Olympics this summer – us and them. The “us” are represented by all the punters, with or without tickets at the venue or milling around just taking in the atmosphere of London.

The “them” camp is divided into competitors, media and the rest of the Olympic family – the hard working folk of Olympic committees around the world over for a junket to oversee the smooth functioning of the games.

These games are likely to be the most technologically rich Olympics we have seen so far. BT has installed a 60Gbps core network in preparation. Despite encouragement from Samsung the heaviest users are going to be the media. 60Gb amounts to 2.7Mbps for each of the 22,000 accredited media personnel at the games. That’s around 30  x  maximum usage per connection seen at a typical business ISP and sensibly has a significant amount of headroom built into the capacity requirements.

As we approach the Olympic fortnight I’m going to be taking a more detailed look at the technology that has gone in to making it all (hopefully) a success – both from the point of view of the “Olympic Family” and us normal folk. Stay tuned.

Also check out this video of the Red Arrows flying over the Olympic torch relay event – they are  regular visitors to the skies over Lincoln. On this occasion their leader spoke to the crowd over his intercom – uber cool.

Business events

Facebook events and doorlists

carnival time at the Davies'We had an A List party at our house on Saturday night.Hard men manning the door - street urchin hovering in background hoping to catch sight of some A-Listers The full monty – marquee in the grounds, caterers, fully manned bar and state of the art entertainment system etc etc. We even had security – nothing too in your face except at the initial checkpoint on the door. All very polite.  Although the men at the door were hard bastards they were fully trained hard bastards in dinner suits, all very discrete but you know they were there. You felt safe.

Your name, as is customary with these events, had to be on the official guest list, all pre-approved. Nobody got in who wasn’t meant to get in although the queue at one point ran down the drive and all the way round the corner.

And now we get to the point of this post which is that all of this was organised on Facebook. The attendee list was kept on an iPad by one of the doormen and everyone was checked off as they came in through the door. It must only be a matter of time until Facebook moves in on Eventbrite’s space.

Much of this party was organised online – lights, music playlist (iTunes), flooring, giant buzzer game (no idea what you call it really but the buzzer went off very loudly if the hand held thingy touched the wire). The music ran off an iPod and the DJ used a turntable / mixer app on his iPhone.

The only manual bits were the cake order from the bakers up the road, the food and booze from a large multinational retailer (could even have ordered that online for home delivery but part of the fun is going there and choosing) and the sound system which was borrowed from a mate (many thanks to Jeremy Dawkins of Next Event for this). I did also call the very excellent 18th Bailgate Scouts to ask to borrow their marquee though that too could have been done via email.

Other than handing out the cash & vetting the proposals there wasn’t much for me to do. I now have an adult daughter who will I’m sure repay me many times over by occasionally remembering her old man when she flies the coop and makes her own way in the big wide world. I will if nothing else be able to keep in touch with her on Facebook 🙂

Apps End User online safety

Pipe dreams and privacy – is your private life a thing of the past? or no Google doodle for privacy muddle

Today is all about privacy. No Google doodle to go with it because Google is at the centre of the debate with its harmonisation of privacy rules across all of its services.

The European commissioner of justice, Viviane Reding says there are “doubts” over what Google has done. I’m not going to go into detail on the ins and outs – read about that in the Guardian. Commissioner Reding though in my experience is someone worth listening to so she is expressing concern there is likely to be something in it.

It is worth thinking about privacy for a moment because in our modern age it is a hugely complex subject.

If I do a search for “Trefor Davies” Google comes up with

End User social networking

I just blocked someone on Facebook – one of those easy decisions but nevertheless painful

It really really pains me to admit it but I have just blocked an absolutely gorgeous woman on Facebook. The friend request came in out of the blue and thinking she must be a friend of a friend I took a look.

This woman was highly attractive and had some very sexy photos in her profile. I have to say I left the invitation to friendship on the screen for a minute or two but then took the plunge and blocked her. She must have been a very lonely person – only had thirteen or so Facebook friends, three of who were clearly the same person with different accounts. I would have liked to have had the option of “block and report spam” but it was either one of the other so I just went for the former.

I shudder to think what I might have been letting myself in for had I accepted the request. Caveat Emptor.

End User social networking

Is #Google+ going to be the answer to my social media management problems?

The Twitter stream started up this morning with a favoured few people talking about their initial reactions to Google+. This is the new Facebook competitor from Google. I am not on the Google+ trials. There is a modicum of envy in this post but not too much.

I want to play with Google+ as a new toy. Something that will allow me to drop into conversation “Oh haven’t you got it yet? I’ll see if I can get you an invite” 🙂

However there is also an element of trepidation.  “Oh no not another social networking platform”.

Clearly Google wants a competitor to Facebook that will stop any erosion of marketing money away from its own coffers. Not so far back it tried Google Wave, the new email experience. As I recall it was meant to be a step in the Facebook direction. That product was far too clunky and I dropped it very quickly. I don’t know anyone that uses it now.

The initial comments from the cognoscenti (ie those give trial accounts) seem favourable but notwithstanding this  I truly hope that it will be easy to populate a friends list.  I spent a long time tracking down old friends on Facebook and the idea of having to rebuild the list on a new platform seems daunting to the point of not wanting to do it.  Somehow though I can’t see Facebook just letting Google extract a whole data set in order to make it easier for them to compete.

My networked life is now partitioned thus:

  • Twitter is my main means of communication – to the extent that my next batch of business cards will only read “@tref”. It’s all anyone should need to find me.
  • Facebook is constrained to people I actually know and in truth I now only use it to keep in touch with my kids
  • LinkedIn – I have changed my views on LinkedIn. This site has evolved and I can see that it could be quite a useful business tool.  I don’t use it much and in fact I don’t see why a super platform that allowed me to have a single list of friends but enables me to partition them into work and play should not be possible. Might Google+ be this? Don’t know yet but it would get around the need to have too many sites to manage.

Otherwise the other communications methods available to me are Microsoft Exchange email for work and gmail for (play!?”).  My phone integrates both these platforms including contacts. It can also do the same for Facebook and LinkedIn. I already find multiple address book entries an issue though. Using a single social networking platform would get around this.

So there you go.  I want Google+ to be Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all in one giving me a single platform to manage everything including my emails.

Who thinks this is what Google+ is going to be? I guess we will find out soon enough. You can put a request to be a trialist here.


End User social networking

social media – have you got your uniform yet? #twitter #facebook #linkedin #blog


I’ve been involved at first hand in a couple of revolutions. The first was VoIP which took 10 – 15 years to develop into full scale engagement. The second is social networking which has covered the same ground in about 3 years.

Today I went to a social networking master class conducted by Pirate Glenn @lesanto. People attended because this revolution is happening so quickly. Today felt like a WW1 recruiting session with volunteers standing in line to take up arms. Everyone needs to know where they fit in – it is unpatriotic not to be seen in uniform.

The biggest challenge for businesses is that social networking represents a totally new discipline to embrace. It covers sales, marketing, customer service, tech support, PR and more I’m sure. There may be some overlap in this list but it gives you an idea of the scope.

I’m not about to expound on how each of these disciplines should use social media but one of the problems for a business is deciding exactly how to go about it. This is new territory.

The skills required can be learned and in most cases will have to be because there aren’t many people around that might be called social media experts – witness the fact that Tesco is willing to pay £60k for someone with the right experience.

Most businesses can’t afford to take on more people just to handle social media. They have to reuse existing staff that are already working on something else.

For example a marketing department might have a team of people working on print media production. It takes a serious decision to change the way you work to stop doing one activity in order to concentrate on another but diverting resource from print media to social networking might be one of these.

I picked an easy one there – print media is on the way out but the same issue applies to other areas. Customer service for example. Big businesses are already known for the amount of effort they put in to engaging with customers using twitter. Dell supposedly had 50 people on their virtual social media team.

It’s all very well for a giant multinational but if you are a small business doing this from scratch there has to be an element of faith involved – you will be betting some of your scarce resource on the effort.

I think I’m going to explore this a bit more. If anyone wants to come along to a “workshop” I’ll happily host one and provide refreshments. Drop me a line or leave a comment. I think we can aim for a February get together. Look out a date/announcement next week.

Exit to the sound of “Two Tribes  – Frankie Goes To Hollywood”…

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog

datacentre End User internet social networking

@tref on Twitter…Two Years, Ten Weeks, Two Days and Counting

I joined twitter 802 days ago on 17th May 2008. Since then as @tref on Twitter I have sent 2,623 tweets, an average of just over three a day. Not too bad for anyone who thinks I spend too long on the site.

In June, according to twitter COO Dick Costolo twitter had 190 million users, growing by 300 thousand a day. These users were generating 65million tweets a day – that’s enough for twitter to be building its own brand new datacentre to handle all the traffic.

Business internet security

Facebook and CEOP collaborate on child protection

The Child Exploitation and Protection Centre (CEOP) and Facebook announced an initiative that gives Facebook users direct access to CEOP’s advice and reporting centre from their Facebook homepage.

The initiative is not based on a standard panic button solution but on a CEOP Facebook App and a CEOP Facebook page. This means that only users who install the app will have direct access to CEOP.

I have met CEOP CEO Jim Gamble during the course of meetings between CEOP and the ISPA and understand the hugely difficult nature of their job. CEOP volunteer staff have to spend much of their time looking at horrendous photographic evidence of child abuse. It isn’t something that a person can do for too long due to the mental stresses involved.

The success of the whole Facebook initiative depends on whether or not the CEOP app becomes viral. To facilitate the distribution of the app, Facebook has agreed to support the initiative via an advertising campaign.

CEOP deserves your support.

End User internet security social networking

Facebook messages bringing a link to a website with a virus – look out

Just seen a wall post on Facebook from a friend warning of a virus being sent out from his account.  Next minute I got a Direct Message from him with a link in it. Fortunately I had just seen his warning and was able to delete it. 

This is going to be a problem I can see. I wonder what can be done about it?

End User social networking

Facebook – the golf club of the internet

How is Facebook a business tool?  It is interesting to understand how people use it at work especially considering that businesses do get concerned about staff wasting time.  I have in the past defriended someone because they seemed to do nothing but talk about their car whilst working from home.

A quick snapshot this morning of status updates by my friends show:

MD of a wireless networking company
someone I used to play rugby with
VoIP Technical Authority from one of the worlds leading communications electronics manufacturer
international product manager for cellular handset manufacturer
renowned ISP consultant
university PhD student
international tech journalist
UK Member of Parliament
international cricket website
rugby playing prison warder
gateway presales engineer
MD of international telco startup
product manager for mobile network
global voip and social networking guru
owner of a social media startup
networking engineer
rural broadband activist

It doesn’t matter what the nature of the conversation is between my Facebook friends. It is rarely to do with specific business issues.  The point is it is just a hugely productive tool because it builds up an ecosystem of contacts that makes it easy for me to talk business with them another time, and not on Facebook. It is the internet version of a round of golf.

End User social networking

Facebook now defacto site concerning school closures

Following this morning’s post regarding the use of Facebook to announce school closures due to bad weather a huge proportion of the UK’s scholastic community has taken my advice.

There is now a group on Facebook called “Its far too dangerouse for colleges and schools to be open on the 6/1/2010 “, currently with 31,795 fans, and it can only have been created today!  Of course the poor spelling in the name this group is clear evidence that the schools need to stay open tomorrow – even longer than normal perhaps.  They can all huddle together in the English teacher’s form room and larn 🙂

Good luck to them – anyone for a snowball fight?

End User social networking

Facebook is the latest tool for announcing school closures

Friend Lindsey Annison commented today on Facebook that both her kids’ schools were shut today due to heavy snow. Their websites , however, had fallen over and were not accessible to view the announcements. 

It didn’t stop the kids finding out though as the news spread like wildfire on Facebook and via SMS. Seems to me that every school should have a Facebook Group controlled by the staff even if it is just an intranet/forum. It would grow content far more quickly than a traditional school website (if there is such a thing) that depends on the good offices of an enthusiastic member of staff to maintain and update.

Last year my wife, who is a supply teacher, struggled for an hour through the snow to a school only to receive a text message announcing its closure just as she got there! She doesn’t use Facebook though :-).

Readers living outside the UK will perhaps struggle to understand these problems – this country grinds to a halt the minute the first snowflake hits the pavement. Two snowflakes almost constitutes a snowstorm and kids all over get ready to build snowmen.   Most schools in Lincolnshire are open today, much to the extreme disappointment of the Davies clan.

End User internet social networking

Internet, the Christmas Number 1 and Climate Change

Those of you in the UK watching the Christmas Number 1 music chart battle between the X Factor winner Joe McElderry and Rage Against The Machine may or may not have realised they were watching the power of the internet in action.

Hundreds of thousands of people signed up to various Facebook Groups supporting Rage Against The Machine and have been hugely proactive in getting people to buy their song to keep the X Factor out of the top slot. My son Tom for example was regularly posting on the subject. There were active strategy decisions going on to discuss optimum methods of hitting number 1. How many times to buy the song from where? This is teenagers spending their (parents’ hard earned) pocket money.

Of course this is a fairly frivolous and trivial use of the internet. A bit of fun. It did strike me though that there were other far more deserving causes that could hugely benefit. Global warming for example. The world’s politicians appear to have been letting their voters down at the Climate Change Talks in Copenahagen, regardless of what spin we might be getting from them after the event.

I even thought about starting a Facebook Group on the subject. Then it occurred to me that there might already be one so I took a look. There already is one.

These are the results of a Facebook search for “Rage Against the Machine” followed by those for “Climate Change”

You can see for yourself which is the most popular.

rage against the machine – RATM 466,612 fans
Rage Against The Xfactor 326 fans
YES…Jedward has gone!-lets get rage against the machine no.1 😀 326,991 members
Rage Against The Machine 49,165 members

Slow Climate Change 55,599 members
COP15 – Climate Change – JOIN AND INVITE ALL 49,826 members
Climate Change 1,634 members
Climate Change 407 fans

The biggest challenge I think is how to get the Facebook Generation tuned into issues such as climate change so that they can make politicians sit up and listen.

PS I didn’t buy either of the singles myself. I imagine we have enough copies around hte house now though for me to legitimately have one if I chose to 🙂

End User internet social networking

Village shop to reopen – read all about it!

As usage of the internet grows it has of course totally changed the way people interact. It seems as if I sometimes don’t see my seventeen year old, Tom for days on end but it doesn’t stop me communication with him. We just chat on Facebook.

The image this portrays is of online addicts (of which I confess I am one) buried in their PCs for hours on end ignoring everyone else in the house.

This might well be an unfortunate by product of the internet age. I do however think that this is a phase we are just going through. As technology improves it will give us more control over our lives and allow us to start living again.

This is very much likely to be the case in what might today be called a dormitory village. Most people in these places commute long distances, buy their groceries from superstores on their way home (or online) and village life becomes an impoverished cousin of its glorious social past.

In the future the internet will take away the need for these people to commute, for at least some of the time. The efficiencies that will come will give people time to physically reconnect with others in their local environment and village life will come again. Maybe the village shop and Post Office will reopen!?

In the meantime I have to clean my rose tinted spectacles, get back to my 16 hour day and someone somewhere needs to get around to putting fibre into that village.

PS Tom does occasionally update his photo on Facebook so I do keep up with what he looks like as well. Kids change so quickly don’t they? 🙂

End User internet

Zi8 is a stunner and will drive internet bandwidth usage

Following on from the Jeff Pulver #140 Conference in London yesterday I’ve been trying out a new toy.

This is the Zi8 HD digital video camera by Kodak and I have to tell you it is a stunner. Presented to me yesterday by Jeffrey Hayzlett, CMO of Kodak the HD video quality is outstanding and it is extremely easy to use.

My kids have already latched onto it and started playing with it though rapid adoption by children is not necessarily a pointer to how easy a gadget is to use – technology comes naturally to them.

The camera facia comes printed with the YouTube and Facebook logos, which is a strong enough hint for even the dumbest of users.

I’m not going to bore you with the camera spec. What I will says is that the 75MB of the 59 second video below is well within the 2GByte allowance that YouTube gives for a single video!

The video is presented below for all to see. It’s no professional production and I note that I should have combed my hair first – I’m desperate for a haircut. That’s showbiz folks.

The Zi8 is groundbreaking and although I’m no expert I have no hesitation in recommending it after just a short test.

You may have noticed that this blog doesn’t major on gadget reviews.  The point here is that this another contributor to the growth in bandwidth usage as people start to upload more and more HD footage to sites such as YouTube. What goes up once of course gets downloaded many times, assuming it is any good. It’s a worry for those of us having to manage ADSL backhaul bandwidth but that’s progress for you.

End User social networking

Virtually there is no escape- parenting via Facebook

I just put one of my kids to bed via Facebook.  He had already been sent up to his room but I could see that he was still online  – almost certainly using the wifi connection on his iPod touch.

The IM conversation went like this:

Tref          oy

Tref          bed!

Joe           ok

Tref         goodnight

Joe          is offline

I know that the cynical amongst you will decry this as poor parenting but pshaw I say. It is modern life – location independent fatherhood.  There is still, however, no replacement for a real cuddle which is dispensed regardless of the age and sensitivities of the offspring.

Business internet ofcom

Martha Lane Fox, Queen of the Digitally Excluded

The Government’s Digital Inclusion Champion and my newest Facebook friend, Martha Lane Fox, gave a speech at yesterday’s Parliament and Internet Conference in Westminster.

There is a group of 4 million people, including the elderly and families living on the breadline, who do not have access to the internet and who run the risk of losing out in the digital economy. Moreover the children (20% of families don’t have internet access) face being left behind their education as other children forge ahead with modern life skills.

Aside from her inspirational case studies a few points interesting points arose:

Research suggest that if internet was provided to all families currently without then it would add £10Bn to the economy.

Cost was seen to be the significant barrier to internet access amongst the poor. We were told that these same families would be able to save £300 a year by accessing cheaper products online – if they were able to do so – a tangible incentive.

Earlier in the day Carphone Warehouse strategist Andrew Heaney, in discussing the 50 pence Digital Britain tax on analogue lines, said that CW had estimated that they could lose 100,000 customers as a result.

I put this point to Martha and she agreed that there were conflicting government goals here. On the one hand wanting to reach the digitally excluded whilst on the other hand raising the barriers by increasing prices.

Note I take Andrew Heaney’s comments with a pinch of salt. The former Ofcom executive has very firmly established himself in the anti-regulation camp here – gamekeeper turned poacher!

In walking the corridors of Westminster there is definitely a feeling of the last days of empire. However MLF has a two year remit which seems likely to span different flavours of Government. Her appointment appears non political with support from both sides of the House of Commons and so her role will hopefullybe safe under the Conservatives (should they win the election 🙂 ).

MLF will have to use all her powers of influence and persuasion to make her mark here and we all wish her every success.

To conclude, MP and Communications Group co-chair Derek Wyatt came up with the idea of getting industry to help educate the digitally excluded by providing help with training. This met with the universal approval of the meeting and is an initiative that is well worth everyone’s support.

Engineer internet social networking

Twitter downed by ddos attack

I have to apologise to Dave Ward who manages the firewall at Timico HQ in Newark.  I complained to him that he was blocking me from accessing Twitter and he scurried off to check having denied it all. (it’s not a criminal offence in my book anyway).

I just read that Twitter was this afternoon hit by a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack which took out the service for a few hours from around 2pm.  Sorry Dave.  Whenever I publish a blog post Wordpress automatically sends a tweet on the subject which in turn updates my Facebook status. What would we do without Twitter eh?

Business social networking

Last post for a week but twitter updates will keep coming

I’m off on rugby tour to South Africa tomorrow so no blog posts until Thursday 2nd April at the very earliest. Not only would I not trust myself with a laptop on tour but I won’t actually have much time to write as we have a very busy schedule.

That isn’t to say though that the blog will be inactive.  On in the sidebar to the right of this post you will see a stream of tweets that will keep people posted re my progress.  Provided there is mobile phone coverage, and I can’t always be sure of that out in the wild, I will keep the updates coming including how I get on in the two matches we are playing.

You might also, if you are going to be watching the Lions v South Africa second test at Loftus Veersfeld on Saturday, keep your eyes open for me in the crowd.  Thanks to all those who have wished me well on this trip and I look forward to telling you all about it in person at some stage this summer.

I’ll post some pics on Facebook when I get back.

End User internet scams security

Email scams

I went in to BBC Radio Lincolnshire this morning, as is my occasional wont, this time to talk about email scams. I am not particularly a security expert but I guess being in the ISP game I would get more exposure to this than your average Radio Lincolnshire listener.

It was all about phishing emails from people after your bank account details, and especially spoof emails notionally from people you know. As a bit of background research I googled “how to hack MSN” and I was astounded to find 952,000 websites on the subject.

Similarly there was plenty on Twitter and no doubt there will be stuff out there on Facebook and others. I didn’t follow more than a couple of links and the first article had already been removed. It does certainly highlight the vulnerabilities of the web.

I get phishing email daily, mostly caught in my spam quarantine folder, and all of which get ignored/deleted. I do get some very genuine looking spam though appearing to come from reputable contacts.  In one example a business partner of Timico’s had its contact databased copied a number of years ago.  I still get spam appearing to come from this partner.  There is nothing they can do about it. The data is gone.

I have never personally met someone who has been caught out by one of these phishing attempts. Not that is until last night when a friend rang me up and during the conversation mentioned that it had only just happened to him. He was busy and stupidly responded to an email and typed in his bank account details!

Luckily for him the bank spotted an unusual transaction and refunded the cash after calling him to check. It just goes to show how easily it can happen – to the unwary.

Business voip hardware

Interview with Dean Elwood of

deanelwoodDean Elwood runs the industry leading website Over the 6 years this has been going Dean has come into contact with most of the major thought leaders in the communications space. He has also seen many of the new developments in VoIP play out in the form of discussion and comment on the website’s forum which has given him an unique insight into the workings of the VoIP industry.

TD I understand that for many of us there was life before VoIP and that you were in the legal profession. How did this enormous career step change come about?

DE Organically. 16 years of corporate law has its way of taking toll on you. I always maintained an interest in technology and looking back that’s really where my heart was. The defining moment happened in 2000 when I originally built a GSM conferencing system for two-way radio. VoIP User came about because of that in 2003.

TD VoIP has gone from being in the domain of the technology enthusiast (quite a long time ago now) to being mainstream. Has the growth in subscribers reflected this and how has the nature of the discussion topics changed in this time?

DE That’s an interesting question and one I re-visit myself from time to time. VoIP User has experienced a growth rate average of 50 new members/subscribers per day and it has not deviated from that in 6 years. It’s still the same as it was at day one. I’m not sure I can explain the reason why, other than to say that I feel VoIP User is an attraction to the early adopter and this maybe represents the rate of growth in the early adopter space.

We have noticed a change in the discussion topics to more mass market type threads however. I’ve noticed that in particular in the business space – a lot more IT professionals realising they are having to become PBX specialists due to the fact that telephony is more and more falling into their remit. These days if you’re an IT manager, that will typically involve you in voice services. 5 years ago that was a role relating to PC hardware and software management. That’s a change which is very obvious when you look at some of the threads in our Business Forum.

TD Would you say that you had had a scoop of any kind on voipuser?

DE Several over the years, but recently as we’ve become a bit more mainstream we tend to get embargoed. I had the scoop on GrandCentral/Google Voice back in December but was asked (very nicely) not to publish as it would interfere with Google’s marketing plan. So I obliged which is what we typically do. We do not wish to be seen in the same light as traditional media – we’re not here to interfere with marketing plans, we’re here to inform users. So with that one we waited until it was public and then talked about it. What I did do was have a detailed piece pre-written and ready which sat on my laptop for about 2 months awaiting the go-ahead. I prefer it that way. Making scoops can mean making enemies of marketing directors 😉

TD In the early days VoIP service providers had pride of place at conferences such as Voice on the Net (VON) and would attract the attention of every single device and handset manufacturer in the world. Nowadays there are hundreds if not thousands of ITSPs and almost as many device manufacturers. Do you think that it is too late for new players to get in the game.

DE I don’t think being too late is the issue; I think the issue is understanding what “the game” is. From my perspective there are huge opportunities. For example, the compliance and regulatory space is wide open. Life is getting tougher on lawyers and accountants to produce audit trail evidence of conversations.

There are plenty of ways that a niche specialist could build a business in that space alone and there is precious little out there serving that customer base. I think a product that serves those specific industries and integrated SMS and voice call trails into existing systems (MimeCast for example) would do extremely well.

That’s a simple example of providing a solution to a very real-world problem and I still feel there is scope for that approach in this space. Niche yourself, attack a specific market and do it extremely well. Long gone are the days of wanting to be the next Vodafone or IPO or Skype level sale, but that’s not to say that there is no room left. I think there’s plenty.

TD What in your mind have been the major milestones in the VoIP industry?

DE I could say the obvious – Skype sale to eBay, ubiquity of broadband and of SIP etc. But the truth is I don’t feel we’ve really seen any major milestones yet from a consumer perspective. VoIP as a technology is still yet to prove it’s value in terms of offering advantages over TDM.

At the moment it remains an alternative technology for voice and that’s all (with most providers playing on the cost-saving end). It’s not yet become an alternative *product* in it’s own right. That needs to happen. That would be a real milestone.

TD What is the recipe for success for a VoIP business today?

DE  Understand your customer. Release products that are a direct reaction to their specific requirements or solve their specific problems. Don’t release products or buy other companies simply because your engineering department thinks it’s a “cool” technology.

Technology is meaningless without a valid product reason for its existence and a sales channel to get it out. We saw a lot of meaningless and/or cheap minutes plays in 2008. The only things that people will buy from you in 2009 are products that solve specific problems your customer or target market is experiencing.

Martin Geddes (BT Director of Product Strategy) is someone that understands this very well. His headline statement is “People are expensive, minutes are cheap”. If you can get an employee off the phone 20 minutes more quickly then your customer (as an employer) will be quite happy paying you 5p/minute more than your competitor is charging because the customer saves real money, not pennies. That’s where the profits lie in this business, not in cheap minutes. If you’re in the latter space, watch out for the price wars and high customer churn rates. VoIP as a technology is actually an enabler to doing clever things like call avoidance and dynamic call control and routing.

TD VoIP has come a long way since the beginning. Quality of Service has all but disappeared as an issue and we are now starting to see VoIP calls with much better sound quality than traditional PSTN calls. How much farther do you think VoIP has to go?

DE I’m not convinced that QoS has all but disappeared. I still have clients experiencing this issue today when not in control of the last-mile of connectivity (where most of the QoS problems actually arise). Timico solves this problem because you’re in control of that last-mile as an ISP, so QoS is something that you can offer your customer and perhaps it’s therefore something you don’t see anymore. That’s a good place to be in, but many are not in that position and have to look elsewhere for their value adds.

Moving further forward, I think hi-def audio is a good place to be in. That really makes a difference, especially in conference calls or when you’re speaking to people with strong accents or native language differences. The clarity of hi-def solves the problem of understanding someone in those situations. It is something that requires the support of hardware manufacturers though, for obvious reasons, to really come to fruition.

Most ITSP’s that I speak to really want to do hi-def, but don’t have the hardware support to make it possible for their customers. It’s a critical mass/chicken and egg problem but I do think that loop will be broken. Jeff Pulver is going all out to try and break that loop at the moment as you know.

TD Do you think the term VoIP has had its day? The world seems to have moved on to using the term Unified Communications and even this in my mind is inadequate as a description of the experience that users are going to get with new communications technologies and tools. How should we be describing this new experience?

DE VoIP as a buzzword and sales point has definitely had its day. If you take 100 consumers and ask them what VoIP means 95 of them will respond with “Skype” in the sentence. The other 5 are early adopters/technology enthusiasts. Skype achieved that brand position by productising the technology. Unified Communications is an inadequate expression only because the 95% don’t understand what you mean. Nobody has productised it yet.

If you say to an accountant that their voice calls can be logged into the same compliance system as their email they’ll understand the point and see the value to them. That’s what productisation is. I don’t believe there is any single expression that will make that point to the mass market. Like Skype, I believe this movement will be product-led and not technology or catch-phrase led. There is an opening right now for a brand to immerse itself into the UC space in the same way that Skype immersed itself into the VoIP space or Google in the search space.

TD We do live in a world where volumes are almost the be all and end all. Who do you think will be the major players in the global VoIP game. A couple of players seem to be nosing ahead of the pack, in the consumer market at least.

DE I only see one player ahead of the pack at the moment in the consumer space and that’s Skype. Everyone else, as Jeff Pulver remarked at the ITSPA 2007 event, is “just noise”. Whilst there is money to be made in the noise it’s becoming much harder in the economic downturn that we’re experiencing. I honestly don’t believe for a moment that many of the tech-household names that we know in this space will be around in Q1 2010. I still feel the market is wide open for a clever product play and I think it will take that to ensure survival.

TD You personally produced an embedded client for Truphone for Facebook. Where else are we likely to see such clients and will we recognize them as such? Is the VoIP enabled fridge any nearer happening (it being one of the trendy futuristic uses of VoIP for almost the whole 10 years I have been in the industry).

As soon as the VoIP enabled fridge is available you and I will be buying one, so there’s two customers! I don’t think we need to recognise what they are, as consumers, I think we only need to recognise value in the product. We don’t really care what’s driving it or how it works, just that it adds value somehow. If that value is simply that I can make hands-free calls from my kitchen then that’s great. That might be all that device needs to do to satisfy me as a customer. In that case it could be my toaster – we don’t have to stop at fridges!

I do think we’ll see more voice oriented applications within the social networking space and there is definitely an opportunity to be capitalised on there. Second Life is currently routing one billion minutes per month between its users, for example.

TD Where is it all going?

DE Voice minutes are a commodity. I think many business models exist with a long history that shows us what happens when a service gets commoditised so we don’t really need to guess, we can just look back.

Aviation is one such example. When you look at times in history when the airline industry has hit rock bottom (through price cuts in times of trouble), a few go bust, several consolidate and a scarce few do well. The ones that do well are the ones that are selling an expensive service with a value add. They rise above the commodity price by adding value to the raw service.

During a terrible climate for the aviation industry between 1999 and 2003 the airlines that did well looked at user-experience and made changes there. They did video on demand. They created rapid check-in processes. They saved you time (see Martin Geddes quote above) and gave you good in-flight entertainment which meant the time you had to spend (in flight) at least had some value. A good end to end user-experience.

That’s all they needed to do to pursuade flyers that it was worth spending the extra money to fly with them. They started selling expensive airmiles, coupled to value-adds focussing on the value of peoples time.

I see the telecoms industry going the same way. But while everyone else is jumping on to the cheap minutes bandwagon and causing commoditisation the best thing to do is the opposite. Be in the expensive minutes business with a value add and great user-experience that saves your customers more money than cheap minutes alone. All of this really just equates to recognising the value of your customers time and recognising that VoIP is a technology that has the capability to rise above the low-end proposition of cheap minutes.

Business voip hardware

Ideal mobile VoIP client runs on a Blackberry

  1. Runs on a Blackberry. In my experience Microsoft push email isn’t reliable enough and I am seriously thinking of changing back to RIM
  2. Can call using any available network – wifi, GSM or 3G – deally can detect least cost route or allow you to set preferred network connection
  3. Has the same inbound number as my work desktop phone so I can seamlessly take the same calls wherever I am – this realistically has to be a fixed line number as you have to be a mobile operator to do it otherwise.
  4. Detects the presence status of my friends and allows me to send Instant Messages to any network.
  5. Active directory lookup for corporate users to avoid having to store all the numbers locally.
  6. High definition voice codec available for use on wide bandwidth connections (ie wifi)
  7. High quality speakerphone.
  8. Multiple VoIP subscriptions so that I can have both work and personal services on the same device.
  9. Front and back facing video (I’m not sure whether I’m kidding myself here!)
  10. All the usual touchscreen/music/GPS/integration with Twitter/Facebook and other social networking websites gadgetty stuff.
  11. Unlimited battery life (hey – I did say ideal mobile VoIP client 🙂 )

If anyone wants to add to this list feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.

Engineer internet spam

Spam 2.0

I don’t know about you but I have started getting spam through Facebook. So far it isn’t the classical type of spam selling viagra etc.  I have however been getting friend requests from attractive young ladies with exotic names. 

I also seem to be inundated with notifications of rubbish that I have no interest in checking out.

I was discussing this with Dave Ward, one of our Tech Consultants, who mentioned that Fortinet have now brought out Spam2.0 filters for their firewalls.  Social Networking sites have started having their vulnerabilities exploited. 

People are getting spammed with direct messages, apparently from friends.  Facebook chat, for example, is one way used to insert worms onto someone’s PC and thence onto your network.

Fortinet has an application that allows companies to let employees access Facebook whilst blocking access to applications such as chat known to be vunerable.  Screenshot below. You might need to click a couple of times on the picture to get it to a viewable size/quality.  Also check out the recent Wikipedia article on Social Networking Spam.


PS Don’t get me wrong here.  I am a happily married man and whilst I’m sure I quite like being chatted up by nice young ladies one has to ask why complete strangers, whose interests seem to be dating and meeting members of the opposite sex, would want to approach me…

Business internet ofcom

EU threatens to sue UK over Phorm

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding has issued a statement threatening to sue the UK over their stance concerning behavioural advertising and Phorm.  I covered this last October – Ofcom was saying it was OK for ISPs to use Phorm provided they were transparent about it despite the fact that the EU was saying it was illegal.

In the UK the use of Phorm is being driven by BT, other ISPs having stepped back, afraid of the negative publicity. The reality is that the whole industry would jump at the opportunity to make more money out of advertising, at least the consumer ISPs who have the volume subscriber bases.

Although there are huge privacy issues involved I think the momentum is beginning to gather to the extent that the use of behavioural advertising is bound to grow.  Facebook, for example, must already use this form of database mining because when I visit Facebook, as I am wont to do,  I often see adverts for golf and guitar related subjects – those being two of my stated interests.  Google is also talking about selling advertising based on a given user’s recorded web searching habits.

The UK Government has two months to respond.  The EU press release can be read here.

Business internet social networking

140 Characters Conference – pulver on twitter

I spent some of this morning with our marketing team discussing our twitter marketing strategy.  This is a very new field and it is interesting to see how people go about getting exposure on the site.

For example I get people I’ve never heard of signing up as followers.  This prompts me to take a look at their profile and as often as not I sign up to follow them.  Voila – their marketing approach worked. I was amazed to see people with 20,000+ followers – who were following similar numbers.

Jeff Pulver, who has appeared before on this blog has launched a call for speakers for a new conference called the 140 Character Conference (if you don’t understand where the name comes from I’ll explain offline 🙂 ).

This is perfect timing in my book.  I could have done with it before our marketing meeting this morning because we were learning it and making it up as we went along – “it”  being the science of twitter based marketing. 

The conference is in New York New York so it is unlikely that I will be going.  I will however be following it on line, on twitter of course which I successfully did for Jeff’s SocComm conference last month.  Jeff is going after 140,000 online followers for the event. 

You can see the conference call for papers announcement here on facebook or sign up for a place here.