The protocol is the message

April 9, 2008

Marshall McLuhan was one of the first to study mass media as a cultural phenomenon. He coined the phrase “the medium is the message” and divided different medias into hot and cool medias depending on the participation level of the person consuming the media:

“Any hot medium allows of less participation than a cool one, as a lecture makes for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than a dialogue.”

What is the web 2.0, social media (as opposed to the mass media of McLuhan) equivalent? Maybe it’s in how people use different protocols of communication for different purposes?

Maybe the protocol is the message?

We call people for another reason than we email them or send them an SMS. The act of making a phone call bears a meaning in itself.

An indication of this is how soon people expect a reply for the different protocols. The blog Future Mobile reports:

84% of users expect a SMS response in five minutes according to an online survey by 160 Characters that looked at how different messaging platforms elicit differing response times.

Tomi Ahonen on Communities Dominates Brands on the same survey:

By contrast about half of users of e-mail expect a reply within about a day.

Techdirt adds a social behaviour aspect, arguing that people even wait for responding to email on purpose to give the impression of being more busy than they really are:

Last year, we noted a study that said many people purposely responded to emails fashionably late at work, because replying to quickly implied you didn’t have too much work to do. However, it appears the situation may be somewhat different when it comes to instant messaging and SMS text messages.

Fascinating. There’s definitely more to a message than meets the eye.

Also read my old post on emotional bandwidth.

…and while we’re on the subject, here’s a collection of “break up SMS” such as:

Roses are red, violets are… ah the hell with it. Get your crap and get out

77 characters.

Erik Starck
Managing Director, Co-founder

This is me…

April 2, 2008

My name is Nicolai Wadstrom, I have not been as active on the GlocalReach blog as my colleague Erik, but this as a good time as any to change that!

About me; I am one of the co-founders of GlocalReach Ltd. I am an serial Entrepreneur, I am 35 years of age, and have been starting companies for the past 12 years, ranging from consulting companies, software companies, media companies, computer games and internet companies. I have a fair bit of Telco experience, and have done some management consultancy to help other startups, and larger organizations in between, I have been a CEO, a CTO and have had few different hats through-out the past 12 years, now I try to do more, and have less hats (although I am officially a director in GlocalReach!).

GlocalReach story
The GlocalReach story actually started a bit more than 2 years ago, when I started thinking that Voice over IP can not be about cheap calls, it must be something else and there must be room for lots of innovation in this space.Since I hired Erik on the R&D team of my software company many years ago, I knew that this is a guy I want to work with in the future, and we had been talking about trying to get together to form a new startup for a while, so after me and Erik having had numerous sessions about the VoIP space and what spaces are still open for entry by a new startup when voice converge into just another Internet communication’s medium, we starting working on GlocalReach. We also brought along a business partner that I have been working on with a number of different startup companies the past few years, and in January 2007 Glocalreach was formed. Since then we have been working hard to build this service, get all the infrastructure components in place to handle Voice and messaging, and lot’s of other magic. We have mostly funded GlocalReach with our own money this far.

Today we have an Alpha version of our service that we think will be a very interesting convergence between Internet communication and presence. Presence in the world of Mobile phones and IM is basically available or not available, but the world is not that simple, I can honestly say that I will always be available for certain calls, but at the same time I will almost always not be available for certain other calls. My presence need to be more related to what-ever context I am in at that moment, it need to relate to where I am, what I am doing, how I am feeling, and it need to map that to other web properties.
A buzzword for this might be Semantic Presence (which was Jeff Pulver‘s called it when I tried to describe our vision for him the other week), we call it Reach Management, or Attention Control (well, we are still working on the name!). Right now we are working on a Series A funding, and preparing for a Beta launch of the service.

Also, while I am at it.. We are expanding, if you are an excellent interaction designer or developer (Java and Seam are the name of “our game”) that want to be part of creating the next generation of Internet services, where presence goes beyond IM and Twitter, and where you have a greater control of how your attention and how you are reached, please do contact me or Erik.

Nicolai Wadstrom,

Updated front page

March 30, 2008

Slowly, slowly our reach management service is advancing. I’ve just updated our homepage, introducing a new concept in the service: reach filters. Go there and sign up for the beta.

Emotional Bandwidth revisited: Bambuser and Video Telephony

March 19, 2008

I feel I need to dust off my old post about emotional bandwidth after seeing how Swedish startup Bambuser attracts users and how their service is used – and loved.

Bambuser offers live broadcasting from your mobile phone directly to the web. You install an application in your cameraphone and as soon as you connect to the service, it starts streaming video directly to a Flash player so other people can view it as it happens.

The result? People start sharing stories and their everyday life. They film when they go grocery shopping. They film when they eat dinner. They film meetings and conferences. Some nights ago, a group of people had a pop quiz over Bambuser. People start experimenting.

They start playing.

An amazing difference if you compare to how video telephony was (never) used and I think the key to the difference is in the emotional bandwidth in audio vs video streaming. A voice call has just about the right amount of emotional bandwidth to be usable for the types of conversations you have over a phone. Increasing the emotional bandwidth makes you want to have a different kind of conversation. A closer one, more intimate.

Bambusing is something different, though. It’s more about capturing and sharing the moment. It also has a degree of exhibitionism over it.

I’m curious how the Typealyzer (more, in Swedish, here) would characterize the typical Bambuser-user vs a typical blogger. (The Typealyzer does a psychographic analysis of texts.) I am personally more of a “text-guy”, preferring written text over video, but other people have different preferences. The Typealyzer has characterized my blog texts as either INTP or INTJ, so I am an introverted thinker (a.k.a. a “nerd” 🙂 ). My guess is that Bambuser attracts more extroverted personalities.

There are other applications, like Qlik that does the same thing. Great to see innovation finally happening within mobile video.

Erik Starck
Managing Director, Co-founder

While you’re waiting

January 24, 2008

Yes, I know… our beta is delayed. We’re still working on our reachcards as well as a complete redesign of our home page. Here’s a glimpse of one of our cards:

While waiting for us to finish, enjoy a few good blog posts from across the web.

First of is Web Worker Daily, writing about why you need an online persona:

Many web workers know that if you build your professional profile online, you might be able to skip resume writing and interviewing when looking for a new job or new clients. A strong online presence can sell you better than any one page summary or one hour meeting.

We couldn’t agree more. Your online presence is at least as important as your offline dito. In fact, they’re starting to become inseparable. That’s why you need an online business card just as much as you need a physical, offline one.

Seth Godin has a very short post about reach management: The more people you reach the more likely it is that you’re reaching the wrong people.

Garrett Smith pronounces the phone call dead:

Every week, I communicate with 75 year olds and 15 year olds a like. I believe there is a succinct dividing line between those who still value the phone call, those who still prefer to make a phone call and those who do not see the value in a phone call and would prefer to keep all of their communications electronic and textual. I believe that this “dividing line” is those who are currently the age of 26.

Garrett may be right. Yesterday I attended the Emote 08 conference here in Stockholm and one of the speakers was Anssi Vanjoki from Nokia. He showed the following slide:

This is data fetched from a small program that monitors the actual usage of a smartphone. It is not how people think they use their phone, it is showing how they’re actually using it.

Notice that voice is only 12% of the usage!

Messaging, which has a much smaller emotional bandwidth, is by far the most common usage of the phone.

In fact, it makes you wonder why they still call it a telephone – which is exactly why Nokia has started calling them multimedia computers.

OK, that’s it for now. Now I need to get back to finishing the reachcards and our new company home page. See you there!

Creative business cards

November 11, 2007

Some nice designs of (paper) business cards here.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have an online business card with creative design and the possibility for people to find you and reach you using the card?

Yes, it certainly would.

Please don’t SPIT in my ear – VoIP Spam

October 19, 2007

Spam, spam, spam… the number one enemy of your inbox. It has almost killed email, my 10 (or is it 11?) year old ICQ-number is almost unusable thanks to all the unwanted messages I get and anyone who has a blog with comments knows that sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with unwanted comment spam.

On one of my personal blogs I am told that “Akismet has caught 228,182 spam for you since you first installed it”… (Akismet is a spam blocker for the WordPress blog tool.) That’s almost a quarter of a million messages. As a comparison, I have about 900 legit comments, so the spam comments outnumber the non-spam comments by about 245 to 1.

Spam happens whenever there is a way of contacting someone at practically no cost. Sending one million email messages doesn’t cost more than sending a hundred, if you have the addresses. If just one out of a thousand recipients respond to the message, it’s worth it. And people do respond. Spam works, otherwise we wouldn’t receive them.

So what happens when telephony becomes a zero cost communication channel?

We won’t get away. We will have spam over internet telephony, sometimes labeled SPIT:

SPIT hasn’t really taken root worldwide yet—but remember that e-mail spam was just 17 percent of e-mail traffic in 2002, where by November 2004 that figure was estimated at 93 percent.

Daniel Putz, a student at Växjö University has written an interesting undergraduate thesis on the subject. He writes:

As SIP numbers work nearly the same way as email addresses, it is easy for detection software to locate a SIP telephone simply by randomly calling numbers. Since a call can be established for free by any computer which is connected to the internet, and since the bandwidth of today’s internet connections allows sending many calls simultaneously, a sender nowadays can send many calls from anywhere at any time – for free.
Additionally, using commercial messages instead of voice is made very simple by playing a record the moment a receiver answers the
phone. As I have already pointed out, even someone new to the field of sending commercials on the phone, is able to send spam calls to
unsuspecting receivers.

He then proceeds to go through a few solutions to the problem. One of them is a pay-per-call variant:

This technique is based on the idea that a receiver gets paid for every message that is not wanted. Every sender is charged for a spam message. Only senders which are on a non-charge list are not charged.

Clever, but difficult to implement on a large scale. It’s still interesting how one of the core features of IP-telephony (free calls) also is one of its largest downsides. Maybe we don’t want free calls but cheap-enough calls and easily managed calls. Maybe a small cost per call is actually a feature to keep the network clean.

Telemarketing is still a problem (or at least most people would consider it a problem) but not bigger than today. No matter what, I will never have 245 as many telemarketing calls as regular calls to my phone. They might be annoying, but I’m not drowning in them. And of course, a good reach management solution would help deal with the problem.

Putz then puts his theories to the test by performing an experiment involving volunteers that (unknowingly) receives spam phone calls from the brave researcher. He then measured their response and asked them how they felt when receiving the calls.

Let’s just say they weren’t very happy. (Although as far as I know, no undergraduate students were hurt when performing the study.)

They also, interestingly, expected the operator (or the government) to fix the problem.

Voice spam is far more intrusive than email spam. It’s so intrusive that it might make the vision of free phone calls on the net a dream only. At least not without blocking out anyone but your closest friend. In my world, that’s not very free.

A solution to SPIT will be the difference between free calls and cheap calls for VoIP. It remains to be seen where we end up.

By the way… some good news! I just received an email telling me that “this email address was randomly selected” and that I “have subsequently
emerged [as] a winner and therefore entitled to a substantial amount of 753,000.00 Pounds”. Wow! Maybe finally we can afford to finish our beta.

Erik Starck
Managing Director, Co-founder GlocalReach

Social networking beyond the Dunbar number of 150

September 20, 2007

In a short time social networking tool Facebook has gathered 50% of the population between the age of 23-35 in Sweden as members. Impressive numbers, but Facebook is not the first social network site on the web and most likely not the last either. There’s hard competition between the MySpaces, Lunarstorms and LinkedIns of the web world. It seems like the popularity of social networking sites is like that of popular nightclubs. The cool places to be one year is not so cool anymore the year after. Friendster and Orkout knows about this all too well and Sweden-based Lunarstorm seems to be learning it as well.

Current hot-place-to-be Facebook also knows this and therefore calls themselves a “social networking utility“. A utility, a tool, is something you use to build things, so a social networking tool ought to be something you use to build social networks with. They have a somewhat open API, making them a kind of platform. Their strategy is to become the social networking operative system of the web. The Microsoft Windows of social networks. We’ll see if they make it.

So, is the market for social networking sites saturated? I don’t think so and the explanation for this also explains how GlocalReach will fit in to the social networking landscape.

Let me begin by drawing some circles:

Dunbar numbers

These circles represents circles of intimacy and is taken from the book Evolutionary Psychology by Robin Dunbar, Lousie Barrett and John Lycett. It’s called the social whirl. The number in each circle is the approximate number of people within that part of your social network. In the middle is you, followed by your family and very close friends (about 5 people). The next circle is your sympathy group, 12-15 people with whom you have a closer relationship.

The number 150 is often mentioned as the Dunbar number:

Dunbar’s number, which is 150, represents a theoretical maximum number of individuals with whom a set of people can maintain a social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who each person is and how each person relates socially to every other person

In other words: it’s your circle of friends.

It’s people who knows you as an individual. You have a personal and explicit relationship to these people. Basically, it’s the people you have beer with.

Evolutionary psychology studies has shown that people are incapable of maintaining a close relationship with more than a 150 individuals at the time (although the number varies between persons, 150 is the average). If you meet new friends, some of your older friends that you don’t see very much anymore falls out of your 150 circle. (Don’t feel so bad about it, we’re only humans after all. You’re lucky not to be a chimpanzee. They have a Dunbar number of ~50.)

The existing social networking sites and somewhat older social tools such as the address book in your mobile phone does a pretty good job of managing these 150 people. With GlocalReach, we’re trying to build the tools necessary for the outer circles, beyond the Dunbar number.

At these circles, people know you more by a role you have or a category of people you belong to. They might know you as a politician, a programmer, a neighbor, a nurse or a blogger. If you have a slashed career people will know you by many labels and roles. GlocalReach will help you manage these roles and how people reach you from the outskirts of the social whirl. That’s our place in the social network universe.

I would have hoped to have our beta ready by now, but we have been rethinking some of the concepts, putting a stronger emphasis on the business card (or reachcard) as the center of the service, as your primary reach management tool. So, the beta will take a little bit longer. Sorry about that.

Meanwhile, give someone that has been falling out of your Dunbar circle a call. Reunite with old friends. Bring up some good old memories.

Real friendship, after all, doesn’t have a number.

Updated: here is a longer and much more insightful post on Dunbar numbers and social networks.

Updated 2: Thomas Vander Wal at the blog Personal Infocloud has an interesting post on Selective Sociality and Social Villages that touches the same subject.

I also updated the picture used in the post.

Erik Starck
Managing Director, Co-founder

Slash your career – slash your life

September 8, 2007

Marci Alboher has written a book titled “One person, multiple careers”. Marci describes what the book is about on her blog:

These days, my work life has several strands. I write, mostly about careers, small business, and writing. I teach/coach other writers working on nonfiction projects. I speak about how to succeed in nonfiction writing and other career issues. In an earlier life, I practiced law for nearly ten years. I refer to these various identities as “slashes,” and moving between them is what my book is about

I haven’t read the book yet, but this is so much in line with what we’re thinking about roles, online identities and personas that I certainly will. This presentation gives an overview of our thinking.

It doesn’t have to be about your career only. Or, rather, let me put it this way: the line between your professional career and your personal life is getting thinner. You can be a programmer by day and then publish photos you take on your blog by night, as a hobby. What if someone finds your photos and wants to use them commercially? Are you then a photographer or a programmer?

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be either/or. You can be a photographer AND a programmer.

A programmer / photographer.

Reading through her blog, I also noticed that Marci discovered that the telephone as a higher emotional bandwidth than email:

Recently, I did something strange. I called a fellow journalist for something we would normally talk about through email. It was so odd that I started the call with a caveat, “I don’t usually pick up the phone, but it seemed about time we had a conversation.” She and I typically communicate by email, my preferred mode of communication with just about everyone in my life. It keeps me productive. But lately I have been so saturated with email that I am starting to relish all those conversations that I long ago relegated to email.

Maybe Reach Management would help? has a new face

August 30, 2007

Yesterday we uploaded our new homepage to a new web server, so everything should be clean and shiny on your next visit to our website.
It’s somewhat difficult to know how much to write when the service isn’t even finished yet. At least you will get a little more sense of what we’re trying to do and a taster of the graphical profile we’re working with. Screenshots will come soon, I promise!
Enjoy your visit. 🙂