As with most conferences I attend, I took most of my notes using Twitter. Since I can't always depend on accessing old tweets, here is the entire tweet stream from the conference in one blog post. I don't know if this is of use to anyone else, but at least I know I'll have a record of my notes that I can refer back to.
The full name of the conference was The International Summit for Community Wireless Networks (ISCWN) and it was held in Vienna on August 12-15, 2010. See the conference website.
International Summit for Community Wireless Networks http://bit.ly/9Lp41p
Good conference Wi-Fi http://bit.ly/dkwUh2
OK, I'm finally set up to Tweet &/or blog the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks http://wirelesssummit.org
While there's plenty of broadband behind the Wi-Fi, there are very few power outlets, at least as yet.
Community Wireless conf finally getting underway
Sascha Meinwrath opening: 1/2 the participants are missing, even some who were here an hour ago, so expect stragglers, but we start.
Sascha: 80% of cash raised goes to travel allowances; 10% everything else; plus donations.
Aaron Kaplan, Funkfeuer, on TechGate facility science park estbsh'd 2001 by City; conf venue; also supports Funkfeuer
Aaron there is swimming in the old Danube - it's clean now! Also boat rental nearby!
Aaron: Funkfeuer hotspots since 2003, now reaching almost to Bratislava. Mixed mesh and P2P backbone
Sascha on previous feedback - social time is key
Jim Baller: America at the Crossroads: Greatness or Mediocrity. 15+ yrs fighting ILECs on behalf of muni's - mostly successful!
Baller: credits Broadband Coalition http://bb4us.net/ Also as key to Congress requiring FCC to do a BB Plan
Baller on the US national BB plan: We need big goals, the BB plan didn't deliver! It's goals for 2020 happening elsewhere today.
Baller: US BB Plan focuses on inches, not yards and miles.
Baller: US BB Stimulus: Awards coming quickly (9/2010 deadline): middle mile, rural first mile
Baller on Google gigabit initiative yielded 1100 muni applications and showed pent up demand
Baller: Ugly side - incumbents bigger, stronger & nastier than five yrs ago. Cable industry even nastier. Now Google is in question.
Baller: But btwn BB Plan (it's a plan), Google fiber init., $7B Stimulus goes to new parties, community BB efforts
Baller responding to Q about wireless: I'm a fiber guy, then disappointing comments on FCC being pro-wireless. Misses FCC focus :(
Baller responding to Q about Australia admits that most in US don't know what's happening in the rest of the world. US always has excuses - "we're different."
Sascha introducing Ramon Roca, President, guifi.net Foundation, a fantastic alternative that's happening in Spain.
Guifi runs a very large network across rural (and urban) Catalonia in Spain. http://guifi.net/
Ramon Roca: Vision for the Future. Will talk about: Why scale? and their sustainable economic model!
Ramon: Guifi has 10K+ nodes and 15 Km of networks, but still tiny compared to telco. Scale as a goal. Need growth to be sustainable.
Ramon: need sustainable model - critical mass; org issues; legal; partners. Non-profit core w/biz around.
Ramon: Demand is there; also incumbent not interested in low 40%.
Ramon on mgmt: horizontal, bi-directional & collaborative - examples from their website. Website appears to be key for communit.
Ramon on public/private: public requirements must be written: contracts, license, P2P agreements. Must be clear, and legal.
Ramon on public/private - like OS licenses, the network is considered private by govnmt. Need documents just as open src does.
Ramon facilitates integration and cooperation between diverse groups, e.g. need churches for their steeples! need public ROW access.
Ramon: Guifi license is required if you want to participate! Like GNU license, Guifi license even deals with revisions.
Ramon: Guifi license defines everything
Ramon: Guifi is also a ""public"" network in the legal sense in Spain because they had to in order to deploy some fiber.
Ramon: Guifi ROI for many: supply chain dlrs/shops, prof svcs and svc provdrs who mediate wholesale mkts.
Ramon: Catalonia is a bit ahead of Spain but w/o Guifi Osona (rural Catalonia) way behind. Now Osona ahead of rest of Spain & even the UK.
Ramon: Guifi network now 15% of BB links in Osona; and yet DSL subscription haven't dropped.
An English version of the Guifi Wireless commons license is here: http://guifi.net/WCL_EN
Ramon futures: working on fiber from farms (FFtF) cheap & easy & Gbps; always a combination.
Ramon has had fights with incumbent about ROW (even when on private property) and about access to poles. Ramon - do it! then fight.
Ramon - their main focus is to stay on private ROW, but as a public carrier they can now go after public ROW.
Ramon: stories about fights over public fiber & public ROW - everything you expect, except Guifi seems to win, espc. in rural area.
Ramon: Guifi participants getting access to public fibers laid for cameras after threaten authorities - tractor might hit camera...
Ramon concludes by emphasizing need to enlist service businesses and computer shops, e.g. 3rd party for profit businesses.
Lightning talks where individuals describe their networks.
Austin (TX) Wireless - hotspot service; wanted free Wi-Fi; customers incl coffee shops that compete with Starbucks.
Austin Wireless - other things to help venues, e.g. splash pages
Austin Wireless: splash pages useless if not totally relevant for the customer: Weather, sports, local info, Facebook links, venue.
Austin Wireless: Now making $ by providing marketing services to their venues, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.
Austin Wireless: Also does Chimpit which brings venue portal even if you're on another network.
Chambana.net joint project of IMC and Acorn IT collaborative - ~6 active people and 9 servers. Walk-in computers, media prod. lab.
Chambana.net host websites, many other IT services, but also some wireless! Small network, switching from NetBSD to OpenWRT.
Chambana.net: It sounds like their wireless net is secondary to what they do, and is currently down and being reworked.
Chambana.net: Wireless network is completely open, no splash page. Runs on donated hardware
Chambana.net runs on donations, but entire uplink is one Comcast business service. But part of a stimulus grant, so near future good
Tribal Digital Village: 19 tribes HQ in San Diego CA, only way to get Internet to reservations. sovereign nations within US, but...
Tribal Digital Village: 350 miles of P2P and P2MP links mostly license exempt; 18 bldgs
Tribal: Paid NW in parallel reaches 200 individual homes. 2/2 Mbps for $34.95 per month. Hope to reach 2000 of 2700 homes.
Tribal: 1K devices connected to net. Fiber at headend feeds an arc of P2P links. Now many gamers accessing via local centers.
Tribal: Too small and separate to think about running their own radio regulatory regimes. But not too worried about conforming :)
Djursland http://www.diirwb.net/ Rural area in Denmark; 95% can get DSL (fr 1600 exchgs). Last 5% not svc'd.
Djursland P2MP design
Djursland: NW built by volunteers
Djursland gets favorable Interent transit because the farmers drove (& control) the fiber backbone deployment.
Funkfeuer: mesh using OSLR; got help from email@example.com & friends in Berlin.
Funkfeuer: 240 roofs; financial sustainability based on hosting center revenues; Gbps uplink
Funkfeuer: slightly below mkt for hosting; TV streaming experiments; running Wi-Fi for events.
Funkfeuer: Fiber splicing is easy, if you have the expensive machine (~6000 Euros). Basically welding glass.
Funkfeuer is a closed user group. This is important for VoIP and other regulatory issues, including streaming TV to you members!
Funkfeuer Graz: like NW in Vienna; Technical Univ in Graz helped them grow fast; slower growth >2007 as 3G faster.
Funkfeuer Graz: now working to link with Bratislava (Slovokia) which could be the first international community network in EU.
Funkfeuer Graz: longest link today is 30 km which gets them 1/2 way to Bratislava (Ubiquiti radios)
Malcolm Matson knows of two networks connected (quietly) btwn Solovakia and Hungary.
Belgrade Wireless: up to 20 km links (> 50 Mbps) using corner antennas as shown in previous conf. NW now extends over 100 Km.
Belgrade: 3D corner antennas invented by Prof in Belgrade. Big focus on community events.
Belgrade: 3D Corner Antennas http://su.pr/AjXm1p - feeder for dish reflector - mixed polarization
More 3D corner antenna info here http://su.pr/7t9990 Need to follow up on whether this remains relevant w/ MIMO using polarization.
Updates from the OLSR-NG Project - Henning Rogge (FKIE) & Aaron Kaplan (Funkfeuer.at) - history, today & futures.
OLSR-NG: 1 of 2 major mesh stds (other AODV). RFC 3626. Tonnesen PhD, Lopatic LQ & Fisheye extensions
OLSR-NG working on OLSR. Guys in Berlin starting over (BATMAN); HSLS hazy sighted link state (CUWin).
OLSR-NG session: CUWin HSLS didn't get beyond simulations
OLSR-NG: OLSR is link state - every node knows whole graph (100K entries = 4.8 MB); but MPR now off
OLSR-NG: MPRs only matter with really dense NWs, but with only 2-3 links per node, they don't pay.
OLSR-NG: ETX link quality metric used instead of basic hop count, i.e. sum of ETXs not sum of hops. But heavy compute load!
OLSR-NG bringing down compute load (now linear not exponential). 100-to-1 benefit with 400 nodes. Still Dijkstra, but optimize data.
OLSR-NG: malloc() thrashing fixed
OLSR-NG futures: soft refresh (CSN), better metrics (ETT, MIC), multipath routing (experimental), Q of layer 2 capabilities.
OLSR-NG: Henning comments on how few multi-path routing projects have made any progress... Problem: must choose whole path. very hrd
OLSR Henning: OLSRd 0.6.0 is current. Clean rewrite of routing code; smarter gateways to reduce thrashing btwn GWs.
Henning: 0.6.0 has very few (& only site-specific) bugs - very stable!
Henning on future plans: telnet/http server (done); config mgmt (stability, flexiblty.
Henning also thinking about better metrics but limited by packet format prior to OSLR v2. Many metrics in discussion in academia.
Henning responding to Q: negative about dual protocol mode to support migrations. Thinks it wold be very hard.
Henning - active developers= ~1.5 people
Henning complaining about academics who've made patches w/o consulting (thus doing stupid things) and without plans to give back.
Henning & Aaron on how plugin system makes it easy to try new things in a clean fashion.
Freifunk Berlin started 2002; then OSLR in 2003-04; 28 devices @ 2004 OS conf; PC to openWRT for embedded.
Freifunk took off in 2005 despite labeling website ""OSLR experiment"" but users wanted reliability
Freifunk can't even switch to B.A.T.M.A.N. because OSLR widely deployed
Freifunk net is now shrinking, as people who came only for bandwidth are getting DSL and 3G mobile.
Freifunk has issue of switching gateways which doesn't affect Frunkfeuer with their fixed gateways and public IPs.
guifi.net is a bunch of communities, not all interconnected. 10,300 nodes using same software, same tools and same license.
guifi.net is showing off an impressive set of tools for examining nodes, plus there's extra data that the node owner can access.
guifi.net Using MRTG http://oss.oetiker.ch/mrtg/
guifi.net is a large wireless LAN. Must search for & connect to services, like Internet access. Libraries & other offer Inet-GWs.
Île sans fil network in Montreal http://www.ilesansfil.org/ Now 200 hotspots installed, free Internet thru portal page.
Île sans fil limits users to 7 GB/wk. 150K users registered. Each hotspot has own page. Projects: Authpuppy, WiFiDog
Wireless Toronto - captive Wi-Fi portals, started with Wifidog from ◊le sans fil.
Wireless Toronto has struggled compared to Montreal. All volunteers. Hotspots, but now adding mesh, e.g. in parks.
Wireless Toronto - no spt fr Government who started and sold a parallel NW. Hard to find location-based content for portal pages.
Wireless Toronto survives on annual fees from businesses with portals; organized as a club, not a nonprft
Wireless Toronto new mesh started with BATMAN but found OSLR more reliable. Using Open-mesh but moving to Authpuppy.
Wireless Toronto - the less you talk about Wi-Fi and the more you talk about mktg, the better you do selling business hotspots.
Wireless Toronto using AutoAP in part to just monitor what's going on, wirelessly, in their neighborhoods.
Open Wireless Networks http://consume.net in London
Consume fell out of use ~2003
OWN: nodes all clustered in London near Greenwich Park. Not 400 nodes
Good line-of-sight planning tool: http://www.heywhatsthat.com/
Village Telco http://www.villagetelco.org/about/mobiles have brought telecom to Africa, but not Internet, yet...
Village Telco: it didn't take off
Village Telco: Built ""mesh potato"" - solar mesh device w/analog phone adapter; production units next month.
Village Telco: Mozilla is filming the project.
Village Telco: Retail cost $119
Wlan Ljubljana: http://wlan-lj.net Can't beat widespread fiber at $14/month, but each has excess capacity and willing to share.
Wlan Lj now up to 50 nodes & adding rural areas - now wlanslovenija! http://wlan-si.net entirely volunteers
Wlan Lj is clearly a group of hackers having fun, but it's not clear to me if they are really serving a need. Sustainability???
Wlan Lj has done solar nodes - 24 hr reliability but froze during the winter and wasn't restored until spring (cold on roof!).
Athen Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN) strtd 2002 because no DSL; open experimentat WLAN.
AWMN has some people who offer Internet access, but it's not the primary goal. Participants tend to be Univ types - young, educated.
AWMN mostly at 5.4 GHz with Linux and MikroTik routers. Islands of OSLR connected by BGP; 2505 nodes; 1100 backbone nodes.
AWMN speeds vary 11 Mbps to 150 Mbps. 730 access points. Organized by an association; events; community; no grants.
AWMN Recently, large deployments of 11n
AWMN As a local LAN, they have mirrors of many Internet services, also transliterated version of Google (Woogle), Yahoo, etc.
Richard MacKinnon of Austin Wireless follows me in the Freemium session. AW strt'd as all free, but wasn't sustainable.
MacKinnon: Austin Wireless used automation to replace 50 volunteers with 2 fulltime staff. Merchants pay to provide free access.
MacKinnon: Pull together local news for hotspot portal pages
MacKinnon: Used to charge $5/mo
MacKinnon: Integrate Facebook into portals, incent patron's to talk about the business they're visiting on their FB page. Biz value!
MacKinnon: installations were fun at 1st
MacKinnon: $55/mo buys support. Restaurants hate Wi-Fi but have to have it to be competitive. So support is key - ""power cycle box!
MacKinnon: deals with cable company; POS crdit crd installers.
MacKinnon: Ads didn't work but local ads may be coming back.
Nemanja Topovic, Belgrade Wireless, Serbia started as all volunteers. Had problems with Government (spectrum laws).
Topovic low cost svc didn't work (1 Euro/mo) as people expect full svc. Discusses many paths they've tried, unsuccessfully...
Topovic - network grew rapidly 2004-2006 but growth has stopped. Looking for a program that could restart their network.
Topovic: BGWireless not a mesh, uses high speed P2P and P2MP. Closed network.
MacKinnon suggests his biz mode for Topovic. Key is offering free svc to avoid spt issues and then find a premium svc to cover costs
MacKinnon - important to offer new paid service as something new, not as a price increase on old service.
MacKinnon: 200 customers today (and 1 & 2 yrs ago) but different group & paying more & more loyal. Free customers were least loyal.
MacKinnon user community divided: some just want Internet
Paul from NFP? talking about SW defined GNU radio work going on in the building. Available for discussions later...
Robin Chase, Meadow Networks (previously founder of Zipcar) will be evening keynote spkr - next up.
Robin Chase on tie-in of transportation and networks: financing (fuel tax moving to road tax eventually - per km!).
Chase Auto density in cities (congestion) but expense of rural rds. Moving to congestion pricing. Will need more technology...
Chase on transport costs not reflecting true costs (fuel/environment, etc.)
Chase Public-Private Partnership discussions are missing the individual. Transport tech has decided they need their own stuff.
Chase: transportation guy gets his spectrum; EMS/medical types need their own stuff- it's just comms
Chase: Transport problems: Lumpy density, congestion, financing, right pricing same problems as in comms infrastructure -> dist. NW
Chase: future for transport and comms is distributed networks
Chase focus on distributed and collaborative inputs as a path to innovation.
Chase: words to use when talking about Gov. spending: open data; open standards; open source
Chase talking about Comuto (ride sharing in France) http://www.comuto.fr/ now has more unique users than ZipCar (& just in France).
Chase: talking about CouchSurfing: 7 yrs old; 200 countries, 71K cities; more ""beds"" than major hotel chains.
Chase on Chatroulette - built it in 3 days; but in 6 months it now gets 30M unique visitors - mindboggling!
Chase: Andrey could do ChatRoulette because platform (Pcs, Internet) was there and there was excess capacity available.
Chase on all the crazy ideas that are now iPhone apps and yet the excess capacity has fostered some incredible innovations.
Chase: People & Platforms -> Speed & Scale
Chase wants open mesh device in every car that will have to be paying congestion fees, getting traffic data
Chase wants an open platform in cars so we foster new apps we can't can't even envision now.
Chase: what if all nodes (smart grid, smart cars, smart infrastructure) were peers? and open platforms!
Chase: www.networkmusings.blogspot.com & @rmchase & firstname.lastname@example.org
Vic Hayes of TU Delft University: Spectrum Assessment for Wi-Fi. History of FCC & license exempt spectrum and Wi-Fi market.
Hayes: FCC landmark decision 1985- license exempt; use more spectrum than required; spread spectrum tech.
Hayes: Standard CDMA history including Hedy Lamar's patent, but I learned something new - she was born in Vienna!
Hayes has some good slides to explain CDMA. I'll probably stick with my standard slides http://su.pr/1LMCYl
Hayes: FCC wanted to allow spread spectrum over wider bands but got objections so they settled on ISM because no one cared.
Hayes on attempts to get similar rules thru CEPT - succeeded in 1991 for 2.4 GHz band only and with slightly different rules.
Hayes: CEPT said only -10 dBW ERP (100 mw) and 10 mw per MHz
Hayes: because of cost of electronics, 900 MHz took off 1st (in 1989)
Hayes on how Wi-Fi 11 Mbps beat HomeRF even though the FCC permitted wideband hoppers (1998-2000). Wi-Fi faster
Hayes: 2002 FCC permits intelligent hoppers (reduce blutooth intf) & power spectral density rule (opens the way for OFDM, i.e. 11g).
Hayes: Now 5 GHz - FCC NII proceeding - Apple, Lucent, etc. release 1997. Adds 5 GHz spectrum.
Hayes: meanwhile CEPT yielded to Satellite industry and reduces pwr at 5 GHz, but add more spectrum for HIPERLANS (455 MHz).
Hayes: CEPT decides to go to WRC 2003 to make 5 GHz primary and global. US problem because NTIA refused. Took until Jan2003 to win.
Hayes: In June03 WRC 2003 allocates 455 MHz co-primary in 5 GHz band. Accepted in US & EU - still in flux in many countries.
Hayes: Once spectrum is allocated, it still must be defended (find reasons in style with current political agenda).
Hayes promoting his upcoming book: The Innovation Journey of Wi-Fi, Edited by Vic Hayes et al. to be published by Dec2010.
Clarification of 1st unlicensed spectrum was 1937 for baby monitors, etc.
Hayes: Questions about Ad Hoc mode
Rabi Karmacharya & Basanta Shrestha of OLE Nepal using wireless to deliver Internet connectivity to schools in Nepal
OLE Nepal: Initial focus (2006) was OLPC, but if you got PCs, there was still no Internet
OLE Nepal: Don't have to teach kids how to use computers - that comes naturally - but need to create content in local language.
OLE Nepal: Teachers have to be retrained, and need to realize the kids may know more about the PCs that they do.
OLE Nepal: Need network infrastructure, in schools and between schools and the Internet.
OLE Nepal: Open source, open content
OLE Nepal: 28 people on staff
OLE Nepal: First priority is a network to and btwn schools as Internet upstream is very expensive in Nepal.
OLE Nepal: One highway with fiber runs length of country in the southern lowlands (near India border). Northern areas to 8K meters!
OLE Nepal: fiber line is connected to India so Internet transit pricing has come down substantially, but still very expensive.
OLE Nepal: approaching 38 schools in six districts & 4K students connected. P2P WLAN w/ typ. 5-10 Km distances
OLE Nepal: ADSL where available, used with VLAN.
OLE Nepal: On the plains, need to find a hill to act as relay point. Sometimes >20 km links needed (example 26km).
OLE Nepal: In hilly areas, may need 3-4 relay points at remote sites (4 hr walk)
OLE Nepal: School NW have: radio; switch; & 2-3 Wi-Fi Aps; all w/UPS. Select equip. for low power! Linksys WRT54GL w/DDWRT.
OLE Nepal: MikroTik 433 AH & 411 CPE - have used this up to 26 km. Also EnGenius radios, but not reliable.
OLE Nepal: SW tools: Google Earth, Radio Mobile, mirror tst'g. Use trees as towers (cut away foliage).
Ben West of Wasabi Networks (St. Louis) has posted his Community Wireless Day 1 notes here:http://su.pr/3FG39a
Ben West's Day 2 notes include notes from the session I spoke in: http://su.pr/1DHUFi
There's a big EU network that's not here. It's Czech Freenet: http://su.pr/2qMyeE
Whoops - and this Czech Freenet: http://su.pr/24yYU8
Future for Community Wireless Networks session lead by Aaron Kaplan and Vic Hayes. EU wired net getting better and CWN shrinking...
Future of CWN: ideas fr. grp: underserved rural areas; hacker grps want to stay that way.
CWN futures: my categories: hacker comm, social comm & svc provider. All NWs have some of each, but one tends to be primary.
CWN futures: several people object to categorizations (in general?)
CWN futures: Movement to integrate node databases fr. many diff. networks. Exchange knowledge on making node db's. Mtg in <6 mo.
CWN futures: A world node database would create a larger vision of the movement, espc. for members in individual networks.
CWN futures: some desire for turnkey node solution prompts objection from Berlin hacker community that people would stop learning.
CWN futures: Ramon (guifi) sees evolution in the discussions over past 4 yrs: more consensus, meta focus (e.g. world db).
Networking rural areas: Rantanen - Tribal NW mostly done with grant money.
Networking rural areas: Rantanen offerring his cast off equipment to Krusevac Open
Networking rural areas: Krusevac network is technically illegal under Serbian law (ISPs must be licensed w/many problems & cost).
Telecom for disaster relief - Mark Summer of Inveneo talking about wireless in Haiti after the earthquake -http://www.inveneo.org/
Mark Summer: Mountain range around Port au Prince was key
Mark Summer: so many Sat Phones came into Haiti that satellite capacity was saturated.
Mark Summer: got Ubiquiti to get stuff from distributors (in 3 days)
Summer: Kitted everything over a weekend; VSAT vendor committed 5 Mbps link if dish fixed.
Summer: Google got very high res imagery on-line within 48 hrs and updated it every few days. Open Street Maps for former streets.
Summer: got VSAT up in <24hrs
Summer: Got 3-4 radios in per day
Summer: Linked 18 NGOs at 23 locations in 3 wks; NGOs didn't want it turned off, as better than pre-disaster.
Closing keynotes just starting. Tomorrow: open spectrum alliance
Aaron Kaplan thanking many, many. Node DB SIG being set up for this coming winter.
Sascha Meinrath asking for ideas we should ponder over next yr. Answers: 1. OS physical layer (GNU radio?) - seeking FPGA designers.
Answers 2) Allison Powell (@postdocal) learned we're still not good at telling stories. She's seeking people to interview.
Answers - Rabi Karmacharya (OLE Nepal) very struck by the discussions of biz models and how NW can help in disaster recovery.
Audience comments: worried that several major networks are loosing nodes
Audience comments: Session on splicing fiber was exciting. Community radio + community fiber (+ community satellite?) !
Audience comments: Credit to Matt Rentenen for offerring to pass on older equipment. Sascha suggests an email to CWN list.
Audience comments reinforcing idea of using Wikipedia as the master list of Comm Wireless NWs + spectrum laws http://su.pr/2C3YFz
At OSA Mtg http://su.pr/2AtH5O 1st formal mtg took 1.5 hrs as bylaws are in German & English. Hopefully we'll talk spectrum soon.
OSA Mtg: @postdocal asks OSA view on net neut & suggests links with other advocacy grps. Open a rathole? Sent for email discussion.
Now in GNU radio discussion. Ah techies, > interesting than policy talk.. Getting into to USRP http://www.ettus.com/ which I already know of.
Paul Fuxjaeger on GNU radio: OFDM for 11a, 11g required substantial mods to GNU radio blocks. Also hard meet IEEE timing req.
Fuxjaeger, GNU: For 2x2 MIMO, externally sync 2 USRP2s (not w/Ettus cable!) so as to maintain 2 Gig data streams, vs 1 w/Ettus cable
Fuxjaeger: http://www.oz9aec.net has interesting GNU radio stuff, also an update on Gumstix & GNU radio! More shortly...
Fuxjaeger: http://su.pr/A899kx has the pointers for Gumstix and GNU radio
Fuxjaeger: http://su.pr/1TZZeQ is the PR for Gumstix's product Stagecoach which packages TI OMAP processors that may be used w/Ettus
Kaplan wraps up the GNU radio session w/demo pasting macro blks & receiving signal from a Ham radio in 70cm band, i.e. 420-450 MHz.
August 17, 2010 at 09:04 AM in Broadband Access, Communities, Conferences, Emerging markets, Networks, Open Spectrum, Politics, Policy & Law, Signal Processing, Spectrum, Travel, Wireless, WirelessISP | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: #is4cwn, broadband, community networks, ISCWN, wireless
I'm off to Vienna to attend a conference. Conference info is here. On Friday afternoon, I'll be leading a session in which I hope to get useful feedback on the "freemium" business model we're using for netBlazr.
Europe has a number of community wireless networks that have been very successful. The networks in Vienna, Berlin, Athens and Catalonia stand out in my mind. Of course, in the US we've had active legislation that's made it hard for governments to create community network. But the EU networks mentioned above are member-based. They may have benefitted from government funds at some point, but they formed independent of any government effort (at least as I currently understand things). The other issue I've observed in a number of US community networks is a reliance on grants that aren't renewed and/or on enthusiasts who eventually leave to go to grad school or otherwise move on. Something is different in the EU networks mentioned above. Hopefully I'll better understand this by Sunday. :)
As is my habit, I'll be taking notes in real time using Twitter (@brough). After the conference, I'll gather those notes into a single page for a blog post. This is primarily for my own benefit, as it's been an extremely useful way for me to take and save notes (assuming it's an event like the ISCWN where I want to keep notes!).
I'm at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's Innovation Un-Conference today, because the previous such conferences were clearly worth it. This unconference series was the personal mission of Bill Warner and, as of today, it's grown extra layers beyond a straight unconference, including one-on-one mentoring sessions for entrepreneurs and a social networking site run by Eventvue.
Not surprisingly, my interactions have been all over the block, as there are plenty of interesting people here and zillions of ideas, entrepreneurs and those that cater to start ups (lawyers, investors, marketing and PR, consultants of every stripe). There does seem to be a preponderance of social networking businesses and/or advice on using social networking to support whatever else you are doing. While I use a variety of social networking tools, I'm more interested in infrastructure for my next company, so this is interesting but distracting.
At the last moment I decided to host a session myself (on potential business models for services delivered via wireless mesh technology). We ended up in very far away room and the session was lightly attended (5 people total) but still a good discussion. Other highlights of the day include hearing Donald Eastlake's pitch for Stellar Switches and talking with him about his recent standards work (Donald chaired the IEEE's 802.11s while at Motorola and still chair's the IETF's TRILL working group). Later sessions included two on networking ideas and entrepreneurs and networking students who want to be entrepreneurs or want to work at startups. (I expect to need partners for 1-3 different businesses by early next year...). Two people to track are Bobbie Carlton who has been running Mass Innovation Nights and Lauren Celano who is launching a biotech careers site, Propel Carrers, but is thinking more generally. At Lauren's session I also met Rick Eichhorn, a recent Babson MBA graduate. Rick appeared to have evaluated all of the potential career networking sites and several of us urged him to write a white paper or consumer reports like summary. If he does, I'll certainly point to it. Unfortunately, I missed the session where Scott Kirsner apparently listed 40+ innovation networking events that happen in and around Boston.
If you live within reach of Burlington Massachusetts, I highly recommend future Mass TLC Innovation conferences.
In a recent article over at Skype Journal, I lamented the fact that Skype had not built it's subscriber base as rapidly as I'd hoped or as rapidly as QQ in China or even (perhaps) Windows Live Messenger. Shortly after I wrote those words a friend pointed out the MySpace-Skype announcement from last October. It sounded like just what I'd been adovocating, i.e., Skype cuts deals so they interoperate with as many communities as possible thus growing the range of people I can connect with.
I immediately went to my (otherwise little used) MySpace account to check it out. Unfortunately, the integration between MySpace IM and Skype only applies to voice! You can't chat between the two services. What good is that?
One of the significant features that Skype introduced was the idea of combining presence, text chat and voice conversation in a single user interface. That value is lost when the MySpace - Skype integration is restricted to voice calling only.
I'm continually amazed at the East-West cultural gap (that's between Asia and the US/EU, not between Boston and Silicon Valley). It goes both ways, but as an American Internet and mobile enthusiast with Asian connections, I'm usually struck by US ignorance of Asian Internet and mobile services.
Today, China has the worlds largest mobile population and the worlds largest Internet population. Korea is a leader in high speed broadband, as is Japan. Japan is also the #2 economy in the world and arguably the world's leading mobile society. Surely it's worth the time to understand what's happening in their markets!
For a change, over the weekend, I stumbled on an excellent presentation, What Asia can tell us about mobile social networks, from O'Reilly's conference, Graphing Social Patterns East, held in June in Washington DC. The presenter was Benjamin Joffe who resides in Beijing where, among other things, he's the founder of Mobile Monday Beijing.
Some of his numbers may be a year old, but the impact is clear. Asian services like QQ (740M registered users), CyWorld (used by 90% of young Koreans) and Mixi (10M mobile users in Japan) typically started before Facebook, have many more features, and are profitable!
Here's Benjamin's features list:
Check out the entire presentation. Well worth the effort!
Over the years I've uncovered a number of serious studies of the social and economic impact of mobile phone adoption in emerging markets. In fact, my list of links (embedded in various blog posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) has become a reference for several people, for example here. I've been somewhat less organized regarding the social and economic impact of Internet access, but I've resolved to track such references as well.
Here's something I stumbled on this weekend -- a study by Paula van Hoorik and Fred Mweetwa of TNO Information and Communication Technology in the Netherlands, entitled "Use of internet in rural areas of Zambia."
What struck me in this study was the parallels between the social and economic benefits they found and those conventionally associated with the adoption of mobile phones.
Based on our study, the most important social benefits are:
• Internet enables people to keep their network and enlarge it by communicating with friends, family and others
• Internet enlarges the world of people in rural areas by giving access to information
• Internet brings knowledge and supports education
The most important economic benefits are:
• Reduction of commute time
• Saving money in a lot of different ways, such as only traveling to pick up something when you know it is actually there instead of having to return multiple times
• Bringing new opportunities and using them, such as learning new farming methods or opening an internet café to make a living.
Most studies of mobile phone adoption in emerging markets, especially amongst the poor, show that social reasons - communicating with friends and family - come first, economic advantages come second. And among both social and economic advantages, the ability to eliminate journeys, i.e. save time by not having to walk to the next village to ask a question, is extremely important.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. At root, they are both communications technologies and our use of such technologies is driven by basic human needs that are remarkably similar, for everyone, everywhere.
There's an excellent article in today's NY Times Magazine, The Moral Instinct, in which Steven Pinker summarizes recent neuroscience research on the human moral sense. This bears directly on how we think about justice and morality in cyberspace.
He covers the enormous progress (at least since I was in college) in our understanding of where the human moral sense comes from, including what is universal, what is cultural and how we can be easily mislead by "an aura of sanctity, distracting us from a more objective reckoning of the actions that make people suffer or flourish."
Illusions are a favorite tool of perception scientists for exposing the workings of the five senses, and of philosophers for shaking people out of the naïve belief that our minds give us a transparent window onto the world (since if our eyes can be fooled by an illusion, why should we trust them at other times?). Today, a new field is using illusions to unmask a sixth sense, the moral sense. Moral intuitions are being drawn out of people in the lab, on Web sites and in brain scanners, and are being explained with tools from game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary biology.
While the article doesn't mention the Internet, a better understanding of our moral sense can only help temper our approach to law and culture in the new social relationships facilitated by the Internet. Depending upon the cultural setting, subjects as diverse as ethnic humor, pornography and religious discussion can be completely acceptable or morally outrageous and yet, except for some language effect, the Internet cuts across cultural boundaries. Then there are Internet-related tragedies like the death of Megan Meier which provoke discussion and calls for sweeping laws to regulate cyber-behavior.
Undoubtedly, our laws and culture will evolve in response to the Internet age, but hopefully we do this with care, taking advantage of what we can learn from history and from the new science of the moral sense.
Here are a few short quotes from Pinker that struck me:
There are many other issues for which we are too quick to hit the moralization button and look for villains rather than bug fixes.
Our habit of moralizing problems, merging them with intuitions of purity and contamination, and resting content when we feel the right feelings, can get in the way of doing the right thing.
Far from debunking morality, then, the science of the moral sense can advance it, by allowing us to see through the illusions that evolution and culture have saddled us with and to focus on goals we can share and defend. As Anton Chekhov wrote, “Man will become better when you show him what he is like.”
If you are at all interested in morality, neuroscience or evolutionary biology, I highly recommend the Pinker article.
2 email accts/ 7 email aliases/ 4 IM accts/ SMS/ this blog/ Bloglines (238 feeds)/ BlogRovR (480 feeds)/ LinkedIn/ Facebook/ Myspace/ Twitter/ 23 other "social" networks/ 3 PSTN accts/ 2 mobile accts/ Skype/ FWD/ ...
...accessed via 3 different PCs and 2 different mobile handsets, at least on most days.
These are not just information flows — most have associated directories of friends, business associates and other acquaintances.
One year ago I wrote:
... I already run four instant messaging clients on my laptop. A single client would be nice, but it's not that important. Once we finally learn how availability should work from an existing player like Skype or from an entirely new overlay network (as Skype was a few years ago), then we can worry about consolidation.
Now I'm not so sure.
Who will aggregate this flood for me, in some convenient and semantically meaningful way?
Where is the tool that lets me organize my diverse connections?
There's an opportunity here for a new class of solutions...
Some notes from the first after lunch session at Connect 2007 in Madrid yesterday, entitled Community Goes Mobile. Dave Penny (VP Biz Dev at NMS) moderated, with panelists:
The first key point is communities don't align with operators. The lead example in every market is SMS. Until there was universal connectivity, SMS never took off. David is particularly vocal that social networks have to span multiple operators to succeed. This is interesting as Yospace currently runs SeeMeTV for 3 in the UK and Look At Me for O2 in the UK and a similar service for 10 other operators in various countries.
Big discussion of charging models. If Facebook is free on the Internet, why pay for mobile access. Conclusion, you'll never get someone to pay per transaction, but you might get someone to pay an Internet access fee, especially a fixed known flat rate fee (like x per day for all day and y max for all month Internet access).
Another interesting point is that mobile operators are doing deals with Internet brands (like Vodafone UK with MySpace) because the Internet brand has more recognition than the mobile brand.
Of course there are no operator representatives on this panel to hold up their end... :-)
I’ve never liked the term presence or the way the function is implemented in instant messaging systems. I want to indicate my availability — something that, at any given moment, may be different for my wife, my co-workers or my friends in the blogsphere. And, if I check my PC for messages at 6am, just before walking the dog, that doesn’t mean I’m planning to respond to those messages or accept calls or chats at that moment — my dog is desparate and she’s letting me know it!
Now there’s a new kid on the block, EnThinnai, that’s launched the beta of an information sharing site featuring privacy and control. They also include a concept of availability that looks very much as I desire.
In addition, they’ve done a peer-to-peer implementation with a choice of query (you only ask when you’re interested in knowing my availability) or subscribe (you want to be notified when I transition to a specific state). This makes a lot more sense to me than a central server farm monitoring everything I do and continuously broadcasting it to people who only contact me once or twice a year.
About 12 hours ago I had a long IM chat with Carl Ford about the Innovator's track at the VON conference. The Innovator's track is already very interesting, but Carl is going one better and running an unconference based on the ideas of FooCamp and Barcamp. Carl's is the VONCamp Unconference.
FooCamp is an invitation only event. BarCamp is open to anyone. VONCamp is open to anyone who is attending VON. Otherwise, the formats are similar.
The first order of the day is to determine the order of the day. Tom Howe will lead this, but it's a free form way for the attendees to develop the agenda. As Carl puts it:
The Innovators Forum is a series of sessions that show case companies in our more traditional format. However dialogue in these sessions is encouraged. The VONCamp Unconference is harder to describe, because it gives people a chance to self identify as a speaker. At the present time there are 12 speaking slots. If you've got something you want to discuss that's outside the formal program, VONCamp Unconference is the place to do it. We also have a SpeedDating session.
Here are the rules:
- There are no rules.
- Everyone is equal. Everyone is a rockstar.
- Give back to the conference by participating actively. "Active participation" might mean giving a presentation, helping with a presentation, blogging or podcasting the event, or whatever other creative ways. While everyone is encouraged to lead a session, there are only twelve slots available.
- All sessions must obey the Law of 2 Feet - if you're not getting what you want out of the session, you can and should walk out and do something else. Hopefully you will walk the show floor!
This should be very interesting! Thank you Carl. Hope to see you there.
In my last post, I mentioned an interesting email correspondence with Paula Muller of Net-Scale Technologies. At one point in that dialog, I associated mobile telephony with the third and fourth levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It's a thought I've mentioned in talks (as far back as 1997) and writings, but never investigated critically. Paula’s response caused me to revisit the subject and realize I’ve been tying legitimate observations about mobile telephony to a discredited theory of psychology.
Here's what I wrote:
Speaking of human priorities, you may have run into Maslow's hierarchy of needs?? I didn't take psychology in college so I only ran into it years later... Maslow claimed people don't worry about higher needs until they have lower level needs under control. At the most basic, you need safety and sustenence, then you can think about community or belonging, and then you can think about your identity and self esteem. Only when all those are under control, can you rise to "self actualization." I don't know about self actualization, but I understand community and identity. I equate community and belonging with mobile phone adoption! :-) Then once you can call your family and friends, you need to establish your identity (achive self esteem) which you do by acquiring ringtones and ringback tones. :-)
In reply, Paula points out the appeals of mobile telephony are much broader than just community and identity (Maslow’s belonging and esteem):
With respect to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it's quite interesting. I didn't know directly about him, but it's expected that this hierarchy exists. Interesting from the articles that I found, mobile phones give the perception to their users of affecting more fundamental needs than the 3rd level (family and affection). People have the perception that they feel safer - second level (safety needs) and even it affects the first level (with improving their work options to get food and transportation to get to work). I think this is a fascinating aspect that I wasn't aware of, but it makes sense.
That got me thinking. As Paula comments, mobile phone usage cuts across several layers of Maslow’s hierarchy. And as studies like this, this and this, show, a significant number of extremely poor people list telephony as the last thing they would give up. Does Maslow’s hierarchy even make sense?
An interesting phenomenon related to Maslow's work is that in spite of a lack of evidence to support his hierarchy, it enjoys wide acceptance (Wahba & Bridgewell, 1976; Soper, Milford & Rosenthal, 1995).
That may be acceptable in college psych courses, but as an engineer, I'll drop the Maslow analogies from here on out.
* Wahba, A., & Bridgewell, L. (1976). Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 15, 212-240.
Dave Penny, VP at NMS, is moderating the first session after lunch entitled "Community Goes Mobile" with panelists:
Prakash Iyer, Founder and CEO, envIO networks -- a market centric approach to recommendations and content discovery. They are still in stealth mode, but already he's said more than shows up on their website.
Nicolas Arauz, Co-founder and Managing Director, Xipto LLC -- some notes earlier today...
Dan Melinger, CEO, Socialight -- location aware social recommendations particularly useful when you want friends comments on where you are right now.
Jouni Welander, Head of New Solutions US, Nokia Siemens Networks -- most people know NSN...
Some comments I found interesting:
Jouni showed a Nokia Siemens forecast that by 2016 there would be 5 billion people connected. I can't imagine it will take that long... Of course they are talking about real people, not just subscriptions, but still... Why so long?
Jouni also mentioned a study that says 12 million people used mobile devices to access social networking sites in June 2007. Half of these were US users accessing either MySpace or Facebook.
Prakash differentiates mobile community by location but also by the different characteristics of the mobile environment. On the other hand, neither Prakash nor Dan see the need for different services on the Internet and on mobile -- they will just be different interfaces to the same community. Nicolas focuses on how personal the mobile device is, e.g. spam on a mobile is much more intrusive.
A lot of discussion about location and privacy issues. All of the panelist seem to assume that location is something that may become available from the service providers. So far, no one has mentioned Navizon which I wrote about last week. The real issue is trust and the need to push control of location information to the user. Edge solutions sound best to me, but everyone seems to assume they'll have to work with operators to get location info.
A long discussion of swarming, i.e. too many people including completely unrelated people showing up for a suburban party, political protests, or related, cyber bullying. Also discussion of privacy in virtual worlds and in your on-line social persona. The panelists are worried about privacy, but everyone on the panel is over 30. My impression (even though I'm over 50) is that today's youth are much more comfortable with living their lives publicly. Or to put it another way, it used to be if you lived in a small town, everyone knew everything that went on. Today, it's not just in a small town.
Making money -- social networks must appear to be free as they are on the Internet. Money comes from driving traffic (on a flat rate plan), perhaps by offering some premium service to a subset of users and, eventually, by advertising and advertising-like activities, for example, content discovery and content recommendations.
In response to a question, Nicolas made the point that your closest contacts on your mobile may churn quite rapidly but can be represented by who you've communicated with in the past 24 hours and/or past week. To me that suggests that a mobile social network client should capture all your phone calls and SMSs and ask you if they are people to add to your social network (and if so, where and how they are to be added). And, sure enough, three minutes later Nicolas added the idea that your biggest mobile social network is the people you call and SMS in any given day.
General agreement that mobile social networking won't really take off until it is available across operators. Exclusive deals won't promote widespread adoption.
Dan suggests that handset standardization should come through browsers, although this will take time to roll out.
**** Minor corrections 12 Oct 2007 *****
Tags: community, connect 2007 nms connect 2007, envIO Networks, mobile community, nms communications, Nokia Siemens, social networking, Socialight, Xipto
Well, I'm still without a working computer of my own, but I've borrowed an office at our Paris facility that has a PC with a French keyboard layout, so let's see if I can type anything...
It's been a fascinating week with a some interesting meetings and a few new learnings from the AdvancedTCA Summit Europe, but best for my personal interests was a meeting with Benoît Felten who's blog, Fiberevolution, I've followed avidly since I discovered it last spring.
I hadn't realized Benoît is a telecoms consultant whose work has ranged over a wide variety of telecom topics. Indeed, it appears his avocation, i.e. broadband access, is one of the few telecom areas not part of his day job. So we had wide ranging discussion across all of telecom – really fun!
I also got a much better sense of what going on with FTTH in France. I'd read individual blog posts (e.g. this, this, this, this), but I didn't grasp the extent to which the French have enacted laws and regulations that ensure local authorities are allowed to build telecom networks. Boy, would the folks in Lafayette Louisiana have loved that. But of course I've written on this subject before.
The only curious thing was we chatted in a French bistro in the plaza by the Arch at La Defense, but the house red wine was from Chile – that's a first in my book. :)
Since my last summary, some new information has emerged. Gerry Blackwell interviewed Skype's Director of Operations, Michael Jackson, got some comment from Martin Geddes, and wrote an interesting article.
I've also had an email exchange with Julian Cain, which I reprint below, and a brief exchange with Philippe Biondi of SecDev.org who referred my to an interesting blog post (in French) by his colleague Cédric Blancher at EADS France, Innovation Works (Suresnes).
New information from Michael Jackson (in Gerry Blackwell's article) includes the idea of five supernodes per cell (of 300 users):
Each supernode handles about 300 nearby users. Skype configures five in each cell for redundancy. So with upwards of nine million users online, it takes something like 150,000 supernodes to make Skype work.
The triggering event is still attributed to massive computer reboots after Microsoft's Patch Tuesday. Everything else in the article is consistent with the best earlier explanations, including Julian's which I summarized here, i.e. as Blackwell puts it:
... the real culprit, Skype now says—was a resource allocation algorithm in the client software that could not adapt to such a set of circumstances. Instead of clients “backing off” on their attempts to validate on the network when supernodes weren’t immediately available and waiting for the ship to right itself, they kept hammering away, trying to log in.
And the solution, having clients back off when supernodes aren't immediately responsive, is obvious. What's left to understand?
1. I still haven't seen a plausible explanation of why Microsoft's "Patch Tuesday" resulted in problems on Thursday morning, only a lot of questions. If the problem was induced by massive reboots, why didn't it happen on Wednesday morning?
2. I still haven't seen a reasonable discussion of scaling. As I wrote back in August,
I wonder, apart from the login server cluster as a single point of failure, is there also a scaling issue? FastTrack's breakthrough was the use of supernodes to make the system more scalable. But was that just one layer of scalability? If so, what happens when there are 300 million on-line users and one million supernodes? Perhaps Julian (or another P2P expert) could comment...
Indeed I emailed Julian about scaling and also about Joost. This was his reply.
On 09/05/2007 05:06 PM, Julian Cain wrote:
Skype and Joost are utterly different however Skype is more like Fasttrack(Kazaa). Joosts' Network architecture is mainly "Centralized", they have their own server farm of Supernodes as well as Authentication and Jabber servers. The nature of Joost is less dependent on peer to peer routing as it's basis is tuned towards QoS. Joost peers route traffic and relay UDP based payload as media data streams as well as keep a small cache of what they have recently viewed, however currently every Joost peer is directly connected back to the Joost home servers unlike Skype and Kazaa where once authentication occurs it's "out of our hands".
I agree on the extent of Skype scalability being very limited because of the nature of the Supernodes. At any one time the Supernodes hold ~300-500 child nodes and maintain an "Overlay" network which consists of another several hundred Supernode to Supernode connections. Ie* The Supernode network is very dense in order to provide for best means routing of least cost, however the flaw in this architecture is where the "Overlay" network reaches a capacity and is unable to reliably route traffic. I do not currently have any statistics on how the "Overlay" layer is not scalable but as more Supernodes arise the management of the "Decentralized Data Store" becomes a very hard task as well as keeping this "Overlay" in one single "in sync" network. This was proven with the Skype outage as the network was "trying to heal" it had to start from many 10s of thousands of "Overlay" networks which very slowly were able to sync again as a "single" network however is still an issue today with presence.
For the current Skype "Overlay" network to scale indefinitely while maintaining a "Single" network infrastructure it needs in place an organizational hierarchy of Supernodes and a level of Service for each of these Supernodes. *Ie. If Skype Supernodes worked in a way such as in Fasttrack then when the network reached 100 million users it would began to crawl. This is due to the dense nature of the upper "Overlay". I can only assume that Skype has thought of this and that when the Supernode ratio is beginning to "bottle neck" then there would be some ordered Hierarchy as to what role each Supernode was playing, otherwise the more Supernodes the more dense the "Overlay" the more the data is relayed back and forth before considering the "Supernode Overlay" into it's own Denial of Service attack.
I hope this helps to some degree, let me know if you have any other questions.
So to the extent I have time to look into P2P technology further, I plan to explore what's been written about hierarchy in P2P networks. Here are some references (which I've found but have not read as yet):
RFC 4981 on Survey of Research towards Robust Peer-to-Peer Networks: Search Methods
Hierarchical Peer-to-peer Systems by L. Garces-Erice, E.W. Biersack, P.A. Felber, K.W. Ross, and G. Urvoy-Keller.
An efficient peer-to-peer file sharing exploiting hierarchy and asymmetry, by G. Kwon and K. D. Ryu in the Proceedings of the 2003 Symposium on Applications and the Internet, 27-31 Jan. 2003 Page(s): 226 - 233.
< unfortunately only available on an IEEE pay-for site >
Last week I lamented the sketchiness of most wireless signal coverage maps and went on to suggest someone should "Use handset software to build mobile coverage maps." Now Shai Berger has pointed out someone who's already doing just that. It's Navizon from Mexens Technology. Their focus is wireless positioning, i.e. determining your location, but their approach includes downloadable software for smartphones, PDAs and handheld PCs.
Mexens is the provider of the first positioning system that combines WiFi, Cellular and GPS information. The Wireless Positioning System triangulates signals broadcasted from Wi-Fi access points and Cellular towers to help users find their way in most major metropolitan areas worldwide.
It is based on a collaborative network called Navizon. This is why we like to describe it as a peer-to-peer positioning system. Our users are sharing information about the position of WiFi access points and cellular towers, and by doing so, they keep our map of the Wireless landscape up-to-date.
And they offer such information in the form of a Google Maps mashup! Here's their take on mobile cell sites in a western part of Newton, Massachusetts USA.
With software on the WiFi enabled mobile devices they can capture every WiFi signal any of their contributors pass. Here's their map of WiFi signals on the northern edge of Natick Massachusetts. Red are secure access points and green are unsecure, i.e. open, access points.
Clearly, Navizon participants have driven through the area, but no one has gone into the residential neighborhoods, as I'm confident this community is riddled with broadband users and residential access points.
While the website is in English, coverage is global. Here are 200 of the more than 37K signals they've mapped in this part of London:
And 200 of more than 87K signals mapped in western Paris:
This is fascinating! But I have other things to do now, so I'll print out their 20 page white paper to read at a later point.
Over the past few weeks, while researching other subjects, I've stumbled on multiple websites providing mobile signal coverage maps. Two days ago, I hit an excellent HSDPA vs EVDO coverage map for the US that I can't seem to locate right now. :-) Today, I stumbled on Signal Map, a very interesting US centric site that aggregates user experiences.
I know I have seen other sites that, like Signal Map, attempt to aggregate actual user experiences, for example, Dead Cell Zones. But I haven't seen anyone who's taken the next logical step in acquiring accurate user data.
Why not offer mobile phone users some downloadable handset software that automatically captures as much information as possible and sends it to a common site like Signal Map? Yes, that puts a cost on the subscriber who agrees to participate, but I know my mobile plan includes a bundle of SMS messages that I never exceed and a data plan that I don't typically exceed. If I could configure how many SMS message were sent or how much data went out per month, I'd be happy to participate in such a scheme.
This approach may be problematic in areas where SMS and/or data is expensive, but with generous bundles and the (relatively) low cost of mobile service in the US, it seems likely this scheme could work. And, one such phone might generate 20-50 reports per month, much more user created content that you are likely to get by asking users to type information into your website.
To the folks at Signal Map, what do you think?
It's been more than ten days since the global Skype outage – time to reconsider what actually happened. The most credible analysis is not from Skype, but from Julian Cain in a series of comments (here, here and here) that he made to a Gigom article about the outage (or see the single file in "References" below). Julian is lead architect at Pando and, earlier, was head of Mac development for Kazaa at Sharmen Networks. So he knows a lot about peer-to-peer networks and his work at Sharmen put him in a position to know quite a bit about the P2P technology that's also used by Skype (and likely by Joost).
Skype's P2P technology was evolved from FastTrack, originally developed for Kazaa. Their P2P network consists of clients and supernodes. Skype distributes client software which includes all necessary supernode software, so any client that has appropriate capacity and connectivity can be promoted to become a supernode. Supernodes dynamically link to other supernodes to support a distributed database and distributed index (called the distributed hash table or DHT). For Skype, the DHT layer is responsible for maintaining client presence info, contacts and icons/avatars, and handling call routing.
But as I pointed out in several posts during the outage, there's also a centralized component to the Skype network. That's the login servers. Julian refers to them at the "authentication servers" and/or "login/connectivity servers." They are implemented as one cluster of about 50 machines. As for the root cause of the outage, he asserts:
Skype employees introduced code into the "login/connectivity" server farm that was not compatible with current Skype clients.
While that was the root cause, it was helped along by other network characteristics, notably that each client connects to only one supernode at a time. According to Julian, there are 300+ clients per supernode and if a supernode goes off line, the 300 or so clients connected to it must reenter their "connecting" sequence, i.e., find and connect to another supernode.
A network with 8 million on-line users implies ~27K supernodes, a figure that's consistent with the ~20K supernodes estimated by Desclaux and Kortchinsky in 2005-2006 (see their June 2006 Recon presentation, PDF here). The other point from measurements by Desclaux and Kortchinsky is that each supernode attempts to maintain a list of all other supernodes which means there is a substantial amount of traffic between supernodes. This clearly contributed to the slow recovery, during which Julian commented:
Right now there are approximately 10,000 Skype networks instead of one single "in sync" network.
So I wonder, apart from the login server cluster as a single point of failure, is there also a scaling issue? FastTrack's breakthrough was the use of supernodes to make the system more scalable. But was that just one layer of scalability? If so, what happens when there are 300 million on-line users and one million supernodes? Perhaps Julian (or another P2P expert) could comment...
I've extracted and assembled a complete copy of Julian's relevant comments.
Skype traffic during the week of the outage, captured by Phil Wolff of Skype Journal.
The blogsphere is abuzz with reaction to Skype's second attempt to explain what caused the recent crash of their entire "peer-to-peer" network, but I haven't seen any comment on the one thing that struck me (in their 4th paragraph):
Once we found the algorithmic fix to ensure continued operation in the face of high numbers of client reboots, the efforts focused squarely on stabilising the P2P core. The fix means that we’ve tuned Skype’s P2P core so that it can cope with simultaneous P2P network load and core size changes similar to those that occurred on August 16.
As I commented earlier, we know from presentations by Desclaux & Kortchinsky at Blackhat Europe (PDF) in March 2006 and at Recon in June 2006 (PDF in 2 files: one and two), that there is substantial traffic between the (3rd-party-owned, distributed, P2P) supernodes that form the core of the Skype P2P network and Skype's (centralized) login servers.
If Skype's explanation is correct, it's clear Skype also has a way of distributing parameters to supernodes that tune their behavior. I'm not surprised. It's a logical to design in both measurement and tuning capabilities.
But such centralized capabilities also represent a potential venerability. What would happen if a black hat got access to those tuning capabilities...
As others are reporting, Skype clients have been disconnecting and reconnecting around the world. Here is Boston, I've been off line and back again at least four times in the past hour. And when I've reconnect, an amazing small number of others are seen as on-line:
In recent weeks, I've been seeing over 9 million users on line at this time of day, so 615K suggests very little of the global Skype network is accessibile to me, if they are on-line at all. A few minutes ago, Jan was seeing 773K other users from his site in Malaysia, so this really is global.
We've known, at least since 2004, that Skype's peer-to-peer network wasn't strictly P2P. The vast majority of traffic (control and media) is P2P, but everytime a client comes on line (well at least at startup and each login), it interrogates the Skype Login Server at skype.com. We also know that a Skype client must establish a connection to a super node to successfully login. But I don't know if there is anything about supernodes that cause them to crash if they can't reach a centralized or semi-centralized Skype server.
It will be interesting to see how this develops. Hopefully Skype will be forthcoming, but if not, I'm sure third parties will piece together an answer.
Quechup - a social networking site that starts each new subscription with anti-social spamming!
I'm interested in social networks and community sites, so I've joined many such services, only a few of which I actually use with any regularity. A few minutes ago, I got an invitation to Quechup and went ahead and signed up. Unfortunately, I didn't Google their name and check other people's comments in advance. [I'm just back from vacation and not thinking???] Worse, I blasted through their sign up procedure without my usual caution.
During the signup process, Quechup.com suggests it search your address book to check if some of your email contacts have already signed up as well, so as to give the networking process a head start. I've seen this before and I'm usually very suspicious, but this time I acted like a total newbie. I let them see one of my address books, in which they found only the person who had invited me. What they didn't mention is they immediately spam each of the addresses they got access to.
If you got such spam, I deeply apologize. I've been on-line for years. I should know better. I do know better! What else can I say? I'm sorry.
Dopplr is a social network for travelers. Plug in your travel schedule and a list of people you'd be happy to meet. Get back info on who will overlap with you, when and where.
I joined last month, but the pool of people using the service was small (my internal ID is 993) and their overlap with people I know or want to meet was smaller (less than a dozen at that time). So I listed my known travel schedule and thought no more of it. Indeed, no meetings have come about as a result. My one impromptu meeting (with Darren McKellin of Visto) on last week's Asia trip, resulted from my blog post not a connection via Dopplr.
But now I notice I have "unlimited" Dopplr invitations available. So while it's still in private beta, it appears I can invite all of my readers! If you are crazy enough to follow this RSS feed or otherwise read any of what I write, then I'm vain enough to correspond, and possibly, meet.
Either way, if you are interested in joining the Dopplr private beta, send me an email (rbt at nmss.com) with your name and email address as you want them to appear within Dopplr.
But if you suffer from Social Network Fatigue, I'll also continue posting travel info in my blog. I'm happy to meet interesting people, as time allows. And anyone who reads my writings must be interesting, right? :-)
As I write this, I’m attending an NMS seminar for about 100 developers in Seoul, Korea. Ordinarily, before I speak to such an audience, I try to plant a question with a friendly in the audience, just to satisfy my western sensibilities — I don’t feel I’ve been successful if there are no questions from the audience. But today I forgot (jet lag?), so no questions. Of course there were no questions for the next four speakers, either. I’m not a fan of generalizations, but this reflects a basic difference between Asian audiences and western audiences.
I see a similar effect in our Connect Conferences. The US and EU Connect Conferences feature panel discussions with panel participants selected, in part, to generate controversy in the ensuing discussion. The Asia Connect Conference has some of this, but a lot more straight presentations.
So how does information get transferred, aside from death by Powerpoint? Certainly Asian development teams are every bit as productive as western teams, if not more so.
Over lunch I had a long conversation with a Korean engineering manager. He had attended Columbia University in the US and was still impressed at how western students asked questions and Asian students were quiet. When I pressed him on his current sources of information, his answers (paraphrased) were:
From my perspective, it’s important to be accessible and to find ways to let people know I’m approachable. This blog has helped, but so have my other articles, webinars, etc. In fact, a common approach line is to thank me for something I’ve written and then move on to asking a question.
The biggest change, in the 15+ years I’ve been visiting Asia, has been the web. Now it’s much easier to provide written material and it’s feasible to distibute audio and seminar presentations, i.e. webinars. Now if only I could get over my craving for audience interaction…
I travel a fair bit and, on occasion, run into people I know in airport lounges. But how much easier if my travel plans were easily visible to friends, business associates, and bloggers & email correspondents I'd like to meet? That's the promise of Dopplr and, now, my request to join has been granted, by Chris Herot. Thank you Chris!
Dopplr's premise is simple, plug in your travel schedule and a list of people you'd be happy to meet. Get back info on who will overlap with you, when and where. There are obvious issues of privacy, but they seem well handled and, anyway, I'm fairly promiscuous with my travel schedule.
The bigger issue is critical mass. I joined yesterday and my internal ID is 993. Chris Herot is 180, Dave Wienberger is 60. I recognize Dopplr members who are well known in social networking circles, but fewer from the telecom blogsphere or other circles I travel in.
So to help build critical mass, especially among people I'm interested in meeting, I have three invitations to give out. Readers of my blog sound like good candidates, so I offer these invitations to the first three people to write a comment below.
The last time I posted this message, I had two and later five invitations to give out. I got dozens of requests before I posted a note that they were all gone. Luca Filigheddu has seen this effect even more than I.
I appear to have received 999 invitations sometime yesterday! I don't know how long this will last, but I've already sent out more than two dozen invitations to some of the people who responded to my earlier post.
If you are interested, send me an email at email@example.com, listing your first name, last name and email address (that's what the current Joost invitiation form requires). Assuming my 973 remaining invitations don't suddenly disappear, I will try and get you invited within a day or so of your email.
Yuval Klein of Plymedia gave a cool demo. Plymedia allows you to annotate any video on the net. It works by providing an overlay, not by modifying the original video. In that sense it's rather like the Chinese service Mojiti. I assume there are others doing this as well, but I can't guess which will succeed. In any event, the Plymedia demo is very cute. ), It's based on Flash.
When launching a new service, initial user experience is critical. This seems obvious and yet it’s missed by startups and major players like Microsoft and Vodafone. I’ve come on this three times in few hours: 3G video calling from Vodafone UK, a new Mac and a mobile social networking service that’s still in stealth mode.
First was an interaction with several folks in our UK office. I’m in a meeting in London and, during a break, we were playing with Mobile TV services. By far the most compelling service was Hong Kong CSL’s 3G Mobile TV service. It’s actually interactive — one second channel changes! — because it’s based on 3G video calling. It’s only available to CSL subscribers who are in Hong Kong and able to dial the CSL short code ‘888,’ but one of our folks had a private backdoor phone number that gives access from anywhere in the world — sorry, if I gave you that number, I’d have to kill you. :-)
The glitch arose when I was experimenting with 3G-UMTS handsets, one from France, one from Hong Kong and two from the UK. The first (Vodafone UK) handset I borrowed didn’t work. After a few experiments it became clear the handset wasn’t correctly configured for any kind of video calling! The answer was “Oh yes, I signed up for video calling, but it never worked.” Then I asked the person currently setting up demos for next month’s 3GSM conference. She had just purchased several demo handsets, being careful to test them in a Vodafone store because her personal handset has never worked! Based on this sample of two, it appears Vodafone UK has problems configuring handsets for 3G video calling. But the key point is, when the service didn’t work immediately, their customers gave up, and they never tried again (until forced by circumstances, i.e. an upcoming trade show).
That was at 10:30am. At lunch, I sat across from a newly minted Mac enthusiast — a savvy executive with engineering and finance degrees. After years of using Windows, he’d purchased a 24" iMac for use at home. His whole rave was about how easy it was to plug in the Mac and immediately start using. it As IT geek for family and friends using Windows, I know how people struggle to get a new Windows machine up and running. For problems with really essential applications (needed for work or to communicate with friends), they ask for help. Anything else, if it doesn’t work the first time, they don’t pursue it.
Finally, I’m involved in an email dialog with a startup that has a really interesting mobile service. At this time, service sign-up is via a website — OK for a US-only launch, but a problem when they move to other parts of the world. My focus is on how they can instrument their web interface to track user behavior. When they go to beta, they need near real time audits — the ability to quickly recognize problems and tweak the user interface to increase initial adoption rates.
Four hours, three incidents, one clear idea — focus on the initial user experience. You only get one shot at capturing new customers, don’t blow it.
1-18: editted to repair HK CSL's 3G Mobile TV URL, which appears to have changed in the past 24 hours!
I've mentioned peer-to-peer TV in China, several times in the past, but I've never pursued the subject in detail, as I don't speak Chinese and I don't watch much TV anyway. However, I was interested in The Venice Project as it's was started by the same team that brought us Kazaa and Skype, i.e. Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis.
Last week I got an invitation for the beta courtesy of James Enck (Thank you!). The initial installation failed, but after a brief exchange with the project team, I was able to get up and running this weekend. On my Verizon Fios connection (currently ~15 Mbps / ~2 Mbps) audio was perfect and the video was very good but occasionally had brief pauses. I did a brief test at NMS HQ (6 Mbps / 6 Mbps) this morning between 7:30am & 7:50am. Everything seemed to work very well until I stopped being able to connect to new channels at all. I haven't pursue it further as I have some real work to do. :-)
Most likely it will be next weekend before I have time to make actual measurements, on bandwidth consumption, etc. But meanwhile, if you are interested, I just got two invitations to participate in the beta which I'd be happy to give to the first interested parties who contact me.
James Seng points out 6rooms, a Chinese clone of YouTube. Surfing further on the subject, the best information I could find was this post from Brian Curtis, especially his further discussion in the comments area.
4) toodou.com (dead last)
Drives home the point that being first to market and well funded is not good enough…
Each time I’ve checked, YouTube was accesible in China. However, the censors can run hot and cold on certain sites. I am not in China at the moment to verify current status.
So a Chinese video market is emerging. 6rooms appears to have a bit over 100K videos up as of today - clearly a tiny fraction of YouTube's inventory. On the other hand, the Chinese market is large and they are actually ahead on some video applications, like peer-to-peer TV. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 12-18 months.
One of the wonderful phenomena of the past few years has been the emergence of Wikipedia as an incredible reference for just about anything. If you've heard Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales speak (for example watch this 20 minute video from July 2005), you've also heard about Wikipedia's vibrant community, how 50% of the edits are done by just over 500 people and 75% of the edits are done by less than 1500 people.
It appears these statistics, while true, are very misleading!
Aaron Swartz has looked at who actually provides the most content and it's very different from who makes the edits. First Aaron was just looking at specific articles, initially the article on Alan Alda. But then he wrote a program to examine the Wikipedia archives and extract statistics. He's written a very comprehensive article, but in summary:
If you just count edits, it appears the biggest contributors to the Alan Alda article (7 of the top 10) are registered users who (all but 2) have made thousands of edits to the site. Indeed, #4 has made over 7,000 edits while #7 has over 25,000. In other words, if you use Wales's methods, you get Wales's results: most of the content seems to be written by heavy editors.
But when you count letters, the picture dramatically changes: few of the contributors (2 out of the top 10) are even registered and most (6 out of the top 10) have made less than 25 edits to the entire site. In fact, #9 has made exactly one edit -- this one! With the more reasonable metric -- indeed, the one Wales himself said he planned to use in the next revision of his study -- the result completely reverses.
When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site -- the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it's the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.
Aaron's a smart guy. As a teenager he co-authored RSS 1.0, worked on the W3C's RDF 1.0 Working Group and wrote RFC 3870. Then he went to Stanford for a year before dropping out to become an entrepreneur. I'm impressed he has the time to work on Wikipedia. He's currently running for a seat on the Wikimedia Foundation Board.
Of course his article raises all sorts of governance issues for the Wikimedia Foundation. Today, you have to have made over 400 edits in order to qualify to vote for members of the board of Wikimedia Foundation, i.e. only the editors can vote, not the folks who are actually contributing most of the content. And not me whose contributions are very minor. What's critical is that it remains easy and rewarding for stray individuals to add content. I certainly hope the Wikipedia inner circle takes note of Aaron's data.
My personal belief here is that given equal exposure, the good generally wins over the bad, and better communication makes it easier for the exposure to be equal, so even though the Internet enables many new ways to degrade, defraud, and deceive people, it also provides new ways to expose evils.
There are many historical examples of this, from the invention of the printing press, then movable type, then telegraphy, telephony, radio, and finally the Internet. Gutenberg did more to break the power of medieval craft guilds and religious authorities, both of whom wanted to keep their knowledge secret.
Some of my blog posts serve to organize a set of references on a topic that's important to me. This is such an occasion -- hopefully one or two others may share this interest.
Back in 2002, I really enjoyed Albert-Laszlo Barabasi's book on networks, Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means, but haven't paid much attention to scale-free networks since then. Yesterday I stumbled on this interesting presentation by Chris Anderson at "SciFoo" last week, which prompted me to revisit the subject. The notes in Anderson's presentation include two great references (Limpert et al., Mitzenmacher) for the mathematically inclined, and the current Wikipedia article on Scale-free networks has excellent content and a lot more references.
New to me, are the diverse models that generate networks which are scale-free but differ in other meaningful characteristics. Barabasi discussed preferential attachment, a model which generates scale-free networks with highly connected nodes near the core. These networks are robust even if a large fraction of the nodes are removed. However the Internet, while a scale-free network, has it's highly connected nodes closer to the periphery, so the preferential attachment model doesn't apply. And as Wikipedia currently puts it,
Indeed, many of the results about scale-free networks have been claimed to apply to the Internet, but are disputed by Internet researchers and engineers.
The "big bucks" part of my headline was prompted by Chris Anderson's The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Anderson's thesis, originally published in Wired magazine, is that the popularity of items in certain markets, like media, follows a power law -- the same law that applies to the connectivity of nodes in a scale-free network! In such a market, a few products have enormous sales but there is a very long tail of products that have only a few sales each. This long tail goes way out, so taken together, sales on the long tail represent big bucks.
Since Anderson's book was published there's been considerable argument about the long tail. Nicholas Carr has good summary of the argument between Wall Street Journal columnist Lee Gomer and Chris Anderson. But Andrew Odlyzko (on a private economist list, quoted here) has the best overall answer to the questions Lee Gomer raised.
As with the Internet, the key question is: does the phenomenon follow a power law (as scale free networks do)? If however, it follows a log-normal distribution, there's a lot less money to be made selling products out on the long tail as illustrated by this slide in Anderson's presentation:
As Anderson puts it:
But here’s the problem. I’ve been assuming that the powerlaw is the “natural” shape of all these markets. But there are other distributions that start off straight on a log-log chart, then fall off the line not necessarily because of a bottleneck effect but because they’re simply not powerlaws. The best example of this is the “lognormal” distribution, which often stays straight for several orders of magnitude before sloping downward. How to tell whether a market that falls off the line is a natural powerlaw shape distorted by a removable bottleneck or a natural lognormal market that will look like that no matter what you do? In markets such as film or television archives, this could be a billion-dollar question.
As I've written before, social networking sites are worthless if they don't succeed in building communities, so I was struck by this report by Christine Herron on the story of Flickr, as told by co-founder Caterina Fake at the recent BlogHer conference:
The Flickr team spent a lot of time greeting every user that came to the site, offering them help on how to get engaged with the rest of the community. Through this, they discovered that online community-building is just like being the host of the party - if guests come to a party, and they don't know anyone, and no one shows up to take their coats and introduce them around, they'll leave. These social networking skills are essential practices to bake into community management. Eventually, you'll want people to identify enough with the community that they themselves will act as the community police, kicking out trolls and making new users feel welcome. This community will also provide much of the user education in a socially networked site - people tend to come once invited there by a friend for a specific purpose, so they come with some idea of what they will be able to do and how the site works.
While I'm on the subject of social networking, Kenji Mori reports that mixi.jp, a major Japanese social networking site (Wikipedia info here) is going public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in September. While the potential valuation (over $1B US) seems absurd, at least as a public company we should get some insights into the inner workings of one social networking company - all the others I'm aware of are private of captive of a larger organization.
Fukumimi is already dissecting their prospectus (and reporting in English!).
The major, major, Korean social networking site, Cyworld, has versions in Chinese and Japanese and, beginning today, in English. The US site has been in alpha for many weeks, but today it's open to anyone, so I tried it out. My new "Minihome" is here.
Looking around, i.e. sampling other members via the "Random Minihomes" button, the current US members are predominately Asian Americans. Quite a few members list their MySpace and other contact info prominently on their Cyworld Minihome, but this may be a reflection of the alpha test policies and the familiarity of the Cyworld brand in Korea and Chinese communities.
A key feature of Cyworld in Korea, mobile access, is either missing or downplayed on the US site. That's too bad. Other than that, it was easy to get started and I think I prefer the look of my Minihome to that of my entry on Myspace.
If Myspace didn't already exist, Cyworld US might have a chance, but to go against Myspace at this point they will need a distinctive product position. I don't see at it, at least at the moment. As I commented in July, Facebook is taking the elitist position and thus growing their niche of college kids and college-bound high school kids. Cyworld has an enormous, profitable business in Korea and they are owned by SK Telecom, so they have the resources to stick it out. I'll be interested to see how their product position evolves.
Myspace dominates US social networking sites. Indeed it dominates all US web accesses. As I noted in June, Facebook comes in 3rd among US users of social networking sites, far behind MySpace. But Facebook has nearly complete control of the college social networking market. And they appear to be leveraging that elite position very effectively.
Facebook started with incremental rollouts at US and then UK colleges. In September 2005 they added a separate site for high school students. In February 2006 they allowed college networks and high school networks to interconnect. Finally, a few months ago they started adding corporations. At every stage they have preserved a sense of exclusivity. For example, you must have an appropriate email address (initially a ".edu" address at a member school) in order to register. Of course once you are registered, you can substitute any other email address and, while you start as a member of the network at your college, you can search across all networks for people and invite them to be friends. So there's a strong sense of exclusivity or elitism, but not as much exclusivity as you think.
Fred Stutzman, a PhD student at the University of North Carolina, posts a very interesting analysis of Facebook adoption among incoming freshman at UNC. The first thing to note is that more than 90% of incoming freshman have signed up on Facebook by the beginning of the summer before they arrive on campus. This was true in 2005 and it is true now. What's different this year is that most incoming UNC freshman already have a large set of friends on Facebook that are not part of the UNC network. Here's the image from Stutzman's essay.
Obviously the high school program has worked wonders. Evidently anyone planning on going to college (at least to UNC), gets onto Facebook while they are still in high school.
Today Myspace gets five times the page views of Facebook, but of all the English language social networking sites (i.e. not counting sites like Cyworld), Facebook has the market position as the exclusive, I'd say elitist, service and they appear to be leveraging that position effectively.
Look for Facebook to move from #3 to #2 in short order.
Perhaps more important, when it comes to monetizing social networking services, Facebook's user demographics give them a strong position. (Some indicators here).
Some postings do little more than point to a press release but others add bits and pieces of discussion, like "unifying 2 of the large 4 instant messaging services ... (MSN, AIM, Yahoo and Jabber)." Others mention ICQ, but no one mentions QQ - the largest instant messaging service in China currently peaking daily at 20 million simultaneously on-line users from a base of 493 million registered users at least 221 million of which are "active subscribers". I don't have access to 3rd party subscriber estimates, certainly not apples-to-apples comparisons but, based on the Wikipedia entry, I'd say QQ is a major IM service provider we ought to be watching.
I've commented before on how little real knowledge there is about Asia among those of us in the US & EU. That's unfortunate as the number of Internet users in China is second only to those in the US and the use of the mobile Internet is more widespread in Asia than anywhere else in the world. Many new mobile phone applications already originate in Asia (e.g. ringback tones which started in 2002 in Korea).
Going forward we should expect many new mobile Internet and Internet applications to start in Asia. It's time to pay attention folks!
comScore Networks tracks Internet usage. They use a sampling approach "based on a massive, global cross-section of more than 2 million consumers who have given comScore explicit permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing."
I don't subscribe to their service but I do follow their press releases. Around the middle of each month they give highlights of the last month's trends. Today's release gives data for the US-only for May.
Whatever negative press MySpace has experienced, it doesn't seem to have slowed things down!
Based on a sample of two, it appears a relatively small percentage (single digits) of registered instant messenger users are actually on-line at any given time. And, if you consider that "on-line" doesn't necessarily mean someone is actually available to receive a communication, the percentages are even lower. That's striking when compared to cellphones, which many people have on for most of their waking hours.
Anyway, here are my two instant messaging data points:
Recently, Skype broke two records. At the very end of March, they reached 6 million users simultaneously on-line and then at the end of April, they reached 100 million registered users. Skype had 6.27 million on-line yesterday mid-morning (EU afternoon), so their on-line users are running just over 6% of their registered users.
Tencent's annual report (pdf) gives statistics on QQ. Tencent Holdings is a Chinese company whose stock trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Their QQ instant messenger service runs on PCs and on mobile devices, mostly within China. As of December 2005, QQ had 493 million registered users, 202 million active accounts and 18.4 million peak simultaneous on-line users. That's about 4% of total registrations, but 9% of active accounts.
What's going to happen as mobile devices become richer communications tools that seamlessly combine context-aware availability with live, or near-real-time messaged, voice, text, photos & video sharing? Think the best combination of VoIP services like Skype and mobile phone interfaces like those I discussed in my March Spring VON presentation.
I expect to see early indications by watching Chinese users as, by shear numbers, the mobile Internet beats the PC-based Internet in China. Companies like Tencent started on the Internet side and have only recently focused on mobile value-added services. It will be interesting to see if QQ's percentage of peak on-line users climbs over the next 12 months.