Tilting at the Windmills of VoIP

The night before starting to write the first ever item for my first ever so-called blog, an incisive Alec Saunders (http://saunderslog.com/), Founder and CEO of Iotum (iotum) and one of the deservedly more prominent members of the so-called VoIP Blogosphere, laid down the gauntlet.

At a whiskey bar in Boston, where we both are attending the Fall VON show, I was yapping away (as I probably too often do, whiskey or no) about the sorry state of media coverage of VoIP and internet communications, which I causally linked to the fact that blogs and VoIP entered the mainstream at about the same time.

Here’s the life of a typical VoIP story, I told Alec (BTW: Any semblance to the actual conversation I had with Alec is intentional).

A new super cool gadget is built in a city somewhere near Guangzhou and a Public Relations Agent in Santa Monica sends out a press release to thousands of media workers (a list which, naturally, includes bloggers these days) in a language that closely approximates English but not enough so that the typical editor at newspaper can actually understand without having to consult Wikipedia every three words or so.

In the mean time, one VoIP blogger wakes up first after a long night of talking to his (sorry, in the world of VoIP blogging, it is almost always a he) new best friend in Hamburg using the latest super-cool, can’t-miss, USB-device for Skype that everyone … EVERYONE … should be using (until next week, of course, when a more super Skype device comes out).

The early canary (let’s call him Tim) reads the press release and understands instinctively that this new super cool gadget will solve all of VoIP’s problems (except, he forgets, all of the ones that actually matter). Through the magic of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V (readers: replace CTRL with Command if you use an OS that works), Tim puts the press release online in a language that now more closely approximates Flemish. “Remember, you read it here first,” Tim types in at the end, knowing that, at least for one morning, the click-throughs to the PPC ad on the top of his blog are going to double from three to six and he’ll actually net 37 Google cents).

A half-hour later, a second blogger (let’s call him Alfred) wakes up and glances at the RSS reader that has been churning all night long at the Ikea desk in his bedroom. Alfred sees Tim’s entry, and knows instinctively that he has a job to do (afterall, being second is second-best to being first), and he gives “kudos” to Tim for breaking this all important story and then reprints the press release in a language that approximates no known language.

As the other VoIP bloggers come online and see that, to salvage any portion of the daily Google take, they have to comment on the new gadget Tim discovered in his email.

“I’ll be getting one of these babies soon,” writes one.

“Not me,” writes another. “How can they be using the Bluetooth stack 1.1? I have a version 2 dongle on my core duo with 32 gigs of memory and five 500-gig discs of RAID 10 SATA. The throughput on this dinosaur is 4 percent lower than it should be.”

“An interesting toy, but will it pass the “wife test?” asks a particularly boorish wannabe journo. (Note to wives of bloggers who ever use that term: The Nolo Press book on divorce is a lot less expensive than a lawyer and just as good.)

Another blogger who sees the press release, decides to write up the item without having checked to see if his fellow commentators on all things voice have covered it, at which point an indignant and clearly ego-bruised Tim fires back a 15 paragraph tirade against this blogger for not having mentioned that Tim had reprinted the press release first. “This is the problem with the liberal MSM,” writes Tim, in language and intellect shaped by a third-grade teacher at a New England prep school. “And now the problem is making its way into the blogosphere?!?!?!? How very very very … VERY … sad.”

When the king of all VoIP bloggers — you can call him EF Hutton, I’ll call him Omar — weighs in from his MacbookPro sitting at a wi-fi enabled espresso house in a city too blue to be carrying around a Texas Dell in — the VoIP blogosphere comes to a nano-second of silence.

“No real story here,” writes a non-impressed Omar as he sips on a Splenda-laced quad latte.

End of story in the blogosphere, which immediately moves on to the more important continuing question at hand of how the Vonage IPO killed VoIP and whether Voice 2.0 can save it.

By this time, it’s close to noon, and the news story is no longer news and has no place in a newspaper until Markoff or Mosberg mention it in passing a few weeks later, giving Tim more fodder to rant about. And the story hits the blogosphere again for another few hours.

Now Alec is a very nice man (he’s from Canada, where nice is still a good thing), and he allowed me to finish my monologue and then said to me that, given the fact that I toiled in the written word biz (at a couple of those so-called liberal MSM rags) for many years, I should do a blog myself and just STFU (or something like that, but much more tactful).

Challenge taken, Alec. Item #1 done. I’ll write about VON as soon as I find something newsworthy.


  1. PhoneBoy says:

    Usually, Marcelo, if you’re yapping away outside of an office, it’s over a glass of espresso or wine, not whiskey. 🙂