Interview with Robert Scoble

I had an opportunity to sit down with Robert Scoble at his place a few weeks ago, and here is the video he shot of our discussion and a quick demonstration of our products at ConnectSolutions.  It was a lot of fun, and our topics ranged from web communication, to cameras, to lighting…

Michael Fitzpatrick Interviewed by Robert Scoble

Tech for Working Abroad (with kids)

A business growing like crazy with lots of new products coming online and customers coming in the door.  Three kids under seven.  Sounds like a perfect time to jump on a plane with the whole family and head to France for a month, right?

I’m pretty sure my wife and I talked about the possibility of travelng abroad during our very first conversation back in 1997.  It took us awhile to get there, but we just returned from an incredible month in France (Paris and Le Paradou in Provence) with our three children (all under 7 at the moment).  As I’ve shared this experience with friends and family, I’ve begun noticing some consistent questions about how we managed the kids, and how I was able to continue working (I didn’t take any time off in the end…next trip perhaps) remotely.  So, here you go:  some essential tools and tips we learned during our stay:

Apple iPad

The iPad is a magical device…for kids.  With its 10 hour battery life and lots of storage space, it ended up being the ultimate San Francisco-to-Paris warrior.  We loaded it up with movies, music, and games for the kids, and it made it all the way over with plenty of battery life to spare for another round of Toy Story or various kids games.  The parents enjoyed it too, as once we set-up wireless in the two places we stayed, it became a great email client and web browser for us to geek on during downtime.

Airport Express

I mentioned how the iPad was great for email and web browsing, but if you are traveling abroad, you don’t want to be using AT&T’s incredibly expensive data plans for the iPad, or your laptop, or your phones.  At the last minute, I grabbed the above AirPort Express and threw it in my bag thinking there could be a possibility of the “high-speed wireless” not working at our rentals.  It was a good call given that neither of the two locations had working wireless set-ups.  With this device plugged in, our iPads and computer were quite happy.

Adobe Connect

If you are going to be attempting to meet with your team, customers, and partners during your stay abroad, you aren’t going to want to hop on a plane nor sit on one end of the telephone for a long time.  I used Connect extensively during my travels as a way to make the discussions more social (webcams), as well as more productive (real-time document sharing, etc…).  Yes, I drink my own champagne.

Skype probably saved me several hundred dollars over the course of the month we were away.  Get the “Skype In” capability, so you can hook it up with the next wonderful service:

I’ve been using this as my primary number in my email-signature for awhile now, and it proved amazing while in France.  Folks call my Google Voice number, and I have it set to ring my mobile phone, my Skype account above, and even my office number.  As calls came in, I could answer them on my Skype account to make it basically free, without asking anyone to dial any new numbers, etc…  Very convenient for your callers, and you!

This one kind of just happened.  I had tried out foursquare awhile back, and it didn’t really click.  Early in the trip, however, I realized that having a log of all the fun places we went to (including little cafes, museums, parks, etc…) would be really nice, and this service is great for that.  I wish they had an easy way to export all of the locations we “checked-in” to, but it served us well and we found some good local places through the service.

ConnectSolutions Team

Last, but not least, I have to give credit to the team back at ConnectSolutions.  Their hard work ensured the business continued to be successful and grow while enabling me to get away with such an incredible trip with my family.  The welcome I received upon my return was the most impressive display of corporate pranks I have ever seen or heard of…and I look forward to returning the favor one day.

I’d love to hear from you all about what else could have made our trip even better!?!

Everyone Should “Share” with Adobe…

With two small kids at home, there’s a lot of talk/demanding of “sharing” stuff, and in many cases, meltdowns occur as the concept is still a bit foreign to a four and two year old. Fortunately, when it comes to Adobe, they have the concept down and are proving it through a new Beta launch of a document sharing service code-named “Share.”

Before I review this, let me come clean: Before the days of ConnectSolutions (ok, not that long ago), I had the opportunity to work with an incredible team at Adobe on a variety of hosted services geared towards “knowledge workers.” This team was responsible for Acrobat Connect, but also a series of stealth projects that will truly change the landscape for small and medium size businesses and their knowledge workers. Well, after what I’m sure was many long days over the past several weeks, I had the priviledge of kicking the virtual tires…

Share is a hosted solution that allows individuals to upload, organize, and of course, share documents with others. Sign-up is very simple (and free!), and provides users with instant access to a significant amount of storage. This storage is accessible from anywhere, which is important for anyone who travels, or of course, anyone who tends to work from home, café, etc…

As we’ve come to expect from Adobe, the service is front-ended with a beautiful, engaging user experience. Uploading documents is very simple, with the ability to upload multiple documents at once. With a single-page UI, you can select your documents to upload, identify permissions associated with viewing/reviewing the documents, and then upload. I’d like to see a desktop application to accomplish this through drag-and-drop though…

Once you’ve uploaded a document, the magic begins. You’re provided with a very slick interface to your document repository, which includes thumbnails of the actual documents and basic information about them. Even better, a simple double-click over a document delivers an embedded preview right in your browser. No waiting for an external application to load (this includes no Acrobat Reader for PDF files), just instant satisfaction. Right now, it appears this capability is limited to PDF and image files, but other document types are apparently coming. When it comes to sharing, you have a variety of options including email, URL, and embedding documents in external web sites, blogs, etc… This is extremely useful in providing dynamic access to relevant content, in an engaging way.

While I’m very excited about this initial Beta, I will put my bias down briefly for one critique: A large part of my document sharing workflow includes allowing others (team members, partners, customers, lawyers, etc…) to review these documents, and make edits or changes directly in them. My preference is to retain control over who sees a document, but then allow them to engage and modify a document as they see fit. Ideally, this happens directly in the document, and doesn’t require me going back into the original and duplicating the changes. Given that need, I believe Share has a great opportunity to allow direct commenting and review, and even editing, of the documents that traverse through its service.

In summary, I’m very excited about the potential here with “Share” and the work the Adobe team is putting into this solution area. Congrats to the team for pulling this off so quickly and allowing us to benefit from the work involved!

(WWASD?)!!!

Web Conferencing: "Meet" the desktop

ConnectSolutions has just "sneaked" a Beta of "MeetingPulse," a desktop application fully integrated with Acrobat Connect.  The app is based on Adobe AIR, and provides instant access to Connect meeting rooms, allowing users to quickly access their meeting rooms, be notified of participants joining their rooms, and viewing historical trends in their meeting usage.

The application is free to the Adobe Acrobat Connect community, and is available for download at:  http://labs.connectsolutions.com

For more information on the app, visit the official ConnectSolutions blog

Hope you enjoy it!

Changes

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here, but it is not because I’ve been lazy.  I’ve recently left Adobe to start a new business, and as a result, have been burning the midnight-oil to get that off the ground.  The new business is focused on providing managed services, with an initial focus on web conferencing.  If you’ve followed this blog, then you won’t be too surprised to hear that the web conferencing software of choice is Acrobat Connect.

You can read more about the new company here:  www.connectsolutions.com

I’ll be setting up a blog over there shortly that will focus on web conferencing & Acrobat Connect related topics, so I encourage you to subscribe to it if you are interested in that space.

Exposing some inaccuracies in feature comparisons of Vyew and Acrobat Connect

A post on TechCrunch today walked readers through feature comparisons of Adobe’s Acrobat Connect and Vyew.  It wasn’t made clear who provided the feature review (suggestion for the future TechCrunch…), but there are several inaccuracies I wanted to highlight:

  • Anytime Collaboration – Acrobat Connect has supported asynchronous and synchronous collaboration since 2003
  • 100% Browser Based – Vyew requires Adobe Flash, just like Acrobat Connect.
  • Multiple On-demand Sessions – Acrobat Connect (and formally Breeze, and formally Presedia) has supported on-demand viewing of documents since 2000.
  • Screen Capturing – Acrobat Connect supports the ability to take a snapshot of a shared screen, and even then layer whiteboarding tools and comments over that screenshot.
  • Custom Session URLs – Acrobat Connect has supported custom URLs since 2005.
  • External Publishing – Acrobat Connect has supported both taking presentations and content offline (for use on CDs), publishing to external websites, or simply referencing from external websites since 2003.
  • Custom Color Themes – Acrobat Connect has supported customization of theme colors and logos since 2005.

All that said, I think Vyew is doing some interesting things with a relatively bootstrapped team, and I look forward to continuing to watch their progress.  However, I didn’t want to let these inaccuracies go un-addressed.
The original article is here:

Vyew3A20Free20Live20Web20Conferencing

BRINGO’ing an end to annoying interactive phone directories

bringo logo

Very cool! This is one of those services I wish had been around years and years ago. I just used Bringo to get through to a customer service agent at United Airlines, and I am impressed.

I am traveling tomorrow down to LA, and I couldn’t find my confirmation number, nor was it on my mileage plus account. I was getting the sinking feeling that I might have forgotten to actually book the flight a couple of months ago. I decided to call United Airlines to see if they had any records of my travel. I called the number, spent about three minutes navigating their phone tree to try to speak with someone, and at the point where the automated voice gave up and was going to transfer me to a human, it hung up. I was about to dial-up again and do the whole routine once more when I remembered a recent TechCrunch article on bringo.com.

Using the service is drop-dead simple:

  • Go to the site and select the company you wish to engage
  • Bringo will then ask for your phone number, and then perform a quick call to that number to verify you are who you say you are. My phone rang immediately, and I simply clicked #.
  • The site immediately acknowledged my confirmation of the number, and began to do the dirty work of calling United Airlines.
  • About 30 seconds later, my phone rang and there was an operator on the other end!

Not only was this a much better experience (I could do work while Bringo worked for me), but United did have my record and all is well.

Great, simple service Bringo…

BRINGO : Stop Talking to Machines and Talk to a Real Human