IT Conversations pushed out a great series of podcasts again last week. As always, good things seem to come in three. In this case, the three were IP telephony, transportation networks, and collaboration. The diverse range of technologies and topics covered in these three podcasts represent a microcosm of the IT Conversation offering; just reaffirming their commitment to appeal to an intellectual audience (myself excluded) with a broad set of interests.

Attenuation and Other Great Ideas

  • Moving Voice Apps to Pervasive Use – A quick and dirty overview of one man’s history of IP telephony and the applications that can be built on top of these services. It helps that the man in question is Jonathan Taylor, founder and CEO of Voxio. In a little over 15 minutes, Jonathan gives a quick yet fascinating personal tour of the evolution of the industry. One highlight for those that were unaware is that Voxio provides Evolution, a free limited scope infrastructure to developers looking to develop IP telephony solutions.
  • Transportation Networks – Although it is a bit longer than the voice apps podcast and tends to meander at certain points, the transportation network podcast provides an abundance of interesting information. From information on rail sizes to an etymology of the word turnpike, there’s some fascinating stuff here. Dr.Levinson doesn’t give too much away, instead leaving the audience to contemplate the parallels between communication and transportation networks and draw their own conclusions. In one quick response to a question, he compared the issue of net neutrality with the establishment of High Occupancy / Toll (HOT) lanes in several states. Pretty insightful.
  • Facilitating Collaboration – This was the best podcast of the group. Ryan Freitas from Adaptive Path pulled together a great piece with some really thought provoking ideas. It would not do this podcast justice to simply highlight a couple of elements. It’s absolutely worth your time listening to this one. While listening to this podcast on my drive to work, I found myself taking notes with one hand and calling people to tell them how pertinent the material was with the other. BTW, I commute to downtown Harrisburg, PA at about 8:00am; you might want to avoid the roads at that time. A couple of the notes that I took on my ride were:
    • Attenuation (4:25) – Used throughout the presentation, this word caught me at first. As a guy that used to do signals intelligence, this has a distinct meaning to me and it isn’t “pay attention to”. Despite the semantic incongruance, the concept that Ryan is illustrating here is awesome. By using certain signals and markers (sharing our del.icio.us bookmarks, blogs, or reading lists, for example), we can better attune as a team and understand what forces are impacting each other’s thoughts and actions.
    • Criteria for Evaluating Tools (15:20) – Ryan had some great suggestion for evaluating lightweight Web 2.0-like tools. Appropriateness, commonality, centralization, portability, uptake – all very good criteria. I liked portability in particular with an eye on exit strategy. 37Signals did a particularly good piece on facilitating easy exit in their book, Getting Real.
    • Alternatives to WebEx (34:30) – Expensive and slow, yes – yes. Passes at work but what about outside of work? Ryan mentioned Vyew. This is simply awesome free software that you’ve got to check out. My additional recommendation, for software development specific alternatives, are collaboration tools like Netbeans’ collaboration project that allow sharing, collaboration, and working with code online across time and space.
    • Wikis (37:00) – Ryan talks about some of the benefits and challenges of wikis. He also handles some Wiki hybrids. Once again, from a software development specific standpoint, it’s worth calling focus to Trac here. Wiki, timelines, RSS syndication, Subversion integration, bug tracking / ticketing, and FAQs – all in one tight pack.
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