May 2009 Archives

One of the groups in the Royal Film Commission Online Media workshop worked on a video of the workshop itself. There will be a more lengthy and hopefully Arabic subtitled version of the workshop going online after some editing by the RFC. This video is a student-made video which describes the workshop and the various groups and their projects.

RFC Online Media Creativity Workshop
Some participants in the RFC Online Media Creativity Workshop

I've been in Jordan since Sunday and enjoying myself a great deal. I arrived just in time to participate in the last day of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East session at the Dead Sea. I was able to talk to some of the management of the World Economic Forum about Creative Commons and thanked them personally for making their photographs available under a CC-BY-SA license on Flickr.

I gave a talk at the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship for the Entrepreneurs Week program. Thanks to Princess Sumaya and the team at the QRCE for making it a lot of fun and exposing me to some energetic entrepreneurs.

The main purpose of my trip is to run a workshop, with the help of my trusty regional CC rep Donatella, organized by the Royal Film Commission held at the SAE Institute Amman with addition help from the Jordanian Media Institute in selecting participants. This is the result of discussions with Princess Rym, who chairs the RFC and the JMI, and her team during my last trip to Amman.

Although we're still on day three of a 5 day workshop, I want to thank everyone at the RFC especially Mais who has been amazing. Also, thanks to the SAE for the state-of-the-art space and the super-helpful tech guys helping us sort things out. Most importantly, I want to thank all of the students who signed up and apologize to those who weren't able to get in. We had limited space and had to turn down most of the people who applied. We had applications from throughout the region and it was a really hard job making the selections.

I'm really happy with the group that we currently have for the workshop. We have an enormous amount of background, cultural and age diversity and it's really great seeing everyone working together full of energy and creativity. I'm also glad that this is turning into a peer to peer workshop with everyone pitching in to teach and help and I'm definitely learning as much as I'm teaching.

We're all heads down working on our projects and trying to get as much done as we can during this brief period, but you can watch our rather unedited progress on the blog we have set up. We're also twittering and you can follow the conversation at the #rfconlinemedia tag. Hopefully we'll continue some of the work even after the workshop is over.

Finally, I want to thank Donatella (and Mika) for all of their hard work pulling this crazy schedule together.

I still have four more days here so I'll try to write a wrap-up post later.

Muneaki Masuda
Muneaki Masuda

Muneaki Masuda, the CEO of CCC Co., Ltd. recently invited me to join his board and I officially joined yesterday.

I've known Mr. Masuda for about a decade having been in various study groups and working groups together. He and CCC/Tsutaya built the rental video franchise industry in Japan in the 80's and now runs the largest syndicated point system in Japan with about 30M users.

My role on the board will to help out with Internet things and International things.

More details later...

I spend a lot of time on conference calls and am constantly traveling internationally. I've been messing around with various configurations for my personal phone setup. I received requests on Twitter to share the details of setup and why I chose it, and I thought I'd solicit input on improvements as well.

At one time, I was running an Asterisk server at home, on my laptop and at the office and had them connected together. The box at home was connected to my home phone and the office box was connected to the office phone numbers. Asterisk is an open source PBX system that allows you to connect to all kinds of devices that use SIP and IAX as well as service providers that allow you to purchase dial in and dial out services into various countries. I had dial-in and dial-out accounts with a termination service provider, VoicePulse. Also, because it is a PBX, Asterisk itself can do voicemail and conference calls. On Asterisk, I used Zoiper as my client software because it let me used IAX, the Asterisk protocol that I like better than SIP.

Asterisk was super flexible and great in many ways. As I tried to simplify the maintenance, cost and total number of machines that I had, I found that the overhead of running my own Asterisk server and the cost of getting local phone coverage in all of the countries where I need to connect to was too much. I think that if I had a few more people and a physical office in a few more countries, I'd switch back to an Asterisk solution for everything.

After I shut down my Asterisk server, I tried using Skype and SkypeOut to dial into conference call services like FreeConference.com. I found Skype to be reliable sometimes and SkypeOut to be reliable less. It seems to me that SkypeOut has dropped in reliability since I was using it when it first came out, but it might just be the countries I was trying to use it from. What was particularly frustrating was that the DTMF didn't make it through most of the time and I couldn't even get into the conference calls because it didn't recognize the code I was punching into Skype/SkypeOut. Also, as I have begun to communicate with people in countries that have sketchier Internet access and are spread around a lot more, I find that Skype conference calling isn't reliable enough. Since many of the calls involve a ton of coordination to set up and are scheduled for only a short time, reliability is super-important and I need it at approximately 100% for my critical calls.

There are a number of services that provide SIP access to PSTN. In the past I have used Vonage and VoicePulse for dial-out to the US from my Asterisk box, but someone recommended BroadVoice which has a flat rate 35 country plan so I signed up with them to try dialing directly instead of via Asterisk. I'm using EyeBeam, the paid version of X-Lite as the SIP client on my Mac and it seems to be working fine. The connection seems to be basically reliable and stable dialing into the conference call services. I got a script that connects it to Apple Address Book which is nifty. On the other hand, I don't really like the interface on the client itself.

I'm still using FreeConference.com for US only conference calls and using Intercall for calls that require International dial-in numbers. I've used MCI and ATT in the past for these global dial-in services and Intercall seemed to have comparatively reasonable rates. The main problem is that even "reasonable" is not really cheap. Also, Intercall and all of the conference call services except for the expensive MCI (I think it was MCI) system that I used, none of the conference call services seem to have a good web interface to let you do things like mute individual callers, dial out, identify participants, etc.

I've used WebEx and use Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro a lot when I am doing a webcast or have a presentation which has some of this functionality, but I'm really looking or a system more focused on voice and PSTN integration that is low-cost and light-weight, but with a web interface. Any hints would be greatly appreciated.

I use a Mac so the client software I mentioned and Skype reliability might be different for a PC.

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