Category: Life

TwilioCon Keynote Summary Day 1

The first annual Twilio conference has been a blur so far but I’ll do my best to re-cap for my friends who couldn’t be here. Jeff Lawson started off by giving a re-cap about the growth of the telecom industry and the more recent stagnation of innovation. It was an industry waiting to be disrupted. There are now 50,000 developers using Twilio and it’s #7 and #13 on the programmable web API directory

So why is Twilio a great platform to build on?

  • Twilio runs in the cloud so it’s easy for anyone to attain access to. Telecom software in the past required expensive and complicated investments in hardware.
  • Using a cloud services allows you to scale up or down with very little pain.
  • Code changes are pushed approximately every 6 hours so the infrastructure is always getting better
  • Applications can be built quickly. For example, AirBNB took the Twilio voice client from idea to production in 48hrs.
  • Twilio uses existing devices and is essentially a meta-layer on top. It lets you do interesting things and solve business problems in interesting ways. With Twilio your device essentially becomes the application, you don’t need to think of it as just a regular phone.

 

Demos of newly announced Twilio functionality

Steve Martocci from Group.me came on stage and had a pretty casual and inspiring chat with Jeff about going  from idea to TechCrunch buzz in less than 48hrs at the NYC Hackathon. The main points I took away were that there are a lot more people who know how to start things than market things.  People that can build things need to partner with people who can execute and market those things. He left us with this tip on how to build a product:  “Keep experimenting, find something that works, build a great team around it.”

Next up Steven Yan gave an overview of how Zendesk has implemented the voice client into their help desk software.  Zendesk has added functionality to allows call centre workers to make recordings of inbound calls and assign the voice clips into tickets against the user. This obviously enhances service but also provides transparency

iOS SDK Announcement

Jeff announced the beta voice SDK for iOS. To demonstrate this, Kyle Roche from ringDNA showed how they use the voice client in a 3G-based iPad app.  Andrew Wilcsak from AirBNB showed how they use the voice client in their new iPhone app to easily allow users to connect over voice without having to give out personal information such as phone numbers. Jeff and Andrew had a comical exchange on how a potential airBNB renter would gain the trust of a property renter over voice.

Twilio Connect Announcement

Twilio Connect has been released which makes it way easier for application builders to separate the code and application from the billing and pricing. Twilio app can now run under anyones Twilio account. Connect uses an “Oauth-style” authentication similar to Twitter to let users sign up their own Twilio account to pay for a Twilio application they use. This septation of customer accounts from developer/service accounts makes it a much smoother billing process for everyone involved.

Inspring finish

The keynote portion of the morning ended off with Ron Conway coming up and giving a really inspiration talk on the huge potential in the mobile marketplace right now. This was by far my favourite keynote of the morning. “The industry has never been as disruptive and active as it is now.” We’re in a time where software is replacing off-line industries. Email was one of the first technologies to do this by replacing physical letters. But it also extends to cases such as Kayak replacing travel agents and even Hipmunk replacing Expedia. His statement that “No application out there that can’t be solved with software” was particularly interesting. This made me wonder what will happen to industries such as shipping and transportation. Mr Conway ended by talking about “Collaborative Consumption.” This is the notion that consumers, not businesses are are the ones creating new marketplaces and they are doing it via collaboration. A good example of this is AirBNB.

All in all it was a very inspiring morning. Can’t wait for the rest of the afternoon sessions and the hackathon tonight.

rspndr.me launch

This week I announced the launch of rspndr.me. It’s a simple cloud-based application that helps volunteer emergency personnel quickly communicate when responding to incidents. It took less than 10 hours to build but solves a very real problem facing volunteer emergency teams.

Why?

Rspndr.me came about after chatting with a volunteer fire fighter friend of mine. Their department found that they didn’t know who was responding to a call until all responding members showed up at the Fire Hall. Currently, initial communication between members consists of a one-way pager used by the 911 service to alert them to an incident. Two-way communication isn’t available until members arrive at the hall where the radios are located. This results in ‘period of silence’ between when a member receives a page to when he arrives at the hall. Rspndr.me solves this by using a simple voice and SMS service.

Who is it for?

rspndr.me is for any emergency service department that needs simple group-based messaging. More ‘non-urgent’ functionality may be added to help other vokunteer organixations such as Search and Rescue teams

How does it work?

  • Members sign up their cell phone number and name with the service by sending a “START John Doe” SMS message to their private rspndr.me phone number. This adds their name and number to the database
  • When the member receives a page that he is able respond to, he dials the private Rpsndr number from his mobile number (typically saved into speed dial). The automated service picks up, confirms with a voice response and sends out SMS messages to all other members indicating that John Doe is responding
  • Members can pause, restart or end their SMS notifications by issuing simple SMS commands the Rspndr number.

 

Design considerations

  • The intention of rspndr.me is to keeps things simple and automatic. Feedback from firehall members indicated that a mobile app or even writing a quick SMS message would be too difficult and time-consuming. Having a speed dial number that answers with a short’check-in’ message makes it quick and easy for anyone to use the service.
  • rspndr.me had to be easy to maintain and configure. There are no web sites or applications requires to sign-up or modify settings. Members can individually start, pause and stop their subscription with simple SMS command.
  • Minimal training and simplicity will ensure a high adoption rate.

 

How is it built?

Rspndr.me is built on Kohana (PHP framework) and MySQL. Twilio is used for high reliability of voice and SMS services.

TED Global Live Streaming Event

This is kind of a last-minute initiative but I thought I’d send out a feeler anyway. TED Global 2011 started today and is being held all week in Scotland.  This is the “Main” TED conference where they have speakers at the top of their field presenting on various fascinating topics.  They’ve made the event available for live streaming for a fee of $500 for the entire session. This allows up to 10 viewers at any one time. While I can’t sell tickets, I can ask for donations to recover the cost.

The event runs Monday to Thursday 8am-6pm GMT so I was envisioning streaming it in the Kickstart lounge at Accelerate Okanagan. Viewers could come in on a drop-in basis.  The only drawback is the time zone issue (GMT+1):
Wed: 12:30am-10:15am PDT
Thurs 3:15am-10:15am PDT
Fri: 12:30am-4:15am (Malcolm Gladwell is in the 1st half of this slot)

If anyone is interested please let me know ASAP so I can get this setup.

The program guide is here:
TED Global Program Guide