January is the month for reporting on last year, and the biggest change in the way I used Internet last year was the headset.  I never leave home without it, either a discrete white one for my cell phone, or a clunky one with a good microphone for my laptop.

Why do I bother to drag a headset around?  Because podcast and phone conversations are really important to me.  And I have started to watch video systematically, and include video search in my information searches.  When I had to stay around for 20 minutes after my swine flu vaccine shot, I could watch an interesting YouTube video about learning metadata standardization on my cell phone.

When are headsets useful:

  • Headsets make the Internet available in noisy situations, and my life is sometimes noisy.
  • Headsets make me available to the world, and filters information for the others since they avoid the noise in my surroundings
  • Headsets support person to person communication, and I like talking to people
  • Headsets support feelings, since the sound of your voice gives me a lot more information than text and emoticons
  • Headset comes with the cell phone, which is a body part

Late summer 2009 the swine flu scare caused us to investigate a scenario where 40% of the work force and students in higher education has to work from home because of quarantine rules and parents staying home to care for children.  Main advice: buy headsets for everyone! Video is not all that important, but sound is critical.  Other issues that we investigated includes services for shared authoring and phone meeting infrastructure.  Luckily the scenario never materialized, but the advice stands: buy a good headset!

One thing that bugs me: the lack of federated authentication and good authorization mechanisms for conference facilities.  Phone conferences and many video conferences are set up by sharing secrets.  Other multi-party conferences are managed by social networking facilities where people have to be contacts or friends to be able to join a conference.  Some facilities rely on the good ol’ Security-by-obscurity for access, where being wide open is useful but risky.  Another thing that bugs me is gatekeepers for video conferences, they are just plain nasty and non-communicative.  And some of the video conference user interfaces should be taken out behind the barn and shot, to get them out of their misery.