• United States
IDG Enterprise Consulting Director

Positive and negative aspects of always-on communication

Oct 03, 20033 mins
Data CenterMessaging AppsProductivity Software

Humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve; nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of oneself.

T.S. Eliot

Dear Vorticians,

If it hasn’t already become apparent to long-time readers of this Digest, I’m a big fan of The Onion, the satirical ‘newspaper’ I’m sure many of you frequent at It’s an acquired taste and some folks, to be candid, never acquire it (count my wife among them).

Well, just as this community of Vorticians was discussing the positive and negative aspects of presence and always-on communications, The Onion this week offered a gem capturing, shall we say, the dual-use nature of technology.

The headline says “48-Hour Internet Outage Plunges Nation Into Productivity” and the story reads:

“BOSTON-An Internet worm that disabled networks across the U.S. Monday and Tuesday temporarily thrust the nation into its most severe maelstrom of productivity since 1992.

“’In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like this,’ said Price Stern Sloan system administrator Andrew Walton, whose effort to restore web service to his company’s network was repeatedly hampered by employees busily working at their computers. ‘The local-access network is functioning, so people can transfer work projects to one another, but there’s no e-mail, no eBay, no It’s pretty much every office worker’s worst nightmare.’

“Computer technicians at most offices couldn’t do anything but sit by helplessly as people worked through stacks of filing, wrote business-related letters they’d put off for months, and sold record amounts of goods and services over the phone.”

What if it’s true?

Anyway, The Onion aside, this week I wanted simply to give you a bit of homework for next week – homework that was actually assigned by a fellow reader.

In response to the Digest a couple weeks back on IM, Vortician Jay Rolls – a top executive with Cox Communications who spoke at Vortex 03 – wrote: “FYI – the red hot buzz over the last four days has been ‘skype’. Hopefully you’re up to speed on that, but if not check it out. Very rapid uptake. Very viral.”

To my chagrin, I was not up to speed. But I’m learning more about what Vortician Rolls described as “peer-to-peer voice, higher than telco quality. Brought to you by the authors of Kazaa.”

Sound scary? Sound promising? Check it out at and we’ll talk next week.

Bye for now. Thoughts on skype, hype or anything else in the pipe to