Making Skype More Profitable and Ultimately Better

SkypeThere have been a few articles floating around talking about the fact that eBay is considering selling Skype. Although the talk is mostly related to new Skype CEO John Donahoe referring to “synergy” and weather or not the two business are complimentary. I think this might be cover for “profit”. The acquisition of Skype by eBay was a curve ball in most commentators eyes and there is no doubt that it has likely had a negative impact on Skype’s revenue and image.

That discussion made me think about what is it about Skype that is stopping it from being a giant (a bigger one). Number one in my book is the fact that most users don’t pay for any calls they make. They use it as a communication tool while online. They take advantage of Skype’s free calling, which is great. But there is no profit to be made from free. This is despite the fact that paid calls are cheap and deals like “Skype Pro” were top value for money. Indeed the new “flat rate unlimited calling” is also feature rich and again cheap. So if the majority of users are not taking them up on these great offers what can they do?

Charge for the use of Skype. That’s right charge for it, make Skype a subscription service on a per year basis. Before you go screaming your butt off hear me out. If you are screaming you must use and value Skype, I hear you. Skype is one application that I could not live without.

One of the strengths of Skype is the user base, it is massive. Used by an estimated 30% of all internet users and accounting for 95% of all VoIP traffic. Watching the total users online I see a constant + 10 million. There are questions about “active” users on Skype, given that total registered users is reportedly over 100 million but that is what I see on a regular basis so lets use that in our math.

With this huge user base Skype is in a great position to use that market share and economy of scale to charge a minimal subscription fee and make a very large profit. Consider this:

Skype have 10 million active users. Charge $10 per year for the use of Skype free calling PC to PC, therefore outside of SkypeOut. Given the fact that some people won’t pay this and ditch Skype lets be conservative and say that they lose 50% of current users. Now we have 5 million users paying 10 dollars a year. That is 50 million dollars a year! That is profit that they just don’t have coming in right now that could make Skype a whole lot better. Skype’s revenue is currently running around 500 million, subscriptions then would account for 10% of total revenue, that is a lot for any business.

I don’t think that they would lose 50% and I think that it will benefit users and Skype. I would pay 10 bucks a year. I might consider paying more. Why? I think that it is that good and I don’t have a problem paying for a quality service. I have used a number of VoIP services and none compare to the quality that I get from Skype, especially for recording. Generally speaking Skype is constantly reliable and stable, making it easy to use and dependable. Ten dollars a year is a very nominal fee for a great service.

In addition if I knew that the addition of a fee might make for a better Skype and encourage more development, great. They could even concentrate on working on some of my gripes:

  • No record feature native to the software
  • Bloatware like Skype Extras
  • Creating a stripped down version for optimizing call quality

I know that many people will disagree with me and strongly. I may even get flammed for putting ideas in their head. But quite frankly I don’t want to loose Skype. I sure as hell don’t want to lose it to the likes of Microsoft or some other web company that will pollute it with rubbish… “Yahoo! toolbar will be installed with Skype” (in fine print at the bottom of the EULA). Skype should concentrate on being a VoIP service, not a games platform, not aan application client, not anything else.

I will say though that subscriptions without value adding to the application and development of more bloatware would be a disaster. But the opposite would make for Skype to develop and maintain a platform for which there is no equal. As long as they add that record button.

Would you pay 10 bucks for a killer app?

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Great Talk from Lorelle VanFossen

I have had reason to get right up to speed on WordPress of late. I took the opportunity to have a really good look around Weblog Tools Collection. Which is a great source of news and resources for those running their own WordPress install. But in the process I found a real gem.

I have been blogging on WordPress since April 2006. I started blogging and managing my content from scratch. I had little knowledge and had to teach myself most things. WordPress.com is a great place to do that as it is a controlled environment, the tweaking is limited. But I felt that it gave me enough to do what I wanted to do.

One of the disadvantages of this is that some of the cool stuff that you can do with JavaScript for example; you can’t do here. We have to wait for these features to be added over time. Other stuff you have to hack up and make it work. Such as the Skype button here on this blog. You end up being able to make a text box do just about anything.

But it would have been nice to have got some tips and tricks earlier. Which brings me to the gem that I found. If you have not heard of Lorelle and her blog Lorelle on WordPress, make it your business to. Prominent blogger and lover of all things WordPress. Plus she has her head screwed on. I have been reading her blog for ages. Lorelle attended and presented at WordCamp Dallas 2008. She offered to talk on

“whatever was left…”

It ended up being WordPress tips. I don’t care if you are new to WordPress or an old timer, there is something in her presentation for everyone. It is packed full of tips and tricks to get the best out of WordPress.com, or as she calls it “power blogging”. If you want some great ideas on handling your comments and back end generally you will find it here.

Thankfully someone thought to capture the talk on video and share it with the rest of us. Thanks Lorelle foLorelle on WordPressr all your tweaking of the untweakable and sharing it with the rest of us. It also reminded me that WordPress.com is an awesome platform. For the most part I am pleased that it looks after itself as it means I can just use it.

So here is the presentation, enjoy it and be sure to visit Lorelle’s blog and leave a comment. I know she makes every effort to respond and be active in her community.

Just as a side note when I checked out Lorelle’s blog while writing this post I noticed that she is going to be appearing on Jeff’s WordPress Weekly Podcast. Ironically Jeff is a listener of The Global Geek Podcast and an avid supporter of the show and friend of mine. The cool thing about Jeff’s show is that you too can be on it and talk to Lorelle yourself! So off with you and check out both those guys and make sure you say hello to Jeff for me. Check out The WordPress Weekly details while your at it.

Jeffro2pt0 Banner

I Am Not a Terminal Blogger

Time BombIn the last 24 hours there has been a flurry of posts in reaction to an article on The New York Times, basically saying that the bloggers lifestyle is a fatal one. The article goes on to chronicle the recent deaths of a few more prominent bloggers and near misses from heart attacks mostly. In addition to the details about what it is like to be a corporate blogger and how much it is worth. They even mention a quote from Michael Arrington saying:

“This is not sustainable”

This may well be the case with the global giants such as TechCrunch, Gawker Media, ZDNet and others who are in a constant 24/7 race with each other to break the latest news. Even with a huge team and massive financial resources these guys don’t aways win. Yes it is nice when the little guy scores. Despite the fact that they will pretend that he didn’t.

Truth is that there is no point in trying to beat these blogging machines at their game. Why torture yourself? These machines have inside knowledge and get “tipped off” plus they do insane amounts of just poking to see if it moves and then speculate. Their reader numbers and influence makes people take notice regardless of the truth. A search for “rumor” on TechCrunch is a perfect example.

In addition if your a blog that has millions of page views a day and can generate a lot of traffic for companies, the fallout is that these are the blogs that are going to be sent emails about new start-ups, news or “insider information”. The “A-listers” are being used as another cog in the marketing machine. They are making money so everyone is happy.

I think that this means you can’t really have that great a relationship with your readers. Your too busy getting the next big story. Sure they might have a comments section and the “share this” plugin (or some variant) in order for you to participate in the “conversation” but they care more about you talking about them than they do about what you have to say.

In contrast I take a genuine interest in the communities around me. This for me has been the most rewarding part of blogging and podcasting. I actually allocate time and make a point of interacting with our community, especially with regards to the podcast. I have many listeners that are a part of my Skype contacts, twitter, Facebook not only as listeners but as friends. They all have something valuable to say and how much more valuable is that when they know that you have read it and responded to it. I care about them and the fact that they took the effort to say what they think.

But then I am not doing it for a living, maybe things would be different if I was. But to my thinking it is the community that follows you that matters, without them you don’t have much value. Either monetary or the satisfaction of knowing that what you are doing is appreciated. Some bloggers don’t even need this, they are happy with self contentment.

I also agree with what Steve Hodson said about the article. Steve detests the concept of the “A-listers” considers himself a realist and writes like one. Stating that there are plenty of bloggers (the majority) that are adding more value to the conversation by adding substance that the “A-lister” can’t because they are off getting the next story. And they are making a decent living doing it!

So for me the take home message is that death by blogging is not unique to blogging. There are plenty of individuals out there in many occupations that work too hard and forget about life. There are plenty that are dead as well. It is the corporate machine that applies this pressure or themselves. Sure follow the machine just don’t try and compete with it. Ignore the pressure and carve your own niche and community, make them matter and the rewards will come, if that is what you want. Add value to the conversation by providing substance, I get more by reading and hearing about reactions than I do the original story anyway.

I am going to let the machine do it’s own thing, kill em selves in the process and have an opinion about it when they do. I could even write for the New York Times one day.

Another Frog Finally Poses

I say another because I have a fair number of frog images and pictures around the place. I love frogs. They say they are a sign of a healthy environment. So I was pleased when we moved into our new place that we have frogs here as well. While not as many as Far North Queensland, I am sure that every downpipe has one in it!

So I was really pleased when I found this one sitting on the bird feeder where I could get a decent shot of him. I think I took about 10 goes to get one that was good (well good enough to post on flickr).

I have been following them around for ages but they are usually not locatable or are high up on something where a photo would be difficult. In my tracking I have often seen one that jumps from the roof to the grass on his nightly outing. I have never seen a frog jump off something so high willingly! I think this is the same one. Kate is yet to see it, she always hears me say – “there it goes again and you missed it!”.

There is a larger size on flickr, but remember this work is licenced under creative commons.

Green Tree Frog Feb08

Play Chess and Watch the Computer Work it’s Moves

Not a huge player of chess. But this is chess with a difference.

In this version of chess you play as you would expect, but after you take your go the computer starts to calculate it’s move. Normally when this is happening you wait around, not with the Thinking Machine. Lines start to draw all over the board while the computer calculates 1000’s of possible moves and future plays. You keep playing until you loose, or at least that’s what I do.

The Thinking Machine01

Interesting concept and makes for interesting waiting time. The pieces are not the usual representations and this makes it a little more difficult (I lost my queen because of this). I could not tell you how good a player the computer is because I am crap. I am also not sure what the transparent circles are surrounding the board while you are thinking.

Thinking Machine

Still I think it is worth a look at the Thinking Machine 4 just because it does something that I have not seen before, even if you don’t play a whole game.

“Those traces become a key to the invisible lines of force in the game as well as a window into the spirit of a thinking machine.”

Thinking Machine Homepage

Thinking Machine Homepage

Solve the Cube!

It was a mad craze when I was a kid and the only way that I could solve the darn thing was to take it apart!

In recent times I have seen the Rubiks Cube making a small comeback to frustrate people everywhere, they even have an official homepage. But we are prepared this time and we have the Internets to help us.

Behold a page I found for when you are done seeing how messed up you can get your cube. It is called notably enough “The solution to the Rubiks Cube or Magic Cube“. Go, learn it and amaze your friends and indeed impress yourself. Also check out the official guide to getting it solved. I have not compared the two solutions, so they may be identical.

I have no idea if it works, it took years of therapy to get over the last attempt at solving it, I am not about to try again.

The solution to the Rubiks Cube

Quick Screenshot Service

kwout logoFor some people getting that elusive screenshot can be difficult. Not only that, once you have it you then have to host it and code it into a web page or blog post. A service I found a few while back will make this job easy and quick, with some nice formatting and features as well.

The service is called kwout (don’t ask me to say it). When you arrive you are presented with a blank space to input a URL of your choice and some quick straight forward instructions. The process is dead easy to clip a screenshot and have it on your blog in quick smart. Enter the URL of the site or page that you want to take a screenshot of. A new page loads. select the specific area you want clipped and hit the “cut out” button on the floating toolbar. If you want a larger version you can specify exactly or use the slider on another floating toolbar. Essentially this is scaling of the image and it actually looks good. Scaling sometimes screws with an image to the point that it looks awful, this does not seem to be the case here.

From here you get presented with your cut out that you selected. You can change the border, corners and colours of the background. All this changes in real time and you get to see exactly what it will look like.

Next you can select a few options regarding sharing and decide if you want to post it to Flickr or Tumblr.

Copy and past the code and you are done. Another cool thing is that this service uses code and not JavaScript. That means that they work right here on WordPress. Here is the one that I created for the purpose of this post:

This is a great service in that it simplifies the process of getting a decent screenshot for a blog post or some other page that allows html. For people that can’t accomplish the rounded corners, borders and drop shadows it is a great option. Also, if you were in a flat out hurry to post something or on the road or at an internet cafe something like that and wanted a quick image or screenshot, this would do the trick and nicely.

One thing that my be a potential problem is that if you used the service you are at the mercy of that service, or indeed any service upon which you were relying on for content in your pages or blog posts. If the service disappears one day then so do your images. If they decide to change the terms of service or make the service a paid one then the availability of your images might also be affected. So my advice is to use wisely and don’t bank on things never changing. Although the ability to send the image to another service like Flickr does mitigate this problem somewhat.

Still a great way to get a nice fresh image that you can use anywhere.

kwout screenshot homepage