eComm 2010: San Francisco

Next week, an event is being held in San Francisco to discuss the future of communications. The Emerging Communications Conference & Awards (eComm) will bring together top executives from communications companies, innovators, academics, hackers and others to discuss “what’s next?” in telecom, mobile and Internet communications.

I’m thrilled and honored to be speaking at this event – I’ll be talking about how the Open Data and Gov 2.0 movements are changing the way that people communicate with their governments. But I’m even more thrilled to be an attendee at this event.

The speakers list is like a who’s who of the telecom world, and I’m looking forward to hearing many of the presentations. (After eComm Europe in Amsterdam last year, I read some of the presentations that were given and was mightily impressed with their quality and focus.)

If you’re in the San Francisco area, or are someone who is passionate about the changing landscape of communication technology, this is an event you should attend.

Hope to see you there.


The American Cell Phone Gap

A few years back, I wrote and spoke a lot about the importance of the cell phone, and the potential it has to help deliver public services and provide information from government. A lot has changed in those few years, as documented in an illuminating article published recently in the NY Times.

While the U.S. continues its lust for more powerful, sleeker and functionally dubious devices, the rest of the world continues to leverage the power inherent in the ordinary cell phone. The cell phone is at the heart of digital life in other countries, and huge numbers of people have them (or soon will):

The number of mobile subscriptions in the world is expected to pass five billion this year, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a trade group. That would mean more human beings today have access to a cellphone than the United Nations says have access to a clean toilet.

In the U.S., we continue to look to the build out of the broadband infrastructure as a way to connect those who remain unconnected. I can’t help but think (as I have for some time) that the effort to bring more people into the digital age would be enhanced by leveraging what many already have – an ordinary cell phone. There would be a number of advantages to such an approach – as noted in the NY Times article, cell phones are “cheap and shareable and easily repaired.” They also do not present the same learning curve as other digital devices, like laptops or netbooks.

So why isn’t the cell phone (and services like text messaging) as important in the U.S. as it is in other countries? I think part of the answer is that it hasn’t always been easy or efficient to build text messaging applications.

That’s changing – new services like Tropo and Twilio make it (if you’ll pardon the alliteration) trivial to build SMS apps. Certainly other services will soon follow suit, and more powerful tools for building sophisticated SMS and telephone apps will emerge.

As it continues to get easier to build more sophisticated applications, perhaps our use of these devices will change and become more aligned with the rest of the world.

As someone to whom the power of the ordinary cell phone is readily apparent, I sure hope so.

Upgrading to CouchDB 0.11

Just a few days ago, CouchDB version 0.11 was released – this new version is packed full of cool new features as outlined on the blog. It’s also the first release without the Alpha or Beta label attached to it.
Apache CouchDB Logo
What’s more exciting, CouchDB version 0.11 is a feature-freeze release candidate for the upcoming version 1.0. So if you’ve played around with CouchDB and have an old instance laying around, now is the time to upgrade.

If you’ve read my previous series on using CouchDB to build cloud telephony applications with Voxeo’s Tropo platform, and you used my instructions for setting up CouchDB on Ubuntu 8.04, then upgrading to CouchDB version 0.11 will be a piece of cake. (Note – the mirror you download from may be different than below. Go to the download page to find the best one):

Before upgrading, make sure that any customizations you’ve made to the CouchDB configuration are in /usr/local/etc/couchdb/local.ini. The upgrade process will overwrite any changes you have made in default.ini.

$ sudo /usr/local/etc/init.d/couchdb stop

You should probably run make uninstall on the previous version of CouchDB before starting.
If you see leftover files in /user/local
$ find /usr/local -name *couch* | wc -l

You should probably get rid of them:
$ find /usr/local -name *couch* | xargs rm -rf

$ wget
$ tar -zxvf apache-couchdb-0.11.0.tar.gz
$ cd apache-couchdb-0.11.0/
$ ./configure && make && sudo make install
$ sudo /usr/local/etc/init.d/couchdb start
$ curl -X GET

You should see:


Note – if you see an error that says {"error":"error","reason":"eacces"} when trying to create a database or insert documents, you may need to re run some commands listed in the previous install instructions:

$ sudo chown -R couchdb /usr/local/etc/couchdb
$ sudo chown -R couchdb /usr/local/var/lib/couchdb
$ sudo chown -R couchdb /usr/local/var/log/couchdb

I’m in the process of finishing up a project that will make use of the Open311 API deployed by the City of San Francisco and it shall be SQL-free – now that I have CouchDB 0.11 installed, I’m ready to finish up.

Stay tuned – this project is going to kill!