MagicJack Blocking Conference Calls

In the last week, we’ve had a high number of MagicJack customers being unable to connect to our service. Magic Jack is a phone device that utilizes VoIP technology (PDF link) to make phone calls. After talking to some customers, we‘ve learned that MagicJack is blocking our conference number. We’ve done some research and wanted to share with you our findings.

Here are some things we know:

  • MagicJack is blocking only direct dial/non-toll free numbers.
  • A message is heard advertising MagicJack conference service.
  • MagicJack is not just blocking AccuConference, it is blocking most providers who have non toll free numbers.
  • We’ve been instructed to send an email to MagicJack to request that our services to be unblocked.

We are in the process of sending this email, but there is a limit to what we can do to get MagicJack to unblock our numbers. Unfortunately, we cannot provide an ETA on when these numbers will be available again, or, honestly, if at all, because this is in MagicJack’s hands.

A similar situation happened a few years ago with AT&T and Qwest blocking free conference services and the FCC ruled that they could not do that. Since VoIP services like MagicJack are new and grew quickly in popularity, rulings on these kinds of practices are still pending from the FCC.

Until the FCC rules on these issues, we here at AccuConference cannot force MagicJack or any other VoIP provider to unblock conference numbers. All we can request is that they do not block their paying customers from using conference numbers. Until they do this, our hands are tied. When possible, use a land line or cell phone that can connect into a direct dial/non-toll free number. If that’s not an option, you can try another VoIP provider and see if your call will go through.

We will continue to do everything on our end to resolve the issue with blocked numbers, but in the meantime, you can call us to see if there is anything we can do to help. As I learn more, I’ll keep you updated on the situation.

India Temporarily Extends BlackBerry’s Lifeline

The Indian government delayed a ban on Blackberry services, which was threatened for Tuesday, allowing the wireless company, Research in Motion, to continue operations pending a 60-day security test.

This is the latest development in an ongoing tug-of-war between RIM and India, who are debating how much access the country’s government should get to Canadian-based BlackBerry’s encrypted data services.

The Indian government says access to email and data services are essential in maintaining the country’s national security; meanwhile, RIM is reluctant to turn over peoples’ private correspondence to the government.

It appears that the parties reached some sort of agreement, though it remains unclear what consensus was struck.

In a statement, the Indian government said Blackberry allowed access to certain portions of information, which would be operationalized immediately. However, the government showed some skepticism saying, “The feasibility of the solutions offered would be assessed thereafter.”

The Indian government, along with several others, says terrorists exploit the encrypted data services, using them to correspond clandestinely. The government says terms of use agreements obligate wireless phone companies to divulge information as it is requested by law enforcement agencies.

RIM says that it can’t provide unencrypted messages and e-mail. The only servers that can decode the messages are owned privately by RIM’s corporate customers. So, messages are encrypted automatically by the phones and reach RIM’s servers in Canada in encrypted form.

The battles between RIM and countries like India and the United Arab Emirates have caused skepticism among investors, causing the company’s shares to drop significantly. On Monday shares closed at $45.59, down .88 percent.

The Amazing Dr. S

One of the funniest memories I have of college was the day I showed up for class and changed my mind. You see I was a freshman at the time, drunk off the ability to set my own class schedule and have freedom on if I came to class or not. One afternoon, I went to class with my friend from high school and before class started, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s blow this pop stand and go get some lunch.” We grabbed our purses and American history books, and we high tailed it out of there. On the way down the hall, we came face to face with the professor of that class. Oops. We did not plan our escape and when he asked us where we were going, we sputtered out the first thing we could think of, “Just to the bathroom!”

I’m sure he figured out we ditched after about twenty minutes. If it didn’t, then Dr. H is still standing in the halls of McBrien waiting for us to come back. Now I know what you’re thinking – How could the history nerd walk out of an American history class? The answer is simple – Dr. H was the worst public speaker of all time. Don’t be surprised. He was a nice man, I’m sure he was a very smart person, but he simply was not an engaging professor. Here kids, read this syllabus. Here, let’s all read chapters from our history books out loud. He was dry and I barely passed his class by the skin of my teeth.

On the flip side of the coin, I had a World History teacher, Dr. S, who was the most engaging professor I have ever come across. Every day in her class was exciting. She always had some sort of story about the historical figures we were discussing – like how Napoleon is the reason there are three buttons on military jackets. His men were always wiping their runny noses with their sleeves and soiling them. Napoleon added another button to the sleeve so that they wouldn’t be able to wipe their noses.

Dr. S knew how to use little interesting tidbits to engage us and in comparison to Dr. H, I passed her class with flying colors. When it comes to engaging with your audience there are some things you can do to be like Dr. S.  She made sure that: 

She was incorporating facts we may not know. Sure everyone knows who Napoleon is, but the button thing – had no clue. Dr. S knew that the key to getting her audience to retain information was to tell them something new, instead of just repeating old information we’d heard since 1st grade.

  • Try to introduce your participants to new information or updated facts that will benefit your attendees.

She was communicating with us, instead of speaking at us. We were a part of the conversation and not just observing a lecture. She lobbed questions at us, surprising us by calling on those who may not be paying attention.

  • Have a conversation with participants and don’t just tell them things. Even if they are quiet and listening intently, you can still get them involved by using humor or asking questions.

She had the best tone of voice. Dr. S loved what she did, and you could tell by the way she spoke about history. She was never anything but enthusiastic while teaching us. Every time she opened her mouth, there was love and passion for the subject of history. It’s something I learned from her.

  • Remember that if you’re going to speak about something, it should be something you’re passionate about – your tone of voice is the most powerful thing that you have to get your audience’s attention.

Dr. S was a great professor, and above all the super cool things she told me, she was also memorable and I wanted to take her classes again. When it comes to hosting presentations and events, becoming memorable and enjoyable is what is going to keep people coming back for more. What are you doing to make your presentations unforgettable? How are you like Dr. S?

Communication Trends

Take a look at what you’re doing today to get a hold of your customers and friends. Is there anything that you’re doing right now that you hadn’t thought of doing a month ago? (Perfect example – FaceTime) How about two?  What about a year ago? How much has the way you communicate changed in the last 15 years? I know the answer – a lot. Things keep changing and eventually, there will be some avenues of communication that will be in a museum somewhere one day. Here are five communication trends I am starting to see.

  1. Social Media – Probably the biggest trend in past years is the growth of social media as not only a platform to communicating with friends, but also as a way to reach customers. It’s being used for everything right now – advertising, customer service, and marketing. It’s taking away the need to send an email to your cousin or to pick up the phone and call a local business to get an answer or help. You just send out a tweet and hopefully) the business will respond promptly.
  2. Decline of Emails – Currently, the use of emails as the preferred medium in an office is on the decline, despite the availability of emails through the mobile technology. The reason for this could be related to a couple of things:  more companies are adopting IM technologies that provide a quicker means of response and idea sharing, or it could be because companies are encouraging social media relationships with customers.
  3. Travel is stressful and expensive, and companies are cutting down on expenses. To keep the flow of business, there’s an increase in use of conference calls to get employees together, and saving the air travel dollars for special reasons.
  4. Less Tech-Speak – I’ve found that more places and people are coming down to their customer and client levels when it comes to sales.  Speaking above your customers head doesn’t mean that you’re going to get that client. What’s probably truer is that you’re going to confuse them, and if they are confused, they won’t want your services. More companies are trending to speak on a level the customer can understand.
  5. Decline of Automated Systems – While there are still plenty of these out in the world, I’ve noticed a slow decline of auto mated systems in the past six months. More customer service lines are opting to use the automated system to gather an account number and name, and then patching you into a live person.  In fact, a few have even done away with the auto operator on the whole. I hope this is a trend that continues.

There are a ton of other communication trends happening out there.  What have trends have you been noticing and embracing in your own communication?


Cisco Makes Bid to Acquire Skype


Cisco reportedly made an offer to acquire Skype in an effort to nab the telephony company before its IPO, according to a source who spoke with the technology blog, TechCrunch.

The source said that Cisco may be looking to acquire the company with an offer in the ballpark of $5 billion, though TechCrunch has been unable to confirm the report with an official statement.

The secrecy is apropos of a company that is on the verge of an IPO, a move that usually requires high degrees of confidentiality—especially in the stages right before going public.

Some analysts say that $5 billion may be a little much, especially since Google recently released its own version of VoIP powered through Gmail. These analysts point out that the VoIp atmosphere is heating up, so the increased competition may cause a devaluation of Skype. Also, Ebay recently sold its 70 percent share of Skype and valued the company at $2.75 billion.

As of the time of this writing, neither Skype or Cisco have issued any statements concerning the matter, though some analysts say it’s likely that Skype will accept the offer so they can remain competitive with Google.

More updates as the story unfolds.


AccuConference Announces Fax to Email Service

AccuConference would like to announce the unveiling of our new option, fax to email — a service that will enable customers to receive their faxes via email.

Fax to email is all about the streamlining of our customers’ communications. It’s a practical application that will convert faxes to PDF’s that will arrive in our customers’ inboxes. These faxes are archived digitally, allowing customers to sort, store, print and review them as if they were a typical email.

For less than $2.50 a month, customers get a dedicated, uniquely assigned fax number. In addition to fax-to-email conversions, it allows customers to receive faxes in an electronic Web format, which puts them at customers’ fingertips and makes them viewable from any browser. Fax to email also grants access to a customer site where customers can log in and view all of their faxes and calls.

Fax to email is a modern opportunity that chimes with modern businesses in the information age. With so much inflow of information, the ability to organize and archive digitally is essential.  The fax to email service fulfills that need.

You Typed in “Net-Neutrality”. Did You Mean Litigation?

The buzz on the news sites right now is that Paul Allen has filed a lawsuit against the entire internet.  Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, has officially filed against 12 companies, alleging a violation of patents that he owns.

The suit lays out four patents for technology one of which allows for a website to “suggest” things consumers might like, and another that allows readers to locate stories based on a subject.

The lawsuit was filed by Interval Licensing, LLC., a company that Paul Allen financed during the internet boom.

What’s interesting to note is that Microsoft is left off the litigation, but that a lot of big name internet companies are named, including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo.  

This lawsuit follows a string of other patent lawsuits, including that of NTP against of the same companies in Paul Allen's suit. This suit included Microsoft and was focused technology patents regarding the way email is delivered to mobile phones. The court ruled in favor of NTP and similar patent cases have been ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.  Such cases have resulted in big payouts, like Research in Motion, Ltd., the maker of BlackBerry, shelling out $612.5 million since 2006.

The spokesperson for Interval Licensing David Postman says, “We recognize that innovation has a value, and patents are a way to protect that.”

TechCrunch quotes a representative from Google, “This lawsuit against some of America’s most innovative companies reflects an unfortunate trend of people trying to compete in the courtroom instead of in the marketplace.”

In the shadow of negotiations with the FCC, Google, and Verizon over net-neutrality, the integration of Bing into Yahoo!, and the growing popularity of Google Android and Apple mobile devices – is this a way to Microsoft to catch up with the rest of the pack, or do you think there is some validity to Interval Licensing’s patent suit? 


What's Your Superpower?

I am five feet tall, and my husband is a man who is well over the six foot mark. Now, as adorable as we look together, he’s also quite handy to have around. Whenever I need something that’s on a shelf, I just ask him to come get it for me, and since I’m pretty dang short, I am often calling for his help. I do it so much, in fact, that he has determined that he has the worst super power in the world.

He’s naturally good at getting things off tall shelves because he’s a tall person. For him, it’s nothing, but for me it’s the greatest thing in the world.

Have you ever considered what your super power might be?

I was reading the latest Escaping Mediocrity and watching on Twitter as @SaraRobinson struggled with this post. As part of her coaching she is supposed to name ten ways that she can be a rock star for her clients. It’s easy right? Not so much. She ran into a couple of roadblocks while trying to figure out what her super powers are – mainly, she didn’t want to brag and she mostly just considers herself to be a normal hardworking person. It’s so hard for us to admit what our super powers might be. What matters is if we can identify them and how we are using them.

If I look at myself, I realize that I have been writing ever since I could pick up a pen and make letters. Somewhere in my Papa’s attic is a box of composition books that contains some of the worst stories ever. I always liked to write and I just thought it was something that made me special. Writing has always been something that I was good at. I’ve taken that skill and turned it into my career (which is pretty sweet).

You superpower is something that simply sets you apart from everyone else and when you are trying to get clients to come to you – it can be the thing that makes you the one to do business with. Everyone is trying to find a competitive edge and yours can be as simple as a talent or personality trait you’ve had all your life.

Sit down and think about something that just seems to come naturally to you. Are you a great speaker? Are you comfortable in social situations that might drive someone like me to the brink of a nervous breakdown? Once you’ve identified your super power, how are you using it to set yourself apart from the others?

Think about that, and then comment below or find me on Twitter and tell me what your super power is and how you’re using it.

Airlines Consider Worldwide Mergers

Pan-continental airline mergers seem to be creeping more and more into the airline industry’s horizons, now with the CEP of the International Air Transport Association saying that consolidations around the globe are the next step.

Giovanni Bisignani, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, told the Dow Jones Newswires that airlines would need to consolidate beyond national borders to maximize margins in the future.

He also bemoaned the current restrictions, which exist in the U.S. and abroad, that prevent foreign airlines from owning over 49 percent of domestic carriers.

Airline mergers in the U.S. have been profitable for the airlines, but somewhat controversial among consumers who often wind up with fewer flight choices.

Domestically, Delta has completed a merger with Northwest and United Airlines is in the process of merging with Continental, along with other major-carrier combinations still underway.

Most domestic airline CEOs are of like mind with Bisignani, saying consolidations result in higher margins.

In Europe, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the German airline that accreted with three airlines last year, officially reported that they would be on board with the trend too.

Bloomberg reported that Stefan Lauer, a Lufthansa executive, said mergers were very likely and that they were an exciting prospect for the airline industry.

Industry analysts point out that the mergers will help airlines stay afloat and could lower prices for larger companies. However, it also reduces competition as there are fewer players in the game.

Shorter flights either atrophy or become more expensive as the larger companies look more toward increasing longer, more popular flights. 

Netflix Introduces Streaming App for iDevices

The Netflix application that has been so popular on iPads was made available for iPhone and iPhone touch users today.

The free app, version 1.1.0, universalizes television and movie streaming for the iOS-based devices and is a move that will spearhead Netflix’s mobile penetration plan

The 15 million-plus users who have Netflix memberships, which start at $8.99 a month, can now view all of the movies available for streaming directly through the app.

I snagged the app and tapped into my basic membership as soon I heard to indulge in some streaming-goodness. I played a snippet from the Big Lebowski and the dude looked pristine as ever over my iPhone screen. The load time was surprisingly quick over 3G too—probably just as fast as my iMac at home. I connected some speakers for a little surround sound and almost forgot I was at work!

Also, I was pleased to see that the iPhone/iTouch version was formatted for the smaller devices, unlike the iPad which uses the same interface as the Netflix site. Tabs along the bottom let you browse genres, search for specific movies and put movies in your Instant Que. Little play buttons display over the movie covers so clicking and playing is pretty simple.

The app’s only demerit is that you can’t even view the titles of movies that aren’t available for streaming. Which means, I can’t manage my normal queue on the go, only the instant queue is accessible.