Blog, Microsoft, Podcasts

Xobni – Changing How You Use Your Inbox

24 Jul , 2008  

I like to talk about innovate products and Xobni, the plugin for Outlook,definitely fits the bill. I blogged about Xobni on my NWW blog back in Februaryand as you can tellfrom that post, I was and still am excited about Xobni. Unlike most thingsthat get installed on my computer only to be removed a few days or weeks later,the "coolness" of Xobni hasn’t worn off. More importantly the usefulness ofXobni causes me to have it stick around and take up real estate in my Outlookwindow. But Xobni isn’t perfect, either. I see some real challenges to be ableto truly gain the benefits it could bring to email, but we’ll talk about that ina moment.

Here’s a video tour of Xobni. Also check out my podcast interview with Matt Brezina,co-founder of Xobni. I’m starting to do more product reviews and strategy workas part of my Converging Network business, which is a pleasure since I enjoyworking with and assessing new products and trends anyway.

(Contact me if you areinterested in finding out more about my Converging Network product strategyservices.)

Xobni – The Movie


Xobni – Email’s New Connection To People

Now that Xonbi integrates with LinkedIn, I find that I use it a lot more.It’s actually the little features I Xobni I like most. Showing someone’sportrait loaded up on LinkedIn when I click on their email makes the connectionto that person even more real. It makes email just a little more personal. And,if I don’t know them well, it’s easy to go learn about the person from theirLinkedIn profile. (You have a LinkedInprofile with a picture uploaded don’t you? Here’s mine. Letsconnect!)

One of the most useful things about Xobni is knowing the email habits of thepeople I converse and work with regularly. The little bar chart showing thedistribution time of emails received from them throughout the day lets me knowwhen they are more likely to read the emails I send, or take my call. This couldalso be invaluable to a sales person looking to reach clients, though I’m notsure people these days answer phone calls from people they don’t know. (Salespeople tell me virtually no one answers their business phone much any more.)

Xobni – Changing How You Use Email

It’s rare for me to keep a gadget or plugin around for long. Their installedhalf-life is usually about 2 days, or no more than two weeks on my computers. Soyou know Xobni must be delivering something of value, especially given thescreen real estate it takes in Outlook.

Changing how you use email is a double-edged sword, as I’ll talk more aboutin a moment. I find the attachments ("Files Exchanged") section of the Xobniplug-in one if it’s most useful functional features. It can prevent a lot ofsearching for the right email with the right attachment, and you can dig indeeper if you want to see the email or email thread the attachment was a partof.

I haven’t found that I use the "XYZ’s Network" section (where it shows youother people who have been in conversations with you and this person) as much asI thought I would. It’s a great idea, but I just haven’t added that capabilityinto my email use thought patterns for some reason. The "Email Conversations"thread is also something that I don’t use much, mostly because I don’t find theway the threads are presented as being that useful. I’ll say some more aboutthis down below.

Xobni – Kudos For Being A Well Behaved Outlook Plugin

My first rule of all plugin is "be useful". I really don’t need an AdobeAcrobat plugin for Outlook or PowerPoint. Is use the print driver to create pdffiles. Same for screen captures. That’s why I have SnagIt. So, unless there’s areally good reason why this plugin is needed, don’t create them in the firstplace, and certainly don’t install them by default. Xobni definitely meets the"be useful" criteria.

The second rule is "don’t create other problems". How many times does yourOutlook crash because of some funky plugin or software incompatibly. It seemsvirtually guaranteed that if any other software other than Outlook touches yourpst and ost files, you’re doomed for the dreaded "Not Responding" message. Ihave to say that I’ve had relatively few problems with Xobni and Outlook. Notthat its never happened, as I have encountered a few situations where Xobni hadthe files open that Outlook needs in order to start properly. But the problemsand crashes have been very, very few.

Kudos to the Xobni team for figuring out how to do this. They should bottleup whatever they are doing and help all the other software guys figure out howto do the same.

Xobni – The Challenge Of Getting The Benefits

Xobni has two big challenges in my view. First, all of Xobni’scapabilities are constrained by being in an Outlook sidebar plugin. There’slimited screen real estate, and it’s mostly vertical. Networks of people(lists), conversations (lists), viewing email threads, all have to be viewed inthis small area and it does detract from its usability and usefulness. Becauseof this, I don’t use the email threads feature much at all, and the relativelystatic content (time distribution bar graph, email stats, portrait and contactinfo) are the things I look at and use most. It’s a tough row to hoe being in asidebar and Xobni would be much more useful if it was integrated into the emailclient itself. Tell me again why Microsoft hasn’t gobbled up Xobni by now?Hmm.

Xobni also implies multiple user behavior changes to access its benefits. Weuse email clients so frequently everyday, all through the day, that the use casehabits we’ve formed with Outlook are hard very to break. Instead of sorting backand forth between sender and sent date in order to locate what I’m looking for,you have to break that habit and look in the Xobni sidebar for what you mighthunting to find. You have to remember "oh, there’s another way to find the lastversion of that attachment sent to Bob", and go over and use Xobni to do that.On the flip side, being an Outlook sidebar plugin is an advantage over being aseparate application from Outlook all together.

Breaking patterns and habit changes are something every product faces tovarying degrees, but email’s so heavily used that those habits are moredifficult to break.

Xobni – Conclusion: Download It. You’ll Use It.

Download Xobni. I think that title pretty much sums it up.

Podcasts, Security

Podcast #”I Can’t Drive”55 – NAC Attack

20 Jun , 2008  


Welcome to podcast #55. This week Alan and I are joined by security practitioner Jenifer Jabbusch (JJ) who also blogs at Security Uncorked.

Jennifer took a real liking to 802.1X early on, became a believer, and now regularly implements 802.1X for her customers, which course has expanded into NAC as well. It was great to have her on the show so we could talk to someone who does this work regularly, rather than Alan and I who simply create the products and like to blab about implementing it.

During the podcast we talk 802.1X, NAC, the analyst’s views on NAC (JJ has some pretty blunt thoughts on this one), and a company called Rohati.

Alan and Richard Steinnon have been going at each other recently about Rohati. Just looks to me like Stiennon is back to his two favorite hobbies; ranking on NAC (because he’s still smarting about that Gartner IPS doomsday prediction), and finding any opportunity to poke Shimel in the eye with a stick. I’m amazed at how little true innovation there seems to be in the security industry these days and I have my doubts about Rohati being more than a fancy "layer 7" inline proxy-like device. Looks like another group of Cisco ejects creating a product four years ahead of Cisco’s plans so they can sell the company back to Cisco! It’s worked in the past so why not do it again. Rohati’s not something I think’s going to take the world by store, but hey, that’s why we have blogs and podcasts so we can debate this stuff.

And as usual, Alan and I are up to our crazy antics on the podcast. Thanks to JJ for putting up with it too. Enjoy the podcast and please drop us any suggestions or questions at

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Blog, Cloud, Microsoft, Podcasts

Trying out new”micro-podcast”format

4 Mar , 2008  

MicropodcastI know that not everyone who reads blogs also likes to listen to podcasts, and visa versa. So I decided to try something different and see how readers and listeners like it. I call it a "micro-podcast". (Let me know if you think of a better name.)

Last week while at the SaaS Summit conference in San Francisco, I interviewed Michael van Dijken, head of marketing Microsoft’s efforts to support the hosting and SaaS software market segments. I posted the interview with Microsoft’s van Dijken up on my Network World Converging On Microsoft blog using this new format. The interview was recorded with my micro-recorder podcast unit.

What I’ve done is break up the interview recording into snippets, or micro-podcasts, wrapped in blog narrative with my lead in and comments for each portions of the interview. The idea is just to listen to the parts of the recording you want to hear, rather than listen through the entire recording just to get to the topic you’re interested in. And, if you wish to hear the full, unedited interview recording, just go to the bottom of the blog post and listen to the full interview instead of the broken up segments.

If you have a moment to check it out, please do so and let me know your feedback about this idea. Do you like it? Is it easier to read and listen to? Does that format work for you? What suggestions do you have for improving it?

Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.

Podcasts, Security

In Eon Security Top 10 Podcasts

18 Feb , 2008  

Alan sent me an email earlier today that our SSAATY podcast episode #47 with Jeremiah Grossman and Robert Hansen (Rsnake) is listed in the Eon Security blog as one of the top 10 podcast picks.

Given the knowledge and talent of our guests on that podcast episode I have to say I’m not entirely surprised. If you haven’t heard the podcast with Jeremiah and Rsnake, check it out.

Podcasts, Security

Security Pros Stage Podcast Takeover (Podcast #53)

14 Feb , 2008  


I guess the security guys have been reading all about the Microsoft acquisition attempt of Yahoo because this week, Martin McKeayand Rich Mogull staged their own hostile takeover by hijacking the recording ofour SSAATY podcast! 

BustSeriously, Rich and Martin join Alan and me to do our first East-meets-West,Network Security Podcast -plus- SSAATY Podcast. We had a blastrecording the podcast together.

Our discussions center around the impact of all the personal informationdisclosed on blogs, podcasts, comments, social networking sites, Twitter, etc.,etc.

How do and how will employers use the information available about you on theInternet? Will all the teenager pranks and foibles poured out on socialnetworking sites come back to bite workers later their careers or in life? Can apresidential candidate get elected if they have an online past that can easilybe dug up and used against them?

It’s an interesting topic that was spurned byan article Martin found, "Off The Clock: Should Your Personal Online Chronicles JeopardizeYour Career? ".

Enjoy the podcast and please drop us any suggestions or questions at

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Cloud, Microsoft, Podcasts

COM Podcast #2 – Jeff Kaplan talks SaaS

30 Jan , 2008  

Compodcast_logoEpisode 2 Living In A SaaS World of the Converging On Microsoft Podcast is up and available.

This week former Meta analyst and SaaS On Demand software industry thought leader Jeff Kaplan joins me to talk about Software as a Service, SaaS. Jeff is managing director of THINKstrategies, a consulting firm working with software companies, investors and SaaS end user companies.

Jeff_kaplanDuring the interview, Jeff jumps right into why SaaS has so quickly become a popular mode of buying software, how Microsoft is "delicately" going about Software plus Services so as not to disrupt current embedded software revenues and their huge channel, and new efforts by SaaS companies directing SaaS at IT.

Most of us are familiar with SaaS companies like Qualys and but the industry is much broader than those two examples. Gartner estimates that 25% of new software sales will be SaaS by 2011. I recently announced my own jump into the world of SaaS by joining Boulder based SaaS On Demand software and enablement company Absolute Performance, Inc. On Demand software, virtualization, and utility computing are making profound changes in the way our industry is operating and I’m going to continue doing my part to make it all happen!

If you are interested in finding out more, Jeff has some resources on his  site you might find helpful, including SaaS Showplace , Managed Services Showplace   and Jeff’s blog

If you have any questions, ideas, feedback or suggestions about the Converging On Microsoft Podcast, please send me email at Thanks for listening.

Download MP3 fileSubscribe to COM Podcast RSS feed

Credits: Voice over by Jessica Freemann, music by Michael Reese

Cloud, Podcasts, Security

Podcast #52 – Scott Converse announces Medioh

29 Jan , 2008  


Alan was in town last week for us to record episode 52 of the SSAATY podcast.After some dinner at CPK in Boulder CO, we got together at Scott Converse’recording studio down the street.

Not only is Scott the CEO of ClickCaster where we host the SSAATY podcast,Scott is our podcast guest on this rollicking, in-studio edition where we havelots of fun doing our usual shtick. It’s a lot more fun doing the podcast whenAlan and I are in the same city and I think that will come across pretty clearlyas you listen in to our madness.

I guess the podcast is the "in place" announce career moves and company launches –During the interview, Scott tells us about his exciting new Internet TVventure Medioh! I also announce my joining Absolute PerformanceInc. as CTO, a rockin’ SaaS On Demand software and enablement company based inBoulder.

In addition to talking shop about Medioh and Absolute Performance, Alan and I cover theacquisition mania of Sun / MySQL, Oracle / BEA and VMware / Thinstall, Vernier’s inevitable plummet into thesun, and recent announcements of multi-gigabit IPS products.

Welcome me in congratulating Scott Converse on his launch of Medioh. Enjoy the podcast and feel free to drop us any suggestions or questions at

P.S. Is it just me or does Scott have a slight resemblance, albeit younger, to one of myfavorite actors Charles Durning? Maybe next podcast we’ll have Scott announce us as the Soggy Bottom Boys (O Brother, Where Art Thou?).Scott_converse_2


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Podcasts, Product Mgmt

New Converging On Microsoft Podcast – Episode 1

17 Jan , 2008  

Compodcast_logoI”m pleased to announce the first episode of my new podcast on Network World, the Converging On Microsoft Podcast.

My Network World blog has been doing very well and the editors asked if I would like to start a companion podcast. Not being one to turn down another opportunity to "play on a bigger stage" I jumped at the chance.

Bob_walsh_2My first guest on COM Podcast Episode 1 is Bob Walsh, a software developer, entrepreneur, business owner, author and blogger. I came across Bob’s book Clear Blogging which I enjoyed so much I called him to thank him for such an insightful and useful piece of work.

Turns out there’s much more to Bob than just one book. Bob’s background is both as a writer and a software developer, and recently he has been evangelizing to other software creators to help them bring their products to market as a Micro-ISV. Yes, micro independent software vendor — a one, two or up to ten person software shop, primarily comprised of technical people with little or no previous business or marketing expertise.

In addition to running his own software business, Safari Software, Bob blogs at and recently began writing for Web Worker Daily where he follows up on the latest tips and insider info about the online web industry. Check out the links to Bob’s two books below.

If you are a software developer and always wanted to make money from the software you create, you’ll be fascinated by all of the ideas, information and resource suggestions Bob gives during the interview.

Before I wrap up I would also like thank guitarist, composer, studio musician and a good friend of mine Michael Reese for his music Treasured Path used as the podcast  music. I’d also like to thank Jessica Freemann for her voice over talent introducing and closing the podcast. Thanks to you both!

If you have any questions, ideas, feedback or suggestions about the Converging On Microsoft Podcast, please send me email at Enjoy 🙂

Bob’s books:


Blog, Network, Podcasts

Podcast #51 – Brad Reese Gets On Cisco’s Case

8 Jan , 2008  

MicrophoneHey, it’s time for another StillSecure After All These Years Podcast! This week, a special treat. I invited fellow Network World blogger Brad Reese to join Alan and me as our special podcast interview guest.

Brad blogs for Network World Cisco Subnet where he covers all happenings in Ciscoland. In addition to blogger Brad also has his own company which repairs Cisco equipment.

Out interview with Brad covers a range of topics but one area I think you’ll particularly enjoy is Brad’s views on Cisco’s new CTO. Brad’s received some flack for his controversial criticisms of former Motorola CTO , now Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior. But neither Alan or I let Brad off easy – he has to back up his views about Warrior and I think Brad fairs pretty well. Both Alan and I respect people with strong opinions and the depth to back it up so you’ll find this discussion very engaging.

Please check out Brad’s blogging on the Network World Cisco Subnet. You can also find me blogging at the Network World Microsoft Subnet in addition to my personal blog The Converging Network.

Enjoy the podcast and feel free to drop us any suggestions or questions at

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Podcasts, Security

Podcast 50 -“The Big 50″and more

3 Dec , 2007  

MicrophoneWelcome to our 50th podcast. Has it really been that many? Well, the links don’t lie so I guess we’ve hit a new high water mark.

For our 50th podcast, Alan and I kick back and just talk about what we want to discuss. No guests this time, just us ‘ums.  During The Converging Minute I talk about virtualization and security, and how the two are intersecting. Alan and I then turn to topics of interest where we discuss:

  • Is security slowing down the adoption of virtualization?
  • What good is "menstrual NAC" – you know the kind that only checks devices once a month and my new rules on NAC
  • The new space race to put IP technology into space being led by Cisco
  • Can UTM be 50% of the network security market?

It’s nice to get back to our regular show format, and I hope you enjoy it too. Also, something that I’m very remiss in mentioning is to thank Alan for all of the additional work he does on the podcast.

Alan’s been "sound engineer" on the podcast since day one, and while we don’t edit our discussions or interviews (they are pretty much as is, just like we recorded them), there is still quite a bit of work involved. Every podcast, Alan splits and combines the channels, splices all the segments together, level-ates the file so everything is the same volume level, and then uploads the file to our ClickCaster site. So "thanks big Al" for all the extra things you do for our podcast.

Enjoy the podcast and feel free to drop us any suggestions or questions at

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