I'm putting out a call for stories and anecdotes: please read on and if you can, do contribute. I'm intrigued by the imaginative ways in which people are using Skype, MSN, GoogleTalk, iChat and the other free Internet telephony and videotelephony services. As with most technologies, they're being used in ways that the engineers never intended and the marketeers never foresaw. Orthodox and unorthodox ways, hi-tech and low-tech. So I'm starting a collection of stories and anecdotes. (There are some on the Skype site, but I'm not really interested in businessmen keeping in touch while travelling: I'm interested in human unconventional stories, like that of the dispersed rock band rehearsing via Skype). Below are the first four that I've gathered over the last few months through random encounters and discussions. If you have or know of such a story or anecdote, please share it by commenting on this post. And please do disseminate this call for contributions further, e-mail it to your friends, or blog about it on your blog (and if you do, send a trackback or add the URL of your post in the "comments" to this post, so I can keep track of it and properly thank you): I will "edit" the collection on the blog and if enough good stories come in, I will turn it into one of my BusinessWeek.com's columns. Thank you! Here the first four:
- A family of immigrant workers from Kosovo, living in Switzerland, has installed a big computer screen in their dining/living room, with a webcam on it. The MSN messenger window is open all day, for incoming messages or calls from family back home or from friends that migrated to other countries. And almost every morning, they have breakfast "with" the husband's mother, who lives in Kosovo and also has a webcam.
- Another couple of immigrants in Switzerland, this time from Spain, with a young daughter. She regularly does her homework with the help of her aunt, who's a teacher and lives in Spain: they work over a free video call.
- A grandfather in New York. He's retired, and his daughter's family lives in California. Several evenings a week, he puts to bed his young grandson by reading him bedtime stories over Skype.
- When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, a group of activists from around the world used SkypeIn and SkypeOut to set up a virtual phone bank and messaging center. Collaborating also with ham-radio operators, they relayed emergency messages in and out of the devastated region, let people ask for information, or just let them reach a friendly voice. The phone bank was staffed by volunteers from India, Europe, the Middle East and the US. (A report here)