A few weeks ago I got a call from Gina Blaber, the head of OReilly conferences telling me, ahem, instructing me, that the time had come to start the truffle hunt for speakers and ideas for the next ETel. So I poured a cup of tea and started to scribble the napkin sketches of topics and workshops that will make up ETel 07. I still have scribbles but shortly structure will emerge one hopes.
A good place to start I’ve always found is to look back at some of what we did last year and find what has happened since.
One of the big bang events that helped to kick off the conference was the huge success of and the immense community behind Asterisk. Without a doubt Asterisk has been one of the greatest things to happen to telephony ever. An open source PBX that made phone calls and call routing accessible to external program control. And it will run on cheap PC hardware with a telephony card. What happened next was that the lower cost first helped those who were excluded from having a PBX phone system and saved money for those who were looking to upgrade their current setup. All low hanging easy fruit. What was more exciting was seeing startups like free 411 companies, social entrepreneurs like Tad Hirsch do challenging, wild and clever things (Speakeasy) with something as normally mundane and established as a phone line. They saw that Asterisk allowed them to use calls and telephony as a program controllable channel just as email is. I met someone at Cluecon last year who had built a training system for Army sergeants using Asterisk that connected 300 lines in a matrix. The aim was to teach them “speaking skills and pleasantries” apparently. Other applications have ranged from least cost routing (sort of like ja-jah and iskoot) to combining Ruby on Rails with Asterisk to create a fast way to make applications. The variety is great.
Now Asterisk is doing really well and the hardware companies that support it like Sangoma and Digium flourish with it.
Undoubtedly Asterisk is king, but I do want to throw some of my support behind Freeswitch http://www.freeswitch.org/. Think of it as Asterisk++. For any gene pool to succeed you need variety and competition and Freeswitch , whilst still getting there, is a lean mean and Olympian competitor to Asterisk. last year at Etel we saw the glimmer of code and some very enthusiastic hackers.Note, thatI didn’t say better(yet), just one to watch. I haven’t got the performance specs to hand but its apparently kicking ass while still in its nappy. It’s a non monolithic code base as well so it supports modules and plugins that don’t have to be worked in with the main program code. Not as mature or as big a developer base as Asterisk but its pedigree is solid with Brian West and Tony Minnesale developing it.
It’s that spirit of disruptive innovation that makes Etel what it is. People and projects re-thinking telephony as being open, refreshing and inventive.
From now till ETel I’ll be your chef and next week I will dig up another truffle and prepare it for your delight.
Oh yes - the ETel Team has posted a Request for speakers and Papers here - http://conferences.oreillynet.com/etel2007/ - please do take a look and submit a proposal or encourage someone with a hot project to do so.