Friday, July 11, 2008

Pigeons, England and no Skype

Tjep and I have been to the UK. Only for 6 days (incl. the Ferry), too short but so lovely.We returned on the 27th of June but I could not find the time to write about it sooner.

Let me first update you about Pigeon who was too young to eat properly. I fed her until the day we left and then took her to the bird sanctuary “De Fûgelhelling” in Ureterp – Friesland. I had never been there before and was highly impressed by their skills and equipment to help out birds of all sorts.
We saw baby Owls, a Stork, baby Blackbirds, a Kingfisher, etc. etc. All the people who are helping out in “De Fûgelhelling” are volunteers. They do a great job and I know financial gifts are very welcome.

There were also many pigeons and our Pigeon soon found a little friend. We left her in good hands.

As always my and now Tjep’s destination, was lovely Yorkshire and we travelled by Ferry from Europoort (NL) to Hull. The weather was lovely and we had a nice and relaxing stay on board with good food, a good bottle of Chablis and great conversations.
When we arrived in Yorkshire the weather was dull but who cares. First we visited my foster Mum and her partner for lots of hugs.
During the afternoon we cleaned the cottage of my foster Brother. The cottage is having a redo and like David said, it was a building site. They tried successfully to squeeze a bath tub in a small bathroom which required "some" work to the old, thick walls. We could use the bath, the toilet but nothing was tiled yet. I have to see it is quite an experience to bathe between bare walls made from the rock where the cottage is built in / on. The room on the first floor was redecorated and I promised David to clean it properly. A good thing to do on a rainy day!

Our first visit on Sunday was to Fountains Abbey. I did not take any pictures because I already took so many over the past years. It was a windy day which developed into a stormy one. It was so ‘bad’ that they closed Fountains Abbey due to falling branches and trees and walking back to our car instead of accepting a ride back by the National Trust, was on our own risk. After the visit, we took an alternative route back home, exploring the surroundings of Kirby Malzard, Grewelthorpe, Ripon, all situated in Nidderdale.

On Monday avoiding this way the tourist traffic, we travelled around the Yorkshire Dales. Glorious weather: sunshine, beautiful clouds, kind people, quiet roads.
I had told Tjep about how special it is to see the shadows of the clouds moving over the hills with bright pastures in between where the sun is shining. That day it could not have been more perfect and of course I took many pictures. The day ended at one of my most favourite spots “Jervaulx Abbey
Ever since I visited it for the very first time back in 1978, I left a little part of my heart there and return as often as possible..
In the meantime Jervaulx got a new owner who is now looking after it well. They also changed an old glasshouse into a lovely tea room where they serve excellent food and drinks.

I had a surprise waiting for Tjep….. the Coat of Arms of Jervaulx is exactly the same of that of Tjep’s family, the Mulier’s. Of course it triggered our fantasy and we now will get in touch with the owner of Jervaulx to learn even more about the history. The Mulier’s origin from France and received their Coat of Arms around 1200, just at the time the Abbey was founded.

Back in Holland we learned that there is another family called “Keppel” who has a similar Coat of Arms (different shell’s) and one of the Keppel’s moved to England around 1850. Now it is getting even more interesting!

On Wednesday we stayed close to home and visited Ripley Castle which is definitely worth a visit.
Besides all the culture things we also did some ordinary shopping in Knaresborough and ate our Fish and Chips overlooking the river.

Thursday was a day of reorganizing the luggage, a last brush through the cottage, visiting Mum and Ian for a farewell hug and back to the Ferry. This time the weather was very, very bad. So much rain!! Driving was a hazardous adventure and we were happy to arrive at the Ferry without any trouble.
Wind kept the ferry wobbling and it was not a surprise that I felt slightly seasick when up and running the next morning. I seem never to have overcome that….

Lovely memories of our first holiday together, translated into again another web album!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Skype Me?

Animals don’t talk. Well, they do but not in our language. And animals in the wild do not use computers, let alone Skype. But I am almost certain if they could, some of them would love the SkypeMe mode….. especially when they need help.

It is well known within my family and circle of friends that I love animals. I have a few and all of them (my dog was an exceptions but she died in February at the age of 12, very old for a Kuvasz) are refugees.
I found my two cats in 1999 (brother and sister) at the age of 4 weeks, dwelling in the village and very poorly. I never regretted adopting them; they are social, sweet and funny.

My crow Caro comes from the Permanent Water sport Exhibition where I worked, back in 2005. He was suffering from pneumonia, long worm and an ordinary cough. It took a while before he recovered and now he is part of the family, bossing the cats.

Fluffy, the sparrow is 7 and comes from my Mum’s garden where she must have fell pout of the nest. No bird looked after here so I adopted here as well. She was a tiny, fluffy baby bird which travelled everywhere I went because she needed to be fed every 15 minutes. Fluffy never wanted to leave me either, whatever I tried.

Almost 4 years ago, someone gave me a chicken. I still had two hens and one cockerel at the time but they died in the meantime, the cockerel last year. Ever since, the chicken lives on her own and her behaviour changed from wild to domestic. She runs free in my backyard but has chosen not to sleep in her pen but on top of the cupboard in the shed / semi kitchen. I blogged about this before.

When I am in Tallinn, a girl in the village is looking after my animals with great responsibility with the chicken back in her pen. But as soon as I am home gain, chicken returns to her favourite cupboard.

Over the years I also raised various pigeon babies. One even returned a year later when a bird of pray badly wounded her. As soon as she was recovered, she left.

This week, on Monday to be precise, Tjep and I noticed a woodpigeon sitting at the lawn in the village. The partner of the pigeon tried to force her to fly but it was obvious that she was hit by a car.We took her home so cats could not kill her.I felt ever so sorry for the partner but know that they will reunite as soon as she will be released.I tried this the next morning when the pigeon was far more lively then the day before.Wisely, I thought, I released her in my backyard. If still not able to fly it would be far easier to catch her then out on the open streets.I opened my hands and after a quick look left and right, pigeon jumped and…….. fell like a brick. Just as I wanted to pick her up, chicken jumped furious on top of pigeon and started a fight.Pigeon tried to escape but the wrong way. She fell in the water filled ditch behind my garden and worked her way to the other side. No way I could get her from there as the wall was too high. Wading through the ditch wasn’t an option either as the layer of mud in there is very deep.

I went to my neighbour who also has chicken, for his chicken net. Remember my blog post about the frog??? Unfortunately by ringing neighbours door, I woke him up but he was so kind to give me the net.
Tjep, a professional sailor, fastened the net to a long pole with a strong rope and standing at the edge of the ditch, Tjep holding on to my trousers so I could not fall, I tried to catch the pigeon. Without success.Pigeon waded forward so I had to change my position. Catching started all over again. But after 5 minutes we finally had pigeon, wet but safe and sound ashore.

She is now recovering in a large bench in my office. Because she inhaled some dirty water, I gave her Baytril in case of.
Still it must be a dramatic adventure for her: without her partner, hopefully only a huge concussion, in a bench in someone’s office with two laid back cats as regular visitors (cats are used to the odd bird around), food and water in cups and a scary human being giving her her medication. It was definitely not her day yesterday.

But today she seems so much better. Right now she is tidying her feathers; she just ate (for the very first time) and drank some water. She also tried if she could escape but gave up very quickly, still not feeling fit enough.
But she will get there, I am sure. Back to her partner who will be waiting for her. When I happily release her, I will tell her “Skype Me when I am on line, love to hear how you are doing”

Monday, June 02, 2008

Back home and stuttering internet connections

After a safe flight of a little more then two hours I arrived on Dutch Soil. My loved ones at home were complaining about rain where the weather in Tallinn was beautiful. I promised them to take some sunshine home and believe it or not, the sun arrived at the same time as my plain. But gosh, what a difference…… Tallinn was sunny and bright where Holland was sunny and humid. Will I ever get used to the humidity? I doubt.
Tjep and I took a weekend off. We had inner in a lovely restaurant (where I almost fell asleep, somehow you got to pay for long working days) and a visit to his sister an brother in law. Both events were very nice, so was the food.

Me not being logged on to my laptop during the weekend is an exception but to be honest I did not miss it too much.This week I am working from home in Hilversum and Tjep had a Linksys router installed so I could work either from his office or from the living room which I find more comfortable. Just because the height of the table is more suitable for my own hight them the office desk.

Unfortunately the router did not do what it promised and the signal was too weak. I moved to the office where I sat on 3 pillows (!!) to get a comfortable seat. I am not a dwarf but the desk was definitely designed for someone taller.

Although I set the Windows XP wireless configuration to stop, I repeatedly got disconnected from the Internet.
On off….. on off…. I am not a hothead but this drove me mad. How can one work, talk, chat etc with am internet connections that behaves like a bag of popcorn?

Poor Tjep, he arranged so much to let me work from home. He called his wiz kid who delivered a repeater so I could work from home and after that we were going to look if we could solve the popcorn effect.
Whilst the wiz kid was installing the repeater, I had a relaxing drink and bite.

For some reason it took a lot of effort to get everything working order and to my great delight I am connected to the internet without any disruption for over an hour. Late but ready for work, ready to Skype. Skoll!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tallinn pictured

It is my last night in Tallinn. Well, the last night for this month. The weather is gorgeous and after 12 hours in the office, I could not resist a walk through old town. A little exercise is doing this old lady good…

I decided to climb the wall. There are quite a few stairs to the top and from there you have a beautiful view over old town and the Baltic sea. The blue sky added a lot of colour the bright painted buildings.

Just a cardigan was enough to keep “warm”. There was no wind, just sunshine. It was very quiet in the streets where all the Embassies are but busy at Town Square where a music band was producing a massive noise. Though it was fun to be there and listen.

I took all photo’s with my recently purchased second hand (and therefore very affordable) Nokia phone. It has a 2 MB camera and I am not disappointed by the quality. Well, take a look yourself. You need Adobe Flash Player to be able to view it. Download here Double click the image below to go to my Picasa Albums.

Maybe I see you in Tallinn one day, it is worth a visit!

Skype Forum Bug Fixes

Every new version, no matter if it is the Skype client or the Community causes questions and wishes.Of course we are more then happy to reply to all questions and grant as many as possible wishes.
That means where technically possible.

Each web based Forum like Skype’s community is tied to rules. Within these rules we work, change and improve.
We gathered all information from all users and are happy to tell you that the first hotfix went live today.

Below the full change log which can also be found in the Community:

* bugfix: "This page requires javascript to be turned on" notification is on top of the image
* bugfix: Spacing between My Area and related is wrong.
* bugfix: div that should be scrollable is on top other stuff(opera)
* bugfix: Skype community doesn't have any text-decoration.
* bugfix: removed h1 category header.
* feature: Welcome is a link.
* feature: Navigation links changed.
* change: Quotes, code block.
* bugfix: layout - Quote Block.
* bugfix: layout - Edited by.
* bugfix: layout - Personal portal.
* bugfix: layout - Display name is incorrect link.
* feature: possibility to add content dynamicly under My Area.
* feature: Old forum options added under My Area.
* feature: Old topic options added under My Area.
* bugfix: layout - Board guidelines.
* bugfix: layout - View Forums.
* bugfix: layout - View Topics.
* bugfix: layout - Edit Personal Portal Information.
* bugfix: layout - Edit Signature.
* bugfix: layout - Edit Avatar Settings.
* bugfix: layout - Change Personal Photo.
* bugfix: layout - Manage Your Attachments.
* bugfix: layout - Manage Ignored Users.
* bugfix: layout - Email Settings.
* bugfix: layout - Board Settings.
* bugfix: layout - Reading a PM.
* bugfix: layout - Empty PM Folders.
* bugfix: layout - Edit storage.
* bugfix: layout - PM Block list.
* bugfix: layout - Archive messages.
* bugfix: layout - Message tracker.
* bugfix: layout - Saved (Unsent) PMs.
* bugfix: disabled threaded mode.

Feel free to give us your feedback via the Community!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Travelling, sunshine, Skype and precious volunteers

The people who know me well are aware that I am not a beach bum and / or sun worshipper.
Of course I love sunshine, it is full of vitamins, brings people in good moods and adds a lot to the outdoor life.
But you will not see me in Spain nor in Australia during the Summer. Been there done that.
Spain is beautiful but too hot and too crowdie. I already live amongst 16.000.000 people in Holland and I am happy to escape for a while from so many neighbours!

Australia is absolutely beautiful. I travelled thousands of miles by car and train, visited a farm in the middle of literally nowhere, met great people, ate lovely food, even liked being hit by a Kangaroo but did not like the hot temperatures.
No, I prefer the Northern Countries like Northern England, Scotland, Scandinavia. I lived in Sweden for a short while and am looking forward to explore Estonia one day.

Up till now I did not go any further then Tallinn where I stay one week each month working from Skype’s office. But from what I see from Estonia looking down from the plane, I would love to spend time in the countryside.Tjep and I are planning a long weekend somewhere this year (don’t know when because we have a full list of what we would like to visit this year….)

Travelling to Tallinn is a real challenge. I prefer to leave Amsterdam airport on the Sunday evening because a) there are no or hardly any traffic jams on the Dutch road, b) I can be in the office early on Monday morning and c) even with an extra night in the Hotel it is cheaper.
Very seldom flights leave on time, either to or from Tallinn.I fly with KLM (excellent service!) City hopper though for very diverse reasons, there are always delays.
2 Months back we could no leave Tallinn due to leaking brakes and needed to spend an extra night in a Hotel.
We were told so when sitting in the bus to the platform where the plane was waiting.

1 Month ago, again sitting in the bus, we were again told there was a technical problem. “Oh no, not me again” was my first reaction. But fortunately they had a spare plane and one hour later we were in the air.
Yesterday though went as smoothly as possible; we left on schedule, arrived 2 hours later and half an hour later I was in my Hotel.

The weather in Tallinn is lovely; bleu sky, sunshine and happy Skypers around me.It is great to work with so many talented people who are also of diverse nationalities. Skype does not only connect people all over the world but people from all over the world are connected at the office by working together.

I am also proud to witness Tallinn transferring into a buzzing city. Flats and apartments are restored, new companies and buildings providing people with work and technology.In many ways Tallinn is far ahead of technology comparing to many other modern parts of the world. I already wrote about this in 2006 and 2007.
I feel extremely proud to work for one of those innovating companies! My work as Head of Communities and Forum Operations is a challenge on its own. Working with great people for great people is special and I am learning every minute of the day.

People always fascinated me. Skype users are a lovely mix of people all over the world, with colourful backgrounds, all individuals with their own experience, hobbies, interests, knowledge and so much more. Happy people who see life as a challenge, conquering problems turning them into positive energy.
Sad people who are affected by the sad things that happened to them in life. Using their bad experiences to attack others to feel good, to hide their own misery.
Quiet people with soft gentle characters, easily forgotten because they are hardly heard. People who shout to be heard or to hide their boring life or insecure feelings. But all are human beings and even the worst human being must have a soft spot somewhere for something or someone. All these people represent the valuable Skype users. Skype does connect people, it helps shy people to escape from an isolated life, lonely people to find friends or lost family members, to do business, to chat to friends scattered all over the world or even next door. It gives loved ones the opportunity to talk and see each other when they are separated for what ever reason.
Skype inspires people to blog and here as well you sense what drives people in life as described above. I am subscribed to many personal blogs and to Google which updates me as soon as Skype is popping up somewhere on the Internet.

Skype’s Community is also a colourful collection of all these people and they come for various reasons to the Community. Though the main reason is Support. There are various forms of Support. Like I mentioned in my previous post, the Community is not an OFFICIAL way of Support. With official I mean that the Customer Support department would monitor the Community for issues. This would be a very insufficient way to provide official support. Monitoring (read looking for issues) would be time consuming. Precious time that now is used to reply to tickets. One to one conversations wouldn’t be possible because people post / discuss in topics (threads), messages would get lost. Private information would be exposed which is the worst nightmare of every user. Support would not be able to ask for payment details etc. Sure, you could use the PM function but again, this would be extremely time consuming. I do not talk about the regular 1600 – 1800 new forum subscribers per week but about 5000 – 6000 support request forms (questions like "what is the large green button with the telephone icon for" till "my payment did not go through") per week via the ticket official ticket system.
The Community, and I repeat again is for, with and about users. It has been like this since the very beginning in 2004.

Maybe it is helpful to introduce to you the various levels of volunteering helpers.
Apart from the two Admin’s Raul and I and those who use a Staff badge in the Community (all staff badges are bleu) all other people are Volunteers. The Moderators are users like you and me who find a great pleasure to help out when and where ever they can. They spend and this is their own free will, many hours per week to monitor the Community. To guide the users in the right direction, to delete SPAM, to edit posts where the user does not keep to the guidelines, to move posts to the correct sub forums, they use Skype Multi Chat to discuss issues on the Forum and to help and advise each other. They are a wonderful and cheerful group of people who are part of my responsibility and who I see (and this I say with great pride) as colleagues. Beside the Moderator job they also provide help to users. Help in trying to solve common and technical issues by giving information or asking questions to find the source of the problems.
Where help from Skype Support is needed, they advise the user to submit a ticket and when this is not solving the problem (no replies to tickets for whatever reason – the user did not follow the correct ticket procedure, the user didn’t enclose the correct username / e-mail address or the ticket got lost, not an excuse though!!!) Moderators have access to Skype Staff to report, discuss and solve these issues. They signed an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) and are well trusted people.

Other Volunteers are the SuperUsers. Since the very beginning of the Community (Forum), users are helping users. These users are daily users (private or business) and Skype Beta testers (also Volunteers) who find a simple joy in sharing their knowledge with others. Users, who spend much time in the Community by helping out, receive a SuperUser badge for life by the Admin’s to express that their positive input is acknowledged and much appreciated. SuperUser are also involved in Skype chats with Moderators and Admin’s to discuss matters, express their feelings about what ever Community related subject and for help.
Sometimes SuperUsers are asked to be become a Moderator and sometimes Moderators become Staff members.

“Volunteer” in not just a word in the Skype Community. Someone being a Volunteer by joining our community to find joy in helping out (99,99 % of the Volunteers logged on for the very first time with a question) is seen as someone being very special. Sharing your knowledge on a volunteer base, spending time on the Community, maintaining the guidelines, helping out where possible, maintaining a positive outlook on other users, not attacking people but truly contributing positively, is a most valuable, precious characterfull thing to do. The SuperUser and Moderator badges are highlighting this but can’t express the true feelings we have for the effort of these Volunteers.

Highlighting their efforts in a blog post and spelling it with a capital V will help but still can’t express what they really do.
Thus a HUGE HURRAY for those great, great people!! Guys and Gals, you are Super people!!! May the whole world know of you!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Skype, Skyper, Skypest

March 17 or May 19, such a difference, 2 months in between! From Winter to Spring and from bleak to green.
Don’t think I disappeared from the net, no chance!! I am still around and have to admit I miss blogging tremendously.

Daily I receive my Skype related Google updates. I file the most important ones which I want to blog about but delete them again when they are 2 days old.
We do not want old news where dozens of other blogs talked about as well, do we?

Has my life been boring over the past two months? No, not at all!!! Together with my colleagues at Skype I have been working hard on a new Forum LayOut.
And as with every new layout, people love it or hate it. And we, who designed the new Forum (now called Community), which is now in harmony with Skype’s Website, learn from both sides.

One thing amazed me. The forum users in their 50’s have most difficulties with the new way it is designed (I know, I am also a 50+!!) and the saying “you can not learn an old dog new tricks” came to mind. But all these “old dogs” are wonderful people with a huge Forum experience and therefore very valuable in their feedback.
We listen, read, test and improve according the feedback where technically possible.
Of course it is not only a “design” thing produced by the mind of a few Forum enthusiasts.
An enormous amount of web design skills from Skype’s web team are needed to come to a result.
If you visit the new Community, you will see that we simplified the amount of sub forums.
One complain about the old Forum was the many, many sub forums which made it difficult for people to choose the right forum. This caused a lot of extra work to the (volunteer) Moderators who kept moving posts.

Strangely enough we received the very same complain where we now have far less sub forums: “Users do not know where to post, it is not clear anymore” But statistics show that we move only a fraction of what we did before.
We do see fewer posts then before, less new topics, but the amount of topic views increased tremendously, sometimes even doubled. We love to believe that people found their answer before posting.

Our next goal is to change the Forum into a real Community where users feel at home.Of course it will be a place for, with and about users if they have questions and problems but we would love to see less problems posted (after all the Forum/Community is not an official Support Channel, Skype has an excellent ticket system for this, this does not mean we will not help out when a ticket did not bring a solution!) and more posts with ideas, suggestions, discussions etc. A giant meeting place for Skype lovers: seniors and juniors, advanced users and beginners. We are looking forward to incredible Skype Stories to share. Users who met via Skype, marriages thanks to Skype, finding lost family members. Skype does connect people!! Talk and share!

Next week I am back in Tallinn for my monthly week at Skype. I love working at the office. Great colleagues, wonderful atmosphere, special job.
And I am not the only one from Holland who is visiting Skype. Our Queen Beatrix visited Skype last week and received a Skype telephone. Queen Beatrix who explained she does not use a computer and never sent an e-mail, said: “Maybe I need to skip e-mailing and learn how to Skype first”

Now the hectic time around the Community launch is over and dealing with the aftermath is coming into place, I work on all the work which was put aside and believe me, this is a lot! But hey, I do not complain, I love my job sooooooo much!!!

Talking about love…….

After being single for 9 years, I found the love of my life. Yes, your blogger is in love with a wonderful Dutchman and of course this is a two way love! No, I am not going to tell you more and I know you will allow me time to get used to the wonderful feeling of not being on my own anymore.

No, we did not meet via Skype, not even via the Internet and yes, he is using Skype (he doesn’t have a choice uh?).

Life is Wonderful and it is a miracle that there never seems so come and end to Wonderful, every time something else Wonderful is added to the existing Wonderful. Isn’t that Wonderful?Yes, yes, I know, too often “Wonderful” in these sentences….

To be continued!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Skype Multi Chats
Also called Skype Group Chats

You have not seen me here for a VERY long time although I promised not to stay away for weeks again. So now I feel almost ashamed but I have a good excuse: a busy job which I truly love.

My job is with, around and about Skype and its Forum where users can discuss Skype or help each other with Skype relate issues. The Forum is not only a huge source of feedback for the users but also for Skype itself.
One of the great features of Skype is the Multi Chat.
A virtual “ongoing” meeting about what ever subject.
Let’s say you are a member of a club of collectors and you love to talk about your collection, just start a chat on Skype, add more participants, give the chat a name and bookmark it. You will find all this on top of the chat window.
Likewise for business users or family members, conferences etc.

As soon as someone adds information to the chat, no matter where you are on this globe, it will pop-up with all participants and everyone can read and reply whenever they are logged on. No information gets lost and when you log on from a different computer with no chat history, the history of the MC (GC) will loads in seconds to minutes (depending the amount of previous information). And not only that. You can also start with one click of a button, a conference call (up to 10 participants) or send with one click of a button, files to everyone.

The Multi Chat is much loved by the Skype people. They are of course heavy users and communicate a lot!
We can not be called “average users” and Multi Chats are part of our Skype life.

Forum Moderator Támas Henning got curious about the use of Multi Chats with other users and started an interesting Poll on the Forum. You need to be logged on (if you never visited the Forum before, please use your Skype ID and password to log on) to participate in the Poll.

If you read it, you will also see why I haven’t been here for a while……

Please vote!

Guide to Multi / Group Chats