I Can't See for Miles and Miles

Skype has fundamentally changed a lot of things in our family. My father-in-law works in China often enough and the cost of calling has become a non-issue by using Skype video calls. The quality for a real-time video going halfway around the world has always been impressive.

His first trip was in 2006. He’s been back several times since, and we’ve had the same good experiences. It was incredible at the time, and in some respects, it still is.

I set my own parents up recently with Skype, my wife’s machine needed a repave and so did the in-laws. All three computers had an issue with mute and not being able to hear/talk after initial Skype install and setup. We found the root of the problem being that the microphone and the speakers mute on install for some odd reason.


If you install Skype and fire up your first call with the speaker and microphone muted, couldn’t Skype detect that and offer to fix the issue? Are they expecting everyone to be a power user and figure these issues out? Why did I have the same issue on three different machines?

At my day job, our entire team is distributed, and we rely on Skype for communication. In most respects it has replaced email and the telephone. It still is far from perfect; screen sharing is not very good, video is sometimes walkie-talkie-ish when a group of people are talking, and so on.

With new users, the frustration begins upon downloading and installing the product. Ever notice how difficult it is to find the free version of Skype? Why do I need an account before I install the software?

I wonder: What in the world have the people at Skype have been doing since 2006? Has Skype changed at all?

Ok, so the ux has changed a bit, and certainly for the better, but underneath the hood is the same basic functionality that we had years ago. Skype came out in 2003. It got me to wondering if the people who are working on it have done so for too long? Are they too close to their own product? Are they not interested in innovating any longer?

How does one foster fresh perspectives on the same old subject that you work on day in and day out? It probably happens to everyone at some point, despite the best of intentions. Is it preventable?

When you first start a project, you see the miles in front of you and how they might play out: The eyeballs your application might capture, how you might turn all of these people into loyal, raving fans and how all of this puts you on course to be a raucous success.

The further down the road you go however, it seems the less you can see, much like driving into a sandstorm at high speed.

With 900+ million installed, I guess you can’t see at all.