Advising, webcams, and Skype

After meeting with a doctoral student yesterday who drove two hours each way for a one-hour meeting, I decided enough was enough, at least with my own advisees. I made a page on my web site that encourages students to work with me to use technology to solve some typical time / travel / communication challenges.

I then sent a listserv message to the rest of the faculty in my department about my new web page because I thought that some other folks might be interested in doing this too. Within minutes another message appeared on the listserv, this time from our department technology coordinator, notifying us of the University’s discouragement of Skype because it hogs resources and acts as a connective node for non-university-related data.

I encourage everyone to read the University of Minnesota recommendations regarding Skype. As I noted to our technology coordinator, the suggestion that Skype be turned off most of the time is somewhat problematic. I understand the U’s concern about bearing non-university-related data traffic. That said, I wish the U would think about Skype like it does our telephones, which we obviously don’t turn off except when we’re expecting a call.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Experiences and/or policies from your own organization?

2 Responses to “Advising, webcams, and Skype”

  1. Michael T Williams Reply November 21, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    University of Illinois has the same policy (and I believe that policy was founded on info from the same link as above – or at least that was the page I was sent to as well). We have numerous faculty utilizing it for research groups spread across the world. I had asked our Campus if they had any research on the network implications of the software from the Gizmo Project ( I’d also wonder if anyone has deemed Gizmo to “behave” nicer than Skype.

  2. Skype is an incredible product. I have found the audio connection quality to be unsurpassed, and personally use it. And yet, Skype inherits much of its technology from P2P. A bit of internet research into Supernodes will reveal the (low) potential bottleneck it can provide for networks, as well as (low) potential security risks. Your university is justified in their approach and actually quite forgiving (as all universities should be!).

    With the potential for pc video conferencing, universities should seriously consider standards-based internal systems (such as Marratech). It hasn’t happened at ours (University of Oklahoma), but our center has gratefully been allowed to piggyback on a Marratech system owned by a local school district. The technology has been great, especially considering it is cross-platform across PCs, Macs, and H.323 appliances!

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