Moblogging for the Masses
By Mark Frauenfelder, Mon May 26 10:00:00 GMT 2003
There's a problem with weblogs: They're all about the Web and what's on the Web, but they really aren't about anything else...
Unless you've been living on the dark side of the moon these last couple of years, you know about weblogs. They're frequently updated websites, usually published by an individual or small group of people, with postings published in reverse chronological order. Some weblogs are basically headline aggregators, with links to news stories. Others are like online diaries, containing the authors' musings and opinions on any number of subjects. Most fall somewhere between these two extremes.
I love weblogs. I started one myself called boingboing.net over three years ago, and it gets over 325,000 visitors each month. I read dozens of weblogs a day, and consider them to be my main source of information. Search engines such as Google constantly comb through weblogs to find the hottest stories.
But there's a problem with weblogs. They're myopic. They're all about the Web and what's on the Web, but they really aren't about anything else that's happening in the big wide world. The reason for this is simple. The people who publish weblogs are, by and large, deskbound. They sit there all day and surf the Web, looking for interesting things to write about on their weblogs. The rest of the world doesn't show up on their radar.
But all that's about to change. In November, my colleague Justin Hall wrote about "moblogs" for TheFeature. Just as weblogs chronicle one's travels through cyberspace, moblogs (short for "mobile blogs") chronicle one's travels through real space. To become a moblogger, you need a portable wireless device. If you have a WAP enabled mobile phone, you can use the popular Blogger program to post messages to your weblog wherever you happen to be.
A little while back, I was speaking on a panel called "Live from the Blogosphere" in Los Angeles and I met a young guy who said he was planning to use his WAP phone to post live updates to his weblog about the event. After the talk, I asked him how it went. Before he had a chance to answer, his girlfriend piped in. "Oh, he was posting like crazy. He kept letting go of my hand so he could type into his phone!"
WAP phone blogging has been around for a while, and it isn't the easiest way to moblog. There are several new methods, which employ either software, hardware, or both, and they make moblogging a breeze. One of the simplest, and neatest, ways to moblog is by using a brand new service called audblog (audblog.com). When you sign up, the audblog service issues you a telephone number. Then, wherever you are, all you have to do is call the number and say whatever you want to say and hang up. Seconds later, an icon will appear on your weblog. When visitors click on it, they'll hear your audio file. One woman used audblog to provide live coverage of an anti-war demonstration she was participating in. Another woman took her phone to a Bonnie Raitt concert and blogged the performance. And another guy uses audblog to post his impressions of his office job.
I'm convinced Audblog is going to take over the blogging world like wildfire. The pricing plan is reasonable: $3 a month gets you 12 two-minute posts. You can buy additional blocks of $12 for $3. Noah Glass, the creator of Audblog, says he is going to make it possible for people to make much longer posts in case they want to publish their own audiobooks or long interviews.
Another easy way to maintain a moblog is by using Danger's Sidekick wireless PDA. Danger has a moblog portal called hiptop.com, where Sidekick users can quickly create their own moblogs. Since the Sidekick comes with a camera, people can post pictures on their blogs. Heather Champ, who runs a traditional weblog called www.harrumph.com, has started one on hiptop.com called harrumph! moho where she posts snapshots of interesting things she sees on the street.
Where could all this lead? I think that soon, people will be posting video clips to their blogs. Of course, there will be plenty of boring family vacation moblogs with clips of the kids running around the picnic table, but there will undoubtedly be some amazing stuff out there too. And given the reputation-based nature of weblogs -- in which the good stuff gets discovered and publicized immediately -- we are going to witness an entirely new kind of celebrity: the moblog star.
With a combination of charisma, chutzpah, editorial acumen, and perseverance, the best moblog stars will be as famous as television and movie celebrities, and will be courted by the studios and networks. Who knows, in the near future, moblog stars might not even want to go to Hollywood. Why take a step down?
Mark Frauenfelder is a writer and illustrator from Los Angeles.