Moblogging -- It's Easier Than You Think
By Carlo Longino, Mon Nov 10 04:45:00 GMT 2003
We talk an awful lot about the societal and sociological impact of moblogging, but we've never really hit on the nuts and bolts of the trend. But moblogs are moving forward quite like traditional weblogs -- which were once clearly the cutting edge, but have become commonplace. Just like the blogging tools that came out to help get people other than techies publishing on the Web, photoblogging tools make it easy for anybody with a camera phone to share their images with the world.
Moblogs offer users the chance to quickly and easily share their experiences and lives via the Web. It's certainly quicker and easier than pounding out a long, normal blog entry, and engages people through the immediacy and individuality of the images. Whereas news photos and TV share third-party images, moblogs give us a chance to see the world through someone else's eyes.
We'll highlight here some of the resources and services available to help get a moblog started. There's myriad sites on the Web to check out: Joi Ito's moblog is often held up as a pioneering example of the moblog medium, and is a good example of what an active one looks like. He's also posted a moblogging outline with some good links. Alan Reiter's Camera Phone Report provides good insights into the camera phone business, and companies and services sprouting up to build and support the camera phone "ecosystem," as he's labeled it. Picturephoning.com is great at keeping up with any related day-to-day news, and Moblogging.org, though sparingly updated, has a substantial list of great links, including a thorough history of moblogging.
If you've already got a blog, you're halfway there. There are plenty of tools available that work with the popular blogging sites and services to get you going, most of them taking involving e-mailing a picture from your phone to an e-mail address that then parses it for your blog. For Movable Type users, there are plenty of e-mail-to-MT plug-ins available, and MT's paid TypePad blog hosting service includes this functionality. Blogger has evidently added the functionality to their basic product as well (though I can't find any info about it on their site). RadioUserLand people can e-mail entries as well.
This is the method I use on my blog, and it works pretty well. I use Movable Type with an e-mail-to-MT gateway I found on the Web. Written by someone clearly smarter than me, it set me up with an e-mail address I mail photos and accompanying text to from my phone. It then goes out on the Web and accesses my MT account, and uploads the images and text using parameters I specified to limit the size. It's thin on documentation and required some tinkering to get right, but has worked pretty flawlessly since, and creates entries that look like this. I like having my mobile entries included in my regular blog, but at the same time, I don't like that it's not very clear they've been posted from my phone (apart from the "Posted By:" name).
But probably the easiest way to set up a moblog is to use one of the standalone, hosted services like TextAmerica, Phlog, Rare Window, or one Eric mentioned in a recent post about the growth of such services. One of those, Albino Gorilla, is testing a feature that lets users post audio and video from their handsets, though my Danish isn't quite good enough to get me through their site. Some carriers even offer blogging tools, like Sprint PCS and AT&T Wireless here in the US.
I used TextAmerica for a test run, and it couldn't be easier (and despite the name, it will work anywhere in the world that's got e-mail). It took me about 5 minutes to set up my moblog and post my first photo. They've got pre-designed templates you can choose from (or you can design your own, like Eric's done on his cool-looking moblog), and once you pick your domain name and a few other things, you're all set to submit photos. Just attach your photo to an e-mail, and address it to the address they give you, and you're set. The subject line becomes a title, and you can enter a caption, including HTML, in the body of your e-mail.
While their basic templates may not be the prettiest things you'll see, they're a good starting point. And getting up and running with one quickly underlines how simple this whole process has become -- it's almost surprising how simple it is. So there's little excuse to let that camera phone sit unused. Get moblogging!