Twitter: where monologues collide

[Mr. Incredible throws a log at Syndrome, who dodges it and traps Mr. Incredible with his zero-point energy ray]
Syndrome: Oh, ho ho! You sly dog! You got me monologuing! I can’t believe it…

Late last year BBC4 aired an excellent Charlie Brooker Screenwipe special in which Graham Linehan, Russell T Davies and others shared their secrets of writing for the small screen. Frustratingly, at the time of this post it’s not available for viewing on iPlayer, but a write-up by Neil Baker confirms my recollection of one particular gem of an idea from Davies:

He basically said that dialogue is when two monologues collide. In a conversation, you’re not really listening, you’re waiting to speak. Everyone wants to tell their story.

The other day a colleague Twittered a question about how people use Twitter, and it struck me that Russell T Davies’ description of dialogue is exactly right. In answer to the ultimate invitation to self-centredness, “what are you doing?” we spin our own narritive threads. The @ signs and # tags are the places where those threads tangle together, where monologues collide to make dialogue.

Maybe it’s this merging of monologue and dialogue in one service that makes microblogging (or whatever you call it) so powerful a communications tool? One for those of us who, most of the time, are not very good at listening?

Shameless plug #2 – Yorkshire Food Blog

My sister Katharine is blogging again – this time on the subject of Yorkshire food. She promises:

…tips, recipes and links to favourite producers, restaurants and shops, and describing delights and disasters of food in Yorkshire.

Go to – it does what it says on the tin :)

Mobile video use case #3

So I’m on the train home after a day in London and my phone beeps.

It’s a video message of Fabian riding his bike without stabilisers.

“I don’t know who I’m most proud of,” I tell Caroline later, “him for riding a bike or you for sending a video message.”

“Don’t patronise me,” says Caroline.

Blogging on the beach

… just because I can, and because it’s five years to the day since my first mobile clog [t9 sic] post. Equipment used: 1 Nokia 30something, running series 40, Opera Mini, 1 ladybird print beach tent (does not provide protection against rain), sand in shoes.

Update 12/9/2006: We’ve been back for two weeks now and I probably still have sand in my shoes. The ladybird print tent is still taking up space on our bedroom floor because we can’t wrestle it back into its little sleeve to put away for next year. But this is a serious point (I knew I’d get there in the end): My mobile is virtually unusable for text browsing in broad daylight. And it’s not helped by the fact that Opera Mini highlights text links in white text on a blue background, even though the main navigation on my WordPress dashboard is made up of – yup, you guessed – white text on a very subtly different shade of blue background. Now everything’s bright, nothing’s clear.

The private life of a digital camera

Flickr etiquette is a tricky thing. For starters I have to pigeonhole the tangled web of people-with-whom-I-share-photos into “family”, “friends” and that wonderful catch-all “contacts” (maybe we should all be using a Cold War-style dead letter box in Regent’s Park?)

But that’s nothing to the almost daily dilemma of how to share each photo I upload.

  • If I make this or that picture public am I giving away just a little to much of my family’s privacy?
  • Maybe someone, someday might find a use for that snap of Leonardo Da Vinci’s printing press?
  • Just how many photos of my kids can my work colleagues stand to see?

I think it has to do with the intimacy gradient:

Conflict: Unless the spaces in a building are arranged in a sequence which corresponds to their degrees of privateness, the visits made by strangers, friends, guests, clients, family, will always be a little awkward.
Lay out the spaces of a building so that they create a sequence which begins with the entrance and the most public parts of the building, then leads into the slightly more private areas, and finally to the most private domains.

Now for “building,” read “photo sharing service”.

But I’ve noticed one thing when skimming through my photostream: I’m far more likely to mark a picture public if I take it with my cameraphone than if I take it with my digital camera.

The regular camera is used in intimate situations – in the living room when Pascal smiles, or when Ludo falls asleep standing up. It only leaves the house in its faux leather case for special occasions – family parties, days out, when we value good pictures of never-to-be-repeated moments.

The cameraphone is the Bic Biro of image capture devices. Always in my pocket, with me everywhere I go in my everyday life. It’s helping me to take pictures I’d never have taken before – stupid pictures, random pictures, might-come-in-handy-one-day pictures. These are the pictures I’m happy to mark public on Flickr without a moment’s thought.

What we say versus what we see

So I know what you’re going to say, text isn’t the point of mobile blogging – it’s all about pictures, videos, media, capturing the moment and storing it up or sharing it out. Yes, I love taking pictures with my phone and zapping them up to Flickr, and yes, Shozu is one of that rare breed of sensitively designed mobile apps that does one thing really well.

But the thing is, if I’m going to carry around a “reality acquisition device,” I’d like to acquire the whole of reality as I experience it, not just the bits that can be captured directly as light waves or sound waves.

There are places a cameraphone just cannot reach.

And anyway, sometimes a handful of words can paint a thousand pictures. Take this August 2001 mobile post:

Circle Line, King’s Cross to Liverpool Street. Boy 11ish is playing the accordian for money. Badly. He looks exhausted. Most of us ignore the upturned baseball cap. Boy 9ish gives him a half-finished pack of mints

Get the picture? Text is still one of the most expressive ways we people have of capturing reality. Take it away and mobile blogging will be like a foreign language film without the subtitles.

mo-blogging text-entry benchmark

i’m typing this on my phone, top deck of a bus travelling up chapeltown road. i reckon i can enter text at about a 10th the speed i think it. that works out about 30 words a mile on the number 3a bus. less outside the rush hour.

Equipment used for benchmark (should you wish to reproduce this study):

Mobile blogging five years on (and off)

August 21, 2001. Newly armed with Nik Haldimann’s Wapblogger (2001-2005) on my trusty Nokia 7110i I bash out a record seven blog posts in one day. On the bus, in the lift, in the café, In just a few short hours I live every mobile blogging use case known to marketing.

That date remains my personal best in terms of posts per day, as the temporal Swiss cheese of this site testifies. But the moblogging bug stayed with me and shaped my writing. There’s something about having only eight buttons for a 26 letter alphabet that that forces thoughts down to the bare essentials. Maybe that’s a good thing. Later came photos, also often posted to Flickr direct from mobile (hey, someone else pays for my data.)

Has mobile blogging changed the world yet? No, it has probably not even changed blogging very much. But like Bill Gates said, “a lot of people overestimate the changes in the short run and then when they see that they’ve overestimated those changes, they underestimate what’s going to happen over a five to 10-year period.” And I bet he didn’t SMS that to his website.

As 21 August 2006 approaches I’ll be thinking about what’s changed and what needs to change next for this capability to reach its full potential. I’d love to know what you think too.

Text – gets to the parts that cameraphones just can’t reach

There are places a cameraphone just cannot, umm, go. Places like the men’s toilets at King’s Cross Station. (Stay with me on this one.)

There you’ll find a sticking plaster product design solution that would be at home in a Don Norman book: a hand-dryer so sleekly built into the wall that someone’s sellotaped the laser-printed word “HAND-DRYER” in Times New Roman bold caps onto its brushed steel surface.

[is it the same in the ladies? reports from the other 51% of the King's Cross traveller population would be much appreciated].

At this point, I’d inline a picture to show you what I mean – but taking photos in the men’s toilets at King’s Cross would be wrong on so many levels.

Update: 2 December 2007 – apparently there’s now one of these in the gent’s at Leeds Station, and I shall shortly be parting with 20p to investigate. Unlikely that pictures will follow. Also (have to be careful how I say this) I stumbled upon Clive Grinyer blogging on the toilet. As it were.