One & Other in a roundabout way

This is a photo of the screen of a computer, displaying a webcam that’s trained on a plinth. Not just any plinth, The Plinth.

On the webcam is a whiteboard that carries a message, a message that’s saying hello to my sons. They were very impressed.

Lorinda (who I’ve never met) wrote the message. Lorinda wrote messages she got on her phone, via a service called Thumbprint. Thumbprint is a dead simple way to say stuff about places and topics by text.

I texted the Plinth after seeing a tweet from Andrew at Blink who made Thumbprint with my friends at Common.

It was all over in a few totally unexpected minutes of a Saturday afternoon, so let’s play that again, in slow motion…

  • Tweet…
  • Text…
  • Thumbprint…
  • Text…
  • Plinth…
  • Pen…
  • Whiteboard…
  • Webcam…
  • Amazement.

Well done to all involved.

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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.