Boondoggle


Friday October 20

The mobile experiment: how I mashed up a mobile videoblog

As I experienced myself on my trip to thailand, there are still a lot of limitations on the things you can do with the internet while you're on the move. When implementing a mobile project (moblogging, movlogging, ...), I learned the hard way that there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Battery life: When you use your phone for filming, taking photos, its battery life is simply too short. My friend's digital camera batery easy lasted a week without recharging while mine (Nokia N91) barely kept going for 3 days. However, comparing the phone to my gps-device it still did  quite a good job. My bluetooth GPS receiver worked in standby modus for about 8 hours. So I could only switch it on for 5 minutes when I needed it. This made it impossible to implement the live tracking of my trip, which I had planned. As I expected, when you're on the move, battery life is still one of the biggest limitations. You have to imagine that, when your travelling, it's not always easy to find a power socket in the middle of the jungle.
  • Network connection: In most countries there's no such thing as a high speed network access. Even in Belgium, I only had 3G on the proximus network. This is probably due to the fact that the cell phone had a Proximus sim card in it. But I have to admit, I was impressed by the speed, 3G goes lighting fast. You can even compare it with regular ADSL access. In Thailand I just had a simple GSM-connection. So uploading a movie to the web goes slow, which had direct consequences for the battery life: If your movie needs half an hour of uploading or 5 minutes this makes up for like 2 hours less battery life. In remote areas, like for example, the jungle in the north of Thailand, there's no network coverage (which is a bit logic). But in the end I was pretty amazed how much areas are covered in Thailand. In the south (more touristic), you have good network coverage almost everywhere.
  • Expensive: Well, how to put it,... Uploading movies from Thailand with a Belgian mobile connexion isn't exactly cheap. I was lucky my employer i-merge wanted to pay the telephone bills part of the learning experiment. I haven't yet dared to ask how much it costed, but I'm still a little bit afraid of the upcoming bill.
  • Tools: It's very difficult to find the right tools for your cell phone. Its mainly because there are so many different operating systems and cell phone types. If you found your tool, the chances are, you'll have to pay for it. The other thing about the tools is, that they aren't optimized yet. They eat battery life, they eat your phone memory. I used an ftp-program on my phone to upload movies to the web. When I needed to upload a movie of 5 mb, it made the phone as hot as hell. It often crashed during upload. So you end up with all kinds of unexpected difficulties, which make you stressed out even when you're on holiday ;-) .
  • Web publishing tools: I used a mish mash of various services to get my stuff online. each service I used had its specific purpose and most services are pretty well connected with each other. But in some instances  the link between services isn't made yet. Sometimes it was a dead ended path. However my intention for blogging video, images and text from the mobile phone worked out pretty well. I made a simple scheme of how I worked.
    On the scheme you'll notice some connections couldn't be made automatically, this means I had to post them manually. For example if I wanted to zonetag (add geolocation tags to the image) a photo, I couldn't automatically put it on the wordpress blog. Youtube hasn't published a link with Wordpress yet, so I had to manually add a moviepost within Youtube first. This wasn't a real problem because I mostly used blip.tv to host my movies.

 

Let me explain how this scheme evolved. One of the biggest challenges was mobile blogging the videos. Videos exist in different flavours and different sizes. A videofile can become pretty large, so it wasn't easy to work this out. I started looking for a service that fitted my needs: it had to connect with wordpress + the tools to mobile upload videos.

After some Techcrunching I found blip.tv. Blip.tv had a service that allowed its user to upload movies through email. You can send an email with your movie clip attached to a certain email address and blip.tv will add your video to your blip.tv video list. Great, that was one step. The second step was how do I get the video from blip.tv on my wordpress blog? This was an easy one, blip.tv provided a nice little cross-posting feature, so if I added a movie it was also posted on the blog. I really tought I found the right solution:  Email the videofile from the cell phone and blip.tv puts it nicely on my blog. Great !

Euhm... well not really. I couldn't mail in video files bigger than 1.5 MB, so this was a problem. So a few hours before we left to the airport, I was faced with a big problem,... untill I discovered that blip.tv also provided an FTP-function to upload videos. If you uploaded a video trough FTP it was automatically added to your blip.tv video list and cross-posted to your blog. Now I only needed to find a way to upload to FTP with the cell phone. After a bit of searching I found MobyExplorer an FTP program for symbian. And I have to admit it, this actually saved the experiment. It worked instantly and almost never failed.

Some of the movies we made had to be edited (flipped 90° or some clips had to be pasted into one file). Unfortunatelly this editing is impossible to do on the mobile phone. I really had to get behind a computer in some cheesy internet café, which I hated, because I wanted to do everything mobile. On the PC I used eyespot.com, a web2.0 webservice, to edit the clips I uploaded trough their web form. The nice thing about eyespot was the direct link they had with blip.tv, so when I was finished editing, Eyespot directly sended my moviefile to blip.tv wich in its turn was automatically put on the blog. Amazing isn't it !

You might wonder why the hell I used Youtube for? Well actually, if I needed to upload a video from my friend's camera, it was necessary to do it trough a PC. The PC I had to work on was most of the time so crappy I wasn't sure it was uploading anything. Youtube has the most stable video uploader (flash or webform) and supports the most different filetypes, which gave me some more stability.

 

So what would be nice for the future:

  • A GPS receiver integrated in the cellphone. Every movie or photo you take should be automatically geotagged.
  • Bluetooth connection with my friend's digital cameras, so I could upload their movies too via my mobile connection.
  • More and better connections between the different webservices.
  • Cell phones with working memory (RAM),
  • Programs that are better optimized for working on cell phones.
 


Conclusion

Mobile technology is developing fast, web platforms start to create the tools that mobile users need to interact with their platform. Still, there is a lot to do. The tools are very scarse and far from optimized. You can only succeed if you use a mish mash of different online services and use exactly that feature of the service that meets you needs. The next step is connecting all those services together in a nice little platform. As I have hopefully proven, mobile media publishing is possible but it remains quite a challenge.

Comments

You should've asked us to have a N93 for your holidays...;-)
Cheers
ps: good overview
Tanguy

Posted by Tanguy De Kelver 24 Oct 2006 16:32:07

Thanks, I'll remember it. But the N90 did the trick. Are there a lot of enhancements in the N93 on my points above?

Posted by Jesse 24 Oct 2006 17:03:37

Yup, it has an integrated video editing software from adobe, it has wifi(easy for posting large files wherever u want)better cam resolution,...I was also wandering if you had used typepad or blogger, it had maybe been easier to upload straight to your blog...

Posted by Tanguy De Kelver 25 Oct 2006 09:03:44

Yep, I looked at my options of typepad and blogger. I tried out lifeblogger, but eventually settled with wordpress + blip.tv. It just seemed the best and most stable way of uploading my media files. And I have to admin I'm a big fan of wordpress, so that has something to do with it too.

Anyway the N93 looks very cool, can't wait to tried it out. WiFi would have been cool, but wouldn't exactly made a difference in my project.

Posted by Jesse 25 Oct 2006 12:47:05

Interesting experience. I wonder, can't you set Flickr up so all the ZoneTag photos get posted to your WordPress blog?
http://flickr.com/blogs.gne

BTW, lucky you - employer covers data costs worldwide...

Posted by Mor 24 Jan 2007 04:28:24

Hi Mor,

Yes this is possible, but only if you upload it via email. If you want to cross-post it, you just have to mail it to another email account.

ZoneTag simply uploads your photo to Flickr, but the link for cross-posting it to your blog turned out to be a dead end. So I had two options: or I geotagged the picture and upload it to Flickr OR I upload to Flickr and crosspost to Wordpress without the geotag.

Thanks for the comment.

J

Posted by Jesse 24 Jan 2007 09:13:18

Hey,

I took me time to recall this...

Yes, you can do it with ZoneTag, but you'll have to use "action tags". Set it up here:
http://zonetag.research.yahoo.com/actiontags/actiontags.php
and then add the special tag (see the instructions) to the photos you want to blog.

Easy, but hard to find :)

Posted by Mor 24 Jan 2007 16:29:01

Ow cool, I didn't found that one.

Thanks for the tip. Was that function available in September 2006?

Posted by Jesse 24 Jan 2007 16:32:59

The comments to this entry are closed.