04 May 2007

Disappointments Large and Small

The photo below represents my first -- but failed -- attempt to use Jaiku for wirelessly blogging a quick text and photo update. This is exactly the kind of situation I imagined these sites would be good for -- I was transiting through Frankfort (FRA) on my way from Budapest to Mexico City, and so wanted first of all just to let a few people know I was re-locating to a different time zone. But rather than just send a simple update, it's cool to be able to grab an image like this out the stream of stimuli you're inundated with every day and share it with a few people.

The shot is in the tunnel between terminals 1A and 1B. I tried to send it directly to the Jaiku site by MMS moments after snapping it on tuesday morning, but have since found that you can only send text to that number. The site does at least imply that it's possible to send "blogs, photos, bookmarks, music, places, events, videos and RSS feeds" to Jaikus, but doesn't really give you much details on how to do so. Irregardless of which option you click on (e.g. music or photos), it simply gives you a field where you can enter a URL to a web page with a content feed. I've got Nomadicity connected into mine, so a Jaiku gets generated every time I update the blog, but I don't see any way to actually get an image or other type of file to appear. And in this case, I don't think the clever 13-year-olds have figured it out either (which means it is truly impossible), as none of the public Jaikus visible on the site have anything but text or the standard graphics that Jaiku allows you to add.

One thing I do have to give Jaiku a gold star for, however, is its apparently flawless support for non-ASCII characters. I noted with pleasure that all the characters in the hungarian language titled post I added were displayed correctly on both the blogger and the Jaiku sites; developers who forget the world is a lot bigger than the 105 character ASCII set are a pet peeve of mine.

Trying to remain optimistic and maintain my trust in technology, I was excited to find that Blogger itself has a mobile posting option. As with most of sites these, the directions are rather thin (yes, I am one of those annoying people that actually likes to read the manual before attempting something), basically consisting of "just send your text and photos to go@blogger.com! That's it!" Unfortunately the actual experience was all too typical. I snapped the photo below and sent it off to the email address whilst wandering around Mexico City yesterday.

Supposedly, "Blogger" was supposed to message me back with some sort of code, which I then am supposed to enter in the web site and thereby link my mobile number to my blog. No message was received, so I searched around the site a bit more and -- no surprise -- I find buried in some long FAQ the precious little tit-bit of information that "[t]he initial launch of Blogger Mobile will work with your phone if you are a US customer of Verizon, AT&T, Cingular, Sprint, or T-Mobile". Oh well -- typical American site -- they just kind of forget to mention that for the 97% of the world that doesn't live in the USA, it doesn't work (and in fact the main page on the topic says "We support most popular mobile carriers in the US and worldwide"). Liars.

Well, all is not lost. Apparently, there is a way to post by email, and that I can do direct from the handset. I'll try that later. But before I finish with my U.S. website bashing, you may have read the comment I received from Derrick Oien at Rabble's parent company. Derrick corrected my observation that Rabble only works on the Brew platform by pointing out that it also works on a number of others, including "Blackberry and the Hiptop." So looks like they have all the platforms-that-Americans-have-gone-crazy-over-and-nobody-else-have-ever-heard-of covered. For my fellow non-residents of North America, Blackberry is a proprietary messaging platform offered by Research in Motion (RIM), a company based in Ottowa, Canada if I recall correctly. Although a few carriers in Europe, Asia and Africa offer the service, 99,9% of their customer base is in the USA and Canada. I've seen the devices, and like most non-Americans, my response to the whole "push" email thing pioneered by Blackberry has been lukewarm at best. Pero los norteamericanos estan locos para sus Blackberries. The "HipTop" is kind of cool device, designed by Steve Wozniak (the "other" Apple founder) but I've yet to see a single device of theirs for sale anywhere outside North America. No offence, Derrick, but you aren't going to reach any more than a niche audience if your application isn't available on the Symbian platform (which has 75%+ market share of smart phone operating systems) for at least the Nokia series 60 phones, and preferably for Sony Ericsson as well. It's not just the limitation of devices, but you are reaching an audience that is overwhelmingly concentrated in one place (North America), that sort of goes against the whole concept of any social networking tool, be it blogging, skyping, youtubing or whatever, which is all about connecting with others you wouldn't meet otherwise. Again, a pity, because, I've spent some more time on the Rabble site since my last post on the topic and I'm becoming convinced that they've got the most powerful micro-blogging tools, except maybe for Kyte.

But to keep my frustrations in perspective, I should mention that I received a rather distressed and excited voice mail in the middle of my last night in Budapest from the divinità nella potomac herself, the acolyte of Aurora and priestess of the cherry orchard, whom I shall refer to simply as OD. In her quest to make the world a more peaceful and beautiful place (or at least to make it smell a little better), OD has been selling her bath and beauty products to humans and Republicans alike from her spot at Washington's historic Eastern Market for over a decade now, and at some point Monday, the place caught fire and the south market hall was gutted. Fortunately, the 134 year old solid brick walls were not permanently damaged; more details in this article from the IHT. I finally caught up with OD by telephone from my taxi on my way into Mexico from the airport; she sounded as if she has just lost a child, or at least a beloved pet. I'm sure a lot of her fellow vendors feel the same way, but by now they're probably already planning how to bring it back better than ever. Have a look at the Eastern Market website, and if you find yourself in Washington, be sure to put the place on your itinerary (Eastern Market metro on the red line is your metro stop) and give the vendors there a little moral and financial support. It's a unique and wonderful place, a warm little bubble of soul and creativity in the otherwise mercenary and avaricious moral vacuum that is Washington's Capitol Hill.

Mexico City
4 May 2007

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