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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Saturday, 4 July 2009

The chronicles of life - Web2.0 style.

There are now some amazing ways to tell stories on the internet. In some respects, blogs are 'old hat', in that they are a distinctly linear method by which an account may be recorded.

I have gone on at length about twitter as the ultimate means by which to chronicle events quickly within the limits of a text message, but even that has been somewhat enriched by the 'accessories' that are available for it. Thus:

  • Pictures
Most mobile phones include cameras (of varying quality), these days - and certainly all the internet-enabled ones do. There are a few options available to upload phone pictures to Twitter - such as mobypicture and twitgoo - but many mobile Twitter applications (such as ceTwit, which I use on my i600, and TwitterFon on my iPod Touch) use the excellent TwitPic.

An example of TwitPic marvellousness for my blog then. Lenni ... on Twitpic
Lenni in front of the nasturtia ... on TwitPic

  • Video
Mobile phone video quality varies between devices, but I was fortunate enough to be given a Nokia N95 by some very generous friends, which has excellent image quality, so I carry it around not just as a phone but as an internet-enabled 'point and shoot' camera and camcorder.

Until recently I've been using Qik, both on the i600 and now the N95, since it offers some quite amazing abilities to stream live over 3G (quite expensive unless you have an unlimited data plan) or upload automatically when one arrives at a place with wi-fi.

The N95 offers some 'Share Online' services, though, which includes a blogging site called Vox, which seems to have slightly better quality video.

Here's an example from this morning - a drumming workshop organised by the Family Workers and Chris and Lenni's schools, led by the mightily talented Tom Southerton.

  • Audio
I've recently become aware of a new phenomenon which has brought audio blogging (a so far little-used medium - although I've made a few audio-based blog entries, they're by far in the minority!) to the public consciousness.

It's called Audioboo, developed by UK-based BestBefore Media, and has already gained a lot of media attention, much like Twitter. Perhaps it's my fondness for radio that has inspired me to adopt it as a (yet another!) way of recording my experiences, but it's meant that I have bought a microphone (the Macally iVoice III and had to make slight modifications to the software so it works on my 1st Gen iPod Touch) to enable me to use it.

I'm sure there are other means by which audio accounts can be recorded and uploaded, but this is exquisitely simple, and although there is no software yet available for other mobile devices, it is possible to use an adjunct to the service - PhoneBoo - to record and upload phone messages to the service.

What's quite brilliant, though, is that the phone number is an internet-based one, so it's possible to use Voice over IP software to call it up and leave messages. I will - if I have the opportunity - write a blog entry about it, but I've managed to get the N95 (which is already capable of internet telephony) to record AudioBoos that way as well. In fact, the ubiquitous mobile messaging software Fring is capable of making internet phone calls, but unfortunately it doesn't (yet) support 'touch tone' (or 'DTMF') key presses, so it's possible to record a message, but not to stop or upload it!

Here's an audioboo I recorded last night - about water butts, of all things!

The tricky bit, of course, is aggregating all these disparate media into one place. Fortunately, both TwitPic (by its very nature) and AudioBoo can automatically post a new item to Twitter to announce their presence. Because Vox generates an RSS feed for a user's items, I've made use of an excellent service called twitterfeed.com which examines the feed and creates a tweet if something new pops up. As a result, my multimedia exploits are collected into Twitter, which is quite good, but ends up in the marass of microblogging that goes on during the course of my day.

Since my blog isn't particularly regularly updated, I thought it might be quite nice, therefore, if I were to try to find a way automatically to post these items to my blog, as well. I think it should be fairly straightforward to write a script that rummages through my Twitter RSS feed and finds any new media that's popped up.. that's my project for the next couple of days. The benefit is that my blog is slightly more regularly updated with fairly rich content (that I can consolidate by editing the post and adding bits later), but it doesn't take me hours to write a long and tedious blog entry (like this one, for which I apologise!)

It's been a hot, hot week, which has made it hard to concentrate in the office (the air conditioning has never really worked, and the windows have been limited for health & safety reasons) but we're doing OK at home. Beth's operation is approaching quickly - she had her pre-op appointment yesterday, where she spent five hours at what I've dubbed The Cockney Hospital since they had something of a doctor shortage. The nursing staff, however, couldn't be faulted - they were helpful, patient and apologetic, so that reduces the worry about the impending stay!

More on that - and everything else that's going on in our lives - soon, then... in one form or another!

Posted by james at July 4, 2009 4:35 PM

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