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Covering The Story Of Your Life


For most fans at Yankee Stadium, the time between buying a hot dog and taking the first bite is measured in nanoseconds. But Adam Seifer pauses for a ritual. He takes out his Treo 600 and snaps a photo of the steaming dog -- and promptly zaps the image to his blog site. For the past three years, Seifer, chief executive of Fotolog, a Web site for camera bugs, has been blogging pictures of every meal he has eaten. Sometimes he uses a pocket camera and uploads the photos later from his home computer. But when time is short, Seifer blogs on the run from his phone.

The blog world is exploding with postings from folks on the move -- so-called mobile bloggers, or mobloggers. Truth be told, most of their production is flat-out boring. The pictures are often fuzzy, and the text, much of it laboriously typed on cell phones, can read like bad haiku.

So why should anyone moblog? First, most of us have our own fan clubs -- small circles of friends and family who are hungry for the mundane details of our lives. The mother who long ago urged Seifer to eat his vegetables, for example, might be gratified to see those stalks of broccoli next to the tuna steak he ingested on June 5. (You can see for yourself at www.fotolog.net/cypher/?photo_id=11278296). More important, mobloggers carry the tools to report on breaking news, whether it's a refinery on fire, an earthquake, or a protest tying up traffic. Mobile bloggers sent loads of the first reports and images from the Asian tsunami in December. "Moblogging enables people to move to places you can't get with a camera crew," says Jamie Riehle, Web publishing manager for Lycos.

Tech upgrades should make it even simpler. The coming camera phones, many of them already circulating in Asia, will provide far sharper photos and videos. Phone companies such as Verizon are already offering blogging pro- grams on phones. And a proliferation of smart phones with keyboards should make writing far easier. The upshot: Moblogging will become far more pervasive. And this could change the very nature of the blog world. Instead of a blogosphere dominated by people sitting at desks, pontificating, it will increasingly be peopled by folks on site, witnessing the whole event.

Interested in giving it a try? Outfitted with a simple Samsung camera phone and a couple of dormant blog accounts, I tried out three services in the moblogging world. It turned out to be easier than I expected, at least to post photos. Early on, I planned to moblog a few written posts from my commute. But typing on a phone while navigating Manhattan foot traffic, I concluded, is a one-way ticket down a manhole, or worse. So I stuck to photos.

A CINCH TO SET UP

One of the easiest moblogging sites is Google's (GOOG) Blogger (blogger.com). There you can create your own free blog in 5 to 10 minutes. To ready the blog for mobile entries, you simply send a short text message to go@blogger.com. Within a minute or two, you receive a text message providing your password. This provides you with a new blog exclusively for your mobile post. With one click, you can integrate it with your existing blog.

Five minutes after getting started, I walked into the office of my editor, Peter Elstrom. He looked up from his desk and I rudely snapped a photograph of him. While we talked, I fiddled with my phone for a minute -- fashioning a caption and sending the picture to the blogger address. I waited a few seconds and then told him to call up the blog I'd established at Blogger: guabster.blogspot.com. His picture was smiling right back at him.

I had less luck moblogging at typepad.com, another popular blogging service. My posts didn't show up. But blogging photos to Flickr (flickr.com), Yahoo's (YHOO) photo exchange site, was a snap. Little surprise, then, that users there have posted more than 150,000 phone shots.

The next morning, cell phone in pocket, I was a potential moblogging reporter deployed in the New York metro area. However, seeing that no dramatic news was breaking along my path, I moblogged my way to work. The results, if you care to look, are every bit as boring as thousands of other mobile postings in the blog world. But my mother and perhaps a couple other fans might find something there to like.

By Stephen Baker


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