Blog On The Go

By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Mar - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Mar - 2005
Blog On The Go
Blogging, with an estimated 25 million active users, is the next big thing, say pundits all across cyberspace. Taking this to the next level-mobile blogging-would be logical thing to do. But how will this work? Are there enough people interested in blogging using their mobile phones?

Deepak Pawar of Midas Events, the company that has put up, India's first and so far, only mobile blogging site, thinks the concept will certainly work.

"As of right now, there are a number of mobile phone users who have upgraded to camera phones, and these guys are not sure how to share their photographs. Such a site would help them by not just storing their photos, but also sharing them with minimal fuss and least requirement of technological know-how," says Pawar.

The idea was born when Pawar, a self-professed tech freak, was wondering what to do with the hundreds of photos he had on his phone. Scouring the Net for a resource, he found a few, but they were all either paid or did not facilitate mobile blogging.

"We will endeavour to keep this site free. This would encourage more users to sign up. Our revenue would mainly come from advertising. There are some corporates who are already asking us about the possibilities, and this would form one revenue source for us," elaborates Pawar.

Mobile Blogging has been around for almost a year now. Nokia had launched 'Lifeblog', a software that allowed users of its 7610 model to upload to a Web site and create their own photo blog. This, however, cost a whole lot more! The software had to be bought for $30 (Rs 1,305) and a subscription to TypePad, where the blog would be hosted, cost about $5 (Rs 218) per year. So, after you had paid nearly Rs 28,000 for the phone, only an additional cost of approximately Rs 1,600 would let you host your own mobile blog.

Other services available are restrictive in nature and do not support all service providers or cell phone models. Pawar would not like to have any restrictions on Mobylog, though, and plans to support every service provider. "That would be the strength of our offering… if we started charging or restricting, the site would end up as a dud," says Pawar.

The Cost Factor
But setting up something like this would come at a price, and Pawar is ready to bear these costs. "I'm emotionally attached to this idea and I will do anything it takes to ensure its success," he says.

...if we started charging or restricting, the site would end up as a dud.
Deepak Pawar, Midas Events

So far, he has spent close toRs 35 lakh on setting up the back-end and employing a team to develop the service. "We are a team of 15 and this could expand later. We have set up three servers, one that handles all the e-mails coming to the site, one for the database and one that mirrors the site so that we are not crippled in case of an eventuality."

Options of uploading to the site include e-mailing a given address using the secret word or MMSing your photos and text. Just like that!

The database this site would generate would also be humongous. Every user would have his/her own 'secret word' that would be a part of the e-mail sent to the site and would identify the sender. This would ensure that the photos are uploaded on to the correct blog. "We are using the .NET framework and the site is logically very strong. We do not expect too many problems once we go live," says Pawar.

Ouch! Numerical Keypads
Once you start thinking about it, doesn't it seem excessively painful to enter text using a numeric keypad for input?

Of course millions of teenagers send gazillions of characters of SMS text to each other using only a numeric keypad, but comparing text messaging to blog entries is not fair. SMS messages are short by necessity, and the people that use them have developed elaborate shorthand which speeds up input. A blog entry, on the other hand, tends to be real prose, with real sentences and in many cases multiple paragraphs per blog entry.

If textual blogging has a future on mobile devices, it will most likely succeed on devices that have more sophisticated input mechanisms than a numeric keypad alone. Palm OS devices, for example, have a stylus that makes it significantly easier to enter text. Other devices, such as the BlackBerry and Nokia Communicator phones or Sony Ericsson's P910 series include a small QWERTY keyboard that could make this easier.

But photo blogging is not restricted by any such problem. All you need is a camera phone, and even a numeric keypad for a short caption is enough.

Connectivity Woes
Bandwidth is the only major cost that Mobylog is currently facing. But with sponsors and advertisers coming in, this could also be handled, feels Pawar. As of now, Airtel would be the main sponsor, but this would not keep other service providers away. Pawar is hopeful that soon, other service providers would want to be a part of this.

But wouldn't these guys rather put up their own site? "That threat exists, but we are the pioneers and will remain free and allow users of any service to use it. If a service provider were to set up his own site, chances are, they will not allow users of other services to use their service. But we are really not that worried about this. It's easier for them to partner with us than go on their own. Our real threat is from portals such as Yahoo! or," says Pawar.

There are other issues, though. While this will enable and help the spread of blogging, given the recent DPS MMS incident, policing the content would be of paramount importance. "Yes we will be monitoring the content that is put up but we will, at no point, get intrusive. If we find offensive or obscene material, it would be 'flushed' instantly," assures Pawar.

More Moblogging Sites 

The blog could also have an impact when helping law enforcement authorities. "Imagine an accident or an incident or a crime happening in front of you. To maintain your anonymity, you could post the photograph on the blog, or we could alert the authorities if we were to come across something offensive in any of the posts. This could be a strong tool," asserts Pawar.

He is also sure that this could be a strong platform for artistes to display their work. "Artistes need to reach out to a wider audience and this tool could sure facilitate that need."

Whatever the need or the use, mobile blogging is a strong tool, and the power to post from anywhere is perhaps the first step to truly unleashing the potential of mobile computing.

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