Last year it seemed everyone had a blog. The word blog -- in case you didn't already know -- comes from the contraction of Web and log, and more than a few times last year it was combined in some way with the phrase "blah, blah, blah."
Indeed, that is what the whole "blogging revolution" seemed to be about -- endless gabbing about pretty much any topic by a few million souls with more time than talent. And while a few real gems emerged from it all, on the whole most blogging needs to remain what it is, a private form of entertainment and information.
But this week I finally decided to stop ignoring two recent additions to that world: mobile and multimedia blogging.
I tried a new service called Flickr, created by a company called Ludicorp, based in Vancouver, Canada. It's still in beta. After using it once, I became fascinated by the potential of instantly publishing photos taken on a camera phone. Flickr, which is free to use at its basic-level account, works with major blogging services like Google's Blogger, Six Apart's Movable Type and TypePad, LiveJournal among others.
Flickr is an amazingly easy tool to use for adding pictures of any kind to a blog, whether they're taken by a traditional video camera or a wireless camera phone.
For my first effort I snapped a picture of a willing co-worker with my Motorola V710 phone. Then I typed up a message that went out over the Verizon Wireless network to Flickr, which automatically published the photo to a test blog I maintain via Blogger.com. I followed it up with a couple of blurry shots of Times Square and my local subway train pulling into the stop.
To publish in this way, all I had to do was create an account. Flickr's set-up wizard walks you through the process of setting up specified e-mail addresses for sending photos. You'll use one address for sending pictures that you simply want to store and maybe work with later. Another -- which is what I used to publish my phone pictures -- instantly publishes the picture you send and any text in the e-mail that comes with it to a blog that you designate.
The other tool I tried this week was AudBlog, which creates audio postings to a blog. It's also free to try, but to continue using it beyond the first posting you pay $3 per month via eBay's PayPal.
Audblog, created by San Francisco-based ListenLab, allows you to record via phone a four-minute message by calling a specified phone number. They're recorded in Apple Computer's QuickTime format, and the sound files themselves are hosted directly by the Audblog service. It publishes a graphic to the blog that says "play this audio post", which when clicked launches the QuickTime audio file in a new browser window.
I was mightily impressed by this service. If somewhere inside you is the soul of a public radio commentator, or if you just have a need to have your voice heard online, this is an easy way to do it. Mere seconds after hanging up the phone from recording a test post, I hit the reload button on my blog and found the new posting ready to play.
What AudBlog needs now is a little more flexibility. It would be nice to upload files of nearly any type for use on a blog, as long as the files in question aren't copyrighted songs, for instance.
So exactly what use is all this mobile blogging capability beyond publishing as personal entertainment? This is a big question, because blogging is really nothing more than Web publishing and content management made easy for people who wouldn't otherwise have the time or patience to learn more complex Web-publishing tools. Services like AudBlog and Flickr just add multimedia to the mix.
Businesses are looking at blogging for crafting of unique marketing messages. Say you're promoting some new musical performer and want to reach audiences over the Web while the artist is touring? What's easier than snapping a few backstage pictures and getting the artist to make a few phone calls to record a message, and maybe play a bar or two of a new song they're working on?
News organizations are also experimenting with the blog format. Newspapers, once bound by the printed page, long ago figured out that they can work on a 24-hour news cycle using the Web and more recently that blogs can, for certain kinds of stories and subject matter, make that easier. Photos and audio content can help fill out a complicated story.
I like blogs, and I like blogging, and I find the ability of instantly posting pictures and audio to have tremendous potential for creative people. But I'm not yet sold on the blogging revolution, because it hasn't yet evolved much beyond blah, blah, blah.