Mobile blogging how-to guide

Mobile blogging is easy. Don't let anyone tell you different. All you need is a mobile device such as a mobile phone or a wireless lap/palm top. In fact it doesn't matter what hardware you've got as the important thing is it must be able to send an email message. Most mobile phones these days allow you send an email directly from your phone. Even if you have an older phone most service providers operate an SMS > email gateway where you send an SMS message to a special access number that in turn routes your message out to email.

Here's a simple moblogging how-to:

  1. Get yourself a weblog. I'd recommend a Radio Userland weblog as their software has hidden depths (it's also a programming environment so you can do lots more besides blogging).

  2. Set up a email account. It's important that this email account is not your mail email account as any messages sent to it will be consumed by the weblogging software. Your weblog software will screen incoming email messages to check they're from you and are destined for your weblog. Any other posts are discarded so you don't want to lose your regular email! Very important: make sure this is a POP email account and not IMAP only account, though IMAP accounts that also offer POP access are fine. Hotmail accounts are out unless you pay for their POP email service. So now you have an email account dedicated to your weblog. The idea is any messages you send to this account will be posted on your weblog.

  3. Set up the email to weblog facility in your chosen weblogging software. This is basically to tell your weblogging software to check your special weblog email account periodically (every few minutes is usual) looking for new messages to post. In Radio this is easy to set up. Depending upon what weblogging software you use this will be more or less straightforward. As a security check most weblogging software uses the email subject line as a password to verify that an email is really from you.

  4. Now you're ready to go. Your weblogging software is listening for new email messages so now you simply have to send your first message. If you're using a device that sends regular email then you're already there. Send an email to your weblog email account from wherever you are, in the middle of a field, up a mountain or in a shopping queue. The email will be picked up and posted to your weblog. Clearly getting a modern phone capable of sending email directly is a lot less hassle. If you're using a mobile phone that can't send an email directly then an SMS > email gateway is probably your best bet. In this case you usually have to format your SMS message in a special way to tell the gateway who to send the email to. The format of messages I've used in the past is ' goes here'. You send the SMS to a special service access number (like number 191 in some UK gateways) and your SMS message gets converted to an email message by the service centre and sent to your weblog address. Exactly how you set this up depends upon your mobile network provider so ask their customer services department about their SMS > email gateway.

  5. Clever moblogging software like the assetManager tool for Radio UserLand allows you to post to categories as well as to your home page. This way you can keep your moblog themed, routing some posts to your home page and some to a separate category. The assetManager tool also allows you to specify a title for your moblog post. Remember the secret subject in the email that lets your weblog know the mobile post is really from you? Well the assetManager exploits a simple trick that each category in your weblog can have its own secret subject. Choose the secret subject to route your post where you like in your blog. In addition, anything you type after the secret subject becomes the title of your post. Easy!

  6. This is where it gets fun. You'll probably want to do is attach a picture to your post. For that you'll need a camera phone and my assetManager tool for Radio Userland. The tool allows you to attach pictures and even send HTML messages to your blog from any capable mobile device. Cool! You've got yourself a mobile foto blog.

  7. Now you've posted your first basic weblog post you probably want to do other things. If you want to save typing on a mobile phone keypad why not use text shortcuts that your weblogging software will expand to fuller text when the message is received. Radio UserLand allows you to specify any number of shortcuts. Here's one I did earlier to extend a simple message I sent via SMS. For example, if you always type Radio Userland in your messages why not create a shortcut called 'ru' instead that expands to 'Radio Userland' whenever you post a message. Saves a lot of typing.

Now you've got the basics there's no stopping you getting your own foto moblog. The rest is up to you.

Have fun and keep on moblogging!

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