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by Daniel Masoliver

In January 2010, Brixton dweller Zoë Jewell set up a hyperlocal blog covering her beloved locality. Within a matter of months, Brixton Blog exploded (figuratively speaking), and firmly established itself among the London blogosphere elite. The blog now has over 1,600 followers on Twitter, and a permanent spot on the Guardian’s list of ‘Top London Bloggers’.

But the burning question that we’re all dying to ask is, how does mobile technology help Zoë go about her blogging business? Fear not, for all will be revealed below. And in the true Mobile Journalists spirit, the interview was conducted via Twitter, on our mobiles – Zoë using Twitter for iPhone, me using Tweetcaster for Android.

 

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by Daniel Masoliver

Writing this review of the WordPress for Android app using the WordPress for Android app on my HTC Desire… Well, it’s all a bit meta. But that initial headache aside, the app is a relatively pain-free way of updating your blog.

The premise of the app is simple enough – blogging on the go – but as Joe Brothwell found this week, most people don’t like the idea of writing extensively on their mobiles. The resulting blog posts therefore tend to be short updates which are expanded upon later from a computer.

I must say, as my fat thumbs struggle to hit any of the correct letters on my touchpad keyboard, I’m mighty tempted to do the same. But in the name of journalism, I’ll endeavour to see it through.

The WordPress app is surprisingly easy to use. As easy, in fact, as the online version. Once you’ve set it up with your existing WordPress blog (and you can register multiple accounts), you arrive at a home-screen giving you the option to write a new post, manage your comments and even check your stats. And scrolling through existing blog posts to view or edit them is easy enough.

As for writing, all the usual functions are here: formatting text, inserting links, adding media and tagging.

Though when linking text to a website, you’ll either need to know the address by heart, have it copied on your clipboard or, as I have just done with the link to Joe’s post, read it off your computer screen and arduously enter it onto your phone.

Inserting media is simple, and intuitive too: The app gives you the option of using a photo or video saved on your phone, or using your in-built camera to take a new one (as I’ve done here).

And considering the app is free (and available on iPhone and Blackberry too), It’s a must have addition for any bloggers out there looking to update their WordPress blogs remotely.

It must be said that unless you’re very comfortable using your phone’s touchpad keyboard for extended periods, the process of writing requires a good deal of patience and can be very frustrating. But for uploading photos and videos to your blog, this app is quite genius.

Thumbs up.

by Daniel Masoliver

In a run of the mill, every day emergency, there’s a pretty obvious way in which your mobile can get you out of trouble: It’s a phone – just call 999 (or your local equivalent).

But following disasters such as the recent earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, mobile devices have been used in far more creative ways to help save lives. And last week, technology blogger Brad Grier explained how:

- As long as the disaster hasn’t affected the mobile network, smartphones can be used to connect to the internet. Access to news sites, emails and Twitter among other things – basically just staying informed – can help keep you from danger.

- Grier describes how you can use your smartphone’s GPS capabilities to map your way out of a disaster-hit area. But GPS could save your life in another way, too. If you were unlucky enough to be trapped in a building following an earthquake (but lucky enough to have a fully functioning smartphone to hand), you could use location-based apps like FourSquare to broadcast your location to the world and alert people to your whereabouts.

- Saving lives? There’s an app for that: The American Red Cross has developed a Shelter View app which allows you to see when and where shelters have been set up following a disaster. And the Pacific Disaster Centre has released an app which maps out where natural hazards are occurring around the world.

Tweet for your life

In September 2010, Japanese journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka was released after having been held captive in Afghanistan for five months.

Tsuneoka’s captors demanded that he teach them how to use a Nokia N70 phone that they had in their possession. He did so, and while demonstrating the values of Twitter, managed to sneak off a couple of tweets from his own account.

photos: Mashable.com

Now, it seems likely that his release was due to the fact that he was a practising Muslim, and not because of his use of Twitter. But at least he managed to let the world know that he was still alive.

So next time you find yourself in a perilous situation, tweet it.

To find out more about any of the stories mentioned above, click here.

by Daniel Masoliver

Photo: _dChris on Flickr

Following a successful trial at Charing Cross station, Transport for London (TfL) today announced plans to roll out Wi-Fi across 120 stations on the London Underground by the time the Olympics come around in 2012.

The technology has existed for some time to have both Wi-Fi and even full mobile coverage on the Tube. But public feeling has, for the most part, been that the hellishness of rush hour travel would be made even worse by ringing mobiles and chattering passengers.

Initially, it will be only the stations themselves that have Wi-Fi signals, not the trains. However, this is still an exciting development for communication – and yes, journalism – in London.

From a practical, albeit a rather boring point of view, people will be able to tweet live updates from underground platforms. So if there are delays caused by ‘a passenger emergency’, then you’ll be able to find out about it immediately from someone live-tweeting, as opposed to half an hour later when TfL officials finally get the message out.

But from a journalistic point of view too, there will be a whole host of new reporting possibilities. Imagine if we’d had Wi-Fi on underground platforms during the 7/7 bombings; audio, video, photos, tweets and all the rest of it could have been published online within seconds of the explosions. Professional and citizen journalists alike could have reported on the rescue operations as they happened, all from their mobile phones.

If such an atrocity should occur again in future, then the media will be better equipped to cover it. It is these very lines of thought, however, that has made many passengers weary of the introduction of a mobile network on the Underground.

A survey by technology website V3.co.uk has indicated that 41 per cent of people think that the tube is noisy enough as it is. And a further 20 per cent thought that the introduction of mobile phones on the Tube could actually heighten the terrorist threat (as mobile devices have been used in the past to detonate explosives).

But the day-to-day practical benefits of having Wi-Fi on the Underground, and the communications and media potential of the plan, remain an exciting prospect.

To read more about the plans, click here.

by Daniel Masoliver

The value of citizen journalism is that it gives you access to events and locations that the mainstream media doesn’t have access to. And nowhere are we seeing a stronger case for the importance of citizen journalism right now than in Libya.

As violence spreads throughout the country, and Western forces target Colonel Gaddafi’s strongholds with their air-strikes, Libya is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for journalists to report from.

Despite this, and to their great credit, many international journalists are still in Libya, and still providing us with a window from which to gaze on events there as they unfold. However, many are also leaving, or are unable to report from the most dangerous locations.

Step forward the citizen journalists. Armed with little more than a video camera and an internet connection, or in some cases simply a mobile phone, many Libyan citizens are now giving the outside world unparalleled access to life on the front line.

Small World News, a documentary and media company set up by 30-year-old American journalist Brian Conley, has set up base in the rebel-held town of Benghazi, in order to train Libyans to capture footage from places where the mainstream media fear to tread.

Conley made the trip to Libya with six HTC Wildfire mobile phones and some Kodak Zi8 cameras, and he and his newly trained team have managed to capture some extraordinary footage. [WARNING: The video below contains images that some may find disturbing]

Small World News has also been able to record audio reports by using Speak2Tweet, a collaborative project from Google, Twitter and SayNow. The service allows a caller to leave a voicemail on an international phone number (+16504194196, +390662207294, and +442033184514). This voicemail is then automatically translated into English and posted onto Twitter with the hashtag #Libya.

So even when authorities cut off the internet, as has recently happened in Libya, people can still tweet from their phones.

Unfortunately, the HTC phones have not been particularly useful (Conley and his team only managed to set up three out of six). Also, Conley has reported that as of Thursday 17 March, all mobile networks in Libya have been disconnected.

But despite these set backs, Conley still sees a crucial role for mobile technology in covering events in Libya. Conley spoke to MobileActive.org from Benghazi, and said: “[Mobile technology is] a prime way that we have been viewing videos from locals… There is a big role for mobiles in media production and distribution, just not in terms of communication right now.”

(It is worth noting that many journalists have been covering events using Nokia E72 and other similar phones.)

And the access that Small World News and its band of citizen journalists currently have has made it a vital resource for the mainstream media. Speaking to MobileActive.org, Conley said: “Right now, we’re reaching out to media networks because we’re just now getting footage that we’re fairly certain that nobody else has.”

He added: “A lot of media have left, and many more are on their way out right now… We’re hearing that people will leave primarily because they can’t get any access and they are spending huge amounts of money to be there.”

Of the role of Small News World, he said: “It’s a place to give Libyans a way to speak directly to the world.”

Content produced by Conley and his partners has been posted on Alive.in/Libya. Sister sites have also been set up for EgyptBahrain and Iraq.

Citizen journalism is not a threat to traditional journalism, but a massive asset. It gives the mainstream media, and the world at large, access to places like Libya, and means that, hopefully, no story will be left untold.

For additional online resources, click here.

by Daniel Masoliver

Patrick Smith is a freelance journalist, editor of TheMediaBriefing, super-tweeter and general journo web-wizard. In the video below, he tells Mobile Journalists about how mobile technology has allowed him to conduct interviews and cover events. He also shares some of his favourite iPhone apps with us.

I filmed this video using the Ustream Broadcaster app for Android. This is a free app available on Android, iPhone and Nokia that allows you to broadcast live to an online channel. Most recently, you may have seen Charlie Sheen using Ustream to broadcast his various antics to the world.

I’ve used Ustream to film live in the past, but on this ocassion with Patrick it didn’t work. Luckily, there’s also an option for filming ‘local’ video, which you can then upload to your Ustream channel, for people to view at their leisure.

As you can see from the video above, the picture quality isn’t the best, though the sound doesn’t seem to be too shabby.

Another lesson learnt: The little beeps that you can hear throughout are notifications from someone chatting to me on the Google Talk app. In future, it seems sensible to close down any apps that may sound off during an interview!

by Daniel Masoliver

Journalists and other media types have been sporting iPhones for as long as the sleek little mobile devils have been around. Even as an HTC user, I can’t deny that there’s something inherently appealing about the iPhone’s sleek design and intuitive interface.

But for the past year, sales of Google’s Android smartphones have been steadily outgrowing their Apple rivals. This is because Android phones on the whole tend to be much cheaper than iPhones – both in terms of handset prices and contract costs. Also, the Android operating system has been embraced by several of the larger players in the mobile tech world – HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson – whereas there’s only one Apple.

So while iPhone users will still be treated to all the latest gimmicky apps, be they swishing lightsabers or glowing zippo lighters, Android developers are catching up and producing some seriously useful ones.

Here are five of the best:

1. Evernote

The humble notebook is dead. With Evernote you can make notes on the go using your phone’s keyboard. These notes are then uploaded to your online account, so you can access them from any computer with an internet connection.

But it doesn’t stop there. Evernote also allows you to upload photos and audio recordings, which you can then access in the same way. Organise your notes into different notebooks, and even search for text that appears in images.

2. Dropbox

This file sharing app turns your phone into a virtual hard drive. First install the program onto your computer, then just drag files – mp3s, photos, docs, pdfs, whatever – into the newly created Dropbox folder. You’ll then be able to access these files through the app on your phone.

You can also choose to share certain files, giving your colleagues access to something they might need to work. All they’ll need is a Dropbox account of their own.

3. Pulse

Journalists spend as much time consuming journalism as they do creating it, and Pulse provides the easiest and most visually pleasing way of doing this. Basically a glorified RSS reader, the app can be customised to display the latest stories from your favourite news sites and RSS feeds.

What really sets Pulse apart from its rivals is its user interface. Scroll up and down to see your feeds, and left to right for the latest stories on each one. You can then view the story on the reader itself, or tap through to the original website.

 

4. Vlingo

Welcome to the future. Vlingo uses voice recognition technology to give you a truly hands free experience.  Once you’re in the app, simply utter a simple voice command followed by your message, and Vlingo does the rest.

For example, to email your friend John letting him know that you’re going to be late, you would say: “Email John; Subject, Running Late; Message, John, I’ll be 10 minutes late for the meeting.”

You can use Vlingo to text, email, update Twitter and Facebook, even search Google. And most importantly, the voice to text conversion is remarkably accurate. Perfect for when you’re in the car, or your hands are otherwise engaged.

5. Qik

Turn your phone into a mobile television studio using Qik. This app doesn’t just record video, but broadcasts it live online, allowing viewers to watch your footage before you’ve even finished recording it.

Qik will alert people that you’re broadcasting by posting a link to Twitter and Facebook, or you can share your recordings on YouTube for them to watch at their convenience.