Monday, July 24, 2006

Short Mel Service: the blog. Since my post about wanting to deliver my blog posts to mobile phones, RSS-style, I have done some research. It has been very frustrating, but potentially quite exciting, because there doesn't seem to be a service that does what I want to do. There are moblogging services that enable you to publish to the web from your mobile, and there are services that enable you to send text messages from your computer; but as yet there doesn't seem to be a simple service that allows you to blog from your mobile to many other mobiles, and also to publish these text messages online.

There are many free programs that can send bulk SMS from a computer. They are quite powerful and sophisticated, capable of sending thousands of text messages a minute. Most of them require a GSM modem: either an ordinary mobile phone plugged into your computer, or a dedicated GSM modem. And I'm uncertain who wears the cost of the messages. Frustratingly, all the services that claim to be completely free appear to be based in the UK. I would imagine, though, that they're free but append an ad for themselves to your SMS, which I don't like. Ideally, I would like to charge people myself to append ads to my messages. That would be how money could be made from this blog.

Other services charge you per SMS sent. At Net2Mobile, for instance, it costs upwards of 16c per message. TriTel proudly says it only costs 9c per message. The challenge for me, then, would be how I could pass those costs on to the subscribers to my blog. The Australian mobile carriers are not particularly interested in dealing with small fry like me, so it would be difficult to make the blog sustainable if it operated this way. Rather than people paying to receive it, I would be paying for them to receive it.

Genevieve referred me to, which appears to be a kind of mobilular MySpace. (Mobilular is one of my favourite words even though I suspect I made it up.) Basically you start up a 'pod', which is like a profile page, and other users link to you using much the same "friends" rhetoric that MySpace uses. My computer crashed as I was taking their Flash-heavy 'tour', but it seems to me that you can blog to your pod, and people on your 'friends' list can receive SMS updates of when you've posted. This is almost like what I wanted. But I don't want to use SMS to direct people to a blog: I want the actual blog posts to be delivered as text messages. Also, the income is split three ways: between me, the carriers and

Genevieve also put me onto MyNuMo, which is a really exciting new service. It's exciting because it democratises mobile phone content: you could be the smallest producer of wallpapers, videos, ringtones or text content, and you can build a subscriber base by selling your wares through the site. MyNuMo acts as a broker between you and the carriers. They also have a tool called NuMoMatic that creates the HTML for you to promote your services elsewhere online. The trouble is, of course, that MyNuMo is a "Mob 2.0" service -- it only works on high-end handsets and through providers like T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon that aren't operating here (or if they are, the take-up just isn't there yet).

While I try to work out how to deliver it, I have started up my text message blog, Short Mel Service. In this incarnation it's quite artificial: some of the text messages I post here were actually sent to my friends, but others are merely the kind of whimsical observations that would characterise Short Mel Service. I write them down when I think of them and then post them when I get back to my computer.

For now, I'm trying to think of Short Mel Service as a generic and stylistic experiment: a medium for passing observations and flashes of inspiration, which before I would only capture by texting one of my friends about them. I also like the way that it shows my thought processes at their most basic: fragmented, excitable, whimsical. I'm hoping to sketch a kind of snapshot of my brain. Hopefully, that would be why people would enjoy subscribing to this blog if it ever got off the ground.

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