Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Urbanista Diaries Update from Bangalore

Chennai Airport

Ok, as usual, I have all these plans to blog tons and tons and tons when traveling, but jet lag and the warring desire between blogging and sleeping are foiling my plans…
Here is what I have been up to so far in my Urbanista Diaries adventure in a brief sketch:
Urbanista Day -2 : Wed. Feb 6, 2008 : Fly from LAX to LHR (aka Los Angeles to London).
Urbanista Day -1 : Thurs. Feb 7, 2008 : Arrive in London, lunch with Siobhan, Donna, and Colin from WOM World. Four hour nap, and then meet the WOM World folk plus Richard for a glass of wine at Gordon’s Wine Bar on the Embankment. Dinner. Attempt to sleep.
Urbanista Day 0 : Fri. Feb 8, 2008 : Fly from London to Chennai, India. Don’t sleep on plane in an attempt to get on the Indian time right. Arrive at 1am.
Urbanista Day 1 : Sat. Feb 9, 2008 : Pop up at 5:30am after 2.5 hours of sleep. WIDE AWAKE. Fear that I will miss the Chennai Photowalk. Distressed that Hotel is too far out of town and in a neighborhood that is unwalkable. Talk to Urbanista Jay around 7:30am, find that he is in a nice hotel in the downtown area, ask him to inquire if there is room in the inn for me. There is. Relieved. Gather self & belongings to transfer to the Ramada Raj Park.
Text Chandrachoodan, the Chennai Photowalk organizer, telling him I will be late. Take a taxi to new & better hotel. Arrive, feel greatly relieved as the hotel and neighborhood are comfortable & walkable. Text C. again to apologize for being late & tell him will try and meet the photowalk later. C. texts me back to tell me that the photowalk is on Sunday. Jet lag brain is horrified at the confusion and texting C early on a Saturday morning. Oops!
Jay and I go to lunch, then back to the hotel to use the wifi to get things organized. Jay and I catch a auto rickshaw to the Sam Thome Cathedral/Basilica. Walk around. Service going on so walk down to the beach. Get besieged by beggars. Go back to Cathedral, go inside, walk around look at it. Go visit Saint Thomas’ tomb under the Cathedral. Walk a bit. Take lots of photos. Jet lag catches up to me something fierce. Jay & I go back to the hotel and discuss life, the world, and the mobile universer before he departed for the airport to fly back to the UK. Goodbye, Jay. End of day 1. Well, except I couldn’t fall asleep until 3:30am…
Urbanista Day 2 : Sun. Feb 10, 2008 : The Day of the big Chennai Photowalk dawned bright and clear with me up just before dawn… Yes, once again, less than 4 hours sleep. I will write a whole separate post about the Chennai Photowalk, but it will suffice to say: It was Excellent. Excellent in the Bill & Ted fashion. I had a blast. 3 hours, 4.25 miles of meandering up & around Mount Rd, 87F degrees or more, sunny, 75% humidity, great photographers, even better conversation. Basically a ton of fun. I was sad when we parted at 11am, summer camp departure sad – wait! these are my new best friends – we can’t leave – so moo & biz cards were procured. Now I have a bunch of great blogs to read and new flickr friends.
I got back to the hotel just in time for it to pour rain all afternoon and for the jet lag to smack me upside the head. Can go out and be a photo tourist when it is pouring, so I napped instead… Only to wake up many hours later just in time for a late dinner at the hotel and a night of NoSleep.

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Pingo!

Pingo - Street ad in Bangalore

Mon Feb. 11, 2008 – Pingo, an advert on the wall of a shop on Wellington St, in the Richmond Town district of Bangalore. Photo by Jen Hanen with a Nokia N82.

Nokia’s Sports Tracker could be ‘Photo Tracker’

The method of mobile blogging that we are using during the Nokia Urbanista Diaries adventure to send photos from the Nokia N82 phone to the Nseries Urbanista website is as follows:
1) Turn on Sports Tracker. Start a “workout”. Make sure the GPS signal is strong.
2) Start going around on the adventures and take photos. Go lots of new places, takes photos, make sure the GPS signal remains strong.
3) Stop the Sports Tracker “workout”. Click on “upload to service”. Sports Tracker will find the photos associated with the “workout” route and send them to the ST server with the GPS data and athletic data.
4) The Urbanista Diaries flash app then pulls the photos, geo & route data feed to create a photo map and the slideshow that you can watch on the site.
At the beginning of the year, I blogged that I really didn’t like Sports Tracker as a mobile blogging app for the reasons that it is created to be a sports tracker and not a photo tracker, I also wondered why Nokia has allowed Lifeblog to go dormant rather than adding the geo data capacity to that established app.
During the course of January, I tried Sports Tracker out a few times while walking Scruffy McDoglet and liked it as a mobile app to tell me how far we had walked and at what pace, but I still felt that it was not an app for mobile photo blogging.
Urbanistas Devin and Jay both blogged about their frustrations with Sports Tracker while out on their journeys and Ryan has tested it before starting his part of the Urbanista adventure.
I am now at the end of my second full day of mobile – geo – blogging with the Nokia N82 and Sports Tracker has been doing a good job of tracking where I have been going around Chennai, has added most of the geo data correctly, and has been able to find and send without error most of the 200+ photos I have taken. I am certainly not going to complain about how Sports Tracker sent up all 150 photos from today’s 4th Chennai Photowalk, no, actually I am going to praise the hard work that the developers have put into improving the system in the last four weeks that the Urbanista Diaries has been going.
What I would like to point out here is what Sports Tracker could do to make the application a little more photo mobile blogging friendly or spin off a sister app that would be ‘Photo Tracker’:
1) If Nokia wants Sports Tracker to be adopted and used regularly by more than just the athletic or tech geeks then make the mobile and web based user interface be visual with photos and geo data at as the first level of interaction.
Find someone’s mom who loves to take photos but is non-technical (I will donate my Mom to the cause) and have her be the UI tester without any explanation, if she can use the app while taking photos and then post them to the server, then everyone can. Take a big tip from Nokia’s Lifeblog app for the phone on this. The photo thumbs are the first thing that comes up and then you can do things with them via 2 different menus (one menu with the thumbnail display and one menu for each photo).
How could this work for Photo Tracker, well make the “timing” start when one opens the camera app – this action should be a choice as not everyone will want every photo geo tracked nor the pull on the battery resources that the GPS and tracking app take. Each photo should have a manual (at the time or later) opt out feature, as some photos you don’t want geo tracked and some you don’t want sent to the Photo Tracker server.
2) Yes, allow the photographer to choose which photos get sent up to the server from each timed tracking activity either before sending the data and photos to the server. The fact that Sports Tracker currently sends all the photos it can find during the interval of the activity is either too much (150 photos from today’s photowalk! Yikes!) or some photos should not be sent due to privacy or it is just a bad photo.
3) Now onto the Sports Tracker web based application… The colors and layout of each workout profile may be conducive to sports based athletic training and tracking, but not for photography or showcasing one’s mobile photos. Photo Tracker should have the photos up above the “fold” not buried as tiny thumbnails at the bottom of the web page. Don’t get me going on the green & black color scheme…
4) Take a tip from any number of social networking applications and allow the user to configure the layout to suit their needs: Sports folk will want the athletic data prominent and Photo folk can make the photos prominent. Also, allow the user to change the stylesheet: ie the colors, typography and minor layout changes (see blogger, typepad, vox, myspace, et al for how folks can customize the look).
5) Take a tip from any number of social networking apps and an allow the view/user to easily find one’s friends recent ‘posts’ / ‘activities’. Right now it is very difficult for me to find the most recent uploads from Ryan & Jay and I can click on Devin’s username to navigate to his space on Sports Tracker at all. Take a tip from Flickr on this, Flickr makes it really easy for me to see the most recent photos from my contacts and friends.
6) Last but not least: Own your own stuff. Allow the advanced mobile photographer or web dev the option to host and send the data to their own website and make it apart of the settings in Photo Tracker to post to your own blog if you so choose (Atom Protocol anyone?). This person can then take the athletic and geo data via the xml/kml file and with the photos create their own mobile app.
Lifeblog lets me post directly to my website via the Atom Protocol and that is why I prefer it to all the other mobile photo blogging apps out there, but it doesn’t embed the geo data. Sports Tracker and Shozu both embed the geo data but they don’t let me send the photos and data to my own site but only to their websites.
Frankly, after how Nokia seems to have left Lifeblog high and dry, why should I put up two plus years of photos and geo-data to Sports Tracker if in 2-3 years it will be DOA as well? Data portability and/or stability for long term archival purposes and url links is important.
At the very least, make all the data and photos be exportable, not just on the phone but also on the Sports Tracker / Photo Tracker site.
Some folks may argue that Sports Tracker already does the job of athletic activity tracking well. This is true. Why fiddle with the system and add a full featured Photo Tracker? Well, that is how we are currently using the system for the Urbanista Diaries as a Photo Tracker, not a Sports Tracker.
One could also argue that ShoZu and Flickr do much of the same functions as we are using Sports Tracker to do and that I envision that Photo Tracker could do, so why recreate the wheel? In web world, the first to enter the market is not always the best web app in the long run. When was the last time you used Friendster? Applications developed later can learn from others before them, iterate, add new features or goals and come out with the stronger user base, ie. MySpace and Facebook.
Nokia, how about a full featured Photo Tracker that takes the best of Lifeblog and Sports Tracker mashes ’em up, iterates a bit, and makes this mobile photo blogger darned happy? How about it? Run with it.

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