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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April 2005, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Digital postcards from a mobile phone
Dot.life - where technology meets life, every week
By Darren Waters

Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam was an early stopping and blogging point
Millions of people around the world have set up their own web logs (blogs), writing about myriad things - from their pets and families to world politics.

I have never felt any real desire to start a blog.

While I recognise that some people have a tremendous range of opinions on a wide variety of topics, as well as a burning desire to see those opinions published online, I have been much happier as a blog reader than as a blog writer - until now.

A planned road trip to the US with my wife, I felt, would be a good opportunity to start a blog about the holiday.

I wanted to be able to send friends and family a series of "digital postcards" in near time - accounts of our holiday that people were able to read while we were still away, rather than a week after our return as is often the case with the traditional postcard.

My plan was "to blog on the go" - publishing a daily update about the trip with pictures so that friends could follow our progress and even leave us messages.

Straightforward tools

Setting up a blog is simplicity itself - there are an enormous number of companies that provide straightforward tools to get you published online within minutes.

I chose Blogger.com, one of the original blogging sites, which offers neophytes simple instructions.

Choose a unique name for your blog, a log in and password, pick a template for how you want your blog to look and hey presto - you will be given a website address and access to a simple online text editor that will have you publishing your original, or not so original, thoughts, within minutes.

Nevada Falls
Not many internet cafes at the top of Yosemite Park

You can access and edit your blog from wherever you have an internet connection.

Our road trip would be taking us from Las Vegas to San Francisco in two weeks, and while we would have no problem finding an internet cafe in these cities, our other stops such as Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and the Sequoia National Park could prove more problematic.

The solution was moblogging - or mobile blogging.

It is now possible to blog using a mobile phone or handheld computer equipped with e-mail capabilities.

Add a digital camera to the phone, enable international roaming on your mobile service, and you have all the tools you need to send pictures and text from across the globe.

Unique e-mail

Popular online photo service Flickr lets people e-mail photos and text which are then published online to a number of different blog sites.

By creating a free account with Flickr I was given a unique e-mail address to let me blog our trip within seconds of writing a few words and snapping a photo.

And so began our holiday blog, US Road Trip 2005.

Each day we would blog one or two photos and a few lines of text which were then devoured back in Britain by family and friends.

A blog, of course, is accessible to anyone who knows the website address, so it is wise to remember that the world could be looking in although in reality few blogs ever attain any level of mass readership.

San Francisco
We ended the trip - and the blog - in San Francisco, the digital city

The mobile phone we were using had a 1.3 megapixel digital camera built in and while the photos were not exactly of professional quality they were more than serviceable for online publication.

Using a mobile had a number of benefits - it meant all the tools for blogging were contained in one device, while the familiarity of the phone meant it was easy to use.

Even my wife - who is often the most strident technophobe - became an ardent blogger and on more than one occasion we battled over who would send the daily blog.

Some drawbacks

Using a mobile to write messages had some drawbacks - the small keypad necessitated short, snappy updates rather than lengthy musings.

But that was probably more welcome to readers than rambling accounts and helped give the blog that postcard feel I was aiming for.

The other big drawback is expense - using a GPRS connection to send an e-mail abroad can cost about 7.50 per megabyte so take care when sending photos as attachments.

Friends were able to leave comments on the blog - most of which were complimentary about the blog and the holiday.

Now that the trip is over we have a permanent record of our adventure, which sits alongside our photos and our memories.

I cannot wait for our next holiday - not least because it gives me a reason to start a new blog.


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