Blogging Becomes More Mobile

New "microblogging" tools give people the ability to post short blogs — just a sentence long. A new generation of tools lets users publish audio and video blogs simply by using their cell phones, which means people can blog from almost anywhere and at any time.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We've been talking all week on this program about blogs, to mark the 10th anniversary of the phrase, Web log. And today, we're going to hear about the future of blogging, what's going to happen in the next 10 years or given how quickly things change, maybe it's the next 10 minutes. But in any event, it's probably safe to say the future is in your hands - literally, your hands.

ANDY CARVIN: All right. So here we go, we're going write this message and keep it under a 140 characters.

INSKEEP: Blogging is becoming more mobile. You don't have to be at your computer. You can blog for a hand-held device using just your thumbs.

CARVIN: Demoing(ph) for MORNING EDITION. Want to see how many replies…

INSKEEP: NPR's Andy Carvin is demonstrating. He's our in-house authority on blogs in the Internet.

CARVIN: And so I'm going to hit the send button…

INSKEEP: Andy can update his own blog form almost anywhere by sending a text message or even by talking into a cell phone.

(Soundbite of cell phone)

Unidentified Man: Utter now and be heard.

CARVIN: Hi everyone, Andy Carvin here. Right now, I'm doing a demo.

INSKEEP: In a moment, we'll hear more about that demonstration and what it tells us about communication today. First, Andy tells us a lot more people are starting to blog this way - with portable devices.

CARVIN: I started doing it maybe around 2004, 2005. At one point, I was in Ghana in 2005 and even recorded a couple of these audio blogs while I was stranded on the roadside outside of a car. I was worried people weren't going to be able to get a hold of me. So I thought, well, I might as well post something in the Internet and so, I recorded a voicemail and it got posted to my blog.

INSKEEP: So you become like those executives in old movies. Gladys(ph), take a memo.

CARVIN: Yeah, except, now you're Gladys.

INSKEEP: I understand that we've actually done a test here and I've got a computer in front of me and we've got some sampled posts here. What happened here?

CARVIN: What we decided to is there's this one tool called Utterz which allows you to record a voicemail and it will post it online. I recorded a voicemail on Utterz and told people to respond to a very basic question, what you're doing for New Year's and what you'd rather be doing for New Year's? And we got over 40 replies in over 24 hours.

INSKEEP: And I'm looking at some of these replies. Would you recommend any of them to me to play?

CARVIN: Well, let's see. We've got one here from a video blogger. A guy named Johnny Goldstein(ph).

INSKEEP: Okay.

(Soundbite of audio clip)

Mr. JOHNNY GOLDSTEIN (Video Blogger): We are going to be at a Chinese banquet hall in Flushing, Queens with my in-laws, but if I just completely had my way, we would be at some huge party. Not necessarily with the in-laws, but I'm sure it's going to be lot of fun and…

INSKEEP: Okay, in-laws are…

CARVIN: Johnny, you're going to have a great time, I'm sure…

INSKEEP: Especially after the in-laws, you're…

CARVIN: Yeah, we're all routing for you.

(Soundbite of audio clip)

Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Hi, this is Johnny Goldstein. I'm…

INSKEEP: Johnny is still going.

CARVIN: If you hit the play button then it should stop.

INSKEEP: Yeah. I just hit it too many times. What else do we want to hear here?

CARVIN: We've got another audio clip from a woman here named Friccat(ph).

(Soundbite of audio clip)

FRICCAT (Blogger): What am I doing for the New Years? I'm not sure yet. I hope to just be with friends or family and watch the ball drop on TV and have party favors…

INSKEEP: Can I just mention. She went to the trouble of posting a blog to inform us that she doesn't know where she's going to be on New Year's Eve. Yeah, is communication getting a little too easy?

CARVIN: I think a lot of people regard these tools as a form of conversations. So in the same way, if you and I were sitting down over coffee and I ask you what you're doing for New Year's and you said, oh, I don't know yet. That's a legitimate response. And so people who use tools like Utters and blogging in general, see these tools as just another way of continuing that conversation. And so it never really ends for them.

INSKEEP: Now you got somebody's answers that are written as well. Here's somebody who says, and answer to the question what are you doing New Year's Eve, a gentleman doesn't mention such things in public.

If a lot of these people might be out there in the blogosphere typing with their thumbs, does that make them any more concise?

CARVIN: In some cases, you have no choice, but to be concise. A lot of the tools that allow you to post this short messages - they're sometimes called microblogging tools - require that you keep it short because text messages can only be so long before they start getting very difficult to handle.

For example, there's this one tool that's very popular called Twitter, that requires that anything you write needs to be a 140 key strokes or less. So that ends up being two sentences or less. It actually becomes a badge of honor when you're able to say things in 140 characters or less and do it in a way that's really powerful.

INSKEEP: Do you think that this could actually cause communication to evolve into some new ways? So many of these blogging tools and Web tools have cause communication to change.

CARVIN: I think that the tools that we have now really have allowed us to change the nation of blogging from being a publishing medium to a conversation medium. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, I got a Twitter from a blogger that I know who has gotten back from a doctor's appointment and that she discovered that she had breast cancer.

And very quickly, the whole community of twitter users started talking about it and a number of them started organizing different activities such as fundraising campaigns. In a matter of days, what had become - what had started with a very intimate comment about something very personal going on their lives became a mobilizing force for a whole community of people.

INSKEEP: Hmm. Is there a downside to this, though?

CARVIN: Well, I think my wife would say there's a downside to this. When you're real active user of tools like Utterz and Twitter, you find yourself using them a lot. Like before we started talking today, I had to post something on Twitters - getting ready to sit down with Steve Inskeep. But you also have to learn when to put the thing down and just have conversations with people as well - in real life, that is.

INSKEEP: Now that we're just about through the holiday season, have you been checking your PDA a lot the last few days?

CARVIN: I'm actually proud of myself that I've been checking it a lot less than usual. But that probably means maybe 10, 20 times a day rather than 30, 40, 50, a hundred times a day. So, as far as I'm concern, that's progress.

INSKEEP: NPR's Andy Carvin, thanks very much.

CARVIN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: You can find Andy Carvin's essay about how he got started as a blogger and previous stories from our local blogs at npr.org.

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