March 8, 2011

Mobile blogging

This blog post wasn't written entirely on the Mobile Blogger app by Google. Some editing has been done afterwards using the standard Blogger webinterface. All editing done afterwards is listed out below.

Google finally released a mobile app for Blogger. Since I happen to travel a lot the following days, I thought to give the app a try, just to kill time on the road and getting ready for the next PCG ;-)

First of all let me say I'm a fan of the available Google mobile apps. Gmail on Android is excellent. Mobile Maps is beyond excellent. Skymaps is ultra cool and though I hardly use YouTube on my computer, I started using it on Android. Needless to say I have expectations for this Mobile Blogger app.

From the moment you fire up the app, you are connected to your Google account. Mobile single sign-on, nice. And the app will present you with your list of blogs. So you simple pick the right blog from the list and ... action.

Creating a new mobile post and edit it with Mobile Blogger is pretty intuitive. Just hit the pencil button on the main screen and you are ready to go. There is a first text box for the title and a second for your post. Easy enough to start a new post, for instance while you are standing in a cue to check in your luggage in Ciampino airport.

At the bottom of the screen there is a publish/save button, which allows you to publish your post or save a draft, same as in the web version of Blogger. I believe saving isn't done automatically (which is the case in the web interface). A bit annoying, as you will have to remember to regularly save your work. Seems like MS Office 3 dot something all over.

Next to the pencil button, there is a button to see you list of mobile posts. It is important to know that that list will only show mobile posts (published and draft versions). Any drafts or posts you may have made on your pc, you will not see in this list. So forget about quickly adding a few lines to a post on which you were working from home. You just don't have access to those. And vice versa, you don't see your mobile posts in the web interface. So there is zero interoperability. A missed opportunity if you asks me.

Under the main text box, you find two buttons to add images. By now I can already tell you that you will probably use these more then actually writing text. An Android phone just isn't theft right device for massive text input. Also since you cannot lay-out (as in using bold, italics, underline, different fonts, ...) your text in Mobile Blogger app, creating a lot of text doesn't make sense. You have to few means to control the readability. So adding images will be what you'll do most using this app.

The first button allows you to take a snap and insert that right away in the text. Here's the boring view from my train seat. 

After you'be taken the picture the screen goes black for about a second or two. What the app does in that moment isn't clear. I would guess uploading the image. The second image button allows you to pick a picture from you Android's media gallery. Again, after selecting the image the app gets sluggish for a second or so.

The pictures you add will appear next to the buttons, and not in the text. This way you don't know where your pictures will appear in your text. And since there is no preview feature I have no clue while writing this where the picture of my metro ride will appear. Not really very user friendly.

Just below the picture bar there is a line to type your tags. Unfortunately you will have to remember your usual tags as the app doesn't seem to know my tag list. Again, a bit annoying as I'd rather keep my tag list nice and clean.

And finally just above the publish/save buttons, there is a line which allows you to geotag your post. Since you can only add one single location, this seems to indicate you aren't supposed to write long posts, meaning if you are writing on this Blogger app for over two hours on a high speed train, your location changes regularly, which isn't supported.

All in all I must say I'm not overly impressed with this app. It is hardly a step up from the SMS/MMS and email posting that has been available for years. Sure I can tag and geo-tag my posts now, but what extra functionaries are there. In general it stems Blogger keeps lagging behind on other blog software and services, also in the mobile field. Hopefully getting a first version on the market, will be the beginning of some rapid improvements. The feedback form included in the app would seems to indicate Google wants listen to the users. I really hope they make something of this app.

PS: While walking past the tram stop close to my place, I noticed the light boards indicating the position and ETA of the trams finally became operational. Those board have been hanging there for over a year without lighting up (except for a short period where they showed the hour). Let us pray there is no analogy with Mobile Blogger.

Editing done afterwards:
The following editing of the text has been done using the standard Blogger interface.
  • All pictures which are added using Mobile Blogger appear at the bottom of your post. I move all images to the right place in the text, resized them and centered them.
  • I changed the appearance of all the text to 'justify' and added a blank line between all paragraphs as the text wasn't really readable otherwise.
  • I put in the wrong label, so I updated that.
  • I've added some links to the text. I didn't figure out whether that could be done using the app.
As the app is today, I don't suggest using it for any serious mobile blogging. It is good to quickly upload a picture with some text and geo-tag it. Beyond that, the app will just let you down.