Have iPhone, will travel: the e-traveller another year on

I must say I’m missing my northern-summer travels this year. Perhaps it’s the cold westerly wind blowing outside as I sit here writing, while my thoughts turn to long, hot July days in the Mediterranean.  This picture is where I was one year ago – Knidos in Turkey.  For a few years now I have travelled with a couple of e-tools: a Nokia N95 and my trusty G4 Powerbook.  I used various online services to keep in touch with family and friends and to journal the experience. These included Flickr for the images that you have to capture on holidays, Twitter for quick, spontaneous comment on places and people, and of course the more reflective and longer posts which were sent directly to this blog.  Last year I tried something different.

Rather than keep my media enclosed within their respective sites, I embedded a Friend Feed widget within the posting pane here on Groundling.  As I uploaded images, posts, and tweets the ‘post’ stream kept updating. I called it ‘the blog that writes itself.’  It has a ring to it, you must admit!  This worked pretty well for most of the time, wireless hotspot dropouts and telco charges notwithstanding.  Would I change the way I journal my next holiday trip – at this stage planned for the northern spring of 2010? Well yes, of course, and why not?  The technology has moved on, and it’s a heck of a lot easier now to stay in touch.

Last week’s Macbreak Weekly (I’ve listened for years) included a panel discussion on how travellers can stay in touch using online services and a 3G enabled phone, in this case, an iPhone 3G or 3GS.  It seems the time has finally come when you can leave the laptop at home.  Leo Laporte and a couple of the panel, including Don McAllister and Andy Inhatko were about to head off to China for a week or so. They were sharing tips on how social media might simplify things.  There’s choice of course, from an RSS feed in a blog (similar to my idea from last year) through direct uploads to various social networks, and then through to aggregation on a Friend Feed stream. Don McAllister is using the ‘RSS in a blog’ model, while Leo Laporte is using his iPhone to upload material to various social networks via Posterous – as email attachments. These then get ported on to his Friend Feed stream.  Don’s approach is more focussed than Leo’s, and I wish I’d taken his advice about creating a separate and dedicated travel blog for the RSS feed. In that way I could have kept my travel posts more accessible as well as separate from Groundling’s other posts.  As it was, the embedded feed kept uploading after my return, and eventually I had to cut it off.  You live and learn as they say.

One tool that wasn’t available to me last year was the marvellous Audioboo for the iPhone. I’ve written about Audioboo before.  I’ve particularly enjoyed hearing Leo use this application from China. It’s really ideal to capture the sounds of a particular environment. I would certainly use Audioboo on my next trip – it comes complete with an image attachment and Google map location capability. Capturing a soundscape of the environment as well as providing an opportunity to interview people you meet, and to narrate responses to places and events is something I find really compelling. Audioboo’s tiny, simple to use, and the audio quality is first rate. It’s definitely on my packing list for next time.

As a footnote, apparently the Great Firewall of China is up this week, and Twitter is unavailable for use – my, what a powerful tool this is!  However, with a 3G-enabled phone, travellers like Leo are able to sidestep this ban by emailing their media as attachments to Posterous.  Seems there’s a workaround for pretty much everything these days.

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Author: Kate Wilson

Actor, director, teacher, dabbler with paint, serial traveller.