Instant Image Publishing

Several weeks ago I posted about AudioBoo, a way to instantly post audio on the web and feature that content in a WordPress blog (at UMW Blogs). In my continued fascination with instant publishing, I wanted to bring you the equivalent in instant image publishing.

Here’s what you need. An iPhone, using its built-in camera. An app called AirMe, which you set up to upload the image you take, to an account of your choice. In our case we use the Flickr service. I’ll talk about the Flickr piece in a moment, but I don’t want to gloss over how AirMe works. I grab the iPhone and start the free AirMe app. It works on top of the camera app and it allows me to take a picture, if I like it I use it, or I retake it. I can also use an image that is already on my iPhone. As long as I’m connected to the AT&T network, it will instantly start uploading. In 30 seconds, give or take, it’s done.

Now it’s available on Flickr. So, similar to the audio recordings on AudioBoo, the image is instantly hosted on a photo sharing site. However, like we also did with AudioBoo we are going to republish it to a WordPress blog automatically. We again employ our good friend FeedWordPress. We use the RSS feed from Flickr using the tag iPhone. In no time at all the image is up on the blog.

I have a preset title of “Latest iPhone Photo” and it posts the thumbnail that links to the Flickr page for the photo.

Caution, of course, needs to be exercised because it will publish whatever photo you send. The current iPhone has even better quality than the one I own, and network coverage is getting better all the time. This will only get better and easier with time. I was hoping to have this procedure worked out in time for my MS Ride this year but . . . better late than never.

Boo Ya Later

AudioBoo Screenshot
AudioBoo Screenshot

I’m still not sure about this Internet time thing, but I think it was yesterday morning that Patrick asked me if I saw Cole’s post about mobile podcasting in regards to Penn State’s iTunesU setup. Since then I’ve gone from light-bulb going off, to frustration and the cursing of Atom feeds, to scaring Jim Groom that FeedWordPress was being broken (more about FWP later), to jubilation that the complete instant mobile blogging solution exists with an iPhone and UMW Blogs!

Sound intriguing? I think it’s a pretty big deal. As Cole says the “iTunes ecosystem” is coming together nicely, however, we at UMW do things in a “small pieces loosely joined” kind of way. This “ecosystem” is no exception. The epicenter of this instant mobile blogging system is a service called AudioBoo. They host the audio files, which are up to 5 minutes in length (so complete hour-long lectures are not feasible here). The other component of the AudioBoo service is the iPhone App (link is to the iTunes store). Essentially you start the app, hit the record button then hit Start, record your audio then hit Pause and then Publish. You have the option to include a single picture and the app will also geo-locate where you are recording from. After a short wait you have a page in your My Boos page that contains all those elements – recording, picture, and map.

Now we could just call it a day right here, because anyone can subscribe to the iTunes feed by clicking the button on the page where the recording lives. There is also an RSS feed button (actually an Atom feed) associated with the recordings as well. Now I need to do some additional research to see how many podcatchers out there support Atom feeds, or at least AudioBoo’s Atom feed, but I could not get it to work with Juice, nor could I get it to work with my favorite podcatcher on the iPhone, RSS Player ($0.99 from the iPhone App store). There are then several reasons to press on. One reason is that it would be nice to get a feed working with the RSS Player app because it will allow you to subscribe, with your iPhone, to a podcast feed that isn’t already in the iTunes universe. Yes, the regular desktop version of iTunes lets you subscribe to a podcast by clicking an icon, or pasting in a feed manually. However, the iPhone version of iTunes does not let you do this. Safari on the iPhone does not recognize URLs that begin with itpc:// and there is no place you can paste in a manual feed. RSS Player allows you to enter a feed manually, and if you create a feed with the prefix rssplayer:// you can create a link (or a linked image/button) to start the RSS Player app automatically from the iPhone’s Safari web browser.

The other reason we want to go a bit further is to re-publish the audio files in a space (or spaces) of our choosing, like say UMW Blogs. This is where Mr. Groom’s bestest, most favoritest WordPress plugin, FeedWordPress comes in. What we do with FeedWordPress is syndicate the Atom feed from AudioBoo into a WordPress blog. That will pass to the blog the author information, the picture, and the audio file. A nice Flash audio player allows the visitor to play the file from the blog. Setting FeedWordPress to publish “automatically” and “ASAP” allows us instantaneous (or virtually instant) podcasting. There is also a link to the nice AudioBoo page where you can see the map associated with the recording.

Now we take the RSS feed from the blog and plug that into the RSS Player app, and viola, we again have virtually instantaneous podcast publishing AND receiving. The great thing about the RSS Player approach is that there is no iTunes sync-with-your-desktop step to worry about. Once you refresh RSS Player, the file begins to download directly to the iPhone.

Now is where the imagining begins. For example imagine a class that goes out in the field (Geology, Geography, Biology, History, Historic Preservation, etc.,etc.) and does several recordings, and by the time they get back to class their podcasts are uploaded, published (in two, or more, places), and about to be/already received. This has the obvious side benefit of being drop-dead EASY. There isn’t much of a learning curve here, as long as you don’t need additional editing of the audio files. If you do there are several other audio recording programs available to the iPhone. I’ll be putting some screencasts together of all this stuff, but for now you can enter your weekend knowing that it all works right now, and it’s all very exciting thinking about the possibilities. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: The screencast, Produce an Instant Podcast from an iPhone, is up!

Small Pieces Constantly Changing

UMW New Media iPhone Version

An interesting thing happened on the way to, and from, our presentation on “Small Pieces To-Go” at the ACCS 2009 conference. Change. Alright, change isn’t a big deal in our world, but it’s one that I found very exciting and it’s a pretty good indication of where things are going in the mobile computing environment. Mr. Groom and I focused our presentation on how the WordPress platform is ready now for the iPhone ecosystem. By ready, we meant that there are plugins that exist today that will give you an iPhone friendly view of a given web page. For example, the photo above is a screenshot from the iPhone version of the UMW New Media Center site that I’m working on. This view of the site is (actually, was) the way that users of the iPhone would see the site. Users with a traditional computer laptop or desktop would see the standard view, as shown below:


The disadvantage of the first iPhone view (using the iWPhone plugin) was that it was take it or leave it. To see the original version of the site the owner would have to turn the plugin off, then you could view the page in the traditional way. While I was putting together the presentation, a plugin that wasn’t working under WordPress 2.7, got an update. MobilePress had a bit more functionality, like adding page links and a search field. It also offered a much needed link labeled “View Full Version”. Here’s an example of the MobilePress version:

MobilePress view of UMW NMC

Overall, it was a nice experience, with more content on display and those extra added features. So that’s what we went with, knowing full well that somewhere down the road, a better solution would be available. Jump ahead just two days and a tweet from ijohnpederson reminding me of another option that days ago was not working. The latest version of WPTouch was released the day Jim and I presented, and it does indeed kick the iPhone web page look and feel up several notches.

NMC site using WPTouch plugin

The backend of the WPTouch plugin has lots of knobs and dials to play with as well. It even provides you with a Photoshop template that will assist you with creating your own custom icons. Way cool! Another advantage of WPTouch over the other iPhone theme plugins is that it will work on Android phones.

The last little gem of an announcement came from Blackboard. Their iPhone enabled view is coming soon. I’m sure it will be as open and flexible as any of the WordPress plugins.