Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's a small world...

I am constantly shocked by our shrinking world, technology and communication techniques being much responsible for this shrinking, but also the ease at which we can just hop around the world such as this upcoming trip for the Nokia Urbanista Diaries. But you know what, it was smaller than I thought!

This recently came to my attention via a close friend Jason, who enjoys using his academic login to search for random things in Google Scholar. Sitting at the cafe he thought it would be fun to search for "Camera Toss" to see if there have been any mentions of it in academic literature.

There had, exactly one relevant entry. If things keep up there will surely be more but it's WHO was responsible for the publication of that ONE, and how random and coincidental it seemed that really caused me to sit back and marvel at the way these things pan out.

The mention came in the form of a documented interview response in an academic research paper/thesis on journaling and mobile devices. The interviewee was John Braine, a fellow candidate for a degree in Design and Multimedia Systems at Trinity College, Dublin.

Here's the excerpt:
Question: 10) What is the most creative or most innovative use of a mobile device that you have done or seen or heard of someone else doing?
Answer: Camera tossing!
The paper was entitled Moleskine to Mobile, How Creative Professionals are Using Their Mobile Phones, written in 05/06 by none other than JENIFER HANEN. Who's that? Well she also goes by Ms. Jen, and I know her only as a fellow invited participant of the Urbanista Diaries, the one who I'll in fact be meeting in person in Vienna, Austria... as her journey ends and mine begins! Whacky! Small world indeed! I'm not even sure if Jenifer realized the connection?

One organization however, has been performing "ultimate camera tosses" long before this blog , and that would be NASA. The small world visual at the beginning of this post was in fact just such a toss, combined footage of the earth as seen from the Mercury Messenger Probe as it performed an earth fly-by on August 2nd, 2005.

Approximately two weeks ago, Messanger made a historic fly-by of the dark side of Mercury, never before observed by humans. This image was taken on it's approach to Mercury.

I look forward to it's continued journey and the beginning of a year long orbit around Mercury which begins March 8th 2011. Coincidentally, 3 years to the day of the conclusion of my Urbanista trip!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Urbanista Update: Jay is off!

Quick update to the Nokia Urbanista Diaries project that is underway (announced previously). The first "hand-off" between Devin and Jay went smoothly in the real world, perhaps a little bumpy in the virtual world!

urbanista_jay_transition (by clickykbd)

That's a screenshot of the Nseries interface in Jay's first city, Singapore (refer to previously posted itinerary. Jay is the white photos, Devin (the previous participant) is still visible as the yellow photos because they actually met up on Jay's first stop.

But what the hell is that giant white thing! I suspect it is a mis-rendered representation of the route line associated with Jay's flight... whacky. This thing is full of weirdness (see previous post for more on that).

But Jay is making up for it with some great video media being posted to his youtube account. Short video blogging seems to be Jay's favorite, here is one landing at the end of his first flight...

To keep up with Jay on his leg, here's some relevant links to places he is putting text and media:

Jay's Blog as RSS

Jay's YouTube as RSS

Jay's Urbanista PhotoBucket as RSS

Did I miss anything? Ohh... he is using Skype on his mobile devices, so if you want to chat head over to his blog where he has shared his skype details!

Geo Specific Story Telling, Cool Concept? (almost)

GPS (Global Positioning System) and GIS (Geographic Information System) have historically been some pretty geeky topics. Flickr, with some encouragement from it's very hard-core GeoTagging Flickr user group, was one of the earliest services to really bring this idea of logging location as a context to user-generated media to the masses (the photo-enthusiast masses anyway). Many other services have followed suit, and the prominence of Google Maps and Google Earth have also fueled this whole GIS topic.

Now Nokia, with these GPS enabled phones including the Nokia N82, which I am test driving in participation with their Urbanista Diary campaign, is attempting to demonstrate this "beta" idea of geo-specific story telling such as with a travel diary, with possibility to go "real-time" in this capacity. For sure their are some individual early adopters out there before all this, but is the technology ready for the masses? Perhaps more importantly, are we ready?

This post shall discuss their technology mostly, my experiences with it so far as a storytelling/sharing platform. It's certainly an intriguing concept, and Nokia, by no means has the market cornered on this. Please consider that this is the opinion of capable, albeit new, user to this technology in general. Addressing if we are ready is worth an entire post (at least), and perhaps one I'll write after the experience.

The tools provided by Nokia for this undertaking are comprised of 4 parts primarly:
  1. A GPS enabled camera phone (mini-computing platform), the Nokia N82 in our case.

  2. An application on the phone designed around athletic workout performance logging, which has the side benefit of catching and uploading photos taken during a running log.

  3. A web service for sharing these "workouts", sportstracker.nokia.com. This presents a bunch of information you'd expect to see in an athletic analysis of a "workout", but also displays a GoogleMap with a line indicating your path, and photos you'd taken associated to points on that line. You can add captions and view individually photos one at a time on the workout page too.

  4. A combined "interface" for the 4 travelers of the "Urbanista Diaries" (link), plus the blog widget of the similar intent included on this blog.

A quick "impression" of my findings relevant to the task of each, as this post is already long, I'll share specifics and my plan to compensate for problems later:
  1. Phone: Nice product, perfectly capable... only complaints about the hardware are mostly minor... better battery life, keypad usability, and camera-mode ergonomics being the biggest complaints. Forgive the details but I'm not really a phone geek, I'll post more specifics later.

  2. App: Simple enough, but horribly off-task when it comes to mobile/geo "story telling". Covers the basic requirement though, and that is provide waypoint data that can be later associated to content. Seems to take eons to find your location at first start up, and draws quite a bit of battery when actively logging. A couple features that should be user tunable are not.

  3. Service: Again, woefully off-task. We are told it's in "alpha" even for the athletic uses, so one would hope they plan a major overhaul/relaunch if they wish to take these other activities more seriously. But as it is, it's buggy, painful/slow to use, and lacks many things one might expect, and have come to expect (if not demand) if it were really to function as a user-generated content sharing service. What's more is we were told not to even attempt the "live logging" mode during our journey, for it is far too unreliable still. But it is what it claims to be in it's current manifestation, a sports/workout logging/sharing service... how boring. ;-)

  4. Inteface: Nokia put some effort into this one, it's very slick! It is unfair to judge this one as a web-service, because it's really just some promotional media. But slick usually comes with a performance hit and this one packs quite a punch. The flash combined with GoogleMaps and speed at which it delivers photos in the slide-show mode is almost unusable. All the bare-bones essential elements are there, slideshow, captions, map, route taken, photos as placemarks etc etc... but somewhere they completely botched the usability in favor of looks. Ironically considering the intent, it is also quite hard to "follow" someone via this interface. I think it's meant to maybe use once, get a thrill out of, and hopefully buy a phone (never to look back). Certainly not your next killer web 2.0 or social media application. But I rant a bit, my main quarrel with it besides the speed, is actually a GoogleMaps API shortcoming it seems, the lack of detail (waypoint count) in the routes you can render as polylines), resulting in a map display that has a huge margin of error relative to the actual path I took.

All that complaining and I haven't even started my trip yet!? Well, I like to be familiar with my tools including their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations so that I can utilize them, compensate for them, workaround them, and sometimes capitalize on them to maximum impact. How, would you imagine, that I wound up throwing a camera in the first place?


I hope Nokia and WOMWorld weren't lying when they indicated they really wanted our unbiased opinions. This trip was meant to be a "challenge", which I am still excited about and up for... but I think the challenge part was supposed to be the journey... not the tools, which were pitched to us as simple, capable, and perhaps even pleasant.

Subsequent posts will also indicate my "plan" for a tool set to accomplish this mythical "mobile geo-specific storytelling", and my trials and tribulations coming up with one. I plan to do this extra work so readers and friends can "really" follow along, and do it with free tools already out there.

If you read this all the way to the bottom, you GET A TREAT!

Kinetic 926 (by mtnrockdhh)
Kinetic 926
originally uploaded by mtnrockdhh

Some glorious interference patterns in a camera toss by David Hull, my ever dilligent moderator of the Camera Toss flickr group.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Information Overload

First, a nice camera toss recently posted and shared in the photo pool to illustrate the subject of this entry.

toss + tv (by André di Lucca)
originally uploaded by André di Lucca

I stated previously that my participation in the Nokia Urbanista Diaries was going to be an experiment on several fronts. One of those fronts is being "constantly connected" and in communication via an array of applications on the Nokia N82, a Symbian S60 3rd Edition platform. Information overload indeed! Phones that are also computing platforms are entirely new to me, so this will either be a wonderful resource, or simply a huge distraction while traveling. ;-)

Here is a list of applications I've installed and configured, and other relevant info if you wish to be in touch via any of them:
  • Nokia Sports Tracker
    A GPS logging and route recording application geared towards athletics and training, but more powerful in that it will allow you to export your GPS logs in several formats including GPX and CSV. This is the one that drives the Urbanista Diaries interfaces provided I can get it to behave and upload photos as expected with minimal fuss.

  • Google GMail Mobile
    Very nice interface to my gmail account. Much better than using the built in browser to access the mobile friendly web pages at gmail.

  • ShoZu
    Probably the best "general purpose" tool for posting media from the phone to a host of social networks and media sharing services. You can configure automatic cross-posting and only have to push it once from your phone. It does also support some geo-tagging features such as when pushing to flickr, but alas it does not actually result in JPG EXIF geo-tags on photos, just service specific geo-data. Things I share in real-time will probably be posted this way... otherwise postings will occur at semi-regular intervals. It also supports subscribing to "ZuCasts" of media from your contacts etc. Seeing new photos from my flickr contacts on the phone is kinda cool, but I also have over 1000 contacts... definitely data overload category. Photos I upload with ShoZu will end up on my flickr. Movies on my Vimeo. (whoops, just looked and ShoZu doesn't have vimeo uploading yet).

  • Google Maps Mobile
    A great implementation of Google Maps for mobile devices. The verdict is still out on weather Nokia's bundled map application or google will be more useful while traveling.

  • Slick Instant Messanger
    I tried several IM clients, including the built in features... but this app is by far the most elegant. Supports: AIM, MSN, Y!, GTalk (clickykbd), ICQ, and Jabber. It also claims to support VOIP calling over protocols that have it, GTalk for example. I think I'll even forgo giving my phone number to my services like Twitter/Pownce/Jaiku in favor of the chat relayed version of such messages.

  • Metr0 (Public Transporation Guide)
    I look forward to trying this one in practice. I don't live in a city with a real Metro system, but boy do I love using them when they are available, which is everywhere on my trip. Up to date routes and stops for all lines in a given city, also calculates directions via metro systems in both "fastest" and "least connections" solutions. Wish it had some maps integration though.

  • Mobile Weather
    Just what it says, you can configure which cities to get updates for and when it uses the network, or opt to update manually on demand. Will be handy to know if I need to purchase more layers before Helsinki.

  • Fring
    Primarily designed as a VOIP client to save money on calling, supports many chat protocols and VOIP including Skype! I will probably only use it as a Skype chat or VOIP, because I much prefer Slick IM for general chat use.

  • Opera Mini
    Complete browser alternative to the bundled one. Great scolling and navigation features... the only downside seems to be I don't know how to integrate it so that other applications call it when opening web content.

  • MOSH (Nokia's File Sharing Service)
    I just started to play with it, but already found some nice themes and ringtones (keyword FREE).

  • Jaiku
    A Twitter/Pownce like service, recently aquired by Google. Also does media sharing and you can roll in your other RSS feeds out of the box so that they also post notifications to your contacts. I'm currently sharing the feeds for this blog, my del.icio.us, and my flickr. But another Urbanista reported he had a hell of a time getting the client to use his networks available (and never succeeded). I haven't tested the N82 with a SIM yet, but I know that the Jaiku app refuses to use the WLAN when it is available.

  • Locr (GeoTagging Photos)
    Yet another way to geotag and post photos. I was playing with this one when I was looking for a solution that actually embedded the locations into the EXIF data. This service, however, is not it. Their stand-alone desktop app would do it but unfortunately doesn't read any of the log file formats that SportsTracker exports... and I really don't feel like running two gps logging apps simultaneously. Also it appears you can only directly post to Locr's photo sharing service... so not nearly as versatile as ShoZu. For reference, I did also try ZoneTag but it appears to be relatively, if not completely, broken on this platform. I did eventually come up with an elegant EXIF geoTagging solution, which I'll use while traveling. I'll share it in a later post!

Any Symbian Guru's reading this? Have suggestions for indispensable applications I might have missed? Most notably ones that are useful while traveling?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Testing the Tools...

Continued posting on the Urbanista Diaries topic with the Nokia N82.

geo tracking/tagging (by clickykbd)

The basic idea behind this journey is that we constantly log our positions via a Nokia service and S60 application called SportsTracker, which in theory anyway, allows you also to shoot geotagged photos and have them automatically associated to your path when you push it to the web service. For the Urbanista Diaries however they are re-purposing the SportsTracker back-end and pitching this idea of location specific way to share and tell stories.

Early on however there have been some kinks in the wiring it seems. A lot of photos were being dropped by the web service upon upload. To investigate this I did some concrete testing yesterday. I produced a route where I intentionally took photos while the "tracking" features were PAUSED. Thinking this might often be how I'd want to operate if I knew I was entering an area of no GPS coverage such as a big building. The result however is that photos either had no GPS data, or they shared the same GPS data as the last known good waypoint. The app claims to upload them to the service, but when you visit those specific photos never appear. This seems to be a result of it not knowing what to do with photos lacking geo data, or a problem handling photos with non-unique geo data. This has proved very frustrating for Devin on the 1st leg of the journey... who has had many photos taken outside of GPS coverage.

You can explore my recent test route and photos on the SportsTracker pages. My data won't actually appear on the Urbanista Campaign until I begin my journey Feburary 23rd in Vienna, Austria.

photo viewing in sportstracker (by clickykbd)

On a more Camera Toss centric note. I can see some added value to geo-tagging, especially if you are out there seeking good "found" subjects for camera tosses. I used to be in the practice of documenting my better results by taking a normal, albeit horrible, photo of the subject for reference, for example:

vector consciousness (by clickykbd)

Was taken in front of this:
neon at "Toy Joys" (by clickykbd)

But with geo-tagging set up to be automatic enough. Such documentation becomes somewhat redundant, provided you are familiar with the area.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Win some Nokia N82s perhaps?

One thing I forgot to mention so far. Nokia has a competition that starts today related to the Urbanista Diaries. They are giving away eight N82 models, one a week, for the next 8 weeks of Urbanista.

I'm not fully aware of the structure of the competition, something about guessing our photo locations I think, but there should be more info up on this page later today.

They'd really do well to send us participants some more of their press-release type content on these things. ;-)

Good luck!

Hyper-Connectivity Abuse

I'm undertaking the previously mentioned Urbanista Dairies as an experiment in extreme hyper connectivity, something I usually balk at... but one cannot really judge until one has experienced it, and until now I have only observed, not owning a fancy phone, and not having a data-plan to go with it. But, at least for two weeks, I'm gonna go all out (or try to).

So one initial step, I've set up a Jaiku account and added the badge to the sidebar. If you follow me on Jaiku it'll notify you of my flickr photos, blog postings, and twitter-like text postings made during my journey. I've had a twitter for a while, but don't know which one I'll gravitate to in practice. It too is now crammed into the rapidly over-crowding sidebar.

This is all temporary, I promise. ;-)

Edit: I forgot one more. I have a trip created on Yahoo! Trip-Planner... which if you have a yahoo/flickr login, you can leave suggestions etc etc.

Links again:
clickykbd on Twitter
clickykbd on Jaiku
clickykbd on Flickr
trip on Yahoo Trip Planner

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Urbanista Itinerary (expanded)

A more complete itinerary of the travelers (and myself) participating in the Nokia Urbanista Diaries, a real-world, real-travel blogger "relay" trail of the Nokia N82. (Yeah, I know it's a bit of a mouthful).

All this continues to feel a little off topic for this blog, so here's a some camera-phone camera tossing! Actually my first with camera phones! (Never had a camera phone until a couple months ago and my SD card reader did not like handling microSD+adapter... finally got a reader that works. Although these were not taken with the N82, that device will certainly be subjected soon.

Samsung-a707 tossing (by clickykbd) Samsung-a707 tossing (by clickykbd) Samsung-a707 tossing (by clickykbd) Samsung-a707 tossing (by clickykbd) Samsung-a707 tossing (by clickykbd)

But back to Urbanista Diaries... It began Jan. 11th with Devin in New York City. He's currently about to be in Dallas, Texas... perhaps head over to nseries.com to check out his progress tracked via GPS, photos, and comments.

Additionally, all the routes and photos will also be on Nokia's SportsTracker web service (though I need to dig up the other urbanistas' user info before sharing direct links). Trailing SportsTracker and some of the other GPS enabled features of this device is obviously an objective of WOMWorld, organizers of this endeavor. Personally however I'm looking forward to really putting the 5 mega-pixel camera through it's paces. I'll post some initial review/comments about it's capabilities soon.


New York, New York on Jan. 11th
Washington DC on Jan. 14th
Atlanta, Georgia on Jan. 16th
Dallas, Texas on Jan. 17th <-- HERE (as of writing)
Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan. 19th
Los Angeles, California on Jan. 21st

Jay/Jose (exact dates unknown)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ko Samui / Ko Pha Ngan / Gulf of Thailand islands
Bangkok, Thailand
Madras, India

Ms. Jen

Chennai, India on Feb. 9th
Bangalore, India on Feb. 11th
Kochi, Kerala, India on Feb. 13th
Goa, India on Feb. 15th
Mumbai, India on Feb. 18th
Vienna, Austria on Feb. 21st


Vienna, Austria on Feb. 23rd
Berlin, Germany on Feb. 25th
Milan, Italy on Feb. 27th
Paris, France on Feb. 29th
Bristol, UK on March 2nd
London, UK on March 4th
Helsinki, Finland on March 7th
Austin, Texas USA (Home) on March 8th

Here's a google calendar for my leg of the trip, (browse to Feb. & put it in "Agenda" mode for best viewing).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

and now for something completely different

Apparently there are some perks involved in running high profile creative blogs.

commercial frame

I'm a bit late in announcing this relative to the other participants, but in late Feburary (21st) through early March (8th) I'll be visiting seven major cities in Europe, the final participant in a camera-phone trial project entitled the "Urbanista Diaries" for the Nokia N82 device, which includes a rather advanced point & shoot camera, and GPS tracking, among other features. The project is organized by WOMWorld and the first participant (Devin Balentina) is already traveling through the United States!

Check out Nokia's slick intro video (which one of the participants capped for sharing on our blogs):

I never really considered myself a "blogger", as this is a pretty topic specific blog with hardly any text content, but I suppose one just has to accept the inevitable. I've also been slow to adopt "hyper-connected" ideas, my first camera-phone was the one I just bought before going to Italy. So the offer to participate was a bit of a surprise to say the least! I consider the whole thing quite an experiment. I also tend to have an aversion to pandering to corporate media and interests, so I consulted with a few respected dear friends and colleagues to get a second opinion on participating, and the answer was a strong yes. They pretty much nailed my weakness with the offer of free travel too.

So on February 21st I'll be off to meet the previous participant (Ms. Jen) in Vienna and then make my merry way through my own set of cities (all in Europe) and end up in Helsinki, home of Nokia.

My itinerary looks like this:
  1. Vienna, Austria on Feb. 23rd
  2. Berlin, Germany on Feb. 25th
  3. Milan, Italy on Feb. 27th
  4. Paris, France on Feb. 29th
  5. Bristol, UK on March 2nd
  6. London, UK on March 4th
  7. Helsinki, Finland on March 7th
  8. Austin, Texas (Home) on March 8th

I would love a chance to meet up with readers of this blog, artists, designers, photographers, creative folks, scientists, philosophers, you name it! Suggestions for what to do during the short time I have in each location also welcome! Please leave comments, find me on flickr, or email me at the address in the contact section of my personal site.

For reference, the other participants (and blogs) in order are:

Devin Balentina of www.thenokiaguide.com
Jay (a.k.a. Jose_R.A.M) of www.mynokiablog.com
Ms Jen of www.blackphoebe.com
Myself, Ryan Gallagher of cameratoss.blogspot.com

You can track all of our progress and look at the photos we snap through the nseries.com interface which includes mapping that looks like this:

mapping/tracking interface (by clickykbd)

... or through a widget (which you are free to install anywhere), which I'll migrate into my sidebar shortly.

Migrated to sidebar along with travel calendar

There is quite a bit more to share on this topic as my departure date approaches, but this post is quite long enough already. Stay tuned. Ryan signing off.

me! (mediocore rushed bio however) (by clickykbd)

PS, I find it immensely amusing that I can count the number of self portraits I've taken on less than 10 fingers... and one of them (not spectacular) ends up plastered all over nokia's website. An experiment this is indeed! Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Flickr Gamblers Anonymous

Day 76 (by [ steve ])
originally uploaded by [ steve ]

Okay well not really, but the analogy is certainly strong. There is a group on flickr called Flickr Group Roulette where every week they pick a differently themed flickr group and play-along. A couple weeks ago they landed on the infamous Camera Toss and perhaps experienced a little more "gambling" than they were comfortable with! But kudos to them, the participation was extremely high, and most first time tossers too!

Somewhere in their thread it was suggested they go for the self-portrait style tosses. With mixed success here is their efforts! Congratulations on taking the risk, I know they had fun.

157|365 Camera Tossing @ The Apple Store (by Just Say K.B.) Day 277: Camera Toss (by Sarah Mae) 66/365 - Camera Toss (by anthonyskelton) 365-278 (by atsocasiul) 88/365 Camera Toss (by Ryan J John)
Oh my!!!!   (60/365) (by MichelleCan!) 131/365: camera toss (by Lucy's 10 Lives) Day 151- I AM holding still! (by Run Strong) My foot-hand. You didn't know I had one, eh? =) (by ginny   / mom2.3lilrascals) Camera Toss Tecnique - FGR 1.2.08 (by This crazy life . Tammy)
Letting my camera go to see what it wanted to show me. (by Travelinjim) 250/365 (by elizabethh) It Makes Me Sick! 2.366 (by Infinite Monkeys (~Gone Fishing Be Back Soon~)) Two (by Gregory Brown) Tossed (by nikkistill)
Day 2/365-Toss It-Spin It (by Viva La Maquina) 365 Days-Day 5 (1/2/08): Tossed (by beadedbudgie) Day 76 (by [ steve ]) Camera Toss (FGR) (by MatthwJ) My Girl with "a Twist" (by Good_Gal)
Tossed (by Just Andrea With A Camera) Purple Haze (seriously? camera toss?) (by Babs1696) Toss This (by VanessaisSleeping) I'm freeee, freeeee falling. (by Bellini?) Day 67: Camera toss (by =Tom=)
365 Day 328: Camera Toss #2 (by jump4joy) 2.366 FGR-1-2-08 - Beseeching the Snow Gods (by Captured Light) camera toss :: 2 of 365 (by MNicoleM) 2.365 (by evilmightyacorn) It's comes and goes in a flash (by Ll'sWorld)
Let the d80 fly (by jkingone) 2 Jan 2008 - Day 8: Camera Toss (by Michael-A) 2.365 roulette: cell toss (by rose_peacock) 365/305 (i did it!) (by The Flooz) Topsy-Turvy Day 9 - 365 Days (by northshoreleo)
Topsy-Turvy Take 1 (by northshoreleo) Falling (by the spacecowboy) 110/365 swirly (by spring_peeper) I Tossed It! (by urtle124) Take Off (by Kitzzy)
Camera Toss (by Kitzzy) Tossing the old HP (by Captured Light)

Copyright: Photographs included are copyright their respective authors. Click through to flickr pages to see official copyright notices.

Authors: Hover over an image to read the author name, or click see the original on Flickr.