For moblogging, you need to camera phone with e-mail capability. So, I just upgraded to a Motorola W490 specifically for the photo and video features. I was eager to connect it to my Flickr account. Flickr itself does not have this capability built-in, but since it has an open API, they did not have to build it themselves. Here are a couple sites that connect to Flickr and another that could/should.
The brand new player in this space is Twitxr.com. What interested me is the ability to send my mobile phone pics to both my Twitter and Flickr accounts (it will send them to Facebook as well, but I was not as excited about that). I singed up, and found it pretty easy to connect it each of these other profiles. Due to the nature of each of these connecting sites, the registration process was slightly different for each one. I took some pics, and sent it to a special e-mail address generated by Twitxr, and had it appear on my Flickr, with a geo tag (you set your location on Twitxr ahead of time), as well as my Twitxr profile which appears to have its own obligatory social network along with a user landing page and commenting, and RSS feed with a simple URL. Twitxr’s social network seems kind of pointless at first, since I am using it as a utility to send pics to my other social networks. However, the value is that you don’t need to have a profile on these other sites to make use of Twitxr. I don’t feel much like looking for friends on it, especially since FriendFeed has raised the standard for ease of friend-finding. According to TechCrunch, Twitxr is a product of Fon Labs, part of Fon Wireless, a WiFi provider with offices worldwide.
Next, I checked out ShoZu. I found ShoZu on Flickr’s mobile tools page. BarCampLA5 is this weekend, and I wanted to make use of my camera phone there. While twitxr does geotags tags (set it on the site ahead of time) but not regular meta tags, ShoZu does meta tags (set it on the site ahead of time) but not geotags. So, I set the tags ShoZu to BarCampLA5 and some variations on that. ShoZu, being the oldest out of the three sites, supports connections to the widest variety of social networking and blogging platforms that have open APIs: 28 sites including YouTube and Facebook, plus e-mail and ftp. It does not have a social networking feature, or a landing page for your profile like twitxr, but it does provide an RSS feed for my photos like twitxr. ShoZu has a blog and a support forum, and their team looks pretty solid. They are venture funded and their target user demographic is worldwide, and are based in London. I am not sure what their business model is, but they appear to have some corporate partnerships with big media companies.
The first site I checked out was actually JuiceCaster since a friend of mine was just hired there. By far, this was the most difficult site to use, and I could not even get it to work. I had to send it from my phone with the text “Profile” to [my phone number] @juicecaster.com. It cleverly sends the pic right back to my phone (I don’t think it is supposed to do this, and I do not see any value in it), but nothing changes on the site. I could not even get a picture to appear. I don’t care if there is some step I skipped or something, it should just work and be idiot-proof.
JuiceCaster lets you host both pictures and videos, lets you embed a Flash widgets on your blog or MySpace, or Facebook, but it does not seem very useful I can get the pictures to appear. The widget takes the TV metaphor a little too far by showing snow, color bars (when there is no content yet), and letting you change the channel to another users. The widget is the only way to view the content, which creates a bit of a usability problem. This means that you don’t have access to the raw jpg files. As a destination for photos and videos, there are no open APIs to allow the connection of something Flickr or YouTube, which in some ways are compititors. There are no RSS feeds so there is no real platform for others to build on. As a user, if you want your videos to get seen by a lot of people, you are far better off using the ShoZu to YouTube application than embedding the JuiceCaster widget. But, it is pretty clear that the main purpose of this platform is for mobile phones themselves (not the web), sharing with specific friends, and immediacy. However, a little web usability can go a long way in helping to build this brand via some mild SEO. They do have a Facebook application, with instructions on installing it here, but strangely, no link to the actual Facebook application on that page, which is here, listing 19 active daily users. There are four different fan groups on Facebook, the most having 26 members. All of this calls their current strategy into question.
One feature that JuiceCaster has that other services do not have is the ability to send photos and videos to your friends’ phones. However, it seems most phones today have this feature built in, and you do not need a 3rd party application. I am not sure what the core competency or business model is for JuiceCaster. In some ways they compete with Slide.com and RockYou.com’s MySpace widgets and Facebook applications. The target user seems to be the MySpace demographic. I suggest they focus more on allowing the content to be spread around the net with more than just Flash widgets, but also with RSS and an open API, and perhaps a blog. According to their about page, they were able to make their mark years ago as a white label solution, back when there was less competition and innovation in the space.
It seems they definitely want to be a platform, but the other two competitors mentioned in this post, which are simply tools to enable the use of larger platforms, seem to be ahead of them in functionality, flexibility, and momentum. I would love to see them get it together. JuiceCaster is based out of Los Angeles, Ca. They appear to have investors but do not list any of them, but they are listed here at the TechCrunch CrunchBase
I tried to embed the Flash widget, but it messed up the layout of this page to much, so here is a screen shot instead.
Mashable took a less in-depth look at around 30 of the competitors in this space last year.
If my friend is able to help me fix the problems with JuiceCaster, I’ll update it here.
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