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Friday, March 19, 2004  

Technology: Lifeblog isn't what is seems to be

What do you think when you read the word "Lifeblog"? Blogging software, for sure. A new API client? A competitor for Blogger and Movable Type? A blog search engine that really works? That was my reaction, too. But, we're wrong. Lifeblog is new software from Nokia for mobile phones. The first to use it will be Nokia 7610. But so far, Lifeblog doesn't have anything to do with blogging.

Wired asked Nokia why.

Where Apple has expanded on the success of the integration of iTunes and iPod by releasing a suite of music, video and photography tools under the iLife banner, Nokia is attempting to bring that same level of integration to the growing mishmash of data captured by the current round of cell phones: sound, text, photography and even video.

After connecting your phone to a Windows-based PC with the Lifeblog software, photos and messages will not only be downloaded and saved to the computer, but they will be organized and available for searching and editing, according to the Nokia website. Users will even be able to mark certain items as "favorites" to be held in the phone's memory, forming sort of a "greatest hits" scrapbook, a digital version of a wallet stuffed with beloved photos and important notes, only sleeker.

In other words, Lifeblog will serve as both a way to create content and a conduit from the wireless device to the computer, much as a PDA or an iPod does. Nokia acknowledges the name is misleading.

"Maybe log would have made more sense," said Keith Nowak, spokesman for Nokia. But he does see Lifeblog as a useful tool for bloggers, helping them to organize their words and pictures. "You can look, day by day, here's what I did, here's what I saw."

Nowak sees actual weblogging as a possible future direction for Lifeblog. "It's a possibility," he says. "The interest is there."

Christian Lindholm, a blogger who is also Nokia's director of multimedia applications, has tried to end the confusion by explaining Lifeblog on his weblog.

More on the misunderstandings:

1.) Q: Why a logging tool or as Nokia prefer to call it a multimedia diary?

[A:] Nokia feels that blogging is a subset of your electronic life, not the whole life, hence our focus on the PC initially. The first version will not have any features enabling blogging (you can send e-mail from PC version, but I do not call that blogging).

2. Q: Why does Nokia call it Lifeblog? A: We added the 'b' in front of the 'log' as we wanted the name signal a longer term intent. Nokia['s] mission is connect people and that is what blogs do.

3.) Nokia Lifeblog will not be available for the Nokia 6620, but some other terminal.

At least one citizen of the blogosphere, San Francisco blogger Russell Beattie, has urged Nokia to get blogworthy.

Here's what I told Christian: Just make sure there's an open API of some sort. I've been weblogging for several years now and in my time lots of fads have come and gone. But the idea is that the memes that stick and are accepted by "the community" are the ones that allow participation and expansion. APIs are especially popular (XML-RPC, Google API, Amazon API, Trackback, Technorati, Atom), but also concepts (FOAF), graphics (those little xml icons) and anything you can stick on your webpage (BlogChalking, BlogRolls, etc.). In terms of desktop clients mostly the focus has been on news aggregators, but there's a few attempts to create better ways of posting using the APIs out there. Bloggers want to play, so you've got to let them.

Eventually Lifeblog *needs* to integrate with a weblogging service. But for now? Just an API to get access to the Lifeblog data would be fine and let the independant developers take it from there. Seriously - the application does so much - synching and organizing multimedia and text data from your phone, now all it needs is some hooks for the hackers out there to do cool stuff with it. An application that has blog in the name, but doesn't have anything to do with the web is a bit amusing since blog is short for the contraction between web and log, but at the core of it, blogs are simply easy-to-update digital diaries, which is what Nokia is trying to with this app. Let those motivated independant developers out there do the rest. . . .

So far, blogging by a miniature device, such as a phone or PDA, is more hype than reality. I've described my less than stellar results blogging with my 802.11b capable Palm Tungsten C. I've yet to find any software that is reliable. Most of the programs, such as Kablog and Vagablog, don't function with Palm OS 5 at all. Other would-be bloggers on the spot report similar results. The most we're able to do is take notes and turn them into blog entries on the computer later. Perhaps the currently misnamed Lifeblog will develop into a program that will ease the frustration of bloggers on the go. But, that relief has not arrived yet.

2:48 PM