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Moblogs go the way of the dodo

HP Labs' has posted a study of moblog usage that shows a precipitous drop-off in moblog usage after several weeks. While a drop in use is to be expected in any service (e.g. blogs), only 7% of users continue to use the service after 30 weeks, and by week 4, the median user is posting one photo per week (zero photos per week by week 5). There are several reasons one could use to explain the steep drop:
- moblogging isn't compelling to people
- the moblogging sites don't offer enough features to keep users engaged
- it's too difficult to post photos using a cameraphone
- added: (via dave) cameraphone photos aren't high-quality enough

Given the huge popularity of cameraphones, my best guess is that it's either the second or third reason, and my best hunch is that it's the third. The phone UIs really aren't designed for posting photos to TextAmerica and the like. IMHO, the value that a user gets from posting a single photo is not commensurate with the amount of effort it takes to send the photo to the service. For similar reasons, I can't envision services like Dodgeball surviving the current generation of phones.
05-12-04.moblog.graph.jpg
(via engadget)

Update: should've figured that Josh had a little bit to do with this. I wonder if he used his own moblog as a data point :). I notice his fits the curve well...

Comments (5)

bp:

Funny that this should come out, like, 2 days after I made an attempt at setting up a moblog (hint, it's /photoblog/). I'm pretty sure my behavior will follow a similar trend, but, then, so has my blogging, so....

Posting *is* definitely too hard, though. MT needs a built-in mfop2-kinda' thing.

kwc:

Your blogging never had an initial peak :).

MT is definitely hard, but my perception is that services like TextAmerica pretty much handle the usability as well as they can on the server side. The main bottleneck, to me at least, seems to be the way cameraphones work right now. They are not very conducive to supporting external developers trying to make this easier. From my standpoint, posting to a moblog should only take an extra button press or two, not the take photo-send to e-mail-scroll-scroll-scroll-scroll-scroll-select moblog address. Perhaps your Treo has a better UI for this?

BTW - have you tried out MT3 yet? Are there any improvements that will make uploading multiple photos (cameraphone or otherwise) easier? I noticed that you chose 2.63 for your moblog.

bp:

Haven't installed MT3 yet, actually. Not having DSL at home is making it hard to move forward on all but the most persistent projects (ie, gadgetguy.org). So, I'm not sure, but I didn't see anything particular talking about moblogging in that space.

I guess, for Treo 600 purposes, it should be possible to make a simpler app... but my Palm programming is rusty. Perhaps its time to look into that. I'd hoped to do it with J2ME/MIDP 2.0, which I bought the ($6) IBM VM for. That works great, but doesn't seem to be doing camera-enabled stuff yet.

OTOH, the Palm version might be a good $2 shareware, or something. Might sell a lot of those... albeit to people who use it a bunch the first week and less thereafter, but the curves might, indeed, be less steep.

I rarely post to mine. TypePad's moblogging setup is very well done, but I think there are two big reasons why, even though it's super easy, I don't post pictures. First, I sit at a desk all day and don't venture out much to take photos. Two, the camera on my phone (Sony Ericsson T610) isn't good enough to take good-looking pictures. It's not bad for a cameraphone, but nothing in low light looks good and you can't focus on small objects.

Plus moblogs are boring to look at.

(Reminds me I should reconsider the $5/month I pay T-Mobile for picture messaging.)

kwc:

Personally, I view today's moblogs as decoration. The uses I have liked have usually been when the latest moblogs photos are displayed in the sidebar of the blog. By themselves, they often do not provide much content, but largely I believe that this is because they are too sparse to form a narrative; a picture may be worth a thousand words (even low quality ones), but with a large time gap between photos the thousand words lacks depth and relation to other photos.

I think that moblogs do have potential, if they can be made more simple. One of things I like about blogs is that they make the lower the amount of effort to publish information on the Web. Moblogs, I think, have the unrealized potential to lower that bar further. For example, it would be nice to be able to snap photos as I went about my day, as it would help me recall the events of the day, and better describe them if I were to write a journal entry on it. Most journal entries are of the form, "went to ____, then headed over to _____. We had drinks and it was fun." If I could just snap photos, even add in a little GPRS data to get a map location, then I could express the same information, without having to find a computer terminal to write an entry.

I already do something similar when I upload photos from my normal camera. The chronological ordering of the photos on the camera helps with my recall. For example, when we stopped at a war rally in SF, I used my digital camera (not cameraphone) to document the signs that I found amusing, and then later wrote an entry on them. Much of my effort would have been saved, and the posting would have been more immediate, had the photos had been automatically uploaded to a moblog in my sidebar. The photos themselves would contain all the information that is necessary in the entry.

In the end, it depends on where you believe the potential for moblogs lies. If it is an artistic/decorative potential, then higher quality images would be a big boost to the market. If it is a documentary/journalistic potential, then I think the ability to have a steady stream of photos easily uploaded will be the key.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on May 12, 2004 10:13 AM.

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