[The original article follows.]Wireless laptops, home broadband connections, and camera phones are nearly ubiquitous, at least in urban parts of the industrialized world. And several Web-based media-sharing services–including eSnips, Nokia’s Lifeblog, Motorola’s Avvenu, and Six Apart’s Vox–can fuse all the information those devices collect into online journals.
The vision is clear: multimedia diaries should document all our experiences and gather our favorite files so we can share them as widely as we wish.
The implementation, however, is flawed.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying out one of the services, Vizrea. The company’s first product, launched in February, was Vizrea Snap, software for Nokia camera phones that simplifies the transfer of photos between the phones, Vizrea’s website, and users’ home computers. Last month, the company added videos, blog posts, and podcasts to the mix. New social networking technology is also included that lets users view files from friends and swap comments. And they’ve also created a PC program for organizing these files and have made the system available for more types of phones.
“People who are really into social networking and use sites like Xanga, MySpace, or other services seem to get super-excited about being able to instantly share their content with their social network,” said Vizrea CEO Mike Toutonghi. “We wanted to build a robust, seamless platform that allows content to move easily between various devices and end up where users want it to be, already organized.”
While the idea is great, Vizrea’s technology isn’t nearly as robust and worry-free as it should be, especially if the company has its eye on the mass market. And it’s a limitation common to all the latest media-sharing services I’ve used.
Vizrea can do a bunch of neat things. I took some pictures around the neighborhood using a Nokia N70 phone, which includes a surprisingly good 2-megapixel camera. Using the Vizrea Snap software on the phone, I uploaded selected pictures to a personal account I’d created earlier on Vizrea’s website. I could add titles and descriptions to the photos and specify which album or “collection” they should go into. I also created blog posts and uploaded those to the Vizrea website. From that site, I could view all of my collections and blog entries, mark them as public or private, invite friends to visit my pages, and browse other Vizrea members’ collections.
What’s more–and this is what makes a service like Vizrea a real advance–I could view Vizrea blogs and collections from the phone. Up to now, most of our personal data has been stranded on islands. My songs are stuck on my laptop or my iPod. My photos, unless I make the effort to upload them, are stuck on my phone, my camera, or my PC. The TV shows I record are stuck on my DVR. But using Vizrea, I can upload my entire photo collection to the Web, then use the phone to show puppy pictures to friends when I’m traveling.
The same goes for podcasts and other audio clips, including MP3 songs. (While Vizrea doesn’t encourage the sharing of copyrighted material, it’s certainly possible.) If you don’t have one of the 16 Nokia, Samsung, or Panasonic phones that support Vizrea’s software, you can do most of the same things using a standard cell-phone browser and Vizrea’s WAP interface.
It all represents a step toward what social media theorist Thomas Vander Wal calls the “personal infocloud”: technologies that scatter your data across the Internet and reassemble them on demand, wherever you go and whatever device you happen to be using (see “The Internet is Your Next Hard Drive”).