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How to blog from anywhere

My blog runs on the WordPress platform, which works great. Lately, I’ve been trying to open up as many avenues for posting as possible. I want to make is as easy as I possibly can to publish – including what I’m reading, viewing, notes from my office, from home, from out and about in the city, all the way to remote regions I hope to explore soon. Being able to post from anywhere also ties into this story I read today about a kid who used Twitter via SMS to alert his friends of his arrest.  

Here’s a list of my current and future posting methods:

  • Direct wordpress post – done
    • Easy – its the core of the basic wordpress interface.
  • Writing/formatting posts offline, for posting when online – done
    • I’m using Qumana for Mac OS X, which offers great integration with my blog categories, posts, formatting etc. I can compose a post offline (such as while flying, etc), format it up, and then just hit the “post now” button when I get an internet connection. It even handles pinging for me.
       
  • Posting Photos – Done
    • Another otherwise complex task, made simply by Flickr. I can use the “post to blog” button in flickr to post a selected photo direct to the blog. I went through a few setup steps, and that was it
    • Additionally, I can email Flickr photos using a specially formatted email address, and have Flickr add the photo to my Flickr photostream, and also have it post the photo directly to my blog. Great great for getting a photo up asap, and even better for posting photos “from the field” – IE quick snaps taken with my cameraphone. Action as it happens, baby.

       

  • Posting via Email – Done
    • Turns out, WordPress has a built-in post via email functionality. It will actually go out and check a pop3 email account. Whatever email it finds in it gets post up to the blog. For this reason, it’s necessary to create a new, secret email account. You wouldn’t want your everyday emails getting automatically posted to your blog, would you? So, I set up a new email account (no, I’m not telling…), and put the details into the wordpress config. It didn’t work initially, however. It took me a while to figure out how to get wordpress to actually check the email box. You have to hit a certain wordpress page, which instructs the engine to go check the email box. To get it to hit this page, once you’ve send an email to the box, you can do one of a few things.
      • You can go to the page manually, and it gives you a status readout “1 message checked”, etc.
      • You can get a wordpress scheduling (cron) plugin that automatically hits that page at a scheduled intreval.
      • You can set up a “cron job” (basically scheduled task for your server to do) on your web server to hit the page every so often.
      • Many other esoteric ways
    • What I did was I set up the email account to give me an automatic “vacation response” whenever I send mail to it. That way, I know the message is in the box waiting to be posted. Additionally, I set up links in the automatic vacation reply email to the “check email invocation” page, as well as the wordpress admin login page, the blog in general, the blog’s RSS feed, and Technorati’s page for the blog. I figure that way, in addition to getting some confirmation that the post is ready and waiting, I will instantly have the option to post it up there immediately, go in the admin and fix any errors, see the outcome, and do additional checks by monitoring the RSS feed, and Technorati’s receipt of the feed update. Additionally, those links are especially handy to have for posting from my phone, web terminal, etc etc, where typing in a long url would be a pain.
    • Additionally, since I have a cron job set up to run the “check email invocation” page every hour, if I don’t get to manually hit the page, it will do it automatically at the top of every hour.
    • The one issue I’m still dealing with regarding posting via email is signature removal. Whenever I send an email from my phone, a “sent via mobile” signature gets appended. And I don’t want that included in the post.
       
  • Posting via SMS / Text Message – Done
    • SMS Text messages are limited to 160 characters, so blog posts via SMS will be short and sweet. 
    • However, I do think that it’s important to be able to post via SMS – it’s the most basic and widely available source of electronically delivering textual messages. Even the most basic cell phones nowadays can send text messages. If I’m traveling, way out there, or just on the run and need to put up information on the blog, SMS seems like the most low-tech, robust, last ditch effort, streamlined way to post.
    • Posting via SMS requires having an available phone number to send SMS message to, and have that recipient be hooked into the internet and have a system in place to deliver the message to it’s intended location. Namely my blog.
    • So far, Twitter seems like the best candidate for SMS posting. Twitter is an online “micro-blogging” platform which allows users to interact with each-other by publicly or privately posting small text-like message online. Users can respond to each-other, share links and start conversations. It’s amazingly addictive, and a cool way for short communications in a wired world Twitter provides an open API, so there are many 3rd party tools that can be used to send Twitter updates. Additionally, Twitter natively supports “Twittering” via SMS text message. This feature, combined with an open API and a nifty WordPress plugin will allow me to post to my blog via SMS.
    • I set up a Twitter account and associated it with my cell phone, so that I can post to Twitter with my cell phone. I then got the Twitter Tools wordpress plugin for wordpress. This plugin automatically logs into my Twitter account, and posts the Twitter messages to my blog as new entries. Perfect. The only downside is that there’s no tagging or multimedia capabilities. But I think given the limitations of text messages, this is a great last ditch method for posing updates. 
    • I’d like to think someday I’ll be far enough in the field to old be able to communicate via SMS and/or voice. On a recent sailing trip in the Pacific Ocean, I used an Iridium Satellite Phone to communicate. The phone could both do (heavily compressed) voice calls, as well as send/receive text messages. Also, the Iridium phone will allow me to blog from almost anywhere on Earth. As another option, I could use Inmarsat satellites, but the coverage is not as good (doesn’t cover the extreme poles, and the voice quality is not as good, and there’s a longer delay on the line, since the satellites are in a higher orbit.
    • I still think there should be a better “blog via SMS” service out there, but for now Twitter is fine.
    What other ways do you use to blog? I’m interested in exploring as many options for blogging as possible. Other areas I can see opening up are posting via voice/phone.. which I used to do on my old blogger-powered blog. Perhaps Utterz, Gabcast or Hipcast?

9 comments

  1. Lauren Miehe says:

    I love it, true global communication and web 2.0. You should look into the BGAN data terminals which now give you a 512/kb up and down geared toward journalist that want to do in the field video streaming from anywhere. I am looking forward to GlobalStar getting their next generation satellites up in 2009 (hopefully).

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