Tag Archives: mobile phones

Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for February 26, 2010

Photo courtesy of Patryk Buchcik via SXC.

Audience Development: Critical to Every Writer’s Future
From Writer Unboxed blog. An informative post on why fiction writers must concern themselves with developing and audience for their work. Lots of relevance for nonfiction writers, too.

Access of Mobile News Rises 500%
A brief tidbit from Editor & Publisher about new statistics that indicate a huge year-over-year increase in the number of people accessing news from their mobile device–almost 8 million people total. Local news and national headline stories are the most popular items.

Stop The Presses: Writing Careers are Difficult
An interesting short post about the publishing industry’s participation in the make-it-big-or-go-home mentality, and the writers who buy into this idea. From BREVITY’s Creative Nonfiction Blog.

Five Perspectives on Storytelling in Social Media
Kathy Hansen of A Storied Career blog provides a nice roundup of links related to how modern storytelling (of all sorts) is being impacted by social media.

Why the Blackberry Kindle App May Be More Important Than the Kindle 3
Kit Eaton writing in Fast Company’s Technomix column. The decision to create an app for BlackBerry devices may create a perfect storm for the e-reader.

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10 Ways A Smart Phone Can Make You A Smarter Writer

Photo courtesy of SXC.

I got my BlackBerry phone just before Thanksgiving, and I have to admit, I’m mighty thankful for it.

One of the major reasons I got the phone was because I knew could use it in my freelance writing. And I haven’t been disappointed. Writers can become “smarter” writers by using a smart phone—not better writers, or wiser ones, mind you, but more intelligent in their use of time and resources by taking advantage of the integrated technology packages that these little mini-computers offer.

If you’re considering buying a smart phone, like a BlackBerry or an iPhone, here are 10 ways you can use it in your nonfiction writing work: 

  1. Record in-person or speakerphone interviews (on a land line) in lieu of an audio recorder. I record podcast interviews using my computer and a sophisticated digital audio recorder, but I want a back-up file. Using the voice notes feature on my phone allows me to record a file of respectable audio quality. I have been listening to that file on the light rail as I travel to my day job to create a log of the podcast, which speeds up the editing process.
  2. Fact-check statements on the fly at live events. Phones with Internet access have been around for a while, but the larger screens of smart phones make it a little less eye-destroying to research a speaker’s statements while taking notes at a live event.
  3. Take “reference” photos for descriptive writing with the phone’s still camera. Yes, you should make written notes of the things you want to include to set the scene in a journalistic narrative, but it’s possible to take photos fairly inconspicuously of people, locations and events that you want to describe accurately. Take care if you’re at an event or location that prohibits photo-taking, though.
  4. Use the on-board video camera to record answers to interview questions, create reference footage for descriptive writing (see #3), or produce live “on the scene” reports (or b-roll) for web media integration. More and more phones allow you to upload directly to a site like YouTube, or you can e-mail some smaller video files. Most phones still have prohibitively short maximum file length limits (mine is 15-30 seconds, I think), but with planning, you can get meaningful footage and edit the segments together to create a video that is useful to your writing, or is a credible product OF your writing-directing skill.
  5. Use a combo of photos/video to “storyboard” a multimedia story package. More and more nonfiction writers, particularly those working in journalism venues, are expected to be multimedia producers as well. Practicing developing these rich-media stories, or even initiating projects once research on an assignment has begun, may very well help boost your ability to find work in the future.
  6. Read PDF, PowerPoint, Word or Excel docs on the train on the way to an interview, or in the car before walking into your source’s office. My phone came with Documents To Go apps pre-loaded, although if I want to edit and save changes on documents, I’ll have to upgrade to a paid bit of software. Regardless of whether you choose to pay to edit files or not, if you’re able to review them on the phone, you can be green (saving tons of paper on print-outs), as well as efficient with your research time.
  7. Use that tiny keyboard to write! That way you always have a digital version of your assignment/story available. I’ve taken to typing in lists, short snippets of copy and other text into Google Notebook, which lets me remain platform-agnostic about the copy’s destination until I’m sure how I want to use it.  (Although it looks as if I might have to switch to Google Docs, since Google has recently stopped supporting Notebook.) It’s difficult to type with one’s thumbs for an extended period of time, but it is possible to make significant progress through smart-phone-typing over time. Some writers have been able to write entire books with a smart phone during their mass-transit commute.
  8. Upload blog posts to provide real-time updates for your readers/audience. WordPress has a mobile app for both BlackBerry and iPhone users, allowing updates that include text, photos, video, etc. With some publication start-ups looking at WordPress and other blogging platforms as a content management system, this feature could help reconfigure editing workflow for magazines and news organizations with an online presence.
  9. Research your source’s social media presence via Facebook’s mobile app. If you spend anytime on Facebook, it’s hard not to at least be curious about what’s going on in your newsfeed while you’re away from the computer. But it’s possible to do some actual reporting research if you use the mobile app for Facebook. Visit your source’s profile (if it’s open to all viewers), check out his/her friend list, surf their organization’s fan page, check for outbound links that provide additional details or data for your piece.
  10. Use the calendar/alarm features to keep you on track. Yes, it’s simple, almost pedestrian, and I know “dumb” (non-Internet-accessible) phones have these features too. But given all the other things you can do to move your writing projects forward on a smart phone, it would be dumb not to consider using the calendar or alarms to remind you of interviews, meetings, or personal appointments. BlackBerry, in particular, offers the ability to sync the phone calendar with any number of others (Google, desktop PC, etc.), so you can also put everything in your life on one calendar and not suffer from the downside of Multiple Scheduling Syndrome—which is to say, forgetting an appointment because it was on the “wrong” calendar system.

The questions to you:

How do you use your “smart” phone in your writing work?

Do you feel the integration of so many electronic tools in one device is useful, or a distraction?

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What does the rise of “snack-size communication” mean for writers?


Photo courtesy of SXC.

It’s official—texting has supplanted actual conversation on American mobile phones, according to a new Nielsen survey for the second quarter of 2008. According to the survey, U.S. mobile subscribers sent and received 357 text messages per month as compared to only 204 phone calls.

Unless you have been tied to a chair in front of a typewriter somewhere, this news doesn’t come as a shock. Handwritten letters, typewritten manuscripts, even the well-composed e-mail have given way to “snack-sized” messages that can be digested in 10 seconds or less. Phone texting, Facebook status updates and Twitter alerts have reinforced a new word, or rather, character limit on communicators: if you can’t say it in 140 characters, don’t bother.

What does this mean for writers, especially those who shine in long-form works, such as 10,000-word nonfiction narratives, epic poems, or novel-length, um, novels? Reactions are decidedly mixed, so far.

Journalists who find the digital revolution to be an aid and not a threat seem to like Twitter. The New York Times ran an article earlier this year on the growing popularity of reporters “tweeting” via Twitter at live campaign events and a compilation of Twitter statistics shows that public accounts owned by American newspapers are experiencing a growth spurt. Web consultant and journalist Craig Stoltz over at Web 2.0h…Really? (great blog name!) claims Twitter has made him a better editor:

“I’ve been an editor for 20-plus years. But Twitter—that idiot desktop companion for the work-averse—has become my mid-career editing coach. This may be due to how I use Twitter, at least some of the time: Less for top-of-brain me-spatter and more for tiny reports or editorials.

“Fact is, it’s tough to convey any substance in 140 characters. You have to carefully weigh every word, letter and space. Even punctuation.”

On the other hand, poet Robert Peake writes a rather damning (and well-thought-out) indictment of Twitter and other Web 2.0 technologies, especially where the writing of verse is concerned. He asserts, after playing with Twitter for a few days and having it leave him rather cold,

“We care about poetry precisely because it exists outside this frenetic word-space (found in cyberspace). We care about poetry because it represents a kind of necessary antidote to the soul-draining quantification and commoditization of language the information age has brought. All good poems, no matter their style, share this: an enforced attention to language, and some degree of innovation upon it. This runs contrary to the bigger/faster/more pervading everything from network news to the blogosphere.

“….That’s why there will never be a Poetry 2.0. The first version still works fine. And when the new has finally worn off all our technobabble, poetry will still be around.”

However, Tom Watson found poetry in the words of the people he follows on Twitter, often unintentionally:

“This Twitter thing may have legs, but not in the way its founders or a few self-obsessed wired wonksters may think. See, Twitter is a poetry machine.”

He gives as an example the tweets of a friend headed home to comfort his mother after his father has passed away:

Driving down to West Cork used to be a quiet pleasure.
Now it’s a melancholy chore.
Still, the sky is absolutely full of stars.

He also provides several other examples, and a commenter on this 2007 entry also provides a good link to examples of haiku-via-Twitter.

(Another writer whose microblog posts read like poetry is Dave Bonta at The Morning Porch).

Some fiction writers on the Internet have found ways to use Twitter to promote longer works. TwitterLit provides twice-daily tweets of the first lines of novels and other types of literature (memoir, etc.), with an Amazon link for those who want to learn more or (one hopes) buy the book. And tech-savvy English or media history professors may be heartened to learn that Twitter users staged a reenactment of sorts on the 70th anniversary of the radio broadcast of the “War of the Worlds”. No word on if panicked mobile phone users rushed to CNN.com to verify the story.

My take on text-sized communications? While I haven’t used Twitter yet, I have texted for nearly a decade and I would consider microblogging or “liveblogging” an event via Twitter.

I think text-message-sized communications are a double-edged sword. Using tools that enforce the 140-character limit can make you a better editor or poet, learning to choose your words, even punctuation, with much greater care. You can promote great words and links, your own or those of others, with it. It can also reduce your communications to others to your impulsive reactions and meal choices.

As the obscure movie quote goes, “Choose wisely.”

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