This is the meat of the MMM Mobile Experiment Report, and also where it makes the transition from being just a review of software and online services to one of looking beyond the offering to the ability that it lends. Here’s an outline of what is covered in this, Part Two, of the MMM Mobile Experiment Report:
- Additional Setup Items
- Day to Day Use
- Immediate Challenges
- Accessibility versus Versatility
Given the length of this, section of the report, it will be an extra day before publishing the third and final section. This report will also be made available as a singular download (debating on the format of that now). Enjoy Part Two, and please do not hesitate to give any comments to this or Part One.
Having set up the Mobile Web Server application on my device, and creating the Mobile Web Server website, I had to set up some initial pages so that in coming to the site, Mobile Ministry Magazine readers would be greeting with more than just a blank page. There are two parts to setting things up for day to day use; one part is on the mobile device and the other is through a browser (that can be on the mobile device or not; but most might choose not to go that route and just use a separate computer).
Setup on the Mobile Device
On the mobile device, one navigates to the Web Server application and is presented with a series of screens. First, you are asked to insert your user name and password that was set up on the MWS website. There are a few easy to figure out section of the application that is always shown when it is opened from here: Users, Status Message, Statistics, Access Log, Folders, and Settings.
The Users section was probably the one that I spent the most time with initially. There is a default Guest account where one can set Guest access to the MWS; and then from contacts in one’s address book, you can set specific users to have ability with a user name based on their name in your address book and a password that you have set for them. I quickly abandoned doing this for a lot of people and just settled on making sure that I had a user group for my family to special sections of the MWS site, and everyone else just got the Guest account.
Truth be told, I spent a lot of time looking at the Access Log. I wanted to see how many people were hitting the site, and it was kind of neat the first few days of the experiment. We averaged about 10 unique users per day and for the most part people did not have issues with logging in (user names are case-sensitive; found that out halfway through the project).
Setup through the Web Browser
There is a setup wizard that one has to access from a device that has a suitable web browser while the mobile web server (MWS) is running. On my end, I used my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot at a local coffeehouse while the MWS was running on my N75.
Two parts of this allow you to set up things like the welcome screen, offline page and message, and get a badge that can be displayed on several websites. After this wizard, there is a control panel that keeps the latter items, and allows for presence updates on the status page. One can change the theme to several types; however they are nothing more than color and banner changes. Unless you want to dig in the mobile device and play, there is no way to create custom layouts or fiddle with the CSS for more customization.
From the web browser one is able to set all types of options and create content and points of contact.
- Contact Me
- Web Chat
- Phone Log
By default, guests only see the Home, Blog, Presence, and Contact Me sections. The Gallery has to be setup to either show (share) pictures that are shared from the phone’s internal memory, memory card, or both. I found that the Guestbook was a bit of a redundant feature, but it could prove beneficial in some applications. The Web Chat section is interesting as when someone starts a web chat, there is notification on the mobile device of the chat and then an IM-like interface is given. From there chat happens just as it would in any other chat room. The Calendar, Phone Log, and Contacts are pulled right from the mobile device and gives a browser-accessible means to see and edit content. I liked this feature, but wished that there was more granularities so that some users could see “Busy” instead of the specific event. Presence tells the state of the mobile phone such as how long it has been idle, battery life, and a status message. And finally Messaging allows one to send an email or SMS message directly to you as well as see all the SMS and MMS messages that are stored on your mobile device (Inbox and those sent).
One neat feature that is present throughout is the fact that all contacts that appear in various applications such as Calendar and Messaging are linked to their contact card. This contact card shows the last call as well as links to the address book entry. Simple, but really neat.
From registration to setting up the welcome page and basic access rights it took about 30 minutes to get rolling. After that it was just a matter of running the MWS on my device and engaging with people as they visited MMM Mobile.
Day to Day Use
The Mobile Web Server is pretty much a set it and forget it type of application. I let it run most of the day, taking it down in the AM in order to use my mobile device as a modem for my Internet Tablet and desktop. During this time, I updated the status message to point visitors to the MMM Jaiku channel. In pointing people to the MMM Jaiku channel, it was my hope to engage the usual readers of MMM, and the new visitors of the breadth of content related to Mobile Ministry Magazine, as well as engage in some discussions across a social network in a slightly different function than what is normally done in blog-driven websites.
On the downside of the day to day use, the MWS was an inconvenience in terms of the other connectivity that I aspire to have on my mobile device. Usually, I run the Emoze email client and the Jaiku Mobile client. Because of the MWS, I was not able to run these and have a long functioning device. Either the MWS would take over the connections, or the applications would consume too much memory and cause one or all of them to shut down. During the experiment, I only suffered one total device crash, but this was an instance where the hardware specifications of my N75 (which has about 15MB of memory free for running programs at boot) was at the very bottom of what is needed to run the MWS.
Because of this limitation, I was not able to use programs such as widgets to keep me abreast of what was going on at the MWS without opening the application. That being said, it was quite nice to have the server running and not have to think about it unless I needed some kind of functionality that was a bit more than normal.
A small note: the Nokia N75 is a 3G phone, meaning that it has the ability to use a high speed data network called HSDPA. Because of the specifications of this network, the device is able to use applications that connect to the Internet at the same time as using voice functions. While running the MWS, there was no drop off in voice quality or phone functions except for occasional slowness for MMS message processing.
While there were those hardware challenges, the large and more pertinent challenges to using the MWS was trying to keep the same kind of communicative presence that had been done at Mobile Ministry Magazine. Essentially, opportunities to post to the blog, upload pictures, and engage the reading community were all things that seemed a lot easier when connectivity was spread across devices instead of being centered on one device.
For example, whenever I needed to use the web browser on the N75, I had to shut down the MWS because the two applications were too large to run at the same time. This meant that I would have to create a status message saying that the server was down and point people to the MMM Jaiku channel; then initiate a discussion at the MMM Jaiku channel; and then I would be able to continue with using the web browser. Certainly, having a device with later hardware (more memory and processor speed) would have been great here.
Another issue that I found was that in order to publish to the blog, I needed some type of dual connection. Using the MWS made situations of traveling to WI-Fi hotspots a bit of an adventure as now instead of using them just as a rest place, I wanted to be strategic in making sure that I could create a conversation piece around the use of the technology. It was not until later in the experiment that I realized that there would be times that I would be able to use the web browser on the N75 in order to populate the blog. This stretched the mobile device, but creating a blog post where I was able to live blog a sermon and have my notes created on the N75 instantly appear online was quite exciting (mental note: taking a T9 typing class before doing this should be a prerequisite).
Accessibility versus Versatility
This challenge of balancing multiple devices, multiple input methods, and then just the plan fact that a web server can really go with you anytime makes one feel more accessible than ever. The granular level of being able to assign contacts or groups of contacts to various parts of one’s mobile device presents a solution that is present already in some enterprise applications such as SharePoint and even commercial ones like Movable Type. But those are PC-focused solutions. Nothing wrong with that, but as mobile devices become more versatile, one should not just assume, but see that a lot more of what we do can be driven from a mobile platform.
The Mobile Web Server is an answer to a question that is not yet asked so loudly yet though. Its not so much an issue of how does one stay accessible, as many connected devices open to you; but it allows you to determine how you want people to connect to you based on the social network that you have built – your phone book. This is more powerful and empowering when combined with a communications strategy and a personality that invites people to want to connect to you. That being said, its not accessibility that is the focus of using the MWS, its versatility. Versatility meaning that you are empowered to take your social network with you, and how they connect to you is determined by you, not by the service that you subscribe to.
This is if you where using the software and service makes a change from being just a piece of software or just another online service. It would be easy to just put the MWS into one of those categories and then judge it based on its benchmarks; but there is nothing to just it against. Nokia’s Mobile Web Server is a canvas that if given the network and the hardware (and economies) becomes a canvas that enable the kind of personal computing that was dreamed about in the 1950s when the foundations of the Internet began, and now realized with the fast and (nearly) open wireless networks that most of the world has access to.