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May 06, 2004

Open Note to Mobhaile

SemacodeTHE IRISH TAXPAYER is funding a community portal concept woven around Microsoft Sharepoint and heavy templates. While the developers work on smoothing out the system, I wonder why mobile connectivity (after all, it's coined "Mobhaile" isn't it?) isn't the priority? There are very interesting mobile technology capabilities out there worth leveraging, many appearing in the SmartMobs spotlight every week, some percolating into Irish mobile developers, such as the free developer kits at Semacode.

No computer is more pervasive in Ireland than the cameraphone. Irish citizens are wired on the pavement and community-financed initiatives should connect people at that touchpoint. I see more value-for-money in that proposition than a tired templating process for community portals.

Semacode has flanked Mobhaile. The concept uses the powerful processors, substantial memory, internet connections, and Java-based applications on board the phones. You get a new platform for connecting the real world with the virtual world. Semacode gets this.

As Simon Woodside explains, "Semacode is a real-world gateway into the virtual world of Internet content. A semacode is a special symbol that can be printed on any ordinary printer. Semacodes are a flexible way to encode short strings of text — specifically, a URL — into a machine readable format. Any machine can read them if it has a camera, a software decoder, and an Internet connection."

If Mobaile built on top of existing camera phone and basic printing technology, the developers could blanket Ireland with semacode identifiers. These identifiers could create signs where they should be, leading camera phone users to a specified URL on the Internet automatically, with a single click.

People carry their phones with them everywhere. Why not leverage their connectivity with this kind of capability by kick-starting a Semacode community?

Howard Rheingold -- "Cameraphones and 2D Barcodes"
Dan Gillmor -- "Real world hyperlinks via mobile phone"
Semacode -- "Real world hyperlinks with a cameraphone"
Blogdex -- "Sem@code: WiFi + CueCat = UbiComp"


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Let's do it Bernie! Let's take Doc Searls advice and adopt a DIY approach to this.

I downloaded and tried the Semacode software on my Nokia 3650 and even though the FAQ advises that it will not work on a CRT it did for me!

As a TypePad user you know that its simple to spin off new blogs (for Pro users). And you know that those blogs can be moblogged (updated through mobile email/mmms). And you know that templates are available to deliver those pages in WAP and RSS formats. And I believe SixApart are due to add additional moblogging fucntionality any day now.

I think every club, organisation, parish and SME in the country should have a TypePad blog and should encourage their members to print and post their corresponding Semacodes in all sorts of appropriate physical locations.

At this moment I'd assume that the percentage of Symbian based cameraphones is probably quite low among Irish population but as you suggest it's time to kick-start this idea and bootstrap it from there.


For more on Mobhaile's mobile plans, see my interview with Tim Willoughby in E-Thursday in the Irish Independent of March 11 and posted to Siliconrepublic.com on March 9.

What pre-launch publicity reveals the way you update this system? If it's as closely tied to the Microsoft suite as I think, that means it needs at least Internet Explorer 5.1 to work with all the editing menus. And it might also need components plugged in with a normal MS-Office installation. So if you're using a Mac with Netscape, you're not going to have the editing options of a Windows user. I don't know if this is accurate--but it's the impression I got when I saw the system on display in the ICT Expo.

Microsoft Sharepoint?? Argh. God only knows why they didn't go with what's proven -- a Wiki, which works beautifully elsewhere -- wikipedia.org, wikitravel.org, and the like.

They'd have to have a couple of people vetting and rewriting changes, but with any system where people can contribute, that's guaranteed anyway.

Keep it simple -- and don't waste *our* money on the Microsoft tax for Sharepoint!

Well, wiki is good as a shared workspace, but it's not so good for publishing to the public. It's just that as the Wiki gets bigger, it tends to lose its structure. (Of course, if you have skilled people rewriting and refactoring, you could keep this under control.)

Hi Bernie,
You may like to take a look at the website for the LGCSB (by clickon on my name). At first I thought it might be a new acronym for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, etc."... but it's the Irish Local Government Computer Services Board -- the people behind Mobaile.
Their homepage sports a "Microsoft Certified Partner" graphic, and declares that theirs is "one of largest implementations of Sharepoint Portal Servers globally." ...So getting them to switch over to lower-cost, open software-based platforms is about as likely as, oh, getting a County Councillor to resign when he's been caught committing forgery. ;-)

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