Back in July 2007 I attended the Mobile Media 2007 conference in Sydney, mostly because I was offered a free ticket by one of the sponsors. Generally the talks were too focused on social and cultural theory for my liking, with a lack of hard facts and working technology.

But one of them got my attention, “These Foolish Things: On Intimacy and Mobile Media” by Kate Crawford. It was the first time I’d seen Twitter in action, a rather impressive demo using its geotagging capability mashed up with Google maps.

The gist of the talk was that communications are becoming shorter and more frequent. Decades ago we spent hours writing a letter, and sent them monthly. Several years ago we  spent a few minutes writing an e-mail, and sent them daily. Now we knock up a tweet or SMS in a few seconds and send them hourly.

So I wondered, can I get in front of this trend? Can I develop a form of communication that’s even faster and more superficial than SMS? Well, inspired by idea of scribbling on a Post-It note, I developed Scribble, an Android application that lets you draw a message on the touch screen and send the image as a JPEG via MMS.

There were a few technical problems.

  • The customized toggle buttons used to select pen colour and size don’t appear correctly on all handsets.
  • The action that’s supposed to launch the built-in Android MMS application, doesn’t. Instead you’re offered a choice of uploading to Picasa or sending as an e-mail attachment.
  • The camera API captures images at a lower resolution than the screen, resulting in poor quality background images.

But those issues are probably not insurmountable. What really caused me to pull the plug on Scribble was the fact that writing on a touch screen with your fingertip is really hard. Witness my effort above. Entering text via T9 or a virtual keyboard is much faster.

So while there may be demand for a faster, more superficial, form of communication, Scribble isn’t it.

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