SplashBlog v1.5

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, Hardware Editor, July 2005 (updated August 2007)
Published by: SplashData, Inc. (look for the Vox Personal Blogging site)
Requires: Wireless Smartphone (e.g., PalmOne Treo 600 or 650) or device running Palm OS 4.0 or later; built-in camera recommended but not required, 400k of free memory for the application plus ~50KB per image; mobile devices without built-in photo capture can publish images from a VFS memory card (e.g., from a separate digital camera); Clie users must install a separate PRC for the camera to function
MSRP: US$19.95

When is a Web Log (Blog) not a Web Log? When it's a PhotoBlog of course. Ah yes, you may say, but exactly what is a web log/blog/photoblog? The simple answer is that they're regularly updated, personal online journals about anything of interest to the writer, all of which is stored for public access in a simple HTML (web page) format. Ah yes, you may say (again), but what's a blog? The simplest answer is: any sort of information consisting of any combination of words, pictures, video and audio formatted in HTML, taking the form of a daily (weekly? monthly?) publicly accessible diary or journal. I hope that helps.

Dedicated photo blogs exist all over the place, but automated, dedicated photo blogs are another matter. SplashData, the company that brings you SplashID, SplashMoney and SplashPhoto, has decided that all of the millions of photos being taken by PalmOne Treo smartphone owners (and PalmOne Zire and Sony Clie owners) can probably make for some interesting blogging. SplashData is probably right.

Blogging is a blast. You get to express all sorts of interests, publicly, and if you're lucky a loyal cadre of like-minded people will regularly visit your blog to see what's up and what's new, perhaps contributing information and ideas of their own. Adding a spontaneous photographic dimension to your blog is a great idea, but it's not always easy. In fact, adding photos to your blog is almost invariably a manual process. Take a photo, transfer it to your computer, edit or process the photo, and then upload it. Point to the photo's location in a blog article or entry and the job is done.

SplashBlog lets you almost instantly publish photos from your Treo camera phone to an online photo album (photo blog) to share with others. SplashBlog consists of software for your Treo and a free online photoblog account on splashblog.com. Programming wizards can figure out how to upload to their own blog pages. I set up SplashBlog on two handhelds: a PalmOne Treo 650 and a Sony Clie TH55. Installation is identical on both devices with the exception of an additional file required for the Clie. Run the SplashBlog software on the handheld the first time to get the initial setup menu for your first photoblog. All you have to do is enter a folder name for your photoblog, an e-mail address, a password for the photoblog, a title and some decsriptive information. Click the setup button and SplashBlog automatically connects with the SplashData servers at splashblog.com and sets everything up. All you have to do after that is start taking pictures. Once you've photographed something you want to blog, launch SplashBlog and it will detect all new photos on the handheld. Tap the one you want, add some descriptive text (or a short story if you like), then tap the button to update your blog. That's it—probably the shortest online help system ever created, but that's how simple it is to use SplashBlog. The programmers and desginers at SplashData have managed to keep things simple to use but very effective and powerful at the same time.

There are a couple of handy features which newbies (especially) will make use of, the most important of which is support for deleting photos after you've already uploaded them. Select a photo that's already online and mark it for deletion from the blog. The next time you update, the photo will be removed. You can also permanently delete photos using the Purge function.

Among the most interesting features in SplashBlog is the ability to do group blogging. Business groups, families and friends can have access to the latest pictures taken by the group’s members. A group of Treo 650 users, for instance, can all take pictures, add captions for the images and automatically upload them to a shared photoblog for everyone to enjoy. You can also "subscribe" to a friend's photoblog, automatically downloading new photos every time you do a wireless sync. I tried the group photoblog with my WiFi-enabled Clie TH55 and two friends who own and actively use Treo 650 smartphones. The results were delightful from a trade show floor. We each covered a section of the trade show, storing, describing, then uploading photos over a period of about three hours at the show. Between us, we covered the entire show with pictures and text and had plenty of time for meetings, lunch, browsing and so on. People back at my office were able to have a look at the show pictures as I uploaded them, benefitting at the same time from the text descriptions. At least a dozen of the photos caused phone calls from staff asking for more information about particular products we were covering. I like it.

Cons: Downloaded images are stored on a VFS memory card or internal memory if no card is available. We'd like to see storage restricted to memory cards only because it's just too easy to inadvertently max out available internal memory. I nearly missed the separate installation file download required for Clie compatibility. Sony no longer makes TH55 or indeed PDAs of any kind, so it's a small quibble.

Pros: Built-in camera is recommended but not required. Handhelds without a camera can publish images from a VFS memory card (e.g., a digital camera storage card). Two-way synching is supported, so images added via the web site can be downloaded onto your handheld. SplashBlog detects your wireless settings and connects quickly and smoothly to upload photos and accompanying text to your photoblog. All setup details for new blogs are handled on the handheld side: enter your new URL, contact e-mail, blog password, blog title and description into the SplashBlog program on the handheld and the upload routine takes care of sorting everything out on the SplashData photoblog servers. Group photo blogging has some interesting possibilities. SplashBlog is very simple to set up which should be an enticement for anyone who is leary of new technology. SplashData has made it very easy for people to get started—you'll be able to spend 99% of your time posting to the blog instead of fiddling with it. SOHO and small businesses built around crafts and other handmade goods can perform daily updates to a product photoblog without every opening Dreamweaver or any other specialized software. The possibilities are fascinating. Highly recommended.

(Ed. Note: As of June 2006, SplashBlog had been sold by Splash Data to Vox. Recently, Vox announced that as of September 10, 2007 the SplashBlog service would be discontinued and that all SplashBlog users could move their photos and content to the new Vox Personal Blog. It's basically the same product, but branded for Vox).





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