What’s in the bag? #mojoconedc

Glen Mulcahy’s MojoCon – that’s the mobile journalism conference – is running a very cool competition in the build-up to the event, asking journalists to show the contents of their mobile kit.

Now, some of the rigs being shown are seriously impressive, with thousands in gear – but here’s what I get by on as a digital scribbler on a personal budget.

Bag contents, numbered for reference
Bag contents, numbered for reference.

Basically, I’m not a professional TV broadcast journalist, so my bag needs to cover web production – basic photo, video, audio, copy-filing, internet and call recording.

Not pictured is my photo equipment – except for the tripod, which I only lug around when I know I’ll need it.

What’s all this, then?

1 – iPad: Self explanatory, really. I don’t carry a laptop, as an iPad weighs far less. I sold my MacBook Pro after I built a custom media / gaming PC a few years ago, and I haven’t missed it. Unless you need to use specific software mandated by work, tablets can do almost everything for you on the go.

2 – Incase Origami and wireless keyboard: The Incase is beautiful. It’s a cover for the official Apple bluetooth keyboard that folds into a stand, transforming the iPad into a great writing device. But it can be left behind when you know you won’t need to write.

3 – iPad charger: Handily also charges the iPhone with a lightning connector, meaning I only need to carry one.

4 – Microfibre cloth: For lenses, screens, and the glasses on my head.

5 – Shoulderpod S1: A brand new addition, but I already love it. The Shoulderpod is a smartphone mount for any phone that acts as a tripod attachment, desk stand, and a handy freehand filming rig with wrist strap. Very well designed.

6 – iPhone 6: The heart of the operation. A much-needed upgrade from the 4S, encased in an Otterbox Commuter case.

7 – Olympus WS-650S and TP-8 pickup: This ageing warrior has been with me since college. I’d love to upgrade to a better audio recorder, but with its stereo microphone, this guy does just fine in most situations for recording external audio for video, or just for notes.

The TP-8 in-ear pickup is great for phone conversations, too – recording both sides of any call when placed in the ear.

8 – Victorinox ‘climber’ model: Because having a pocket knife is really darn handy.

9 – Pen and paper: Again – handy. The Pilot G2 is a damn good pen, by the way.

10 – Slik Able 300 DX tripod: Extremely optional. This tripod comes from my DSLR photo gear, and it’s not very mobile. It only gets carried over the shoulder when I know I’ll need it – when I’m specifically going out to do video or photo work. I really need to get around to buying a lightweight gorillapod etc.

My other photo gear isn’t really brought out that often – a Nikon D80 (anicent, I know) SB-800 speedlight, 18-135mm, 50mm 1.8, and 70-300 VR.

The point is, I may not own a huge amount of expensive gear, but this small bag covers everything I might need to do well enough. Minimalism is important!

PS – taking a photo of your own smartphone is a bit of a logistical problem.

Computer screens as disposable technology

I’m exceptionally late to the game on this, but last week i bought an iPad. And it’s not the operating system or the size and form factor that impresses me the most: it’s the screen technology.

The advancements in displays keep coming year on year, to the extent that monitors have become a disposable technology. Things have been moving that way since the launch of the iMac in 1998, which rolled its monitor directly into the computer: meaning that upgrading the hardware meant binning the screen.

I tend to invest heavily in the technology I use most: a good keyboard and comfortable mouse are things I’m happy to spend money on – even my own money to beef up work computers. But monitors don’t fall into that mental category.

This is nonsense, of course, because if there’s any piece of technology we use most often, it’s our displays. But at work I use a 4:3 ratio standard monitor that, thanks to a damaged input, has a slight flicker. At home, I use a 32-inch high definition television as a screen, but I’ve come to realise this is far from ideal: the resolution is stretched out over a greater area, giving me less clarity.

The iPad has really hammered this point home for me. Most of the displays I use in my day-to-day life are causes of slight eye strain. Now, I find myself using the iPad, propped up on its stand, for every task possible. It’s the most pleasant experience available, despite being a little extra labour with the input devices.

Most of the displays we use are effectively out of date. Of course, powering ever-increasing resolutions needs more powerful graphics cards, and my 32-inch screen would be ludicrously expensive.

Nonetheless, consider this: in a few years, we may all be toting ultra-high pixel densities on our screens. And once prices come down, it’ll be worth it.

Infographic: Facebook in Ireland

I recently helped Edelman Ireland design this infographic on Facebook use in Ireland.

Key stats include that Facebook’s user base has doubled in the last two years, that there are slightly more women than men using it and that 25 – 34 is the largest age group.

I’m indebted to the fascinating archives of Mulley Communications for historical usage numbers. Damien Mulley has been running a blog since 2003, and has been tracking the growth of social media for years.

Larger version (900px wide) available by clicking here.


Ditch Foursquare, Embrace Yelp, and Get Value From Geolocation

Geolocation, we’re told, is the future of social communication. But for anyone in Ireland who has tried using Foursquare, the location app that shares where you are with friends, it has likely been an enormous disappointment. Once you get past the novelty factor, the persistent questioning of non-smartphone friends (“what’s the point of it?”) begins to make a lot of sense. After all, there really isn’t even that much of a user base. Getting right to the point, Foursquare has no purpose in this country. There are no discounts for mayorships, and no local development officers to build the community. And your friends probably aren’t getting that much value out of knowing you moved from work to home. It’s a colossal waste of time.

But there is a geolocation service that offers real value to the end user, has a dedicated user base, and is tons of fun to use. And it’s the mobile version of the popular Yelp social reviews site.

This service provides value to the user by showing them top-rated cafes, bars etc nearby, nails the social element with weekly newsletters, check-ins and and tips/comments, and, best of all, is making a genuine effort with real live people to build a community. Which knocks the competition out of the park.

I singed up to Yelp on the iPhone after a quick Google search for a good bike shop in Dublin yielded user reviews. Convinced that our tiny nation wouldn’t have any real content, I downloaded the mobile app to prove myself right. I wasn’t right. Within a minute I had read multiple user reviews of several nearby bicycle shops, and decided to try one I had never seen before (which was excellent, by the way).

There is a good sizeable chunk of content there, and it’s growing by the day. A lot of it is powered by a small group of people with a prolific output, but that’s ok: it means that the content is there for the new user to gain value from the service. Which is precisely what a lot of other services that launch in Ireland lack. Perhaps- and this might be crazy- perhaps there is an actual community officer for Dublin/Ireland? Madness, surely?

No. A few days later, I was pleasantly surprised to find this message in my e-mail inbox:

Hi Dave,

I wanted to drop you a quick note and introduce myself. I’m the Community Manager for Dublin. Just wanted to say hello!

Glad to see that you have signed up to the fun! I hope you join your fellow Dublin Yelpers in sharing opinions on the local places you love, hate, need so badly you would run red lights to get to, or can’t stand so much you would rather eat hot coals than step foot in again.

All of your diverse opinions help make up The Weekly Yelp (http://www.yelp.ie/weekly), our newsletter that highlights current happenings in and around Dublin. Each week I comb the site to find the most useful, funny, and cool reviews that give a local’s perspective on where to spend your time, money and daily caloric intake…

Finally. Someone gets it. For these types of services to work, there needs to be a person or team responsible for the growth of content in an area. That was always Foursquare’s problem. The aforementioned Annie L is one of the most prolific users on Yelp Dublin, and from what I can see she’s constantly replying to user queries in the talk pages (which are chat areas with questions about the city). Hell, that same e-mail mentioned that “elite” contributors get invited to beer pong games as a reward.

This approach deserves to get noticed. Finally, someone is showing little old Dublin a little attention. And this is god damn useful. Standing on Fishamble St and wondering where you should grab a coffee with that old friend you just bumped into? Sorted. I’d love to see this grow more and justify the company’s decision to invest in Dublin.

You’ll find me on Yelp as davemolloy, and should sign up yourself here! Now, I must go and review my local pub.