Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Automatically distinguishing between a phone and a PC on a website

Despite browsers on phones getting better and better there is still a need for Mobile formatted sites, if not just for lower end phones, but for those on high end phones that hate the waiting or the difficult navigation of the full web on a phone.

Once you acccept this the next stage after creating your mobile site (which is easy with products such as Mippin) is how does your site detect between a phone and a PC. We get asked this question several times a month by publishers big and small. How to automatically distinguish between phones and pcs and send them to the right version of their websites.

Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question because these publishers have substantial PC users and want to do the detection without degradation to their PC website performance - so they need to do the detection on their own hardware.

At the same time there is not enough standardisation on the server-side to make it a simple answer. However, we have fully documented several approaches and we detail them here.

There are 3 approaches:

1) Don't make it automatic. Just create a domain name or and send them to the right site. However, this is not very user friendly.

2) The next approach is if the publisher is using Apache servers there is a script that can be put in place. This script is here.

3) Finally for those using Wordpress we have a specific solution for wordpress owners. There can install a plugin which does it for you. Details of this plugin are here.

Note that these script are all geared with pointing the user at Mippin as the mobile rendering of the site, but this code is open and its easy to change the code to point at any mobile rendering so you are not forced to use us.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Decline of US Newspapers

There is an interesting article in Techcrunch this morning on the decline of the US Newspapers.

Obviously we have heard this story for some years now but two things struck me. Firstly the declines are increasingly rapid and more importantly the decline are in online too. I think that the decline in online is an indication that the newspapers are failing to monetise their content in the online world. I think we all know that online consumption of news is increasing and this is at the expense of print. Furthermore the opening up of mobile content consumption through products like Mippin are also reducing the need to for users to take their news via print. It just needs the content owners to work out how their content can be monetised. Obviously we feel quite good about this as we have quite a successful route for monetisation for publishers through ad impressions with Mippin.

Furthermore a billion people will be coming online via mobile in the next 4 years so its only worldwide growth or the content industry.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Future of Blogging: Barclays Bank, Piccadilly Circus?

Most people will probably agree that outside of work, not everyone we come in to contact with will have knowledge of the markets, technology, attitudes or ideas we take for granted each day amongst our colleagues. For us at Mippin this is definitely the case, as a fair amount of the media and entertainment content we work with are blogs, and neither blogging or the ability to read blogs on mobile phones are witnessing massive market demand just yet. We’re all fans at Mippin but to be honest our Friends and Family Beta launches tended to see registrations from just friends, and those were the ones working in the same industry…

However we appreciate that blogging has been around for a long time, and see its role in reflecting the values of society as undisputed. Though the format of blogging is changing to encompass personal news streams, more traditional blogs still play a huge role in provoking discussion, building awareness and forming opinion about most things, just as they are equally important in evolving to provide a wide range of channels of communication and self expression for bloggers themselves. However it’s also fair to say that blogs still aren't consumed by the mass market, which means the Mippin team still need to happily explain what we do and why to some outside the blog or mobile world's.

That is unless we’re in Piccadilly Circus using the services at Barclays Bank.

At Barclays new branch in the centre of Piccadilly Circus they’ve installed a state-of-the-art new interactive video installation that shows live on a big screen the amount of blogs being published across London at any one time, what the blogs are about and the different content categories they sit within. The content categories appear to be searchable and the latest posts are surfaced surreptitiously, introducing customers and no doubt tourists to localised long and short tail blog content, not dissimilar to the thinking behind Mippin. In fact the biggest difference between the new Barclays installation and Mippin is probably the screen size – it would be difficult to get theirs in a jacket pocket…

In reality though it’s great news that Barclays have installed this blog installation, not just because it brings Piccadilly Circus’s neon advertising boards in to the web enabled 21st Century, but because it continues to confirm what millions already know – that blogs and personalised streams will be a major part of everyone’s future. The next question then is how to connect users with the blogged and published content they're interested in when they’re not in Barclays Bank, or at a PC, and it’s that which Mippin does very well. So from now on if we want to explain what we do, Barclays Piccadilly branch is where we’ll be heading. Ignore the world famous icons of Eros and Trocadero next time you’re there too - a British bank might have done something cool with their cash for a change, helping to build awareness and ultimately mass market demand for blogs, and making our jobs here a little bit easier...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Mippin at the Gadgetshow Flashmob

The Gadgetshow presenters have been testing their abilities to get flashmob's together using different tools. Jason was only allowed to use Twitter and Susie (subs'ed very ably by Gail Porter as Susie was ill, get well soon Susie) used Facebook.

On the day the twitter crowd won out by a large margin, I'm guessing around 150 in the twitter crowd compared to about 15 in the Facebook crowd.

A dance off ensued, all good fun, catch the show on Channel 5 on Monday 27th April at 8:00pm.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Apple Fail Mippin App because of YouTube content which can be found in its own YouTube application

We've been submitting a Mippin Application to iTunes for 6 weeks now and every week they've failed us for inceasingly trivial reasons. Now we've been failed for a ridiculous reason.

Quite early on in the process they failed us because of rude words in some of the Internet articles we were publishing. Early this week Tweetie was rejected for the same reason- they kicked up such a stink on Twitter that Apple backed down within hours and accepted it. When this happened to us though, 3 weeks ago, we bowed to their greater wisdom and implemented 2 levels of checking for our iPhone application to prevent "objectionable" content getting through. We rate all our 50,000 feeds in Mippin and prevent most if it even getting to the user, then just to be sure we check every word in the article real-time for a list of rude words and if one appears we block the display of the content from the server. We thought this was enough, but this week we got rejected because of a YouTube video - we were amazed at this. In the very amusing video "sxephil" does use one rude word, but in our minds YouTube have allowed this through - its certainly acceptable to them. What's even worse we found the same video through Apple's own YouTube application on the iPhone - is this "double standards". Above we show on the left the YouTube screenshot of the video which has had nearly 1/2 million views next to the screenshot on the right of the video inside the Mippin application which can be viewed here.

As a little startup we're feeling a little persecuted by Apple of this situation. Could it be that because we actually render mobile content better in Mippin than the iPhone itself can do they are finding any reason they can to stop us appearing on the iPhone. I would say that's an abuse of their power.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Google's Mobile strategy

I watched Eric Schmidt on Charlie Rose last night - very interesting. Nearly all the talk was about the importance of Mobile in Google's strategy. Eric explained how Mobile was taking over from the PC in Internet access and as he said he saw another billion phones being sold in he next 3.5 years. In fact this statistic struck a chord with me as I have a site called which tracks the mobile phone growth and predicts 2.5 billion extra phones by mid 2012 (I wonder if he took account that the population of the earth will also increase by a billion in the same period). Now I am sure my approach to calculating this increase is flawed as I just do a linear projection on current increases and I assume lots of people will have more than 1 phone too, but I do think whereas my estimate is perhaps over optimistic Eric is under-estimating hugely.

Meanwhile I was also impressed by Eric's description of the need for content being implicitly personalised for users. By this he meant that the Internet server should know what content each user is interested in and exclude what they have already looked at and push that content to them. Again this struck a chord with me because this is precisely what we are trying to achieve in Mippin - so perhaps we have our own strategy right :-).

Another interesting fact he mentioned was because of Moore's law our phone's storage....

" in 15 years, it’s a thousand times cheaper and faster. So unless something changes in 15 years, I have a grandson, he’ll be 18 in 15 years. He will have all of the world’s information, every video, every movie and so forth on a single hard drive. If he started watching it, he cannot finish watching it in 85 years. He’ll always be frustrated."

This is a fascinating fact. Could this mean that in 15 years time our phones will have the world's information resident on the phone. Then all we need the Internet for it how that information is changing. This offline/online approach to using data requires a re-think to how we use the Internet and the software on the phones themselves. I can see a few new businesses being created based on these new concepts :-)