Going Mobile: Is Web Work Really Going to My Mobile Device?

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I can’t get the Who’s song “Going Mobile” out of my head, and it is driving me crazy.

The other day I came across VentureBeat’s MobileBeat 2008 list of companies and have been stressing out ever since. Combine that with attending the latest BlogHer conference and watching several power mobile device users in action (Blackberries implanted in hand, fingers flying at breakneck speed), and no wonder I am starting to feel the pressure of change.

As a Web worker, I can see that my industry is already moving toward being at the forefront of adopting mobile technologies, but I’m not sure exactly what that mobile work looks like.

I’m even less sure how to equip myself properly to handle the technical requirements of mobile work as I’m still trying to get my mobile communications equipment up to snuff. I think I need a technology consultant who can assess my current devices, suggest affordable upgrades, and provide me with a strategy that can help me avoid penalties and too many additional fees from my telecommunications companies not to mention some advice on how to adapt to mobile work. Otherwise, this move toward mobile is going to break my bank not to mention blow my mind.

Can I really go mobile?

Now before you start labeling me a Luddite or of a generation that cannot adopt well to technological change, let me just lay out for you my current tech equipment landscape so you can see my quandry.

My Equipment

1. Two cell phones. When I moved to Alaska, I kept my Wyoming cell phone through Verizon, partly because I still have clients in Wyoming and partly because I didn’t want to change my number. I got a second cell phone through an Alaska company so I could have a local number for my business. I can’t get out of either contract without hundreds of dollars worth of penalties, but I just managed to upgrade the Verizon phone to the LG EnV2 which isn’t even available here in Alaska through the local telecoms. And since I’m in Alaska, I’m unable to use any of the photo or video features on the phone so upgrading from a bare bones phone to a sexy one with a keyboard and camera may have been a bad strategy. My local cell phone is a bare bones LG with zero bells or whistles, only capable of calls and SMS.

2. An iPod Touch. This is a very recent purchase and was meant to be simply an iPod upgrade, but in truth, it was due to iPhone envy. I can’t move to AT&T without a severe penalty so I got the next best thing. Unfortunately, without the cell service, an iPod Touch is mostly inert because even though wifi is proliferating, it isn’t always free and isn’t ubiquitous enough to make the Touch useful in most settings. And in the settings where there is free wifi, I usually have my MacBook with me which, let’s face it, is easier to work on than a hand held device, at least for me.

My Web Work

Looking what I do most days, I can break my work down as follows:

1. Writing. I write for web sites, and I still write for print magazines, but at least I can email my drafts into all of my editors.

2. Blogging. I post all of the blog posts I write, although some clients still have publishing control.

3. Social Media Marketing. On any given day, I’m writing proposals and plans for clients as well as helping to implement plans including setting up social networking accounts, posting multimedia content to social networks, and linking a client’s social networks together for more efficient marketing.

4. E-Coordination. As I continue to hire and work with virtual teams, I’m doing almost all of my coordination via web sites like Basecamp.

5. E-Communications. I’m barely scratching the surface of my email inboxes these days and seeking new ways to manage the constant stream of email communications between clients, vendors, editors, team members, and independent contractors, not to mention my subscriptions to industry newsletters and RSS feeds.

A Mobile Reality Check

Here’s how I see the mobile aspects of my current work:

1. Mobile Writing. I have finally gotten used to composing all of my content on a computer using a laptop keyboard and screen. Now you’re telling me I’m going to have to squint to see my content on a miniscule screen and relearn keyboarding on a tiny excuse for a keyboard? I’m already in need of reading glasses. What next? A magnifying glass? Microscope? Not to mention the new cramps and numbness I’m getting in my hands just from texting more now that I finally have a mobile phone with an augmented keyboard. Scary.

2. Mo-Blogging. Putting aside my stress over trying to see on a tiny screen, typing on a eensy weensy keyboard, and pain and numbness in my hands, some of the blogging tools I use do have a mobile component to them. I could actually “phone in” the posts via SMS, but I haven’t tried that yet. The barrier for me is composing 250-500 words on miniature equipment.

3. M-Marketing. Because of my own tech limitations, I haven’t even begun experimenting with mobile social networks like Peperonity, Zannel, Qik, or ItsMy. I’m beginning to feel the weight of guilt for not being far enough ahead to give my clients the benefit of that experience. How much are we missing without that mobile exposure? I’d argue that unless my clients are trying to reach the audiences who have the right devices and are using these networks (they aren’t), we still have time. Still, I feel I need to be testing these sites out now yet don’t have the tech capabilities to do so.

4. M-Coordination. I’m barely using SMS for anything else other than texting friends and family. If I need to contact someone related to my work, it is email first, project management web sites next, and by phone – as in voice – as last resort. I’m sure I could make a shift, but I think I’d have to start with email communications, and that in itself is still going to be a big leap.

5. M-Communications. Even if I could get my email on one of my mobile devices, I’m still not sure I could process it properly through my squinting eyes, even wearing my reading glasses. I’m not even willing to get any of my Twitter messages on my cell phone because I fear the flood gates will open, and I will no longer be able to control the information overload. But if I’m going to start somewhere with my mobile workability, this is definitely the place to start. If I can get the right equipment and then wrap my head around email on a mobile device (much less be able to read it), then I think the rest of this mobile landscape will come into focus for me – both literally and figuratively.

What I’m really wondering is: Is the pressure I’m feeling to go more mobile because it really is the new way of working or because I’m simply in an industry where I need to stay as close to one step ahead as humanly possible to be viable and to be taken seriously?

What is your mobile device landscape and how are you the ways you are really working with your handhelds?

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