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?



Composing a lengthy dissertation might not be ideal, but if you’re an iPhone fan boy, this might ease the transition for some. At the very least its another tool in your toolbox:

Haven’t found anything yet that would make it as simple on a crackberry.

aliza sherman

I am definitely not going to go for something because it is “cool” but if the industry trend is moving in a certain direction, I want to be aware of it, on top of it, and adopting it if I need to be to continue to be in line with my peers.

And I’m always always always looking for convenience, portability, and connectivity options. Oh, and affordability.


Beautiful comments above. THere’s no need to get mobile devices if you are getting your work done the way you want in the time you want right now. You have a notebook, you work at home and at wifi cafes, what’s the need for a tinier, less functional device.

I work with people with disabilities, and we don’t just recommend technology that everyone else has because it’s “cool.” We spend time figuring out what that person needs and doesn’t need, and then finding the right combo of stuff for them, regardless of whether it is the latest greatest stuff or not.

Choose the devices you need to be productive. If that’s a notebook, then so be it. If that’s an iPhone, go for it. Just don’t use a device because you see everyone else using them.


Content should always be seperate from presentation…

That is a statement of web designers who utilize CSS instead of older methods of table-based website design, and its something that I’ve found that fits the mobile paradigm as well.

When you get out of the idea that you need to see the page edges to write, and then start to write content for content and allow the presentation to be handled outside of that, then it is a lot easier to write on a mobile.

If you are squinting to write text on your mobile, change the way you write. For example, I use a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet and iGo Bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard sits about an arm’s length from me while the tablet is 1/3 the distance from me in between my arms. I don’t need to see the keys since I type a lot and “know where they are.” Also, I make it a point to keep the text and color/contrast set so that I don’t squint. No, its not a laptop, I adjusted for the hardware and now my arms and wrists suffer less.

It is very hard to be a web worker and be tied to models sold on carrier decks. Most of these models are sold with so many other appendages that it is not inexpensive to go mobile. I would recommend using another mobile, GSM based if possible, and looking into the mobiles that may have a better feature set for more freedom when web working.

I am a writer, consultant, and am learning project mangement/business analyitics. I work via an Internet Tablet and mobile phone for more than half of my working day, and then a laptop for the rest of that time. Its hard, but do able. It means you have to change the way you work though; and most don’t want to do that.


I’m currently working as a sysadmin. I’m on call and need to get into my systems to troubleshoot and restart servers/services/read logs. I have to manage various windows and linux servers. Linux servers are great to manage remotely as I can use ssh to remote in on a command line and manage the box, or a web interface for the service/app. The windows boxes are a pain as they often have to be managed via terminal services or vnc which is not fun on smaller portable style screens and resolutions. I carry around a small Compaq Presario B1900 12″ laptop for remote access and usually hit a webcafe for wifi if I’m out and about or get online at whoever’s house I’m at. My mobile phone is average and does nothing special, it needs replacing as the key to enter spaces is getting more faulty. Worst case is dialup. I’ve been looking at other web work for a side venture so I check out web worker daily blog often. I read about all the cool mini laptops and things like iPhone, but I need to work out what actually needs doing vs what devices are just cool to own. I’m not huge into too many web 2.0 apps either. I use gmail and twitter.

So I guess if I was to do sysadmin web work, like managing cloud computing instances, the ultimate would be a small netbook with 3G and awesome battery life. Used it to manage linux/unix boxes via ssh command line. Then email, messenger, skype for comms and something like paypal for taking payment. Mobile phone would probably still be basic if at all.


Personally I find the growing range of netbooks (Asus EeePC etc) a more practical mobile working option than an iPhone or Blackberry. It all depends how practical you find it hiking a full sized laptop around and how much of handling your calls and emails is done by yourself or others (virtual assistants).Me, I’m productive with a netbook and selective remote desktop access for mobile work.

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