March with Los Indignados in Brussels, Belgium
Lessons from Occupy
OccupyWallStreet is at the forefront of developing and deploying some of the leading edge technologies, theories and innovations that are around today. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and the platform of Occupy Wall Street surely necessitates staying ahead of the curve when overcoming obstacles they face. This post is the first in a series, which tries to highlight the movements successes and point out where they might contain valuable lessons and tools for travel bloggers in particular.
Originally I had the idea for this topic several months ago, but never had the time to delve deeper into putting together the information and writing it up. Than I ran across this video about mobile independent journalist Tim Pool several weeks ago and thought, yeah this is some interesting stuff. I decided to continue on the subject, eventually expanding into several topics which I found pertinent to the travel blogging world.
Keeping it Mobile
While there is certainly a range of talent and much to be considered between the casual blogger and a full blown independent journalist, the world of travel blogging and Occupy share much of the same characteristics. They both require highly mobile, location independent individuals to cover a diverse array of topics, spread across many locations with varying operating environments and levels of engagement with their subjects. Further complicating things the subject matter and the content created from it, usually time sensitive, (more so in the case of Occupy) need to be published quickly into an ever diversifying array of social media channels and information platforms.
Los Indignados Headquarters Brussels, Belgium.
A squat in an abandoned school building put back into good use.
The more agile, lightweight, multipurpose and god-willing simpler that the technology behind the craft become the greater the benefit to both publishers and consumers of content. There are great inroads being made which simplify the marriage between technology, producers of content and end users that allow individuals and small groups of dedicated teams to cover a diverse array of subjects. Having this setup would have helped Dayna and I when we were experiencing the Brussels protest march with the Los Indignados from Spain last year.
The Tech and Services Behind It
In the video there are several key pieces of mobile technology and services being used, which I will further explain and summarize.
The mobile phone is the primary piece of technology that all the rest serve. The Iphone4S being used in the video has several advantages. This phone allows for up to 6 hours of Internet use on 3G (9 hours on WiFi), 1080 HD video recording and photo/video GeoTagging (ever more important with the Semantic Web). While it does not have 4G capabilities, these are overcome by use of the 4G mobile hotspot WiFi network. If you are still looking to use your phone carrier's network capabilities to stream, Sprint is the only national carrier that has truly unlimited data with no caps or bandwidth restrictions.
There are many other options for 3G and 4G phones that have both network capabilities, which will allow you to tether your other devices for either mobile streaming or internet use. There are of course benefits and drawback to using your smart phone's tethering capabilities. While it frees you from having to carry around a mobile hotspot some carriers will charge extra fees for use of tethering services. While it is possible to get around these charges using phone unlocking and apps such as MyWi and Android EasyTether your carrier might ban the use of this software and can end up charging for their service all the same.
You are further limited by the the services you are allowed to use while tethering is enabled. Some phones and carriers allow voice and data usage at the same time. Most 4G phones have this capability while for 3G phones it is less prevalent.
In many respects using a mobile WiFi hotspot has many advantages over using your phones native capabilities. Two of these key advantages are unlimited data usage (at least here in the U.S.) and significantly lower monthly rates. Here unlimited actually means unlimited and you are not capped or your bandwidth severely limited once you go over your allotment as compared with almost all cell phone carrier data plans.
There are many options for 3G and 4G mobile wireless hotspots. All major carriers AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and several dedicated wireless providers like Clear mentioned in the video offer these services. The dedicated providers seem to offer the most reliable services and competitive pricing at this time.
Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons.
So many smart phone choices.
Extending Your Coverage
If you plan on traveling too a far away remote location for some great shots or covering events which have an indefinite length of time than you might take into consideration some tools that can help beef up your battery life and thus your mobility. Battery packs and solar charges are a great example of this.
Batteries are a great way, with or without a solar charger to extend the life of your mobile electronics. They come in many different flavors. Most powering needs for your mobile phone and mobile WiFi hopspot will be meet with ease from any relatively inexpensive battery back device. This is the particular battery for the Iphone and some other mobile phones that Tim Pool mentions in the video. You need only search around on Amazon or your local electronics store to find what will match your mobile device.
If you really, really need to be prepared for that situation where you need extra backup to be completely free from those chains of convenience we call civilization that you might consider a solar charger. Here is the Voltaic Systems model mentioned in the video. Along with the solar charger a backup battery supply is recommended. These can usually be of lower capacity than your main unit.
These services are all pertinent to U.S. Carriers. When choosing a phone and service provider for use overseas it is wise to consult with a knowledgeable source to see if your phone works as well as if there are any other charges that will be incurred. If your phone uses HSPA or HSPA+ technology than tethering services are available in Europe, New Zealand, Australia and some parts of Asia and South America.
A terrific alternative to the plans offered by your mobile phone carrier are the services offered by XcomGlobal. They offer near round the world coverage. Their services, and products seem to stand up to their claims and they have been reviewed and recommended by the top tech companies and sites in the business.
While they offer a flat rate of 14.95 per day for use of their network across 195 countries, there are some great discounts for trips to Europe and amazing deals for long term rentals. With the long term rental deal you can get up to 57% discount bringing the cost down to about $6.35 USD per day, which you would spend in travel or coffee looking for wireless or sitting in a coffee shop. Landlopers reviewed there services recently.
Topics Covered in Part 2
Whether you are abroad filming The Running of The Bulls in Pamplona Spain or covering the recent Occupy marches in NYC, streaming seems like it is here to stay, being incorporated into more and more online platforms. While Skype video chats, Maestro Conference and other online collaboration software can get you so far, integrating streaming video into your website might be the direction things are heading. In the next part of this article I will cover the use of drone technology, the case for inconspicuously filming events and subjects while traveling along with other topics. Perhaps I will also include some tips for implementing mobile into your website, but that might be a whole other article.
Many thanks for Tim Pool for his research, activism and work in this field.