Saturday, 29 September 2007

Mobile Camp London: Vodafone Transcoding

Terence Eden, Deputy Production Manager - Portal Content Management @ Vodafone
Terence did a reasonable job of explaining Vodafone's position and of apologising for mucking up the user agent header. There weren't too many rabid developers in the audience so he got quite an easy ride...
why transcode?
popular website e.g. slashdot -- very big to download (esp. if you're not on unlimited data) and hard to navigate
instead, do transcoding:
• cut down file size
• reformat the page to make it long and thin
• starts the user on the right bit of the page (knock out the navigational part and get to the meat - don't waste time & money downloading it)
My thoughts: On a Nokia N95 (the first demo device), the Nokia WebKit browser can zoom in and out of the non-transcoded page and dive straight into the bits that interest you. The transcoding saves you some bandwidth and some time, but you lose context and familiarity.
• Opera Mini does a very good job of dealing with the whole site, with its mix of transcoding and clever browser functionality: you get to see the whole context when you first get to the page (as zoomed out), but the text columns are made to fit the device width when you zoom in.
also works on Nokia 6230i
• wouldn't be able to download the slashdot page at all
My thoughts: but is still almost completely unusable on the Nokia 6230i -- only four lines of text on the screen gives you no context at all. Even if you know exactly where to get to on the page, you're still stuffed 'cos the transcoder mucks around with the ordering!
Supposedly, the first time you go to an off-portal site, you get offered a choice of whether you want the full version or the transcoded version.
You also get a navigation bar at the top and bottom of every transcoded page. The top one allows you to skip around the separate pages created by the transcoder; the bottom one allows you to go to the raw site without transcoding.
If a customer enters "" into their phone, which site do they want to go to? the mobile one or the full website?
Maybe. What if they enter Shouldn't that decision be up to the people who run the site?
Another example: british airways automatically redirect mobile browsers to their wap site, However, this displays the message "BA no longer provide a WAP site" and will not let you try to get at the main web site even if you have a fancy phone with a powerful browser... Vodafone customers then complain to Vodafone, saying "Why have you broken the BA site?"
• Surely this is a situation where Vodafone should use its muscle to knock BAs head against the wall, or else to write a specific rule in their transcoder...
how does it figure out which bit to go where?
• transcoder guesses using names of DIVs + formatting hints
• also there's cheating: transcoder can be given hard-coded rules for specific sites (did this with
customer research:
• most people don't know how to open a URL on their phone, so offer them a form to go to one
also have a service called follow-me where you can add URLs to vodafone live website and have them appear on your mobile
• people want my websites on my phone
• the stats show that web usage has gone up
user agent woes (why change it?)
• decision was made to change user agent for any site that gets transcoded
• because there are more sites that say "you're not IE, you can't have anything" than there are mobile-specific sites
• currently have to send Vodafone an email if you want the transcoder to leave your site alone
• on a personal level that's not a good way to interact with website developers
• on a professional level, we're evaluating the options
• Question: isn't it a paradox, that you support the sites that say "bog off you're not a web browser", and penalise the sites that are making money and doing good mobile work?
• Terence gets down on his knees and promises that he will never hide the user agent again :-)

Mobile Camp London: Mobile Social Networks -- Kwame @ Fjord

Service design leader for Fjord, responsible for rolling out services e.g. Yahoo Go!

Background sociable media
About to start rolling out a mobile social network which is not yet live

Vizster -- visualization of social networks
People becoming aware of the network itself and of its structure

Phone address book is the real social network (is it? surely it's just another model...)
Flash mobs illustrate this -- SMS virally passed on to your friends

Most tools on mobile come from PC downwards
Social tools (voice, text) come from mobile upwards

Augmented reality on groups to provide social introductions
Overlay people with tags of their interests

Buds, 2002
you intersect people all the time, would be nice to get something from that serendipity
coil of surrounding images -- larger areas for longer time over the day

real social networks:
whole groups of people move together so that communication can be maintained
see also Flirtomatic from Fjord (UK's largest virtual flower delivery service... 100m page views last month)

have routines that we don't change -- lines of flight
very difficult to move people from their current line of flight

gang member gunned down by the police so that they could get his SIM card and thus his contacts...

Mobile Camp London: S60 Web Widgets -- Petro Soininen, Nokia

See the whole presentation here.
  • Nokia providing open source Browser Control so can access web content easily from within Symbian apps
  • Now providing Widget Runtime on top of the Browser Control
  • Widgets run and feel like a native app — appear as application icons in interface
  • Not necessarily dependent on network access
  • Load their own instance of the WebKit engine (though some parts may be shared)
  • One widget displayed at a time (full screen)
  • Widgets can work in landscape or portrait
  • Can be assigned to soft keys or shortcuts on the idle screen
  • No means to save persistent information beyond reboot at the moment
  • Customisable standby screen coming some time next year — and so widgets at idle

Plans for the future:

  • Want to use platform capabilities
  • Location, PIM, media, standby screen, etc
  • Security model is the sticking point at the moment
  • Plans will be communicated next year

Widget internals:

  • Recommended icon for app is 88x88 PNG
  • Folder for widget UI: private/10282822/${Identifier}
  • Info.plist — XML properties file but different properties to a dashboard widget…

How do you update widgets automatically?

  • Can launch normal browser from within a widget and download a new package to install (just like J2ME)

Javascript API

  • setPreferenceForKey / preferenceForKey
  • openApplication(Uid, param)
  • setDisplayLandscape/Portrait
  • setNavigationEnabled — hides/shows cursor
  • onhide / onshow callbacks
  • menu object available to manipulate, with menuItems — allows access to standard S60 device menu
  • system info service API provides access to memory, network, lights, vibration, etc, available as a browser plugin
    • Not supported in standard browser context, only in widget runtime
    • Does provide events — e.g. onchargelevel (don’t know if they fire in the background…)
    • system info API needs to be first embedded object in HTML
    • javascript to access local info needs to be included in widget (not remote)

development process:

  • general development in web browser
  • testing in S60 3rd Edition FP2 emulator (beta ETA first half of October)
  • testing on a real device, need custom firmware for the moment… (Nokia 6292)

installation & packaging:

  • zip package with extension .wgz
  • mime-type: x-nokia-widgets (isn't that missing something?)


  • Nokia use Phone Screen over Bluetooth to demonstrate phone on laptop screen
    • appears different from Devlex PhoneScreen (app on laptop appears to be Java) — has resolution doubler
    • Not available outside of Nokia... :-(
  • Developer Workshop in Finland October 30th (details to be published on