Looking for a New Mobile Experiment

Was just on Twitter anwering a question about mobile IT/UX and I realized that it has been a good while since doing a mobile experiment. This isn’t good… or maybe, I’m just not in enough corners.

Thinking back, I’ve been experimenting with mobile for over a decade. Things started out with the paperless experiment for the backend of summer classes. After my father’s funeral, I did an experiment where I only used a PDA (a Palm IIIxe) for class notes and projects for the last two weeks of a summer course. That experiment was such the success that I ended up doing the rest of my college career on a PDA of some type.

There was the experiment with Millersville’s Upward Bound group where I was an instructor of three classes over the course of three summers and for two of the years, I had a class designed specifically around the use of PDAs for the entire class experience. Tons of lessons there (the use of used devices, teaching kids to be their own tech support, curriculm development and testing on and off of PDAs, alternative classroom environments, etc.) and each one of them filtered into various aspects of life after college.

There was the follow-up to that experiment where I used a PDA, database application, and emailed reports to manage 120 students and 16 tutors. I had everything from attendence lists to small journals on many of the tutors and students. That was a hard choice to stick with because the screen and database app were probably not optimized for the PDA, but it worked and the students and tutors did very well. I was even able to chart the progress of the students, even though I technically had them for only half a school year.

There was the mobile web experiment, where I had a PDA and a mobile phone, and did everything I could to connect that PDA only for email and refreshed webpages during my work commute. My commute was 2.5hrs each direction, and I had only 15min on each end outdoors. There was this challenge of getting the infrared connection just right, because I kept breaking cables to connect the two devices.

Let’s see. There was the Palm Treo as my only computer experiment. The move to Nokia’s Symbian and Maemo devices experiment. The MMM experiments in using a PDA to preach from, mobile phone as an online community platform, and the mobile phone as a presentation device. My mobile has been trip computer (car and bicycle), cable box, and before it was fashionable to do so, a replacement for MP3 players and digital cameras.

These days, I’m not sure of what else there is to experiment with. Each of those experiments drastically changed my approach to mobile, and always ended up in someone else’s life benfitting from those changes I made personally. Most of it was terribly hard, some of it was too fun. I kind of wish that there was the same kind of ground available for this experimentation, and yet, there probably is, I’ve just not found the corner to go into just yet.

I will admit. Much of what I’ve done in the past decade with mobile would be considered an experiment now. That is only the case because devices such as the iPhone and platforms such as Android and MeeGo are just hitting that point in the consciousness of many others who are sparked by the possibilities of mobile. For me, I’m bored. There’s not as much happening new that I can play with that isn’t a refinement on what I already have.

But, when I do find something new to play with – be it something contextual, AR, slightly web, and environmentally driven – it will be fun and a challenge. And I’ll learn a bit more about myself, and how I will continue to grow and learn about this layer of tech. Mobile won’t be here as the main deal forever, but while it is, I might as well stir the pot where I can.

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