As family historians, it’s our job to insure that our current history is captured for future generations as well as protecting and preserving the history of earlier generations. In today’s fast-paced world, that can be a challenge. Fortunately there are a number of easy-to-use and reasonably-priced tools that can help. The first is a camera phone – preferably a smart phone that supports apps, but even a basic camera phone with the ability to email photos will work. Next is a platform to send those photos to so they can be preserved and shared with others.
Most blog platforms support mobile blogging in one form or another. While it is possible to post to WordPress and Blogger from a mobile device, it isn’t always a simple process. However, there are two platforms – Posthaven and Tumblr – that can make mobile blogging so easy that even the most technically-challenged member of the family can do it. You may be asking why you should use one of these platforms to share news and photos instead of Facebook? The answer is privacy and control. You have more control over your content on a blog platform than you do on Facebook. You also have more privacy with a blog than on a social network. You wouldn’t want to post vacation pictures on Facebook because you’re announcing to the world that your home is empty and just waiting to be robbed. With a blog, you can restrict access with a password. And, if you should decide to move your collected archive to another platform sometime in the future, it will be much easier to move blog content than Facebook updates. So, let’s take a look at these mobile-friendly blogs . . .
Tumblr fits somewhere between Twitter and a full-blown blog platform. You could think of it as Twitter without the 140 character restriction. Your updates can be text, photos, music, links, videos and even recorded voice messages. You can post updates by email, telephone (voice messages) or using the Tumblr app [Android & iOS – free]. The app not only helps you post, it is also serves as a reader to follow other Tumblrs.
Tumblr is free to use and has a huge collection of themes – both free and premium – giving you plenty of opportunities to find the perfect one for your purpose. And, you can make a Tumblr blog private by adding a password. In addition to using the apps to keep up with Tumblr blogs, public Tumblr blogs also have RSS feeds for content distribution.
Tumblr was recently purchased by Yahoo and is well-maintained. Yahoo has added some new features – like the ability to “dress up” your blog’s mobile feed. If you reach a point where you want to move your Tumblr content to WordPress, you can perform an import directly from WordPress’s Tools > Import page.
Sample Posthaven blog
Although Tumblr gets more attention, I think Posthaven may be the better choice for most family sites. There are two reasons for this. First, Posthaven uses email as their default distribution system. In my family, eyes start glazing over when you talk about news readers and RSS feeds. Most will tell me they are “way to busy” to be bothered checking a web site on a regular basis, yet every one of them is delighted to find a new photo or story show up in their inbox. Second, Posthaven offers both a password system and a membership system for managing private sites. Since remembering a password is also an impossible task for many of my relations, it’s much easier for me to use the membership system – listing each authorized person by their email address. It also authorizes them to post content to the site – by email. Surprisingly, most of them have been able to master the task of using their mobile phone to take a photo and email it to someone so they have been quite good at posting pictures.
Posthaven is still a work in progress. It is fully functional as a blog site, but does not yet have much in the way of design. Members can choose to receive distributed content by email or RSS feed. Like Tumblr, Posthaven supports text, photos, videos and even documents in your email submission. It will embed the media in the resulting post and forward it on to all the email subscribers in your member list. In addition, you can set your Posthaven blog to autopost submitted content to a number of social networking services. So, one email can send a photo or video to the family’s Posthaven blog AND to Facebook AND to Twitter AND to every individual subscriber. It doesn’t get much better than this. Posthaven will cost you $5.00 a month, but that includes up to 10 blogs per account. Each blog can have a different set of contributors and subscribers.
By taking advantage of these lightweight blog platforms, you can share your family stories with them and encourage them to share their photos, videos and news. In the process, you all are building a family news service which can also provide future generations with a look into daily life as well as special moments of our current generations. Don’t just stop with photos and videos either. Encourage members of the group to share their favorite recipes, pass on book recommendations and other “everyday” things. All the group members will enjoy these tidbits and you will be building a very rich history of today’s family in the process.
If you’d like to learn more about Posthaven, download a copy of my Posthaven Primer. It’s free!