Egypt protest photos via Flickr

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The “monasosh” stream on Flickr was updated Saturday with the image above of a smiling Egyptian army soldier posing with a baby for a photo on top of an armored vehicle riddled with Arabic graffiti. She has been taking pictures with a BlackBerry. The Internet remains disrupted, including BlackBerry service, but she is still getting her photos out. This particular photo, in the context of fresh reports that wealthy elites close to President Hosni Mubarak are fleeing Egypt, makes me feel that the end is near for that nation’s autocratic ruler. Events are shifting so quickly that my meager blog posts feel stale after a few hours. Watch Al Jazeera English’s live stream for the absolute latest. Hopefully the blood that has been spilled will not have been in vain.

How long can Egypt afford to keep the Internet down?

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Photo credit: Monasosh on Flickr

See that cell phone in the top right corner of the photo? The Internet and SMS text messages may have been disrupted by the Mubarak regime, but cell phones and cameras were not rendered inoperable. This Jan. 28, 2011, photo was taken with a Blackberry in the neighborhood of Imbaba near Cairo. The photographer got it and other photos onto Flickr. How the photographer did that, I don’t know. The only regular Internet that was working was the one functioning ISP serving the Egyptian Stock Exchange. Others had the option – albeit very expensive – of using satellite phone services. But it really didn’t matter. The damage already was done on Facebook and Twitter and text messages rallying the Egyptian people to protest after Friday prayers before the Internet crackdown. One TV newscaster on Al Jazeera English believed that the loss of online information actually drew more people outside to find out what was happening. I also think that the protesters, without the need to keep uploading photos from their phones or check for updates on their computers, were left to be singularly focused on causing a breakdown of government authority. On Friday night, President Obama urged the Mubarak regime “to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet.” In reality, the regime cannot sustain the disruption unless Mubarak is prepared to take Egypt on a journey backwards to pre-Internet times. Sure, half the country is broke or out of work, but the other half needs ATMs and credit cards. Those don’t work without connectivity. And every minute without the Internet, Egyptians are missing out on this:

Source: The Clearly Dope

Egypt blocks the Internet, protests continue

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It is Friday, and huge protests are planned in Egypt. The Mubarak regime blocked access to the Internet after the video above became public. Certainly, the Internet disruption is meant to stymie the protesters ability to organize. But the government must also be concerned about what the outside world sees and hears. The mainstream media have already been roughed up, but they are still reporting from the scene. How long that lasts depends on how successful the Egyptian government is in quelling dissent. But the information will still flow on the Internet, even if it has to be improvised.

Update #1: To get some of the lastest online reports, check the Guardian UK newspaper blog here.

Update #2: Al Jazeera English livestream here.

Photo credit: Al Jazeera English

One year without an iPad

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A year ago today, Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple iPad. I don’t own one. I’ve only seen an iPad a few times. You may live and work where they are all over the place. I don’t. Maybe that’s why I have been able to avoid getting an iPad. I understand its benefits and potential. When it was unveiled, I immediately saw how it could be a great tool for college students, especially as a textbook reader (no more lugging around a 20-pound backpack). It’s great for looking at photos and playing games. I’ve read how hip restaurants are using it to show wine lists to patrons. I’ve read how the tablet computer is the final nail in the coffin for desktop computers. Apple has sold 15 million since the iPad was made available to the public last April. I just don’t need it. More

Internet = The Democratic Aspirations Of All People

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The video above shows a man, joined by others, who defiantly stands in front of an armored vehicle firing a water cannon during street protests in Egypt on Jan. 25. I learned about the video, posted on YouTube, through Twitter. I started taking Twitter seriously in November, 2008, when terrorists struck Mumbai, India. I had created a Twitter account in 2007, but didn’t know what to do with it. Twitter used to ask, “What are you doing?” And I learned that people were watching TV, walking their dog, or pushing a cart in the bread aisle of their Safeway. It reminded me of The Simpson’s episode in which Mr. Burns loses his wealth and is forced to live among regular people. He goes to the supermarket and tells a passerby, “I’m shopping!” But with the deadly attacks in Mumbai, I saw Twitter crackle with moment-by-moment reports from ordinary people about what was happening there. I felt connected to the situation in a way that is not often possible on TV.


Is Foursquare played out?

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The first time I saw someone mention “Foursquare” in my Twitter feed sometime in mid-2009, I thought the people were actually talking about the kid’s game (which I was awesome at in grade school, by the way). I later learned it was some kind of check-in app with badges, including one for going to douchebag bars. The app sounded like fun. I took the plunge in 2010 and have become a regular user. For me, the fun part is checking in at new, interesting places. I want to share my discoveries. But my time is constrained and I don’t get around much, so I keep checking into the same places. And, honestly, that is becoming a bore. I am the mayor of a few places, but I don’t care. Part of my problem is that I also use Gowalla and Yelp to do check-ins. It’s all turning into a chore. Maybe if the business owners were engaged and made using Foursquare more interesting, but not many of them know it even exists or that their customers are “checking in.” If Foursquare doesn’t become more interesting to use, I can easily imagine not using it. Nonetheless, Foursquare is still generating a lot of hype. New services are being called the Foursquare version of this or that. One wants to be “Foursquare for films.” Another is “China’s Foursquare.” But what about Foursquare? The latest reports say it may be worth $250 million dollars. Maybe the potential is there, but this Pew Research Center report says that location-based services have so far only made a 4-percent dent in the online market, and on any given day, only 1 percent of online adults are using services such as Foursquare or Gowalla. If people are using the Facebook version, I have yet to see it in my feed.

Foursquare, however, reports that it is growing like gangbusters – 3,400 percent in 2010 – and had 381.5 million check-ins, including one from the International Space Station! That should be good enough for the investors. I may quit, but I can also return if it turns into something more than it is now.

Qwiki, the search engine of the future

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I got access to Qwiki this weekend and was quite impressed. It is still in alpha development, but you can sign up and try it for yourself. Qwiki bills itself not as a search engine, but an interactive “information experience.” The experience is like when the human captain from the movie WALL-E asks the ship’s computer to define “Earth,” as explained by founders Doug Imbruce and Louis Monier. The information, which is recited to you using voice software, comes from sources such as Wikipedia, but also can come from social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Imbruce also demonstrated how Qwiki could become your wake-up call, talking to you through your smart phone, telling you the time, weather, your calendar schedule for that day, and who knows what else. It’s starting to get mainstream notice, so expectations are being raised. It feels like the future because it reminds me of the computer from Star Trek, but with the addition of photos, charts, maps, and video. All that’s missing at the moment is voice interaction so you can simply ask your computer or device a question and Qwiki will answer you.

What was life like before iPhone apps?

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Apple just reported its 10 billionth download from its iOS App Store, which launched in 2008. That got me to thinking about my life with apps. My first iPhone was the 3G and that’s when the App Store opened. My first “wow” moment was with the Shazam app, when I was driving and heard a song on the radio and wanted to know the name and artist. Running the risk of a rear-ending another car, I turned on my iPhone and opened the Shazam app and about 10 seconds later – Shazam! – I found out it was Daft Punk and “Harder Better Faster Stronger.” My first less-than-wow moment was after I tried one of the light saber apps. I waved the phone around and made the light saber sound from Star Wars. That was good for about 30 seconds of amusement. Over time, I’ve learned that the best apps are either very useful or great time-wasters. Catapulting birds at fortresses built by pigs has turned out to be one of the best ways to waste time. Now there’s talk about Angry Birds being turned into an animated series. The greatest App success story so far is the “Twitterverse” that has been created around Twitter. Android phones have the Android Market. But Apple is simply way out front of everybody in this game and it is one of the best reasons to have an iPhone (or iPod Touch or iPad). To celebrate the 10 billionth download, I downloaded the TextPics app so I can now send text bunnies to all my good friends. For only 99 cents, you get a lot of bunnies. ❤

Crazy Online Coupon Ladies

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It’s been a hot week in the online-coupon world. First, LivingSocial offers $20 Amazon vouchers for $10 each and sells nearly 1.4 million coupons. That was triple the 440,000 Gap vouchers that Groupon – the current big dog in online coupons – sold last year in a onetime deal. Now comes Google, which offered to buy Groupon for $6 billion (and was rebuffed), starting its own Google Offers. These are just the main players. You have smaller outfits like Eversave, and local newspaper websites, such as with its Dealyo. All the bargain shopping is welcome, though I’d rather see fewer offers for cheap yoga sessions, spa treatments, and gym memberships. Coupons have been around since the 19th Century and can be an effective way to acquire new customers. That’s what LivingSocial did with the Amazon vouchers. It absorbed some part of the 50-percent discount to get more than a million email addresses of paying customers. And Amazon also benefits because it has $175 million invested in LivingSocial. So what does this all mean for you? It means there will be lots of deals for consumers to choose from in the coming months as all these players try to outdo one another, and burn through piles of money in the process. Get out your virtual scissors and get in touch with your inner Crazy Coupon Lady.

Facebook for Dumb Phones

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I used to think if a phone wasn’t a Smart Phone, then it was a Dumb Phone. Just like many people still say Cell Phone, even though businesses instruct them to say Mobile Phone, or better yet, Mobile Device. Now I have learned that Dumb Phones are called “Feature Phones.” They have features! I learned this because Facebook announced it was launching out a mobile version of Facebook for Feature Phones. That means hundreds of millions of people who don’t have an iPhone or Android device will be able to access their Facebook accounts on the most basic non-smart phone, like the lovely Kyocera Domino. So Facebook continues its campaign of global domination and analysts and pundits continue to speculate as to whether the company is worth $50 billion, $100 billion, or potentially $1 trillion. I once thought Microsoft would dominate the world some day. No one thinks that anymore, and I am skeptical about any company ever doing that. Except for Cyberdyne Systems.

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