Happy Birthday, Twitter

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Image by Danilo Ramos, via Flickr

I’ve already written about Twitter’s fifth anniversary and what it means in the big picture scheme of things. Today I’ll share a few fun and interesting things about Twitter. Lady Gaga is the Queen of Twitter with nearly 9 million followers. President Obama is 4th on the list with 7 million followers. I follow neither. Probably the most popular person on Twitter that I follow is Roger Ebert, who recently shared at the TED conference how Twitter and the Internet helped him reinvent his voice after cancer surgeries took away his ability to talk. Oh, wait. I just remembered. I follow Charlie Sheen. He has more than 3 million followers. I find his antics fascinating. I don’t think he’s having a break down or is mentally ill. He’s just amoral, or immoral, and lovin’ it. Enough of famous people. Here are some important tweets from people who are not famous, but what they are doing on Twitter is vitally important: More

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Wael Ghonim, the online hero of Egypt

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Horus!

Wael Ghonim is awesome. He is the Google exec who was a catalyst for the Egypt Uprising. He was detained by the Egyptian government for 12 days. Ghonim, an Egyptian who oversees Google’s marketing in the Middle East and Africa from Dubai, said he was blindfolded the entire time, but he was not tortured. He was detained on Jan. 27, two days after protests calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster began. Wael was an administrator for a Facebook page in honor of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old man who died last year in the custody of the Egyptian secret police. After his release, Ghonim confirmed that he was an administrator of the Facebook page. On Tuesday, Ghonim joined the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Ghonim told his bosses that he had urgent personal business and took vacation time to go to Egypt. More

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

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.

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