So, it’s late into the morning again, and I’m awake in what appears to be a progressive cycle. Ho hum.
At least I can be of some use; to that end I’ve been reorganising the FreeCh.at DNS servers to hopefully improve our load-balancing “round robin” which randomly sends users to each of the four servers. I’ve also moved the FreeCh.at wiki onto the same servers which power the chat service, and upgraded the software at the same time, ensuring that the wiki stays live even when a single point in the “system” fails.
During these late nights and early mornings I also enjoy keeping up with American twitterers' mumblings. The latest post from Google’s @mattcutts caught my eye, which alludes to a usage of voice recognition and synthesis via their recent acquisition of SayNow to help Egyptian protestors. Those bright sparks at Google have created a service which listens on a few various international phone numbers and allows Egyptian citizens to listen to and post through the twitter service using just their voice. The idea is that while the internet is cut off Egyptians can phone a nearby number and post happenings “from the ground” to twitter complete with #hashtags just by speaking what they wish to share. They can also keep up to date with news from twitter via having the latest tweets spoken to them.
This is an exciting use of technology that allows old-skool technology to marry up with modern-day citizen journalism via the Internet. In this way, the human spirit cannot be broken! Until a regime can completely isolate all it’s citizens from the outside world and even from each other, then there is still a way to the freedoms to which everyone – even those who have barely dared to dream – aspires. I am a great believer in the human spirit and it’s capability to strive for more no matter how high the obstacle; and we have seen this over these past seven days playing out in a far-off land, yet despite being miles away we stop and wonder as humanity overcomes oppressions.
And all the while we share our experiences through our use of technology. The very thing that personifies freedom itself, the Internet, is able to reach these pockets of humanity no matter how strong the hand of oppression. Egypt may be cut off from the Internet at-large, but the message of support can still get through using technologies created to leave a message for random celebrities.
The Egyptians will yearn to keep information flowing especially now that said information is in limited supply. Once you’ve dared to dream the genie can never be put back in the bottle, and it’s the same with information; the Egyptians have experienced the wonders of the Internet age, they know what they are missing, and so as the knee-jerk reaction of the oppressive regime cuts off the flow of information the citizens just protest harder until the service is restored.
We must also take stock of the ease with which the Egyptian authorities severed the connection with the rest of the world. Do we trust our politicians to not do the same in the face of fierce protests organised via the Internet? And then there’s the net neutrality problem; we see in the Egypt problem just how vital it is that the Internet be free from arbitrary blocks and throttling. If we allow our ISPs to unilaterally decide who we are able to communicate with then we lose very important freedoms which are believed to be universal. And once the ISP is able to take these decisions the Government may start to use the capability in legislature to further erode the freedom of you and I.
On that note I will end what began as a simple post outlining a cool new technology but ended up as a rant about freedoms we hold dear yet are being whittled away while you read this.
Over to you: is this new Google service a good thing for democracy and the Egyptian people; is the human spirit as unbreakable as I give it credit; am I just scaremongering about erosion of civil liberties? Leave a comment below and let me and others know what you think; I love hearing others' ideas especially when they may be contradictory to my own.