A must-have app for protesters (including Myanmar)

VERY IMPORTANT for ALL MYANMARS who love Democracy and oppose the military dictators…PLEASE SHARE THIS (could even share directly from source as I am not seeking likes nor shares)

Ways to use hand phone…even without INTERNET nor WIFI nor any phone lines.

This is used by Hong Kong Protesters….

For Occupy Central in Hong Kong, it is FireChat.

“Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators,” according to a Bloomberg report, “finding it difficult to communicate over congested mobile-phone networks are downloading the application FireChat about 100,000 times a day in an effort to stay connected”.

“The speed with which it was adopted in Hong Kong surprised us, and apparently was just due to word-of-mouth,” said Stanislav Shalunov, chief technology officer of Open Garden (a Silicon Valley start-up that created FireChat), as reported by Bloomberg. “FireChat is becoming the de facto standard for any activist organising protests.”

The article triggered my curiosity. FireChat? I Googled FireChat and clicked opengarden.com.

“FireChat allows people to exchange messages and pictures, like most chat and social networking apps. You can join different chat groups called firechats, or create your own firechats about the topics, people or communities that interest you,” explained opengarden.com.

That was not exciting to me as what FireChat could do, Twitter and WhatsApp could do better. What impressed me was the app worked even without Internet connection or cellular coverage.

“Huh! Is that possible?” I thought.

It is possible because FireChat uses my smartphone’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to “talk” to other devices directly. “It has a range of roughly 70 metres but uses other mobiles like stepping stones allowing it to grow to the edge of any crowd,” according to www.pocket-lint.com.

“Wow!” I thought. “This is something that my friends in ‪#‎BeyondPitas‬ would be interested in as they plan to go to remote places in Malaysia, where there’s no Internet, no piped water or no electricity, and highlight the plight of the villagers living there.”

A must-have app for protesters

by philip golingai

FireChat works even without Internet connection or cellular coverage but it has a downside.

IN the London riots (2011), the technological innovation that played a role in the social unrest was BlackBerry Messenger.

In the Arab Spring (2011), it was Facebook and Twitter. In the (Arab) Autumn Rage (2012), it was YouTube (hosting the 13-minute trailer of “Innocence of Muslims”).

In the Turkish protests (2013), it was VPN (virtual private network that encrypts data and allows users to surf the Internet anonymously).

For Occupy Central in Hong Kong, it is FireChat.

“Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators,” according to a Bloomberg report, “finding it difficult to communicate over congested mobile-phone networks are downloading the application FireChat about 100,000 times a day in an effort to stay connected”.

“The speed with which it was adopted in Hong Kong surprised us, and apparently was just due to word-of-mouth,” said Stanislav Shalunov, chief technology officer of Open Garden (a Silicon Valley start-up that created FireChat), as reported by Bloomberg. “FireChat is becoming the de facto standard for any activist organising protests.”

The article triggered my curiosity. FireChat? I Googled FireChat and clicked opengarden.com.

“FireChat allows people to exchange messages and pictures, like most chat and social networking apps. You can join different chat groups called firechats, or create your own firechats about the topics, people or communities that interest you,” explained opengarden.com.

That was not exciting to me as what FireChat could do, Twitter and WhatsApp could do better. What impressed me was the app worked even without Internet connection or cellular coverage.

“Huh! Is that possible?” I thought.

It is possible because FireChat uses my smartphone’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to “talk” to other devices directly. “It has a range of roughly 70 metres but uses other mobiles like stepping stones allowing it to grow to the edge of any crowd,” according to http://www.pocket-lint.com.

“Wow!” I thought. “This is something that my friends in #BeyondPitas would be interested in as they plan to go to remote places in Malaysia, where there’s no Internet, no piped water or no electricity, and highlight the plight of the villagers living there.”

(#BeyondPitas is a group of social media friends who were inspired by their experience raising awareness of #PitasRoad, an amazing story about villagers building their own 7.5km timber road in Pitas, Sabah.)

FireChat would also have been great in Tuesday’s great Penampang flood as a mobile phone network provider was down during one of Sabah’s worst floods. It would also be useful during an event when the mobile phone network was congested.

It is a must-have app for journalists.

I’ve learnt that journalists can’t ignore social media and messaging apps. I use Twitter for breaking news. For example, the Navy chief Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar tweeted informative updates on the search and rescue (SAR) mission for the missing naval combat vessel CB204 in Sabah waters. I’ve also grown to rely on WhatsApp.

On Monday, I clicked Google Play on my HTC One M8, typed FireChat and downloaded it, as I wanted to get a first-hand experience with the app that made a name during Occupy Central. FireChat’s feature is basic compared to Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook. You can only post text and pix (but so far nobody can see the #PitasRoad photographs that I’ve uploaded).

Its UI (user interface) is like a bare shelf. There are only two tabs – everyone (a random group of users from your country) and nearby (a group that is connected via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and not Internet).

You can also join groups. I looked through the groups and the only one related to Malaysia was “Melaka”. I joined the group and the conversation was Groot-like. The group members were like Groot, a character in Guardians of the Galaxy that could only say “I am Groot”.

Commander: “Petaling Jaya”.

sabin kc: “Hai”.

weeyap: “Zzz”.

Commander: “Woah, I thought I can chat with people nearby only?”

Philip Golingai: “I think (for nearby) when you have no Internet connect, you can only chat with people via Bluetooth”.

Commander: “Why got Ampang, HK Kowloon, Ampang, Melaka?”

Commander: “I see i c”.

Bored, I joined another group and it felt as if I was in a dark room, chatting with people I couldn’t see. I joined “sexyphotos”.

In the chat group, there were many people (I’m sure men) from all over the world who were looking for sex photos. But there were no photos. Tony Liu, a user from Kowloon, summed up the frustration the group members were feeling when he asked: “Where is the photo?”

I left the group and joined “Gay Boyfriend Probs”. Probably, I was the only straight guy in that group who didn’t have any boyfriend problem. The atmosphere in the chat group made you feel as if you were in a testosterone-loaded sauna room filled with men. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no personal experience with that metaphor.)

As I wanted to test FireChat with my #BeyondPitas group, I asked them to download the app. I created a “Beyond Pitas” chat group.

“FireChat is good when there is no Internet. I would use it when that kind of situation arises. Otherwise, I wouldn’t. Functions limited,” said Justin Sunam-Wong, a #BeyondPitas co-founder.

If you are interested in #BeyondPitas, you can join the group on FireChat. And that is one negative point about the app. You can’t filter who can be a member. And the public can see all messages posted on it. Meaning if you are using it during a revolution, big brother can watch what you are planning.

However, I’ve kept FireChat app on my smartphone as I never know when I’ll be covering social unrest. See you on FireChat.

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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