Friday, September 11, 2009

These Pretty Little Riots of Ours

They say that if you want to keep abreast of issues, face Twitter. Now, I'm not on Twitter (anymore, after my brief experiment with it). But it seems true. It's what all the cool kids are doing. This kid is particularly cool, if I dare say so myself. I'll explain why, later, and also why you should take my comments with a cup of sodium chloride.
But I dare say that Facebook is also alive. It is not very “activist”, but it is alive. The evidence is here.

Now, if you are out of your office (which is where almost all of Uganda gets the Internet), and you want to send to your Twitter and Facebook (and receive from there, as well!), what are you to do? Your phone can't work the web, because it's a phone. (They are for calls and SMS, those phone things.) Or perhaps it can work the web, but you don't have the airtime. Or the web is slow. What, then, are you to do? After all, these riots won't report themselves.
'Cause it's people like you,
Oh, people like me.
People need to be free, yeah.
There's a place in the sun,
Where there is love for everyone,
Where we can be, yeah.

I know a place where we can carry on!
    ~ Bob Marley (I know a place)

I know a place, where we can carry on. It is called ... UTL Facebook/Twitter SMS service. Since it is free of charge, it is, in fact, stupid not to use this service. It is currently the cheapest way to work your Twitter and Facebook in the world.

Twitter first.
Send 'tweetme' to 2299 on UTL, and you'll get information on how to sign up. I'll recap the info here, because it seems a bit complex, from the attempts to get onto the system that I've seen.

  1. Send 'tweetme [yourusername]' to 2299.
    If, for example, your Twitter username is ‘enfanterrible728’, you send
    tweetme enfanterrible728
    to 2299. You'll get back instructions.

  2. Get the PIN code from Twitter
    The instructions you receive on doing step 1 above include a web address. Visit that web address and Twitter will give you a PIN code. Record this PIN code down somewhere, and then do step 3.
    If you don't know where to find the messages sent to you, then just follow the web address in the message (it is shortened to make it easy to type, and to fit it into the SMS). The instructions are posted with @enfanterrible728, for example, so you should be able to find them when you check for messages sent to you via @username.
    When you complete the process, the system removes this message out of courtesy. :o)

  3. Send the PIN code to 2299 as explained below
    Assuming, again, that your name is ‘enfanterrible728’, send the PIN code you received in step 2 from Twitter to 2299 in a message like this:
    tweetme enfanterrible728 123456778
    . In this example, the PIN code is ‘123456778’.
    When you send two words after the keyword ‘tweetme’, the system will think that the second one is the PIN code.

  4. You're on!
    When the step above is completed, you'll be up and running. To send to your Twitter stream, you send to the keyword ‘now’. So, when you write Now The rioters have moved towards the south of the city! and send it to 2299, it will show up on your Twitter stream as The rioters have moved to the south of the city!
    To receive your Twitter stream, send ‘twitter’ to 2299. Simple.

The best thing about this service (apart from the fact that it is free) is that you can receive from your Twitter feed by sending ‘twitter’ to 2299. When you send twitter to 2299, you get your Twitter stream (since the last time you requested, or the latest 5, if it's your first time). There are other things you can do with the ‘twitter’ keyword, but they will make this too long.

Now, Facebook.
To sign up for Facebook, send 'fbme' to 2299. You will get instructions that are, in many ways, analogous to the ones described above for Twitter. When you sign up, you will be able to send to your Facebook Wall.
If you understood the instructions for Twitter, you've understood the instructions for Facebook as well. The only differences in them are noted explicitly in the messages that the system sends you. (Facebook requires visiting two web addresses, instead of one, and these are visited in strict order, one after the other. Also, there is no need to send usernames for Facebook accounts.)
The Facebook application is the less-tested of the two, so it would actually rock if you tried it, so that I can iron the bugs and infelicities out of it quickly. If you have a suggestion to make, send to the ‘bug’ keyword.

When you sign up for Facebook, you can send ‘now [message]’, and that message will go to your Facebook wall.

Now, if you are signed up for both services, Twitter and Facebook, your message will go to both your Twitter stream and your Facebook Wall, when you send ‘now [message]’. This is cool, but sometimes you don't want that. So, instead, you do the following.

If you want to send only to Twitter, and yet you are also signed up for Facebook, send the message to 2299 like this: twitter send [message] instead of using the ‘now’ keyword. That will only send the message to Twitter, when you send twitter send [message].

If you want to send only to your Facebook Wall, and yet you are also signed up for Twitter, send the message to 2299 like this: fb send [message] instead of using the ‘now’ keyword. When you send the message fb send [message], it will only send your message to your Facebook Wall.

I chose the ‘now’ keyword because it fits the reporting state better. If you want to suggest another keyword, it takes me all of 10 seconds (I'm serious) to put it into the system. For example, I'm going to make ‘omg’ an alias of ‘now’, so that you can say omg these rioters are mad! and it will show up on your Twitter stream or Facebook Wall as these rioters are mad!.

Now, the situation in Kampala has caused a premature announcement (of sorts) for this service. What to do, though? The men make plans, the gods decide. :o) It is free, this service. I've already plugged it quite shamelessly in many places. See here, for example, and here. Lucy, also has a riot timeline here.

So, what are the terms and conditions?
In short, there is no censorship, no fear, and no favour. Post away. :o) The exchanges are not cached in the system in a way that would injure privacy at all, and indeed many things are made complex (signing up, messaging) precisely because your privacy is being respected.
Thanks to all those who helped me test the service.


Blogger gayuganda said...



You are hereby arraigned for 'inciting violance'. You dont know what happened to CBS and other radios? How dare you tell others what is happening and how to do so? You, you, you are inciting violence!!!!!

As for me, I am going to find out whether your convoluted explanations do actually work. Interesting. Thanks.

Thank god for technologically advanced individuals like you... ! Makes it easier for some of us. Though I might have to look you up to actually set it up on my phone. Thanks!

September 12, 2009 at 5:15 PM  
Anonymous TRP said...

..twitter to 2299, you get your Twitter stream..

This isn't working for me - the msg i get is "The keyword twitter was not found - You may have meant one of: rent, to and tweetme"

September 14, 2009 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger The 27th Comrade said...

@TRP The system went down for a while. It should be working just fine now.

September 14, 2009 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger lulu said...

ayah, facebook was the place to be! i was getting updated by the second!

September 15, 2009 at 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



December 21, 2009 at 3:20 PM  

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