Alon Gilboa: News from the Net

1) AllThingsD - “Syrian Internet Outage Raises Question ‘Could It Happen here?”

Last Thursday, Syrian officials decided to shut down Internet access in the country. The government is trying to make it harder for the rebels to communicate with each other. However, after two days, access to the Internet mysteriously reappeared in certain parts of the country.

This is troubling. This development highlights how crucial the Internet is these days to deliver information and the what it means to turn it off. Besides the lack of flow of information between citizens, people were not able to share their experiences with journalists and others around the world. With journalists essentially not allowed in the country, the Internet is serving as the sole window into the Syrian conflict.

The article mentions that “it comes down to control”. The reason the Syrian government was able to do this was by creating a single, easily accessible choke point run by loyal people. That’s because “every Internet connection in Syria is funneled through a single government agency that authorizes them all — the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment — and indeed all of them are run out of the same building.” This makes it extremely easy for President Bashar Al-Assad to order it shut down for any length of time he sees fit.

While this situation is obviously extreme, a company called Renesys looked at how likely something similar could happen in other countries. They created a map that shows countries with a significant risk of a government-ordered shutdown.  The maps shows whether its logistically possible, not politically. Those with a higher risk are shown in darker green. The lighter the green, the lower the risk.

2) Mashable - Black Friday Tweets

On a lighter note, a digital marketing company called Silverpop released an infographic talking about the most talked about subjects on Black Friday. The most tweeted subjects were, unsurprisingly, coffee and sale. It also shows the business with the most check-in which was, again not surprisingly, Starbucks. Apparently people were coming in droves to pick up their caffeine fix before braving the lines at retailers.

While most of the stuff listed here seem common-sense, it is definitely worthwhile to see customers habits online during Black Friday. Businesses can use this information to better tailor their Black Friday experience in the future and learn how to better connect with their customers.

3) Upstart - App-titude Summly Founder’s First Fortnight

I originally saw a story about this last week and was instantly intrigued. A 17-year old kid from Britain who started his own company making a news-reading app. He’s already raised $1.48 million in venture capital funding from a variety of people, including Ashton Kutcher, Yoko Ono, and Lady Gaga. 

Summly Launch from Summly on Vimeo.

Besides the fact that I am incredibly jealous of this kid, it seemed to be an interesting concept. A way to make news reading on mobile devices more fun, interesting and even engaging. It’s something I had seen before with Flipboard, but I decided to download the app anyway.

It’s a slick app, and the marketing blitz around it with a 17-year old owner is savvy. But using it for news reading was not the most enjoyable. It’s respectable in that it tries to simplify things and get rid of buttons, but the way it goes about it I think ends up making things more confusing. Overall, I’ll stick with Flipboard, it’s the best app I’ve found for reading news in a natural and smooth way. Although, it will be interesting to see where this kid ends up.