Archive for the ‘In Response To…’ Category


YouTube Censorship

July 27, 2008

A recent post by TheMachineisUs about his visit to Istanbul, where he whitnessed first-hand Internet censorship reminded me of my own reaction of amazement, when I first learned that YouTube is banned in Tunisia earlier this month. The reason why the Turkish court banned YouTube is the exchange of offensive videos between Greek and Turkish users, which turned into an on-line war. The reason for that in Tunisia was to conceal government’s repression over protesters. I have so taken access to the Internet for granted both here in the United States and in Bulgaria, that these examples of censorship woke me up to fact that this may be very different in other countries. It suddenly occurs to me to try and find out online evidence of how many countries have ever banned YouTube, who they are and for what reasons. Perhaps there is a register kept somewhere…

Yes, there is! After googling for a while under several search criteria, voila – I find that Wikipedia has taken care of this on a page titled Blocking of YouTube. Thirteen countries are listed there.  They have blocked temporarily or permanenty acces to the entire YouTube site or parts of it. I am glad Bulgaria is not part of the list even though we know first-hand what political censorship means from the no-so-far-away past before 1989. But of course that was the pre-Internet era, when offline books were “arrested”.

freedom of expression behind bars

Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Brazil are in the blockers list. What’s common is that with only a few exceptions most of them are countries in Asia. I am not drawing any conclusions here, just sharing an observation. The reasons for the Blocking of YouTube worldwide range from politicial censorship, through religious concerns to adult content bans. The case with Pakistan’s blocking of YouTube in February this year raised not just censorship issues, but an alarm about security and trust on the Internet, as Brian Krebs of the Washington Post argues in his Security Fix blog post. Due to a technical glitch YouTube acces was blocked not only in Pakistan, but in the entire world for seveal hours. Krebs asks the challenging question: “What would our government make of it, say, if all of a sudden all traffic destined for .gov domains wound up in China or North Korea?” He suggests that diplomatc trouble can be stirred up by jeopardizing Internet trust.

My question after reading all this is: Are we to expect the list of countries blocking YouTube to grow in the future?

I would be curious to keep an eye on it.


Taxicab Tricks International

July 26, 2008

I just became aware of the whole D.C. taxicab discussion thread initated by Shannon with a comment by Majorman and posts by Everyonelovesavegangirl and Mknac. I agree with Everyonelovesavegangirl – D.C. has been lucky to have the zone system. In Bulgaria, where I come from, all taxicabs run on meters all the time. Their tricks of trying to take circumvented routes to extend a ride are an annoying memory from my over ten-year long taxicab riding experience in Sofia.

I totally agree with Shannon that with the new meter system in D.C. you have to stay alert looking at the meter all the time. That is one stressful trip, isn’t it?!  Having a predictable fee range with the zone system has been a convenience, especially when you don’t know your way around the city. On my first encounter with the zone system while visiting DC in 2001 I though this system was brilliant. Especially given the fact that two of my co-workers and I had a cab ride to a wrong address for a meeting and had to figure out what the right place was. We wandered for an extra half an hour downtown D.C. and it did not cost us more than crossing one zone. Having a meter on top of that situation would have made it even more pressing.

I like the metro, buses and just walking in D.C. I don’t have to drive anywhere and I have used cabs less than ten times for two years in D.C., but still I would not change the zone system to meters, because it reminds me of the situation back home. It is, however, aggravated by the fact that taxicab drivers in Bulgaria are definitely two things together – philosophers and heavy smokers. Many of them will not consider asking your permission or even warning you that they are about to choke you with smoke. On top of that they will tell you their life story (in a nutshell, if you are lucky to have a short ride), complain how awful the economic situation is, blame it on the politicians and lay out their views of how we can all live better, if we can get rid of the current government (whatever that happens to be at the moment). All this time you are keeping an ear on their rants over a constant high-volume stream of pop-folk music and, of course, keeping an eye on the meter…

Downtown Sofia - taxicabs' protest infront of the Parliament

Sofia - taxicabs' protest infront of the Parliament

Very often taxicabs in Bulgaria would refuse to give you a ride for a short distance. I guess it’s either not feasible for them or they are just lazy, waiting for that super-long-ride customer to show up… Only once in my life did I hear a cab driver who expressed the opposite view – he claimed that he would take a customer even for a one-block long ride, because, he argued, you never know who’s waiting around the corner. And he went on to give me the example of a cab that picked a customer for a really short ride to a hotel in Sofia, where he was hailed immediately by another customer, who was actually ready to pay a four-hour ride to another city all the way on the other side of the country. This is like hitting the jackpot in taxicab world!

Mknac’s blog post on D.C. taxicabs gives a list of tips on how to avoid the pitfalls of the meter system and I find them reasonable and very useful. With one further suggestion – very often, if you as a customer are trying to be too much in control of the cab ride, the driver might act secretly spiteful and “take you for a ride” in ways you have not figured out yet. So, being moderately assertive is better.


Matching Niches

July 25, 2008

The Long Tail

I am fascinated with the topic Shannon raises in her blog entry on “The Long Tail & Dating“, because I just realized I have been there. I am a living example of The Long Tail applied to dating. I did indeed find my special one on little less than a year ago. Also, there is one more person I know, who did this successfully, after I encouraged her to try, based on my positive experience with the online dating service. Even though I often joke about that I should be a paid spokesperson/endorser of – no, I do not receive a fee to promote it. I have not even considered taking the time to go back to and share my “success story”. Instead, I just informally encourage single people who do not want to be single anymore to try it with the warning that it is what you make of it. The service is just a tool, but it is up to you to be honest about who you are and be specific about who you are looking for. As with all things, destiny and luck play a role, but they are definitely aided by your conscious attempt to change the situation for yourself.

Filling out a form to find that special someone seems hilarious. It did seem mechanic to me at first – marking with checks my preferred options. Almost like ordering a meal or choosing a piece of clothing. That is why I like to say that my boyfriend came to me “out of a catalogue” and “tailor-made”. Now that I think of it – he is as imperfect as my own online search criteria 🙂 But seriously, the system works in a very customized way, which saves you many questions/doubts you would have for someone you met the traditional way. I am not saying it is safer. I am only saying it’s easier.

In her blog Shannon quotes The Long Tail that “there is something for everyone” out there to find on the web. When we apply The Long Tail to dating and relationships, it would sound like: There is someone for everyone. Reminds me of a Bulgarian saying from the pre-Internet era: “There is a passenger for every train”. And if we are talking about niches, what could be more specific and authentic than another human being. There are no replicas of people and even the most rare products/things on the (online) market have copies. So, the web simply helps us find this unque one person for us, when he/she is missing in our life. An almost devine function, isn’t it?! The amazing part is how random and yet precise online matching is.

I agree with Shannon that the Internet has changed markets and has influenced our personal lives as well. And to the opponents or disbelievers of online dating I would respond: If we are as picky as to what piece of software or pair of shoes we want (to buy online), why would our search for a relationship be less careful than that? I did it once and it worked at once. So, I am a believer. 

There is one questions that people in love ask each other, when they finally meet: “So, where have you been all this time?”. My “Long Tail” answer to today is: “In a special niche, waiting to match your search criteria”.