it's just you: jackfruit of the week (11.30.08)

For more jackfruit pictures, check out all the Jackfruit of the Week posts.

For those of us who have spent long hours in front of blank computer screens, watching the empty status bar at the bottom of our browser windows, hoping to see a tiny increment of movement that would indicate our desired site was finally loading: wait no more.

A fellow GV-er has just sent out a list of three simples sites that will tell you whether it's worth your time to keep anxiously biting your knuckles and hitting refresh:

Down for everyone or just me? will tell you whether everyone is having trouble accessing a site, or whether it's just you. Blunt? Yes. Helpful? Absolutely.

Notify me when it's up! and Ding It's Up! both allow you to enter a URL and be notified when the site in question is operating again. Both sites will send an e-mail alert; Ding will text you or send an @reply on Twitter and also offers the option to be notified when a site goes down — a nice perk for web developers or site owners.

The sites were developed in response to the Twitter fail whale, but they clearly have a number of possible applications. Pretty snazzy.

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Web 2.0 by farmers, for farmers

The Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative is a local Ugandan non-profit that uses digital technology, including a blog, SMS and online forums and audio files in English and local languages, to help farmers in Uganda share information about health, agriculture and education. Check it out:

via Kabissa

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jackfruit of the week (11.19.08)

Authentic Ugandan jackfruit via Tumwi
In all the election excitement and liveblogging frenzy, I missed a week. I'm making it up to you with a trip to Uganda.

That's right, blogren. I'm coming back for two weeks in January, and if there's not already a Uganda Bloggers' Happy Hour planned (I'm looking at you and you and you), I'll throw one.

In other news: elephants.

Elephants are cool in my book: big, adorable, seemingly genial. Except they're not so friendly when they're stomping over your crops, exacting revenge. Revenge! Who knew elephants were vengeful? (Even worse: drunken vengeful elephants.)

Apparently Ethan Zuckerman, who wrote last week about the perils of coming face-to-face with a vindictive pachyderm:

It’s a good idea to know whether elephants are enroute to your farm as one elephant can eat a year’s crops in a single evening. If you know that elephants are on the way, you can stand in your fields with torches and chase the animals off.

What you need (besides torches and the ability to outrun an angry elephant), Ethan says, is to know the elephant hordes are coming. Here's where cool technology comes into play: Kenyan hackers are turning GSM phones into tracking systems. An organization called Save the Elephants has put GSM-powered collars on the animals. When the elephants cross a virtual fence separating them from humans, the collar sends a warning to villagers in the area via SMS.

Even better: since the villagers know they're coming, they can use spotlights instead of torches and shouting to herd the elephants back to their home, a 90,000-acre conservancy.

In case any of you thought this whole mobile phone activism thing was just for politics geeks: remember the elephants.

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The Internet President

Crossposted on The Morningside Post.

Image from Desmond Blog
Barack Obama has been called, by everyone from Columbia Law School professor Eben Moglen to media expert Jeff Jarvis, "the first candidate elected by the internet." By all accounts, online fundraising was a major factor in propelling Obama to the top, and his new site lets Americans share their vision for the next administration.

Now, as the Presidential transition is in process, Obama's team is taking Internet awareness one step further. If you're interested in working in a top position in the White House, the New York Times reports that you'd better be willing to divulge your blog, your Facebook profile, and "all aliases or ‘handles’ you have used to communicate on the Internet" in the past decade.

I gave it a shot, and realized my list would include not just profiles on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn but also accounts with Delicious, Twitter, BigSight, FriendFeed, Dopplr, Metafilter and (and an unfortunate experiment with Xanga at age 14). Will a recently-loved song on Favtape become a "possible source of embarrassment" to me, me family, or the president-elect? Will a two-year-old blog post of awkward photos of George Bush seem less sarcastic than fawning, casting me into the ranks of suspected Republicans?

I don't have to give up as much as the Big O himself, though. (Side note: calling the president-elect "the Big O" will likely embarrass me, my family and Obama himself. This is the part where I kiss my Secretary of State aspirations goodbye.) Due to security concerns, Obama's being asked to surrender his beloved BlackBerry before stepping into the Oval Office.

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Globally liveblogging the American elections

As I mentioned last week, Columbia University's international affairs blog, The Morningside Post, is hosting a global liveblog of the election returns today.

Columbia professors David Epstein, Andrew Gelman, Brigitte Nacos and Sharyn O'Halloran will join bloggers from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Singapore, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Russia, India, Switzerland, Canada and Brazil to comment as results come in and to offer opinions and analysis on the election's domestic and international implications. We'll also be posting election-related photos, videos and polls throughout the day.

Stop by any time between now and midnight EST (8:00 am Wednesday, Kampala time) to add your thoughts.

Update: For even more international liveblogging, check out the Voices Without Votes coverage of global reactions to the election returns.

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