As thousands of protesters marched through Manhattan during the Republican National Convention last week, some were equipped with a wireless tactical communications device connected to a distributed information service that provided detailed and nearly instantaneous updates about route changes, street closures and police actions.
The communications device was a common cellphone. The information service, a collection of open-source, Web-based programming scripts running on a Linux server in someone’s closet, is called TXTMob.
In BoingBoing, Xeni Jardin writes that some messages were being blocked as spam during the protests:
In a BoingBoing post last week, one reader wondered if political motivations may have caused T-Mobile’s reported “blocking” of messages from activist messaging service TxTMOB. Not so, replies BoingBoing reader Gabe, who says:
“I’m a network data analyst for T-Mobile. I’ve actually tested the network to see why those messages were blocked, and from the response our email-to-sms gateway is giving, apparently our immensely retarded spam filter thinks that txtmob’s SMTP server is spamming us. Basically, if the network sees more than about a hundred messages coming from the same SMTP server within an hour, it just blacklists it. Stupid but true.”
More from the Times article after the break:
TXTMob allows people to quickly and easily send text messages from one cellphone to a group of other cellphones. This in itself is nothing new: other mobile networking systems like dodgeball.com and bedno.com already exist.
The software was not intended for everyday mobile socializing. It was created as a tool political activists could use to organize their work, from staff meetings to street protests. Most of the people using it are on the left: of the 142 public groups listed on the TXTMob site, the largest are dedicated to protesting the Bush administration, the Republican Party or the state of the world in general.