Over-The-Air Micro blogging with ham radio might be the answer to censorship.
By now many of us have heard about or read about the censorship campaign outlined in the Twitter files release. Many of us won’t be surprised by this as we are sanctioned social media when sharing topics deemed “no-go”, on various social media platforms.
Ironically it doesn’t matter what side of this you’re on, not supporting the narrative seems to be the trigger to being shadowbanned or suspended. My perspective on all of this is simple. Let’s use social media for sharing our cat videos, foodie pics and the other normal distractions we mindlessly post everyday. For critical Communications, we need a system of sharing information over the air, in parallel to the internet.
Anyone watching the channel for more than a minute will know there are three tools critical to asynchronous data communications on HF. The first is JS8Call, the second is VarAC, and the third is Winlink (these are in no particular order). Each of these tools allows a user to query messages which were previously composed and saved for later retrieval. For the most part, asynchronous messaging is exactly how social media works! We compose a post, save it online, someone retrieves it when they are online. We do exactly the same thing with Winlink, JS8Call and VarAC. One difference between our internet based social media platforms and Ham radio, is ham radio has limited bandwidth on HF VHF and UHF. This means we’re not going to be using ham radio to share 8K cat videos over the air.
OTA Micro Blogging
If you’ve ever stored a message for later retrieval with JS8Call, you’ll be able to understand the concept I’m about to present. Imagine rather than storing the message on your station for another Station to retrieve, you compose a micro blog post which is stored on your station, for ANY station to retrieve. Just like I write a blog post on oh8stn.org , you’ll come along and read that post when you get a notification, or when you come to see if there are new posts. Well imagine your JS8Call or VarAC station happily running on a Raspberry Pi or some other single board computer (OS and flavor is up to you). Just the same way we compose a tweet, or share a link on FB to something interesting on the internet, we compose and save a post on our own stations for later retrieval by other operators. The station doesn’t need to broadcast the existence of its posts, it’s just another type of message after all. However, when the station is queried for new posts, it can send a list of posts available on the station, back to the station who queried it. Naturally we should make a configurable setting to set the amount of days past, to prevent unnecessary traffic. It could even be something like query posts new, query posts week, … We should also limit the size and length of a posts text, based on available bandwidth, the band, and the speed we’re using eg Fast or Turbo for JS8, or Vara HF HF 500hz, 2300hz, … or VaraFM for VarAC and Winlink.
MicroBlog Station aka MBS
The reason I’m suggesting we add this functionality to network applications like JS8Call and VAR AC, is the participating stations, will be on air anyway. JS8Call and VAR AC are networks. In addition to normal QSO, they offer store and forward messaging, relays, … Adding additional services like the ability to store your own microblog posts for retrieval by stations on the network, not only helps us share critical news and information censored from social media, it also adds value to our asynchronous emergency communications messaging. In fact, I can see stations popping up on these networks whose sole purpose is sharing micro blogs of news, information, tutorials, station maintenance info, … for the region. Imagine of stations being able to forward and store microblogs from other stations, creating over the air channels of news and information, in parallel their internet cousins. Natually, we would not have the bandwidth of the “real” internet, but it would be reliable and uncensored (but hopefully in good taste).
Okay the next two videos are the context for this topic. The video just under this post is the unfiltered No Holds Barred version. The video underneath, is the vanilla version. If you just want the meat and already understand the problem with censorship on the internet, take the vanilla version. Both videos are nice and polite. The the No Holds Barred version does share some uncomfortable truths, which could be considered partisan. To be fair I am neither on the right or the left. I’m just an old Jarhead who believes in the US Constitution. Still there’s no profanity, and both videos are family friendly.
Both videos will go live between the evening of January 13th and morning of January 14th.
No Holds Barred
Vanilla ice cream version
The most critical aspect of this project is finding the developers to do the work. With JS8Call it’s much more simple because it has an open source interface, allowing additional functionalities to be added. One such utility already developed is JS8 Utilities by Mark m0iax.
If you think you might help develop this micro blogging concept based on the messaging functionality in JS8Call, VarAC or Winlink (Phil guys?) I’m certainly happy to do my part.
That is it guys.
I do understand it is not a nice topic, but it is the world we live in. Ham Radio needs to adapt to the world as it changes. For better or for worse, we can use ham raido for more than just contesting.