NDN Blog

What Should Obama Say About Egypt?

In the past few days, the Obama Administration has begun to feel as though it is on the wrong side of history in Egypt. It's becoming impossible to imagine how President Mubarak can stay in power without a truly brutal crackdown, and by continuing to give credence to him as a ruler, instead of calling upon him to step aside, the U.S. is putting itself on the side of the oppressors. The State Department is surely engaging aggressively behind the scenes in ways that cannot be made public, and it's encouraging to hear that the U.S. government will "review" its support for Mubarak's regime. But all the same, public statements that don't voice support for the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people serve to support the regime.

Likely the best case scenario we can hope for-- both for the U.S. and for Egyptians-- is for Mubarak to step aside, and the military to assume control of the country until free elections can be held and a democratic government can take power. If free elections were held, the Muslim Brotherhood would likely be part of any ruling coalition, and Egypt's peace with Israel could be called into question. Clearly, this is potentially problematic for the U.S. government, but the problems presented by failing to voice support for a democratic movement in Egypt are just as, if not more significant.

In Tunisia, it was easy enough for the U.S. government to praise the democratic aspirations of the revolutionaries and call for the ouster of the government. In Egypt, it's harder. But it's even more important. America's history of supporting repressive dictatorships in the Arab world has caused an awful lot of ill will toward the U.S. among ordinary citizens of those countries. Looking toward a democratic Egypt, the U.S. government should welcome the prospect, and rather than supporting Mubarak to the end, the Obama Administration should reach out to Mohamed el-Baradei, the April 6 Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other civil society leaders, and encourage their leadership in building a democratic Egypt. Democracy in Egypt is not only right, it's seeming inevitable, and the United States ought not be on the wrong side of it.

It's worth looking back at what President Obama said in Cairo in 2009:

OBAMA:   I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq.  So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other. 
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.  Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people.  America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.  But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.  These are not just American ideas; they are human rights.  And that is why we will support them everywhere. 

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise.  But this much is clear:  Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure.  Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.  America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.  And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others.  (Applause.)  So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power:  You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party.  Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Barack Obama, we love you!

Hopefully, the Obama Administration can live up to those words. American policy has helped maintain autocracy for decades-- not just in Egypt, but all over the Arab world-- and while that history won't be forgotten, it's not too late to remember our values. We should be inspired by what we see in Egypt this week, and we should hope that oppressed people all over the region are themselves moved to stand up for their rights.

Cross-posted at swdupont.com

Internet, Mobile Shut Down Across Egypt

All eyes have been on Egypt the past few days, where protests against the government, likely organized by a group of middle class youth who call themselves the April 6 Movement, have gathered considerable steam. Foreign Policy has some amazing photos of the past few days.

Current reports coming out of the country suggest that, less than an hour ago, internet access was shut down across the country, along with SMS and mobile access.  After several days of ever-tightening censorship-- much ado was made over the blocking of Twitter-- this full-scale shut down appears to be a pretty desperate move by the government.  It's now the middle of the night in Cairo, but tomorrow we may expect a crazy day in the streets.

UPDATE: via CPJ, a chart of Egypt's internet traffic yesterday created by Arbor Networks:

Freedom in the World & Mexico's Drop

Freedom House's indispensable "Freedom in the World" survey came out recently, with troubling news for the fifth year in a row. According to the report, 25 countries exhibited "significant declines" in political freedom and civil liberties, with only 11 countries showing strong gains. Particularly, the report tells a story of an increasing consolidation of authoritarian power in the strongest undemocratic countries:

The increasing truculence of the world's most powerful authoritarian regimes has coincided with a growing inability or unwillingness on the part of the world's democracies to meet the authoritarian challenge, with important consequences for the state of global freedom. According to Freedom in the World 2011, the latest edition of Freedom House's annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties, conditions worsened for the fifth consecutive year in 2010. While the decline for the year was less extensive than in some years past, the multiyear spate of backsliding is the longest of its kind since Freedom in the World was first published in 1972, and threatens gains dating to the post-Cold War era in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the former Soviet bloc.

Among the five countries that actually saw their status drop, the most troubling and jarring is our neighbor Mexico, which fell from "free" to "partly free." The fall came because of rising drug violence that has profoundly impacted both citizens and the media:

Mexico suffered a decrease in its political rights rating and a drop from Free to Partly Free status due to the government's inability to stem the wave of violence by drug-trafficking groups in several states. While the country benefited from an important consolidation of democracy during the past decade, government institutions have failed to protect ordinary citizens, journalists, and elected officials from organized crime. Extortion and other racketeering activities have spread, and conditions for the media have deteriorated to the point where editors have significantly altered coverage to avoid repercussions from drug gangs.

In my recently released report on the use of new technologies by Mexican civil society, I look at a few movements and organizations that have taken advantage of social media and mobile technology to wage their own fight against violence.  But it's an uphill battle, particularly for journalists, caught between thugs who have murdered over 60 of their number in the past decade, local governments that fail to prosecute the offenders (and, at worst, are complicit in the crimes), and media companies that often fail to protect their employees. This violence has had an acute chilling effect on press coverage of the violence, and it's unsurprising that these trends showed up in Freedom House's report.

For one bit of encouraging news, Colombia saw improvements in their governance and civil liberties:

Colombia received an upward trend arrow due to an improved equilibrium between the three branches of government and the end of surveillance operations that had targeted both civil society and government figures.

It's a tricky parallel, comparing Colombia of the early '90s to Mexico of today, but there are certainly analogies to be drawn, and it's great to see Colombia moving toward "free."

Paper Release & Webinar: ICT in Mexican Civil Society

Today, I'm proud to release a new paper entitled "Information and Communication Technology in Mexican Civil Society." It's based on the research Ana and I did in Oaxaca and Mexico City back in the fall, and is an overview of how the people, movements and organizations that make up civil society in Mexico have adopted new technologies including mobile phones and social media to facilitate and improve the effectiveness of their work.

The best part is a series of case studies represending the most effective tech-based initiatives of the past several years. The paper is available in both English and Spanish. If you’re interested, I will host a webinar tomorrow, Friday, January 21, at 12:30pm EST to offer an overview of the paper's findings and answer questions. Please RSVP to receive webinar instructions.

As a taste, here's an excerpt from one of the fascinating projects I profile in the report: a blogging platform for women called "Mujeres Construyendo." While not strictly "civil society," as it's set up as a for-profit endeavor, MC lives in the space of social entrepreneurship, somewhere between the business world and the nonprofit/civil society world. It's a great example of a project that leverages the power of the global network to address a specific gap in civil discourse:

"Mujeres Construyendo" is a blogging platform for Spanish-speaking women, created by Claudia Calvin Venero to address a "digital glass ceiling" she observed in Mexico. Venero has recruited over 350 contributors from all over the Spanish-speaking world, encouraging them to engage online, and teaching them the necessary skills; now, their writing covers issues ranging from international politics to the trials of being a mother. Over 4,000 women around the world are in the network of Mujeres Construyendo, many of whom have taken courses taught by Venero. Her courses touch on a range of women's issues, but the message to her students is always the same: they must overcome the "culture of silence" that keeps many Latin women from engaging in public dialogue, and recognize that the internet is a powerful space to raise their voices about the issues that affect their lives. Next year, she'll be offering a course exclusively for female legislators in Mexico, making them more aware of the "self-marginalization" of women, and encouraging them to raise their own voices online and in government.

Mujeres Construyendo is one of a handful of emerging online platforms for engaged citizens to share their ideas and experiences, and participate in public dialogue. "Revolución con Letras" is another: without the specific focus on women and women's issues, the site welcomes posts from citizens about social issues, and allows readers to identify the best, most useful articles. Sites like these are an important development for the engagement of Mexican civil society online, as they give platforms for even those people unaffiliated with any organization and without sophisticated technological skills to engage in public dialogue online. For the internet to successfully become a "second public sphere" in Mexico, sites like these will be essential.

I hope you enjoy the report!

No “Twitter Revolution,” But a Connected Revolution in Tunisia

When Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in front of a government building after being robbed and slapped around by the local police, his desperate and tragic act sparked a tinderbox of anger and resentment against the Tunisian state. As news of Bouazizi's self-immolation spread, so too did a nationwide wave of protests, and on Friday, longtime dictator Ben Ali fled the country.

Jasmine RevolutionWith most Western media looking elsewhere, and journalists in Tunisia sharply censored, Twitter became one of the only sources of information about what has come to be called the "Jasmine Revolution." Among the protesters, Facebook and YouTube allowed them to share stories, videos, and encouragement, while e-mail, text messaging, and other social media were among the ways that Tunisians communicated, rallied, and coordinated their movement.

To call this a "Twitter Revolution," as some have, is to grossly oversimplify the complex social factors that brought people into the streets to demand change. At first, Tunisians protested the state of the economy-despite years of strong economic growth, the country's wealth is unevenly distributed, with high unemployment and high food prices leaving many disaffected and hopeless-and as weeks passed the protests became overtly political, a reaction against decades of oppression, censorship, and brutality. Likewise, calling this a "Wikileaks Revolution" is to overestimate the impact that a few American diplomatic cables could have on Tunisians' understanding of their government's corruption-nobody knew better than they about the rotten core of their state.

But despite the hype, the events in Tunisia bear out the idea that social media, mobile phones, and the internet can be very useful tools for organizing a movement and sharing a story with the world. Could the Jasmine Revolution have taken place without these technologies?  Certainly.  Would it have? Perhaps, but without the benefit of new media, the uprising might have played out more slowly, giving the government more time to respond. It seems the Tunisian government was caught a little off-guard by the use of new technologies-particularly among youth-to organize the protests and share information.  Maybe not an essential element of the revolt, but mobile tech and social media gave the protesters an early leg up.

To be sure, the Tunisian government made an effort to use these same technologies to their own advantage. For years they have heavily censored the web, and used phishing schemes to gain control of the e-mail and social media accounts of activists.  During the protests, police arrested prominent internet activists, while the government tightened censorship and took advantage of new media to analyze the social networks and communications of activists. But in the end, it didn't matter; despite the government's best efforts to control cyberspace, they couldn't stop people in the streets using the online censorship and surveillance any more effectively than a mob could overthrow a dictator with a storm of Facebook updates.

Ultimately, the essential factors for democratic revolution are no different in the 21st century than they were in the 20th: an angry populace, a weakened government, and, in the end, a military unwilling to simply crush the uprising-think Iran in 2009, Tiananmen in 1989, or Hungary in 1956.  But as we've seen in Tunisia, the advent of social media and other new technologies can provide helpful tools to a movement, without necessarily giving repressive governments a trump card.

Speaking in Qatar this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't mention Tunisia directly, but called out the autocratic governments of the Middle East and Maghreb on their "corrupt institutions" and "stagnant political order." A year after Secretary Clinton's address introducing "internet freedom" as an objective of U.S. foreign policy, the events in Tunisia help illustrate the ability of new communications technologies to give voice to oppressed peoples, and empower them to stand up to their stagnant, corrupt governments. So while a few Tweets won't topple any dictator, in the right circumstances, the right tools can help get the job done.

Cross-posted at swdupont.com

Violence in Tunisia as Protesters Demand President's Ouster

As I wrote yesterday, Tunisians have taken to the streets all over their country in protests that have evolved from a complaint about unemployment and food prices to a call for the ouster of longtime dictator Ben Ali. The President gave a conciliatory speech yesterday acknowledging the demands of the protestors and pledging to leave office in 2014, and while many Tunisians rejoiced initially, thousands marched in the capital city today to demand Ben Ali's resignation. What followed was captured in the Twitter feed of Angelique Chrisafis (@achrisafis), the Guardian's Paris correspondent, who is in Tunis. These tweets came in the past four hours:

- Vast crowds outside Interior Ministry shouting "Ben Ali out!" and "End the dictator's speeches".

- Pro-regime newspapers torn up by protestors. "Will we be able to see Le Monde on the stands tomorrow?" one asks #Tunisia

- Demo peaceful so far apart from minor skuffles with secret police. The middle-class crowd are now urging the police to join them#Tunisia

- Ben Ali, his second wife Leila, and the business empire his family has amassed are the main targets of protestors' anger #Tunisia

- Chaos here. Police attacking peaceful crowd outside Interior Ministry and beating them with clubs and truncheons #jasminrevolt#sidibouzid

- People who have fled into side streets being cornered and soaked with teargas while secret police pick them off and beat them#jasminrevolt

- Running battles amid extreme violence from police. Protestors being chased onto rooftops. This is turniing very, very bad

- Gunshots are now ringing around us and in the other sidestreets around Interior Ministry #jasminrevolt #tunisia #sidibouzid\

What is already being called the "Jasmine Revolt," after the national flower of Tunisia, is threatening to turn into a full-fledged revolution. President Ben Ali has already dismissed the Parliament, and pledged to hold elections within the next six months, but despite that, and despite the violence described above, protestors are still in the streets, peacefully demanding the President's resignation.  

It's still very unclear where this will lead-- perhaps peacefully to a more democratic Tunisia, and perhaps to brutal violence.  For up-to-the-minute news, I'd recommend following the Guardian, or, better yet, tune in to Al Jazeera English, which is providing great coverage. Here is a clip of one of their recent updates:

UPDATE (1:58pm): Ben Ali has fled the country:

Tunisia's long-standing president has left the country amid violent protests and the prime minister has taken over control of the government from him.

"Since the president [Zine El Abidine Ben Ali] is temporarily unable to exercise his duties, it has been decided that the prime minister will exercise temporarily the [presidential] duties," Mohammed Ghannouchi, the Tunisian prime minister, said on state television.

Ghannouchi is now the interim president.

Maltese air traffic controllers have told Al Jazeera that Ben Ali is bound for Paris.

Protests in Tunisia Threaten to Topple Dictatorship

You might not know it from the coverage of the American media, but there are protests going on in Tunisia right now that threaten to topple the authoritarian government that has ruled there for more than half a century. A bit less than a month ago, a young man named Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in protest over his mistreatment at the hands of Tunisia's brutally repressive police. His act awoke a latent anger among the Tunisian people over both the government's repression and economic prosperity that has not been widely shared-- despite 5% GDP growth in recent years, unemployment is well into the double-digits, and away from the prosperous coast, Tunisia's interior remains underdeveloped. 

Ben Ali, Tunisia's current leader, has cracked down on the protests, and shut down the state-controlled media, but the protests continue, confirmed by reports that have snuck past the country's censors via social media, while mobile phone videos illustrate the violence that has led to at least 35 deaths. The use of new media seemed to catch the government off-guard at first, they have caught on quickly. In a release yesterday, the Committee to Protect Journalists described Tunisia as the "undisputed leader" of online repression in the Maghreb:

According to CPJ's analysis, the country's state-owned Internet bandwidth provider, the Tunisian Internet Agency has been spying on and interfering with its customers' access to private e-mail and social networking sites, including Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo. Individuals have reported that these sites' pages have either been blocked entirely, or been manipulated to include malicious code that collects private usernames and passwords and then relays them to the agency. The accounts of bloggers and journalists have subsequently been broken into using these stolen credentials, and content and accounts deleted, including Facebook pages administrated by local journalists as well as the account of local online video journalist Haythem El Mekki.

Bloggers and journalists have been detained and imprisoned, and while Facebook remains online and available as the only remianing tool for video sharing, it's likely that the government is watching online activitiy and taking advantage of Facebook's social graph to identify and surveil protestors. While new technologies are undoubdedly providing powerful new tools to protestors, Tunisia's government also finds itself with valuable new information and methods at its fingertips. The NY Times reports today that protestors have overwhelmed police in one coastal city near the capital. It's hard to imagine such a long-standing dictatorship falling so quickly, but it's becoming harder to ignore the extraordinary sacrifices of ordinary Tunisians in the streets.

The FCC's Open Internet Apps Challenge

Probably the great unheralded accomplishment of the Net Neturality Order passed by the FCC in December has to do with transparency requirements. The new rules require all network operators-- wired and wireless alike-- to be open about how they're managing traffic flow over their networks. Why didn't this rule get much credit? I can't say it better than CDT:

Since transparency seems to represent low-hanging fruit in this proceeding, in the sense that it doesn't generate nearly as much controversy as the other elements, neutrality supporters probably have a tendency to take it for granted. But that doesn't mean it won't be beneficial.

In some ways, the transparency rule is the lynchpin that allows the rules to stop where they do, and avoid overregulating. For example, the Order doesn't apply neutrality rules to wireless networks-- a move I consider wise, given technical constraints, the rapidly evolving nature of the mobile space, and high competition in the wireless marketplace. But in cases of anti-competitive, anti-consumer behavior by mobile networks operators, the FCC will have to step in. (My full writeup of the Order is here.)

By itself, though, the FCC has limited ability to keep an eye on the internet and ensure that network operators are fully forthcoming. So yesterday, the FCC called in support, announcing a competiton for developers to build apps that will help safeguard the open internet.  The "Open Internet Apps Challenge" seeks software tools that will allow you to see whether your network operator is blocking competitors' sites, slowing your downloads, or otherwise messing with the freedom of the network. From the FCC's press release:

The Open Internet Challenge seeks to encourage the development of innovative and functional applications that provide users with information about the extent to which their fixed or mobile broadband Internet services are consistent with the open Internet. These software tools could, for example, detect whether a broadband provider is interfering with DNS responses, application packet headers, or content.

If you're a developer, you have until June 1 to submit your app and and get a chance to win-- wait for it-- a free trip to Washington in August! But seriously, it would be great exposure for a young developer, and an opportunity to help safeguard the openness of the internet. And if you're less of a geek and more of a nerd, you can write a research paper that "analyzes relevant Internet openness measurement techniques, approaches, and data."  Info on both competitions is here.

FCC on Net Neutrality: A Step Forward

The FCC approved new rules yesterday protecting net neutrality for the first time, bringing to a close a turbulent year of debate over how to best protect the open Internet and ensure the global network remains a vital platform for innovation. While the full text of the action is not yet available, key excerpts are available here, and it's clear that there will be three new rules governing the ability of internet service providers to regulate the flow of information over their networks. 

First, internet service providers must be transparent in the ways they manage the flow of information over their networks. Second, providers of fixed broadband access are forbidden to block any legal content, applications, services or devices from the network. Third, providers may not "unreasonably discriminate" among content or users. These rules build on the principles laid out in the FCC's 2005 Internet Policy Statement, codifying the ideal of an open, non-discriminatory internet into enforceable rules for the first time.

Reflecting the longstanding tenor of the net neutrality dispute, reaction to the FCC Report and Order has been dominated by criticism from the right (including FCC Commissioners McDowell and Baker, who voted against the action) that the rules are unnecessary and liable to stifle investment, and criticism from the left (including Commissioners Clyburn and Copps, who joined Chairman Genachowski in approving the measure) that the rules don't go far enough in protecting the interests of internet users.

In particular, public interest groups and open internet advocates have criticized the FCC for excluding mobile networks from most of the protections afforded wired broadband. While blocking competitors' apps and services will be outlawed, mobile network operators will retain a broad ability to manage their networks and prioritize content. As Chairman Genachowski explained in his remarks, there are technical issues that affect mobile that don't exist on wired networks-- there's simply less capacity on mobile networks, and without an ability to actively manage traffic, mobile networks could quickly become overwhelmed and incapacitated by a few hyperactive users. 

Mobile is also different from wired broadband in that, for most consumers, the mobile industry is genuinely competitive. If you're a Sprint customer, and Sprint blocks you from using third-party applications to pigeonhole you into using their own services, most people in this country are covered by at least three other major mobile networks.  As the mobile ecosystem continues to evolve, we'll have to hope that the FCC will remain vigilant, and if anti-competitive, anti-consumer behavior by mobile networks operators becomes the norm, they will step in with stronger protections. For now, the FCC's "measured steps" on mobile broadband are a prudent approach to regulating a dynamic industry.

The Report and Order also raises concerns about two other areas, without specifically regulating either. First, the FCC outlines four reasons why "pay for priority" arrangements-- whereby a third party would pay the network operator to favor certain traffic over other-- would probably violate the "unreasonable discrimination" rule. Second, the document describes "specialized services," distinct from the internet but riding the same wires, including voice and video over IP. The FCC again pledges to monitor these services, and ensure that they're not being used to evade the net neutrality rules. For now, we'll have to take them at their word. As on mobile platforms, there's extraordinary opportunity for innovative new services to arrive via broadband, and before there's evidence of anti-consumer behavior by network providers, there's no need to discourage innovation with preemptive rules.

In a blog post yesterday, the Chairman of our Globalization Initiative, Dr. Rob Shapiro, celebrated the end of the net neutrality fight. I hope he's right, but I'm afraid this issue may linger for some time. Most troublingly, the FCC's Report and Order does not stand on the strongest legal footing.  After the DC Circuit Court ruled earlier this year against the FCC in its suit charging Comcast with illegal content discrimination, the FCC's authority to regulate the internet has been in some legal doubt. This lack of clarity should be troubling for both sides-- network operators, because it continues uncertainty about the legal framework in which they will be working, and consumer advocates, because it puts these new rules protecting net neutrality in jeopardy. Ultimately, congressional action may be required to clarify the FCC's authority and to establish clear rules of the road for this dynamic, exciting and important part of our economy.

Despite these ongoing issues, I applaud the FCC and Chairman Genachowski for finding a compromise on net neutrality that, for the first time, protects our open internet and the interests of internet users without impeding network providers in their continued investment in building the internet's infrastructure.

Digital Cookery

NPR's Morning Edition just ran heartwarming but sadly flawed piece about how the cookbook "might be safe from the digital revolution." Sorry, cookbooks, they shouldn't have gotten your hopes up like that. The piece is hung up on two reasons why apps & mobile devices could never work in the kitchen: first, the "sticky fingers/expensive device" argument, second, the "apps aren't exactly like books" argument.  From the opening of the segment:

It's hard to imagine how the Web could replicate a cookbook's well-organized recipes or enticing illustrations

Actually, I don't think it's very hard to imagine that at all.

"People are very busy," she says. "They're maybe on the bus thinking, 'What am I going to have for dinner tonight? I've got to go to a shop and get it.' [The app is there] to help you shop."


What it's least useful for is in the kitchen," she adds. "You don't want a phone or any similar device right where you are spluttering with the pan."

No! Ten years ago, a device with the firepower of today's smartphones would have been the size of a ham, and would have cost as much as a gallon of extra fine black truffle oil. Technology evolves. It's easy to imagine, a few years from now, a device that combines all the functionality of an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab into a device that's even more spaghetti sauce-proof than any book, and cheap enough to be your third, fourth, or fifth networked device. The piece continues:

"I think there's an inherent flaw in thousands or tens of thousands of individual cookbooks as apps," he says. "And the flaw is that the more you have the harder it is to use them."

"And as it's set up now, you would probably need to search each app individually, according to whatever criteria that app had. And in fact, most of the recipes in those apps wouldn't have been tagged with any of those terms."

The segment goes on to theorize about a "super app" wherein celebrity chefs could get together to sell their recipes for a small fee. Fuhgeddaboudit. Just as the proliferation of bloggers has diluted the power of the newspaper columnist, anybody looking to sell a recipe on the internet is going to drown in competition from regular, everyday cooks sharing delicious recipes of their own. And rather than isolating themselves in "tens of thousands" of individual cookbook apps, a platform will emerge to give cooks an easy, free space to find, share, and add their own recipes.

So what do I think is going to happen? Within the next decade (if not sooner), you'll have a specialized device in your kitchen-- smudgeproof, splashproof, burnproof-- that talks with your other devices (so the recipe you find on your smartphone on the way home appears on the screen in your kitchen),  and runs an elegant piece of software integrating the recipe with video and a social layer that allows you to find recipes recommended by friends and share tips back with them. Cool, right? Until that day, I'll have to go back to putting my iPad in a Ziploc bag, and going that route...

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