Commentary

The Revolution In Apps

Yu Stin Ki Pu, a tiny development company in a suburb of Fuzhou, has rocketed to prominence on the sudden popularity of its $3.99 iPhone and Android app "Days of Rage." Downloaded 4 million times in the past month -- primarily in Africa, the Middle East and Wisconsin -- the app enables users to organize demonstrations for a variety of causes, from overthrowing dictators to blocking legislation to cut benefits and shift costs back to workers.

The app contains functions that allow flash mobs to calendarize their riots and mapping function to make sure everyone shows up in the right city square at the right time wearing the right colored headband. or bringing the right edition of the nation's former national flags. Its "send to a friend yearning to be free" button allows users to pass information about barracks burnings and museum lootings along to everyone on the user's contact list. It also collects Twitter posts based on selected key words such as "revolution," "massacre," and "crackdown."

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"There is a lot of information that has to be shared to bring down a government," says Seif al-Ben Ashour, while dodging bullets and tear gas canisters in downtown Tripoli this morning.

  "Praise be to Allah that this little app removes nearly all the friction in a revolt and maps out the opportunity costs of backing one faction of potential leadership over another. Excel just wasn't getting it done for us."

The app also contains an amusing driving game in which users not only have to navigate barricades and tanks, but pull into filling stations every 10 miles due to shortages. Users quickly consume their $1,000 allotment of gas money, as dynamic pricing reflects the actual price of a refill in Santa Monica.

Users can turn off the app's GPS locator to assure that government loyalists or Republican governors can't track them down.

"We use 'Days of Rage' to coordinate our banner and placard slogans," says Randall-el Wannamaker, a Sheboygan, Ill.  8th grade math teacher and assistant girl's field hockey coach. "We look silly on national TV if every sign reads the same. We want to show the diversity of our concerns and avoid redundancy. Spell checker in the app is also crucial. After all, we are teachers."

Sum Ting Wong, the chief technology officer for Yu Stin Ki Pu, said in a Skype interview that the development team had debated for months about whether to pursue the original idea for "Days of Rage": a video game in which ragtag third-world demonstrators battle thinly disguised government thugs across a crumbling urban infrastructure using crude weapons such as Molotov cocktails and bags of dog doo.

"We hoped to plant a seed with the young people of China," said Wong before the connection was abruptly severed and could not be reestablished. But earlier in the interview, Wong indicated that over a game of Jiuling, the team decided to produce an app instead of a game because "getting on the X-Box platform was such a pain in the ass."

"Days of Rage" downloads are expected to accelerate in the coming months as unionized workers confront bankrupt municipalities over works rules and proposals to cut benefit and retirement packages negotiated in better economic days  -- and the downtrodden of the 30-plus anocratic governments left around the world keep watching CNN and Al-Jazeera.

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