Monday, February 7, 2011

Yoani "BlogTweet" Sanchez: Unblocked and Unbound?


For those who drink "Strong Coffee":

Ivette Leyva @ "Café Fuerte" is reporting that Yoani Sánchez has just broken the 100,000 followers threshhold on Twitter - leading El Viejo Fidel by a few thousand followers.

(Twitaholic.com has the rankings here as of January 27.  See below for more info from a research report I wrote last May on Yoani's use of Blogs and Twitter in Cuba.)

Penultimos Dias pointed out that Leyva's note also shares the as yet unverified information that Sánchez's blog "Generación Y," is no longer being blocked on internal Cuban servers during the XIV Convención y Feria Comercial Informática 2011 (can any of our readers in Cuba verify this?).  The conference kicked off at the Palace of Conventions in Havana today and closes on February 11.

Is this a change in strategy on the part of the Cuban government so that "the girl who played with fire" no longer has to fight with one hand tied behind her back.  That would be fair now that state security is calling the Internet a "campo de batalla" (battlefield) and singling out Yoani and other young bloggers and cyber-activists (both in Cuba and abroad) as wolves in sheeps clothing.

Or perhaps the regime's ending of its internal "bloqueo" against La Flaca is only a ploy intended to convince visiting dignitaries, techies, and bloggers at the conference that - "Hey! I can indeed read Generation Y here in Cuba!"

Back in May 2010, I wrote a draft of a paper entitled "In Search of Generacion Y," where I reported the following details about Twitter use in Cuba at that time:

Over the course of 2009 and into 2010, Sánchez became an assiduous user of Twitter. When she began “tweeting” in January 2009, she did so sporadically and had only 22 followers. However, soon her citizen network abroad facilitated the posting of her “tweets”. (She usually sends them as SMS messages via her cell phone to a collaborator abroad who then posts them to Twitter for her).

As a result, by July 2009 she had increased her use of the micro-message technology now with 1,706 followers. This number surged past 20,000 the end of 2009, continuing to grow exponentially in 2010. By March 2010 she had over 35,000 followers, reaching beyond 50,000 by mid-May 2010.

Despite Hugo Chavez’s attempts to get former Cuban President Fidel Castro to begin using Twitter as the Venezuelan president has done quite successfully himself in Venezuela, Sánchez remains by far the most popular and influential user of the new technology in Cuba.

For example, since she began “tweeting” in January 2009, she has sent 1,876 “tweets”, rising to 2,312nd place worldwide when ranked by number of followers. Moreover, her more than 50,000 followers place her head and shoulders above all other Cuban Twitter users.

Yohandry Fontana, a cryptic, anti-Yoani pro-regime blogger (or group of bloggers – “he” has never revealed his true identity) is second in Cuba with 1,635 followers.

“CubaDebate”, an official website that also often harshly criticizes Sánchez, is in third place with 1,528 followers.

Reinaldo Escobar, Yoani's husband and fellow blogger, holds fifth place with 817 followers.

The digital magazine run by Dagoberto Valdes, Convivencia, is sixth with 799.

“CubaReader”, the Twitter handle of another, lesser known group that calls itself “Bloggers Cuba” is in seventh place with 552 followers.

This data comes from the website Twitaholic.com, which tracks Twitter usage worldwide and updates its statistics hourly.

[Due perhaps to updating glitches, these stats seem to differ (in some cases quite significantly) from those you can find on Twitter itself.]

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