Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Safely in Shanghai – Behind the Chinese Content Filters

After 24 hours of travel in airports and in airplanes, I’m pleased to report my safe arrival in my Shanghai hotel in advance of the Learning 2.010 Asia Conference which starts on Thursday. My wife dropped me off at the Oklahoma City airport on Monday morning just after 10 am, and I arrived here at my hotel at 10 am Tuesday Oklahoma time. We are 13 hours ahead of US central time, so I arrived at the hotel 11 pm local Shanghai time. While here in China I’m not planning to use my iPhone to make calls on the phone network, but when I powered it on (and before I could turn the cell phone radio off / on “airport mode” it connected briefly to China Telecom. We’re not in Oklahoma anymore!

It was wonderful to be met at the airport by Jeff Utecht and Tim Lauer. Of all the travel hours, actually leaving the security area of customs and moving “out” into the public airport pickup area is often the most uncertain – Wondering who will be there to meet me, if I’ll recognize them, if they’ll have a sign, etc. Friendly and familiar faces are a wonderful thing when you travel halfway around the world.

After talking with Jeff in the van from the airport and briefly doing a few things on my computer here in my room, it definitely appears the content filtering situation is much more locked down now than it was in 2007 when I first traveled to Shanghai. Back then both Twitter and Facebook were accessible, now both are blocked – Along with Hootsuite, which I use as a Twitter client. I’ve heard Julie Lindsey and others discuss this situation, but here we are – And no access to those social networks directly unless I activate or utilize a proxy service like I did in 2007. (Then I used Proxify.) Skype is open, however, and I was able to make a call to check in with both my wife and mom. Gmail is open, but Google Docs is blocked. Google Maps is available, and I started a new custom map to show where I went yesterday and today… and I’ll add to this during my week and a half here.

View Learning 2.010 Shanghai in a larger map

I’ll find out what the local teachers and students recommend for a proxy service tomorrow, and probably invest in a short term membership in one so I can have access to blocked sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google Docs while I’m here. Interestingly most all wiki sites are blocked in China, but WikiSpaces still is NOT. We’re using a locally installed version of Moodle for the conference, which will be great. I was initially able to both view images on Flickr as well as upload images to the site, but for some reason now I can’t view any images there. I’m not sure if that’s a filtering issue or something else. Thankfully my blog is NOT blocked in China, so I can post to it without a proxy. Since I have my WordPress site configured with the Twitter Tools Plugin, it will still auto-post the titles of my new posts to Twitter, which will cross-post to Facebook. It’s nice that functionality will not be affected by the Chinese content filters.

I’ll likely conduct a more thorough exploration of what sites I typically use are blocked in China at this point, but I did also notice this evening Posterous isn’t accessible. It should be possible to POST to Posterous via email, but Posterous sites themselves don’t appear to be accessible without a proxy. and EduBlogs ARE accessible, however, so it would be possible to configure a Posterous blog to cross-post to one of those WordPress-based sites and access it here without a proxy. I considered doing that for our 5 Photo Stories Posterous blog, to create a WordPress-based “mirror” site that’s accessible from China, but the problem is embedded content from Posterous isn’t accessible when it’s cross-posted to another site or on the actual Posterous servers. Tim Lauer uses Posterous a lot to post to his main blog now, and you can see what it looks like here behind the Chinese content filters: No images.

Tim Lauer's website in China

Perhaps most importantly, I can now confirm “Words with Friends” is NOT blocked in China, so my ongoing, critical scrabble games with family and friends will NOT have to be interrupted by our farther-than-usual geographic separation. 🙂

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2 responses to “Safely in Shanghai – Behind the Chinese Content Filters”

  1. Candace Hackett Shively Avatar

    Thanks for loads of helpful silk curtain tech info on what works. Am headed there in a couple of months. Saw your post on twitter, so your strategies are working. Any info on iPhone welcome. Also on wifi and charges in hotels especially if uploading pix to blog. You are making MY upcoming trip planning easier! Have a great time!

  2. Kansan Avatar

    Enjoying learning about the Expo in Shanghai!
    Hope you have time for lots of Expo visiting.