I was having a mild case of separation anxiety on my flight over from Sydney to Hong Kong because I knew that Twitter was not allowed in China. My short stopover in Hong Kong on my way to Beijing was to be the last time I got to tweet for a week. *gasp*
Then when I did check Twitter in Hong Kong, a good Samaritan came to the rescue. @RichardMabey recommended I try CoTweet, which is essentially the same thing as Tweetfunnel (I feel a comparative blog coming on!). Duh! Both must be set up before you leave for China, both post to Twitter and both can be used in China. Awesome! (Apologies if one of the 100,000 Chinese government web monitor people pick up this blog and start blocking CoTweet and Tweetfunnel. That would suck.)
Here’s the low-down on using Twitter in China:
Using a proxy – Tried that, didn’t work well. It was fine for about 5 minutes and then totally messed up my browser. Not sure if it’s just the one I tried (hot spot shield) but I didn’t like it.
Express VPN – @mmmichaelfox is also currently in China and told me about Express VPN. It’s $12.95 per month to use, but at least he’s happy with it (unlike me with my failed proxy attempt…). There’s a 30-day money back guarantee, so I guess you can’t go wrong!
Tweet Deck – Kinda works, but very slowly. It takes a good 5 minutes to post a tweet. Oh, and it just died as I’m typing this so I guess it’s not reliable. I hope it comes back to life because that how I’ve been reading tweets until now…
Tweetfunnel - Great to post to Twitter especially since it auto-shortens URLs, which is helpful because you can’t get to bit.ly without a proxy. The downside is that I seem to only be able to view the last 30 tweets from others.
Set up before you go – Whether you use Tweetfunnel or Cotweet or some other similar tool, set up before you go. All those tools redirect you to Twitter to authenticate so you won’t be able to do that in China.
Now Google is a whole different story. You can view all Google services if you’re on a proxy, but if a proxy’s not an option for you, you’ll be as confused with Google sites as I am right now. Here’s the Google story in China:
Gmail – Seems to be working just fine, all the time. No complaints here. Chat works well too.
Analytics/AdWords/Webmaster Tools – Also work, but slower than I’m used to.
Reader - Totally random! I can’t figure it out. A couple times I’ve logged on and Reader refreshed. Other times, I get an error inside Reader. Other times still I get a “connection lost” error. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. Either way, I’m probably 800 blog posts behind in reading.
News - Now this is funny! Google News technically isn’t blocked because I was able to view it, search it and refresh it a few times. Then yesterday the headline story was on Obama’s visit to China. The page loaded and just as it finished, I got a “connection reset” error in my browser. This happened until another story replaced the Obama visit one. Coincidence? I think not!
All it all, it’s not as bad as I thought. I can still do 90% of the things I would normally do online.