History’s Most Pointless App Will Tell You About Rocket Strikes in Israel

The popular mobile app "Yo" has been described as the most pointless tech start-up to recently receive major funding. The idea is like a parody of post-modern life: An app for "post-text" communication that does nothing but send the message "yo" to your friends. That's it -- and it has $1 million in funding. Now, it's been reimagined as a tool in Israel's war against Hamas.

Developed by Israeli coders, Red Alert complements the army's warning sirens that alerts Israelis to incoming rockets. Now, Red Alert has partnered with Yo to send "yo"s anytime a siren sounds in Israel. The idea is to use this form of "post-text" communication to keep users informed of events around Israel. Each time a rocket triggers the system, you get a "yo":

Israel and Hamas are trading shots across the Gaza border, leaving civilians on both sides in the crossfire. On Thursday, the death toll from Israeli strikes in Gaza rose dramatically, to 81. Meanwhile, images are circulating showing Israelis taking shelter from incoming rockets.

In Gaza, some civilians receive air strike warnings too -- from the Israeli Defense Forces. To mitigate civilian casualties the IDF will "knock on the roof" of its chosen target with a small explosive as a warning to the building's inhabitants to evacuate. The IDF also makes phone calls to warn civilians of an incoming strike.

The contrast between the ways Israeli and Palestinian civilians are informed of incoming strikes is representative of the conflict's asymmetry. Israeli forces exercise a level of information dominance that they are able to not only maintain a comprehensive warning system capable of plugging into a smartphone app but are also able to carry out strikes in civilian neighborhoods that are preceded by a telephoned warning. The latter speaks to the degree to which Israel is plugged in to the Palestinian phone system.

So far, no word on whether any enterprising developers are monitoring strikes in Gaza using Yo.

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images


Pentagon Pen Drops Twitter Hatchet on FP Columnist

This post has been updated. 

Gordon Adams is a Washington D.C. defense expert who oversaw defense budgets for the Clinton administration and is something of a crotchety contrarian in the beltway debate over the Pentagon purse. He is an opponent of the kind of creative accounting that has kept the Department of Defense's budget afloat and how Pentagon planning has entered an alternate reality. So it's not surprising that Adams may not be the most popular figure within the Pentagon; what is surprising is that a Pentagon speechwriter is publicly attacking him.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Greg Grant, a speechwriter for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, attacked Adams, an FP columnist, on Twitter:

It's a bit of a tempest in a beltway teapot, but for a speechwriter to attack a respected defense expert is something of a break in decorum. Speechwriters are supposed to stay in the background, unobtrusive wordsmiths laboring for the greater glory of their bosses. When they step into the limelight, it typically doesn't go very well. One need only recall when Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau was photographed during the 2008 campaign groping a paper cutout of Hillary Clinton.

We've reached out to Adams for a response and will update if and when we have one... 

Update: Looks like the spat has been resolved: