Razan Khatib's commentary on life on/off the web

Archive for the 'Jordan' Category

Jordan Internet Blackout Day: Aug 29th Action Alert 0

The Jordanian government officials are planning to censor the internet in the country using baseless moral claims.

Join the Internet Blackout day this coming Wed, Aug 29th.

Read more here in English at The Black Iris

Read more here in Arabic at 7oryanet.com the official campaign website.

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فلسطين 3

انا لسّة ما عشت بأرضك دقيقة وحدة

شفتك إكتير من فوق وعلى جووجل إيرث، و من الضفة الشرقية، موطني

تخيلتك من قصص تيته

شُفتك بعيونها، وبعيون خالتو و عمّو

شُفتك بدموعهم، بغضبهم، بذكرياتهم

شُفتك وإنتي عم تتلاشي من عيونهم بالأفق، لما تركوكي

بيسان، طبرية و صفد

انا لما بقول أني أردنية، بقول اصلي فلسطينية

بعض الناس بتفهم، و بعضها لأ

أنتي قضيًّتي، من لما تعلّمت إسمي.

عطيتيني وجود مختلف .

انا و ملايين غيري بالبلاد و بالشتات

يمكن عشان هيك مابيفهمو هنّه

لأنو مفكرينو موضوع جنسية، موضوع وطني، موضوع سياسي، موضوع دول و استقلال و مجلس امن،

كانو إمارات و صارو دول الا انتي

محوكي او أجّلوكي

وهللأ بدهم يقنعونا، انو انتي جاي عالطريق بمشروع هالدولتين

طب وين بيسان، طبرية و صفد؟

تاريخ عائلتي وين راح؟ انا وين تاريخي؟

هي القصة شقفة ارض وبس؟ علم، رئيس، حكومة، جواز سفر، سفارة وأمم متحدة؟

يعني بصير أقول اصلي من فلسطين التاريخية؟ من امارة فلسطين؟ اللي إسمها إسرائيل؟ اللي هجّرت عائلتي؟

فلسطين، انت قصة وجود

فلسطين، انت ووجودي إشي واحد

هادا الوجود ما بتخلى عنّو ابداً

Where I stand 13

For those of my friends who understand any call for reform as calls to bring the Islamists to rule.

For those of my friends who understand any call for reform as calls to bring the monarchy down.

For those of my friends who want to give the government a chance to do the reform for them.

For those of my friends who got excited about Egypt and Tunis so much that they wish NONE of it touches their home or themselves.

For those of my friends who want to refuse reform in order to protect the status qua with all the well/fear they’ve got.

Can we get more conflicted than this?

What you and me should do, is make our voices as loud- if not more- than the Islamists if we are to win them in the next election. Rather than conspire to create yet another failure of an election law just because we don’t want more Islamists to win or more Palestinians or more tribes.

What you and me should do, is form independent movements and new political parties that can win in the next democratic elections so we might get and limit the win of the Islamists if you and I fear their rule the most.

What you and me don’t want in Jordan is not March 24 movement or Friday protests or online news sites, what we don’t want is our government silencing peaceful protesters by force and allowing ignorant thugs to hit them by bricks. What we don’t want is security forces that interfere with our freedom of speech, assembly or organization while we need them to focus more on protecting us, citizens of Jordan.

Whether the March 24 movement chose a good or bad location, or a right or a wrong day is just the details. Its easy to say they are Islamists or Palestinians or even thugs, if you only listen to hearsay and rumors yet not investigate information yourself.

Focus I think should be on what they wanted, they wanted to put more pressure on your government to act faster. Why?

Because you and me should ask yourselves, does it need THREE months to come up with a new election law? Does it need THREE months to come up with a new party law? Do you think these laws are artifacts that need such time and deliberation to be innovated out of vacuum?…etc.

Do you and me like to  have the big elephant of who is your or my origin from to be forever in the room? Or Should we talk more about it? Remove the suspicion from all sides and focus on citizenship with its rights and obligation as our uniting factor?

We are in the middle of a big wave of change, you and me can get stuck in fear and stay in the backroom behind closed doors or go out honk our cars in an empty show of loyalty that is a given to most or we can help lead this change to where we want it to go.

When your kids, nephews and nieces ask you in 20 years where were you in 2011, you better have some great story to tell!

Its your choice, but I guess you have figured out where I stand from all of this.

“Thoughts on the now and future of Social Media” presentation @AmmanTT 1

Below are the slides I presented at last week’s Amman Tech Tuesdays (#AmmanTT) event. Would love to hear more of your comments/questions.

Thoughts on the now and future of Social Media

View more presentations from razank.
Big thanks to AmmanTT team for the opportunity and support!

ArabNetMe afterthoughts 1

So we talked about my feelings before; now here are my afterthoughts on the conference!

The short version:

It was great in so many ways to participate @ArabNetMe the past couple of days. The energy, the spirit and the conversations were all too amazing.

The longer version:

It felt at home away from home, with the significant number of Jordanians participating as well as the lingo, the issues the whole cult built around web entrepreneurship.

The tweeting, I just loved the tweeting…best solution to my short attention span problem!

The numerous coffee breaks were very thoughtful and worked very well I think.

However, did the sessions contribute much new information to the average webist? Not really. With the moderate reading and catching up we do from silicon valley, I can’t say the sessions contributed more than about 15% of either new insights, trends or solutions. Even my partner alma, who’s a social researcher and not a webist didn’t think she gained much new information!

Here are my two cents for ArabNetMe 2011:

With all the hype before the conference about the inclusion of women, I was very disappointed with the low number of women speakers, one. Really? All this hype and then only one woman?

Don’t be the all & everything for the web industry. Get selective, mine the feedback and see what worked best.

Sessions should be shorter, must run at least two in parallel,  topics be much more specific and make it more cozy, with people HAVING to select which sessions to attend and participate in resulting in a lower number of attendees thus more conversation between the panelists and the audience.

Have the participants vote for the topics they want to discuss before hand and submit their questions instead of having the moderators do it, or doing it for the moderators as it seemed to be the case in the conference.

The conference should be about finding solutions, sharing of ideas and coming up with action plans.

Share the list of participants on the website before hand, so people can pre-prepare meetings with those of interest.

And make the following in BOLD in every way you find possible


Big thanks to a well organized conference by ArabNetMe team, especially Omar and Sana, you rocked!

On Jordan’s court decision to “control” websites 2

While a significant and growing number of Jordanians are/have been working very hard for over 10 years to put Jordan on the global map of innovation in building and maintaining web communities/tools of all sorts and purposes, comes the Jordanian court’s decision last Wednesday with a big blow to our faces.

Yahoo! comes and invests in our own creation, Maktoob and what does our government do? A court decides to censor the web. Rendering each website, portal, blog, wiki, tweet, tumble, stumble, photo, video…etc an entity that can be governed under the aging Print & Publishing Law that is making our print media obsolete to a certain degree.

Not only do Jordanians bloggers as the print media Journalists alike practice self-censorship online in fear of being harassed or imprisoned, now they want us to talk about the weather all year long!

Thanks to people like Hajjaj for his brilliant caricatures and the analysis of Bassem Sakejha the existing law and how would it would apply to electronic media the absurdness of the situation appears there so well.

But let me try to speculate what will happen. This decision will be overturned somehow[I am no legal expert], instead the decision will be magically reiterated to put the real target of last week’s decision; increasingly  popular news sites like Ammon News under that law which will be bound to fail so miserably. Maybe some IT vendor here in Jordan or elsewhere is already making plans to supply the technology needed to make that seemingly impossible task possible! Maybe a catching-one-fish-at-a-time policy will be used instead!

But let me end with this, amongst other freedoms we don’t enjoy in Jordan, this is something we actually know what it tastes like, something we love so dearly, we nurture and are leaders in our region because of it. So this time around, we will not let that freedom be taken away from us so very easily!

AramramTV: Social media for social change 0

Part of AramramTV coverage commemorating one year since the Israeli Assault on GAZA winter 2008/2009 was this video containing interviews with me, Ali Dahmash and Ghassan Yonis.

Funny that they called the feature “Electronic Jihad” not sure i would call it that. Would call it of course Electronic Activism instead!

Why Jordan could be the next silicon valley? 0

A skeptical friend of mine the other day asked me while we were attending the Global Entrepreneurship Week launch event in Jordan why do people think Jordan is special and why would it ever be the silicon valley of the region?

Through answering him I explained how Amman is similar to the US in one important aspect. We are a city that grew through immigration of displaced people from different parts of the region throughout the years.

This sense of starting new, passed down from generation to generation. While the apparent difference in this analogy comes from the fact that when people settled in Jordan it wasn’t seen as a dream come true like what immigrants in the US felt. Nonetheless, I see this spirit of making it big in many of my circles, the social and professional alike. With people from older generations, the 40 somethings as well as my generation of 30 somethings. Now i see it more in the 20 somethings.

They all want to make it big, want to follow their dreams, want to be the next Microsoft, Google or Facebook or the better Starbucks, Landor.

It gets to a point at my startup that people get out to start their own after a while, might be annoying at times to an employer but the bigger picture is that they take the risk, they go and follow their dreams.

I don’t have statistics but I am sure if you look at the number of new tech companies that started up the past 10 years you will definitely see a sharp curve.

The torch for the next silicon valley was ignited already, we are still struggling to create an ecosystem but i see it happening. Yet as Fred Wilson mentioned recently in a blog post:

But it takes time. And you can’t fast forward because we are talking about experience which can’t be manufactured. You simply have to put in the time.

We have a long way ahead of us, the private sector needs to start investing in educating the next generation we must be proactive in creating innovative ways to bridge the gap between our existing educational institutions and what the workforce needs and not wait until our government does so. Sponsor innovation by investing in internal labs to experiment with ideas. We need to enable other Arab talent an easy path to come and start their dream in Jordan not get stuck at lousy immigration policies. Look at how many people from an Indian origin live in Silicon Valley? See how they are celebrated.

The Maktoob deal earlier this year ignited this hope once again, it gave everyone a successful picture and a reality that could be theirs in the near future or something along that path.

Amman Twestival a success! 0

Was a great evening tonight at the Royal Scientific Society who hosted Amman Twestival, Organized by Malik Shistawi Foundation, and Sponsored by Aramex and Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship in support of Al-Aman Fund for the Future of the Orphans.

Almost 100 people attended a very heated discussion about Twitter, social media and entrepreneurship prospects for Jordan and our part of the world. I was happy to be selected amongst the panel speakers along with Zeid Nasser, Laith Al Qasem and Laith Zureikat moderated by Moh’d Khawaja.

Majd Shweikeh CEO of Orange Mobile attended and shared great insights as well as the marketing, Shop’nShip and sustainability teams from Aramex including Lina Shihadeh, Firas Hilal and Raji Hattar.

The discussion topics were many, from use of social media to promote business, new ways of reaching and servicing customers, connecting to people as well as discovering content & opinions from around the web. The longed-for Qatayef break was equally interesting, as I got to meet lots of tweeps face-to-face! Ok, I never went to any of the Jordanian bloggers meetings so this was a first-time experience :-)

Its one of those days where I have a good feeling about Jordan and us Jordanians.

As a contribution to this momentum, I worked most of the weekend to create a simple website that aggregates all tweeps (twitter people) and their tweets from Jordan, you can check it out at http://JOtweeps.com. To be included all you need to do is follow @JOtweeps and we will follow back.

Also you can go to #AmmanTwestival to read all tweets about the event.

Happy tweeting everyone!

folowen: find people/organizations' social web 2

Wonder why I haven’t been blogging that much lately? Yes, was busy for the past month and a half working on our new web application whom proudly I have codded my self :D yes, after 10 years of not coding complete applications, its has been so much fun!


So, what is folowen?

folowen is a social media search tool that aggregates social profiles of people and organization’s on several social media sites into one search result.

It simply makes it easy for you to follow a person or organization’s social web; be it a Facebook profile, page, group, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile, a YouTube channel…etc.

By simply entering the name of a person or organization you will be able to find their social links across 19 social networking sites!

We are currently in a private beta testing stage, trying out the search and getting feedback on its accuracy as well as getting to know what users want more out of the service in the near future.

I am giving out invitations for the beta for the first 30 people who comment on WEBsessed!

Thank you Gaith from ArabCrunch for writing about us :)

Thank you Mohammad from StartUpArabia for writing about us as well :)

Surprise! Arrivals dashbaord in QAIA 2

Went to pick up my dad from the airport tonight. Mom went in before me to see if we are at the right terminal and if the flight arrived or not (since 4457200 stopped working by the way, ringing endlessly!) She called and said that the arrivals dashboard said that it was delayed. So I parked and went in.

At 11:25 I read the dashboard my self and it said it arrived at 11:21 pm. super cool. 15 min and dad should be out there waving for us! Mom said no its delayed, and i say no it arrived. Turns out she was looking at the Arabic dashboard while i was looking at the English one. Fantastic!

11:40, I call dad and ask him where he is, assuming he’s either at immigration or waiting for luggage. to my surprise he told me he was just walking out of the plane.

I say that’s weird. I go check the dashboard again and this time it says arrived on 11:30 on the English screen. The Arabic screen logged the flight “delayed” at 11:25.

(Dammam flight)


I didn’t for one min ever doubt that the data source for the English dashboard is different than the Arabic one.  What kind of system even if coded some 20 years ago would  log a different schedule in English than in Arabic.

I guess its one of those “only in Jordan/Arabia”  kind of things!

Stories of/about love 0

Alma Khasawnih’s quest for love has been going on for a while, early on with the most active quest on Questler:

What is it about love that makes it the focal point in our lives? Any thoughts on love?

sometime later last year, during her residency in Ramallah (covered here)

I attest to the obsession with the subject Alma has had all this time. Its been mostly one of the greatest learning journeys I’ve taken listening to her talk about that story, that book…her fascination is overwhelmingly beautiful.

Alma now has a regular column with JO magazine on Love, you can read the first one (March 2009) here titled “Love: An introduction”.

The second one is in the April issue titled “Forbidden Love”, where she has a theory I for one, never thought of before!

I might be biased since Alma is one of my closest friends, but don’t listen to me, go read for your self :-)

Murder in the name of Honour, a book by Rana Husseini 8

Taken from a press release I received from Rana Husseini sent on April 8th, 2009.

Rana Husseini‘s long waited for book “Murder in the Name of Honour” is going to be released in the United Kingdom on May 28th and in the USA on June 26th of this year.  The Arabic version of the book is going to be released in October 2009.

Rana Husseini's Murder in the name of Honour

As you all know, Rana has been advocating against this brutal practice for the past 16 years.  The book is an accumulation of cases she covered in Jordan as well as a documentation of the efforts and events that took place in the long process of combating this murder. The book is also a documentation of worldwide cases and efforts that were exerted by many countries, organizations and individuals to end this practice mostly targeted against women and their right to life.

Furthermore, the book includes a section on the social and medical aspects of this murder, it concludes with recommendations as to what can be done to end these crimes worldwide. One part of the book describes Rana’s efforts, among others’, in exposing the hoax Jordanian-American writer Norma Khouri and the effects her book had on this part of the world.

Rana hopes that this book will be another tool for raising awareness as well as a reference for human rights advocates locally and internationally. It is also a source for anyone interested in learning more about this issue from a credible and objective source.

The book is available on Amazon.com and other websites for pre-order.

You can reach Rana Husseini on her email: honorcrimes@ranahusseini.com

Been a long time fan of Rana and her great work, really excited to read the book from cover to cover!

There will be a book launch and signing event in Jordan at Readers at somepoint, will post when I know the exact date.

Freelancing + Jordan = Drama 4

Freelancing is great, we surely need more freelancers in Jordan and everywhere else. Designers, programmers, accountants, copywriters, translators, event managers…you name it; all companies need it.

There are numerous problems with freelancing in Jordan:

  1. Most people claiming to freelance have actually full-time jobs that prohibit it.
  2. The above will cause you delays by default, because as there jobs are demanding you will have to be put as a second priority and suffer delays in your job request.
  3. If they are actually 100% freelancers chances are they haven’t found someone to pay them for a full time job yet, and they will work with you until that dream job comes to life. Then, you get screwed over with delays and half a$$ed work.
  4. Companies look to save with freelancers, elsewhere in the world a freelancer/contractor gets paid very well for a contracting Job to make up for the lack of full-time employment benefits. Which is a fair deal.

I think there should be an initiative to make self-employment a valid choice in the country:

  1. Pay fair rates to freelancers while committing to pay on time.
  2. Freelancers to become more professional and committed in their engagements.

I think a time like now with the economical situation everyone is facing, freelancing can save lots of companies. Most of which are not confident about expanding their employee base for fear of stable revenues, can really use a professional freelancer network to still satisfy their current projects and not commit to a larger employee base if the economical situation worsens and they their revenue levels decline.

People who prefer a relaxed and personally managed time can use freelancing jobs to help create the lifestyle they seek, working for few months, then taking time off and so on.

Spring launches a new website 0

Yes, finally Spring has a real website!

Check it out @ http://hellospring.net

Though we love the one pager Ahmad did almost 2 years ago; yet, telling people the old saying in Arabic translating to “the carpenter’s door is broken” got really embarrassing lately.

And since spring 2009 is almost here; we thought this is the time to get our website out!

A detailed list of our services is there plus a showcase of some of our projects. Also you can follow us on twitter.

Gaza, the Momentum 1

The following post is a result of several conversations I had first hand with friends, facebook status messages I read, twitter messages I received. News articles I read. YouTube videos I watched…

From calls for for bloody Zionist Israel to stop its genocide in Gaza, to calls to Egypt, Jordan to cut their ties with Zionist Israel, to calls to Arab states to open the borders for Jihad in reflection upon news reports of children murdered, to innocent civilian life butchered for 22 consecutive days (till date), after years of blockade over Gaza.

From hundred of rallies walked, all sorts of flags risen, all sort of chants cried, all sort of boycott calls, of strikes, of prayers.

The momentum created by this new Zionist Israeli massacre should be carried not for days or months or years.

But for as long as it takes.

To save this momentum, action needs to happen. This same obsession over the past three weeks should result in grassroots actions. Forget our governments, forget the US, European officials. We need to bring our message to the masses around the globe.

Those were the words of many people around me.

What’s happening today in Gaza is the new deir yassin, the new sabra and shatila and the world needs to know the details of what has been happening. The gory details. Every story should be told. Those who died. Those who were injured and those who got the shock of their lives.

“I don’t want to forget what’s happening and how it made me feel a year from now…” – Ola

“We need to continue to donate to save more lives over there…” – Diala

“we need lawyers to start preparing a law suit against the murderous Israeli government.” – Ahmad

We need people to better brand this massacre, we need to launch hundreds of  websites to  put faces to all those who were killed & injured and collect each and every story, with any kind of media we can use.

Let’s have an action plan…

love, life and Ramallah 1

Alma moved us today with her stories and experiences during her art residency at Qattan Foundation in Ramallah Nov-Dec 2008 where she collected love stories from people there.

Artist Talk by alma Khasawnih

Artist Talk by alma Khasawnih

She talked about love.

Telling a tale of Mohammed the 40 year old divorcee who’s still in love, then another Mohammad, the tormented lover, then a third one too. Connecting and disconnecting. The deserted lover’s park, the lonely benches. Observing lovers. Romantic Indian films watched by men in the cafe.

Alma’s passion ignited hearts in the room. We  laughed, we contemplated about our own love stories, we were moved.

This event by far, was the most entertaining event I have attended in years.

Goodbye 2008 – Bad Hair Year! 2

A reflection 2

Been reflecting about my premature come back from Canada 2.5 years ago continuously all through since then. For all the mix of reasons I thought of then when I made the decision, coupled with the numerous disappointments the move brought with it; I thought I’d be forever haunted by that decision. The big what if?

Recently however, I came into a self discovery that stopped this thread of thought forever I think.

I discovered that my heart was and forever will be in Amman.

And no matter what Canada, the US or the west offered. Its here in Amman where I want to make it. Turned out not a 50-50 of a great life. More like 40-60 with the latter for Amman.

This discovery brought peace into my mind and regardless of any future decisions to move or not. I know I will always come back to Amman and its where I will grow old amongst family and friends.

Who stole your cheese? 3

To Al Ghad editorial team and co; I totally feel with you as soon enough you will question the fact that you can’t find your cheese anymore.

Because it’s really tough to wake up one day and suddenly find no cheese. Especially if you happen to live in a box located right in the middle of the jungle called life and you eat one type of cheese everyday. There are lots of dangerous people out there in the jungle. You know what I mean, those adventurous folk that go discover new types of cheese everyday to feed from. Crazy crazy people they are. Who needs new cheese when you have your great cheese recipe that has been passed on to you for generations? You know the one that lead you to write such a lousy article and state such scientifically (mental health) erroneous claims by all professional standards.

I say get out of your box into the jungle, and stop being afraid of what you may see and find. Have a new perspective. Because really who wants to be ignorant in this time and age? Get your facts straight. Put more opinions, catch a larger audience, be a positive instrument of change, of delivering a good message that is tolerant in its essence. Be bolder, be controversial, bring something new to the table and start a healthier conversation where we can definitely disagree yet with utter respect to our brains.

The only constant is change, and no matter how much you scream out now you can’t fight it when it has strong foundations like the issue of sexuality in general and homosexuality in specific.  Soon enough people are going to look-up your article as an example of what newspapers used to write during Jordan’s dark ages by then your type of cheese will be the minority.

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