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

Archive for the 'Startups' Category


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

“NO TIES, NO HIGH HEALS, NO BUSINESS SUITES, CASUAL WEAR ONLY” ;-)

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

En route to ArabNetME 1

Yes, it’s been over two months since my last post as I’ve been very busy and swamped with lots of operational and financial stuff at work. The only thing that kept me going is working on one very innovative project SYNTAX and Spring are cooking these days, yes I can’t say more about it now :p

So, I am thinking the best thing for me to do is to end the first quarter of what so far has been a very tough year at work by attending ArabNetMe, the region’s first dedicated conference for the web industry (as Ahmad said, it came 10 years late! I guess, better late than never in this case).

From the minute I heard about this conference, I was skeptical it would be something I would look forward to attend. Why? With my low attention span and my need to engage in a conversation or discussion and not just listen to people talk for hours; simply, I am not a conference person.

Having attended so few conferences in my life so why this one?

First and foremost, I need to get WEBsessed again.

Whether by coming up with new ideas, or taking existing ideas to new directions. ArabNetMe would be a great place to meet a lot of people that talk the same language, share the same passion and where geeks like me are more than welcome! I’m thinking the energy there must re-ignite my passion for creating more web stuff.

Second, is my utmost respect to Omar Christidis and his team. I mean look at the energy this guy came with and what he was able to accomplish in few months. A very impressive list of speakers that someone like me who has a strong conference-o-phobia couldn’t resist attending.

Excited to listen and participate in the conversation, catch up with the people I know there, meet face-to-face the ones I’ve been following on Twitter and meet all those other people I never heard of :-)

AramramTV, behind the scenes 1

After listening and broadcasting us (Internet Entrepreneurs) for the past few months; Serene Al-Ahmad & Mohammad Khairy from AramramTV team get a chance to talk about their own creation this time around in a -very well done -video interview by Mohammad Azraq and Amahl Khouri.

They talk about some of their projects and their original approach that differentiates them within Jordan and the region. Moreover, they talk about their own take at bridging the divide between east and west Amman.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOcuH2Wj3XI

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.

My 5 Things MBA Schools Won't Teach You 1

Was just reading OnStartups latest post  Startups: 10 Things MBA Schools Won’t Teach You and getting all excited I started to comment then I felt I had more than one item to share, so thought to just blog it!

1. Its a roller coaster ride, one day you think you are on top of the world; the next day you might be thinking of how to close shop!

2. Having reserves is so nice on an excel sheet, working to actually have some is a totally different story.

3. A two week collection time on an invoice is not as binding as you might think it is. Every client has their own payment policy, prepare to be agile in planning your cash flow!

4. Giving a big discount to get more work from a client in the future, is a hoax. Next time -most of the time – they will demand the same discount for giving you more work! Make sure you know what you are doing!

5. Doing good is great, and if you are as passionate about the stuff you help build as I am, then you need to exert a lot of effort into how many pro bono/at-cost projects you might want to do. This however, they teach you very well in MBA schools!

That’s it for now!

Disclaimer: I don’t have an MBA.

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!

folowen

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 :)

Wolfram|Alpha launches tonight! @ 7pm CDT 0

Ok it is one hardcore WEBsessed post. it even has a geeky name.

Wolfram | Alpha, the new product out of Wolfram Research labs (world known for their Matmatica product) is promising to be the real deal search engine. I think Google finally has the prospect of a real competitor.

wolfram-logoThis search engine is smart, is semantic and promises to use natural language search something we’ve always wanted to have. Most people in semantic search talk about RDF (restructuring the Internet) so machines as people can talk to each other. Wolfram team thought no, that would take a long time. Lets code smart algorithms to get the answers we want.

Well they say its here. Watch the introductory video to understand more and watch a demo.

Watch the countdown video and later live broadcast  here.

Twitter, it's all about attitude 1

This is the time where the real power and promise of a service, a tool, a community portal or a social medium is when it turns into a Platform with a capital P.

Of all the thousands of web apps that started since 2005 till date, only few have made that leap. Facebook was the new kid on the block two years ago, when it turned its API into a platform.

But one can learn so much from comparing the story of Facebook and Twitter, the latter being the new hot kid on the block.

Here is how I view those two web brands as people:

Facebook to me is a control freak, from a developer’s perspective they keep changing their API without notifying developers in addition to all those restrictions on their API. From a user perspective, too many changes too soon. To that end, I think they have the highest record of how much interface changes a web app can do in shortest period of time. I think they keep forgetting that the user is the application and the capability of the environment is just the tool! I think to forget that is a sin in the web app development business.

On the other hand Twitter to me is this generous chef who since she moved into the neighborhood has had an open kitchen policy where anyone can use the restaurant’s extra kitchen tools to host their own events!

Soon after they launched, the created their API. Geeks from all over loved it and started using it as users and developers. So many tools were founded that helped people tweet better.

I am guessing that they intended it to be a mobile social network used between friends – real life friends, and that what it was at first. Its now in my view a communication tool free from any specific medium being sms, mobile app, browser or desktop.

Today its potential is in the transformation to be one hell of a data mining tool, as well as a new communication technology as Marshall Kirkpatrick from ReadWriteWeb put it

Show us a simple messaging tool that can be accessed through a wide variety of methods, using only a (hopefully) memorable username of the person you’re trying to communicate with – and we’ll show you a genre of technology that could disrupt not just email, it could disrupt telephony.

I like to believe that Twitter’s attitude is what eventually created the platform and its potential today. Not just PR, lines of code, big developer events or meetings.

Side note: The only other exciting thing next to twitter these days is of course the iPhone and its App Store  :-)

Yamli.com, anglo arabic? 7

I’ve been playing for the past 30 min with this new web app called Yamli. Which enables users to type arabic using roman characters, like we usually do within emails, our official language being arabeezi. So instead of sending an email containing arabic words in roman characters like this one:

Hi Diala? Keefek? shoo el akhbar?

you will type it the same way you typed the above but will get the following text instead:

هاي ديالا؟ كيفك؟ شو الأخبار؟

This could enable more people to communicate with each other in Arabic, since most of us are really slow typing in arabic characters.

Also the service enables you to search Google in arabic as well by again typing how the word sounds in roman characters.

yamli1.gif

I am impressed!

If they allow us in the future to use their editor in third party web apps that would mean wonders to the arab web.

I can hear some loud voices out there saying that we should learn how to type faster in arabic, but since that isn’t happening that fast for some of us i think this web app might be just the solution. They have a Facebook app as well!

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