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

My personal pledge to the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions 6

Before a new work week starts and to commemorate this incredible weekend, 18 days and year so far; I wanted to write a post about this whole new state of affairs that took us on a roller-coaster of a new kind. But I already shared a lot on Twitter and Facebook through the past month. So I don’t want to add new thoughts or share any more feelings.

I want to share my very personal pledge to all those who stood up high, rose their voices out loud, suffered and died to free a quarter of the Arab World.

1. I will no longer accept the long-standing-and-greatly-accepted-as-a-norm of a defeatism attitude no more. Neither at work or my personal life. When there is a well, there is ALWAYS a way.

2. I will make my voice heard, I will not shy away because I feel my school of thought is a minority.

3. I will make my voice heard, I will not shy away because someone thinks that what is concerning me has “lower” priority than other things that needs fixing in the society I live within.

4. I will make my voice heard, whenever I see someone is doing something I don’t like in my name or with my taxes.

5. I will not let difference of opinion discourage me or others from voicing out our thoughts. We all need to listen and try to understand each other, let’s try to find a common ground.

6. As an entrepreneur/business owner, I will always try to keep my commitment to quality over quantity, to reward with no punishment, to systems of dignity & trust and not belittling doubt, to push as much as possible for consensus over majority, to everyone-is-their-own-boss and finally -yet not least important- to create meaningful experiences, to reduce waste, to contribute value to our environment and society from the ground up.

7. I will read the constitution of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and learn as much as I can about our history, about our laws and regulations and on what it means to live in a democracy. Because, Omar Suleiman thought Egyptians of all people didn’t know what democracy is. I bet you, it’s because he himself didn’t know what it means.

That’s what I though of. I will add more as they come to mind.

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!

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.

Sunny, the feel good music station has a feel good website! 0

SYNTAX and Spring teams are happy to announce the launch of Sunny 105.1 radio station website!

sunny.jo

http://sunny.jo

Sunny a brand designed by SYNTAX and launched in 2008, mow has a very cool fresh website, featuring a blog filled already with feel good stories and tips.

The home page features links to promote Sunny’s social web consisting of its newly created Twitter page as well as its very successful Facebook fan page. a.k.a. more ways to have conversations!

You can listen to the station using the live stream as well as sent a shout (comment) almost at all pages of the website.

As in Play.jo website, you have the cinema and events guides to check out fun activities. But one of the things I love the most about the website, is the very lively background that looks like a real sky. When you go to the about page in particular, you will be able to read the text while the clouds move behind it, very cool right?

Enough talk, go and feel good now :-)

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)

airport

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!

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.

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.

Global financial crisis: Jordan finally speaks…but to Bloomberg! 0

Been desperately trying hear any detailed official commentary on the country’s exposure to the global financial crisis beyond the “we are fine…” sentence, I found something through Google News. (On Jordan’s official silence throughout the crisis read this article on AlGhad (http://alghad.jo/index.php?article=10661)

Bloomberg News in Amman received a fax from Umaya Touqan (Governor or Central Bank of Jordan) on Oct. 7th with answers on their questions; read on…

Jordan Expects `Minor’ Impact From Global Crisis, Governor Says

Highlights:

“The impact of the U.S. financial crisis on Jordan’s growth is expected to stay minor,”

“Jordanian banks are in a safe and sound financial position” as they avoided risks faced by the U.S. banks and some large European banks.”

“Containing inflation pressures is currently Jordan’s most pressing priority,” he said. “Therefore, the prevailing economic conditions suggest that Jordan does not need to ease monetary policy through cutting interest rates.”

“Jordanian banks had very limited exposure’ to Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.” which was the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank before it filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15 and to international asset-backed securities, Toukan said.

Extra important note from the article, not by Umaya…

In an Oct. 1 report, Fitch Ratings Ltd. said because of the kingdom’s banks’ “local focus, current international credit market conditions have not yet had a significant impact on the banking system.” It added that “the Jordanian economy and, therefore, the banking system may be affected by a global economic slowdown, even if only through a decrease in foreign direct investment flows and a reduction in export activity.”

Update: If you would like to know more on about the crisis in relation to Jordan/Middle East/Tech World follow this quest on Questler http://questler.com/explore/quest/view/992

Ramadan mayhem 3

I have been following closely the dialog about the sudden and seemingly unlawful closure of establishments like Books@Cafe in Amman the past couple of weeks.

The best place to follow this conversation is Madian’s article at 7iber.com Closing of Books@Cafe

My first reaction was utter anger mixed with despair and reminder of why I am in so much conflict with the place I live in. Today, only the anger subsided. A very complex issue this has become, and my discomfort of these events comes from different angles.

Simply put, I am not for systems where majority rules and minorities get oppressed as a result. I am not for systems that allow individuals to act outside the law. And I am defiantly not for systems that are confused to the level that they have to decide who to please and who not to please at any given point.

Celebrating Ramadan should not mean squashing all “those” who choose not to fast. Let tolerance rule and everything else will follow suite.

My colleague Ibrahim made a documentary about this dialog and did a great job including a good spectrum of opinions on the subject, yes I was one of the interviewees.

To my surprise later, I was the only Jordanian woman who accepted to participate. Astonishing, really, again women for all the reasons there is for them to participate more in the life in Jordan they choose not to in this one.

http://ikbis.com/Ibrahim/shot/134769

(Embedding videos from IKBIS doesn’t work on my wordpress.com based blog!!!)

Cups and Kilos at the heart of supporting local businesses 5

I’ve been noticing that whenever someone talks about globalization and its effects on Jordan and Amman, Cups and Kilo’s gets mentioned. Whenever, a decent local business that can compete with a global brand on our soil is discussed, then Cups and Kilos gets mentioned. Even when they had problems of being shut down in Abdoun months ago, a facebook group was created in their defense and support! Ok, I know that there is a facebook group for every little things these days, but again I think i have a point :)

It appears to me as if the threat of global businesses with strong brands like Starbucks gets Jordanians hot blooded even if some don’t think that global Starbucks are owned by Zionists. I don’t remember that being the case when MacDonalds and BurgerKing opened. People don’t even mention BlueFig, as the incumbent.

Even Fastlink tried to sell on that concept when it created its “minna ou fina” (from us and within us) slogan yet I don’t think it was as successful as the case with Cups and Kilos. It was more of a joke between fastlinkers!

Way to go Cups and Kilos! and a big cheer to all local business owners (including me :D ) that are doing their best to create world-class brands and customer experiences. And no they didn’t pay me to post this!

over 18 female in Jordan?…sorry you are half an adult! 7

I was shocked and scared the other day when a friend of mine told me that a 25 year old woman who was hanging out with friends at Books@Cafe; was forced against her will by the police to go back to her parents place which it seems she fled few weeks ago!

Seemingly, if you are a woman in Jordan, your father OWNS you until he transfers the ownership to your future husband. Care to have a life of your own? Nope. You are not an adult, there will always be some male in your family responsible for you. No sorry, if you kill someone, steal something you still will go to Jail, your male family friend can’t be responsible about those actions.

HELLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

We don’t know anything about the girl in question, only that against all tries of the owners of the cafe, the police still took her while she was screaming and saying “I don’t want to live with you” to her family. Destination of course is a hospital to check her virginity. Failed attempts to check if they killed her or not. As it seems there is nothing anyone can do.

SAD SAD people are Jordanians, me included. Here I am a 33 year old, a career woman, a business owner but no, according to the Jordanian law, i have to have, “waly amer” to control my life. Where was my “waly amer” when I registered my company? or applied for a new passport? What the hell is this?

Outraged.

Children Museum: Sorry you are too old to enter! 0

A fried of mine passed by today and told me that she was so disappointed that they wouldn’t allow her and her brother to enter the Children’s Museum today because they didn’t have a child 13 or younger with them! Read her post at When Your Inner Child Doesn’t Count by Shalabieh

This is outrageous,  I mean why can’t adults be allowed to enter? A public space built by our tax money and you can’t enter?!!!

Yazan Rousan, agwa noo3 1

If you have not heard of Yazan Rousan or any of his songs, then as an ammany you are definitely missing something BIG!

I don’t think I want to call his songs “songs” because his lyrics and the way he sings them is just wildly amazing, some are out of nowhere and some hit home big time. He definitely has a style of his own with his dark glasses, and cynical sense of humor!

Yazan @ Kanabayeh Dec 22, 2007

Yazan, Agwa noo3 indeed! (translates to “best kind” oh well!)

A good day for the Jordanian woman 0

Last Wednesday, my longtime friend and a community icon, Rana Hussieni received a royal medal for her contributions to the advancement of human rights in Jordan. http://www.jordantimes.com/index.php?news=3117

Though recognizing Rana in Jordan took years to happen, she is the proud holder of many international awards and a worldwide feminist icon referred to in conferences and women studies programs worldwide.

Rana makes me and lots of people I know proud. Her determination and dedication to reporting the so called “honor crimes” cannot be described but courageous and daring. Two very important characteristics every reporter should have, thus she shines amongst the Jordanian and Arab journalists for that.

Being recognized with a royal medal only signifies the level of support Rana is getting in Jordan. The highest possible. And that gives us hope that change will be forced sooner than later where those criminals are thought of as murderers and not as defending their so called honor.

For the past two years, Rana was busy writing her book “Murder in the Name of Honor” which is to be published next year. All of us are waiting anxiously to buy it and read through it!!

Congratulations Rana and good luck :-)

Rana Husseini

Another "brick in the wall" of freedom of expression in Jordan 0

I just got the news that the Jordanian government represented by the Print & Publishing Department will extend its sad and frustrating laws onto online websites, most probably the vast amount of web-based blogs and press sites. Very frustrating, I don’t know if my blog on hosted on WordPress will be included as well but it doesn’t look like it. So this is a downer for all Jordanian blog based services like Maktoob and others.

From reading the article in today’s Al Dustoor, a number of people are threatening legal action if the government starts to actually implement this.

In my opinion, this is a weak ‘s man try at controlling something that is obviously out of their control. Insecure and totally ridiculous to even talk about. How will Jordan be able to actually advance economically, socially and technologically ever if we prohibit people to think and express freely!

From not allowing atv to air yet, to this. I think we have two big forces fighting for our future, one wants to take us back to stone ages and one wants to take us forward.

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