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

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 :-)

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!

Another brilliant holographic laser projection technology! 0

Meet Light Blue Optics‘ Holographic Laser Projection (HLP) Technology!

Can’t wait till we can use LightTouch at the office! or LightSpeed in my future car!

More on Light Blue Optics technology here.

(Discovered from an ArabCrunch.com post)

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!

Sixth Sense Projection Technology Demo 1

Amazing technology, can’t wait for it to be commercialized with a better product design!

A day in the Internet 0

A Day in the Internet
Created by OnlineEducation.net

Graph of the day, Iraqi civilian deaths since 2003 [BBC] 0

Just saw this graph while reading about the tragedy of the car bombings that swept Baghdad/Iraq earlier today on BBC with 127 killed and over 400 wounded  :-(

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, this graph is about thousands of lost lives…[RIP]

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8400865.stm

BBC News - Baghdad car bombs cause carnage

BBC News - Baghdad car bombs cause carnage

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!

Summer internships available @ Spring 0

are you bored of studying the whole year?

want to spend the summer training in the real world?

do you have a training requirement with your university?

are you a  student who loves to learn who to develop websites using PHP?

are you a great web developer in-the-making?

Come find out!

If you and your laptop plan to spend the summer in Amman, Jordan; all you need to do is send us an email describing your self, your hobbies, your interests, what you know and what you’d like to learn at hello[at]hellospring.net

If you know anyone who might be interested, please pass the word around!

We currently have two openings for a 3 month paid internship either Jun -August or July – September.

For more information go to http://hellospring.net

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.

Greed, the deadliest sin? 2

I’ve always thought that Greed is the deadliest sin of all 7 deadly sins. This video shows the spiral that created the credit crisis.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

By far this is the best narrated visual explanation of the Credit Crisis I saw as of yet.

The most important aspect I learned before I decided to start a company was how to always calculate risk before taking it. To visualize the probability of the worst outcome, and how much damage it can do to me on all levels. If I am ok with it not being the end of the world then I can take the risk in hopes of the higher return of course.

You’d think the people on Wall St. would be a million times better at this, you have specialists in high risk investment for god’s sake. The moment that more than one bank started buying sub-prime mortgages; flags should have been risen everywhere. But I guess that’s when the financial system monitoring failed big time, everywhere. Because any person with little knowledge would know this to be the start of the end.

Yet, using simplified logic, one bank did it, then other banks thought why don’t we try it as well and mass hysteria started. The ability to fool your self, your own logic, economics 101 and experience is one great ability people have. And when greed takes over this ability becomes magnified. Happened in 2000 with the burst of the .com bubble as well.

What’s the next market? Alternative energy?

Note: Thanks TrippleM for posting this on Twitter.

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  :-)

SYNTAX & Spring sponsor Makan's new website 0

As Makan is turning 7, SYNTAX & Spring sponsored the design and development of their new website.

makan

Check it out @ http://www.makanhouse.net

This was one of the projects we had most fun in doing, the design was inspired by Makan’s space with its welcoming atmosphere, simple interiors and clarity so comes the chairs and the sofa.

Makan really wanted to turn the website into a virtual space people can visit to learn more about the projects in the archives, get to know the artists who have participated in Bait Makan residency program as well as other programs.

Makan staff as well as residents have a blogging space to document their daily activities, so the blog section should be quite an interesting space to visit in the next few months.

One of the major needs Makan had was the ability to get feedback on exhibitions held at Makan after the even. In the new website, all events have a space for visitors to comment and give feedback to the artists after they have seen the exhibition.

Shatana, Makan’s flagship event has a section of its own where artists can apply for the workshop -held every year- as well as check the previous workshops; the participating artists and their projects as well as a photo gallery of the whole event.

enough talking, now go enjoy surfing the website :-)

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.

Resumé writing 2.0 0

Ok, I am really fed up with all the resumés I am getting. All with ms word pre-formatted sections! Here is my preferred outline:

First & Last names

Email + Mobile number

(I don’t need to know your middle name or your land line number, your postal address or where you live, if you are married or single, black or white, male of female and please No Picture! I like to be surprised!)

My Passion

(Need I say more?? What are you passionate about doing? design, programming, project management…etc.)

My Experience

(start with the last company/Projects you worked for first, fresh graduates can talk about their graduation project/paper and anything else they self learned, not a list of courses PLEASE)

Start date- End date      XYZ Company

The following are/were my responsibilities:

1. ……..

2. ………………..

What I know how to do very well

PHP, MySQL

What I am planning to learn more about

Drupal

Formal Education

xyz university – major/minor – graduation year

Total pages 1, 2 as a maximum!

That’s all i can think about for now. ideas are welcome!

the next 10 years, platforms over pipelines 0

mmonaa just tweeted this very informative presentation on the next 10 years, what marketing to youth should be all about. Done by Graham Brown from MobileYouth.

Platforms over pipelines.

I like it and i think its how things are today.

[slideshare id=1002156&doc=thenext10-1234036385982686-2]

Latitude, the jealous girlfriend/boyfriend's best friend! 0

The latest tool from Google, Google Latitude sounds partly very very cool and partly very very scary. It seems to me as location-based mobile social networking at its best. You use your Google Maps enabled phone and you get to see where your friends are and what they are up to!

Here is a cool introductory animated video from Google:

Warning: video ID not specified!

Too bad it doesn’t support Jordanian operators yet :-( But I was able to add it to my iGoogle homepage where you set your own location. Not that fun since Amman Map isn’t so advanced.

Some are calling it the jealous girlfriend/boyfriend’s best friend!  But I think like all technologies, if used well and you are able to set your privacy settings you will have so much fun using it.

Blogging 3.0 3

Yes, it has come! Some call it Lifestreaming as well.

Two great tools to turn your blog into a lifestream of everything else you log on the web are here, Swurl and Storytlr.

In both with -some differences- you can aggregate your online life being your blog, twitter account, facebook status, or any RSS feed of any service you choose into a blog like website.

And soon I will move thewebssessed.com domain into one! I’ve tried both but I seem to like storytlr more, simply because they allow you to group different posts from different services into a story which is a very powerful tool Swurl doesn’t have. Also, with storytlr you can import any other RSS feed as well not just stick to the supported services available with storytrl/swurl. However, swurl looks up your friends where people visiting can see what they are up to, also they provide a calandar looking timeline of your online life.

See for yourself:

razano.storytlr.com

storytlr

razano.swurl.com

swurl1

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