Saturday, April 14, 2012

Re:Publica and The BOBs

 This yeas I was selected to become a jury-member of Deutsche Welle's Best of Blog Awards, the BOBs. The BOBs was launched in 2004 and it honours websites in 11 languages that champion the open exchange of ideas and freedom of expression.

My role in to evaluate the submitted Arabic blogs - and other social media entries - and select the best of them in the different categories of the competition. I am proud of the choices I made in each category and I find them all good representatives of the Arab social media scene and blogsphere this year.
  • Best Video Channel: In this category I chose Mosireen (مصرين). They define themselves as “a non-profit media collective born out of the explosion of citizen journalism and cultural activism in Egypt during the revolution“. What is special about them is the quality of the videos they publish covering the incidents in Egypt, the interviews they make and their impact is clear in the number of views they have, about 3 million viewers. There's also their frequent updates and the fact that mainstream media rely on their videos a lot.
  • Special Topic Award Education and Culture: In this category I chose 7iber (حبر). In their about page the website is described as a platform that “provides original, creative and interesting content, seeking to better inform our audience of untapped Jordanian issues as well as providing local perspectives and first-hand accounts of news, politics, arts and culture”. Although they encourage debates and contents whether they are political or cultural one, it’s clear that the coverage of the cultural matters on the platform are distinctive. They list calendars of upcoming cultural events taking place in Jordan. There are sections there discussing issues such as theatre, environment, photos and videos from Jordan. They also host debates offline under the name Hashtag Debates to discuss political, cultural and social issues. They offer fresh content whether on the website or on their YouTube channel, the site’s design is excellent and easy to surf. 
  • Best Use of Technology for Social Good: In this category I chose Harassmap (خريطة التحرش الجنسي). It’s meant to fight sexual harassment in Egypt. They allow victims to reports harassment incidents and tie them to their location and type on a map. Reports can be done via the website or via SMS. They also sponsored campaign to raise awareness for the issue via hashtag on twitter and tweets are displayed on the website or by asking people to blog for the cause on a special day. They uses Ushahidi platform. 
  • In the Best Blog category comes Jou3an (مواطن جوعان), in the Best Social Activism Campaign category comes FreeRazan Facebook Page (الحرية للمدونة رزان غزاوي), for the Reporters Without Borders Award comes Trella (مدونة تريلا), and for the Best Arabic Blog category comes 11 blogs where you have to choose one of them. 

I find it a good chance for us to get to know blogs from outside our own region, and that's why I invite you to read the brief about the different entries in each category, and it would be better if you can also read their own language and visit them, and then vote for the best entries in each category. Voting is allowed once per category per 24 hours per network, so you can (and it's good to) vote everyday in the blue box on top of this page. Also spread the word about your favourite entries in the competition and invite others to visit them and vote for them if they want to.

I will be in Berlin for The Best of Blogs related meeting and I will also participate in the re:publica. I will be participating in a panel with Leila Nachawati, Claire Ulrich and Zulfikar Abbany.

May 7, 2012 - Update: 

Related Links:
DW: 2 out of 6 winners of The BOBs jury awards are Arabs
DW: Re:publica - Has the Arab Facebook revolution lost steam?
Best of the Blogs 2012: Winners Announced
A Global Voices Guide to re:publica Berlin 2012
Re:publica 2012: libertad y vigilancia, tecnología y futuro
Berliner Zeitung: Blogger leben gefährlich
Blogger: Internet in Ägypten wichtiger als klassische Medien
Re:publica 2012: Die Medienlandschaft nach dem arabischen Frühling [Video]

Citizen Journalists Workshop in Mahalla

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Egyptian city of El-Mahalla El-Kubra for the first time. I went there as a part of a series of workshops organized by Meedan and the Birmingham City University Centre for Media and Cultural Research that aim to train citizen journalists. The prominent blogger and tweep, Lilian Wagdy, gave the first training in Tahrir Lounge in Cairo. Then came my turn to give the second training in the Egyptian Democratic Academy in El-Mahalla, and more workshops are to take place in other Egyptian governorates in the future.

It was a two days workshop, attended by about 25-30 persons. I started by asking them the difference between between "News and Information" then we went to social media and how one can find news (and information) there, and the second session was about "Finding News Sources on Twitter", we then discussed the Egyptian Law and the "Publishing Offences". The fourth session was about "Creative Commons", its different licensing options and how one can find content published under such license. The following two sessions, one was about "Folksonomy, Geo-tagging, and the different meta-data that can be assigned to videos, photos, and other online content", the second one was about news curation and "How to create news stories using social media updates". We then used the knowledge learnt in the previous sessions to find out "Techniques for Verifying Tweets and Photos published online". And finally there was a quick intro to tools such as "URL Shortening", "", and some other "Tips and Tricks" useful for citizen journalists.

During the first day, I noticed that Facebook was more popular than twitter and blogs there, hence there was a brief intro to twitter, and how one can create a new blog on blogspot and start publishing posts there. The trainees were given assignments to create blogs of their own if they do not have one already, then use the knowledge learnt previously to publish a post that summarizes a discussion taking place on social media, i.e. curate those tweets and statuses updates and create a news story out if them. Some create new blogs and added posts there, some did their assignment offline in a word file, promising to create a blog later on, some started a blog but didn't have time to finish the assignment given to them and some already had blogs. By the end of of the workshop, we showed entries from the different trainees - including their Facebook notes - and asked the others to comment and criticize them. Then they voted for the best two entries, and their authors were given a present.

El-Mahalla is an industrial city, and it's the same city where the general strike, called by the textile workers, took place in April 6, 2008. The April 6th Youth Movement was formed initially as a group in solidarity with the Mahalla workers, and the strikes are believed to be one of the major steps that led to the Egyptian revolution 3 years later. And this was clear in the political awareness of the trainees, a lot of social and political discussions took place during the workshops. Most of them are already members of political parties and movements. One day after the sessions, and even though it was a bit late, they told me that they all are going to mark lanes in the nearby streets and paint the pavements in collaboration with April 6th movement. They didn't want to wait for the government to do that for them, so they arranged with the authorities yet crowdfunded the needed resources and decided to beautify their city themselves. I am not sure if it's a coincidence, or what, but almost all of the trainees were members of liberal political parties and movements, as opposed to Muslim Brotherhood and Salafy parties. They support different presidential candidates, however I expected Khaled Aly to have some support there yet couldn't find any significant support for him among the trainees. They said they find him a good person though. The trainees also had good knowledge in the field of media, since there are local newspapers and radio channels in El-Mahalla city and some of them works there or at least deal with them in a way or another.

As Lilian Wagdy highlighted, the ultimate goal of these workshops is to introduce trainees to a reporting platform developed by Meedan and adopted by one of Egypt’s best-known independent newspapers, Al-Masry Al-Youm. The platform,, is designed to support citizen journalists to verify and disseminate important citizen reporting, and to encourage mainstream journalists to feel more secure in using citizen media content. Hence, we didn't end the sessions before introducing the trainees to the platform and how to use it.

Finally, you can find the slides used in the workshop, as well as many other useful resources on the following website:

Related Links:
Gr33nData on training citizen journalists in Mahalla

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mapping Social Web to Physical World

This weekend I participated in a meeting organized by ACSUR and AMDH, the meeting took place in Bouznika in Morocco, under the name "Mediterranean Meeting of Youth for Democracy and Human Rights". In it I talked about how awareness campaigns and rovlts make use of the knowledge learnt from Social Web, and how concepts like "Retweet", "Share", "Comments" and "Hashtags" are mapped from the Internet to the physical world. I focused on initiatives such as Kazeboon and TweetShare3 as examples.

And here is a link to the slides for my presentation there.