Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't be Passive. Always have a Bias

It's always easier to blame the two sides, and find it an excuse not to have a bias. And, trust me, you can easily find mistakes committed by the parties on both sides. But the truth is, your role is to support the right against the wrong, regardless of who is in each camp and what did they do.

For me, it is simple, Morsi is just as dictator as Mubarak. Well, the truth is, he is just a puppet, or let me use the Egyptian term here, he is a sheep in the herd, but anyway, he, his party and his group are the ones to be blamed here. They are the ones in power, seeing people dying and not doing any good. They are the ones who lied to people and are still lying.

So, blame El-Baradei or Hamdeen as much as you want, I too, have no problem blaming them if they happen to do anything wrong, but not now. Because what you are doing is just distracting me from the main issue. Just like those who kept on equating Mubarak to the Islamists participating in #Jan25 and asked me not to have a stance because of this. I didn't listen to those voices then, and I won't now, because I hate to be passive. Event if I am too far to do anything, I still have to have as stance.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Loosing faith in Humanity

I am not an Islamist who hates Israel for theological reasons. And I am not a leftist who hates it for ideological reasons. I am just a human who tries not to loose faith in humanity after seeing this photo of a Palestinian baby girl burnt alive with IDF rockets.

A Palestinian medic stands near a body of a girl died after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City November 14, 2012. Terrible terrible loss of life. A short life.

I'm not going to go into the 60-years old debate about who has the right to stay on this land, and who doesn't. I don't even think I have the right to suggest solutions to stop all these blood sheds. I just cannot digest how countries and borders are built on the basis of religion. I cannot understand how citizenships are given on the basis of faith and stories in religious books. And I hate how people think that the existence of one is mutually exclusive to the existence of the other.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Protest Outside The Box

"Why did the protesters go to the embassy of the United States in Cairo?", "The police has all the right to stop them, no matter what" and "Those protesters are mainly stupid and brainwashed". Those are mainly the phrases you are going to see if you happen to follow the Egyptian activists and netizens nowadays.

Like many others, I am against those protests since day one. What's the problem of those protesters? How come it is the USA that is to be blamed just because some people decided to make a film there that the angry protesters find it to be against their religion? Let alone the killing of innocent people in Libya and waving Al-Qaida flag on the anniversary of September 11. And now the protesters are asking for an apology from the States, an apology for having freedom of speech laws! Why not, when we have scholars who call for killing those who participated in that film.

Thanks to the angry protesters who made it easy for me to take such stance this time. I have no reason to sympathize with them. But a year ago, and even during the early days of the Egyptian revolution, I happen to be on the other side of the table. The Egyptians were protesting against the ruling military junta, and back then those whom we used to call remnants of the old regime used to say the exact same phrases I mentioned above to the protesters. "Why did you go to Mohamed Mahmoud street?", "The police has all the right to defend the state against those angry protesters" and "You're brainwashed and following foreign agendas".

I can sure say that the military junta was killing and arresting people, controlling the media, and  they were not democratically elected and ruling the country by brute force, so we had all the right to protest then. And as I said above, the protesters now have no reason to protest this time. But this doesn't seem to be an enough answer to my wonders.

Photo taken by Gigi Ibrahim, under Creative Commons license.

For every protest, in order to unify all protesters, there should be a reason to unify them under its umbrella. Reasons do vary from toppling a regime, to ending military rule, to seeking the rights of the martyrs (like many protests last year). And reason for today's protest are defending Prophet Muhammad. The more noble the reason is, the more easier it is to make others sympathize and even join the protest. But if you give it a second, and a more pragmatic, thought. You'll find out that most of the times those reasons can be noble and true, yet, still there are other reasons that are normally not announced. And here comes my own interpretation of protesting outside the box, that you might choose to agree to totally disagree with.

I think that the main reasons for the protest in front of the embassies of the United States, at least in Egypt, is that the Salafy's felt they were left out. After the Muslim Brotherhood seized the power, they didn't give the Salafy's as much posts in their government as they were expecting. So my interpretation for the protest is that the Salafy's are mainly trying to get back into the picture and to prove to everyone that they have power in the street and can mobilize people. The Muslim Brotherhood on the other hand seemed to be against the protests in the beginning. Most of my friends who are either members of the MB or just emotionally affiliated with them were against it, and they were using the exact reasons I mentioned above for not being in favour of the protests. A short while later, they Brotherhood and Morsi found out that one of their main assets is that they present themselves to the people as an Islamic group. And for sure not participating in "defending Prophet Muhammad" will make them loose a lot of the credibility among their supporters and offer such credibility to the Salafy's on a silver plate. So later on, the Brotherhood changed their tone, and started to call for a million man march in support of the cause. But once more, they realized that they are now in power, and they don't only deal with local matters, but they also have international relations to look after. Hence Morsi and Khairat El Shater were very cautious doing their tightrope walking and trying to please both the Egyptian voters as well as their  own peers in the White House.

Many activists might hate me for this, but the protests that took part last November and December, also had secondary reasons other than toppling the military junta and seeking the rights of the martyrs. The Brotherhood used to say then, that the protests are happening few days before the parliamentary elections, and the non-Islamist protesters are trying to postpone or even cancel the elections since they are sure that the Islamists are going to lead in the elections. I didn't agree with that back then, and I still don't agree much with it now, but I think they weren't totally wrong either. Part of the protests were a way for the protesters to get themselves back to the picture before the elections and a way to grab the voters attention.

Few days ago the Ultras (football fans) were demonstrating in front of a football stadium as they didn't want the Super Cup match to be played before the ones behind the killing of 74 football fans last February to be punished. No one can deny how noble is their cause, yet it was hard for me to see it as the only reason behind the protest. Many more protests in front of the Minister of the Interior or the Israeli embassy, etc. They all needed a second thought from you to tell what are their secondary, or may be primary, unannounced reasons.

I just realized now that there is no ethics in politics, or let me say, there is not absolute good and bad there. Two parties might do the same thing, yet you chose to side with one and stand against the other. I used to do this, and I guess I will continue to do the same. Sometimes the devil is in the details of each action, and that's how you can decide which one is ethical and which one is not. But most of the time you just have to follow your senses. And I do not mean by this that you shouldn't try your best to make the most ethical choices, in fact, I just want you to stick to your ethics all the time. It's only that things will rarely be that clear, so keep your eyes wide open and be ready for all possibilities.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Paralympics not Pitylympics

Yesterday was the last day of the 2012 Summer Paralympics that took place in London. Throughout the games people have been sharing photos of the athletes on Facebook and other social media platforms. Challenge plays a major part in sports in general. We love seeing people challenging each other as well as challenging their own selves. We love seeing records being broken. We watch the Olympics to see how strong, fast and high humans can go. And that is reflected in photos, except when it comes to the Paralympics. Or at least this is what I've noticed in the photos people share the most on social media.

The above photo is one good example of what I'm talking about. I'm not sure if you can read Arabic, but in most of the comments [Ar] on this photo on Facebook, people are basically saying, "Thank God who spared us from what he has afflicted other people". Please tell me if I'm the only one who finds such comments stupid and silly. We do not see the athlete's name under the photo, no one has any idea how he finished the race, what records he broke, or not. All what people have is a photo of him starting the race as well as pity on him.

Now have a look at the above photo. You think she felt down while running in some race or something, right? Well, no, that's the long jumping competition. And guess what, all long jump athletes fall down in the sand after they jump whether they are in the Paralympics or the Olympics.

Well, there are for sure comments about the athletes' strong will. They didn't give in to their disabilities and decided to play sports, just like non-disabled people. But why shouldn't they?

Okey, let me surprise you now. According to this article in the Telegraph. "The average man jogs at a speed of 8.3 mph, or 100m in 27 seconds", and "the fastest among us can sprint 100m at a speed of 15.9 mph, or between 13-14 seconds". In this year games, the Finnish athlete Leo-Pekka Tähti finished his 100m race in 13.63 seconds on his wheelchair. So he is fastest than most of us, while he is on a wheelchair!

May be this is how social media works. But let's remember that those athletes didn't go to London looking for pity, but they are there looking for records to break.

Till next post, I'll leave you with this beautiful short film, The Butterfly Circus, starring Nick Vujicic:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

El-Gohary: More Than History

I was on my way back from the Friday prayers when a stranger in the street gave me a poster of the Egyptian national football team. That was in November 17, 1989, and I still remember that afternoon like it was yesterday. Egypt was having a football match against Algeria in the World Cup qualification. Egypt had to win that match to go to the World Cup held in Italy the upcoming year, and it did it.

Some months later, Egypt was having its first match in the World Cup with The Nederlands. That was the first time for my generation, as well as my father's generation, to see Egypt in the World Cup, the previous time we went there was in 1934, and by coincidence it was in Italy too. A friend told me in the morning that he had a computer program that can predict match results and it says Egypt will loose 9-nil. Sure he was bluffing, but it reflects how strong was the Dutch team in our eyes then compared to the Egyptian one. That was my first football match to watch ever. I was learning the football rules while watching it. And we had a 1-1 draw! Moments later, it was also my first time to see floods of Egyptians chanting and dancing in the streets. Now, more than 20 years later it is still our last time to see Egypt playing in the world cup finals so far.

Few years later, I became obsessed with football, and I happened to support a football team that has more defeats in its history than wins, El-Zamalek. But that year it won, not only the Egyptian league, but the African Champions League, and it followed it by the African Super Cup later on.

Eight years after the country's appearance in World Cup, it failed to make it to the two upcoming ones, and it hadn't won any of the African Cup of Nations trophies held outside Egypt since the 50's. But this time, Egypt made it to the final of the championship held in Burkina Faso in 1998, and bet South Africa 2-0, and we are the champions!

For an Egyptian born in the 80's who used to support El-Zamalek. Those are the most important events of football history to me. But this is not the only thing in common between all those events, the most important thing in common between them, is that in all those events it was Mahmoud El-Gohary who was the coach managing the national or local team I was supporting.

El-Gohary is one of the most important figures in the history of Egyptian and African football, and is considered by many as the best Egyptian football coach ever. He was the only one in Egypt's entire history to play in Al-Ahly and become the coach of its rival El-Zamalek later on. This - beside his achievements on the national level - made him loved by all Egyptian football fans regardless of which local team they support. And that's why everyone I know was so sad after they know he passed away few days ago.

I believe the least to be done is to name Cairo Stadium after him.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Breakfast with Socrates

“Given that Socrates was effectively assassinated by poison, you might think twice before accepting his invitation to breakfast”. This is how Robert Rowland Smith opened his book, Breakfast with Socrates.

People know I'm a slow reader. It takes me ages to read a book. Slow enough to get bored of books I am reading and leave them before finishing them. But this one was interesting enough that I couldn't but finish it. The thing about this book, not only that it introduced me to names like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva and Jacques Derrida, and reintroduced me to others such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Max Weber and René Descartes, whom I rediscovered his most famous phrase "Cogito ergo sum" here. But also - just like other philosophy books - it makes you discover new meanings and interpenetration for your everyday life.

We wake up everyday, but it's nice to know how "waking up" and "discovering the truth" are related: “The associations get only richer and more intense when you realise that the very concept of truth - the cornerstone of philosophy and religion alike, let alone law - also rests heavily on the meaning of waking up. And you don't need a philosopher to appreciate it, because there are clues to its dependency in everyday phrases such as 'waking up to the truth', 'my eyes were opened' and even 'wake up and smell the coffee'. If such phrases hint that waking up and truth are bedfellows of some sort, you need only go back to the ancient Greek for corroboration. There you'll find that the word truth is 'aletheia', from which in English we get the word for 'lethargy'. But see how the Greek word is 'a-letheia' rather than letheia - that is truth is the opposite of lethargy. And what is opposite of lethargy, if not waking up?”

After waking up, you put on your clothes and make yourself ready to go to work. But don't we all feel too lazy to go to work most of the time? May be Freud has interpretation for this: “Getting ready is that point in the day when the rivalry between the two needs is likely to peak, because we are making transition from being at home and pleasing ourselves (ego) to going out and having to conform to a series of norms an conventions (superego). We become less ego and more superego with each button we fasten”.

How come on the one hand we cover our pubic with clothes, yet on the other hand, we want to attract the opposite sex? “Clothes exist to hide the pubic from the public and therefore make you socially acceptable. The irony is that, precisely because they are a prerequisite for social inclusion, wearing clothes has become almost more natural than being naked ... To that established irony, we can add a more subtle one. As anyone who has been on a date well knows, clothes aren't just about covering you up: while you need them to hide your sex, you want them to show your sexuality”.

Smith later discusses lots of things, such as shopping. “Let's remember you can still go shopping without buying, because where buying is a matter of need, shopping is a question of want”. As well as credit cards. With money you buy things using the money you earned from work you have done in the past, but with credit card you are buying things for work yet to be done in the future. “Credit' comes from the Latin 'credere', 'to believe', for credit is the belief that the money you're borrowing will someday be returned, a belief that needs the future to function in”.

The write also discusses languages, and reading, and how words in a book needs reader as well as the writer to put meanings to them. “[Roland] Barthes turned the thable on the author, saying no only the a book needs a reader to wake it into life, but that in so doing the reader becomes nothing less that the author, who reveals in the book's hermeneutic possibilities, releases them and so becomes its own creator.”

The book consists of 18 chapters, each discussion one single detail of your day, from waking up to travelling to work, to bunking off, to going to the gym, to watching TV, to having sex, to sleeping. And since it serves as an introduction to philosophy, the author recommends a list of books to read after you finish this one, such as:

  • The Discourse on the Method, René Descartes
  • The Last Days of Socrates, Plato
  • Basic Writings of Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Points...: Interviews, 1974-1994, Jacques Derrida
  • The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
  • Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Carl Jung
  • A Barthes Reader, Roland Barthes
  • Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre
  • The Foucault Reader, Michel Foucault
  • From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Max Weber
  • Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Walter Benjamin
  • The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a Science of Mythology, Claude Levi-Strauss
  • Capital: An Abridged Edition, Karl Marx
  • The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
And let me add:
  • The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
  • Rhetoric, Aristotle
  • The Nature of Things, Lucretius

"Philosophy is about recognising the ambiguity of life as it is lived", Breakfast with Socrates.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In the Name of Identity

In case you are wondering if you can beat the record of longest sexual intercourse ever, I can assure you that you can't. This is because the one I am going to write about here is longer than you can ever imagine. It started centuries before we were born, and it is lasting forever. And for sure you've witnessed parts of it, the two bastards involved here are shamelessly fucking each other on TV screens, on your twitter timeline, and in public locations such as churches, mosques, synagogues, parliaments and presidential palaces. Those two shameless bastards are called Politics and Religion.

Today, the Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was in Tehran attending the Non-Aligned Movement summit. I haven't listened to a recording of his speech there yet, but from what I've heard, it seems to have been a good one, and he said it was an "ethical duty" to support the Syrian people against the "oppressive regime" in Damascus.

What really alerts me is the reactions I've seen here during and after the speech. From, so-called, activists calling for receiving Morsi in the airport, to others writing poems praising Morsi. All of this is not because of some political actions he have done, or for any tangible advances in the Egyptian economy, education or healthcare. All this is because of that victorious moment when a Sunni politician goes to Iran, slap them in the face by praising some historic figures they - supposedly - cannot tolerate seeing them be praised. He opened his speech by praising God and some men who died centuries ago, wheres the Sunni Muslims in Egypt and in the Gulf States admire, and they believe that the Shia Muslims in Iran hate them like hell, and this was more than enough to create a Golden Calf out of Morsi for us to receive in the airport, and worship later on.

Photo taken by Sonny Abesamis under CC-BY license.

In his book "In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong", Amin Maalouf wrote how we are obsessed with categorizing people according to their identities, "Since I left Lebanon in 1976 to establish myself in France, I have been asked many times, with the best intentions in the world, if I felt more French or more Lebanese". He then added, "When I am asked who I am deep inside of myself, it means there is, deep inside each one of us, one belonging that matters". And for many here, that one belonging is their religion, or even sect.

They define themselves according to that one identity. It is the castle they get into when fighting with others who belong to other identities. And it is the only way they seek personal victory through. Those who support Bashar when he oppresses the Sunnis in Syria and those who support the regime in Bahrain when it oppress the Shia there, both are obsessed with defending their belonging regardless of any morals. And those who support the oppressed party in one case, and turn a blind eye to the other are not much more ethical than the first group. Morsi, by the way, attacked the butchers in Syria and turned a blind eye to the ones in Bahrain today, let alone the Bahraini human rights activist whose was denied entry to Egypt a couple of days ago.

Aren't people sick of religious wars yet!? Aren't they sick already of those dictators who oppress their people in the name of religion, and fight their neighbors in the neme of it too?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Egypt: Back to the IMF Loan

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde arrived in Cairo. She has meetings with Egyptian officials including the president, Mohamed Morsi. Egypt has formally requested to increase the value of the loan to $4.8 billion, after the initial request made last year for a $3.2 billion.

Today the deal’s chances of being sealed are even greater, so you might like to read the article I wrote  about the loan that has been published in openDemocracy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tarek's Dictionary - Volume I

I still have no idea how this post is going to be useful to anyone other than its own writer, but anyway.

It all started a month ago, when I was thinking that whenever I read a book, an articles online or a friend's blog post, I usually stumble upon English words that I do not know their meanings. I used to just ignore them, thinking that I'd learn their meaning from the context, which rarely happens by the way. So, I decided last month to start taking notes with words I don't know, write down their meaning, and publish them later on in what I call, Tarek's Dictionary. And here are the words collected so far:

  • Persona non grata (Latin): Literally meaning "an unwelcome person". You might be wondering why do they write such Latin sentence in news websites instead of its English alternative. Well, I have no idea. May be to look intellectual or something.
  • Patronizing: Treat someone with an *apparent* kindness that transmits a feeling of superiority. Talking to people as if they are ignorant or stupid. If you speak Arabic, then this looks so much like "Yalla ya shater" or the ironic "Bravo" we say all the time. Sometimes, it also means becoming a regular customer, "Lots of people patronize Starbucks for their daily caffeine fix".
  • Nurture: To support and encourage, as during the period of training or development, or to feed and protect.
  • Cynical: Skeptical to someone's good intentions. It originates from an ancient school of Greek philosophers known as the Cynics, whose philosophy was that the purpose of life was to live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, sex, and fame, and by living a simple life free from all possessions. I have no idea how this ended up to become pessimistic or distrusting the motives of others. Seems that the emphasis on the negative aspects of Cynic philosophy by the 19th century is what altered its meaning this way. In brief, I used to thing Cynicism and Sarcasm are the same thing, but they are not, yet they meet sometimes. The keywords here are doubt, pessimism and distrust to people's intention and/or future.
  • Delirious: While delirium is neuropsychiatric syndrome whose symptoms are sudden severe confusion and rapid changes in brain function. Delirious - most of the time - is used to express one being wildly excited, esp with joy or enthusiasm. It still is a negative term, which mostly refers to ill or uncontrolled excitement or emotion.
  • Anxiety: Being anxious! Yeah, I knew anxious but didn't know that one!
  • Apprehensive: Anxious or fearful that something bad or unpleasant will happen
  • Agony: Extreme physical or mental suffering or the struggle that precedes death
  • Wrath: Anger, rage or divine punishment or retribution for sin. Wrath is one of Morgan Freeman's, ehmm Christian ethics', Seven Deadly Sins, and it may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger.
  • Misogynistic: Hating women in particular. It comes from the Ancient Greek μισογυνία (misogunia) and μισογύνης (misogunēs, “woman hater”), from μισέω (miseō, “I hate”) + γυνή (gynē, “woman”). It's funny to that J.W. Roberts argues that older than tragedy and comedy was a misogynistic tradition in Greek literature.
  • Corny: Trying to be cool, but ultimately very uncool indeed, and often even extremely embarrassing
  • Disgruntled: Dissatisfied or Angry.
  • Dire straits: Other than the "Money for Nothing" band, it also means a state of extreme distress, anxiety, or suffering. Dire on its own means alarming or desperately urgent. It has it roots back to the Latin word "dīrus" which means fearful.
  • To keep mum means to keep silent or refuse to talk.
  • Peril: It has nothing to do with Pril, the dishwashing detergent. Peril stands for something that endangers or involves risk.
  • Stern: Serious and unrelenting, esp. in the assertion of authority and exercise of discipline. "The Manager sent me a stern email". It also means the rearmost part of a ship or boat.
  • Prevail is to be greater in strength or influence; and be victorious: "Prevailed against the enemy". Also can refer to becoming predominant: "A region where snow and ice prevail".
  • Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. And since this is my favorite term in this issue. Its roots come from the Greek word ῥήτωρ (rhḗtōr), "public speaker". I will elaborate more on Rhetoric later on.
  • A Hobson's choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered. As a person may refuse to take that option, the choice is therefore between taking the option or not; "take it or leave it".
  • Nuance: A subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc. A very slight difference or variation in color or tone.
  • Pedantic: Punctilious, overly concerned with minute details or formalisms especially in education.
  • Docile: It comes from Latin root for teaching, docere, so someone docile is easy to teach. A docile student is willing to be taught. A docile animal is easy to handle. If you behave well and do what people tell you to do, you're a docile person. Docile might be a word of praise, but it can also be a criticism of someone for being overly submissive. 
  • Monocle: A monocle is a type of corrective lens used to correct or enhance the vision in only one eye. You can have a look at the logo of Egyptian Monocle to know what I mean.
  • Phosphenes is the lights you see when you close your eyes and press your hands to them.
  • A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front.
  • Consensus: Majority of opinion. General agreement or concord.
  • Impartiality: The principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over another for improper reasons.

Now back to Rhetoric

Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western tradition.[2] Its best known definition comes from Aristotle, who considers it a counterpart of both logic and politics, and calls it "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." Rhetorics typically provide heuristics for understanding, discovering, and developing arguments for particular situations, such as Aristotle's three persuasive audience appeals, logos, pathos, and ethos.
  • Ethos: The character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc. The moral element in dramatic literature that determines a character's action rather than his or her thought or emotion, as opposed to Pathos and Logos.
  • Pathos: The quality or power in an actual life experience or in literature, music, speech, or other forms of expression, of evoking a feeling of pity or compassion. The deeply felt domestic pathos raises the movie above the average thriller. Such detailed description of their relationship underscores the pathos of its end.
  • Logos: Philosophy reason or the rational principle expressed in words and things, argument, or justification
A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question that is asked in order to make a point and without the expectation of a reply.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

10 Educational Resources Online

More than decade ago, my friends and I were obsessed with HowStuffWorks that is meant to explain complex concepts and technologies in an easy way. That was probably before Wikipedia was launched, or at least when we were not aware of it yet. Later on, YouTube videos and Wikipedia became our source of knowledge. Now, there are new websites out there that took online education to the next level:

Before the internet there was...reading
Before the internet there was ... reading!
Photo taken by Photocapy under Creative Commons license.

  1. Khan Academy: With over 3,300 videos on everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and hundreds of skills to practice, they want to give you a way to learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace.
  2. Coursera partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. The offered courses varies from Computer Sciences to Mathematics to Biology to Economics to Statistics and more.
  3. Udacity also stated that their goal is to democratize education. The offered courses are more into Computer Science, as well as Physics and Statistics.
  4. OpenCourseWare, is a term applied to course materials created by universities and shared freely with the world via the Internet. And MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. Like other online education resources mentioned here, it is not a degree-granting or credit-bearing initiative. However, you should work through the materials at your own pace, and in whatever manner you desire.
  5. Just like MIT, Yale University has its Open Yale Courses project where they share full video and course materials from its undergraduate courses.
  6. If you want to learn computer programming, one of the available services for you is Codecademy. It offers free coding classes in programming languages like HTML, CSS, Python, and Javascript.
  7. Nalandau is an Indian website that aggregates educational content from other places including Open Courseware and YouTube.
  8. Gresham College provides free public talks within the City of London. Some of their lectures have video, audio and/or transcript.
  9. Babbel: A platform for learning languages online. Yet, it's not free.
  10. TED: Not really educational, but TED videos are interesting.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cogito ergo sum

Cogito ergo sum (French: "Je pense donc je suis"; English: "I think, therefore I am") is a famous philosophical statement proposed by René Descartes. And I have a confession to make about it here now. I just understood the real meaning of the statement today. But, for now, let's spend a moment with this statement and its meaning.

The simple meaning of the phrase is that someone wondering whether or not he or she exists is in itself proof that that one exists to do the thinking. The statement comes form Descartes, the one who attempted to arrive at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without any doubt, and to achieve this, he employs a method called hyperbolical/metaphysical doubt, where he rejects any ideas that can be doubted, and then reestablishes them in order to acquire a firm foundation for genuine knowledge. So he doubted his existence, then used to fact of himself doubting his existence in itself as a proof that he exists. Since he has to exist in the first place to do the thinking/doubting.

And according to Wikipedia, "The phrase became a fundamental element of Western philosophy, as it was perceived to form a foundation for all knowledge. While other knowledge could be a figment of imagination, deception or mistake, the very act of doubting one's own existence serves to some people as proof of the reality of one's own existence, or at least that of one's thought".

So, what is my problem? The statement "I think, therefore I am", or sometimes "I think, therefore I exist", is too clear to be misunderstood, right? Yet for some unknown reason, my subconscious used to interpret it to "I think, because I exist". I kept on wondering why I was doing so. The fact is that in School or whenever anyone mentions this statement, at least the people I knew, used to us it as an evidence of how thinking is a good thing. They used it as an opening phrase whenever they want to tell us that thinking is of a great value. Hence my un-conscience inverse interpretation of the statement.

Another thing to add here, they all stick to the term "think", and they never use the word "doubt", unless their register is to attack Descartes and his Cartesian Scepticism. A lot of them always wanted to make it clear that you cannot doubt everything. Your existence, just like the existence of God and how he looks like are among things that you aren't advised to be sceptic about. Some where more liberal about this, some where more strict, adding more things to the "not allowed to question" list. But, at the end of the day, they all agreed that there are things that you cannot question or doubt.

May be that's one more reason why the statement was always told to us as way to encourage us to think, but not to doubt everything, including our own existence.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Data Visualization in GV2012

Yesterday I came back from Kenya after attending Global Voices Online Summit there. One of my favourite sessions there was about Data Visualization and here are the slides I used there [Video here].

Data Visualization
View more PowerPoint from Tarek Amr

The session was moderated by SocialFlow's Gilad Lotan, there were also awesome presentations by MIT's J. Nathan Matias, Tactical Technology Collective's Marek Tuszynski and Kepha Ngito from Map Kibera.

Some tweets from the session here:

There is a summary about the session by Matt Stempeck (@mstem) here

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Arm Twisting Elections in Egypt

Once upon a time, we had a presidential elections in Egypt. It was our first elections after the fall of Mubarak. We had 13 candidates in this elections. And my worst case scenario was seeing two of them in the run-off. Guess what? The first stage is over now, and those two candidates, and no one else, are our only choices at the moment!

Who are those two candidates then?

Those two candidates are Ahmed Shafik and Mohamed Morsy. The first was Mubarak's prime-minister, he is an ex-army-man. He has been sued for corruption. He's part of Mubarak's regime that we revolted on, so it's a shame to see him running in the first elections after the revolution. The later is the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, or let's say puppet. The brotherhood are now controlling the parliament, the syndicates, during last year and half they refused to take a radical stance and confront with the ruling military junta, so should we hand over the presidential post to them too!?

The Big Pharaoh, made a comparison here between voting for each of them, and also boycotting the elections or ruining one's vote. I chose to either boycott or ruin my vote, and even if my reasons are not that rational, I still believe in them.

The Arm Twisting Game

Before the first round of the Elections, supporters of the different candidates used to scare us from their opponents to vote for their candidates. But right after voting for in the first round, and even before the results were *officially* announces, the real arm twisting game started. Morsy's supporters bombarded me with their messages of how scary Egypt will be if we vote Shafik, and our only hope now is to support Morsy even if we do not like him. Shafik supporters - don't have a lot of friends from this camp though - are using the same strategy too.

The problem with this arm twisting game is that it reminds me with George W. Bush's famous saying, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists". That saying that he used later on as an excuse to occupy whole countries and kill thousands of people. Mubarak too played the same game during the revolutions, he warned us it's either him or chaos! And the problem is that Mubarak then was the creator of chaos, so the beast he was blackmailing us with was his own beast.

Why I'm Not Voting for Any of Them?

You may check the Big Pharaoh's cons for each of the two candidate. But I have more reasons not to chose any of them:
  •  I don't trust them both. When Shafik was a prime minister he promised the Egyptians on TV than none of the protesters then will ever be hurt again, and few hours later we had the famous Camel Battle in Tahrir Square, a battle that was for sure orchestrated by the regime which he was part of then. This is one of many reasons for me not to trust him. The Muslim Brotherhood on the other hand made a lot of promises that they broke later on as well, including their promise not to run for president, and here we have Morsy running in the elections.
  • Both sides are using non-ethical reasons to gain people's votes, either via bribes, giving them subsidized goods as a reward to vote for them, deceiving illiterate people and letting them to vote for their candidates. Why should I reward cheaters and vote for them!?
  • Both sides are spreading lies about the each other. I've seen religious verdicts (Fatwa) being issued telling people that voting for Shafik is against religion. Well, I hate Shafik so I might not see it a big issue, but that fact of twisting religion and using it in your favour is not something that I ethically accept. The religions weapon can be used now against Shafik, but who knows whether it can be used later on against me too. You know what? It is already being used now against me, I see people now calling those who are boycotting the elections as silent devils and traitors to their religion, etc.  
  • I have my own personal issues with both Morsy and Shafik. Mubarak's biggest problem beside him being a corrupted dictator was that he was dumb. And listening to both Shafik and Morsy makes me feel they are not any smarter. Just like Mubarak, they don't seem to have any qualifications to lead the country. I bet none of them ever read a book before, and I am not talking about books in economics or politics, but I am talking about novels, poetry or history. The current situation in Egypt needs creative leaders and not just technocrats.  
  • As some say here, why should I choose between Military Fascism and Religious Fascism, while I am free not to vote for any. 
  • Whenever I say I am boycotting the elections, Morsy's supporters say that boycotting will be in Shafik's favour, while Shafik's supporters say it is in Morsy's favour. So, the question is, why should I vote for any of them just because there is a possibility that boycotting might make his opponent win, while I have my ethical reasons to be sure that voting for any of them will make me loose my own self-respect?\
Till the elections run-off, I will do my best to convince anyone going to vote Shafik not to vote for him, but will never be able to convince them to vote for Morsy in return!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Morsy; Branded as Egypt's CEO, not President

Away from the political debates taking place in Egypt nowadays, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential campaign, that campaign of Mohamed Morsy is, in my opinion, the best campaign when it comes to Marketing, and more specifically Political Branding.

Let's first find out what is Branding
A base definition of branding is provided by Dr. Margaret Scammell as “in marketing, a brand is the psychological representation of a product or organization: its symbolic rather than tangible use-value”. So in other words, if a product's price and quality are their tangible values, branding is any other intangible values beyond that. Take soft drinks as an example, most of the time their taste and prices are the same, so what makes you get this can of cola rather than that one? It's the brand, deep inside your mind one of them is associated with youth (people with skateboards in their advertisement), awesomeness (Lionel Morsy ... ehm, Messi), being different (Sprite advertisements aired nowadays), being smart, etc.

Morsy is the new CEO of Egypt
All other candidates are running for presidency, but Morsy is here to become Egypt's new CEO and not its president. This is how he is being sold to us, and there are obvious reasons behind that. The Egyptian constitution is yet to be written later on, and guess who is going to write it, the parliament whose majority are from the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood), the same group who Morsy belong to. So till now, no body knows the job description of the upcoming president, hence they need more flexibility to have program that can be achieved either by the president, the parliament, or by them both, depending on the new constitution they will write later on. Another reason for marketing him this way is the fact that he was not their presidential candidate in the beginning. When the Brotherhood decided to enter the presidential race, Khairat El-Shater was their prime candidate, they then announced that Mohamed Morsy will be their secondary option, since there were doubts that El-Shater might not be accepted by the Elections Committee for legal reasons. Since then Morsy is widely known among most of the Egyptians as the Spare Tire, and he is being mocked all the time for being just a secondary option of the Brotherhood, and since he is not their first choice why voters should choose him. Add to this the traditions in the Brotherhood where they all follow the orders of its Supreme Leader, and Morsy shoudn't be an exception here. So the Brotherhood had more reasons to promote him as a CEO not president.

If you pay his campaign's website a visit you will find out the site's domain as well as the banner, all include the prefix Dr. before his name. It's very nice title to have in your C.V. when looking for an looking for a job as a Manager or Executive, but is it really needed when running for presidency? May be.
We write Arabic from right to left, so let's visit the campaign's website once more, what is the first link you encounter there? Morsy's qualifications? Nah. Morsy's latest news? Nah. What then? El-Nahda Project. So now you might wonder, are they promoting a president or a project?
Vote for El-Nahda Project
It's not Morsy who's being promoted here. It's not him whom the Brotherhood are selling to us. In fact, who is running for presidency and who is being promoted here is their Nahda Project. Now it is clear what brand the Brotherhood are promoting. And here comes our real analysis.

El-Nahda can be translated into Renaissance or Rising Up. It's the Brotherhood's vision, how they are going to build Egypt in the next 15 to 20 years (Notice, a president can stay for 4 to 8 years only). Once more, Morsy's slogan has no reference to himself, his slogan if translated into English will read, "Renaissance ...People's will". When Obama chose to focus on promising "Hope" and "Change" he knew that about 70% of the population thinks the country is going in the wrong direction, so those words were part of his brand. Here in Egypt, the sentiment among the people can be summarized in two points, on the one hand they are looking forward for a new regime that is not as corrupted as Mubarak's regime, a one that builds Egypt economically, but on the other hand a lot of people are blaming the revolution for the economical recession the country is experiencing nowadays, the lack of new investments, job openings, as well as lack of security. And I see the word renaissance as a word that is not as radical as revolution (the revolutionaries brand), yet not as Mubarak-related as stability. It's something in between. It promotes change, but a non-radical one. It also plays on that propaganda spread by the official media that Egypt is now at its worst, very low, down on the ground, dead, so it is time to bring it back to life and stand-up on its feet again.
One more thing; the same term, El-Nahda (Ennahda), is also used in Tunisia as the name of the Muslim Brotherhood's sister party there. So, seems that is has its own significance in the Ikhwany jargon as well.

Wheels of Production
Once more, economy is the keyword, people want better economy, and one word that has been used a lot in the past year and half is the Wheel or Gears of Production, it's a metaphor used a lot to refer to the economic state, and how the revolution and the protests have stopped this gear from revolving, hence the bad economy, so voilà, here you have got, not only one gear, but two of them in the logo.   

They know their market segment
Like any good marketing campaign, you have to know your audience, the market segment you want to target, and for them, one very important identification for target segment is that they are all Muslims. They stated it clearly in the logo that this renaissance is one with Islamic basis. For sure there are ready interpretations for this, it's Islamic renaissance that will treats all Egyptians regardless of their religion, etc. But mathematically speaking when it comes to a country with more that 80% of its populations and all you need is 50%+1 of the votes to win the elections, who cares? Also let's be frank, even if they try to, non-Muslims will not vote for them. It worth mentioning here that another candidate who is aware of his market segment is Ahmed Shafik, he also knows how to please that segment and care about no one else. He was Mubarak's prime-minister, so doesn't try to hide this, he says bluntly that he respects Mubarak, because he knows that those who respect Mubarak as he does are his main voters. Shafik's example here is better seen in contrast to Amr Moussa, who also was a minister during Mubarak era, yet he tries to please everyone, and he might not succeed in pleasing anyone at the end of the day.

The Campaign's Posters
Like Aboul Fotoh and Shafik they chose stick to certain colours in all their marketing collateral. But unlike those two candidates, the brotherhood's choice of colours has a message to deliver too. Everything is in Red, with text in black and white. The red is eye-catching, but also those are the colours of the Egyptian flag, and if you know how the Muslim Brotherhood are always accused of being funded by gulf countries and that they have their own agenda, and that they are looking forward for a regional pan-Islamic state, so the use of the Egyptian flag is needed here to reflect the patriotic and nationalistic aspects. 
As the biggest political group slash party in the country now, they do not lack funds or capacity to have their billboards everywhere in the streets of Egypt. And although, they are consistent in delivering the same message, they might tweak their banners add a phrase here or there to be more appealing to voters in different geographical areas and social classes.
Also in Egypt about 40% cannot read and right, so other than logos, we have symbols for candidates so those who cannot read and write can vote. The party of the Muslim Brotherhood is called Freedom and Justice, so they chose scales as their symbol. Easy to remember and adds more consistency to their campaign. 
The typeface used in writing the word Nahda, is a modern tweak of Andalus or Kufi fonts. Both are very old founts, and their names are bounded to historic and geographic locations when the Islamic civilization was in its peaks. I believe it is meant to stress on how they want to build the counties future using heritage of the past.Which is what the word renaissance means, add to this their stress on its Islamic roots.

The TV Advertisements
Candidates for sure make use of TV ads as part of their campaign, each try to appear in those videos and deliver short messages to the audience. But Morsy's ads are different, he is simply not there. Well, as we said earlier, it's not about Morsy it's about the Renaissance project, so they all have cheerful people in greenfield. You've got this video, with kids in greenfields. And kids here a symbol of bright future, renaissance. One of those videos ends with a banner of Morsy, and the other one where he silently appears at the end of the video, he is sitting on a desk, so CEO-esque, right?  The fact that Morsy is an executive working on the Brotherhood is also marketed sometimes to people as choosing him will make the president and the parliament work in more harmony, since they will be working on the same agenda and goals.
It worth mentioning here that another candidate, Hamdeen Sabahy, whose slogan is, One of us, so in many photos spread online for him or in his videos he is seen in protests, eating or talking with people in the streets, just ordinary person from the people. 

Related Resources

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Integrating Online & Offline Audiences

This year in re:publica, I attended a session by Janet Gunter (@JanetGunter) about integrating online & offline audiences. Janet started her session by giving example of a newspaper in Mozambique called Verdade (@verdademz), which literally means The Truth, a la the Russian Pravda, similar names but sure totally different approaches, and showing how they are able to integrating both their online and offline audiences.

According to Wikipedia, since 2001, Mozambique is one of the world's top ten for annual average GDP growth. However, Mozambique still has one of the lowest GDP per capita, one of the worst human development index and one of the highest inequality in the world. Janet highlighted how this results in a low internet penetration ratio there, she also added that Radio is more popular than television there, since it is cheaper. And like many other African countries they rely a lot on mobile phones and SMS's in their daily lives.

Back to Verdade. It started 3 years ago. They rely on tuk-tuks as a low budget distribution system that can reach rural areas easily. They sure have online presence whether via their website, twitter or Facebook page. But they also came out with new ways to engage with their readers outside the internet. Readers send them their comments via SMS, they also use text message for citizen reports. They also print their articles and publish them on walls, and readers comment and interact with them via writing on walls with chalk! The collect all those feedback channels and try to re-bring the voices of their readers to the masses

Another attendant to the session was Markos Lemma (@eweket). Markos is an Ethiopian blogger who also was having a session in re:publica this year about blogging in his country. In Ethiopia you can find bloggers like Abel Asrat who prints his blog posts to be able to reach larger audience there. He said, "When I get frustrated and discouraged with low reading statistics on my blog I start to print out my blogs and give to peoples to read it that in turn added more traffic to my blog"

Adam Thomas (@SourceAdam), who was also attending the session, and who works on creating open source tools for newsrooms, offered some other examples. West Africa Democracy Radio (W.A.D.R), which is based in Senegal, also have online presence in social networks and they use SoundCloud to both publish their programs online and to collect listeners feedback. But also they distribute their audio materials on CD's to reach the disconnected community. In Los Angeles, VozMob is a project aimed for immigrants and low wage workers there. It enables people to create stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones, and to communicate them to a larger audience.

I highlighted two examples from Egypt, the first is Kazeboon (Militia are liars) and the second is called #TweetShare3 (Twitter in the Street). The former tries to set a sort of YouTube channels in the streets. They set data-shows, and screen videos of regime's brutality, where passengers gather to watch them and then have discussions (a la YouTube comments), the later tries to bring discussions taking place on twitter to people in the streets.

Débora Medeiros (@debmedeiros), who is a Brazilian studying in Germany also shared her ideas about the state of blogging in her country.

Finally, I think it worth mentioning that the case of integrating online and offline audiences is not only limited to poor countries or countries with low internet penetration. Even in countries where users are having the latest always-connected smart-phones there is a need to tie ones physical surrounding to the internet. During my stay in Berlin, I've noticed that QR Codes are so popular there, most of the advertisements in the streets and in the metro cars do have them, and for sure this is a way to reach offline audience and offer them short-cuts to your online presence. Raspouteam (@RaspouTeam) is a French project that uses QR codes, online maps and historical documents to connect important moments of French history online and in real life. In re:publica itself you've got what they called, an analogue twitter-wall.

Monday, May 7, 2012

RT Books

I was reading a book in an aeroplane on my way back to Cairo a couple of days ago, when I decided to write the following rules on it, before giving it to the passenger sitting next to me.
  1. You do not sell this book
  2. You give this book to someone else after you finish it
  3. You write those rules on books if not there before sharing them
  4. You add your name to the list of names of those who shared a book before you
  5. Enjoy reading the book now
What do you think of this book sharing idea?

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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Bungee Jump

Do you know those movies of  Ismail Yassin when he reads a book about the secrets of getting rich in few days, then he starts to follow the tips in the book blindly and end up getting himself into huge troubles and disasters!?

Today I bought a book called, "Screw Work, Let’s Play - How to do what you love and get paid for it". I just have read 11 pages of it so far, but it doesn't matter, as I am 99% sure what I want to do, but the remaining 1% that is stopping me from taking an action is that I don't know how to do it. Here's what I've read so far to get an idea of what I am talking about.

These people are part of a growing tribe around the world who are not content just to make a wage to pay the rent, but want their lives to be about something larger – creating something unique, saying something important, trying new experiences, having some fun, taking a few risks, and daring to fall flat on their faces – or win big and strike it rich. They want freedom, variety, challenge and excitement; they want to stretch themselves, and to keep evolving every day.

The internet and mobile technology have freed us all to work however, wherever, whenever we want. Old restrictive boundaries are dissolving; between local and global; employee and entrepreneur; professional and amateur; consumer and producer; home and office; work and play. Our options are now so much broader than just employee or business owner. What does all this mean? It means that there really is no reason left to suffer boring, unfulfilling work.

"I never went into business to make money – but I have found that, if I have fun, the money will come", Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin

A common belief is that the natural alternative to a job is to launch a business with all the risk and complexities of premises, staff and funding. But there are now so many different ways to make an income without a job: self-employed, internet marketing, passive income streams, portfolio career, micro-business. 
Should I continue the book and follow Ismail Yassin footsteps!?

My current job; it pays me well, it has a good career path, if you count the organizational levels from top to bottom I might be on the 3rd level from the top there. I am managing a team of brilliant engineers. And I almost everyone there is a very dear friend more than a co-worker. On the other hand I write for Global Voices, it's a volunteer job, i.e. no money nor career path in there. But guess which job I do with more passion and I believe I am creative more when doing it!? Exactly, the later and not the former.

But despite the fact that I think the articles I write for Global Voices are good ones - you tell me, may be they aren't. Despite this, I was never offered a job in the field of media, nor in Global Voices itself. Needless to say that NY Time, The Guardian and even The Next Web don't even know me.

Disappointing? But may be the secret I enjoy writing for Global Voices is that it is a volunteer job. May be if writing turns to be my career I will hate it.

Is this the career I want? I am sure that I am not sure it is. See all the big names I just mentioned, I never applied for a job in any. So, may be this means I never thought of it as a career for me.

So, why do I want to change my career if I don't even know what I want to do? Hopefully after reading the book I will be able to answer your question. I can't deny that Cairo traffic on my way to and from work plays an important role here. Cairo traffic is a b*tch! But in brief, may be because I am bored, and don't feel challenged to be more creative in it.

I'll tell you a secret about me. If you want to beat me in a discussion just repeat it twice. I will do my best in the first time to debate and convince you with my point of view, but the next time, I'll be really bored to argue and will agree with whatever you say to skip repeating myself. I hate repeating myself. I hate doing one thing twice, let alone three, four, or hundreds of times. And I am repeating myself a lot nowadays.

Shall I become an entrepreneur? I write code with passion too. But entrepreneurship is too cliché nowadays.

Taken by Carla MacNeil under creative commons license

I know how harmful this post might be to my career. I might loose my job because of it. But it's like those who do bungee jumps, they might loose their lives if the rope get cut yet they do it to feel the thrill. Pressing the publish button of this post is as thrilling as pressing the send button of an email I just wrote to a girl I love, asking her to marry me. You know this might ruin your relation with her forever if this she doesn't share the same feelings to you, yet you have to send it.You send it with your heart beating a bit more louder out of worry, yet having a big smile on your face.

See you later, after finishing the book.