More resources on Libya..

For more info on what`s going in Libya and more translated material coming from the country and the Region on this topic, I`d like to point you to the Global Voices updates and to the Meedan live translation platform. Thanks to them, I`ve also came to know these websites which I recommend to visit for more in-depth views into Libya: ,,

Meedan Tahrir-social media,social change and the read/write generation of #jan25 (by

I`ve just found this letter in my mailbox. It`s signed by the founder of Meedan, Ed Bice, who has been working for years on bridging the West and the Arab world with a great team of engineers, bloggers, translators. The work done by is now more important than ever, cause it helps understanding and contextualizing   the current events by bringing together a variety of voices into a global conversation.

I`m grateful to Ed and his team for the great work they have been carrying on cultural dialogue with the Arab world and I hope he won`t mind if I re-publish here this thoughtful piece about Meedan Tahrir, social media and social media.
I have particularly appreciated his focus on the “read-write”  generation of #jan25 and I`ve immediately thought of Larry Lessig , the founder of Creative Commons, when he stressed on the fact that we should fight to preserve the “read-write” Internet as something that lies “beyond consumption”.
Lessig understood this many years ago, i.e. that a technology which easily allows people to create -and not only to consume- has an enormous potential. A potential for human development, creativity and, yes, also for social change. Maybe what we are witnessing these days in Tahrir is also the result of this extraordinary change, the rising of a “read-write” Internet culture against the “read-only” culture which has been dominating the 20th century.
And yes, I`m still convinced that social media tools don`t make a revolution..because, as  this article written by Marko Papic and Sean Noonan points out, “at the end of the day, for a social media-driven protest movement to be successful, it has to translate social media membership into street action”.
But, the lesson learned about social media is the one Ed reminds us about:
“The power of new media is ‘lower in the stack’- to invoke a geek metaphor- it is in the recognition that we the digital generation have come to regard society itself as a read/write medium. We are all authors now, and the privilege to collaborate and revise is not simply a web protocol, not simply a human right, rather, it has become a human attribute”.
Thank you shabbab #jan25 for reminding us of our humanity.


Meedan Tahrir – social media, social change, and the read/write generation of #jan25

On Tuesday of this week, already eight days into unprecedented popular protests in Egypt, I penned an optimistic note which I planned to publish the next day. Today, Thursday, instead I have exchanged my optimism for fear, I have thrown out yesterday’s message after having tried a dozen times to fit it into the context of what has happened in the last 48 hours.

في يوم الثلاثاء من هذا الأسبوع، ومع مرور ثمانية أيامٍ على بدء سلسلة الاحتجاجات غير المسبوقة في تاريخ مصر، دونت بقلمي ملحوظة تفاؤلية كنت قد أعددت لنشرها في اليوم التالي. واليوم، الخميس، تبدَّل تفاؤلي إلى خوفٍ، فلقد ألقيت برسالة الأمس بعيدًا بعد أن حاولت مرارًا وتكرارًا أن أُوفقها مع ما حدث في إطار الثمان وأربعين ساعة الماضية.

The internet went back on and the peace went out – this is not the way it was scripted – my insights are dated and the conclusions don’t fit. Yesterday’s essay sang, today’s essay mumbles and walks into walls.
فقد عادت خدمة الإنترنت مجددًا، ولكن السلام قد رحل -ولم تكن تلك هي الطريقة التي كنت قد خططتها في رسالتي. والآن أصبحت ملاحظاتي قديمة وأضحت النتائج غير متوافقةٍ مع ما يقع هناك. فلقد كانت مقالة الأمس تغني مبتهجةً ومتهللة، أما مقالة اليوم فهي تغمغم في حيرة وتخبط.
Yesterday I woke up expecting to witness the last moments of a social media revolution without the social media. Egyptians were weaving a peaceful narrative of change even without the internet. When you take the web away, we thought, the social network doesn’t go out – the people still sing, peacefully.

حين استيقظت من نومي يوم أمس، توقعت أن أشهد اللحظات الأخيرة لثورة شبكات الإعلام الإجتماعي بدون تلمس وسائط هذا الإعلام الإجتماعي. فقد كان المصريون يرددون هتافات سلمية للتغيير حتى بدون عمل خدمة الإنترنت. إلا أننا كنا نعتقد أنه عندما تسقط خدمة الإنترنت، فإن الشبكة الاجتماعية بين الشباب لن تعمل جيدًا، ولكن المصريين استمروا في الهتاف والغناء بصورة سلمية.

Today the curtain has been lifted on Egypt, it has flipped the ‘internet switch’ and rejoined the conversation with the rest of the world. But the scenes which have filled our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are of violence and snipers on rooftops.

اليوم وقد رُفِعَ الستار عن مصر، حيث ضغطوا على “زر الإنترنت” مرة أخرى فعادت مصر إلى دائرة الحوار مع باقي العالم، إلا أننا وجدنا المشاهد التي ملأت صفحات شبكة فيسبوك وكذلك تدوينات تويتر تعبر عن العنف وتمركز القناصة على أسطح البنايات.

With today’s violence I fear that the legitimate and peaceful energy of the protests will be lost in the usual haze of conspiracy and subplots. While the Pharoah complex, which like the shadows of the Pyramids has been a constant in Egyptian political rule, seemed yesterday to have been dismantled (see Meedani Riham Ibrahim’s insightful Guardian piece on this), today was evidence that the bargain offered, elections in six months time and Egypt’s first VP, was not open for negotiation. I am very worried for Egypt, very worried for friends and colleagues who range from the front lines of the protest to high positions in the civil service to leaders of businesses.

فمع نشوب العنف اليوم، تخوفت من أن تفقد الاحتجاجات طاقتها السلمية والمشروعة في خضم غموض المؤامرات والحبكات المتسترة. وفي نفس الوقت الذي بدأت فيه عقدة الفرعون في التفكك تدريجيًّا، وهي العقدة التي انعكست على الحياة السياسية للمصريين كما تنعكس ظلال الأهرامات الراسخة (يمكنكم الإطلاع على المقالة المتميزة لكاتبة ميدان ريهام إبراهيم بالغارديان حول هذا الموضوع)، أصبح ما يحدث اليوم دليلاً على أن الصفقة المطروحة، حول إجراء الانتخابات في غضون الأشهر الستة القادمة بالإضافة إلى تعيين أول نائب للرئيس المصري، لم تكن أبدًا مطروحة للنقاش أو التفاوض. أشعر بالقلق الشديد على مستقبل مصر، كما أشعر بالقلق الشديد

على أصدقائي وزملائي المصريين، ومنهم من يوجد الآن في الصفوف الأمامية للاحتجاجات، ومن يشغل المناصب العليا في قطاع الخدمة المدنية، بل ومنهم كذلك رجال أعمال رائدون في مجاله

The days ahead will be critical and we are committed to using Meedan’s resources to tell stories from Egypt with your help – stories which may include first hand accounts of struggles on the streets and also voices critical of the protests and the protesters. You can join us by curating and translating tweets on , gathering and translating commentary from the region’s press and blogosphere on, or translating voice recordings on YouTube and Blog . We are also providing translated commentaries for the Economist and Huffington Post. Our hope is that taken together our work might provide a better view of the history that is unfolding in front of our eyes.

إن الأيام القادمة سوف تكون مصيرية، ونحن ملتزمون جميعًا باستخدام كافة مصادر “ميدان” لعرض الأخبار المختلفة من مصر بمساعدتكم – تلك الأخبار قد تتضمن روايات مباشرة حول الاحتجاجات والمواجهات في الشوارع وكذلك أصوات أخرى مناوئة للاحتجاجات وللمتظاهرين. فيمكنكم الانضمام إلينا ومساعدتنا من خلال إضافة تدوينات تويتر وترجمتها على موقع كيوريتد دوت باي ، أو من خلال جمع وترجمة التعليقات من الصحف الإقليمية والمدونات ونشرها على موقع ميدان دوت نت، بالإضافة إلى أنه يمكنكم كذلك تقديم يد العون من خلال التسجيلات الصوتية المنشورة على يو تيوبومدونة ميدان . كما أننا نقوم بتوفير تعليقاتٍ مترجمةٍ من الإيكونوميست وهافنغتون بوست. إن أملنا يتركز في أن نعمل سويًّا لتقديم رؤية أفضل للتاريخ الذي يسطر أمام أعيننا جميعًا.

One effort that deserves special mention- in light of the internet outage- Google and Twitter set up a phone to twitter service called @speak2tweet. In a stunning display of quick moving engineering and translation energy, within 18 hours of the first tweet about this from my good friend Habib Haddad and my intro to the amazing Aaron Huslege there was a skype chat with a dozen engineers cranking it out. Baghdad Brian and a couple of hundred translators on a mission created a modern miracle of distributed labor, see for a view of that work. Also thanks to @johnnydiggz and the Geeks WithOut Boundaries-GWOB- team for setting up a parallel service).

إلا أن أحد الجهود التي تستحق أن تُذكر على وجه الخصوص -وفي ظل انقطاع خدمة الإنترنت عن مصر سابقًا- أن شركة جوجل وموقع تويتر أطلقا خدمة الاتصال تليفونيًّا بتويتر(@سبيك تو توييت). فيا له من تحركٍ مذهلٍ لهندسة وطاقة الترجمة، حيث جاءت أول تدوينة من صديقي العزيز حبيب حداد في غضون 18 ساعة، وكانت مقدمتي مع ايرون هاسليغ الرائع هناك من خلال محادثةٍ عبر سكايب مع العديد من المهندسين العاملين عليها. كما قام راين كونلى (المعروف ببغداد براين) ومئات من المترجمين بمهمةٍ أسفرت عن حدوث معجزةٍ عصريةٍ من العمل الموزع، ويمكنكم الإطلاع على هذا المجهود عبر موقع إيجبت دوت ألايف دوت آي إن . كما أنني اتقدم بالشكر لجوني ديجز وفريق ذا جيجز ويزأوت بونداريز لقيامهم جميعاً بخدمات موازية لتلك



Sidi gaber, Alexandria, photo by Al Jazeera English released under Creative Commons BY ND

Of course this is all in the context of the incredible, inspiring, and complex reality of what is happening between Egypt and her people right now. While our attention and concern over these coming critical days is first for the safety of the families of our Meedan colleagues in Egypt- Ahmed, Ghaydaa, Aya, Amena, John, Nouran, Riham, Wesam, Ahmed, Simba, Yaser, and Hanan – I am inclined to close this letter with my thoughts on the meaning of new media in the context of these unprecedented past ten days.

وبالطبع يأتي هذا كله في سياق الحقيقة المذهلة والمُلهِمة والمركبة لما يحدث فيما بين مصر وشعبها الآن، حيث أنه وفي حين أن اهتمامنا وقلقنا ينصب في تلك الأيام الحرجة القادمة على سلامة أسر زملائنا الميدانيين المقيمين في مصر وهم: أحمد، غيداء، آية، أمينة، جون، نوران، ريهام، وسام، أحمد، سيمبا، ياسر وحنان، فأنا أميل إلى إنهاء خطابي هذا ببضعة أفكار تدور حول معنى الإعلام الجديد في سياق الأيام العشرة السابقة والتي تعد غير مسبوقة في التاريخ المصري.

The lesson of Egypt is that the tools themselves are not as significant as the changed role of the individual in society that they reflect.

إن الدرس المستفاد من أحداث مصر هو أن الأدوات نفسها ليست بنفس أهمية الدور المتغير للفرد في المجتمع الذي تعكسه هذه الأدوات.
It took the unbelievable act of closing an entire country’s access to knowledge and communication to teach us that the power of new media is not found in Google’s algorithm’s or Twitter’s feeds or Facebook’s walls – it is more fundamental than the platforms, more fundamental than the internet itself. The power of new media is ‘lower in the stack’- to invoke a geek metaphor- it is in the recognition that we the digital generation have come to regard society itself as a read/write medium. We are all authors now, and the privilege to collaborate and revise is not simply a web protocol, not simply a human right, rather, it has become a human attribute.

لقد تعلمنا من خلال انقطاع أجهزة التواصل والمعلومات عن البلاد أن قوة الإعلام الجديد لا تُستمد من الحلول الحسابية التابعة لجوجل أو التعليقات على موقع تويتر أو الرسائل على الفيسبوك، بل هي أكثر رسوخًا من هذه المنصات ومن شبكة المعلومات نفسها. إن قوة الإعلام الجديد تأتي من المستويات القاعدية، وتُستمد من الاعتراف بأن الجيل الرقمي بات ينظر إلى المجتمع على أنه وسط يستطيع من خلاله قراءة وكتابة الأحداث. كلنا كُتاَّب الآن، ولعلنا تعلمنا بأن شرف التعاون والمراجعة لا يقتصر على كونه بروتوكول لشبكة المعلومات أو حق إنساني، بل هو سمة إنسانية بامتياز.
Ed Bice

إد بايس


Meedan Tahrir, photo by Al Jazeera English released under Creative Commons BY ND

Iran elections and, again, the winner is Twitter

With the ongoing post-election turmoil in Iran, the shutting down of mobiles phones and blogs and many websites in the country, Twitter seems to be “the medium” over there. There have been a number of articles and blog posts on this which I would like to mention here – like the Time article, mentioning the unprecedent intervention of US State Department on Twitter maintainance to move the upgrade in order not to prevent Iranians from twittering in such a delicate moment- .

There is a (controversial) op-ed by Thomas Friedman on the New York Times -over debated inside Twitter itself- who asks: “Is Twitter to Iranian moderates what muezzins were to Iranian mullahs?. The answer is still in the hands of the net.

While Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya have been prevented from reporting in Iran, thousands of 140 characters messages flow through Twitter. The opposition candidate Mousavi has set his own account @mousavi1388 , most used hastags are  #Iranelection and #Green4Iran. The latest today was inviting everybody on Twitter to turn green and so there were green avatars everywhere on Twitter.

The dialogue platform Meedan has set an interesting event channel to monitor the elections with all their available Farsi translators.

ABC quotes Shahrzad, a blogger supporting Ahmadinejad: “What I am witnessing is something incredible in the history of Islamic Republic”. “We’ve never felt this much freedom to talk.”

I think this is a good point to start the discussion with, whether you are on one side or on the other.

Monitoring Lebanese elections through citizen journalism

Lebanese elections are tomorrow but the buzz online has already started. Sharek961, the open source project built on the Ushahidi platform, is an independent, non-partisan group of people and ngos interested in monitoring the elections and promote trasparency. Many individuals and citizens will contribute sending their feeds through sms, web, etc and some very cool lebanese ngos like Smex and Rootspace are  members of the project. They also have a Twitter account @sharek961.

The Lebanese Twitter crowd will be very active tomorrow -as it is today-. The most used hashtag seem to be #Lebaneseelections and #Lebanon#Elections.

Also Meedan is putting lots of efforts in monitoring the elections. I will be doing my best, together with some of them, to report about how Arab media is covering the event. But we need more volunteers! So, pls, if somebody is interested to help us setting an Arab Media Monitoring Task Force (there are so many channels to watch!) send a Twitter message @donatelldr, an email at or join the discussion on Meedan. Shukran kteer!

War on words. Arab media on Obama’s speech in Cairo..and the winner is: Twitter!

Just finished a couple of hours marathon split between TV and computer screen to follow Obamas first live speech addressed to the Muslim world from a Muslim-majority country, Egypt. I’ve tried to follow the speech live on the Internet, through the WhiteHouse’s YouTube channel , following at the same time reactions on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

Of course the two most important Arab media have a very different view on President Obama‘s words, even if it’s not always through words that they express this view. Take Al Jazeera for example:  since the very end of Obama’s talk in Cairo has started broadcasting two different feature stories. First one is what’s now happening in Qalqiliya. While Obama was mentioning Palestine and Israel and  the right of both to leave in peace and  have each one its own state, the reality of Palestine is that Palestinians are killing each others in internal fights. Al Jazeera did not say openly that this internal fights are US (and Europe)’s fault, cause they have never recognised Hamas‘ right to govern Palestine after they won the elections.   But the mere fact of showing the images of what’s happening in Palestine, right after Obama spoke of Palestine and peace, is eloquent and doesnt’ need more words to be said. Also right now, in the news bullettin, Al Jazeera is presenting as headline news Obama’s speech in Cairo as first, and Qalqiliya as second. Do we need more words than those justaxposed images to understand what Al Jazeera thinks about Obama?

On the other hand, Al Arabiya. They have a very different tone from Al Jazeera, quiet and very analytic. However, all the analysis are positive. The sheikh who spoke from Saudi Arabia was very optimistic and labelled Obama’s language as “new language” (at the same time, an Egyptian guest on Al Jazeera was saying exactly the contrary: “same old language” used by Bush, words like “civilization”). Generally speaking, even after Obama’s speech was over, Al Arabiya went on (and it’s still going on) with analysis, collecting different views, etc. Do you remember who was the first Arab channel to get an interview with President Obama? Well, that’s the answer to Al Arabiya’s coverage of today.

Obama mentioned many points in his speech, but which ones are picked up by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, even if with different angles? Number one, the Palestinian issue. Reasonable. Without finding a solution to this, the other points are useless for the Arabs. Number two,  religious tolerance and minorities. Number three, women issue. Somebody on Al Jazeera also remarked the importance of the educational point mentioned by Obama. Good. But who between them would have stayed a bit more on democracy in the Arab world? Obama mentioned the need to open to democracy, not through wars -but not even with internal coercion-. He was not that bold and didnt’ give the names, but -guess what- this is a whole chapter rather than a simple point for Arab media to open the discussion. I am hoping that at least Faysal Qassem will pick up this point and make a whole episode on this! If not him,  then who?!

While zapping in between Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya during Obama’s speech and trying to pick up the nuances in their coverage, I had hundreds of Tweets pulling out from my computer screen. Including people watching the speech from Israel, giving their opinions, translating things from Hebrew.  Twitters written by Elizrael were very helpful.  Neither Al Jazeera nor Arabiya were ready to pick up this energy and different views coming from Twitter live. Projects like Meedan of live translation Arabic-English and viceversa were helping. People were helping to understand, through Global Voices community. An incredible compilation of information, discussions, live translation, different opinions.

Obama spoke, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya listened. Twitter (and the Internet) won.

Why the Arabs are lost in translation..

I would like to spend a few words in response to the blog post written by my friends at MeedanWhy Middle East social-web projects miss their target audience“.  You’ve touched one very weak point -maybe the weakest- concerning the state of the Arabic web: the language issue. The gap Arabic/English is there, and you’re right when you say that basically “when in Rome, do what the Romans do”. Anyway, the point is exactly here: what are the Romans (the Arabs) doing right now?

All the qualified training programmes -particularly in media field, but also in science, engineer, etc- all across the Arab world are.. in English! Go visit all the most important universities in the Arab world and you will see that the majority is offering courses and training in English. It’s not by chance that many foreigners that want to learn the Arabic language go to Syria. I had myself the privilege to experience both Syrian public university in Damascus -Faculty of Journalism- and the very qualified Syrian International Academy which gives the best and professional training in public relations and media Arabic (btw, thanks for the compliments about my Syrian Arabic, but it’s exactly for those reasons here above that I can speak, having learned it in a place where media training in Arabic is still strong).

It’s true,  social-web trainings such as the one we did with Royal Film Commission in Jordan would deserve to be done in Arabic, in order to include people from countries -like Iraq-where students are not so comfortable in English as they are in other countries like Lebanon or Jordan.  But I don’t think we missed our target audience. Joi Ito, the trainer and Creative Commons’ Ceo, speaks English and I don’t think a live translation would have been so effective as his words were, directly, to the students. There are “places” sometimes in human interaction where translation can’t go too much further, in order not to start to be literally “lost” in that translation.

We are thinking, next time, to offer a training in Arabic for Arabic speakers only, but it would be a different one. Arab trainers -or foreigners who speak enough good Arabic- should train the students, I personally don’t think translation can be effective in all the human interaction situations, and having even a live translation of such a workshop done by an English speaker would never be the same, cause something will be irreparably lost in translation.  Instead, we should maybe encourage Arabs and Arabic speakers to train in Arabic -despite of the difficulties of translating the web 2.0 into this beautiful language-  by tailoring the contents of the training itself directly for an Arabic-only speaking audience. Language has got a culture inside itself and, again, having followed journalism training in Arabic I think I can guess some of the nuances that will always be lost in translation.

Speaking about that, it’s very important to remind the work of organisations such as Social Media Exchange in Beirut and the Arab Digital Expression Foundation in Cairo that are putting lots of efforts in doing web 2.0 training directly in Arabic, with a different methodology and not only a different terminology due to the translation.

But, again, I guess the problem is bigger than it seems: how we can have more Arabs speaking Arabic and producing content in Arabic? How we can encourage this process? Is this only a matter of translation -or is it rather a matter of establishing the culture itself of training in Arabic, a culture that most of the Arab world itself lacks?

Jordan Media Institute, the soon-to-be-open media training school in Jordan, is putting together one of the few available journalism curricula in Arabic. Syrian International Academy has been doing this for many years now. Al Jazeera does have a very high level training in the media field and in Arabic, of course. But what about all the other existing universities all across the Arab world?

If the Arabs themselves consider Arabic to be the proper language only for literature and poetry, while media and journalism should be left to English, no translation in the world would ever been able to fill any gap.

Because, as I’ve heard in a theatre play while in Damascus:  “Without Al Jazeera and  the foreigners  desperately trying to learn the language, nobody would ever speak Arabic in the Arab world“.

Sadly, it was supposed to be a comedy.

Next Arab barcamp to be held in Dubai on 9th may


The next Arab barcamp is going to be hosted in Dubai Internet City on 9th may.

More info at

The programme looks very exciting with some very cool topics to be discussed like  “social media for social change”

“We use social media tools everyday to make new friends, form interest networks, share pictures and videos, spread news and information like wild fire, and learn and share knowledge within communities.
A growing number of initiatives like, Twestival,,, the Facebook causes app, etc are using the power of social networks to make a real difference in peoples lives.
Let’s put our heads together in this animated discussion by sharing examples and exploring ways to affect social change by using social media tools”.

Or this one, “How social translation can help prevent the web replicating knowledge divides“, propose by George Weyman who is working for the very cool SF based platform Meedan.

Barcamp UAE looks a cool event and it seems that the Arab world is quickly opening its doors to the barcamp culture by adding interesting topics and lively discussions.