The 3rd Arab Bloggers Meeting is currently being held in Tunis, Tunisia. The meeting gathers around 100 bloggers, journalists, techies, and experts from the Arab world and international organizations. You can learn more on the Arab Bloggers website and follow the live tweeting on the #AB11 hashtag.
Here’s a list of the Arab blogger tweeps who are currently at the Arab Bloggers Meeting in Tunis. Palestinian bloggers were outrageously denied visas by the Tunisian government and were not able to make it to the meeting.
Abdurahman Warsame @abdu
Hussain Yousif @hussain_info
Randa Aboeldahab @randoshka2000
Manal Hassan @manal
Alaa Abdel Fattah @alaa
Mohamed El Gohary @ircpresident
Ahmed Awadalla @3awadalla
Tarek Amr @gr33ndata
Lilian Wagdy @lilianwagdy
Wael Abbas @waelabbas
Ahmad Gharbeia @aGharbeia
Hisham Almiraat @__Hisham
Riyadh Al Balushi @blue_chi
Saed Karzoun @Saedkarzoun
Irene Nasser @almagdela
Dalia Othman @DaliaOthman (didn’t make because Tunisia rejected visas of Palestinians)
Saleh Dawabsheh @Dawabsheh (didn’t make because Tunisia rejected visas of Palestinians)
Liliane Assaf @funkyozzi
Nadine Moawad @nmoawad
Jamal Ghosn @jamalghosn
Racha Ghamlouch @LebaneseVoices
Assaad Thebian @beirutiyat
Angie Nassar @angienassar
Mansour Aziz @AlAkhbarEnglish
Abir Saksouk @abirsasso
Thalia Rahme @Thalloula
Nasser Weddady @weddady
Amir Ahmad Nasr @SudaneseThinker
I have undoubtedly forgotten some people, please tweet me at @nmoawad so I can add them.
Something has started to really piss me off in the twittersphere lately. Lebanese tweeps are taking on tweeting for companies or groups or (pseudo-)celebrities and don’t reveal the identity of the actual person tweeting.
For example, I recently found out that the person handling the @Zaven_K account is not really Zaven (dunno why I was under the impression that it was – maybe it’s cos he has a laptop in front of him all the time), but a fellow tweep. Naturally, I felt a little uneasy knowing that I had tweeted to @Zaven_K thinking I was talking to Zaven. But what’s worse is I didn’t know I was talking to that particular tweep.
I feel it is getting a little silly – especially with a lot of tweeps becoming “social media experts” for hire. We think we are talking to management of a certain company whereas we are talking to the same people.
I think it is best practice that every non-person twitter account reveal who is tweeting behind it. For example, the @GIGAlb team does it well by adding ^initials to every tweet that is not a standard link. Or, another example is @iams who give you the handles of who is tweeting in the bio. I’m not saying it should go for every single tweet, but at least when conversing with people on twitter.
So if you’re tweeting for another handle, please reveal yourself in the bio, through ^initials, or through a list of tweeps who tweet from that account. Don’t hide behind handles – it can become deceptive.
A new resource from Violence is Not our Culture, this toolkit was inspired by the workshops held in Asia and Africa for the partners and members of the Violence is not our Culture (VNC) campaign. While this toolkit has been designed primarily for the local partners and activists of the VNC campaign, this can be a resource, too, for human rights activists who are keen to develop their online activism and want to know where and how to to start.
We are pleased to announce the publication of Strategising Online Activism: A Toolkit. The toolkit is available for free download and distribution. Click here to download the toolkit!
Through this toolkit we hope that campaigners will acquire the following skills:
- An understanding of why and how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be appropriated by women’s rights and human rights groups in their advocacy skills through their use of online tools, including networking and mobile tools for advocacy and campaigning
- The ability to develop an advocacy / communication strategy
- Knowing what social neworking is and the various spaces and tools they could use in their online activism
- An understanding of online privacy and security issues relevant to building their online activism.
A student emailed me yesterday asking me about gender discrimination in technology (hello Rasha). Here is some of what I replied with:
Yes, of course, gender plays a large role in how everyone views technology. Gender stereotyping starts as early as childbirth and little girls are not expected to excel in math or science or any field of studies that involves logical thinking. So the discrimination starts from there. This is because female genders are (falsely of course) constructed as emotional, unstable, leisurely, not inclined to do hard work because they will eventually get married and sit at home.. as if housework is not hard work. And so this upbringing ripples into adulthood when girls choose university majors, you find a small minority in engineering or programming because they are not careers that are expected of women. And when these careers are dominated by men, you get an inverse gender stereotyping as well, i.e. people think: because there are few women in tech, it must be too challenging for women. We also always face the logical fallacy of generalization when it comes to women. If one woman is bad at something, it is taken that her entire gender is bad at it.
At the same time, women who are extremely successful in tech and have overcome any sort of discrimination are quick to claim that all women can overcome the stereotyping and discrimination if they work hard enough. They often reject the label that they are “female gamers” for example and just want to be “gamers.” 7a22on, of course. Having successful IT women strongly shows that women’s brains indeed are not less capable than men’s (although my attempts to convince my father of this has been futile). But the stats and figures show that they are still a small minority, and we cannot ignore the reasons why so.
So I think these are the main barriers, women eventually grow up to fit their gender stereotype like a self-fulfilling prophecy and they believe that math or economics or technology is too complicated for them. Also, when you are a lone woman in a male-dominated field or company, it’s not easy at all. The boys sometimes develop their own clubs and women are often excluded. I have heard from many people who work in IT in Lebanon that they would rather hire men because they don’t see women as good enough or because they don’t want to deal with women’s maternity leaves or childcare support.
Also, when we talk about tech, it’s not just “easy” things at the micro-level. The decision-makers of the tech industry are mostly men, as are the big CEOs, entrepreneurs, and people calling the shots in things like nanotechnology and biotechnology. Look at robot engineering, for example, when they build robots that are gender-neutral, those are usually male robots. When they build female robots, it’s curvy, sensual, luscious robots that are designed to do housework. The effects of gender stereotyping are subtle and systematic and unconsciously dominant in the whole field.
In ICT usage in specific, I have read stats that say that there are more women on facebook and twitter than men and that their numbers in blogospheres are strong. But the same issues of discrimination also creep into these spaces: whose word has more authority / credibility? Women are also more prone to cyber bullying or stalking and to experience violence online as well. That’s why we work on reclaiming these ICTs to counter violence against women, to amplify women’s voices and experiences.
If you search for the word “feminist” on YouTube, the first mass of results you will get are woman-bashing “shut up and make me a sandwich” videos. Sexism also seeps into the comments on most feminist-oriented work online. And, generally, people are more aggressive online than they are in person because of the nature of the communication (anonymity, lack of accountability, lack of cyber laws, etc..).
And so our work to empower women using ICTs must focus on building their advanced skills and capacity to create the programs, websites, and blogs that support what they have to say. We are in desperate need of generating zegabytes of online content to counter the sexist and violent content that is already there. The cool thing about the Internet is that it is – sort of – a level playing field for everyone. If you have something good to say, people will listen. If you can use ICT tools intelligently, you have a good chance of getting your voice heard, as opposed to mainstream media where you need money and power to set up the technology. When you ask women to speak up, they will. We also have a need to inspire women to understand their gender oppression. For example, at the recent ArabNet conference, panelists were discussing e-commerce in the Middle East and all they could refer to when it came to women online shoppers was clothes and shoes and accessories. And there is the ad on some Arabic cable channel that pisses me off big time where a husband buys a laptop and a wife buys perfume. Why doesn’t the wife buy a laptop?? Shou hal 7aki hayda. But as long as we shut up about it, the majority of our women will really believe that their purchasing priorities should be fashion w ta2 7anak as opposed to cameras, laptops, smart phones, etc.
Therefore, we must always speak up, and you must come join us and help us balance out gender discrimination in tech.
So you’re interested in Twitter. Welcome. Here is a guide to help you through your first couple of weeks. It will seem odd and pointless at the beginning but I promise you it’s worth it.
First, register an account. Pick a cool username but keep it short. You will one day be identified by this name in public and in front of your friends, so make sure it is something you actually like. You can always change it later on, but that’s not advisable. You want to build a recognizable handle for yourself.
Go to settings and make changes to set up your profile. Pick a photo to go with your handle. One of your face would be nice, unless you wish to be anonymous, then a cartoon of your face works just fine. Then write a bio. You only have 160 characters so stick to adjectives that describe you. People will read your bio to decide if you would be interesting to follow. Be honest. Don’t repeat your location because that shows already. Here is a good example from @footnem (which is how we refer to Fady online and how we will soon refer to you, by your @username).
Passionate about Tech, Photography, Music, Football, F1 and an Adrenaline junkie extreme sports lover. Living in my own Matrix Universe.
From his bio, you can tell that @footnem will be tweeting (writing updates) about tech, photography, music, football, and formula one. You can also tell he will be quoting the Matrix often and making existential remarks. Do like him and write up a bio that describes you. Then change your background and color scheme into something cool.
And now for the big moment: your first tweet. Most likely, it will look something like this:
Hello twitter! Umm.. what do I do now?
This is really stupid. Why am I here?
Tweet tweet… (or some other joke variation on how you feel like a bird now)
Congratulations. You have shared your first tweet with the world. Except no one is listening… yet. We will get to that part. First, some notes about tweets.
Twitter is a micro-blogging service, which means that you can send little updates in the form of 140 characters at a time. You will learn to be brief with practice. Think of it as writing headlines rather than sentences. Tweets are linked to each other automatically using a system called hashtags. A hashtag is any word preceded by a # sign, such as #Lebanon #tech #love, etc. When you hash a word, it becomes an automatic link to all other tweets that include the same hashtag. It is like a keyword or a tag. For example, if you click on #Lebanon here, it links you to all tweets that are tagged with #Lebanon. Of course, the hashtag must be related to your tweet. Here is an example:
Just watched Blue Valentine in Empire Sodeco and I highly recommend it! #movies
Relationships among tweeps (that’s what we call people on twitter) exist in the form of following. You will see on your profile a list of people you follow and people who follow you. Start off by following some people you find interesting. Here are some good people to start with:
- @funkyozzi Liliane, prolific tweep who also runs some popular blogs
- @sdarine Darine, our Lebanese twittersphere (that’s what we call the twitter universe) mayor
- @aymanitani Ayman, cool guy who is one of the top social media experts in Lebanon
- @mich1mich Micheline, probably the sweetest Lebanese tweep out there
- @UxSoup George, funny dude and techie
- @DanyAwad Dany, friendly tweep who writes mooshy things in Arabic
- @naeema Naeema, bundle of positivity and sunshine, also a designer
- @krikOrianM Mher, great guy and talented photographer
As soon as you start following people, twitter will give you automatic recommendations. Follow those too. Start off with 30-40 people to follow and you will soon find more that interest you. Once you follow people, their tweets will appear in your timeline. They will get a notification that you have followed them and they will most probably then check out your profile. And if they find you interesting, they will follow you back.
Interacting with Other Tweeps
Now it is time to interact with your twitter community. There are two ways to do this: by talking to a tweep and by retweeting what they post. Talking to tweeps is public and anyone can see your tweet (unless you send a direct message, which is private). You do this by simply mentioning the person’s username in a tweet. For example:
@meetsamer hello, how are you today?
Samer (very smart dude you should also follow) will then see your tweet in his “Replies” or “Mentions” timeline. This grabs his attention better than if you just tweeted something without mentioning him, since he can’t possibly read every single tweet in his timeline because he follows hundreds of people. He will then probably click on “reply” and answer you in a tweet. You can also tweet to multiple people in the same update. For example, some tweeps like to say “saba7o” to their twitter friends in the morning like this:
RT: @cedarseed: The latest volume of Malaak is now out in bookstores!
Always give credit to tweeps if you are re-posting something they have said or linked to. Twitter is big on giving credit where credit is due, so don’t go plagiarizing tweets. Always mention where you got them from or else no one will like you.
The most interesting part of twitter (besides meeting cool new people who will eventually become your friends) is the sharing of news and links, which is unmatchable anywhere else. Twitter is a terrific source of news because you are getting links recommended by actual people. To share a link on twitter, simply copy and past the URL into your tweet. For example:
Check out these beautiful designs by a young artist: http://little-miss-pixel.blogspot.com/ #lyrics #graphics #art
Most links, however, are too long to fit into your 140-character limit, so you will need a URL shortener such as bit.ly. Most sites that provide a link to tweet their articles will do this automatically.
That should be enough for you to start out on Twitter. It’s very intuitive so you will quickly get the hang of things. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me (@nmoawad) a tweet and I will be happy to help! You can stop here now or you can continue for more useful tips.
Other Useful Tips
Lebanese Tweeps (#LebTweeps) are also an active community offline. They organize regular tweetups, which are hangouts for people on twitter to meet in person over coffee or drinks or a planned activity. You will read about these when they come up on your timeline, so make sure to join one. The community also (un)organizes a GeekFest which is a cool event that brings us together to learn about techie things through peer presentations.
If you’re worried about your tweets being exposed publicly, you can opt for privacy (protected tweets) in your settings. That way people need to request to follow you before they can see your profile and tweets.
What is #FF?
#FF is a hashtag for “Follow Friday” and is a twitter tradition whereby every Friday, tweeps recommend others that are interesting for their followers to check out. It’s a good way to get introduced to other tweeps and to also share your appreciation for the people you follow. Here is an example:
#FF @migheille for geeky updates and quirky reflections on life with the slowest internet connection on earth
What is +1?
Sometimes tweeps retweet something with a +1 (or + whatever digit) before it to show their approval of what is being said. For example:
+100 RT: @joellehatem: Smoking should be banned in all public places in #Lebanon!
Direct Messages (DM)
You cannot send a direct message to a tweep who does not follow you. But you can mention anyone in your tweets, whether they follow you or not.
Twitter clients are software applications that are an alternative to the twitter website. Two popular examples are TweetDeck and HootSuite. I personally use Echofon, which is a FireFox extension that I find lightweight and easy to use. But you might want to stick to Twitter in your browser for now and then experiment with clients when you have gotten the hang of it.
News Sources, Businesses and Organizations
There are many Lebanese and Arab news sources on twitter that tweet links to their websites, such as: @naharnet @al_akhbar and @nowlebanon. You can follow those too or you can choose tweeps that are very active news sharers such as @BeirutSpring. There are some businesses too but those aren’t very active, except for @AntoineOnline. There are also some active organizations like @nasawiya and @SMEXbeirut.
Lists compile similar tweeps together so that you can see a timeline of all their tweets on the same page. You can add multiple tweeps to a list and you will be added to lists too. Here is one of my lists: Lebanon, which includes 50 tweeps who are in Lebanon. You can use it to find more people to follow.
How many Lebanese are on twitter?
I’m not sure. There are many who live here and many who are abroad. I would estimate at least 500 active tweeps and maybe a couple of thousand if you include the ones who are rarely active. But the community’s growing every day.
Is everyone friendly on twitter?
No, just like in your offline life. Most people are very polite and friendly, but you will bump into a few bullies. Unfollow people who annoy you and if it gets to a point of harassment, you can block them from accessing your profile.
Live Updates & Citizen Journalism
Twitter is a great way to get quick bits of news across from an event. This works best if you have a twitter app installed on your smartphone and if it allows you to upload photos and videos.
There you go. Happy tweeting!
On a flight back to Beirut yesterday, the captain made an announcement that his flight attendants would be passing UNICEF envelopes to all passengers who would like to donate change (in any currency). I received mine and shoved it immediately into the seat pocket in front of me. A thought came to my mind and I pulled it back out. Browsing through the information on it, I read the same rhetoric about poverty in Africa and saw the same photos of starving but very cute little kids. My donation would contribute to improving their lives, it said. Then there was a good two paragraphs about the admirable philanthropy of the airline.
What the envelope solicited, I thought, was slacktivism, a term more recently made popular in reference to online activism. And while the internet has opened up room for more creative click-of-a-mouse useless action such as liking a YouTube video or signing an e-petition, fact is that slacktivism has existed long before the advent of online technology. And so it is not tied to the internet per se. The internet has not bred a generation of slacktivists. Just like offline feel-good campaigns can be useless, like donating change to starving children or picking up a flier about climate change or wearing a ribbon for breast cancer, equivalent online campaigns can be useless too.
Along the same lines, just like effective offline campaigns can be useful: a successful protest, an informative health brochure, an election drive, online campaigns can mobilize and raise awareness and combat apathy just as effectively. It’s not the medium, it’s the strategy that counts.