In the name of the father

17 September 1983, my mother had just brought me to life in a hospital in Ashrafieh. As they drove through the war torn streets, the USS New Jersey was pounding the Lebanese coast in a conflict that was going strong for the eighth year with no signs of stopping. Cotton buds stuffed in my ears, my father, then 32, drove us in his yellow Datsun to safety in streets that were ruled by war thugs and watched over by snipers.

This certainly wasn’t the scenario my parents had envisioned for their life. This wasn’t the Lebanon that was celebrated in songs nor the pearl of the orient that was the hottest destinations to go to. All dreams were broken at this time. Survival was the dream and the way was the challenge. While some people packed their bags and left on a one way ticket, they decided to stay hoping that by the time I’m young enough to dream, guns would have been silenced and life would have picked up again.

Years passed on like pages quickly flipped in a book. A relative peace came to my country in the early 1990s and from there on, my father helped me dream. He inspired me at a very young age to manage a business when he taught me the nuts and bolts of his trade and showed me how to be respectful and humble when dealing with others. My father also helped me define many moments in my life when he backed me to choose my education and encouraged me to venture abroad.

Looking back at all the sacrifices he made, at all the lessons he gave me and at the love he provided me with, I can’t be but luckily thankful to him and I only wish that one day, I can be the person he has been to me. I love you dad.

Which apple are you?

The human relationship is a complex domain. Driven by a complex web of basic instincts, social pressures and personal motivators and detractors, our dealing with others in life is a daily challenge as every action we do or word we say serves to accomplish a need that is nestked in that web.

Yesterday I enjoyed “surreal” humoristic conversation with a friend where we compared people to fruits. As much as humor is the essence of such material I pondered on the subject a little bit…

When shopping for fruits, we select ones that are fresh, colorful and not spoiled. Picking our friends is no different. We tend to cherry pick our friends thinking they are the best people to surround ourselves with. Our friends’ presence enlightens us, colors our lives with knowledge or small talk that amuses us and their wisdom when we need them serves as a torch to our fears and insecurities.

Fruits left in the fridge for so long lose their vitality. The same is true with any relationship that is not nurtured well enough. Lovers break up if their love is a frail lacklustre thing that had its glories in the past.

You bite that perfect apple only to find a worm crawling its way out for some sunshine. Things may look beautiful on the outside of any relationship yet scratch the surface to find the underlying negative thoughts. They don’t exist everywhere but when they do, they are labelled as hypocrisy, hate, envy among others.

Now who will you think about when you bite that apple?

My Klout is Dropping, Please Like Me!

Sure, I’d love to have that beer when I check in your restaurant or get a 10% discount on that jumper if I’m in your store for 20 times, but what if you’re not giving me anything in return for my check in? Why should I bother sliding my fingers on my smartphone to look you up before I hit the check in button? Ahhhh, yes! Of course! It feels good to tell the rest of the world that I’m sipping a $20 martini drink on that rooftop, or that I’m in that luxury mall doing my Halloween shopping… Most of us have done that, yet seldom do we question the motives behind it. Well, my initial analysis tells me that this boosts my ego and keeps Foursquare active and growing.

So what are the most common ego-boosters and how are they re-defining our online engagements? My attempt here is to zero in on one single human feeling that social networks use and in some instances, dare I say, abuse. I am talking about OUR EGO! There are many ego-boosters that social networks are embedding in their services to ensure that we are keeping our ego in check.

Notifications on Facebook make us happy . Their flowing is an indicator of acceptance from our circle of friends and at the same time, they boost our ego. The same goes for the Like button; the more people give us a thumbs up on what we post, the more points are added to our ego which in turn translates to more engagement and keeps Mark Zuckerberg yeying.
Increasing the number of followers and receiving more retweets and mentions in Twitter plays a similar role because we are in a constant race to capture a bigger audience for whatever we share. The fact that it is easy to compare each other’s activity is an undeclared human ego war.
Klout, which to me aggregates the results of our ego boosters, to become on its own a very strong one, is now giving us an “influence” score to maintain. Some already dread that their Klout score might go down. On top of that, Klout dashboards mimic the charts and numbers that we usually see in stock exchanges and make it easy for us to compare ourselves to others.
The list goes on but what I would like to say here is that ego boosters do not have to be seen as a bad thing. Having said that, we should be aware of their existence and the way they are spreading to our social graph.

Going forward, social networks or any community based activity in the online world will continue to be filled with ego-boosters. Use them wisely.

The Race to Innovation

“Your time is limited…”. Steve Jobs inspired us with these words which were heavily broadcasted following his death. His full awareness of this fact became his motivation to challenge the norms, create, achieve, impact…and he did all of that. What separated Steve Jobs from other technology icons is that he strived to create new tools rather than enhance existing ones, in a magnificent exemplification of the word innovation.

Innovation was and still is a race in the sense that everyone remembers the innovator and frowns upon the copycat. We tend to magnify and glorify the achievements of those who dare to swim against the tide and we walk by those who don’t bring anything new to the table. Bing was seen as another search engine, so it failed to come close to Google and remains till today largely unpopular.

Innovation is the result of many factors but one that I see of imminent significance is time. Those products that claim to be innovative stand the test of time and remain a necessity to the larger communities with time. Facebook with over 800 million users has grown to become a connector to people across the globe. Twitter wants people to share their interests and follow people who are interesting to them. Google+ is yet to prove what it is there for. The hype that Google+ enjoyed when it launched and when it opened to the public were short lived and the non hardcore users were left puzzled with a question that Google is yet to find an answer for in their mighty engines:” Why do we need Google+”?

Twestival and how to “Think global, act local.”

Online social networks are showing off their muscles in creating offline impact with the Arab nations’ political unrest being the freshest evidence to that. But impact is also happening socially for the good of others and Twestival is one of the initiatives that are effectively contributing to that. In fact, Twestival has raised close to $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits from around the world since 2009. This year, the momentum shows no slowing down as Twestival continues to gain more recognition throughout the world thanks to twitter and facebook.

On the 24th of March 2011, Twestival will celebrate its 3 years in more than 200 cities with volunteers contributing their online and offline talents to raise funds for a local cause. In an instance from last year’s Twestival, a single event raised $250,000 to provide clean and safe drinking water in Ethioppia. In Beirut, Twestival will be supporting Faire Face, a Lebanese NGO committed to fighting cancer. The funds will go to support the Breast Cancer cause by providing psychological help and free mammography for women with cancer. In anticipation of the big day, various activities are being planned and sponsors continue to pour by the day showing a strong community support for this cause.

Twestival shows us how online communities can be quickly formed to act on smart ideas, especially ones with a human impact.  Support Twestival Beirut on facebook or on Twitter and be part of the positive change.


Making an addiction universal

Say goodbye to BlackBerry’s exclusivity on mobile messengers, relieve yourself from the pressure of owning a BB…Whatsapp is taking over and it is available on almost every smartphone. RIM, the people who brought you the BB, did not foresee the potential market of mobile messenger service beyond their phones. Had they stepped in and sold or developed their messenger on other devices’ platforms, there would not be Whatsapp today or to say the least, Whatsapp would have struggled to penetrate and differentiate itself in this service. To all non BB users, there is no need anymore to buy a BB and pay a subscription charge to benefit from a messenger service! To BB users, a gradual migration from BBM to Whatsapp will gain pace as users grow tired of the small circle of the BB. Universality in tomorrow’s mobile apps is the name of the game and Whatsapp has set a beautiful example.

I like the Whatsapp experience and its simplicity…after all, it’s a messenger built for phones, unlike other messengers (MSN, Gtalk etc.) who moved from p.c. to phone.  In contrast to BBM, I don’t have to memorize complex pin numbers to add contacts and I can quickly tell who from my mobile contacts uses the application and reach them.

What worries me on the other hand, is that as we use this service more, we will be talking less and we’ll be spreading the “BB like addiction”, the one Jerry Seinfeld brilliantly mocked. So going forward, expect less phone calls and more “heads down” and if you’re a Whatsapp user, my remedy advice to you is to create a new status: “socializing…will get back to you when done”.



Houston…do you read me?

Write on my wall, tweet me, tell me where you are,  like me, connect with me, tell me what’s hot what’s not??, tag me, comment on my post, follow me, react to me, chat with me , poke me, google me, disqus me, quora it, email me??? (dying I know), flicker me…ok, enough I think you get my point. The internet has leapfrogged into a whole new jargon and meanings that no one would have been able to interpret just few years ago and its new tools that are built around the new digital social fabric are becoming more powerful and creative by the day, empowering us and leaving a high impact on whatever we do in our life, be it for business, fun or any other purpose.

What we are living today in my opinion is the climax stage of the information age. Just twenty years ago, we had to go to a library to do our research, we had to use costly mediums to market to a limited audience and we had to call friends to invite them to a party…examples just to name a few. All three activities can be taken care off today from the comfort of one’s house without the need to go out, to talk to humans,  to see the sun.

Although we are getting more and more into the eye of the revolution in this information age, we are starting to miss out more on the human factor. Gradually, we are satisfying more needs that involved frequent interactions and communication with others by clinging to our laptops, ipads, iphones, etc. and exploring what the web with its fantastic offerings has for us everyday.

I am no social psycho analyst trying to see the measured effect of this trend on every one’s life. That requires years of research. However, it all starts for me from personal awareness on how we should think in the future about managing our new life while making best use of the digital world and leveraging the importance and sheer joy of engaging in direct human relations . So instead of going through your friend’s 500 photo album for 1 hour tonight, call him/her and go for a coffee.


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