A Short History of Domain Names

The second half of the nineties was a very exciting time for me, I had just begone learning the ins and outs of the world wide web. HTML4 was the hottest thing out there and Geocities was the place to have a personal site. It took little time to get the hang of things and my day job quickly became entirely dedicated to building websites.
As is the case nowadays, one of the most exciting moments of building a website is the go-live date. Publishing the site on a production server where the whole WWW would be able to access it and admire the various, soon to be antiquated, techniques that one has put so much effort into implementing.
However, although many sites offer a shared platform for hosting such as the previously mentioned, now-defunct Geocities or today's more trendy less techie Wordpress.com, these sites do not allow you to fully customize your web address or domain name or URL unless you own a domain name.
That bit of text that you enter into the browser to load your site (ex: www.chemali.org or www.sharplemon.com) is key to many hidden gems.
The shorter the domain name, the more easily recognizable and the more memorable it is, the more value it holds. Naturally, as businesses became aware of this value, the gold rush towards domain names (especially the .com ones) quickly eradicated the highly coveted 2-letter domain names (ex: www.hp.com) followed by the 3-letter ones (ex: www.cnn.com) onto the 4-letter domains which were the ones that lasted the most (until December 2013) until all variations were exhausted.

The web was growing exponentially and with it the need and awareness for uniquely identifiable domain names. Branding companies reached out to us for advice on booking their unique brand names and on defending those domain names against squatters.
Squatting became a common practice that consisted of people buying up interesting names, and holding them "for ransom", until the persons who have real interest in them paid often ridiculously high amounts of money.

Copyright laws were amended, and the governing body in charge of domain names, the ICAAN, set up rules for brands to claim their domains, but this offered only minor deterrence, as not everybody had the clout or the desire to litigate. Many often resorted to paying the money in order to speed up the process. I witnessed this first hand, as an ex colleague of mine, received $1000 USD for a domain he bought for a measly $10 USD.

The awesome folks at DomainTools

During the past three years as I ran Sharp Lemon, a great part of our work involved advising and finding suitable domain names for direct clients of ours, or for branding agencies that reached out and required our assistance. The task is a tedious one, as clients are often hooked on the dot com, and refuse to consider other variations.
The Lebanese local registry (managed out of the American University of Beirut.lb requires a complex procedure and a lot of red tape which makes it counter-intuitive to even consider. Furthermore the wow factor is not there when you are using a .com.lb vs a .com and the jury is unanimous on that.

A few practices that I personally dislike that are being used now to comply with client requirements include:

  • Adding a -lb.com: ex: mycooldomain-lb.com (because it's classier than mycooldomain.com.lb)
  • Splitting the name with dashes: my-cool-domain.com (everybody loves shift key combinations when typing)
  • Going all Web 2.0: instead of sharplemon.com why not shrplmn.com (who needs vowels anyway)
  • Going all domain name Godzilla: thisismycooldomainname.com (so much for readability & SEO)
As many have realized that the .info, .biz and the various tiny variations that have been used were not a sustainable replacement, a shift in paradigm took place which led to the introduction of the New gTLDS (Generic Top Level Domains). Now, you can read a lot of the nitty-gritty details on this here on the ICAAN gTLD site but the idea is simple:
  • You are no longer bound by the .com/net/org....or other country TLDs
  • New extensions can be created at will as long as they fulfill some prerequisites
  • The new extensions can be focused on a city (ex: .nyc) on an industry (ex:.autos) and a plethora of other categories
Well-known domain name registrar, Godaddy, lists 965 TLDs in 19 categories at the time this post has been written. Among the listed domains, I predict unprecedented success for one of them especially: The  .guru .
I am even willing to place some bets on some people who might have invested in such a domain.

Gurus of the World, Unite!


The Worst 5 Types of Freelancers in a Kinder Surprise

"A freelancer, a freelancer, my business for a freelancer"
- Some Business Owner III
Such is the battle-cry of many business owners that operate in the realm of digital.

Any business is bound to find itself at some time in need of additional talent to serve its customer base or ongoing projects. Unfortunately, we live in an era of recession and one cannot always justify the overhead that comes along with acquiring good talent, let alone training them and retaining them as part of the business.

While common sense and ancient wisdom might teach us that true champions appear when things are most difficult, this blog is not about an inspirational story of hope and victory of hardship. This post is about those freelancers that we hire to come to our rescue, only to wish later we had succumbed to our misery.
There is a certain consolation in failure when the alternative involves another flavor of failure garnished with a side dish of having one's intelligence insulted.

Here are my top 5 nominees for freelancers archetypes to avoid:
  1. The Time Traveler:
    The time traveler freelancer possesses great powers that allow them to take on a huge number of projects at once. Like the iconic Terminator sentence: "I'll be Back" they are often heard uttering the sentence: "You'll have it on time". By warping the time-space continuum, they can deliver flawless work on short deadlines, while juggling their personal and professional life at once. Of course all of this happens in their own mind and in reality you the business owner are left 2 heartbeats away from a stroke.
  2. The Bipolar
    In psychology the bipolar is often illustrated as someone that can go from being very happy to very depressed very fast. Like in psychology, in freelancing The Bipolar is a very delicate type to handle.They can go very quickly from calling you and begging for work "because I really have a lot to pay this month" to walking out on a project after having started it "I really should stop taking such projects". Scientists are still baffled by this but my building janitor explained it in a few words: "maybe he doesn't have a lot to pay anymore"
  3. The Lazy Daisy
    Like the cake with the same name this freelancer is usually rather sweet and like the flower, very delicate, but also like any other lazy person out there, utterly useless. You criticize their work and they will not object, you email them your grievances and they reply back acknowledging that, and always gently and nicely without breaking a sweat or in Layman's terms without giving a damn. Nothing can come out of collaborating with such a person who is surely as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.
  4. The Crystal Swan
    This freelancer always needs to be in the spotlight to look their best. They excel at first impressions by highlighting every possible angle to their advantage so they can blind you with the reflection of their awesomeness. Take them away from the pedestal they set themselves on and all they are is fragile pieces of glass that cannot handle pressure and have little value beyond being ornamental. That bird won't fly in the business world and just costs too much to do nothing.

  5. The Handyman
    The handyman freelancer can help you with just about anything. They can develop websites and app, do your accounting, bring you sales leads, advise on what type of surveillance cameras to install, throw some stock exchange tips your way, do a 5 years product roll-out strategy and even fix your Nespresso machine*. But when push comes to shove, this is the last person you want to resort to because as much as patchwork may be trendy in the textile industry, it's not how you want important work done.
    *I threw this last one in just in case they notice me and have another useless artifact they want bloggers to write about in exchange for some freebies).
If you are wondering how you can avoid falling on one of these 5 types, I am afraid there is no easy way around it. Like the rest of us, you will have to go through the process of hiring, failing and learning.
Think of it like buying a Kinder Egg, you never know what's the gimmick inside but you are always certain you are going to be excited at first, you are going to waste some time putting it together and you are likely to do this again even if the result is disappointing.


Huawei Ascend P6: 10 days later

DISCLAIMER 2014-11-08: I am not affiliated in any way with Chetraco or Huawei and wrote this article as part of my amateur blogging activity when I was invited to attend the event. Since then neither Chetraco nor Huawei have contacted me for reviewing their newer models and have chosen understandably so Nancy Ajram to promote their products. I cannot help you with prices or addresses or availability if you call me although I do thank you for your trust.

As some of you might have read in a previous post I recently got my hands on a Huawei Ascend P6 (full specs here) smartphone thanks to the nice folks at Chetraco and Huawei. I've had the phone for around ten days and have been planning to write a review about it as I promised I would.
I got quite busy lately but this was actually a good thing as it allowed me more time to tinker with the phone. By tinker I mean use it heavily and not the hack/root/flash sort of tinker (sorry if you are disappointed).

As I mentioned before the demo unit on display at the launch event took me by surprise and I really wanted to see if the excitement would fade away after I had used the phone for a while.
So let me break it down without going into too much of tech speak that you can find floating all over the internet.

What Works

  • This is a slim phone, and by slim we are not talking that it's slim-mer than others. Compared to a usual bic pen, the pen stands slightly higher than it. I believe that Huawei would have wanted to g slimmer if they didn't want to stick to the standard sized earphone plug.
  • This is a slick phone. It's fast and responsive and even if other reviews online have called the Emotion UI laggy I did not experience this lag even while really going at it with a vengeance. I have other issues with the UI but lag was not up there.
  • The build quality is robust and although you are tempted to treat it gently because it's so fine and slim it does not have that wiggly feel to it that other much better known brands often display.
  • The UI offers a lot of intuitive tweaks such as notifications on battery-heavy apps, easy theme customization, a handy unlock screen, DNLA, Gloves Mode and useful management, backup/restore and update features.
  • The audio quality is very good and most of the musical pieces I tried listening to rendered extremely well is calm and busy environments. On loud outdoors it was expected to struggle a bit but this makes me appreciate a lot the quick sound profile dial-switch that helps one adapt the phone to different environments
  • The phone comes with its own earphones and a protective cover, something we don't often see.
  • The camera worked pretty well. I like to test out the cam in a macro shot and this phone did rather well in my book.

What Itches

  • The grip of the phone is a bit weird, at least compared to the Moto X I've been using for a while. I must admit I am a fan of the slightly curved-to-fit shape on some phones. The flat,square, hard edged shape tends to be slightly irritating but overall remains more comfortable than the much heavier Nexus 4 I compared it to.
  • The keyboard is...an acquired taste. Sure, they tried to revamp things and offer a different feel and functionality but it just doesn't cut it. 10 days into it and I still have to fight the urge to install swiftkey. I might just do that after I am done writing this post.
  • No App tray. Yes you heard me as in "no you don't have all your apps in one place and you can drag a shortcut to the desktop".  Anything you install goes onto the desktop  and the desktops get created as they fill up. This can be also quite annoying for people using widgets as it gets messy to keep things in order. Luckily folders are supported.
  • The icons. I am not a big fan of the round icons nor of the colors being used. Compared to the vanilla, Nexus or Google Edition phones they just make the phone feel...hmm...less serious. I think they went for a more familiar feel to people who might be transiting from other OS but iAmNotSure.
  • No release pin provided for the micro SIM and SC card in the box. At least my unit did not come with one and I know I looked well and carefully.
When I started using this phone I went really after the proverbial "Aha!". Being the slimmest smartphone ever created and with such a good initial impression, I felt I needed to find the chink in the armor. I was merely able to find some dents and small imperfections that any smartphone craftsman should be able to iron out.
I still wish the phone in came in vanilla Android flavor and hope that its successor would offer that option.
For those hardcore fans who cannot wait and don't want the out of the box experience, well you don't me to tell you what to do.

I might not have given up yet on my current main handset as I sat down writing this post but the P6 has definitely earned its hype and its place as the wing-man for my local and travel usage. 

In short the Ascend P6 is a keeper and definitely an indicator of many good things to come from Huawei.


Huawei Smartphones Now In Lebanon


DISCLAIMER 2014-11-08: I am not affiliated in any way with Chetraco or Huawei an
d wrote this article as part of my amateur blogging activity when I was invited to attend the event. Since then neither Chetraco nor Huawei have contacted me for reviewing their newer models and have chosen understandably so Nancy Ajram to promote their products. I cannot help you with prices or addresses or availability if you call me although I do thank you for your trust.

It was roughly 9 days ago when I received an invitation to attend an event by HUAWEI in the prestigious Le Royal, Dbayeh. The Chinese Telecom giant was making its debut in Lebanon as a major player in the smartphone business. My previous encounters with a Huawei handset had been very brief as I only got to check out the device once with one of my friends who is living in Dubai. I did not have enough to build an opinion and this event was an occasion to familiarize myself with this manufacturer.

Fast forward to the event day, I arrived slightly ahead of time to the event and this actually gave me plenty of time to really poke around with the models that were on display. A wide collection was exposed and while it was easy to tell the low-end devices from the high-end ones, they all seemed quite responsive when submitted to the casual tests one can perform in such a short window. Another nice surprise was that all ran Android 4.4.2. this made me move past the aesthetics for some devices and the resemblance with other manufacturers. My immediate crush was for the Ascend P6. This device was thin, ultra light and really a pleasure to handle but more on this later and in a subsequent post.

The formal presentation was, well, formal...the usual intros by the mother company but also by Mr Eddie Cherfane (you might know the name from another brand of phones) who is heading CHETRACO the local partner for the Chinese brand.
I must admit some of the info presented was new to me and quite impressive: 3rd biggest smartphone manufacturer worldwide, P6 the slimmest smartphone ever made, the brand managed to climb from 25% to 52% in terms of awareness....
Huawei seem very confident of their UI dubbed "Emotion UI" but also of the fact that they can take-on older better known and well anchored names in the smartphone industry. From what I have seen they might just be able to to pull this off. I must admit that I was slightly disappointed when they replied to a question I raised that there would not be any "Google Play Edition" of their phones in the Lebanese market. The vanilla Android experience for me is somehow always more enjoyable than any added layer but that's probably my hardcore coding side talking: You can take a man out of coding, but you can't take coding out of a man.

While, during the presentation, we got to see the list of phones that are now available in the Lebanese market alongside what is planned next, the highlight of the event was when I managed to have a casual chat with Mr Ashraf Fawakherji, Vice President Open Market Middle East Region, who was very informative on their vision and strategy but above all was extremely nice to let me have a sneak peak at the P6's successor the Ascend P7. I tell you people, these guys have done a lot to surpass their previous model and they mean business!

We also got treated to an unexpected surprise as we all walked away with the Huawei Ascend P6.
I will be reviewing the device in the next few days so you might want to stay tuned for that. (Update 2014-04-13: read the review)
I leave you with some pictures from the event and of the devices.