Time After Sometime

On the brink of another year, we are often bombarded with all the wishy-washy resolutions, recommendations and inescapable avalanche of hopefulness. We are often socially cornered into reciprocating greetings that are founded on nothing but the governing rules of planet rotation in a vast universe where what you wish for and what could happen are totally independent.
So why do we indulge in such self-deluding practices in spite of the accumulated payload of broken resolutions, unfulfilled wishes and thankless self-investments in misguided endeavors?

The long answer would involve diving into the history of civilization, the local customs of ethnic groups and the anchored superstitious beliefs handed over from one generation to another.

The short one is that we are afraid.

Time being the only irrecoverable and irreplaceable commodity during our limited existence, we try to bend it and wield its unstoppable progress by putting roadblocks in its way. We plan for that diet to start on Monday, we get that 6 months gym subscription, we prepare that 3  year business plan, we celebrate anniversaries for our relationships and offspring and magically expect that when a number on the calendar changes, it will divert the path of events previously set in motion by all the choices we made before.

Although my rambling here might make me sound like a Bond villain whose world domination goal is wreak havoc in the world by destroying all the clocks and calendars, I am not.
I am quite the opposite actually, a very precise, time-efficient professional (heck, I've even been recently reproached that I am not a team player when it comes to coming in late and dragging my feet all day to be in sync with the others after hours).

The finer point I am trying to make is that, although we need our lives to be regulated by a quantified notion of time, we should not rely on these quantifications to auspiciously or ominously bring about change. So on this last day of the year, I'll gladly take your wishes for a happy 2016 and will reciprocate them with goodwill, but deep down inside (and a bit at the corner of my mouth) I will be saying that it doesn't really matter what you or I wish.  Things will happen and we'll have to deal with them as they do. After all, like Omar Al Khayyam once said:

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”


Noise, A Modern Affliction

Not one day goes by without me reading some article on how some expert has designated something as the disease of the century. Be it a real physical affliction or a quirk in our social norms, there is a label ready for each to make it much more sensational. Therefore, I am jumping on the bandwagon with my own theory and I double dare you to stop me.

From Heart disease to bad posture through smoking all the way to mobile device addiction all these observed issues could be interpreted as a byproduct of noise. But what is noise exactly?

In its most basic and common definition, noise can be explained as any unwanted sound. Mozart (who was a great composer) could be considered noise if you are not into listening to his genius compositions.
This acoustic definition was extended into many disciplines where noise is considered as an unwanted interference any type of signal that a person is trying to pick up on. 

I must confess that the spark behind this idea came when I recently plugged my earphones at a location I was in,  without actually turning on any music or sound. I realized that all I was attempting to do was to dampen the noise that was throwing me off balance.

Perhaps the auditory noise is the one I need to explain the least,  but still,  it is amazing how much of it we accept without questioning. The indistinct sound of a laptop fan, the silent humming of car tires on the asphalt, the distant rumble of a backup power generator, the infinite amount of beeps that electronic devices emit. Each taken separately may not amount to much but when piled up together they can take a toll on one's nerves and focus.

One thing I was struck by when I first visited East Europe over 15 years ago was how uniform (and dull) their soviet era architecture was. It was shocking for me to imagine all these people living in a place that lacks the individualistic character and creativity which perhaps that was a contributing factor in the demise of those regimes. But the opposite case is not any better. In Lebanon we have become accustomed to a complete lack of urban regulation. From the old refined architecture of houses in Ashrafieh to the adjacent skyscrapers (oh those skyscrapers) everything is just flooding you with a million styles in a total lack of harmony. You can delude yourself and call it charming and unique, inject words and expressions like amalgam and melting pot,  but but it's just noise. My colleagues in the ad industry will hate me for this but the amount of billboards and message boards scattered everywhere does not help make things better and is often a major source of visual noise. But it's not just on the scale of the city, it's everywhere: window dressing of shops, graphic designs of brochures, the layout of websites, the menus of restaurants, everybody is shouting louder with visual elements to cover the competition.

Ironically enough, even this blog post is noise. Among the plethora of publications , news sites, technical review sites, bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, instragrammers and duckfacers we are swarmed by a huge amount of information that makes it really hard to establish the single most important thing for a knowledge seeker: Relevancy!
By the time I have identified that a published piece is relevant to what I trying to inform myself on, I have already wasted precious time that I could have used more productively or leisurely. This issue is perhaps the biggest problem facing the internet. A problem that Google aimed at solving through its innovative algorithm since they started their brilliant journey but which still escapes them to greater degrees. Facebook's social graph and attempts at making information sort-able have been equally shy at best.

The omnipresence of handheld devices, multiplied by the advent of wearables, makes it such that we are always responding to a bleep, a buzz or a nudge. Others have also grown to meet such notifications with indignation should you miss out, ignore or delay responding to any of them.
I am not sure if this is a pure Mediterrano-Arab thing, but even our face to face encounters have to be fraught with constant "telling" and nagging and flaunting to a point where sitting quietly enjoying the moment has become a sign of malaise leading up the proverbial "shou bek?" (what's wrong?) 

So, now what? 
Well, if you are basking in the sunshine of you mobile screen,  shaking it to the sound of your mobile notifications on a rooftop, under a well lit billboard of the latest discounted offering of a sportswear brand, listening to a bunch of friends tell you about their exploits, while a 40 something year old adolescent revs his Harley at 2 AM in the street below, then there's nothing to do and you are just fine as you are. Just live it up!

On the other hand, if you feel this is overwhelming then you need to start figuring out what are the essentials that you cannot give up and then gradually tailor your day-to-day life around them, doing away with all that you feel is impeding on your well being. 
Perhaps a week-end out of town is worth much more than those smart gimmicks you've been craving.
Perhaps as a creative you don't need to hammer people with all those messages, colors, tunes, watchamacallits...
Perhaps as an architect you can let your ego take a nap and not try to outdo the building next door by making that purple facade...well..purple..

Cultivating a culture of silence or more accurately a culture of "the absence of noise" is definitely easier said than done. It starts by identifying one's priorities, what we really care about in our essence as opposed to all the gimmicks we have grown accustomed to, and eventually shedding that extra weight we have picked up along the way.
If you can't understand what I have rambled about throughout this article, I invite you to take a trip abroad or just a walk in one of Lebanon's few remaining pristine natural escapes. The symbiotic nature of the great outdoors offer much to learn from and are a screaming contrast (yes, yes I know ) to the noise ridden urban life we have all come to lead.


And it's back...ArabNet 2015

Yes it's that time of the year where tech enthusiasts, business professionals and various professional and financial bodies get to rub elbows with all the real and wannabe entrepreneurs.
Of course not everybody there really know why they are attending, it remains however essential for any professional in digital and innovation to be present.
The various insights into new industry trends on the local and regional scenes have always proven their value.
It also a very good opportunity to extend one's network reach. Just make sure you are not behaving like a used car salesman handing out business cards. Careful selecting whom to connect to and how you can synergize with them is a cornerstone of building solid business relationships.

As a blogger evolving in this ecosystem, I was invited once more this year. I will be warping my business schedule to make it there. Give me a shout if you want to connect during the event.

PS: Below is the event's official press release:


Appeer Makes App Discovery Social

Those of us who are regular twitter users might have noticed when, a while ago, twitter started pushing updates that inform us about what some of the people we follow have been up to. I would wake up and find that A, B & C users have favorited a tweet, or retweeted user X, or followed user Y.
Although I initially had mixed feelings about this feature since I didn't really solicit that info, I grew to like it as it often offered valuable insights into interesting updates and users to follow.

Appeer does just that to the process of discovering interesting apps for your (Android) smartphone.
Once installed and activated Appeer will introduce the user to a community of...yes you guessed it...peers, who each would willingly allow the community to discover when they install an App in exchange of knowing what others are installing. After all sharing is caring as they say.

Using the follow and follow back approach, along with a timeline tab and a recommendation tab, one is definitely bound to receive custom tailored recommendation based on community interaction.
The app also allows the user to export their own list of installed apps as well as bookmarking of interesting suggestions for later review.

I joined their beta community and I must admit that in spite of being still in beta and several bugs being reported, the app seemed already mature enough. Of course large scale adoption might bring to light more user requests or bugs surfacing but that's just the nature of the beast. The team behind the app seem dedicated and responsive enough to ensure smooth sailing.

Appeer is the sort of app that you probably never knew you wanted or needed but that would succeed in surprising you once you start using it. The app is due to go live for the public on March 6th 2015
Below is the official release statement:

Appeer Announces The Launch Of Its Recommendation Platform, Aims To Provide Users With Personally Crafted App Recommendations
- Appeer will give users an unprecedented insight into the world of apps based on their own app inventory and the personal network of people they follow.
- Using an algorithm based on app inventory and social connection to build a tailor-made list of app recommendations, Appeer improves on the current app discovery process.
-“This app bypasses so many of the issues that consumers have when trying to discover the next great app. Apps can now discover you.” — Co-Founder and CEO Jason Allen,
- According to Nielsen, users spent an average of 30 hours, 15 minutes on their apps in Q4 2013, a full half-day more than the 18 hours, 18 minutes spent in Q4 2011. However, this rise in use does not mirror the average number of apps used, which only increased from 23.2 in 2011 to 26.8 apps per month in 2013.

March __ 2015, Austin-based Appeer announces the launch of its app recommendation platform, aims to provide a personalized app discovery experience for its users.
Available March 6, 2015 for free via Google Play for Android devices, Appeer will give users an unprecedented insight into the world of apps based on their own app inventory and the personal network of people they follow.
Designed as a sleek app recommendation engine that is both user-friendly and powerful, Appeer app looks beyond paid app ads, review sites, and “popular app” sections of app stores to pair its users with the perfect app or game.
Utilizing an algorithm that automatically follows people on behalf of a user in order to build a tailor-made list of app recommendations, the Appeer improves on the current app discovery process.
Within 30 seconds of opening the app for the first time Appeer offers dozens of personally tailored recommendations that will update regularly,” says Appeer Co-Founder and CEO Jason Allen. “This app bypasses so many of the issues that consumers have when trying to discover the next great app,” he adds.
The apps suite of features include push notifications that allow users to install a recommended app directly from Google Play, a viewable timeline of recommendations, and the ability to export the user's app inventory to four different formats.
Additionally, users will be able to bookmark recommended apps so they can check them out later, even if the recommendation comes to them through a push notification,” says Appeer Technical Co-Founder Komra Beth Salo. “If they really like an app, users can share the recommendation via Appeer to their contacts or friends on social networks,” she adds.
Our competitors are being paid to recommend apps to their users. Appeer only gives organic recommendations because our focus is on providing the best recommendations for our users,” explains CEO Jason Allen.
As the adoption of smartphones continues to rise on a global scale, so does the overall time we spend using apps or playing games. According to Nielsen, users spent an average of 30 hours, 15 minutes on their apps in Q4 2013, a full half-day more than the 18 hours, 18 minutes spent in Q4 2011. However, these figures are not mirrored by the average number of apps used, which only increased from 23.2 in 2011 to 26.8 apps per month in 2013.
With thousands of new apps being developed everyday — a large number of which are available for free — it is hard to look beyond these numbers without seeing a real need for a powerful and dynamic
app discovery tool like Appeer.
Aiming to change the way we discover new apps, Appeer moves beyond the “Top App” charts highlighted by the App Store and Google Play, and places the focus back on the individual user.
Founded in 2014 by Jason Allen, Komra Beth Salo and Milan Cubic, Austin-based Appeer is a new Android app, which aims to change how users discover great new Apps and Games. The Appeer app creates personally tailored app and game recommendations based on a users profile. Recommendations can be viewed in the app or received by the user via notifications on their device.

Name: Eddie Arrieta

Phone: 1-646-480-0356

Email: eddie@publicize.co


Google's URL Shortener Blocked on Alfa Telecom


Earlier today during my morning ritual, I was browsing my twitter feed on my mobile, powered by Alfa Telecom's mobile data, and came across a couple of interesting tweets. I clicked the link in the tweet only to land on the page below:

The text reads:
This site has been blocked upon order from Lebanese courts

Naturally my initial assumption was that the target site or article was blocked and it seemed plausible since it was a news site. This sort of things is not unusual around here. Then I noticed that the URL was still showing Google's URL shortener goo.gl.

I tried a few other links that had this service and they all returned the same blocked page. The last verification step involved trying to open the serice itself on the bare URL goo.gl. Receiving the same page I private messaged some friends and took it to twitter to see if others had been facing the same issue.

The findings are as follows:

  • Some users on Alfa Telecom  like myself reported the same problem
  • Surprisingly others on Alfa's network were opening the site normally.
  • Touch users I contacted were issue-free.
  • I was able to personally verify that Sodetel was working.
  • IDM & Cyberia users reported it was working fine
  • Corporate users on Ogero have reportedly been able to open the URL
  • Furthermore at the time of writing this piece I was able to open again the URL on my Alfa subscription
With so many conflicting reports one is unable to draw any conclusions on this matter. My best guess is that it's a mis-configuration of some sorts on their DNS or Cache Engine. Let me know in the comments if you were able to open this on your local ISP or if you also encountered the blocked page