22 Feb 2010
It has been a long time coming, but at 12:01 am PST on February 22, 2010 Meedan is peeking out from under the cover of our 'beta' status. As we transition out of beta we have decided to launch our media sharing site at news.meedan.net. We do so as a nod to Meedan's larger strategy of increasing access to knowledge broadly for the Arab region through social translation and cross-language social knowledge solutions. As a site devoted to building community and technologies focused on increasing the amount of media and opinion moving between English and Arabic, new.meedan.net will remain the testing ground for our technologies and the public facing flagship of Meedan's work. I think it is worth noting also that our larger project benefits greatly from our investment in building a community of users, editors, and translators on news.meedan.net; the fact that we have to build community ourselves makes us realists when it comes to designing and deploying new tools. The fact that we have a technical team working side by side with our community of translators and journalist is a huge benefit to both the tools we are building and the media our community is producing.
There are some significant changes coming with the new release. Our Interaction Design lead and highly caffeinated late night engineer Chris Blow has done a remarkable job against a huge assignment. With this release Chris is taking steps toward interaction design that moves beyond multi-lingual access to applications (localization) and content (translation/language toggles) to facilitate multi-lingual interaction on a single site. I know from experience that it is a bad idea to blog that 'this is the first ever 'x'', but I do think we are in the very early days of thinking about multi-lingual collaborations on the web and I feel that Chris (and Meedan) is doing important and heroic work on this front. On news.meedan.net Chris is using the directionality of the languages themselves (English and Arabic conveniently being complimentary LtR and RtL) in the bi-lingual page layout--providing a nice visual queue to the source language of a given comment or link within a story.
This occasion is an excuse for us to celebrate the remarkable people that are the Meedan team. On the Meedan core team, we are so lucky to have the brilliant Anas Tawileh guiding Meedan's technical vision and organizational strategy and the tireless George Weyman building community, tending the operations and systems involved in coordinating a bi-lingual virtual newsroom. Speaking of which, Meedan would not happen without our remarkable journalists and translators. Huge thanks to: Abdellah Aoussar - Morocco, Anas Qtiesh - Syria, Aya Mahrous - Egypt, Othman Boutrig - Canada, Deena Hassan - Egypt, Ghaydaa Habeib - Egypt, Hiba Traifeh - Syria, Malika Lakbiach - UK, Nouran Ibrahim - Egypt, Rebecca Saade - Lebanon, Rania El Maraghy - Egypt, Fariza Saadeh - Syria, Wessam Muhammed - Egypt, Wesam Abd El Nasser - Egypt, Yaser El Kosair - Egypt, Abdellah Aoussar - Morocco, Ahmed Ragab - Egypt, Eman AbdElRahman - Egypt, Jay Feghali - Lebanon, Mike Wills - UK, Rami El Meghari - Gaza, Palestine, Simba Russeau - Lebanon, Tania Tabar - Lebanon, Toleen Touq - Jordan, and, Tom Trewinnard - Egypt. Deserving special mention, Nina Curley has been a great help, pitching in with her considerable skills on a range of projects at exactly the right time. Lastly, Maya Zankoul and Mohammad Saleh Kayali volunteered (on a tight schedule before our launch) to create this simple and compelling one minute overview for Meedan. I am so honored to be working with all these remarkable people
With about 48 minuts to go before our official launch, I am thinking this blog post has too much the tone of an acceptance speech. With this self-reflection I will resist the urge to loft any more compliments or wistful sentiments and move over to the Meedan skype channel to celebrate the 'flipping of the switch'.
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