12 Jul 2010
Many people have questions about what Meedan really is, both as a website and as an organization. Visitors are often surprised when they find the link “news.meedan.net”, wondering where and what is the original meedan.net?
This is a logical question, so let's first clarify that “news.meedan.net” is one of several Meedan projects, aiming to enrich dialogue and discussion between English and Arabic speakers based on news events that are important to both groups.
In short, this is Meedan. It's a common mistake to think of Meedan as a news site: It may appear this way, but Meedan's role is not to report or publish news. Instead we collect what is being discussed in English and Arabic on the web based on specific events, and present it in an easy-to-read format for readers of both languages. We translate every source in clear and simple language to make them available in both English and Arabic. This is the real mission of Meedan.
Breaking this language barrier is what benefits both people following the news and people who love to know what other people are thinking about events.
From a journalistic point of view, Meedan offers to curate what is being discussed in the press on both sides, taking key points from an article, and then to translate it and make it available to speakers of the other language. However, as an organization experienced in new media, our sources aren't limited to the Arabic and English press. Our sources also come from the web; blog posts, Twitter posts, Facebook messages and forum discussions in both languages. Everything web users might produce as material related to an event will be used as a source for Meedan. This is where the strength of Meedan as a source lies, for anyone searching the web or anyone wanting to follow current affairs without fear of one opinion or point of view dominating the coverage.
But the work doesn't stop with Meedan's producers and translators. This is where the technology behind Meedan steps in, to give all its users the opportunity to add their own links related to the event for Machine Translation, which uses advanced technology which also allows continuous user modification and development which then feeds back into Meedan's translation memory. Of course, your own personal comments are also distinct from the sources and links, and have their own place on Meedan events.
And it's not only comments that can be translated on Meedan; we also have the IBM TransBrowser which translates the complete original source page from comments and links added to Meedan in a way which maintains the original appearance of the page.
Creating an account on Meedan allows you to access your personal page, which displays your translations, your activity on the site and your stats. In addition there is, of course, the opportunity to communicate with other users of Meedan, participate in events and your own personal blog badge. So it seems we have a mini social network too!
Meedan brings together all these ideas to provide a unique web service that allows participation in events, translation and communication, all with one goal: dialogue which breaks down the language barrier. Of course, Meedan has its own views about good dialogue: we always try to maintain the best kind of dialogue we can.
It's true that we support and encourage freedom of expression and debate on Meedan, but - since language is at the centre of the Meedan project - we will always try to use a language of dialogue which is respectful and acceptable to everyone involved, whatever we may believe to be the truth. Calm and clear dialogue is what will lead us to becoming a better global community.
Translated to English by: Tom Trewinnard