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Meet Meedan's 2012 Summer Interns: Flora Cabili and Andrew Ver Steegh

The ever growing Meedan family is excited to welcome the Flora Cabili and Andrew Ver Steegh as interns for the Summer of 2012. Flora, a McGill University student, is researching various development and media indicators in the MENA region, and is currently focusing on Syria to support our collaboration with the Syrian media collective, Al Ayyam. In her own words:

For a short time this summer, I am joining the Meedan team as an intern for Anas. I am filled with excitement and curiosity for the work you all do at Meedan as it is my first true dive into the working-world, more specifically in a nonprofit organization that seeks to alter and improve dynamics and exchanges between two worlds. As a soon-to-be second-year student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, I am just beginning to familiarize myself with the material I study: Political Science, International Development, and the Arabic Language. I am honored to have the opportunity to work in an organization that encompasses my fields of study and interests.

As a native French speaker that had to learn English at a young age, I have always had a taste for languages, and a particular fascination for the Arabic language. When I was smaller I marveled at the round, intricate letters and told my parents that if I ever got the opportunity to learn Arabic, I would. Last year, as I was browsing possible classes for the fall, I noticed that Arabic was offered. I signed up. Learning Arabic, even if I have yet to unlock many of its grammatical rules and memorize a plethora of its vocabulary, has opened a door for me into the Arab World. It has sparked a new interest in the development and political status of Arab-speaking countries.  Reading and studying about the recent revolutionary changes that have occurred in the Middle East and the North Africa strengthen my knowledge across my fields of study.

In my eyes, Meedan is an organization of the future as it contributes to the development of the Arab World. I am thrilled to be working on the Checkdesk project!

As for Andrew, he is a Social Media Translation Intern at Meedan.  He has been in and out of Egypt since 2008, most recently as a Fulbright Fellow in Alexandria in 2010-2011. He has been mainly working on translating tweets on Al Masry Al Youm's liveblog powered by Meedan Checkdesk. Half-way into his internship, Andrew had the following to share from his experiences:

I have spent the majority of my internship time translating tweets on the AMAY Checkdesk.  This has been an absolutely fascinating experience for a few reasons:

First, through processing a large number of tweets, I have gotten a better sense of both the value and limits of Twitter for news gathering.  Because of where translation fits into the workflow, I have translated more material than gets used for liveblog reports, and  I have enjoyed seeing which tweets get picked up by journalists and which ones do not.  Further, I have found it fascinating how the raw material of citizen reports are arranged by the AMAY staff into a coherent journalistic narrative.

Second, the genre of the tweet is deceptively simple from the perspective of translation.  Many tweets will only take seconds, but the tweets that I find the most valuable and enlightening usually are the ones full of typos, colloquial expressions, and context specific hashtags that take significant amounts of time to research and translate.  It is a further challenge to reproduce the Arabic in an English sentence or two that conforms to the values of Twitter (brevity, little to no context, and shorthand references to events/people) - doubly so when a tricky colloquialism is in play, or when a single item is stretched across multiple tweets.  I am happy that Checkdesk doesn't limit the English to 140 characters.

Third, I have benefited from seeing how the software development works from Meedan's end.  I am happy that at least some of my observations have been useful to developers.  I have also gotten a much better sense of what goes on behind the scenes, and the amount of effort and coordination that go into developing these new web tools.

Andrew and Flora, thank you for your hard work thus far. We are glad to have your talents on Checkdesk, Meedan's Middle East and North Africa Journalism Project.