26 Oct 2012
Once again typing away from the regular environs of the winged metallic tube – to be exact, these words come to you from seat 31A here on the Lufthansa brand transport experience, headed westward, my home direction. The past two weeks have been very good for Meedan.
Most significantly and to the point of this post, we held our first partners meeting for Phase 2 of the Checkdesk project. From October 16-18, we brought the entire Meedan team (less Aaron, Andy, and Zainab it must be noted) together with an incredible group of folks from our partner organizations. Three days of project meetings, discussion of the technology, project design, trainings, and partner presentations at the excellent space provided by the Development Support Center (DSC) in Dokki.
A few of the all-stars attending (clockwise from upper-left): Fatemah Farag from Welad Elbalad; Lilian Wagdy trainer for Checkdesk and Social Media Journo Consultant; Noha Atef from Birmingham City University; and Chris Blow Meedan peacenik interaction designer.
We have spent a fair amount of time blogging about Checkdesk the technology but less time writing about what may be the real strength of the project, namely, the project design which brings content partners, research partners, and training partners behind our technologies. This next phase of Checkdesk has us moving from one primary ‘beta’ partner and a distributed team of Egypt based trainers to a network of content partners, social media trainers, and university researchers building open content, citizen journalism communities, and open licensed training resources.
Too, we are moving from an Egypt based project to a regional effort, with partners deploying Checkdesk and running trainings in Lebannon, Palestine, Jordan, and Morocco. The stellar group of partners we have lined up include 7ibr.org in Jordan, SMEX and An Nahar in Lebanon, Al Ayyam in Lebanon, Ma’an in Palestine, Welad Elbalad in Egypt, and Mamfakinch in Morocco. Al Masry Al Youm and The Egypt Independent will continue as Phase 2 partners. Birmingham City University will continue to be our primary academic partner, responsible for developing the training curricula and the evaluation strategy.
Here is a bit of a visual shot at clarifying our move - perhaps influenced with the walks through Islamic Cairo.
Technically, Checkdesk will go from being a proof of concept in phase 1 – though one which the great team at Spirula distributed over enough servers to withstand some very big traffic spikes around the AMAY coverage of the Presidential Elections and the Egypt Independents scoop on the Twit-a-tete between the MB and the US Embassy in the wake of the Innocence of Muslims video protests – to a mature SaaS architecture capable of keeping Meedan’s engineering team, testers, and partners sane as we evolve a feature set for dozens and, we hope, hundreds, thousands, and zillions, of instances over the next 24 months (years?!?) of the project.
Given the good vibes exchanged in Dokki, we would love to work with this group of people for the next 24 years and trust that by that time media will be a commodity that actually works to clarify the complexity of the world, produced by the cinematographer poets and investigative wordsmiths who will pave the way for the networked, aware, and compassionate future we might imagine holds more peace and less war. Checkdesk is the Meedan’s team best effort to embody a bit of this idealism in code and project design.
Against this flowery prose and sentiment, I am inclined, nay obliged, to offer –as my Grandma Barnard always did when reviewing her cooking - the requisite disclaimer –and roll out the modesty that we always keep as the secret ingredient at Meedan. Checkdesk might not work – servers could melt, engineers could have the wrong epiphanies, designers could take up surfing – we are realistic and rational about the limits of technical solutions. However, the human quality of the project - the new connections made – and, of course, the old connections deepened –is worth celebrating and should get us through.