A little less than a year ago, Isam, Natasha, Nader, Ammar, and myself got together for something I have never done before- a meeting of random people off the internet. ‘Random’ I say, because for one thing, our blogs save for Natasha’s weren’t mature enough yet to give a better feel of each person and Jordan Planet was a little portal of perhaps 10 Jordanian bloggers, 6 of them being IT geeks who blogged about stuff I had never heard of, like Pear Packages and a Penguin called Tux.
I remember the first meet-up well. I went a little late(thanks to a movie that took much longer than it was supposed to), and Isam, Natasha, and Jeff were already engrossed in a conversation about blogging, and we were all joined by Nader, Ammar, and then-blogger Zaid within minutes.
Here’s an excerpt from an unfinished draft I have from the evening after the first Jordanian blogger meet-up(Did this year and a half of blogging influence my writing skills as well?):
“I was afraid I would have a hard time finding the Jordan Planet table, because save for Natasha and Ammar, I didn’t know how anyone looked and didn’t have anyones number. Luckily though, Natasha and Jeff were already there and I spotted them easily(Natasha seemed to recognize me from the jacket I was wearing).
Natasha and Jeff are both extremely nice, and basically they were the only two people I imagined correctly, thanks to the pictures on Natasha’s blog(ok, yeah, so it’s not imagining anymore). Natasha was the life of the table, always leading the conversation with her humor(batoota) and effervescence. Jeff was also very interesting to talk to, and it was nice hearing his point of view on our blogs and the Middle Eastern bloggershpere in general. On a side note, you guys are really cute together :)
Isam looks very different from how I expected him to look(Roba’s I.T. stereotype kicking in), and he has some really interesting ideas, especially when it comes to blogging.”
Amazing! A time when Natasha was “very nice”, and Isam was an “I.T. stereotype”! Now, Natasha is Natasha, and Isam is Isam, they are my friends, two people I’ve had countless communications with in the past year, whether it’s talking about colors of redesigns, debating new bloggers and issues such as anonymity, Jordan Planet features, technicalities, and an endless list of discussions that I will not mention here.
Blogging in Jordan took off a few months after that first meet-up, and it became a much more rewarding and enjoyable experience for me with the addition of bloggers who I now consider good friends, such as Iyas and Lina, and with an added richness, quality and diversity for the Jordanian blogs featured.
We also had many Jordanian bloggers meet-ups after that, some dubbed as “official Jordan Planet blogger meet-ups”, others being smaller and more personal; we’ve had many guests; we’ve had many discussions. It’s been an interesting ride, and I feel like it will become even more interesting within the coming years.
We now have the musicians, the designers, the doctors, the genetical engineers, the journalists, the directors and and the editors– our own little community of people who shared a passion for sharing.
‘Community’ is the keyword here, because after the first meet-up, it was never “random people of the internet” ever again. It became funny Laith, insightful Ahmad, drafts Nader, sensitive Mira, and sweet Eman. We became “people” to one another, not just bits and bytes off cyberspace; we became people who have been building a little community, whether each individual was aware of this fact or not.
I’m very much a community person- I believe that communities are a very essential tools that help build something that works well, especially if the communities are monitored yet free, full of quality yet diverse, and experimental yet skilled. Very utopian, and I’m not much of an idealistic person, so I will admittedly say that it would take a lot of effort to manage to get this perfect balance that will result in such a healthy community, and now Jordan Planet is at, what seems to me, a crossroad. Should it stay small, personal, and cozy, with names and faces and experiences? Or should it grow into a larger community, more like a directory, and simply turn into the “Jordanian Blogosohere”?
Personally, it would break my heart to see it lose the personal touch to it and become just an aggregator of names with no faces- but then again, I’m quite the picky person and what is good and what is not is a very relative concept (although I will always say that quality is quality, it’s a simple matter of aesthetics, even the most secluded little Bedouin who hasn’t seen much in his life can play the most beautiful melody on his flute, and no one would be able to deny its beauty).
Today at our 10th and perhaps my favorite meet-up so far(I would honestly rather have such a meaningful meet-up than a chit-chatty one), almost a year after the first Jordanian blogger meet-up, I found myself looking at the people around me sitting on the very familiar Wild Jordan tables discussing topics my offline friends have never even heard of. These topics are vital to the ever changing internet culture, such as Wikimedia and Creative Commons, and I found myself thinking about how much I have changed from the first time I sat at Blue Fig blabbering to Natasha about my frustration on how none of my friends have any idea what blogging is. Heck, I now think “/dev /null” whenever I’m stressing about something, and I actually know who Tux the Penguin is!
Most of my friends still have no idea what blogging is, but hopefully, with a strong community at the core, alternative media will become, well, less alternative.
Some pictures from today’s meet-up(all images expand, a lot of new faces!):