Sneak Peak: First Zeid and the Wings Album

For those of you who like good, underground, Arabic music, here’s a sneak peak with a couple of samples from Zeid and the Wing’s upcoming album:

Awesome, right? :) For those of you in Beirut, you can grab a copy in the July edition of Time Out Beirut.

You can find out more about Zeid and the Wings on their Facebook page.

The Age of Overwhelming Information

When I became the happy owner of an iPad last July, I was most excited by how it functioned as an ebook reader. Imagine the possibilities of endless reading choices; no more worrying about Jordanian customs, dealing with Amazon’s credit card issues, or calling the bookstores in town (all three of them) to see if they stock a particular book. The potential was tantalizing.

But that was not the only thing that I thought the iPad would improve in regards to my reading experience.  Maybe you had those fantasies too: click to look-up a word you didn’t know, swipe to get an encyclopedia article on a historical figure you’re not familiar with, and add notes without ruining the book with ink. I imagined that reading on a device constantly connected to the Internet would mean a mindblowing layer of information, where you read about Schrödinger’s cat and then click on the phrase to find out what the hell that means.

That was not to be the case. The iPad, I soon found out, limited the magical powers of the Internet. To my disappointment, the default book program (predictably called iBooks) only added a basic dictionary and simple notetaking to books, without a solid connection with the web.

Alas, a few months down the line and many incomplete books later, I realized that the iPad’s “Internet lite” functionalities were probably a conscious design decision from Apple. In fact, the lack of features is exactly why the iPad has been successful in the first place. You get what you need and no distractions. Distraction is a modern-day malady, and Apple’s tablet (although a distraction in its own right) offered a simple solution; no hyperlinks.

We have all been distracted by Wikipedia at some point or another, where a simple search for something as minute as “falafel” could result in hours spent reading about the effect of the Turkish language on the Jordanian dialect. The blue links to irrelevant content are hard to resist, for you never know if the next article is going to be more interesting than the first. It’s a journey with no start point and no end. The possibilities are endless, you could be reading or seeing something so much more interesting right this minute. Click. Click. Click.

Why does this happen? It happens because of hyperlinks, which are words, phrases, or images that you can click on to jump to a new link. They are found in nearly all web pages, letting users to click their way through the gigantic network of pages known as the World Wide Web.

Hyperlinks are the very magical essence of the Internet, allowing the transfer of information between places that are not physical nor connected. Indeed, the Internet would simply fail to exist without them. In science fiction, this magic is known as teleportation. A friend can take you with her to Spain by sharing instant pictures of what she is seeing, links to where she is at an exact moment in time through location services, and by livestreaming videos. You’re here now, then magically falling down the tunnel into another place, perhaps even more enthralling. These days, many of us are as mad as March Hare, the rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland”, with tiny attention spans and no real sense of time, locking ourselves in a gadget universe.

With the omnipresence of the Internet, the world has spurted invisible strings that connect everything to everything to else. And with this connectivity, we all became a whole lot busier. As a result, what consumers want from the products and services is fundamentally changing. We want what is convenient. We want gadgets and services that can simplify our lives rather than make them more complex. We need help in filtering through all the options, data, and stock available to get to what we really want.

This is where Apple’s genius comes in handy. With iBooks, they don’t let you drift off into another world, thus stopping the book from becoming nothing but a starting point. The temptation is obviously still there, as Safari, the built-in browser, is two clicks away. But the experience is consciously made simple.

I myself have fallen into the trap that attracted me to the iPad in the first place. Hundreds of half-read and unread books waiting for their turn to be completed: the end of that one, a few interesting chapters of this. Afterall, who could resist downloading all the books that sound interesting when they’re just a click away? And what if the options you have are unlimited, as is the case on the iPad? You spend all the time you hoped to save for that one book you would enjoy by going through many options, and thus, you end up reading nothing at all.

I’m not a sucker for motivational quotes, but I recently read the following on my favorite website for collecting hyperlinks: “Time enjoyed is not time wasted.”

Indeed, it’s not. But it’s good to have constraints. Sometimes.

Hyperlinks are beautiful. But static text is necessary too.

[Originally published in Venture Magazine, written by Roba Al-Assi, March 2011]

More Hyperlink articles:

It’s Time to Learn How to Surf
It’s Real Time
Start a Blog is NOT a Social Media Strategy
Advertising on the Information Highway
Social is the Word
The iPad Will Change the World
Does the Internet Now Speak Arabic?
Google You: Your Professional Brand Online
Left that Copy
Virtual Goods: A Dollar’s Worth of Pixels
Dial the Web
It’s a Wiki Wiki World
Tis the End of Software as We Know It
Revolution 2.0
Good Web Design is Invisible
How to Use Crowdsourcing to Change Your Business