A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: August 2011 (Page 1 of 3)

Quarter-to-two thoughts on reading with the iPad

Yes. Real books are awesome. Yes. Paper smells amazing. Yes. Highlighting and scribbling and touching a paperback adds a whole other level to the reading experience.

But you know what? My iPad has been the best thing that ever happened to the bookworm in me.

Here is why I love reading on my iPad:

1. You can read without glasses. Zoom, I love you.

2. Being a bookworm is a really expensive hobby in this part of the world. I made up for the extravagant price of the iPad in the first 3 months by saving on books.

3. Two words: Backlit display.

4. It is more socially acceptable to read on the iPad in social settings because many people assume you’re working.

5. Instant information access. Highlight to look up words you don’t know, do a quick wiki search to familiarize yourself with a topic you’re not familiar with.

6. You don’t have to wait a month or two for the Amazon-Aramex combination to work in cases where you are really eager to read a book.

7. Search. Come on, you know you want that.

8. It’s really easy to prop up the gadget on your pillow.

9. You don’t have to carry 3 different books at all times. You have ALL your books, ALL THE TIME.

10. Taking notes and saving snippets is just a matter of copy and paste.

My fellow bookworms, stop being so frickin’ romantic and treat yourself to a damn iPad.

It’s Bright and Sunny

From “The Geek Life

Getting Emotional with Steve


I am another Eve, another person forever changed by taking a bite of your rainbow apple. As is the case with most addicts, my first bite was very strongly influenced by the addiction of others. “Taste it, Roba,” they would say. “It makes the world so much more beautiful.”

At first, I resisted. The other fruits were not as beautiful nor as seductive as your concoction, but they were certainly easier on the pocket, more common, more accepted. They were safe. But I was never one for safety, I guess you can say.

I bit into your fruit. I saw the rainbow.

Steve, you gave me the rainbow.

A prism of colors. Joy. Oh, my god. For that, I owe you forever, whether we stay in Heaven or not.

My heart palpitates and my I go all doe-eyed even in the presence of your creations. I have, after all, spent the past ten years crushing on your products. The kind of glorious crush where I feel like passing out when surrounded by a certain amount of beautiful and perfect pieces of machinery. The kind of corporeal crush where I want to run the tips of my fingers over the cold metal and soft plastic and get bedazzled by the faery-style white light. The kind of crush where I want to put an Apple laptop inside a lucite case and place it lovingly on my coffee table as some sort of ultra-modern readymade sculpture for the sole purpose my visual enjoyment.

As is the case with other addicts, my obsession with beauty and perfection saw me seeking others who also had a sense of appreciation for things as absurd as the scent of a perfectly-created MacBook Pro. Steve, you blinded me. My collection of Apple gadgets could feed a family of 5 for a year in the third world country in which I live. Steve, I look at other fruits in vain, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Steve, my friends are a bunch of dreamy designers, artists, and superheroes, wielding shiny, silver weapons. I can’t help it. I am naturally attracted to other addicts. I can smell them a mile away.

You have influenced my life, the way I work, the way I design, the way I think. Dear Steve, you have given me the elixir of life. You have given me simplicity. You have given me dependability. You have given me a tool of joy.

I don’t know how your decision to purge the apple out of your system will affect our addictions. Do we all need to start detoxing? Is the rainbow going to fade out slowly and then die? Is it time to get an Apple tattoo?

I don’t have the answers yet. But I see my need for rehab.

Steve, I will miss you.

Another Social Google Attempt: Google+

Google+ is a hot topic at the moment. Launched by invitation only towards the end of June, the social layer turns the search engine and all other Google products into one giant social network.

Gone is the familiar gray strip at the top of every Google-related page. In its place is a black bar with several options for accessing Google+, viewing activity notifications, and sharing content. Content shared with you is displayed in a stream, very much like that of Facebook and Twitter. Other Google services are also integrated in the interface. Google’s +1 button, which is similar to the ubiquitous Facebook “Like”, is heavily present. When you upload pictures to Google+, they do not just go to Picasa, they also reside on Google+.

The most interesting difference though between today’s popular social networks and Google+ is the latter’s friendship model, called Circles. “Today’s web is about people,” says Vic Gundotra, the man behind the product. “To organize the world’s data, you have to understand people. We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public. Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software”.

Indeed, Google+ tackles human relationships using an approach that is unique and innovative. Discovering people and adding them to circles is a fun experience; a user drag-and-drops his or her contacts into different social circles for friends, family, classmates, co-workers and other custom groups. With animations and whimsical touches, Circles looks more like an Apple software than the typically undesigned Google application. The very essence of sharing on Circles is also different. You selectively choose from your circles to share an item, but for the item to make it into the main stream, the people you are sharing with also need to selectively choose to share back. While the model allows for great privacy, it comes at a cost for complexity, virality, and discovery. Only time will tell if Google’s slight reinvention of the friendship wheel will be successful or not.

Yet, it isn’t necessarily social sharing and circles that keeps bringing the users back. “Hangouts” is a group chat feature on Google+. Reminiscent of the early days of the Internet, when webcams were still a commodity, you can video chat with up to 10 people. Amusingly enough, it is still as pixelated and as unsynchronized as it was in 1999. The ability to watch YouTube videos with others while on Hangouts seems to be the only taste of 2011. However, Facebook recently announced a partnership with Skype, and will probably soon introduce a similar feature.

Another addition to Google+ is “Sparks”, a built-in recommendation engine for finding interesting content. With RSS readers losing their edge in the age of social content discovery, Sparks is a collection of articles, videos, photos and other content grouped by interest. The system is very much algorithmic, which often results in content that isn’t particularly interesting.

Google is calling Google+ a “project”, which means that what we’re seeing today is no where near the final product. In fact, the company says it will undergo many changes to fix problems and introduce features. Still, less than two weeks into the invitation-only launch, Google+ somehow already has more than 10 million members. That’s not near Facebook’s 750 million, but it is Google after all.

Google+: 10 million down, 740 million to go.

[Originally published in Venture Magazine, July 2011. Written by Roba Al-Assi]

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
The Age of Overwhelming Information
The Power of a Like Button

Featured on The Next Web’s list of 7 Middle Eastern tech personalities to circle on Google+

I was recently featured on The Next Web’s list of 7 Middle Eastern tech personalities to circle on Google+. How cool is that?

The other people on the list are Sami Shalabi, Wael Ghonim, Joseph Ayoub, Orli Yakuel, Zamil Safwan, and Alireza Yavari.

You can add me to your circles on Google+ here.

Little linguistic joys for the nerds

Fullstops make me happy. Reading terse sentences is a wonderful experience. I love skimming through a tightly-packed paragraph with lots of pretty fullstops.

– The word “designer“, used in places where design isn’t really needed.

– Yesterday, someone used the word “configure” in a sentence. Configure. Not set up. Not fix. Not start. Configure. What a beautiful word to use.

– The older I grow, the more I realize how true the cliche actually is. Beauty really does lie in simplicity. Quick, easy sentences. Simple, expressive vocabulary. Lots of fullstops.

– I love people with proper typing manners. Go easy on the exclamation marks, for f’s sake. Please don’t go all caps lock on my ass. Mind the shorthand. Don’t refer to me as “ur”, it’s slightly offensive.

Smart language usage makes me feel like someone fed rainbow cake straight into my heart.

– And you know what, I am a nerd. I love nerds.

Bad language is good for you, in moderation.

My dream lives, in order of dreaming

1. Rockstar.
The only issue is that I can’t sing to save my life.

2. Pirate.
But they have no Internet at sea.

3. Artist.
Doable, I suppose. But it sounds a bit boring.

What are yours?

A Study in Genetics


After I saw this collection of “Genetic Portraits” by Ulric Collette, I became really curious about the resemblances in my own family.

We are always told that my youngest brother Gus and I look very similar, so I thought I’d put that up to the test.

Unfortunately, I was not in the mood to sit and take proper portraits for optimal results. Instead, I opted to just snap a picture of my highschool graduation photograph at 18 and his graduation photograph at 18. As you can see, the quality and the lighting are horrible.

But whatever. The similarity is the fascinating part, yeah? You can also wonder at my Photoshop skills ;)

Gus broke his nose a gazillion times and our nostrils still seam perfectly. My eyes are slightly larger, but they are the same shape as Gus’. We both have tiny lips. His face shape is long though, while mine is more wide. Genetics are so cool.

Study in Genetics

As a Woman, I’m a Second Class Citizen in Jordan

Article 6 (i) of our Constitution stipulates: “There shall be no
discrimination between Jordanians as regards to their rights and duties
on grounds of race, language or religion”.

Amazingly enough, in a country with a very limited racial pool, an even more limited language pool, and an almost non-existent pool of different religions, the one factor that would affect 50% of our country’s population has been left out: Gender.

Granted, many constitutions don’t directly use the word “gender” in their constitutions, but the omission of this specific word is affecting our rights as Jordanian woman. Yes, in Jordan, as women, we can vote, we can work and move freely, we can hold governmental positions, and we can do a lot of what we want with our lives. But some essential rights are lacking.

1. As a Jordanian woman, I am equal to a Jordanian man. I MUST be able to give my Jordanian nationality, i.e. my IDENTITY as a Jordanian, to my children. As a Jordanian woman, I am proud of being a Jordanian woman. As a Jordanian woman, I want my children to also be Jordanian.

2. As a woman, the Personal Status Law fails to adequately address discrimination against me.

3. As a woman, Articles 97, 98, 100, 340, and 345 affect my safety and my well-being in my own country.

As a Jordanian woman, I demand that our Constitution, which is currently undergoing changes, to also consider the silent half of our country.

Anatomy of a Candy Bar

I can get a little OCD about how things are made, so I’m often staring at every day items in a subconscious attempt to see patterns.

That’s why I love Scandybars. They cut candybars, and then scan them. Must be the most delicious-tasting scanner in the world.

Try to guess the chocolate before reading.

Duplo (Italy)

Bueno (Italy)

Crunchie (UK)


Lion (UK)

Flake (UK)


Snickers - Peanut Butter

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

As an added bonus, here are some shots from Scanwhiches, a site that does the same thing, but with sandwiches:
Fanwiches Runner-up! The Chorizo Octopus Squeeze: Grilled Chorizo Chunks, Marinated Octopus, Mixed Italian Salad, Sun-Blush Tomatoes, Homemade Aioli, On Ciabatta
The Chorizo Octopus Squeeze: Grilled Chorizo Chunks, Marinated Octopus, Mixed Italian Salad, Sun-Blush Tomatoes, Homemade Aioli, On Ciabatta

Avenue B Grocery: Turkey, Provolone, Tomatoes, Sprouts, Onions, Mayo, Mustard, On Light Rye
Avenue B Grocery: Turkey, Provolone, Tomatoes, Sprouts, Onions, Mayo, Mustard, On Light Rye

Homemade: Peanut Butter, Raspberry Jelly, on Wheat Bread

Homemade: Peanut Butter, Raspberry Jelly, on Wheat Bread

Homemade: Fresh Turkey, Sprouts, Swiss Cheese, Purple Onions On a Baguette. Scanned in collaboration with Microsoft’s Deep Zoom. 10 more sandwiches and the full experience coming soon.

Homemade: Fresh Turkey, Sprouts, Swiss Cheese,
Purple Onions On a Baguette. Scanned in collaboration with Microsoft’s
Deep Zoom. 10 more sandwiches and the full experience coming soon.

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