Digital Art from Saudi Arabia: Saudi Digital artist Yousef AlShaikh

To my pleasure, I serendipitously landed on a page with the works of Saudi digital artist Yousef AlShaikh. It’s really nice seeing work from Saudi Arabia that it totally different from other things you usually see.

Good Design is Joy: Designer Mohamed Mousa

Get New Facebook Timeline: The Power of Narratives on Fire

(You can finally get your Facebook Timeline now)

It was her first year of college when she joined Facebook in 2005, as can be seen from the beginning of her Timeline. Everything looks like fun, like a university freshman’s life should be; pictures of parties, funky friends, and road trips are all carefully chosen to portray the person she wants to be. “Sara is in BEIRUT BABY!”, reads a status update from June 2005. Her eyes shine with the excitement of the new as she stumbles across a new phase in her existence.

Scroll up the Timeline to go through the next few years. You can see her growing, becoming more serious. There she is studying for a test in what appears to be a library. Here’s a picture with her glasses fogging up as she drinks hot coffee on a cold morning. As we scroll higher through her Timeline, the fun switches from parties to relaxed picnics. “Good luck with your thesis,” writes a friend. There’s now a constant in the images; a young man with tousled brown hair and a smile as big as hers. She’s her tossing her graduation cap.

Scroll up some more. She’s sitting on a desk, and the caption reads, “Sara joins to the workforce :)”. There are pictures of cozy dinners at the houses of friends. A close up of her wearing a tailored suit and carrying a briefcase while she laughs really hard. The constant is still there, becoming even more constant. Suddenly, Sara is dressed in white, smiling joyfully at the constant on their wedding day.

The last picture on her Timeline, as of today: Sara, wearing a warm woolen hat, with her hand resting on a stomach the size of a watermelon. Her friends are congratulating her.

That’s the story of Sara, as told by her Facebook Timeline. So far, at least.

Sara and I went to elementary school together. I haven’t seen or heard from her since we were nine. The truth is, I don’t really know Sara, but I know a lot about Sara. I know that she likes her coffee creamy, and that she has been wearing glasses since 2007. I know that she loves her iPhone, and that her favorite brand is Gap. I know that she’s fun, smart, and honest. I can tell you all the major milestones of her life; when she graduated, when she got married, when she started her first job. I can relate to Sara, a woman I would have never been able to relate to if it wasn’t for Facebook’s power of narration.

Ah, narratives. They have an almost holy aura to them, although they are nothing more than chronology with meaning. Soap operas have narratives, and so do newspapers, powerful brands, and public figures. We communicate information using narratives as a tool, because the receiver will not “get it” otherwise. Narratives simplify complexity, make meaning out of chaos.

As businesses and individuals, we need to start telling more stories. We need to speak in human terms. We need emotions. We need to connect.

And Facebook, oh, holy Facebook, is well aware of that. A site overhaul planned to roll out in October is tapping even deeper into the power of narratives. Your profile will stop being a profile and become your life’s timeline. At the top of the page, where it says News, it will say Stories. You can chose between seeing Top Stories Since My Last Visit or 37 More Recent Stories.

All of these Stories string together in Facebook’s new profile function, Timeline. With Timeline, all of your Facebook posts will flow together in chronological order. Tell the story of your life, Facebook promises in its introductory video, starting with the year you were born. You can share and highlight your most memorable posts, photos and life events on your timeline, narrating your story from beginning, to middle, to now.

The internet is changing the way we tell stories, especially our own. Whether users want their stories to be told remains to be seen, but my gut feeling is that there will be a mad rush to tap into narratives, and not just in the online world. We will start seeing businesses focus more on their brand stories. We will start seeing whole new experiences in technology that revolve around plots. We will have to start using cohesive emotions to engage today’s generation, who come with no attention spans.

Better get that storyteller hat out.

Here are some screenshots from my Timeline, my life, my narrative. It’s the story of my life, really. It’s a reflection of what I did, what I do, who I was close to during certain periods. It’s humbling. It’s creepy. It’s retrospective.

I’m turning 27 in 2012.

I was 18 when I started blogging.

Can you believe that?

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
Another Social Google Attempt
A World in the Cloud
His Jobness Steve: A Tribute

Speed Reading Strategies From a Bookworm: Read Like a Pro

I’ve been a reader my entire life. As a child and a teenager, it was almost impossible to yank a book away from my hands. I read on the way to school, I read over lunch. I read when we were visiting family, I read in class. Sometimes today, I read when there is a long traffic light.

I devour books, and people keep asking me how.

It’s sad really that people avoid books because they take too long to read. If you can lessen the time you spend reading, and get the same gains from the books, then books become even more useful, and become much more interesting to read.

It isn’t rocket science. There are speed reading methods that you can master. The purists will hate me for this post and yell “infidel”, but whatever dude. There are so many freakin’ amazing books in the world to read, and there isn’t enough time.

How to Read More Books:
This one is for my brother Hisham.

1. Assess how fast you read
How hard do you have to work on your reading skills? Online speed reading tests can help you pinpoint your starting point and measure your progress. This one has a comprehension test as well to make sure you’re actually comprehending the information you’re reading.
According to this test, I read at 700 words/minute on screen with a 100% comprehension. I know I can go up to over a 1,000 words/minute at a slightly lower comprehension rate. What’s your score?

2. Always start a book when you know you have lots of time
Starting a book is dangerous. Once you put it down, you may choose to never pick it up again.
This is a generalization, but in my experience, it tends to be true: most good books start out really slow. So make sure you have at least an hour or so before starting a new book, so that you have enough time to get into it.

3. It’s okay to skip parts you find boring
This is a really important point. Skipping is not evil. If you find a chapter, a scene, or a page really boring, skip it. You probably won’t miss anything. If you do and start feeling lost, you can always go back to it.
I skipped whole chapters and most songs in my favorite book ever.
It’s fine, I promise.

4. Don’t read more than one book at the same time
We all get tempted and try to do that every now and then, but it’s not a very good tactic.
Read one book at a time or you’ll forever be the unfinisher.

5. Use a pencil if you must
Sometimes its hard to concentrate, especially with nonfiction.
I find that underlining important or nice-sounding sentences really helps me concentrate. No, it’s not vandalism.

6. Don’t read word for word
I was taught to skim and scan in high school. It’s absurd to read every single damn word in anything. Skimming and scanning is the most important thing you’ll ever learn to do in your life.
Here’s how to do it:
– Track
Whether you realize it or not, your eyes are darting all over the page. That wastes time.
Start by using your finger or cursor. Over time, you’ll no longer need props to track, as you’ll have the ability to make your eyes focus. Don’t track word for word. Try different patterns; every five words, zig-zag, diagonal.
I go diagonally.

– Sprint
Most of us spend a quarter second on every word, but the brain can recognize letters in as little as 1/500 of a second. Don’t ACTIVELY read words. Actively read paragraphs.

– Quiet!
You’re probably saying each of these words in your head, creating major drag. The trick is to consume words in batches.

7. It’s okay to read books the way YOU want
I always read a book’s summary on Wikipedia before I start reading it, spoilers and all. That makes the experience more interesting fir me. Before Wikipedia, I would read the last chapter after reading the first chapter, then I would skip randomly between chapters. I read much faster when I’m not dwelling on what’s going to happen.
I’m not telling you to do that. I know most people cannot appreciate my love of knowing – i.e. controlling how the story unfolds. What I am saying is that it’s okay to experiment. There is no right and wrong.
Keep an open mind.

8. Keep a dictionary at hand
This might contradict the point where I said don’t read word for word, but trust me, sometimes difficult vocabulary can be a turn off cause it can make you feel dumb. The more words you add to your vocabulary repertoire, the faster you will read in the future.
Concepts are often easy to understand, it’s the way they’re written that makes them hard. Dictionaries are there for a reason, use them.

9. Make it a habit
Set time aside for reading. Habits die hard.
I read every night before I go to sleep, even if I can only read a paragraph.
I spent six years reading during the hour and a half it took to reach home from my highschool. I would finish a couple of books a week.

10. Enjoy it
Reading is not a chore. It’s the most enjoyable activity ever, if you know how to master it.

So, there you go. Reading is beautiful. It is my ultimate joy in life, and I feel sad when I meet people who don’t know how to enjoy it.

Do you have any tips to add?