Posts Tagged ‘twitter



Wassim Tabbarah, God rest his soul, in one of his plays back in the eighties’ performed an act where he owned a fresh produce shop. One day he was standing in front of his shop shouting for people to come and purchase his fresh vegetables. One passer-by stops and tells him “But there’s nothing on display! Your shelves are empty”, and Wassim answers him “I’m selling tomorrow’s vegetables!”

Why wait for a newspaper or TV news when I can have it as it happens?! If the conventional media needs to know something, ask me!

24 hours news channels have also contributed to making print and news casts obsolete. What’s left for those? Analysis, that’s what’s left. But that’s a different story.

Now, don’t get over excited. Not every new website is a news website! If a newspaper starts its own digital delivery, that does not make it an immediate success. How many new websites do you read everyday, all the time? Really.

Most of us are stuck with one or two sites that we visit all the time to quench our thirst for news. ANd all we do is read the news. Who cares for useless gimmicks and hoopla? Yes, being able to share, print or email and article is great, but that does not make you a pioneer! And it does not either give you the right to invade my screen with annoying animations, buttons, links and stupid stuff I will never use.

Now, let’s look at what makes us read news at the first place. I think that there are 3 important drivers:

1- Immediacy
News as it happens. I have many times tweeted and read tweets about news way before it was published on leading news sites. You see, we the tweeters, are not after scoops. We do not sort material according to priority to yield more readership. For us, immediacy is the word. We are attracted to news when it happens. The digital age is about living the event, not reading about it later.

2- Relevance
We want to read news that are relevant to us, in any way. And relevance is also child of immediacy, because when it gets old, it might simply become irrelevant. Relevance is subjective, and the winners are those who manage to cater for all tastes. The meaning of “news” varies drastically from one individual to the other. Take me for instance, local news are the least of my worries, which means I skim through the titles. For others, they are the heart of the matter.

3- Discovery
We do not know everything. We never will. But that does not mean that unknown news are not relevant. Discovery happens on well structured digital delivery systems. They guide you through to find out about matters you ignored.

So as you see, immediacy generates relevance, and relevance generates discovery.
What makes what?
It is undeniable that a perfect symbiosis has started to exist between the event and the news. We hear a lot about news that magnify events to the extent of blowing it out of proportions. OJ Simpson was a great example. And mind you, the digital age had not really dawned by then.

Celebrities scandals have become prime news now, sometimes over-shadowing political apocalypse. Why is that? The digital age caters to the widest target audience possible. In doing so, it reaches ages otherwise inaccessible via traditional media unless heavy investments are made. The younger generation has at reach a plethora of digital access points that constantly deliver news of celebrities and the fringe. Previously, traditional media had all these news packed in five minutes at the end of their newscast.

The result, a total blurring of the border between “serious” and fringe news. This blurring has created that ultimate symbiosis, the result of which was a similar blurring of news delivery and audience. Portals like The Huffington Post, AllTop, even CNN epitomize such a trend.

Events do not always make the news. Today, it is about the potential news portals see in specific stories that “internationalize” such stories, blowing them out of proportions, or even sometimes triggering a chain of events that change political landscapes.

Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia, Syria, Iraq; are perfect examples. In such totalitarian regimes, “things” used to happen decades ago… Very bad things… And all we used to hear were bits and pieces of “rumors” that used to reach us days, weeks or even months later, and then quickly fade away in the archive of history, without even having proved they ever occurred.

Rallying the masses is what the digital age managed to do. What’s more, it can now do it in a blink. Like a plague, text messages, tweets and Facebook messaging act as catalysts, bringing millions locally to act, and more millions globally to react. YouTube triggers a chain of reaction that gets engraved in our minds, souls and the Internet archives forever.

Here’s the perfect example: How many emails with attachments do you get with warnings about a poisonous food additive, or “immediate” world occurrences, only to find out that they actually date to years back. The sender saw it on the Internet and simply thought it was happening now, without bothering checking the date of the news?

No one ever cared about Sudan or the Ivory Coast! Millions were, and still are, dying from hunger in Africa, and no one ever moved a finger. Today, thanks to the Internet news delivery, rallies are organized at the four corners of the Earth in support of these “causes”. People around the world demand the departure of dictators they never heard of! Or have they? Today it’s about what the digital news tell and show us. Conspiracy theories about media manipulation by super (and not so super) powers is starting to make sense, to me at least.

You want to topple a ruling monster? Here’s the formula: Start a Facebook group, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel. If you can afford it, start a news portal. Start spreading the news by registering hundreds of fake accounts who end up “commenting” and voicing their opinions in support to “your” cause, then sit and watch the snowball effect. Depending on your means, reach, and magnitude of the cause, you can achieve your goals in a few weeks. You can even create your own heroes as a bonus!

Bottom line, and the one million dollar question (That’s 710,000 Euros and 2,802,600 Polish zlotys), is it good or bad?

Don’t ask me!

Ask the idiots who believe websites that claim the end of the world was supposed to occur on May 21, or constantly visit websites that claim to turn you from Gargantua to Brad Pitt in four days.

Or ask the politicians who hire web geeks, writers and journalists to help them build a social media universe in compensation to their lack of meaningful social life.

Or, you could ask those who justly use the Internet to spread the news of oppression, voice the words of the muted minorities, educate, entice to explore, encourage knowledge and turn the global mess into a true global village, one where we don’t only meet to gossip, but one where we gather in empathy and support, and share knowledge instead of rumors.

The true purpose of news in the digital age is this: When your fellow human is in trouble, wherever he or she might be, you are in trouble too. If not today, then soon, pretty soon.

© 2011 Ibrahim Lahoud

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News in the Digital Age by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Social Media; “Share and Dare” versus “Trial and Error”

What’s so social about digital media?

How did those two words come together?

Why has suddenly the Internet become the most (virtual) convivial tool?

And how did it manage to turn conviviality into a business asset?

Simple. Our crave to make contact knows no boundaries. What’s more, we are more inclined to establish contact with remote nodes rather than close ones. Remember the days when you used to write letters to your cousins in Brazil? Before they left motherland, you used to see each other on holidays only. Once they were miles away, you found yourself communicating with them more than ever, getting to know them even more than when they were closer.

This is what made Facebook so successful; not that it was its original intention.

Businesses discovered an amazing insight: Don’t get your brand closer to customers; get customers craving for your brand. The farther you keep your brand in the virtual realm, the closer you get your market to it. Paradoxical fact. No wonder Starbucks is the most Social Media savvy brand.

But don’t get me wrong! I am not encouraging brands to push away from their markets.

Here’s another metaphor: Live with someone for a year under the same roof for every single day without ever going out, and you’ll end up having nothing to talk about. Come to think about it, you’ll end up killing each other! Move away from each other for periods of time, and you’ll come back with loads of topics to chat about. The secret of solid relationships is measured by the power of people to manage contact.

The power of social media resides in its ability to offer and exchange information in an interactive and dynamic way. It is there when you need or want it only.

Social media is the “anti-advertising” communication.

Social Media does not advertise, it communicates. It does not claim, it states. It does not patronize, it educates.

We, the Digital People, hate advertising, claims and patronizing. We love communication, clear statements and education.

Social Media is the “Make-A-Friend” DIY kit of brands.


Because we choose what to browse, read and interact with. We define our digital universe, acquire the tools we feel are right for us, and most of all, we do so by learning, watching what others do and using smart synthesis. It is not anymore trial and error, but rather sharing and daring.

Think about it, trial and error are the two most scary words in business, let alone personal. Trial induces delving into unknown grounds, so unknown that it never spells “trial and success” but “trial and error”. I mean really, how encouraging and engaging is it?

Sharing puts you at par with others. So if you’re a brand you’re not condescending. You’re not “telling”, you’re simply sharing, making the receiver part of the process, a partner, a peer. Daring is exactly what you expect as a reaction. Daring is nothing like trial. Where trial sound like a jump in a dark abyss, daring is more about courage, more about knowing “where” or “what” to try. This is what make “Facebookers” and “tweeps” exchange massive amounts of information.

Look at your Facebook friends. Most of them are shy in real life, yet share so much information on their profiles. Observe your fellow tweeps and see how you can easily profile them just by monitoring their tweets.

Social Media takes advantage of a very well-known syndrome; the virtual relationship, where establishing and sustaining a contact is by far easier than in real life. This is because we feel more secure and more in control of the information we receive and interact with. The more comfortable we are, the more we dare, and the more we dare, the more we share. Simple equation.

Brands in the 21st century are striving to make friends rather than customers, advocates rather than buyers. Before, brands used media only, pushing information down our throats and expecting us to believe and purchase. It did not work, at least not as much as they expected it would. The missing ingredient to make friends and advocates was to get social.

The advent of the digital age, and the way it helped people build their comfort zones, made it ideal for brands to bring together their two ultimate dream-tools: Media to communicate and Social to interact.

Social Media, Interactive communication!


©2010 Ibrahim Lahoud


Facebook, the good, the bad and the ugly profile pic!

I’ve had my Facebook page for a while now. The original purpose was genuine. Hooking up with family abroad, my students and long-lost friends was like the Holy Grail to me. But what you are not aware of is that when you drink too much from that cup things turn pretty bad.

I was pondering upon a very serious thought lately. I never had so many friends or family. How come I’m hitting records on Facebook? And mind you, I am humbled and dwarfed compared to others who end up with thousands of friends. Which pushes me to reflect on the true meaning of friendship…

After a while, I noticed that Facebook actually fulfills one paramount role, and one only: Giving you that ego boost which real friends never managed to provide. Facebook finally is our way to “ask” for attention where none is given. Our eternal quest to make valuable or meaningful statements is undermined by the number of those people willing to listen to us. Facebook is the perfect platform to accumulate “friends”, shout those statements and “make” them listen.

Honestly, why would anyone care if you’re having Cajun chicken for lunch or your “eyes are smiling but heart is crying”, or “if you have a sister and love her, post this on your profile”? And the worst of all is how we found in Facebook the ultimate podium to express how politically stupid we are by displaying our sheepish attitude.

But then again, people love it, use it and… abuse it. Millions of users, including yours truly, have turned Facebook into the largest cyber-city ever created. That’s good, until it turns ugly.

I recently witnessed a “wall” row over some stupid political topic between two “friends”. The ping-pong went on for days. Suddenly, email, telephone, face to face and decency were lost on the “wall”!

One more thing I noticed is how people want to become your friend for one reason, spying! Thank God you can put them on that limited profile thing. But why do you have to do that? Why can’t you simply ignore their friend request? I mean, in real life you would simply ignore them and make them fade away. Why can’t we do the same on Facebook?

The psychology of Facebook is an amazing web of intricacies that has been weaved by our insecurities, crave for fame and lack of self-confidence. What’s worse is the fact that even organizations and businesses are suffering from those symptoms. If a business can’t get its Facebook page right…..

And what’s with the groups thing? It started in the form of small and cute “alumni” and ended up having a group for every saint, politician, geek, nerd, jerk and sick topic you could ever imagine. You join the group because you’re too shy to say no, and that’s it! You never visit or interact. It’s like being a junk collector. Your profile ends looking more like a junkyard.

Oh, and applications and games! Amazing, if your monitor your friends, you’ll find out that most of them play games during work hours! Go ahead, check it! Productivity at its best.

I can tell now that Facebook has lost its raison-d’être. And for me, this is the first sign of decline. How interesting can it keep getting? Every hype reaches a ceiling ultimately. If I were to foretell the future, that’s what I would see:

  1. Facebook will migrate to become a big tunnel, a corridor, through which people come and people go. This will defeat the purpose of long-term online friendships. Your friends will get bored and sign-off, eventually you will too. If you don’t, you will start seeing your wall slowly degenerate into an empty space populated by random boring posts.
  2. You and your friends would have depleted all your stock of tricks, jokes, gimmicks, and bragging. You will all lose interest and Facebook will become a cemetery of wishes.
  3. more older adults, businesses and senior citizens will be the dominant users. In the U.S. currently users above 25 years old, all the way to 65 and above constitute 65% of all users. Those between 35 and 44 are 17%, and those between 45 and 54 are 12.5%.

  1. Other formats of social networking are taking over the worldwide web by storm. Twitter is becoming a favorite of interaction which is more intellectually rewarding, less cluttered, and definitely less full of junk. The concept of “following” people is by itself a different concept than accumulating friends. You actually choose who you follow based on their positive input on your intellect and positive impact on your life.
  2. You will be less interested in when your friend burps and more interested in where they are now or what they are doing instantly. Augmented reality, geotagging, locational networking such as Foursquare will become dominant because they provide instant reward and help hook you up with your friends based on both your behavior pattern.
  3. Facebook still lacks the bridge between what you’re doing right now and what you publish. Most of the time, you either publish what you intend to do or what you have already done. This time-gap will be felt as a handicap compared to other tools that publish your immediate happenings.
  4. Your iPhone (or any other smart phone) are becoming sophisticated gaming devices with in-app purchases and online scoring, etc. Facebook apps and games will slowly become redundant. Their aim to mainly generate income through advertising will be the cause of their demise. Advertisers are becoming more interested in pushing ads based on where you are and what you are doing now, and how you do it. Advertising through mobile apps eventually will be more effective.
  5. With higher bandwidth and better online-desktop integration, photo, video and music sharing, some of the core tools of Facebook will migrate to those websites that are more dedicated and can provide more effective management means (Flickr, YouTube, Ping, etc.)
  6. If you notice, Facebook is becoming more and more a business tool. I, for example publish to Facebook most of my business tweets. Many of my friends have suddenly started doing the same. This leads to many if your friends deciding to open Twitter accounts and start following you and vice versa.

Facebook will surely be here for a while. Undeniably, it has reshuffled all our pre-conceptions of social networking and has paved the way for the new era of connecting people online. The way it has impacted our cyber-lives will be the foundation for all new ways and means to interact. It took the internet years to reach 500 million users; it took Facebook just 2!

For now, please, for the sake of the collective sanity, refrain from publishing when you undergo colonoscopies, have fever or simply have been dumped by your lover. If you insist on publishing pics of you that hardly look like you, remember that most of your so-called “friends” are actually mere acquaintances.

Last but not least, recruiters are using more and more Facebook to analyze the psychology and social behavior of their potential new staff. So, if you badly need that job, don’t put on your status what you think of your current job or what how drunk you were the night before…

©2010 – Ibrahim Lahoud


To be Four and square!

I joined Foursquare a while ago and started fiddling around with it. Then, one day, it struck me; that’s one hell of image-building tool.

When I say image-building, I do not say good or bad. All I say is that by publicizing your whereabouts, people can start slowly profiling your personality. Elements like “when” you get to work, when you leave work; what time you go out at night, and what time you get back home (if you do…).

Our self-branding is conditioned today not by who we are. In the digital realm, very few people of our virtual entourage know who we really are… (Yes, I am talking to you Mr. 55 years old who pretends he still is in high-school) What counts in the digital reality is what we do and how we do it. Real or fake, our online behavior is the embodiment of our personality. Don’t you just love those Facebook status updates like “Off to France tonight”. The poor guy is traveling coach to a presentation in the suburbs of the French capital, staying in a 2 stars Auberge for one night and flying back home the next morning! But hey, who cares? He never said that! All he said was “Off to France tonight”; and everyone thought -with jealousy that he’s going to Cannes for the awards!

When I started with Foursquare, I noticed that most of my check-ins where home and work… Yeah, yeah, pathetic I know. And that’s when I saw the light and heard the Wagner music… People will think one thing: Pathetic!

I humbly know that I am slightly above pathetic and working hard on it, and I did not want to be perceived wrongly via a small app on my iPhone! (yes, I do have an iPhone and that’s why I said “slightly” above pathetic!) I later realized that I can check-in at virtually every location I head to and started making things better! Now I am getting more and more friends requests on Foursquare and my virtual self-esteem starts to measure in megabytes instead of bytes! I am even a Mayor of two locations…

What? Which locations? Damn! Ok, it’s my office and… my mom’s home. Happy?!

Another amazing fact is how the integration of social media and location-aware tools is helping people build more accurate profiles of each other. However hard we try, we can  never be fully consistent across all the social mediums we use. We reveal different bits and pieces of ourselves every time we post something. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare etc. force us to behave differently, to display hybrid aspects of our persona, sometimes even clashing ones. On Facebook, you see yourself interacting more intimately with your friends, while on Twitter things could get a little more public and, there you try to retain a more composed attitude especially if you’re a business tweeter. On Foursquare, we get the feeling that the location-aware tool is more tailored for the outings rather than the whereabouts. You want to publicize more going to Gemmayzeh for the evening (and the night) than going home or work or a meeting (like miserable me).

Is that good? I guess it is. It’s like asking if it’s good to spend more time on a computer. 10 years ago, the answer would have been yes, but today? What else can you do? Computers run our lives. Hell! They are our lives (aaaah shut up you “go out and live” advocates!); so are social media. Retrospectively, you can notice how important the impact of Facebook was and still is on your life. Twitter helped connecting me to wonderful people it would have taken me a lifetime to meet otherwise. Thanks to Twitter, I know more about my business, I discover things, insights. It’s pure revelation.

Facebook kept me in touch with my favorite universe, my students. It’s like watching your own children grow. You see them find a job, get engaged, get married (morons!). It’s beautiful! (well until you get to the married part 😉

Them came Foursquare! They used to know what I feel and what I do. Now they know where I am. I guess the loop is closed. We live in the Matrix! I am not going to strategize on whether it’s good or bad. But, since we’re there, let’s make the best of it!

So go, update your status now and tell people a nice white lie and get that ego off the ground for the rest of the day.

Throw some nice tweet (from your cellphone, it’s cooler) and enlighten everyone with an insight about your job.

And while doing all the above, tell us where you’re doing it from (No toilets please).

The biggest revelation of the digital universe is the fact that we call it a “Universe”.

© 2010 Ibrahim Lahoud


August 2020

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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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