Monday, 16 December 2013

Time to start fueling the Expo fire

Dubai has done well to get the Expo 2020 but it irks me when I see people trying to take advantage of the situation with sensationalist headlines.  Case in point in a story that appeared on today about property developer Damac entitled "Apartments to serve Dubai Expo go on sale."

The Expo is a six-month event that will take a few years to plan.  These apartments are there for a much longer term one would assume but to make it sound like this is something that can be used and disposed in the headline only adds to the speculation that created the last recession we had in the UAE a few years ago.

The apartments are located near the new Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai World Central, where amongst many things, the Expo site will be.  The apartments will no doubt benefit those working on the Expo project but in the longer term will be of greater benefit to those working in Dubai World Central, the new airport or any of the other projects that will take shape in that part of town in the long term.

The Expo is great for Dubai but we need to think what else after the Expo.  There is a lot going for Dubai in the longer term and I just wish advertisers, media outlets, developers and anyone else involved would communicate that.  The only reason to advertise or publicize accommodation for the Expo would be if you're building labour camps for workers that you'll dismantle once the Expo is over but if you're only USP is the Expo, then you're not part of the solution, you're probably the reason for another recession.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


Modesty is a quality we don't see enough of today. Sachin Tendulkar has humbled us all over the years and did so once again.  It was action and not words that defined him.

Thank You Sachin for all you've done to inspire billions of people around the globe for over two decades and somewhere I hope we'll see another set of modest role models emerge because of you.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Movember: Male Menopause?

Can men suffer from menopause (or as some might call it, man-o-pause)?

The answer is yes and no.  Men can suffer from something called Andropause which is often called male menopause but this isn't quite the same as female menopause.

I'd read an article in the Gulf News Health section about this last week and decided to educate myself further given the fact that this is Movember and I should learn as much about men's health issues as I can.

What causes Andropause?

Basically, as men, we tend to gradually start suffering from what is called an androgen deficiency, which is when we start having lower than normal levels of male hormones as we get older.  The primary hormone that typically triggers this is testosterone.  Unlike women where the drop in sex hormone production can drop suddenly, in men this happens gradually over a number of years, typically starting from the age of 30.  Thus, andropause and menopause somewhat different.

What do we get from Androgens?

Androgens give you your hairy chest.
Androgens are what typically give you a lot of your male characteristics such as sexual and reproductive functions.  Androgens also play a part in changes during puberty such as facial hair (apt for Movember), body hair, muscle development, change in your voice (and that freaky period when your voice is high and low in the same sentence until you've finally found your adult voice), development of your mojo (in Austin Powers terms), prostate function and sperm production.

What happens when Androgen levels drop?

I saw a whole list of symptoms of what happens when androgen levels drop but before I list it out, I wanted to highlight the fact that many of these symptoms could be related to other diseases or deficiencies such as diabetes, lack of exercise, a poor diet or a whole host other things so make sure you investigate further with your doctor before convincing yourself if you're suffering from andropause.

The symptoms I came across were:

  • Dropping levels of sexual desire
  • Hot flushes and sweating (again this can have many other reasons as to why you'd suffer from this)
  • Breast development (if you've not done so, read my Movember post on breast cancer in men).
  • Depression (you can be depressed for other reasons as well) 
  • Lethargy and Fatigue (lack of sleep, lack of exercise, a poor diet or diabetes can also be reasons for this)
  • Reduced muscle mass and strength (a general rule of thumb is you lose about a half kilo of muscle mass every year as you get older and this is why you should mix up your gym routine with some strength training alongside your cardio workouts)
  • Increased body fat, especially around the abdomen (too much beer can also be a cause of this)
  • Reduced sexual function
  • Loss of body hair (I'm not expert here but may be changing the type of shampoo you use as you get older could help slightly reduce the rate of hair loss).
  • Reduce bone mass putting you at risk for osteoporosis (having enough Vitamin D and taking calcium supplements as you get older is highly recommended.  Despite living in a sunny environment in the UAE, most of us suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and the best way to get your dose of Vitamin D is simply opening the window in the morning and enjoying the sun's rays).

Checking for Andropause and Treating it?

I'd highly recommend you speak to your doctor about this.  The internet can be a treasure trove of misinformation when it comes to medial treatments.  If you are over the age of 30, I'd recommend you do a check up once a year where you can get questions like this answer.  If you're hitting 40 and living in the UAE, I'd suggest you start doing this annually.


What have I learned?

So one thing I learned during this month of Movember is that many conditions that we thought were unique to women such as breast cancer or menopause actually exist in men as well.  The other thing I learned is that you can't blame things on andropause.  I read quite a few stories on the Internet about how people have overcome this so don't use it as an excuse.  Use it as a means to help get yourself back on track.  If you see someone who looks like they're suffering from it, encourage them and help steer them in the right direction.

The purpose of Movember is to highlight men's health issues and I hope blog posts like this do help educate you and your loved ones.

I'd also like to credit the Better Health Channel which was one of the better websites on androgen deficiencies I found.  I'd suggest you visit the link to learn more about the condition.

P.S. I'm supporting Movember to raise awareness for men's health issues.  To find out more, please visit my Movember page on my blog.  If you'd like to donate to the cause, then please visit the donation page of the #Mustachepreneurs and any contributions will be graciously accepted.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Movember: Mustaches are serious business

For those of you growing your Mo for Movember, you know it ain't all plain sailing.  Growing a mustache is actually hard work and it's fair easier to keep yourself clean shaven than to grow facial hair.

For example, during the first few days of Movember, I have to make sure I'm extra alert while shaving as my facial hair is still not distinct enough to my bleary eyes in the early hours of the morning and one swipe, it can all disappear!

When your mustache does tend to take shape, then you need to make sure you shave around your mustache carefully.  One over aggressive swoop and you have an imbalanced mustache on your face. A little too conservative and it starts to look like shrubs sprouting where they shouldn't be.

Deciding on a style to adopt is also hard work.  Do you go for the Fu Manchu, the toothbrush, handlebars, walrus or just stick to the plain vanilla pencil mustache?  If in case you're confused which style to follow, I've got a great link that shows just what type of mustache would suit you and which has got some history on different types of mustaches.

Trimming is not an option during Movember, but if you did decide to do that, what scissors do you use?  If you don't normally sport a mustache or a beard, you may not have the right trimming scissors at home and a sharp instrument in the hand of a man when used on his face is just a recipe for disaster!  After all, we men don't like to ask for directions when driving, so why would we ask for them when grooming?  We're also the same men who don't look to spend too long looking at ourselves in a mirror so quick and easy is normally the only option.

If you do want to learn though how to trim your mustache, then I've found a link that can help you do this.  Emergency Rooms around the world are best advised to have print outs of this kept in their waiting rooms during Movember.

Remember, you are not Superman. 
Ice cream.  This is just a recipe for disaster.  Once your mustache has formed and you look like you've made a mark that's noticeable, you go out for an ice cream and you find that your hand and mouth co-ordination isn't all that you thought it was.  If you've got young kids, your best advised to have any ice cream only when they're around you as you can blend in with them.  If you're out on a date, AVOID ice cream for dessert.  Trying to convince your date your trying to imitate the Got Milk? campaign just won't do it.

The most confusing part of the month though is do you spell it Mustache or Moustache?  I spent Movember last year calling it a Moustache and have switched to Mustache this year because I'm a part of the #Mustachepreneurs this year for Movember.  Since the spelling of the group was done by Patrick Brady, our esteemed Director for the Entrepreneur's Organization EMEA region, I've changed the spelling I'm using this year.  I did however do some research on this and Mustache is actually the American spelling, Moustache is the spelling the rest of the world uses.  The Italians though have got something called a Mustachio which is a variation used for a luxuriant mustache.  For more on this fascinating topic, click here.

So that's some of what happens behind the scenes in Movember.  In case you see someone who is growing a mustache, take a moment to sympathize with them as it ain't as easy as it looks!

P.S. I'm supporting Movember to raise awareness for men's health issues.  To find out more, please visit my Movember page on my blog.  If you'd like to donate to the cause, then please visit the donation page of the #Mustachepreneurs and any contributions will be graciously accepted.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Movember: 30 Days Exercise Routine

Whether you're growing your mustache this Movember or not, whether you're male or female, we all have to look after ourselves.


I came across this great guide last night on a 30-day cardio routine that you can do at home (or in your hotel room if you're a frequent traveller) for the 30 days of Movember.  It's fairly basic and builds up in intensity over the 30 day period so if you know someone that needs a bit of a push, try this with them and hopefully it gets all of you moving in the right direction.

I'd also encourage you to visit the as they've got many more great 30 day programs on there as well.

P.S. I'm supporting Movember to raise awareness for men's health issues.  To find out more, please visit my Movember page on my blog.  If you'd like to donate to the cause, then please visit the donation page of the #Mustachepreneurs and any contributions will be graciously accepted.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Movember: Men can get breast cancer

Being the month of Movember where I blog about men's health issues, I had to talk about this.  In a recent report that appeared in the Khaleej Times, it seems men are are also affected by breast cancer.

October is normally the month where breast cancer awareness is highlighted and we've seen lots of initaiatives including the Burjuman Pink Walkathon (which was this year on 1st November) so fits in nicely with Movember where it should be a walk for men as well.

According to the Khaleej Times report, a 48-year old Emirati man was found to have had a malignant form of breast cancer that went undetected for six years.  After several tests, the man had to have a mastectomy.

Image source:

Dr. Sawsan Al Mahdi, the Secretary General for Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) charitable society and head of Pink Caravan told Khaleej Times, "“Although men have significantly less breast tissue, therefore lowering their chances of developing breast cancer, the downside is that breast tumours in men have a higher tendency to spread to nearby areas, such as the skin covering the breast or the muscles under the breast, therefore increasing the risk of the cancer reaching the metastatic phase.”

Early detection remains the best cure and for most men, they should be undergoing an annual medical check-up in any case.  The next time you're getting this done, ask your doctor to run a quick ultrasound over your chest (I know my doctor normally does an abdominal scan) and it's better to be safe than sorry.

To learn more about male breast cancer, visit this link on the Virtual Medical Centre website.

Spread the word and let's make sure we care not only for ourselves but our loved ones always.

P.S. I'm supporting Movember to raise awareness for men's health issues.  To find out more, please visit my Movember page on my blog.  If you'd like to donate to the cause, then please visit the donation page of the #Mustachepreneurs and any contributions will be graciously accepted.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What is an Expo?

Expo 2020.

We've all heard about it, we all know Dubai is bidding for it and in less than a month, we'll all know whether Dubai gets it.  We've been told that if Dubai gets the Expo, it'll be great for our future, property will boom, hotels will be built, entertainment facilities will be required, infrastructure developments will happen and all in all, we'll be a happier bunch.

I don't doubt this.  The Expo is a good thing for Dubai but as good a job as Dubai has done in marketing its bid for the Expo 2020, it's done a rather poor job of actually telling us what is an Expo.

I've asked a lot of people of late, the following few questions and in most cases have received no answers.  The questions are:

  1. What is an Expo?
  2. Where was the last Expo?
  3. Who do they know that visited an Expo?

The fact is, most of us, including myself, aren't fully clear about this.  It would be nice if the bid committee in Dubai had educated on this but since they haven't, I've taken a stab at it.

What is an Expo?

The Expo is called by various names such as the World Fair, World Exposition or Universal Exposition.  It is an exhibition that moves around the world every few years and serves today as a mean of national showcasing.  I've never been to an Expo but I would assume it is like the Global Village we have in Dubai every year where each country has their own national pavilion.  There would be some sort of theme and hopefully this helps unite us.

The Macau Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in 2010.
Image -

According to Wikipedia, the Expo went through three stages, the first was Industrialization (1851-1938), the second was Cultural Exchange (1939 - 1987) and the third is Nation Branding (1988 to present).  There is more about this on Wikipedia and I suggest you have a read through it there.

Where was the last Expo?

I thought the last Expo was in Shanghai in 2010 as I had visited the city shortly after the Expo had finished but it seems the last Expo was in Yeosu (South Korea) in 2012.  The next one will be in Milan in 2015 and Astana (Kazakstan) in 2017.

What does the Expo mean for us?

Dubai is clearly a city that knows how to host major events.  The fact most of us probably have never been to an Expo or have ever known anyone who went to an Expo doesn't mean it doesn't deserve to be compared to major events like hosting an Olympics Games or hosting a FIFA World Cup.  

What Dubai does know really well is how to market an event.  We've done it for years with the Dubai Shopping Festival, the Dubai Summer Surprises and Eid in Dubai.  We've hosted major exhibitions whether it be Gulf Food, Gitex Technology Week or Arab Health.  We've hosted major musical events.  We've got a fantastic set of airports, airlines and hotel brands.  We've got top class shopping malls.  

We've got an audience that is able to visit Dubai with all the tourism initiatives the city has had so unlike most countries that have hosted an Expo till date, I'm sure we'll make this an event will be memorable as we've got a marketing engine that'll make the world know that we're hosting the Expo.

Wikipedia probably won't be what most people will have to refer going forward to educate themselves about the Expo.  Good luck Dubai and I'm sure you'll do a good job of it!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Kutcher and Jobs. The Comparison Continues.

Ashton Kutcher, who plays Steve Jobs in the movie "Jobs" has started to eerily look, sound and talk more like Steve Jobs.  I don't know whether it is part of his act while he's trying to promote the movie but just as Steve Jobs had his Stanford University Commencement Speech moment back in 2005, Ashton Kutcher had his while accepting an award at the Teen Choice Awards earlier this week.

It may seem bizarre to compare the two speeches but listen to Kutcher and you start to see the similarities (click here to see the video).  
Kutcher at the Teen Choice Awards.

While at Stanford, Jobs spoke to university students who were graduating from one of the world's premier educational institutions.  In his speech, he mentioned three stories from his life.  The first was about connecting the dots where he talks about destiny. The second story was about love and loss.  He spoke about how he got fired from Apple when he thought he was the peak of his career, how he went on to found NeXT and then Pixar.  He spoke of perseverance and about sticking it out for the long term battle.  The third story Jobs spoke about was death.  Here he spoke about living each day as if it was your last and what his bout with cancer had taught him at the time.

Ashton Kutcher in his speech was addressing teenagers at an awards ceremony and decided to lecture them on life lessons he had learned.  Again, like Jobs, he had three stories.  The first is about opportunity.  Kutcher speaks of the stepping stones to getting where he did by jobs that may have appeared dead end jobs.  He talks about never quitting his job until he had his next job.  The second is about being sexy.  His definition of the sexiest thing in the entire world is about smart, thoughtful, generous.  He goes onto to say that everything else is "crap."  The third story is based on what he learned while making the Jobs movie.  He said it is about setting your own boundaries and not necessarily accepting the status quo.  It is about building your life, not living one. (Update: a clip of Jobs that Kutcher referenced can be found here).

This speech may have been staged given that Kutcher is in full flow with the promotion of the movie but it's re-assuring to see nonetheless a positive message made out to kids who are impressionable.  Just as I know I tend to watch Steve Jobs giving his speech at Stanford every once in a while, Kutcher's viral acceptance speech may have the same appeal to teenagers who are looking for direction.

Well done Ashton and hope you've managed to guide some people to the right side of the road.

P.S. If you've never heard Jobs give his speech at Stanford, you can watch it at this link or read the transcript at this link.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Speaking with a Clear Conscience

"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." - President Obama

I must admit I wasn't one of those that was following the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case or reacted when a verdict was reached because all too often the media tends to sensationalize matters.  Having lived in the United States when the O.J. Simpson trial happened in the 1990's, I've seen just the real issues can get missed out and how the media circus takes over.

In the Zimmerman-Martin case though, the media was clearing looking for a reaction from President Obama the moment a verdict was reached because this was probably the first landmark case related to race that has happened while he was President.  We've been used to seeing stalwarts like Rev. Jessie Jackson speak up over the decades but having a sitting President of African-American descent meant the stakes were higher this time.


President Obama though took this case in his own stride and let the hype die down a bit before making his own heartfelt comments on the case.  As we've seen on more than one occasion, President Obama hasn't looked to sensationalize matters when the iron has hot but has always let the dust settle before talking.  His approach has been pragmatic, often frustrating those around him.

I do appreciate the fact that when President Obama has spoken, it's been with a clear conscience.  He spoke yesterday with a handwritten statement where he spoke from his heart.  The impact of this is always greater and instead of politicizing an issue further as many others would, he put things in perspective.  I've not taken sides in the American political arena but appreciate it when a person in a position such as that of President Obama where to draw the line as to what is politics and what isn't.

If you haven't read or heard President Obama's speech, the following paragraph from the New York Times summarizes what he said in a nutshell.

But in the most expansive remarks he has made about race since becoming president, Mr. Obama offered three examples of the humiliations borne by young black men in America: being followed while shopping in a department store, hearing the click of car doors locking as they cross a street, or watching as women clutch their purses nervously when they step onto an elevator. The first two experiences, he said, had happened to him. (source: New York Times).


Thursday, 18 July 2013

Taking Pictures & Videos in the UAE - A Cultural Issue

There's been an uproar in the UAE in the last few days with regards an incident where an Emirati man was recorded on video attacking another driver.  The Emirati says he attacked the man because he drove after a minor accident and once he caught up to him, he did what he did and a lot of us saw it on YouTube with a video recorded by another motorist.

The motorist as it turns out has now been arrested for recording a video without knowledge of the Emirati man and this is against the law in the UAE.  The contention of Dubai Police is that the motorist who recorded the video shouldn't have shared it publicly, rather he should have given it directly to the police.

In this post, I'm not debate the merits of the case or passing any judgement here but rather talking about sensitivities that exist in this region with regards taking pictures or videos.  I've managed a photo studio and a business that distributed minilab equipment to other studios so I've been how culturally sensitive the topic of photo and video can be.

In the studio business that I used to manage, we used to do a lot of event photography and video recording.  When it came to doing events which were women-only, we had to ensure we used female photographers.  We also used women to do the editing and post processing of videos and pictures.  Even in our own studio where we had our own minilabs installed, we had to ensure that any screens, monitors or printers we had were positioned in such a way that no one other than our staff could view it.

Even at events where there were men or men and women, we've had to be sensitive as to which pictures were being taken as someone people are clearly not comfortable being photographed.  We have the respect the culture we're in and why this can become an issue.

For the minilab equiment business I ran, I remember we contemplated distributing photo kiosks that could be used within retail establishments or other public areas.  The problem that we could never get our head around was how do we supply this and yet protect the privacy of the person who is using the kiosk.  It is very easy for a passerby to see what was on the screen of the kiosk or what was being printed.  In short, we decided not to actively pursue this business.

I can understand why the laws state that taking pictures or videos without permission is illegal if seen from a cultural stand point.  There are though a whole host of cases where the validity of this law may be challenged as in this case.  We've all got our own opinions as to whether this is valid and while I'm not saying whether I support it or not, I just think we need to see both sides of the argument before passing judgement.

In case you're not aware of this case, this post from Alex Malouf nicely explains some of the background to this incident. 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Malala Yousufzai: Inspiring, Courageous, Victortorious.

I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist, “Why are the Taliban against education?” He answered very simply. By pointing to his book he said, “A Talib doesn't know what is written inside this book.” - Malala Yousufzai

A weekend day in Ramadan can be very slow when you're living in a part of the world when most people observe the fast.  Often you end up watching TV, reading or getting your spring cleaning done (in the summer).

So on a lazy Friday afternoon, I was flipping channels on my TV when Malala Yousufzai was about to address the youth wing of the United Nations.  Sitting in to listen to her was the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon and ex-British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown who is currently a UN Special Envoy for Education.
Malala Yousufzai at the UN, wearing a shawl belong to Benazir Bhutto.
Little did I know how much I would be moved by this sixteen year-old who had just nine months survived a gun shut to her head fired by a Talib.  The maturity with which she addressed the audience would put most grown people to shame but after surviving an attack the way Malala did, she's probably reflected and pondered on what the value of her life is and what she can do with it.

There were so many great quotes from Malala's speech and I'd highly recommend you watch the video on YouTube if you can or read the speech in full.

Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela are the humanitarians that this generation knows best but it is inspiring to know that there is another generation of humanitarians emerging.  Malala is just one shining example who managed to give a speech that tore down all the boundaries across religion, culture and other biases we keep in our minds.  No doubt she will do more than just give speeches in the future and she may be the reason we see more great humanitarians emerge.

Ramadan is a month of reflection.  No matter what your religion is, hearing words like this from Malala, makes you realize how petty we can be and how much more we could be doing.  If a sixteen year old girl from the Swat Valley in Pakistan can survive a gun shot and then come back nine months later to speak of what she can do for others who don't have access to education, why can't we make a change?

I was fortunate enough to watch Malala speak yesterday while my seven year old daughter sat at my side.  My daughter had a moment when the speech ended when she realized how lucky she is but how many more aren't quite as fortunate as her.

Malala, my blessings are with you in your cause and thank you for showing me what more we can be doing.

I've extracted below a few passages from Malala's speech yesterday but highly recommend you read or listen to the full speech.

Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.  I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.
Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban.
I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad-the prophet of mercy, Jesus christ and Lord Buddha. This is the legacy of change that I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learnt from Gandhi Jee, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learnt from my mother and father. This is what my soul is telling me, be peaceful and love everyone.
Dear sisters and brothers, we realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Bill Gates: The Quintessential Humanitarian

As anyone who knows me, I've been an Apple fanboy and even on my blog, I've often written and referred to the legacy of Steve Jobs.  The man was no doubt brilliant and the comparison has often been made between Jobs and Bill Gates.

The more time I've spent thinking about it though, my respect for Gates has grown.  Steve Jobs may have re-invented Apple and made us re-think how businesses work but Bill Gates was a revolutionary in that he brought personal computing mainstream before deciding he wanted to do more by making the world a better place for generations more.
Bill and Melinda Gates

Back in May of this year, I was watching Bill Gates interview on 60 Minutes with Charlie Rose where Gates spoke with humility about what he was doing to help those in need.  Gates, together with his wife Melinda have worked tirelessly to focus on issues like poverty, healthcare in lesser developed countries and education (watch is TED talk on education also from May of this year).  With all the resources at his fingertips though, Gates has remained fairly hands on in his quest to change the world.

Even the letter Bill and Melinda Gates on their foundation's website acknowledges the entrepreneurial flair they've instilled in their foundation.  They start by saying "Our friend and co-trustee Warren Buffett once gave us some great advice about philanthropy: “Don’t just go for safe projects,” he said. “Take on the really tough problems.”"

They continue on by saying " Some of the projects we fund will fail. We not only accept that, we expect it—because we think an essential role of philanthropy is to make bets on promising solutions that governments and businesses can’t afford to make. As we learn which bets pay off, we have to adjust our strategies and share the results so everyone can benefit."

If Gates succeeds in his mission of eradicating malaria and polio by ensuring the world's poorest have  access to proper sanitation facilities, he would have done more for humanity than could have ever been envisioned when he was dropping out of Harvard to co-found Microsoft.

I'm not saying that everyone can expect to do what Bill Gates has done in his lifetime but if you do wake up tomorrow wondering what you can do in your life, I hope you will take away a nugget of inspiration from what Bill Gates has set out to do.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

President Obama & Sunil Tripathi: Social Media Lessons

Following the drama we've seen in Boston this week, the role and power of social media to inform and misinform has once again been highlighted.  I had written about this earlier in the week (Lessons from Boston and the Dubai Tremors) but it was refreshing to see President Obama address the issue head on in his comments following the capture of Suspect #2.
President Obama at the inter-faith service in Boston.
He said as follows:
In this age of instant reporting and tweets and blogs, there's a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes to jump to conclusions. But when a tragedy like this happens, with public safety at risk and the stakes so high, it's important that we do this right. That's why we have investigations. That's why we relentlessly gather the facts. That's why we have courts. And that's why we take care not to rush to judgment -- not about the motivations of these individuals; certainly not about entire groups of people.
(To read his full statement, click here).

It is very easy to jump to conclusions and fuel a rumour mill with misinformation.  I know I was guilty of this earlier this week when I started mentioning to people Suspect #2 was Sunil Tripathi.  I got this information from what I thought were reliable social media feeds and was gutted to find out an innocent man who has been missing was being wrongly mistaken as a bomber.  You have to feel for his family in such times and when I saw the video his family posted on YouTube for his return, you feel even worse.  If you haven't seen the video, click on it below.

Some sections of the media got it right. They held back in giving names, ethnic backgrounds and further details of the suspects when it seemed everyone was talking about it.  I now understand and respect those sections of the media that did.  It is not only about first to market but about being respectful about the fact that you are dealing with people, families, emotions and reputations.

There is a Facebook page for Sunil Tripathi also and if you can, please do follow it (

I don't know Sunil Tripathi but hope his family has a sense of closure one way or another.  I'm sure the video only shows glimpses of how they've missed him and how important he has been to them.  We've seen the role of people in helping capture the two Boston bombing suspects, I just hope the same people can also help bring Sunil (or Sunny as his family calls him) home.

Update (21 April, 2013): Sunny Tripathi's siblings spoke to a media outlet in an interview shortly after their brother's name was cleared.  Have a look at that link here.  The Twitter account setup to post updates is @findingsunny.

Update (27 April, 2013): Sunil Tripathi's body was recovered in the waters off Providence, Rhode Island.  My condolences are with the family during their time of grief and hope his soul rests in peace.  Losing a loved one is never easy but not having any closure can be more difficult I'd imagine.  RIP Sunny.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Lessons from Boston and the Dubai Tremors

In less than twenty-four hours, two major events have stood out on my social media feed: the Boston Marathon tragedy and the tremors we felt here in Dubai.

Both impacted me.  I went to university in Boston and lived there for three wonderful years and I loved the spirit of the city.  In the case of the tremors we felt in Dubai today, I like most of the city felt the ground shake and there is natural concern that you have for the safety of your dear ones after events like this.

In both cases, I saw Twitter and Facebook explode.  In both cases, I saw concern, sorrow and fear.  

In both cases though, I saw people intentionally or unintentionally take advantage of the situation or jump to dangerous conclusions on social media.  

For those who took advantage of the situation, shame on you.  This is not a time to promote your brand or product with earth-shattering offers.  

For those who started jumping to conclusions that weren't fully thought out, remember, just because you can think it, doesn't mean you need to type it.  If you are going to type it, think about it and ask yourself would feel comfortable saying what you're about to type in front of a larger gathering.  If you think you wouldn't be comfortable talking about it in a larger forum, then don't type it.

Social media is powerful.  Understanding the power it holds and applying it aptly though is something many of us tend to forget when we're excited.  Take a deep breath, think through what you're doing and remember, it's not always about being first to express your thoughts but about being thoughtful in what you express. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

My Experience with Paywalls

Back in March 2011, I wrote two blog posts about the New York Times wanting to introduce a Paywall (if you don't know what a Paywall is, click on the link of the NY Times story) and whether if you paid for content, did you then know it was true?

I will admit, I was a bit of a skeptic.  If you can get all the news you want for free and if you've got Apps like Flipboard or Zite, why would you go out of your way to pay for digital news content?  About two years later, I've realized the answer: you pay for quality.

A little over a month ago, I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal.  Not the print edition which I occasionally used to get free copies of delivered to my doorstep (and which I never went through) but the digital edition which allowed me access the Wall Street Journal's content via it's website, iPhone / Android App and iPad App.  The Wall Street Journal has come great content and often times I'd find certain stories were only available to subscribers and one day I gave in to the temptation and put myself down for a trial subscription.

Nothing is ever free and even though the offer from the Wall Street Journal offered some freebies, it still meant I had to give them my credit card details and pay for their minimum period digital subscription.  The first time I tried this, the transaction didn't go through.  I tried a second and a third time till I was lucky the fourth time around.  The only thing I didn't realize the fourth time was that I subscribed to a one year subscription.  I was still unsure what to do but a few days into it, I realized, this subscription was one of the best investments I've made for a very long time.

Apart from the news stories, they've got some good video content on there which is great when you don't want to read through an entire news story or want some extra analysis.  The iPad and iPhone Apps aren't the best to use but with the newsletters you get from the Journal, you're flooded with more content than you can imagine.

Then yesterday, after a brief coffee with Narain Jashanmal of Jashanmal Bookstores, I started talking about my paywall experience and he brought up the topic of the New York Times paywall and how this had done well for the newspaper publisher.  I then found myself subscribing to this as well last night (though I made sure to sign up for a four-week plan this time around).  It is only when I came to writing this post, I realized I went full circle on the issue of the New York Times Paywall.

As an outlay, I've found paywalls will cost you about USD 200-250 per year.  This may be a difficult pill to swallow for those of us who are used to getting newspapers for close to nothing in UAE given the fact that most newspapers give you back discount vouchers or free gifts with your subscription but it is an investment you'll appreciate.

I know I end up sharing a lot of the content I've read on the Wall Street Journal on platforms like Twitter or Facebook but more importantly, I've shared a lot of this content with my colleagues in the office as well.  My online reading habits may have changed slightly but given that you have so many places you could find content, it's always easier to have it formatted in a format you're used to.  With the Wall Street Journal (and maybe in future the New York Times), the same has become something that I've gotten used to and yes, I do believe there is a future for Paywalls.