The blog for Digital Revolutionaries in Egypt and around the World

Posts tagged ‘development’

The new uprising Silicon Valley!

Slideshare2Once again, politics and technology happening come across on our Interact Egypt timeline. The date is Jan 28th 2014, which is a very important  and stressful date  in Egypt for two reason: The trail of former president Mohamed Morsi facing jailbreak charges and the second reason was the 3rd anniversary of revolution, namely that date on 2011 was called the “Friday of rage”.

Lets talk technology!

But, the same date was stressful on another more interesting track than politics, technology! It was the announcement date for Google Cloud Developer Challenge 2013, an annual software applications contest based on Google app engine. The contest, that started on September 4th had many applications submitted from different parts around the world including India, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, South East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and finally. United States, Europe and the Rest of the World. The contest had 5 milestone dates starting from competition start till winners announcement and was really a very useful experience for everyone who joined regardless where he/she reached. Behind the scenes, everybody also witnessed and was amazed by the energy of the enthusiastic young lady orchestrating the whole contest, Elizabeth Clark.

The tech startup scene?!

Middle East participation was, as usual, quit interesting to me. In the last 4 or 5 years, the tech startup ecosystem started to flourish and get unleashed in the Middle East in general, and Egypt in specific. For this reason also in the recent years Egypt saw lots of events, contests, hackathons for tech startups, from international entities including Google’s own “start with Google” (where our country manager Fady Ramzy presented an interesting session about E-Marketing Strategies for entrepreneurs) and the more interesting events like Startupweekend, that was courageous enough to move away from Cairo to other places all over Egypt including upper Egypt cities witnessing such events for their first time like Assuit and Aswan! This also ignited local scene here in Cairo to start running our own “local” entrepreneurship events like RiseUp summit last November.

Our geek is here!

Back to our  #gcdc story, which is even more interesting, since Interact Egypt’s own geek Mohamed Abdel elRahman was one of the finalists with his cool midoapplication Courseit, which enables you to learn anything you want, you can find numerous of useful written courses and streaming videos that can optimize your knowledge and skills in many different life categories.  Mohamed is a real example of Egypt’s new generation technology geeks, his personal hobbies is to play around with new Content Management Systems and programming languages, reading techies blogs, trying out new frameworks. On that day he was really nervous and curious to see his app as the winner for the Middle East region, and we all supported him and had the same passion 🙂 But then, the announcement was on that night, due to difference in timezones, which added more stress here!

Gplusstress

Finally the announcement came out late night from the Middle East were Geo Sketch from Saudi Arabia and Travellog from UAE, but our Mohamed was even filled with further energy to proceed on the geeks track and jump into future contests again!

Interact would like to congratulate all the #GDCD winners worldwide and especially the uprising Middle East! 

Proudly Crafted in Egypt

A short story of mobile application development, the dramatic crackdown of a counter revolution and a long-lasting friendship.

First post of the new year and a great moment to fly back in time and go through a personal story I felt the need to share since this summer. A story about my life as web entrepreneur and start-upper in Egypt during one of Egypt’s most dramatic period of its millennial history.

cyberandy-on-ms794As I write I’m on flight MS794 heading back to Cairo from Rome – Italy, my home town.

Today, Tuesday January the 14th, millions of Egyptians are voting their new constitution after kick-starting a revolution that changed the Arab World and was the beginning of a series of tragic events that deeply effected the Egyptian people as well as my confidence in running a successful business in the Middle East.

It is now almost 20 years I make a living developing web applications, I’m one of these guys that still remember Mosaic and gets excited when people and machines exchange information at the speed of light. I’ve been lately reading Evgeny Morozov (@evgenymorozov) so don’t worry I know “The Internet” – meaning this utopian dream of a connected and more civilised society – doesn’t really exists and most of the time nowadays this overall idea of a better World is misused for protecting unscrupulous online money making machines like Google, Amazon and the others.

Anyway, back to our story. Regardless of the time I spent debugging HTML, CSS, JavaScript and trying to push forward all sort of online business (from national governments to street performers, from multinational corporations to tattoo artists, gangsters and movie stars) I still take quite a lot of pride in doing my job and a great pleasure in helping people communicate online.

It was July 2013 when with our partner from UK (Axxe Solutions) and a brilliant advertising agency in Johannesburg we started to help South Africa’s biggest Radio Channel (5FM) launching an interactive radio show called “Beats by Demand”.

The user dynamics was quite simple and the goal even simpler: democratising” the radio program by letting listeners fire votes using a social-driven HTML5 mobile app (a 2nd screen app for Radio programs).

After gathering the requirements and writing the user-stories we began sketching concept and user experience for our first iteration.

Sketch Beats by Demand

Time was running fast, temperatures in Italy as well as in Egypt were going up and…a  major crisis for Egypt was on its way – ready to severely hit the streets of Cairo in just few weeks. Protests immediately following the removal of the President Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian Armed Forces erupted near the Rabia Al-Adawiya Mosque and people amassed there to condemn the military and to bring President Morsi back to power. For the first  time since my first visit to Egypt I felt something was wrong, deeply wrong even though I knew my perception of the events was heavily distorted by the media I had a weird feeling and as usual…

tweetsI was relying on the great hope, enthusiasm and courage of people like my partner Fady Ramzy (@cyberzizo) who is literally Reloading Egypt on daily basis by devoting himself to the Egyptian Entrepreneurial Revolution described in Christopher Schroeder’s book “Startup Rising”.

As usual, for our activities developed in Cairo like the 5FM App, my long time friend and colleague Remon Magdy was leading the project delivery. I began working with Remon in 2006 while launching the first mobile portal for Algeria’s largest mobile operator Djezzy. Since then we’ve been successfully rolling out services used every day by millions of users from Egypt to Tunisia, from Pakistan to Algeria, from Italy to South Africa.

Remon’s competences, clever attitude and experience represent at best Egypt’s “amazing talent pool of young people ready to create and innovate” as Marc Andreessen wrote on his introduction for the Christopher Schroeder’s book.

August 2013. It was time to begin developing the story board for our application and most importantly we had to prototype, prototype and prototypeyou don’t really know if an idea will work or not until you try to make something real. Building a version to evaluate the interaction is a must for helping you and your client find out what’s missing before moving your code to production. As usual we split our team into smaller groups (involving the agency as well as the client) and began executing our plan.

As we moved along our project Remon kept coordinating our team sometime from his house in Mohandessin (a neighbourhood close to downtown Cairo – in these days of August one of the epicentre of the clashes) and sometimes from our office in Nasr City (nearby the Airport and not too far from the other epicentre of the protests the Rabia Al-Adawiya Mosque) following the advice from the local news and from his friends on the streets.

Skype-conversationWhile Morsi’s backers set dozens of police stations ablaze across Egypt and put on fire 36 Christian churches General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi unleashed a bloody crackdown of unprecedented violence.

All I could do, as the confrontation continued during 14-18 of August, was to keep a close contact with the team in Cairo and working with Remon over Skype as he was literally trapped in his apartment and couldn’t  go out (see Skype conversation).

People from the office had continuous power outages and connection problems but we decided to keep working as normal as possible and not to disclose too many details with the South African partners to avoid any unneeded spread of panic. When everything outside gets messy it comes natural to protect ourselves and keep leaving our normal life as if nothing had happened.

Hundreds of people died in the clashes between security forces and supporters of President Morsi after his removal. These have been by far the darkest days of my entire experience in Egypt and I do need to thank Fady, Remon, Ahmed, Mohammed, Mina S., Mina M., Nevine and all the other Egyptian friends for giving me unprecedented hope and courage in continuing my journey here in Cairo.

Beats by Demand

After fine tuning our Drupal back-end, training DJ Fresh and revising the interaction with the social logins we finally went live as planned in September with our first release of Beats by Demand. The application had a great impact and few weeks after the launch Heineken decided to sponsor it.

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing team as the one we have in Cairo and I really hope for 2014 we will continue delivering great experiences crafted with pride in Egypt!

If you’re planning to build your new digital user experience…do it in Egypt and drop us an email.

Social Media, the tool to solving Tourism Crisis in Egypt

Last week, in a cozy meeting room in an awesome small villa, in Nasr City, the luxurious Hotels’ Group Team got our E-marketing Workshop.

Over the past year, thanks to the 25 Jan. revolution, the importance of Social Media Networks and their role in Marketing has been highly recognized. So, the professional Egyptian corporates and their elegant clientele began to accept the idea of “Professional Marketing Campaigns” over social media networks.

On the other hand, after the revolution, Tourism in Egypt has been harshly affected, especially due to the spread in the perception of danger and insecurity that propagated in foreign News Coverage. Therefore, a twist in that impression wanted to be targeted. Social Media is considered to be the most suitable Marketing tool, applicable in such case; not only for its global reach, but also for the true engagement with customers.

Savoy management quickly recognized the key to New-Generation Marketing and the necessity for utilization of Social Media to serve Savoy’s Marketing objectives and contacted Interact for a professional E-marketing Training Workshop to be given to its marketing Team to maintain its international standard.

Savoy Hotels Group, the holding company of Royal Savoy, Savoy Sharm El-Sheikh, Savoy Club, Sierra and Soho Square, the 2011 World’s Leading Dive Resort according to World Travel Awards and the Middle East’s Top Relaxation/Spa Resort according to tripadvisor.

The Workshop started with a day of E-marketing concepts and strategies. Then, a day focusing on Savoy’s online identity in terms of the website and social networks to analyze the current situation and set the required goals. This day was also devoted to practical training on each social network on its own; especially facebook & twitter.

Lastly, a session about E-mail marketing, followed by case studies for hotels that utilized E-marketing in their business and that boomed their sales. Finally, we had a contest and the winner, Nevine Adel (@Floofella) was handed an Interact gift and all participants were handed their training certificates.

This workshop got a very positive feedback specially over the #SharmOnline Hashtag that the team created and managed to interact on it themselves. That’s really FUN!!!

Entrepreneurship is not difficult as long as you are able to meet your challenges!

In a casual setting at Innoventures’ Office, we had our first and long awaited meetup for Egypt Startups, technology entrepreneurs (anybody with vision or product for web or mobile), online experts, gurus as well as entrepreneurship supporters like mentors & consultants to discuss the current entrepreneurial challenges in Egypt that slows down entrepreneurial inventions.

Therefore, to meet your challenges event started with successful entrepreneurial cases through inspirational mini-speeches by 3 entrepreneurs who managed their way through those challenges. Those mentors were Abdellatif Olama, CEO of Dear’n’Deal, Abdelrahman Wahba, CEO of Iqraaly and Hady Ahmed, CEO of Tabshoura that are three successful businesses in the Egyptian market that started with an entrepreneurial initiativve.Then, we had a group game for identifying the challenges, announced a mini-contest of “Meetup tweetmaster” and finally had Q&A session with open discussion.

Every small Business meets some obstacles at their Baby-phase, where you are now. That’s not because you lack experience but may be because you miss the know-how. Sometimes you waste your time trying start the whole business from scratch while you can save your time, energy, resources and creativity to adding10% to a 90% that already exists out there. This 90/10 rule was explained by Olama who said that the asset is where you end not where you start. So, one can borrow 90% from an already-existing idea and add to it his/her 10% that take already to a completely different level.

Peer and family pressures telling you, “you are young, you can’t do it”, shan’t be listened to. For, Hady all surrounders weren’t supportive but weren’t believing his young age, 21 years, can do him any help. However, he didn’t give attention to that and established his successful “Tabshoura”, middle-man market linking designers to designers’ hiring agencies.

The main 5 challenges discussed were the funding, business planning, marketing activities, sales management, and lack of resources. To reach a fair focus for the meetup, a game was run to indicate the main common challenge that met the majority of Startups. The game was as follows; 5 boards were hung on the wall with a challenge written on each, sticky notes were distributed on participants to stick their problem to the problem-related challenge.  The conclusion was that funding and business planning contributed to the majority of challenges.

To guarantee broader reach of coach-needy entrepreneurs, the meetup was also live streamed and live tweeted by Interact, attendees and online followers, who asked questions and interact shared their questions within the meetup and tweeted them back the answers. By the end of the meetup, we announced 3 winners for our mini-contest “Meetup Tweetmaster”, who won an exclusive training session for entrepreneurial skills. To gain more benefit and broader vision over entrepreneurs in Egypt, you can see the event’s pictures and watch interviews with the speakers.

When traffic gets under control!

Now, it’s easy to monitor and analyze the whole online ecosystem for the digital identity for a topic, product, brand or company or may be also our client, his competitors and his services importance and mentions through our Social Media Monitoring Service.

The monitoring covers several online channels including blogs, forums, online review and news websites in addition to social networks such as Facebook, twitter, Flickr, youtube and others.

The method used for analyzing retrieved data follows a path of recording/listening then understanding and analyzing, aimed at judging the effectiveness of the Company communication strategies from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives.

The phases of analysis comprise:

  • Crawling the online space to capture and extract relevant data.
  • A semantic analysis aimed at classifying messages on the basis of previously defined messages (popularity, most discussed subjects, emerging trends).
  • Sentiment Analysis by assigning an appraisal rating (positive/negative/neuter) of the analyzed messages.
  • Data presentation in a useful and meaningful way the disposals certain trends or valuable findings along with our recommendation about best practices to make the best use of those findings.

This service results in a credible supportive report verifying accurately all what has been said online on a subject, product, brand or company. This report acts as a timing SWOT analysis to the client showing it the ranking of its products or services, its edge over its competitors, the USP and mentions of its competitors, general impression about it in the perception of its consumers and what media channel should be used to create a broader reach and achieve higher sales.

Interact Egypt launches Basim kids magazine portal!

Interact Egypt is proud to announce the launch of Basim kids magazine portal www.Basim.com. This portal is the latest addition to the Saudi Research and Marketing Group strategy towards E-publishing and moving strongly and rapidly to the digital world.
This portal acts as the online identity of Basim Magazine as well as a safe social network for Arab kids. It reflects the same existing print identity, on the internet, to provide Basim magazine content in an appealing and eye-catching look and feel to internet users in a rich online presence that is easy to find, reach and share.

This rich online presence also boosts Basim magazine identity & content beside the paper version; it provides many interactive features that take the portal visitors much beyond the one-way paper version. It’s a state-of-the-art graphic design that follows latest usability guidelines and trends in order to deliver to the online readers the best user-friendly experience, especially for kids.

The portal also offers interesting social networking features whereby kids can subscribe to become members on the portal as Basim fans. Kids can start also visit the profiles of other fans and add them as friends to start building their own social network over Basim portal. This is done under full supervision of admins who moderates kids’ uploaded images and posted texts ensuring all their community is safe and interesting to them.

Then comes the developed flash games, with the idea of collecting “user points” through many activities on the portal including playing games and achieving higher scores. Points can be exchanged later with gifts offered by Basim like annual subscriptions..etc

The web portal makes use of the cutting edge technologies of the Web 3.0 while providing an easy way to organize and manage next generation multimedia contents with the ability to create on-the-fly new publishing interfaces and dedicated data feeds for content syndication.

Tunisiana Mobile portal, an unmatched success story.

Tunisiana’s WapUp users doubled in no time!

In March 2007 Interact developed the Mobile portal for Tunisiana (Tunisia’s leading mobile operator), providing their subscribers with a content-rich and user-friendly portal.

The portal offers a variety of contents via six different Content Providers. Among the contents announced there are downloadable contents (ringtones, images, games) and editorial contents (international and local news, weather, sport news and the star signs etc.) Tunisiana manages the contents of the section Infos Tunisiana, for services and products offered by the operator.

On May 2010 Interact launched the new version of this portal, branded WapUp, Tunisiana wap portal.

The new version offered a rich user experience and an enhanced look and feel, in addition to new interactive, user centric features such as the WAP Chat and Gifts.

WapChat is a WAP chat service that can be accessed through WAP enabled phones, it allows users to chat with each other based on their interests. They can also chat in public chat rooms or create their own private chat rooms and invite other people. Subscribers can manage their own profile and customize their account profile picture via WAP and MMS. Subscribers can also receive SMS alerts and notification upon receiving private messages and also newsletters via SMS.

The social nature of the service is so strong that in less than a month from its launch the service has grown to an exceptional number of users above any forecast. Interact is really proud of this project since it is a clear case of interesting, revenue generating services that we provide to our customers.

Finally in November 2011, Interact was proud to deliver the hardware expansion project to extend the capacity of the platform to consume more than double the load.

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