Block Breaker

Most of us Pakistani IT professionals spend our lives shielded from the ‘system’. Yes, we sometimes come out of our shells and protest against whatever we believe we have to demonstrate against – and yes, we do write blog posts and opine and criticize and debate, and sometimes attend the feel-good TEDx talks to ‘spread ideas’ – but living in front of our computers, we rarely get a first-hand experience of the system that we loathe (but one that we have to live in).

I was forced to get a taste of the ‘system’ last April, when my wife and son were in a near-fatal car accident. Their car was hit by a police van on their way to school.

Perhaps it was due to the traffic signal, which was not working due to load-shedding, or maybe it was due to the police van travelling off its official route for some personal business, and therefore, the (teenage looking) driver was speeding to make up for the lost time – whatever the reason, I came to know about it when a military police guy called my home to inform me that my family has been in an accident, and has been taken to the CMH.

Needless to say, the next few weeks totally changed my perspective on life in Pakistan – and to be honest, the shock and disgust at the dismal state of our legal and health system is the major reason that I have not been able to write a blog post for more than one year.

The accident also served as a catalyst and helped me move from the big-city life of Lahore to the small-town life of Abbottabad (moving out of the country still doesn’t sound right to me) – but last year’s experience still come back to haunt me whenever I look at the permanent scar on my son’s face, who had to undergo emergency plastic surgery – I hope chicks still dig scars in ten years.

I did not intend to write about it at all, but the images won’t let me move on until I get them out of the system, so my next few posts will be about the Pakistanis running our hospitals, police stations, courts and streets. What frightens me is that no martial law, democratic election or long march will change these people. Like viruses, they are microscopic enough to pass unnoticed, and yet they are usually the ones responsible for the fatal diseases that this country is suffering from.

Abbottabad Cantt After Protests

It has been a while since I have posted here – but only because the dozen post drafts lying on my desktop have been fighting for attention at the same time – and have created a deadlock.

A lot needs to be said, but before I resume writing, here are 17000 words (in picture format) taken today near my current residence in Abbottabad.

Yesterday’s tragic killing of seven protesters by (our own?) police and the empty streets and the closed bazaar that were so peaceful only a few days ago is something that I was totally unprepared for when I left the pollution and FUD of Lahore for the serene and safe small-town life of Abbottabad last year.

The images are (in no particular order) of the Cantt bazaar, the burnt Cantt police station (which had a beautiful antique wooden door), a burnt police vehicle, empty market, vandalized ATM with a blood-splattered cloth protecting it, and the junction of Liaquat Road, Jinnah Road and Allama Iqbal Road – oh, the irony!

IMG_0415 IMG_0416 IMG_0417 IMG_0418 IMG_0419 IMG_0421 IMG_0422 IMG_0423 IMG_0424 IMG_0425 IMG_0426 IMG_0427 IMG_0428 IMG_0429 IMG_0430 IMG_0431 IMG_0420

Pakistan Iftar Timing Alerts via Twitter

UPDATE: For iftar timings for Lahore in 2009, you can follow iftartime on twitter.

If you use twitter, you can follow iftar2008pak to get iftar (and later on, sehri) alerts for Lahore (and later on, other cities).
Right now, iftar2008pak will send out a tweet 15 minutes and zero minutes before iftar – due to various lags, it won’t be entirely accurate (but close enough), so please don’t blame me on judgement day if anything goes wr
ong 😉
Do add me up on twitter too, I’m ReallyVirtual there.

UPDATE: I’m a bit too busy to enter data for other cities like Karachi, Islamabad etc. but if anyone wants to help out (it should take a few minutes of your time), do get in touch and I will share the login details and steps to take.

Lahore Metblogs Widget

Metblogs just introduced a cool widget to embed any metblog post on your own blog. Since I am a Lahore Metblogs author by virtue of writing a few posts there, so I thought I’d check the (beta) embed script out. Here goes:

Hmm, it ate up my masterpiece images, and the title is missing the trailing /, but pretty cool otherwise. I didn’t know they also have an author feed, so here’s my feed at Lahore Metblogs – I will try to write there more often in 2009 than my current frequency of a post per quarter.

5 Reasons is a Success

A guru blogger once shared the following piece of wisdom with me:

Posts with lists are more ‘successful’.

Here is a list of reasons why I think GreenWhite is a successful blog. I have to write this post as a lot of people have approached me this week and asked what ( GnW) is all about and whether it actually is a successful blog or not. Among the people who have asked this question are:

GnW, for those who don’t know, is a technology blog focusing on the news, innovations and emerging trends in the Pakistani IT industry. I am no blog analyst, but I would call GreenWhite a big success because:

  1. GreenWhite has built a community – In the two years of its existence, GnW has managed to gather and engage a strong bunch of IT professionals around itself – people who are writing and participate in valuable discussions on the Pakistani IT industry. As a Pakistani IT professional who follows 400+ Pakistani blogs semi-regularly, I do not know of any other IT blog focused on the Pakistani IT industry that comes close in this regard. Do share the address in the URL if you know of one.
  2. GreenWhite serves a small niche successfully – This post is intended to be read by a dozen or so people – it does not matter if 50 or 5000 people read it, as long as the intended target audience gets the message. Similarly, if we stop fooling ourselves, the Pakistani IT industry is TINY – GnW aims to serve this small niche, and if you will go through any 10 random posts on GnW, you will agree that it does the job well, which is another measure of success.
  3. GreenWhite has original content – Since our tiny IT industry does not generate hundreds of news items every hour, so GnW authors have no option but to write original content. The posts on GnW are not ‘originalized’, which is my term for picking up a few dozen ‘blogworthy’ hot news items from a few hundred (preferably before the competition does it, so that your post gets listed for a few Google keywords) and quickly remixing and rewording the resultant body of text before pressing the publish button. To use a hackneyed expression, GnW usually has something to say, while most local blogs have to say something.
  4. GreenWhite has been a catalyst My first introduction to GnW was through the Startup Insider sessions, which was a commendable series of informal sessions between the wannabe entrepreneurs and the veterans, held in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad in collaboration with P@SHA. Dozens of CEOs and IT professionals were speakers / panelists, and hundreds of people participated in the series, but apparently that endeavor did not get the projection that it deserved, as many IT bloggers say they have heard the GnW name for the first time only recently. Just as the Bloggers’ Meetups are attempting to bring the wannabe bloggers together, the Startup Insiders brought people interested in IT startups together and gave many of them the push needed to ‘do their own thing’. Not many other blogs can claim to ‘walk the walk’. GnW can.
  5. GreenWhite has decent statistics – I think many of the worlds’ best blogs are undiscovered, and usually have less than 100 regular visitors, and yet there are many people just want safety in numbers, so they go by analytics figures, don’t waste time on any blog that doesn’t get trackbacked by a million other blogs and dont read a book until it is a bestseller or a movie based on the book is in production. For people measure success in percentages and clickthroughs, GnW has around 1000 subscribers, is usually in the top 100K blogs on Alexa (and has #666 rank in – though I am not a stats freak, but achieving a sub-100K Alexa rank with 90% audience coming from Pakistan and a few hundred thousand visitors a month, all without explicit SEO might mean something to the statistician sort.

So there you have it, for what ever it is worth, GreenWhite is a successful blog IMHO.

Before I go, here is a bulleted list of pointers:

  • I was approached by strangers (now friends) during the LBM08 event, and then on Skype during the KBM08 event – they wanted to meet and congratulate GnW representatives, and I had to tell them that the blog was based in ISB. I wish GnW was represented in the meetup, but regardless of whether GnW attends any meetings or not, this is the only measure of success that I would aim for if I owned GnW – actually no further justification of success should be required.
  • Hot Chick - reallyI read some twitter friend LOLing and saying that people believe that the success of a blog is limited to those who aim to create a difference in their society. That would be wrong, though I don’t know any blogger who would generalize success like that. I believe that boobie blogs may have their need in the world, just like gadget blogs, social welfare blogs or porn. The measure of a blog’s success is whatever its owner and readers want it to be – sometimes it is thoughts and dreams, sometimes it is rants, sometimes it is monetization by prolific content generation, and sometimes it is pics of hot chicks – but that is just my simplistic view of things, and you are welcome to disagree.
  • To answer another (very enthusiastic, judging from the !!!s) friend who said “… success story? honestly, this is the FIRST time I read this blog or even heard about it!!!” – it is simply because you belong to a different segment. You are facing the west, GnW is facing the east. In the blaagosphere fruit market, you are an apple, GnW is an orange, and there are melons and mangos and hundreds of vegetables, fruits and nuts like me around. Sorry to burst your bubble, but your knowledge of a blog’s existance is not a measure of success – after all, ten years ago, you didn’t know where babies come from!!! (I kid).


I have written 3 odd posts on so far. They are: