Loaded Diaper and Gru

A couple of things on my mind that I need to trash away onto these virtual pages. But before I do that, here is some happiness for you ;)

1. It sucks that I am unable to provide work to all the women, and in some cases men, who approach me almost daily via Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages etc. I try. God knows I try. Five years and I have been working to do just that. But unfortunately I don’t have enough work. Not right now. That’s the goal. It disturbs and agitates me greatly that I can’t connect everyone to work. Please don’t judge if I don’t respond to all of you. What am I supposed to say? Plus, I am grateful to the support and encouragement all of you have shown me – I truly am. However, if you want to point someone in my direction for advice, kindly don’t share my personal phone number. The best way to reach me is via email which is maria@womensdigitalleague.com.

2. Competition is awesome. It keeps you on your toes, gets you thinking about ways to improve what you do, and I could go on.

Negative Competition is a Loaded Diaper

Negative Competition is a Loaded Diaper

However, there is a fine line between being competitive and being vicious. A wise person once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I am no saint and can’t say I don’t mind who gets credit for my hard work but at the end of the day of it helps make someones life better and I become a mere tool in the way, I’ll make my peace with it. But remember, stealing, lying, cheating, insincerity … they are like loaded diapers (been watching Diary of a Wimpy Kids almost on loop). You may cover up the stench for only a while but unless you stop being lazy and get up and change it and dispose off it properly, it will just keep on getting worse. In the long run, people will find out what you are doing.

3. A little about Twitter, politics, and teenagers. Internet is awesome. It lets you have a voice. It makes you realize you are not alone in your craziness. However, I’ve noticed how without some guidance and even coaching, young people can get quite lost. With great power comes great responsibility. Activating the “youth” and making them a part of social change is a stellar idea. But I am seeing that you also need to be careful how you empower them. Leaving them on their own just creates anarchy … sorta like the Lord of the Flies. Faceless people without much knowledge and hiding behind pseudonyms but with power can be really dangerous. Political parties tapping into these energetic youngsters wanting a change in their country also need to do it carefully through constant nurturing and educating.

4. 3 years. I miss you my Artemis/10k friends. :)

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

Twitter – That Astounding Social Network

Social Media … WOW … someone in Belize (didn’t even know it existed a while ago) factory unlocked my iPhone 4 that was on Gevey Sim. Just IMAGINE the probability of that happening a decade ago (yeah OK there was no iPhone then either but you know what I mean). It’s just so mind-boggling.

I wasn’t a fan of twitter until just recently. And I met the most fun / cool people along with losers the likes of which I didn’t know existed. Below are some of my fav ppl on Twitter:

Nadeem Farooq Paracha
@NadeemFParacha (BTW he has blocked me *tear )
Have loved the guy since his sindi topi-wearing days when he would critique local music. I used to be (still am minus Salman Ahmed) a huge Junoon fan and loved how he would praise them. Some call him Brother Grim for h is constant sarcasm but I find it entertaining. Plus, it doesn’t hurt anyone personally.

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Nabiha Mehr SheikhNabiha Mehr Sheikh
@NabihaMeher
The lady rose to fame, at least for me, coz of a blogpost on eTribune where she publicly ‘fessed up to being bipolar. Then had a huge fight with some guy on Twitter accusing him of inciting others to “do the unthinkable” to her. Love how in her passion for feminism, she constantly picks up offense over the silliest of things, pushes the boundaries between being a women-right activist to being a male-antagonist).

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Shiraz HassanShiraz Hassan
@ShirazHassan
He is a journo but anyone who knows me knows just how much I love reading papers. I enjoy his photos. He goes around the country taking pics of places no one has heard of. many of the places he photographs I have seen and passed by but have never had the time to really LOOK AT and ADMIRE.

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Saadi SattarSaadi Sattar 
@SaadiSattar
Every time I get stuck using WP this guy is the one I turn to. The kid runs a popular tech blog that he started at the age of … hold your breath … 14. So if you have a question about using wordpress, blogging, Nexus, or any gadgets, ask him. Chances are, he WILL respond and be helpful.
Blogs:
Android Muscle
Lolzz

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AmaraAmara Javed
@Amara807
Want to follow someone who will NEVER EVER tweet about politics or history or philosophy and just make you think the world was made of rainbow colored marshmallows with blue-haired, techni-color girls singing wearing disgustingly expensive designer clothes she is your gal. Have seen her grow from a 9-6 office registrar to the top fashion blogger in Pakistan. Sub-continent, Paris, NY, London, ME, she has it all covered.
Blog: Pink 2.55

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DaniDani
@iPhone5_nerd
In case you are curious about the guy that factory unlocked my iPhone, this is the dude.

 

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MadgeMiserable Madge
@MiserableMadge
This account is hilarious. Sure there is repetition but whoever is posting is doing a great job. Get my daily dose of laughter from here.

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InspirexImtiaz
@Inspirex
An extremely helpful Pakistani marketing strategist. Stuck with a questions about SEO?  Or trying to decipher GoDaddy? The guy despite being next to a complete stranger offered to help and spent a good ten minutes explaining it all. Hats off to the innate goodness of people.

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Maham AliMaham Ali
@mahamali05
Recently discovered her. She is hilarious & that’s enough for me to love her.

 

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sana saleemSana Saleem
@SanaSaleem
Meet my wife (inside joke u would only know if u were on Twitter). Don’t understand her activism tweets or posts but she can talk nonsense with girlfriends and hence she is on this most prestigious list.

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Annie ZamanQZ
@Natrani
Met at Kuch Khaas – that most snobbish of places in Islo. Changed my perception about NGO/activist types. The chocs she fed me helped as well. Love her to bits.

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My Shiny Lights People – in other words, entrepreneurs or those involved with them

Azhar RizviAzhar Rizvi
@Azhar Rizvi
My mentor.My brother. My friend. He believed in me when everyone else just laughed and even scorned. MITEnterprise Forum Pakistan’s Vice Chair. Founder Angel Fund Pakistan.

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Jehan AraJehan Ara
@Jehan_Ara
Stalked the woman shamelessly for 3 years. An inspiration for Pakistani women. President @PASHAorg. Witty. Foodie. Techie. Loves all things “i” and “G” (go figure).

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Badar KhushnoodBadar Khushnood
@Badar76
Google country head for Pk. Only G employee in Pk. Extremely humble and a thorough gentleman.

 

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Atif MumtazAtif Mumtaz
@amumtaz
An entrepreneur. Cofounder of the first job portal in Pakistan, Brightspyre. Working on an International job portal now. A friend and advisor.

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The Pushtun-This-and-Pushtun-That Types (Journos, Bloggers, Media peeps)

There were too many here that I really like to follow. The title is a compliment so no Twitter wars please. (or why not!) ;)

SesapZaiSAbaseen
@SesapZai
Blogger at BBC, Express Tribune, SesapZai.wordpress.com. Intellectual pushtun woman living in Canada and moving to France. She sketches and paints. Thinks I look like a younger (skinnier) caricature of Fauzia Kasuri and yet I still love her.

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Iftikhar FirdousIftikhar Firdous
@IftikharFirdous
Journo at Express Tribune. Only vegetarian tribal pushtun I know (or that exists).

 

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TakhalusTakhalus
@Takhalus
Jumps into random conversations between people. Shows off about his vast knowledge of history (yeah that kinda includes everything). Super secretive about his identity. As if anyone cares. Blogs at http://www.takhalus.blogspot.com/

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Usama KhiljiUsama Khilji
@UsamaKhilji
Claim to fame? He is my teacher’s son. The only teacher I was ever nervous with and made me feel like an idiot. Something called a Citizen Journalist. People seem to listen to him. Talks politics.

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Some International Tweeples

Alec RossAlec Ross
@AlecJRoss
Met Alec at the US Ambassador’s residence in Pakistan. You remember him, right? Or let this jog your memory. Yeah the same guy. I like going through links he shares and his “This day in history” tweets. Plus, he is not hard on the eyes.

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Lukas BiewaldLukas Biewald
@l2k
I need this kid to sit up and take notice of me and my work and let my workers / service providers have access to CrowdFlower. Yes, I said NEED. Imagine the difference Rs. 4000 or $40 can make in the lives of a huge untapped workforce in rural Pak. Sigh!

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Dave McClureDave McClure
@davemcclure
Cofounder of 500 Startups. ‘Nuff said. *SwirlyHearts*

Ok I think I am done. Once again – these are ppl I like to follow. Doesn’t mean this is an exclusive list of best tweeples out there. If you are here take it as a compliment and don’t read too much into anything.

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OK BYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. No offense intended to anyone at all. If you are on the list, it’s a compliment from me – honestly – no side-dish of sarcasm served with that. Thanks

P.P.S. had to add the annoying lines coz otherwise the pics all ran into one another.

Woe is I

2-day blackout in dear ol’ Paki-land. Don’t let the official reports fool you. It wasn’t 2 hours. Went out for almost 48 hours. Not a problem, you say, I had a laptop and evo. Let me give you some basic 101 on the way laptops work. They need to be CHARGED which needs ELECTRICITY which we barely had for TWO FRIGGIN’ DAYS. How did that affect me? Um, let me explain that too.

I run an “online” business with ops running almost 24/7 since I have clients in about every continent. Soooo … I had some VERY annoyed clients. Oh no, they are usally very understanding and kind. But their patience has been tested to the max I believe. You see, Govt of Pakistan is personally responsible for ensuring all its citizens go to heaven. Soon as some idiot somewhere had the wonderful idea of making a video that hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the World and a few hundred people (read, Muslims) died in protests and some churches were burnt and public property was destroyed much in line with Islamic teachings, our wonderful Govt decided to ban YouTube. That way it protects its naive citizens from committing a sin and going to hell. Of course our IT Ministry and ICTR&D departments, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority etc have never heard of something called a proxy.

So I go to my clients and say err … can’t access any tutorials you have sent, I can’t also help maintain your YouTube channel any more. They were like, oh too bad but we love you so we will overlook it. Cool! But then … yes, there is more.

Govt decides to put a ban on Skype to phone calls. FINAL.NAIL.IN.THE.COFFIN.

Now how in God’s name am I supposed to call my clients, or call on behalf of them using their Skype number or receive calls on their behalf on their Skype number?

*SCREAMS

And no, Van Gogh had no idea what a scream, a real blood-curdling scream looked like. 

I lost 2 clients. 

While some poor, unsuspecting Muslim somewhere is sitting in his room watching whatever the hell he wants to watch using Hotspot Shield or VidProxy or whatever and condemning himself to hell.  

I thank the Government of Pakistan, Ministry of IT, PTA and, of course, the ONE AND ONLY, MR. Ban-It-All (that sounds strangely like PANADOL, no?), Interior Minister, Right Honorable Dr. Rehman Malik for coming up with all the brilliant ideas that are so effective in keeping peace in my country and ensuring we stay on the path to prosperity by banning YouTube, Skype to phone alls, and frequent bans on cellular phone services. Owe it all to you, Sir.

Internet Freedom

Facebook Ban

Twitter and FB Ban

Gmail ban in Pakistan

Crass but depicts how banning cellphones is NOT going to accomplish much

Crass but depicts how banning cellphones is NOT going to accomplish much

Am at the end of my wits.

Also, for more info on Internet Freedom, or lack of it, read here.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

Croak Croak … Croakun

This is a long over due post about the latest buzz in social media marketing and analytics.

Croakun [...] provides real-time social media analytics and personalized actionable recommendations to improve your online presence, engaging better with your customers while being more competitive than the competitors.”

Huh?

OK to simplify, you can watch this video. http://youtu.be/Zbl8K9ANlgg Dear ol’ Govt of Pakistan has put a ban on YouTube so can’t embed. If you are in Pakistan you can STILL watch it using this proxy site (no, don’t worry it’s not Hotspot Shield). Just go to www.Vidproxy.com and paste the above YouTube URL into the QuickLinks box. ;)

Better than this, let me share some screenshots from the beta site. Yes, I have beta access since the founder, Kai Feng, is a friend and a client.

In. Your. Face. HA!

But ahem …

So suppose you want to keep a track of your Twitter conversations. Sure you can use Hootsuite but then how do you make any sense of all that data right in front of you? If you are a big business or an SME you will have to hire media experts (*eyeroll) to go through it and make some sense of it. So, you end up not only spending on the tool but also on your “experts”. Here is what croakun does.

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This is where your Twitter stream shows. You can see on the left you can change between Twitter, Facebok and even G+ and LI I believe.

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Geo Demographics tab takes all your data and puts it into neat charts based on languages and locations. Imagine how awesome this would be for an International Brand or a brand focusing on clients say in the US who speak both Hispanic and English. Possibilities are limitless.

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The Volume tab is the cumulative tweets or facebook status by hours to see what time is the most active hour about a certain keyword!

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Influencers – So if you are looking for influencers for certain keywords from your following list how would you know who are the most relevant tweeples and how they are ranked for that particular keyword? That’s where Croakun makes it all a piece of cake. Getting more and more excited? ;)

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Sentiments – ah, this gives you the pulse of twitterati. How are they feeling that day? Are they in a positive mood? This might be a great time to tell them about a new product launch. Bad mood? Yikes! Stay away – do not announce the new giveaway or what have you.

Can’t wait for it to go live.

In other news … I am well and as awesome as ever. Spending more time on Twitter than Facebook. Enjoying downloading torrents. Working with some great customers and service providers. Loving it!

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

SaaS for Micro VA Tasks? Ifttt is Here!

Oooohhhhh …. I am excited. And of course it has something to do with a tech breakthrough. Check out http://ifttt.com/recipes. Found out about them from Robert Scoble’s Twitter (@Scobleizer) and G+ update. You know all those silly, little things that hardly make sense but you just must do just because – like blog a YouTube video you like to WordPress, or make sure your Twitter and Facebook profile pics match, or save a backup of mobile uploads on your Facebook to your Dropbox, and a gazillion other things? Now you can do them in one easy step through ifttt.com. In Scoble’s words:

What does it do? It lets you write little macros in this syntax: “If This, Then That…”

So, if my profile picture on Facebook changes then also change it on Twitter. That kind of thing. Already has a ton of different pre-done ones, and you can add your own.

The service is free – you can read more about it here while I go drool over it a bit more.

Business is Common Sense

The 25-yrs old does it again. Couple of days back I was whining to him about work and how I should do what my friends say and just get a job, and he says, “Business is common sense, Maria – perhaps you need to rethink your expectations”. Much as it pains me to admit it but that made sense. This blog is not about him so I’ll skip to what it actually is about. What is business really?

In her guest post on Women 2.0, Jennifer Toney, Founder and CEO of  WeMakeItSafer describes business beautifully (and I am a little jealous of her for being so eloquent).

“If I’m cursing, there is a business opportunity.” You know, every time you say, “@*#*! I hate it when that happens!” or “@*#*! Why in the world did they make it this way?!” …. if a problem is big enough and important enough that it makes you mad; if it evokes enough passion that you are writing about how stupid it is on your Facebook wall, or better yet, a three-page blog post; it just might be a problem worth solving. After all, if it irritates you, chances are good that it irritates others.”

I just LOVE the simplicity of this definition. I can relate to it when it comes to WDL. I was working as a teacher at a private school and hating every minute of it. I naturally quit though it took me three long years to reach that decision. While sitting at home, I kept thinking to myself there HAD to be a way around this problem. I couldn’t do anything but teach – no one would let me – but I am not one to give up easily …. :D I started looking around, found Rozee online. Wrote 200 essays for a lady in Multan for Rs. 15k. Found oDesk while shadowing her on the Internet (I am evil, I know), earned about $400 in the first month. Was approached by founder of a not-for-profit startup in SF, CA and became a full-fledged VA from a content writer. Heard about Women 2.0 Startup Competition, and became an entrepreneur. Ladies (GET OVER IT – I am a feminist), motive behind the brag? I had a problem and instead of sitting down crying about it and shouting at God for not  being fair to me, or having a sighing competitions with other women over who has had the hardest, saddest life and hence deserves a place among saints, I found a solution to the problem. I know, I am AWESOME! :P

You don’t have to start big, you can start with making beaded jewelry, or embroidered mobile pouches and selling them on Etsy or Folksy. Or you can start from your home designing clothes for friends and family, taking pics of all the dresses you made so far and putting them on a Facebook page, or you may want to start a cooking class for little girls. It doesn’t have to be a social enterprise. It doesn’t have to have a huge social impact changing people’s lives for the better. Look at Facebook, Evernote, Angry Birds. I don’t feel like a better person for using any but man is a social animal and wants to mingle with people, we all have our own crazy ways of unwinding, many of us have trouble keeping track of our ideas. These businesses banked on those needs. Look around you and see if you can identify a problem that you can solve, something you feel passionate about, something you can do better and differently, find out if there is a market for it. Start with friends and family, neighbors, the random people you have added to your FB list, twitter – and then stop contemplating and take the plunge. See where procrastination landed Hamlet? I always say, “I’ll never know unless I do it”.

Trust me, it has its pitfalls – there are days you want to commit murder – you curse yourself for refusing to get an easy 9-5 job at some huge multinational whose owner is best buddies with your uncle – but it’s fun. The adrenaline, the small conquests, the way the world unfolds before you gives you a high like nothing else. It’s the strongest addiction ever. Try it and let me know how it goes.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Discovering Twitter

Yep … I have finally joined the brigade. I am on twitter and am tweeting. I DO hate the name twitter. How ridiculous. Ever since I heard some comedian compare it to a bladder control problem on the Jimmy Kimmel Show (I swear I hate that show, only know this coz of the constant ads on Star World) I have hated Twitter. But everyone is on it and harping on all the wonderful miracles it can perform so what the heck … I created meself an account.

Now twitter can help a lot if you have a product to sell and a decent website or blog. I for one don’t have a website or a blog I can show my potential clients because showing them this would be absolute suicide and my website is a complete mess (have a look here) but I am tweeting so I can test it for meself before I tell you to go try it. See, I care. Hope you appreciate it!

So now I have my twitter account but I am twittering alone. How do I find people with similar interests? A potential clientele? You can do it either by entering a search query for your keywords (I used virtual assistants) into the Twitter search box. Or, better still, by using Twiangulate. I went to Twiangulate and searched for all members who had mentioned the word virtual assistant in their profile. I filtered out the good from the bad – basically just started following members who had 250 and over followers. This gave me my target audience. Cool, eh?

So now I am getting tweets from fellow VAs about recent articles they’ve written, online seminars taking place for VAs, the odd job posting for online assistants. I have added my blog to my twitter feed so every time I write a post it gets “tweeted” out automatically.

If you are a VA (VA is used here in a very broad term and includes all kinds of digital work you can do online) and have a profile on oDesk, Elance, Freelancer etc you can tweet out a link to your profile with a few words about what you do and where to find you. So all in all, it’s a pretty neat tool. Give it a try.