I'm sitting in an airport lounge reflecting on my trip to Doha - my first trip to Qatar. In addition to a crash course on Qatar and Al Jazeera, I was able to spend some quality time with a bunch of the Creative Commons and other friendly community members from across the region. Although I continue to feel more ignorant the more I learn, I feel like I've made some significant progress and understand a bit more about the nuances of the region as well as the relationships and differences between the various people and countries in the Middle East.
Al Jazeera had invited a number of our community members and myself to their annual forum. The forum was broadcast live on the Al Jazeera version of C-SPAN. I moderated a panel about Creative Commons. The European Broadcast Union and a group of European broadcasters were at the meeting and it was really useful to explain the Al Jazeera Creative Commons repository project and get the feedback from the European broadcasters. I felt like we definitely moved the needle in getting the European broadcasters a step closer to embracing CC. (BTW, Al Jazeera promises to post more stuff to the repository soon. *nudge* *nudge*)
I also participated in a panel with Seymour Hersh from The New Yorker Magazine, Fahmi Howeidy a well known Columnist and Author, Seumas Milne, the Associate Editor of The Guardian and Tony Burman, the Managing Director of Al Jazeera English. I was the "Internet guy" on the panel and my role was sort of to defend the value of blogs and Wikipedia while at the same time letting them know that "we're here to help." Although I got a few comments in, a lot of the panel ended up being about the media coverage of Gaza so I spent more time learning than spewing my own thoughts.
In addition to the forum, I was invited to participate in a show on Al Jazeera English to discuss online media for the "Inside Story" show. It's on YouTube in two parts. (1 / 2). I was also on the Arabic Al Jazeera for a show about the big technical inventions ranging from the Microwave to TV to automobiles to the Internet. I was a bit biased and kept trying to talk about how the Internet was important in a very different way than many of the products on their list because it enabled innovation and invention by allowing anyone to participate and innovate at lower costs than the process of invention in the past. I'm not sure they liked it when I said that I thought Internet was more important than TV.
I also visited Qatar Science & Technology Park the day before the opening and met Bowman Heiden the Innovation Director. He actually TEACHES Creative Commons and knows all of Lessig's work so it was a refreshing conversation and heartening to hear that he was going to try to teach and promote Science and Technology development and entrepreneurship with all of the right ideas about sharing. I gave him an update on Science Commons.
In a random burst of synchronicity, a good friend and director of the Mori Art Museum, Fumio Nanjo, was in Qatar for his first time visiting the new Museum of Islamic Art and attending Sotheby's first-ever international auction in Doha. Chiaki Hayashi happened to be reading my twitters and told him to get in touch with me. We ended up eating at the very kitsch and cool Iranian restaurant Isfahan Gardens in Souk Waqif. (BTW, Qatar Living is a good place for info about Qatar.)
Overall, the staff and service in Qatar seemed more organized and mature than in Dubai, although it could have just been the amazing Al Jazeera magic that seemed to shield us from the chaos around us. I was also really impressed by the generally frank and blunt discussions we were able to have. I was also particularly impressed by the Al Jazeera network team who all "got" the Creative Commons thing and built most of their stuff using open source software.
Thanks a ton to Al Jazeera for inviting us to Doha and especially to Mohamed Nanabhay, the driving force behind the CC initiative at Al Jazeera and the guy who made it all happen for us this weekend. Thanks also to the CC team and the other participants who made this meeting the most interesting meeting I've ever attended in the Middle East.