For the last twelve days I’ve been just like everyone else on the internet, glued to the news unfolding in Egypt. The entire Small World News team has been asking each other just what we might be able to do to help the people of Egypt. A few phone calls and constant Skype chatter lead to a lot of good possibilities, but nothing concrete enough to take action on. Until last Sunday, when Brian really came up with something great after seeing the new blog post from Google about their Speak2Tweet service.
Speak2Tweet is a really simple service that allowed anyone in Egypt to call a phone number via the still functional phone system and record a voicemail that would then be posted to the SayNow service as an mp3. This went around the internet being shut down in Egypt and provided a channel to allow Egyptians to call and hear other messages as well as allow people outside of Egypt to hear directly from Egyptians cut off from the internet.
Brian just wanted to add a simple layer of transcribing and translation to this, so that non arabic speakers could hear from the callers and also so we could give a platform to the callers and highlight some of the more useful information coming out of Egypt. We reached out on Twitter and Facebook about the idea and the reaction has been huge. After a few hours we had a impressive team of volunteers, a shared spreadsheet that was actively filling up with translations, and Alive in Egypt was up and running.
Over 50 people have volunteered their time to help with different aspects of the site. From working on the technology behind it, to working on the actual transcripts and translations of the phone calls. Over 700 messages have been transcribed and translated since we’ve begun. On the transcribing and translation side of things I’d like to publicly thank @Arabzy @joshmull @BadrGirl @habibh @emanhaly who have all worked tirelessly in one way or another to translate messages, organize our 50+ volunteers, spread the message about the project, and support everyone along the whole way. It’s been inspiring watching you all come together so closely so quickly.
On the tech side of things, I’d like to thank Kevin Hart, long time Small World News contributor, who has setup and continued to develop another great platform for us in record time. Working right along side him as been Aaron Huslage (@huslage) who has been volunteering his services and has really come through on helping speed up a lot of the development work with Kevin. He’s looking for work too, so if you need a good developer, I’ll give you my personal recommendation. And don’t think they’re done yet, the site is going to continue to grow over the next few days and weeks.
For those interested in the raw data, today, just eight days later we’re on track to break 200,000 pageviews and 60,000 unique visitors. Not bad for a site that didn’t even exist 10 days ago. An interesting point to me is the amount of time on the site, which has gone up from a low of just above 2 minutes last Wednesday to a high of over 3 minutes today.
We’ve got a lot of work left to do, but it’s been really amazing working on all of this with everyone. We have some ideas to go forward from here, but we need a little more time before we make any of that public. Keep an eye on Alive in Egypt, this team is going to surprise you.