Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

Live Blog of Iran 360˚: Exploring Politics, Economics and Society in a Global Hot Spot

Well, it’s not live anymore. I just saw it today, and the conference ended last Thursday. But anyway, it gives a few hints about what the conference was about and who talked about what.

Generally the conference was aimed at educating/briefing American journalists about the “real” situation in Iran so that they avoid misconceptions and stereotypes common in US coverage of Iran. A group of Iranian journalists/academics (including me) and a former American ambassador were the panelists. Also, An American psychologist gave an interesting talk about stereotypes, how they are constantly being shaped and how they shape our understanding of the world. (Wise choice by the conference organizers!) Journalists from some top American media outlets were the audience.

I was a speaker in “Changing Fabric of Iran: A society in flux” panel. Not very surprisingly, I talked about women’s movement in Iran, and insisted on how it is independent, but how it has been always perceived and conceptualized in relation to politics and male nationalism, either by the state or the opposition groups and Western journalists. I insisted that this movement is a feminist movement and it’s not right to put the movement within the Islamist/Secularist or Pro-government/Pro-regime-change dichotomy. I also mentioned how some Western governments and organizations are doing more harm to social movements in Iran by announcing their support of the movements, and how a vigorous journalism will investigate these interferences and will hold the Western governments and journalists accountable for the damage they cause the activists living inside Iran. I also mentioned couple of times that we tend to ignore the role of patriarchy in the various forms of gender discriminations in the Iranian society, and we just want to put all the blame on Ahmadinejad’s government, as if the previous politicians were inherently pro-women.

I will try to write about what I talked about in the panel more in the future. I wasn’t able to say everything I wanted to say, because, stupidly, I had a “Hilary moment” (as one of my friends sarcastically put it) and cried while I was talking about the stoning of Jafar Kiani last summer. Also, it was impossible to talk about a 100-year-old women’s movement in 10 minutes and avoid stereotyping and simplifying.

There was this neocon journalist at the conference that couldn’t bear listening to a different point of view. While I was talking to him about how problematic this dichotomous demon/victim representation of Iranian government and its people is, I realized that he is rudely looking at the ceiling, pretending that he’s not listening. So, I wasn’t surprised to see him absent at the psychology talk and our panel. These people have already made their minds and they don’t want to hear any alternative viewpoints. This stubbornness and self-righteousness scares me to death, specially when it comes from a “journalist.”

On the side note, I really had a great time in this conference. It was held in the beautiful Airlie center and was really like a retreat that I so badly needed. I also met lots of interesting journalists and we had lots of fun in the center’s pub.

Dear conference mates, please keep in touch if you read here! I will promise I’ll show you some 3D version of Iran as well (not to limit ourselves to 360˚!)

p.s. I just realized that WordPress has made a few changes in its control panel. Nice try, I like the new configuration much better. Gives me more control.


Why I don’t like BBC’s new design

Oh no! The good old award-winning BBC News website is totally reshaped, and yes, I don’t like this new look very much!

Apparently, after months of research and getting feedback from their audience, and despite the fact that many people have asked them not to change the format, they have reshaped the website in order to give the content some room to breathe.

I totally agree that the older page was much more crowded, but it was so well-organized that it wouldn’t bother me (and many people who have left comments for BBC’s editors blog). BBC News is one of the few news websites that I frequently check, but not through my Google Reader. I like to go to BBC’s actual website and have a glance at what is going on all around the world. Two minutes at their homepage is enough to give me an idea about what is going on and what I want to actually click on and read. That’s what I call usability.

In order to give more room to the headlines to breathe, and in order to have some white space, they have decreased the number of headlines which is really a poor decision. (Why should you change something that has been working well?) Well, in our 101 web design classes the professors and the books go all about the importance of having white space. But as White mentions, white space should be used efficiently and purposefully. I don’t see the purpose of the white space in the right-hand column, the “Around the World Now” section, and the actually black space on the top black header.

What’s the purpose of that black header anyway? It is totally undermining the red header which is supposed to stick out to attract attentions and implies a BBC identity. The red header is not attractive either. The older version of the red header had more gradient in it and was shinier. This is now just a mute plain red which is not as attractive as a header should be. BORING

But the most problematic thing about this new design in my idea is the plainness of the fonts. The font colors should be darker in my idea, specially the titles of the sections that also need to be bold. No background, border, or visual cue is used for the title of each section, so the sections are not distinguished from each other very well. The font of the section titles are not very different from the font of the texts, so it doesn’t let you distinguish the title from the text easily.

And “where is the weather?” A lot of people have left comments complaining that the weather link is missing. Yes, they’re British. The weather link should be the most accessible link on the main page. (I later realized that there is this not-so-easily-noticable link on the left hand of the site where you can switch between the international version and the UK version. In the UK version you’ll see the link to all the things people were looking for such as local news and weather. But shouldn’t this link be a little more eye-catching?)

Nothing sticks out in this page. Nothing is seducing you to be clicked. You might just get attracted to the few items that have pictures on them. In the old page, the hierarchy of information and the way each section was distinguished from the others would attract your attention to the headlines of every single section, and you could have your pick. But this is not the case with the plain faded titles in the new design.

I should admit though that their entry pages are much better. Still there is the problem of faded fonts and not very distinctive section titles on the right hand column, but it has more interesting and relevant information on it comparing to the old version.

I hope BBC editors and designers listen to what people are saying in the now more than 500 comments posted on the editors blog, many of which complaining about the new design and talking about the weaknesses I’ve mentioned too.

But at the same time, the editors’ blog entry about revamping the website is a great education piece. It tells you why and how decisions would be made for redesigning, and what issues should be put into consideration while doing that.