The NEW and IMPROVED ILQ Website is ready – How did I get there?

I’m super excited. This has been a project I’ve been working on for ages.

First let me explain where we came from. ILQ was a site that started out as a quick and general guide where I gave people insight as to life in Qatar. It started off pretty simple and as people appreciated hearing about Qatar from a Qatari, the platform grew. I wanted to create a site that people could  have input on. So when some people asked me to create a forum. A forum was created. When people asked for an events section. An events section was created. When people said they didn’t like how many links there were, we created a better menu structure. What had happened in quite a short period of time is that more and more people relied on the content that the site had. We grew exponentially. To cater to demand, I ended up having to literally piece different scripts together. Actually, the old ILQ was a mix of THREE different sites designed to be linked together. Honestly, I’d go as far as to say that in the back end, it was a Frankenstein of a site. It became really difficult to try and migrate to a new CMS because there wasn’t really anything that could handle what we wanted to do. Even more problematic was that we had so much content, it was hard to shift everything over without losing anything.

So then came the challenge from you all. I asked people what they wanted; a site that was faster, less sections, more organized, simple to use, and even easier to share. How do we create a brand new site and achieve all that? Honestly? We went through THREE developers to try and achieve what I had envisioned. I wanted a site looked clean, a mobile version (coming soon by the way), all the old links to still work, and to have a simple back end as well. I was so frustrated with some of the designs that were sent over by different companies, that I ended up putting designs and layouts together myself (self taught photoshopper here!).  The task wasn’t easy. In fact the first development company had to ditch the project because it was too much to handle! However I’m glad to say we found a great development and design team that understood exactly what I was looking for and they are amazing! (Shout out to Oliver and Daria!).

What made things super difficult was the fact that we never released focused on making money. Whatever profit I did get out of ILQ, I used to support charitable causes and the community. It was also hard getting funding and I resorted to spending what I had saved. At one point I had tried getting a loan from the bank but sadly it was hard selling a digital start up here in Qatar. Banks wanted to loan you funds for capital. Physical assets. We’re a digital company. I remember speaking to an incubation panel at one point and I was told “you need to decide, are you a business or a charity” (that was because I didn’t want to focus on money only and focus on the community). It was a turning point for me because I stood my ground and said “why can’t I do both? Why can’t I create a great business AND help others?”. I wanted to bridge the gap between expats and locals, create a resource where the community could share great content, and become a website that could people live (and enjoy) life in Qatar. So that’s where we are today!

The site is by no means perfect, there’s still a lot to do, I’m sure we’ll encounter issues and scramble to fix stuff, but we’ll get there. We’ll get to the point where everyone can be proud of what we’ve achieved. (That’s why I need all your feedback! Thread here: http://iloveqatar.net/forum/content/new-ilq-feedback)

So without further adieu, I now present to you some before and after shots of the site :D Blood, sweat and tears went into it, so inshallah you like it!

Homepage

Before:

 

After:

 

 

Events

Before:

 

After:

 

Restaurants

Before:

 

After:

 

 

There’s load more sections to check out! So please visit www.iloveqatar.net :)

ILQ Radio Demo – We need your feedback (you decide what to listen to)

Updated:

So we came up with this idea of creating a radio station. Something that’s Online at the moment and something focused on entertainment. We wanted to create something that could compliment the awesome QF Radio and focus on the community too.

We’re in the middle of recording some shows and right now we’re testing the capabilities of the streaming server.

This is YOUR chance to let us know what you want to listen to, what type of programming, and basically decide on the whole schedule. We’ve got some of our own ideas but we really need your help. Right now we’ve got ‘The People’s hour’, Random Event Highlights, J/K Pop hour, Bite Size news from Doha News, Sarcastology, and a few other suggestions like a Health and Wellness Show.

So in the comments section below, can you please post what you think about the quality of the audio and ideas that you have?

We’ll be updating the demo with more content so consider this Demo Beta Alpha 3 :D

To make your life easy so you can tune in any time, just visit http://radio.iloveqatar.net If you are on your iPhone, tap on ‘add to homescreen’. If you’re on an Android device, you can either visit the site OR download the app here (ILQ Radio APP).

Oh and help us out by tweeting and liking please. It takes a second of your time and will help us spread the word.

Thanks all!

- Mr. Q (Your friendly neighbourhood Qatari)


Click the link below to play ILQ Radio

Read the rest of this entry »

iLoveQatar’s YouTube Channel and the Communities Videos

Updated! Have you checked it out yet? No? Then check it out habayeb (that’s multiple of habeebee). http://www.youtube.com/iluvqatar

Since launching it, it’s reached almost 650,000 views, but the really cool thing is that we’re getting some awesome community submissions! I really do want to see more vloggers, animators, comedy, anything really, on YouTube. Here are a few of the latest submissions:

Follow Maryam Al Naemi on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MBA_AlN3aimi
Follow FilmForChange on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/filmforchange

Follow Alex on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/alexklim
Have a great Qatari related video you want to share with everyone? Let us know! Just send an email to contact -at- iloveqatar.net :)

Competition! Win 2 VIP tickets to see Akram Khan

ILQ has always been about the community. We have always loved showing what everyone can do to make Qatar a great place to work and live. With our new home at Katara, we were only just on the tip of the dunes (No icebergs as we are nowhere near a place that has snow :))

Katara has been buzzing over the past months with many activities, and they have partnered up with ILoveQatar for a giveaway. What could that be? How about 2 pairs of VIP tickets for Akram Khan Company’s ‘Vertical Road’ show as part of our ILQ sweepstakes? We’re giving two people out there a chance to win these highly coveted VIP tickets that puts you in prime seating to marvel at this show. You don’t want to miss this show, especially when it features music from acclaimed composer Nitin Sawhney (You’ll remember his performance from DTFF 2010)

How can you participate? It’s quite simple! We’re running this sweepstakes on Twitter.

Just follow these simple rules if you want a chance to win:
1. Participant must be a resident of Qatar.
2. You must be following @KataraQatar for your entry to count.
3. In addition to following, you must RT the giveaway tweet from @KataraQatar to enter into the draw.
4. You can also tweet about the sweepstakes, as long as it contains ‘@KataraQatar‘ and #AKC (We will be monitoring this hashtag for entries as well). This will count if and only if you have fulfilled (2).
5. The sweepstakes will last for 3 days.
6. Winner will be contacted directly via Direct Message and then announced on Twitter.
7. Winner must collect tickets 2 days after it is declared. Otherwise, another winner will be selected.
8. Employees of Katara and their families cannot participate in this sweepstakes.

What are you waiting for? Head over to @KataraQatar and follow them so that you can RT when they post it.

Let’s break a World Record!

I wanted to give you all a reminder on something fun we’re partnering with Luminescence events to put together. You’ve probably already seen all the tweets, posts, listings, and all that fun stuff, but since we’re getting so close to the event, it’s about time that we brought this back to the top of people’s minds.

There’s a lot of serious stuff in the world, so when Luminescence events told us they had this great idea, we had to be a part of it. It’s a chance for all of us to feel youthful again AND break a world record while we’re at it! It’s an attempt to break the world record for the largest game of Hide & Seek and it’s at Katara too! Isn’t that great? So come on down, and join us! Shout outs go to all the sponsors and partners including Katara, Qatar Red Crescent, and Stenden!

Hide & Seek Twitter
Hide & Seek Facebook
Event Listing on ILQ 

We’re getting there!

So Dine Out Doha has been getting off to a great start and the reviews and comments are starting to come in! Exciting stuff!

If you haven’t been yet, click here for Dine Out Doha. Be sure to start rating, commenting, posting micro-reviews or even submitting your full fledged restaurant reviews too!

Now you’ll remember we launched what we called the Beta of I Love Qatar at http://beta.iloveqatar.net (it’s actually an alpha). We did something special which was taking the link live even though it was still being built! We did that so that people could watch the site come together! Now the great news is that we should be around 2 and half weeks away from completion!

What’s even more exciting is that we’re going to revealing the awesome new MyLife function as well as the new ILQ Originals which will host a great amount of original content too! We’ve got some great Qatari comics, Online videos, skits, and some stuff that’s under wraps for the moment too.

In the mean while, you can go ahead and sign in (or sign up) in the beta section of ILQ and play around by posting events in the new event section or even start posting in the new forums.

(Don’t worry, you won’t lose anything once we remove the ‘beta’ tag from it).

Anyway! That’s my update!

iLoveQatar.net (and I) win two awards! update: four awards!

It’s been a tiring three days at QITCOM but I just had to blog about this as soon as I got home!

 

iLoveQatar.net won best start up for 2011 and I won Qatar’s Top Entrepreneur as well! I’m so honored  for winning but even more so I feel energized and appreciate the acknowledgement that the people gave. Not only was it a panel of judges that judged the various projects but the public were the ones who voted.

It was something unexpected.

I’m disappointed with the fact that I was unable to attend the Gala Dinner. It had started at 8pm however I was wrapping up the ILQ booth at QITCOM, left at 8:30 and then was stuck in traffic for 30 minutes before deciding to go off to Central Lounge with Bassam Al Ibrahim (iLoveQatar.net’s co-founder), Moh’d Al Ibrahim (an awesome Director or Producer from DFI), and Josh Weiner (A seriously impressive entrepreneur himself!). We were recapping everything we went through and thinking about all the new ideas we had just shared with everyone (more to come on that!).

Earlier in the day we were Interviewed by BBC World, had an interview with QF Radio and I was in the newspaper for unveiling Vodafone’s latest project SouqIt.com.

We also put together a little video showing off the other start ups and business in Qatar and interviewed some great people ourselves. On the first day of Qitcom, the Minister of Business and Trade came on down to our booth along with Sheikha Mayasa, and commented on how proud they were of iLoveQatar.net and even gave us some suggestions too.

I feel so pumped! I can’t wait to show everyone the final video of what we put together for Qitcom. It truly was an amazing exhibition, you would never know that this is the first time it’s ever happened in Qatar from how buzzed it was. And I’m not just saying that because I won an award!

Qatar really is the place to be right now.

 

Update: I’ve just been told that we’ve actually won FOUR awards. One for Best Social Media website in Qatar and the other for a brand new idea we have to help match quality Qataris with companies in Qatar. :)

ArabNet Day 1

Blog post by Josh from the ILQ team over at ArabNet in Beirut.

The first day at Arabnet is in the books. The day’s theme was focused on addressing the big question: How the Middle East region can better support an entrepreneurial ecosystem. According to Peter Kellner, Managing Partner of Richmond Capital, a global VC, it all starts with education. Universities are where entrepreneurs are created. After education, its about mentorship. Tareq from Endeavor Global, a global non-profit that promotes high impact entrepreneurship, put it another way:

“We’ve found that two things are required for a succesful entrepreneurial ecosystem – 1. the right entrepreneur and 2. deep and tailored support. The biggest barrier to entrepreneurship isn’t capital.”

Interesting stuff, and encouraging news for Qatar. Education City and Qatar University are churning out highly skilled graduates every year. Incubators are popping up for seed stage startups. How can Qatar offer “deep and tailored support” in addition to capital, back-end services, and office space?

How to use ILQ’s NEW toolbar

Here’s a quick explanation of the new toolbar that’s been added to ILQ!

iLoveQatar.net is an independent company

Hey there all,

After a little bit of an issue someone had with ILQ, I just want to make things VERY clear. iLoveQatar.net cannot be bought and ILQ is an independent company that has one goal. To make Qatar a better place. A group of us simply want to bring back the old way of doing business in the country. With honor and trust. It’s all about partnership and helping each other achieve our own goals.

Now ILQ partners up with and takes sponsorship from ANY company in Qatar that wants to help ILQ make Qatar a better place. What are some of the things we do?

Well through our volunteers group (run by an awesome guy named Speed), where we partnered up with and joined hands with Qatar Living, RedBull, Sigma Paints, Barangay BQ, Vodafone, and others, we drove around Qatar on a hot Saturday morning and passed out bottles of cold water and caps to labourers in the streets! It was our way of showing appreciation to the people who break their backs to build Qatar!

With whatever ILQ can afford (yes we don’t have a huge budget despite the brand becoming popular and well known) we sponsor events and groups like Think Pink (breast cancer awareness campaign), Wear Something Yellow (anti-racism campaign), QAWS, Dogs in Doha, QPCA, and Doha Mums to name a few.

Is it all charity? No it’s not. We want Qatar to be a fun place, where all the people in Qatar can enjoy life here in their own way! So we sponsored and supported events like Tiesto, David Guetta, Montel Jordan, The Red Carpet, Glow, The Peppermint Experience, and even a national day event!

When we’re not doing something entertaining. We’re doing something for the community. We arrange social gatherings. Two of the big ones are ‘The Souq Seekers’ and ‘The Pearl Divers. This is to help people make friends get to know each other and for those that are new to the country, have a group of people that can make them feel comfortable.

Sometimes we’ll be approached by small groups of people that need some help so that they can enjoy life a bit more here. A group of  women needed sponsorship so that they could enter into the Expat Women’s Volleyball tournament and needed uniforms, ILQ was there and continuing the trend of supporting sports a group of young guys wanted to enter the Expat Basketball Tournament, ILQ was there to help them out as well!

Now the community is doing stuff for itself too! A great guy who’s alias is HPT on the forums started a FREE Tennis group (check out the forums for more), another forum member named TimeBandit started a Photographic society, another forum member named FlipFloper does designs and artwork for people, and the list goes on and on (I’m sorry that I can’t list all the wonderful people that are helping to make ILQ what it is today actually!!!)

We also pass out goodie bags at social gatherings. We can’t afford a lot but if it’ll make people happy and spread ILQ and its vision, we do our best to have some stuff ready. So what do you get in an ILQ goodie bag that we pass out at events? The bags were paid for by Dr. Hassan’s medical center so one side says ILQ and the other Dr. Hassan’s medical center, you get a bumper sticker that has the Vodafone speechmark and the ILQ logo (VF paid for that), you get some ILQ heat hearts and squishy balls (we paid for that), you get a speaker dock from Barzan Digital, and the list goes on.

So some people might think that Vodafone and ILQ are pretty close. Well it’s simple, they’ve always been there to support and sponsor the stuff we do around Qatar! If Qtel or Virgin for example wanted to help us we’d gladly work with them as well. In fact, we WANT to work with them.

So what’s the relationship with Vodafone? Well, they bought ads on the website. they paid for our booth, they paid for co-branded stickers, they paid for micro-sites whenever we had a fun idea like www.ramadan-mubarak.com and that sort of stuff. Any company in Qatar can help us out and use ILQ as a channel, yes even Qtel. You wouldn’t stop advertising on a television channel (like MBC) because a competitor advertised on the channel right?

Who are some of the other advertisers and partners? Global DJs, Starlink, Qatar Airways, Olympic Committee, ICTQatar, Lava, Urban Stars, LoveSac, Barzan Digital, King Koil, Arte Legno, and Dr. Hassan’s Medical center to name a few.

Dr. Hassan’s medical center wanted to spread health awareness amongst children so they gave us some coloring books which we distributed to kids (along with ILQ beach balls) when we supported the Pakistan Women’s Eid Bazaar.

We also tried to build a fantastic, friendly, online community that not only helps each other, but supports each other. Are you an expat and need information about the country that you’re planning on moving to or have just moved to? Well ILQ’s got a pretty nice and light guide too!

So who else wants to partner with us? Well we’re very excited that MTV and Nickelodeon support our vision. They’ve flown out to Qatar to not only see if they can help Qatar and the region develop but to also support our vision believe it or not! We’re VERY VERY proud of that.

So moral of the story? ILQ is loyal to Qatar and it’s various communities. If you are from a company that cares as much as we do, then please hold our hands. We need all the help we can get. Supporting us can be in the form of helping us with events and charitable causes, it can be in the form of placing an advert on the site (because we use the revenue generated off of ads to keep going), or you could even donate some cobranded goodies :)

So who’s in? or is ILQ a stupid idea? Am I just fighting a losing battle…..

Freedom of Expression

    Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Qatari Government is a signatory of states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medias and regardless of any frontiers.

    The Emiri Decision Number 86 of the year 2007 on the establishment of the Doha Free Information Centre marked yet another step towards establishing a State of rights and freedom of speech. The decision stipulated that the Centre be a non-profit organization, headquartered in Doha City, and have the authority to establish other affiliated centres inside and outside Qatar. It is worth mentioning that His Highness the Emir issued a decision in 1998 annulling the ministry of information, giving birth to a new era of freedom of speech where censorship was removed from local media.