Riyadh Geeks Meeting 11th May 2009

Yesterday on May 11th of 2009, the Riyadh geeks group, which I am a part of, got together for their first formal meeting. The event took place in the Computer Club, which is part of the Saudi Ministry of Education. The meeting was quite formal. Only Mashhoor Aldubayan (one of the few web usability experts in the Arabic region) and I were wearing jeans. There was a podium and a higher table that made the whole setting feels like a news conference. Even though I hate formal settings, I want to wait and see to truly make a judgment. Everyone who attended the meeting was male, which made me feel really bad for the geeky girls I know that are usually forced into the shadows.

The meeting started with a really formal introduction from the club’s representative, which I spaced out during. It was way too formal for my taste. Later, Mashhoor started his workshop focused on things a web designer should know about their visitors.

Mashhoor pointed out 5 points about site designers should be aware of :

The first being that visitors are surfers, and not readers, so don’t expect them to read.
Second, asking for information from the user that is not really needed could push the user away from the site. He demonstrated that by registration forms that ask for your country or shirt size, when all is needed is a username, password and a valid email.
Thirdly, he talked about marketing jargon. A site should summarize what it’s about upfront with simple and to the point wording. In contrast, some companies might clutter the first page with welcoming notes and company marketing introduction that might make it hard for a user to find the information needed.
The fourth point was about unrelated content in a site. He showed the GOSI’s site (Saudi equivalent to social security), where two different navigation bars existed. The first navigation bar contained a gift card link! Hurray government websites.
The last point was about design decisions that take in consideration the knowledge that the server had prior to visiting the site. For example, the logo of the site should be on the top, as well as the search bar. The logo should also link to the main page.

After Mashhoor’s talk, the PSD Group announced the release of their Arabic e-book, E-numbers. Get the soft copy now. PSD Group is a group of developers that are in school or graduated from school. They represented Saudi colleges multiple times in multiple events. My dear friend Ammar Al-rashed was the project manager for this e-book .

After a break, a representative from Bader بادر started talking about this incubator project that branched out of KACST (king Abdulaziz city of science and technology). Bader incubated ans supports start up projects that are innovative. They are looking for projects that were never done before, and won’t care much for imitator projects. They seem to want to focus on new media now, but they welcome any other projects. They would also like to see the project materialize first before they start the incubation process. There was a lot of formality in this talk, but it seemed interesting, we just have to wait and see. The representative also noted that Bader’s website is still under development, thats why I didn’t link to it.
I really liked the meeting despite the formal nature of it, I wish the formality could be toned down. I also would like to see some of the nerdy girls who probably need to be around these meetings more than we men do. I know that there is a lot of untapped talent in the women talent market, and I wish to see them be represented in such meetings. I thank again the organizers of this meeting (Mohammed Talal Badwi, Abdullah AlHaseenah) among others. Thanks to Mashhoor who shares my same interests in software usability. I hope to see them all again soon.

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