Category Archives: Featured

What Would You Say To Your Younger Self?

About this series of blogs:

We’ve done a series of Instiga-Views (instigation + interview) offering insight from people with experience to instigate positive action and reaction from younger generations toward building their own paths. We didn’t have any questions, rather we asked our interviewees to speak to their younger selves, to give us their honest, straight to the heart thoughts on two of the following seven “Instigators”: Breaking the Rules, Courage, Adding Value, Career Catastrophes, Fear, Censorship, and Play.

Here’s what Noura AlNoman had to say about Censorship and Play:

Censorship

As responsible parents we raise our children to understand wrong from right. As they grow older we give them more space to discover things for themselves. Upon adulthood, we trust them to make the right judgments, while being there to provide counsel and wisdom when needed. Sadly, in our part of the world, a citizen is a child forever. He is neither given a good education, nor raised to be a responsible adult. Never trusted to make the right decisions, not in his choice of education, marriage or anything to do with self-determination. The state goes as far as to decide what he cannot read or see, guaranteeing a lifetime of guardianship. I once worked as a censor, and ironically, I now look down upon a society which has no respect for its citizens to make decisions in their own private lives.

Play

Often, when I tell people I still play for fun, brows are raised, smirks are barely concealed, and some actually ask: “Aren’t you a little old for games?” No, you’re never too old for games. I love the fact that I can play anything I want and not feel ridiculous. What’s life without the creativity, the thrill of competition, and the freedom to have fun like a child? I have never stopped playing games, and it has kept my mind sharp. Not only is it a practice with many benefits, but it also keeps me connected with my children throughout the years of their development. Nothing beats the bonding we have when we play monopoly, or complete a 2000-piece puzzle. Recently, we’ve also started painting miniature armies together and competing in mock battles. I will keep playing games till my dying day.

Noura Al Noman

With a Bachelor in English Literature (1986) and a Masters in Translation Studies (2004), Noura Al Noman had studied language for years; but never expected to become a writer, let alone an author of books for Arab children. At the age of 45, she published her first two picture books for toddlers in 2010. “Cotton the Kitten” and “Kiwi the Hedgehog” were published by Kalimat in Arabic, and aimed to contrast how children deal with pets and wild animals. Noting the huge deficit in books for young Arabs (aged 15+), she wrote her first novel, “Ajwan”, one of a handful of science fiction novels in the Arab world, published by Nahdet Misr (Egypt). Noura believes that Arab youth are hungry for Arabic fiction. Ajwan won the Etisalat Children Literature Award, as Best Young Adult Novel, 2013. Although she has a full English translation of “Ajwan”, Noura has delayed publishing it to give a chance for the Arabic version to take a foothold. Book two, “Mandan” was launched at the Cairo Book Fair, January 2014, and she is working on the third book in the series.

Noura Al Noman is member of the Board of Trustees of UAEBBY.

 

A Universal Language

The Tower of Babel – Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1563. 

The concept of a universal language transcending borders and ethnicities has been with us throughout the length and breadth of written history. Human beings have a need to connect, to communicate. This need is an irrevocable part of us; we are social animals after all.

Look no further than the story of the Tower of Babel, which tells us of a human race unified after the flood that swept away all but those on Noah’s Ark. With a single language to bond them, they strove together to build the city of Babel with an edifice high enough to reach the heavens until God struck it down and scattered peoples throughout over the world, divided by language as well as geography.

But the idea of a universal language remains with us today, especially as technology has shifted us closer together, making the once isolated regions of the world more interconnected than ever before.

And yet, language is a most peculiar thing. Complex, constantly evolving and full of perils. Distinct dialects emerge if one simply travels from one town to another, let alone one end of a country to another. Look no further than the hundreds of unique mother tongues within India, or the countless variations in dialect in the major Sinitic languages of China. Such a rich variety inevitably stalls communication, causing confusion and enmity in mistranslation. The United Nations, with all of its 193 members, still selectively and biasedly sticks to six official languages. It would be impossible to efficiently include them all, it seems.

So is a universal language possible in our future? Is a universal language desirable?

ESPERANTO:

Attempts have been made to create a universal language, with one noteworthy example being Esperanto. A constructed language created by Polish doctor L.L. Zamenhof, its aims were the following, as quoted by Zamenhof himself in his 1887 work, Unua Libro (First Book):

  1. To render the study of the language so easy as to make its acquisition mere play to the learner.
  2. To enable the learner to make direct use of his knowledge with persons of any nationality, whether the language be universally accepted or not; in other words, the language is to be directly a means of international communication.
  3. To find some means of overcoming the natural indifference of mankind, and disposing them, in the quickest manner possible, and en masse, to learn and use the proposed language as a living one, and not only in last extremities, and with the key at hand.

Esperanto was designed to be easily learned and taught, with simple grammatical rules not beholden to perplexing exceptions and rules that reflect the convoluted development of most languages. With varying estimates of around two million speakers worldwide at present, it’s arguable whether not the lofty intentions behind the language ever had a feasible chance at success.

But interestingly enough, it encountered suppression in the past. The likes of Stalin and Hitler both saw fit to actively denounce it and persecute Esperanto speakers, and other countries such as France and Romania banned it in some form. The short history of Esperanto is an exploration of humanity’s resilient innate desire to communicate, to break down obstacles. And while the best we can do now is improve translation and learn more than our native tongues, it seems like a unified world, bound by language, will always be an elusive dream for some.

You can find out more about learning Esperanto here. And you can find a translation of Unua Libro here.

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Content vs. Clickbait

Odds are you know exactly what I’m talking about: Clickbait, the art of enticing a reader with irresistibly alluring sensationalized headlines and/or pictures.

Using clickbait is a powerful tool for content providers looking to drive traffic to their website and grow the online advertising revenue attached to that. Online ads will only continue to grow in the next decade as people abandon older content formats. Nowhere is this more evident than in news content.

In The Modern News Consumer, a 2016 report published by the Pew Research Center, surveys were conducted to determine how and where Americans get their news. TV still reigns king with 57% getting their news from cable, network or local stations. But a sizable 38% reported getting their news online. Of that 38%, slightly more than half (55%) get their news online while they are doing something else. This shows the power content providers can have in enticing an audience, whether it be on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, or major news websites like CNN or BBC.

In the case of social media, many people end up consuming content from shares from friends and family. And with so much information to scroll through, content providers don’t only need to compete with each other, but with funny cat videos, selfies, status updates and more. Catching the eye has always been a sophisticated practice that combines design elements such as font, font size and colour, but the content is what matters the most.

It’s easy then to see why clickbait is so heavily leaned on, but there are major differences between a clickbait headline and a legitimate eye-grabbing headline. When considering how to use a headline to grab readers, below are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Don’t mislead you reader.

    Headline your content with something that reflects and informs its substance. The worst types of clickbait sensationalize, distort and ignore context. Here’s a great example: “When You Read These 19 Shocking Food Facts, You’ll Never Want To Eat Again.”

  2. Don’t lose your reader’s trust.

    This is very connected to no. 1. Give your readers some credit. You may fool them once or twice, but your core audience will plateau over time once they figure you out. The bubble will eventually burst, as the once wildly popular media website BuzzFeed has discovered recently.

  3. Don’t forget to prize quality over quantity.

    It all depends on what kind of content you want to create. A high quality website offers visitors something they can’t get elsewhere. The example of a company like Slant News, reported to pay $5 for every 500 clicks, will give you writers aiming for clicks, not great content.

  4. Don’t forget there’s more to a story than a headline.

    This extends to video as well: “Hillary [Clinton] Caught On Tape Birthing Alien Life Form.” It’s definitely an…ahem…enticing headline, but is there anything beyond that headline in this video? You decide.

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What Would You Say To Your Younger Self?

About this series of blogs:

We’ve done a series of Instiga-Views (instigation + interview) offering insight from people with experience to instigate positive action and reaction from younger generations toward building their own paths. We didn’t have any questions, rather we asked our interviewees to speak to their younger selves, to give us their honest, straight to the heart thoughts on two of the following seven “Instigators”: Breaking the Rules, Courage, Adding Value, Career Catastrophes, Fear, Censorship, and Play.

Here’s what Elspeth Duncan had to say about Courage and Adding Value.

Elspeth and Venus on Rockley
Elspeth and Venus on Rockley

Courage

People often tell me that I’m ‘so brave’ or ‘so courageous’. But what does it mean to be courageous? It must be a relative thing, as is fear. I think if you see someone as having ‘courage’, it means they are doing or being something that you are afraid of doing or being yourself. But to them, that brave thing may be ‘nothing’.

Once I made a promise to myself that even if I felt ‘fear’ I would ‘go ahead anyway’. (Like that saying: Feel the fear and do it anyway). I don’t want to ever look back and regret not doing or being something because of ‘fear’. But at the same time I don’t want to feel ‘fear’ and then blindly charge into something just because I’m “feeling fear and doing it anyway.” So, I ask for Wisdom and Discernment to guide me.

Adding Value

I add value the more I am myself. The more I am myself, I become a living example. The more I become a living example, the more I inspire others. The more I inspire others, the more I am moved to continue doing what I do. The more I continue to do what I do, the more I encounter kindred spirits who share my visions. The more I encounter kindred spirits who share my visions, the further we go. The further we go, the more we spread the peace that comes with living personal truth. The more we spread the peace that comes with living personal truth, the more we experience love and harmony within, among and around us. The more we experience love and harmony within, among and around us, the more we trust the Universe, knowing that everything is unfolding exactly as it is meant to.

Elspeth Bio

Elspeth Duncan is a film maker, musician, writer/published author (find her novel ‘Daisy Chain’ on amazon.com) and KRI certified Kundalini Yoga instructor who has been practicing this form of yoga since 2000. She currently resides in Tobago, where she teaches yoga and facilitates yoga retreats through her company Thou Art Yoga, writes a weekly column (”Tobago Peeps”) in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, and feeds and celebrates love through her intimate two-person restaurant, Table for Two Made for You.

Check out Elspeth’s websites & blogs: