No, not of sobriety (have you met me?). Not a child’s birthday, nor the anniversary of a job. Nope, today I celebrate five years with Global Voices! On April 15, 2007, I wrote my very first GV post on the Moroccan blogosphere’s discussion of the then-recent Casablanca suicide bombings and the “soul of Morocco.”
So how did my journey with Global Voices begin?
When I moved to Morocco in 2005 (I’d spent a couple months there the year prior as well), I decided to start a blog, mostly to keep my friends and family abreast of what I was up to. I’d been blogging on Livejournal already for about four years, but when I tried to log on the first time from Morocco, I found that the site was blocked (this would be my first personal encounter with online censorship). After experimenting with proxies for the first time, I gave up and started blogging on a different platform, travelblog.com. I was also in the midst of writing a book on contract, and when it was released the next year, Travelblog actually put the book, with a link to my blog, on their homepage. I am forever grateful.
That, and my participation in a certain travel message board that shall remain nameless, resulted in one of my new online friends offering me some hosting space, and finally, I had my own spot on the Internet (aside from a 1998 misadventure with Geocities, that is) and my own, custom blog.
My encounter with Global Voices started, oddly enough, with GV quoting that blog. At the time, I was blogging at The Morocco Report (which is sadly offline, though I do have the archives on file), and GV’s Morocco author at the time, Farah Kinani, had quoted me in a post about the Nichane affair (good summary here) of December 2006. I noticed the link a few months later when I was just discovering web analytics (I’m a late bloomer) and subsequently noted that Kinani had stopped writing for GV. I wrote to editor Amira Al Hussaini asking if I might contribute. This was her response:
I think you are God-sent! I am actually looking for a blogger interested in covering the Moroccan blogosphere for GVO.
Ideally, I would love to see more coverage of the conversations taking place in the Moroccan blogosphere on GV and this is only possible if we had interested bloggers on the ground doing weekly round ups like the ones you see on the site.
Please let me know if you are game for that and we can take it from there.
Best regards, Amira
And the rest is history!
But really…I can’t say enough about what Global Voices, and the Global Voices community, has done for me. In 2008, I met Amira in person–first in Miami, then again in Budapest for the GV Summit, and then again when she kindly invited me to spend a week with her in Canada, where she was living at the time…to date, she’s still #1 in my book of favorite hostesses; you must try her cherry jam. At that first meeting in Miami, I also met Solana Larsen, Renata Avila, David Sasaki, Eddie Avila, Georgia Popplewell and I’m surely forgetting others! Of course, that summer I met more than one hundred members of the community, and a lifetime of friendships were born.
But, perhaps more fateful was the first time I met, in March 2008, Ethan Zuckerman. Ethan, as I’m sure you know, is one of GV’s two founders (the other being Rebecca MacKinnon) and, at the time, a fellow at the Berkman Center. As it happened, Georgia P. was in town (Boston, where I had just moved from Morocco a few months prior) and so we made plans to meet…at a bowling alley. Yes, the first time I met Ethan Zuckerman we drank beers out of plastic cups in a bowling alley…and didn’t even bowl.
It was just a few weeks later that I sat having a beer with Solana Larsen in Boston’s South Station, where she was awaiting her train to New York (I worked across the street from the station at a small non-profit). We picked up on a discussion we’d started in Miami about how I desperately wanted to find work that was fulfilling; the non-profit I was working for at the time was in many ways a great place to work, but it just wasn’t my passion. Solana promised to send me any leads she found.
One of those leads came about just a few weeks later, when I got an email from Ethan introducing me to Rob Faris, the research director at the Berkman Center, who was looking for someone to manage the OpenNet Initiative. I’m sure you know where this story is going…I got an interview, though I will note that it was almost two months and presumably many interviews later until I heard that I was being considered. In the end, I got the job and dove headfirst into the world of Internet censorship, the Berkman Center, and this crazy wonderful community that I’m now a part of.
Of course, none of this would have happened without Global Voices. As of today, I’ve written precisely 500 posts on the site (how apropos!) and while I don’t contribute as much these days for various reasons (I’m no longer in the region, I don’t have much free time, I’ve lost track of the blogosphere), I remain a part of the community – last year, I was elected to the Board of Directors as a representative of the GV volunteer community. In case you didn’t know, I’ve never been paid by Global Voices (unless you count a few plane tickets)…that, to me, is what’s so amazing about us: GV is primarily made up of passionate, dedicated, talented volunteers, all with different interests and expertise but all with a passion for free speech and a strong media landscape.
As we get closer to the Global Voices 2012 Summit in Nairobi, I’m sure I will have a lot more to say here. But for now, Global Voices, I would simply like to salute you. Not only am I incredibly proud to be part of such a rich and robust community, I am also grateful for all of the things this community has given me over the years: Friends, my partner, even my livelihood. I love you, Global Voices.