Kuwait Blogs update coming soon

Posted by Mark

I’ve been meaning to update the Kuwait Blogs app for awhile now but due to the fact I do all the work on my iMac I haven’t been able to do so. My iMac had a problem with the screen and I sent it in to get repaired under warranty which took around a month to get done. I just finally picked up my iMac today so will most probably be working on an update for the app this weekend.

I’m aware that the current build of the app is unstable with iOS4.3 and it’s my priority fix. I already know whats wrong I just need to work on it. What I also want to do if I have time is update the blogs in the app. I can’t add any more apps since I’ve hit the limit, but I can swap out blogs that aren’t active anymore or aren’t as active as they used to be. So if you have any recommendation on what blog I should add to the app leave it as a comment below.

If you want to download the current app here is the [Link]


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Some interesting numbers

Posted by Mark

A couple of days back the blog was listed with 9 others on CNN’s “Top ten must read blogs in the Middle East“. Automatically when that happened I went into red alert mode, I made sure the blogs cache plugins were up and running and I double checked my servers bandwidth and memory usage to make sure nothing was out of the ordinary so that once this large wave of visitors arrive, the blog wouldn’t crash and I wouldn’t lose or disappoint any potential new visitors. Imagine opening a restaurant and having enough food to serve 10 people but then 100 show up, I didn’t want that to happen to me. I was of course expecting it to be a temporary rush, my 15 seconds of fame before the majority of the new visitors disappear forever. So how much traffic came from that article?

I’m not really sure what to think about this. This was an article on CNN and so my expectations were high of course and I was predicting around 5,000 visitors to come in and easily 10,000+. But somehow I overshot my estimates by a considerable amount as you can see. I have a few theories on why this must be the case:

– Maybe the majority of their readers only read their main news and not other none news related articles
– Maybe their readers aren’t used to clicking links in their articles and so never thought about clicking any of the blog links mentioned
– Maybe no one was interested in finding out more about my blog
– Maybe majority of the people who read the article already knew my blog and didn’t see a reason to click it
– The article went up at the start of the weekend which is when based on my blogs stats the daily readership dwindles down considerably
– Maybe the article wasn’t publicized enough on CNN and so not many people ended up reading it
– Or maybe their readership base are serious businessmen or older people who don’t think blogs are interesting enough or even newsworthy

Those of course are just my theories and I’m sure CNN themselves have a better idea of who reads what on their site and why this article might not have transitioned into a large quantity of clicks. But this got me thinking… How much traffic did the Benihana lawsuit really send my way? I went digging for the numbers and here are the top referrers:

Slashdot.org 4,957
BoingBoing.net 757
electrony.net 469
fakeplasticsouks.blogspot.com 437
AmericanBlog.com 303
FastCompany.com 285
Zagat.com 184
eConsultancy.com 166
techania.com 171
LAWeekly.com 139
TheNextWeb.com 127

By the looks of it that’s not a lot but at the peak of interest and because of the fact that it was picked up by a ton of bloggers and news sites (here is the full list) it was enough to bring in around 20,000 visitors in a single day which is slightly less than double what I usually get. On January 31st when the story first started picking up my readership for that day increased to 16,748 visitors followed by an increase to 19,610 on February 1st until going back down to 15,672 on February 2nd and then things went back to normal on February 3rd when it went back to 12,030 which is what the blog usually gets per day.

In comparison, on March 29th the rumor of Jackie Chan being dead started spreading again and a search for Jackie Chan is dead on that day resulted in my blog being one of the first results on Google so I got a sudden influx of over 10,000 visitors coming in to check out my old post on that rumor. That sudden surge actually brought down the blog a few times during that day which resulted in me permanently removing some memory intensive plugin as well as having the Super Cache plugin permanently on so that in the future no matter what happens the site can handle it.

Anyway I’ve never shared detailed numbers like this on the blog before so hopefully you found the above interesting, it’s just a small behind the scenes glimpse.


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248PM is now dead

Posted by Mark

248PM was an idea I had where anyone could come in and post whatever they wanted but it just didn’t take off the way I wanted it to. So for now 248PM will redirect everyone to this blog until I can think of another idea for it.

Update: Actually I think I will just turn it into a blog where I post stuff that I don’t think is good enough for this blog. That way I can keep the A-Side / B-Side thing going on just without the community aspect.

Update2: Ok 248PM is back now except it’s no longer a community blog, it’s just a normal blog that’s only mine with random posts that are not related to Kuwait. Check it out [Here]


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Ten must-read blogs from the Middle East

Posted by Mark

CNN have put together a list of the 10 must-read blogs from the Middle East and my blog made it to the list! This is what they had to say about me:

Want a break from politics? Try 248am for a slice of Kuwaiti life

Mark Makhoul, 32, a creative director at an advertising agency, began his current blog, 248am, in 2005. Mark’s wife Nataly Tawil, a designer, makes occasional contributions to the blog. The pair are both Lebanese and live in Kuwait.

While it may not offer the political insight of some of the other blogs on the list, it does present a slice of life in Kuwait, covering art, technology and more, with lots of reader contributions.

And it’s not entirely without controversy … Makhoul is apparently being sued by a Japanese restaurant chain over a negative review.

Check out the full list and article by clicking [Here]


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Downtime

Posted by Mark

Some of you might noticed the blog went down and up a few times today. The reason for that is I had a problem with the server. I’ve actually been having a problem for around a month now, the site was feeling sluggish and it was going down often for a few minutes at a time. Well thanks to the Rackspace technicians where my server is hosted, they managed to find the problem.

Because the blog gets so many visitors a day small issues are big issues and in my case it turned out my “Related Posts” plugin was the small issue that turned big. You might have noticed before that when you click on a post, right below it you would find a section called “Related Posts” which would contain links to previous posts on a similar subject. Well the previous plugin I had that created those links stopped working so I installed another one around a month or so back. Turns out the new plugin I installed wasn’t programmed properly which resulted in the plugin using all my server resources to the point where the server was becoming unresponsive and required a reboot every so often hence the down times.

How bad was the plugin? The server resource utilization dropped from 121.82 load average down to 0.60 load average just by disabling it! That’s a humongous difference. So now the server is back to normal, it’s a lot faster and more responsive. I’ve also installed Super Cache as well so that should also take the load off from the server.

Everything should now be better than normal.

Update: Just realized why the server went to hell all of a sudden today and not earlier. Turns out the rumor about Jackie Chan passing away came back to life today. Since I’ve previously posted about it I got around 10,000 people come in from google using the search term jackie chan passed away since my link comes up first.


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Events & Activities

Posted by Mark

I’ve updated the navigation bar on top and added two new sections, Events and Activities. The events page basically will contain things to do in Kuwait but things that are time sensitive like exhibitions, movie screenings etc.. Activities on the other hand will include things to do in Kuwait through out the year like scuba diving, karting etc..

Whatever gets posted under these two sections will continue to get posted on the main page as well but since items move down and off the main page pretty quickly, these two links will make it easier to find things.


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My YouTube Channel

Posted by Mark

Someone on twitter made me aware that some readers might not be aware of this. My YouTube channel is www.youtube.com/usurp

The YouTube channel www.youtube.com/mark248am is NOT mine. It does not belong to me and I have no access to it. A few years back someone set up a parody website called www.248-am.com (notice the extra dash) and started spoofing most of my posts. That anonymous person also set up the YouTube account mark248am. The parody website is no longer up but the YouTube channel is.

I’ve contacted YouTube before to shutdown the channel but they refused. But I now heard that there might be a case building against me based on that YouTube channel so I just wanted to make it clear to everyone that my YouTube channel is www.youtube.com/usurp


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I need to post

Posted by Mark

It feels very strange not having posted much here the past few days. I’ve had a lot on my mind so I haven’t really been focusing but it also felt awkward to post with all that was going on. No one has contacted me yet from Benihana and my court date is still set for March 8th. Once the trial starts it could take 2 years to finish and so I have to continue to post on this blog during that time.

Whenever there is any updates in the case I will post it here and keep everyone updated of course.

I would like to once again thank everyone who has been supporting me in this case. The amount of attention you’ve helped bring has just been mind blowing.


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Media coverage on Benihana lawsuit

Posted by Mark

I’ve tried collecting all the coverage this case has gotten so far and will be updating this post throughout this trial as new sources pop up.

Thank you everyone for your support. It’s just been incredible.

Blogs
Fake Plastic Souks: Benihana Bashes Bloggers
BoingBoing: Benihana Kuwait sues blogger for $18,000 over bad review
Trying to be Fahad: Defamation or Constructive Criticism?
Catalyze: How not to respond to negative feedback
Snow in Kuwait: 248AM Blogger getting sued
Chicken Nugget: Benihana suing mark from 248am
His & Hers Q8: Being sued for a review
Ansam 518: Mark vs Lawsuit
LWDLK: Benihana suing the blogger of 248am
SuddenlyTwo: Benihana Kuwait #FAIL
Sandier Pastures: Benihana Kuwait sues blogger
oi Nagham!: Benihana vs The People
Lebanon News: Benihana Goes Bananas; Manager Stereotypes Lebanese
+961: Benihana sues one of the most popular bloggers in Kuwait
Who Sane: A Very Unnecessary PR Disaster
Blog 37: Social suicide by Benihana
Desert Girl: Mark at 248AM gets sued by Benihana
Beirut Drive-By Shooting: Shut up!
Irrelevant Combinations: One beef negimaki, and a lawyer please
Mich Cafe: Brand fiasco unites bloggers
SuddenlyTwo: Benihana Kuwait #FAIL
Oman Collective Intelligence: Benihana Kitchen Nightmares!
The Side Talk: Mark & 248AM being sued over honest review
Siouxsie Law: Kuwaiti Blogger Sued Over Bad Benihana Review
American Girl In Kuwait: “BTW, are you Lebanese?”
qEight: Local blogger in Kuwait sued by Benihana
Buzfairy: A really bad move from Benihana Kuwait, suing 248am
BeirutSpring: Benihana In Kuwait is a Terrible, Terrible Place. Stay Away From It.
Electrony: مطعم يرفع قضية على مدونة إلكترونية ويطالب بخمس آلاف دينار وإغلاق المدونة
iBloogle: Bloggers Unite – for the Right to Freedom of Online Speech
Q8HK: نحن معك يا مارك … دعم لمدونة A-Sides
Kuwaits Blog: Mark kuwaiti blogger sued by Benihana
Blog Baladi: Blogger sued over restaurant review
Chaotic pOsha: Benihana suing Mark!
18 Seven: اي شي يا بينيهانا
n3alba7ar: المدون مارك و قضية المطعم اليابانى
Ashish Panjabi: The Benihana Debacle
Desert Blvd: Benihana, Shame On You!
Khaled Rambles: Restaurant sues blogger in Kuwait
Blogger Mathai: Benihana Kuwait sues local blogger for negative review!
Techania: مطعم في الكويت يجن جنونه بسبب تعبير صريح للرأي من قبل مدوّن
Cyrographics: Kuwait’s 248am Blogger being sued by Benihana over a negative review
Hell is other people: #benihanakuw I bet you feel foolish now dont you!
B&D: Everyone’s Outraged as Benihana sues 248am over Bad Reviews
Marketing in Lebanon: The Art of Creating a PR Crisis
The Market Buzz: How much is your reputation worth?
Life in Dubai: Sued for saying he didn’t like his meal.
Life & Beyond: Sued for Writing a Bad Review!
Mind Soup: Benihana: We sue customers to compensate for our bad food
BABBLEQ8: Freedom of speech and its importance…
Roashina: 248am Lawsuit on Wikipedia
4th Ring Road: Order in the Court?
p0ach: Benihana, you ruined my vacation
Ashraf’s Blog: I Sue You!!!
The Identity Chef: Exporting Your “Brand” has New Challenges in the New Media World – Benihana Learns Firsthand.
Ashish Panjabi: Hints, Tips, Reviews – How will Benihana keep track of them?
Mr Qatar: Kuwaiti blogger sued… for a review…
Expat Life Coach: Why an expat blogger is getting sued in Kuwait
Life in Dubai: Benihana Update
MakChicken: Weather: Sunny with a high chance of getting sued by Benihana…
Ammouret Lebnen: Sued for not liking his dinner!
Nimer: Mark 248am.com got sued because he did not like the food
The Right Profile: Ignominy
Daily Mail: Kuwait blogger sued for restaurant review
America Blog: Benihana suing blogger for mediocre restaurant review
UAE Community Blog: Benihana Kuwait and Justice
Village Voice: Benihana Sues Over Crap Review
Starving for More: Silly Food Lawsuits
KiwiBlog: Cooking up a storm in Kuwait blogging

News Media
DubaiEye Radio Interview
Twitter
The National
TNW Social Media
Gulf News
CNN iReport
KippReport
Emirates 24/7
Arabian Business
Emirates 24/7 (2nd)
Kuwait Times
Econsultancy
Slashdot
Reputation Online
Honk Kong Association of New Media
Stuff Magazine
Huffington Post
Global Voices
TechDirt
Fast Company
Zawya
The Atlantic Wire
The Muslim Observer
LA Weekly
The Stir
Digg


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I’m being sued by Benihana

Posted by Mark

Yesterday I got served with a court order, Benihana are suing me because of my post about my experience at their restaurant. If you haven’t read that post yet you can check it out by clicking [Here]

I’m currently getting legal advice from my lawyer Khaled Al Shamali who is actually a fan of my blog (that’s important) and I will be fighting this case in court. Originally my lawyer told me not to discuss this case with anyone but I feel it is important to share this with everyone since it doesn’t just effect me but the whole blogging community be it in Kuwait, UAE or anywhere else in the region. So after talking to my lawyer again, he’s now given me the green light to be transparent and open with everyone regarding this case.

I’ve uploaded the court order I received yesterday and you can download it from [Here]

The court order is in Arabic but if someone ends up translating it to English I will post it up as well. Benihana have the right to sue me but I don’t believe I said or did anything wrong and I stand behind everything I said and wrote in that post.

I’ve personally been threatened with lawsuits a number of times before, I know another popular blog recently got threatened with a lawsuit from a restaurant as well and I am sure there must be other bloggers who at one point in time have also been threatened. If blogs were recognized like newspapers or magazines we would all be protected from lawsuits like this but at the moment we aren’t. I find this unfair and if I end up losing this case what will it mean to all the other bloggers? Should bloggers be afraid to say anything negative about a company? Should all our posts just be happy happy joy joy?

I’m hopefully not going to lose this case and will try my best to win it and set an example so that other companies understand that if they don’t like something they read on a blog they can’t just sue the blogger.

I’ve been receiving an overwhelming amount of support on twitter. Honestly as much as I am a geek I never really understood or realized how powerful twitter can be until now. I literally have over 50 pages filled with tweets from people all over the region offering support. It’s really unbelievable and a lot and I mean A LOT of people from UAE have also been rallying behind me on this and according to one twitterer (is that the right word?) the Benihana topic is currently trending in the UAE at #8 at #3. A lot of people have also been leaving comments on the Benihana’s twitter account @benihana__ and on their Facebook page. But a few moments ago they deleted ALL the comments from their Facebook page but luckily I saved a pdf with some which you can download [Here]. They were actually a lot more than that before they were deleted. a reader saved a screenshot of all the comments which you can see [Here]

So thank you everyone for your support, I will try my best to keep everyone posted along the way on everything that takes place regarding this case.

——————————————-

Update: I just finished an interview with the Dubai Abu Dhabi based newspaper The National. I will also be on air live tomorrow at 11AM Dubai time on the DubaiEye 103.8FM.

Update2: An amazing reader translated the court order to English. You can download it [Here]

Update3: Please no one call and harass Benihanna or their employees. You can show your support in other ways. Thank you.

Update4: The National article on this lawsuit is up and you can read it [Here]

Update5: I’m now on Gulf News [Here] CNN iReport [Here] and TNW Social Media [Here]


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