BBC Persian filtered out of Iran, what can we do?

When ever the great firewall is mentioned, everyone thinks of China. Even I have to add myself to that list. Interestingly I read a blog on globalvoices (need to find link) which was talking about the fact that filtering happens all over the world and China just happens to be the most high profile one at the moment. One of the things eating up most of my time at work has been the new BBC China site. It has no news content on it at all and it does not link to any news content, which sets its self apart from most of the other 32 language sites we run. This should be acceptable enough to not trigger any alarms on the great firewall china has deployed.

The same certainly does not look true of Iran's firewall which seems to be simply filtering BBC Persian full stop. Hossein Derakhshan has a little about the filtering and i've find some other stuff online. But this is a subset from a much larger email which got sent around

Based on past procedures, the committee in charge of deciding which websites should be filtered has announced a list of sites to the ICT (Information Communication Technology) Ministry to have them blocked and the BBC's Persian news site is one of the sites.

I won't even try and attempt to stake a view on if this is good or bad. But I will say like China information has funny habit of getting around these things. Which leads me on to one of the most interesting moves we've made recently in the Syndication space.

Now for those who do not know I work for the BBC World Service and here comes a disclaimer (thanks Ben). The views stated on this site are mine and are not endorsed by the BBC World Service. Although I am a new media developer for the BBC World Service I am not paid, hoodwinked or coerced into boosting the BBC World Service on this website. Nor does this blog form any part of their marketing strategy. I'm a big fan of Full text syndication but understand why the mainstream media do not use it. So it gives me great pleasure to say that today the Persian feeds were modified to output more content than a little teaser today (the full list is available here). This is not full text, but not your usual one line affair. I have to say its still work in progress and could be changed at any time. But looks like one in a range of innovative solutions for people seeking well written and timely farsi (persian) news content around the world. I would urge anyone who uses the feeds to give us feedback positive and negative. As it might influence what happens in the near future for not only Persian feeds but maybe other language feeds?

Lets hope I still got a job when I go in tomorrow. Although I don't see why not when both the filtering news is online already and the RSS feeds are for public consumption. I won't be suprise if someones already blogged about the change but I've seen nothing yet. Saying that I don't read Farsi.

And at long last some coverage. Iran blocks BBC Persian website on Zeropaid and Boingboing. 2 days after writing this blog post I was worried about the fact I was writing about what we were doing in the BBC World Service about this block. Well besides almost fulltext RSS were now rolling out almost full text daily news email in Persian. So I would say (not the bbc'of course), there's multiple ways around this block. It will be interesting to see if the take up of the Persian RSS and Persian email news will dramaticly increase now there is a block. Humm I wonder if there is anything else we could/should be doing?

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London geekdinner with dave shea last night was fantastic

Dave Shea and Me at the Geekdinner

Ok this feels kind of weird talking about my own successes but honestly last nights geekdinner with dave shea was only one word. Yep, Fantastic! I could not have got a better more friendly crowd of geeks in a bar. Thank you to everyone who came along and made it a great success. I spoke to so many people and I can't remember everyones name. But it does not matter because Flickr will do the work for me. This women had the clever idea to get everyone to put up there pictures using the tag . You can also find pictures using londongeekdinner and geekdinner. If you're a flickr type you can also add your photos to the london geekdinner with shea group pool which I have setup.

Flickr tags go offline?

Ian has got some great pictures from the night and a pretty full transcript of the Question and Answers session with Dave Shea. I'm pretty amazed how fast he was able to put this up and that he got all the audience discussion too. Kudos to you Ian. I hope you don't mind that I stole your picture from the website but I did change the licence to Copyright (all rights reserved) and did give you attribution for such a great picture.

There were a couple of complaints but as Sheila and Jen said, Geeks may have the trait of being perfectionists. So the first thing was the venue. I forgot to say the geekdinner was actually upstairs in the crown and anchor, so thats my own fault. But although the venue was is a whole different class from the Hogs head, the space available was about the same. Sheila commented that my spacial awareness was pretty bad, which would be kind of consistent with what Sarah says too. So as you can guess we quickly ran out of room. I only honestly assumed about 50 people would turn up which is still an increase of about 20% from the last one I did with the simply amazing Molly. I counted with the help of the stickers which I ran out of really quickly (sorry to those who turned up late) exactly 68 people. And I noticed some people turned up really late, Dave Green included. So in total we may have had about 75 people but at one point we had 68 in a venue which should hold a maximum of 60. The bar staff did at one point ask me if I was expecting even more people? I have to say I lied. Because of the huge amount of people, my estimate for food to per head was off and I only got food by nicking it off other peoples plates. Someone told me there were sandwiches, spring rolls, etc. But I didn't see any of it. All I got was Chips and some nice sweet chilli sauce.

To be fair to everyone I have to explain what happened. I look at the signups on, eventful, dave sheas blog and upcoming. Then work out a rough number of people who are coming and take off about 10-12 people for last minute drop outs. I usually give the kitchen the numbers as late as possible, in this case last week Wednesday. And as luck would have it, a load of people signed up after Thursday night at the girlgeekdinner. Other things which people commented during the night. The one bar person when there was easily enough demand for two, to be fair this changed about 8pm but it was certainly easier to get a drink downstairs and bring it back up. The sound level was loud simply because there were so many people in a small venue, I think Jen Dixon said I was loosing my voice half way through the night. Was the food as good as the hogs head? someone asked. And lastly charging 6 pounds was a stupid idea (thats how much the food costs) because everyone gives me 10 or 5 pounds.

Ok end of complaints, generally I'm going to solve most of the problems by simply moving to a even better venue. Its called the polar bear and is located between Leicester Square and China town. It holds about 150 people max but I will never go for a event which holds more than 80 because it looses its personal and friendly touch when so many people are grouped into a room. Last night although being slighly cramp, the atmosphere was still friendly and fun.

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