Monday, 20 January 2014

GeekFest Dubai REUNION

The time has come, the walrus said...

Saadia Zahid was the reason GeekFest ever started happening. She was running Dubai's uber-funky workplace/hangout The Shelter at the time and we had a coffee to talk about doing something together back in 2009. We weren't sure, just that, well you know, something.

That something turned, in time, into GeekFest. And for a while, in the heyday of social media's initial impact on Dubai society (and, of course, in time in Beirut, Damascus, Amman, Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Jeddah), we played around with the whole non-event - an UNorganised gathering of people with no rules, no restrictions, No Logo and no gatekeepers. Just people, smart people, who wanted to be together and share stuff they were just WAY too interested in to be considered normal - geeks, in short.

But Saadia left Dubai for New York and although GeekFest sort of survived her, it didn't survive the demise of The Shelter as it was - that was the straw that made the camel throw up its hooves and give up the ghost. It simply wasn't as fun anymore and I had always said if it became a burden or too important, I'd chuck in the towel. And so I did.

But then Saadia came back to Dubai. And lo, she got in touch. And she said "I'm involved in this whole container city retail thingy concept park gig as part of DSF. I've got a sound stage, food, seating, areas. Fancy doing a GeekFest?"

And I ummed and aahed. But she bullied me. I swear she did. So...

Wednesday January 29th at 7pm, at Market OTB (Out Of the Box) will mark GeekFest Dubai REUNION. A return to all the fun and sheer lack of structure that made GeekFest, for me at least, so attractive.

Market OTB is running from 23rd January to the 1st February at the Burj Park, the island by the 'dancing fountain' in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa and is a market run out of refurbished shipping containers, dedicated to sustainable independent retail in the sort of direction of food, fashion and lifestyle. It's got a sound stage, bands, cafes and other funky stuff. It should be a pretty cool venue for GeekFest REUNION.

What's the skinny? It goes something like this:


Okay, so we've been conspiring merrily with the team at Red Bull and they're coming to play at GeekFest REUNION and bringing Jay Wud to play a free gig from 9pm. For those of you who haven't heard of Jay, his band opened for Guns And Roses in Abu Dhabi last year and you can hear his music using this here handy link.

It's high energy stuff and I for one am looking forward to this enormously. I've been envious of that crowd over in Beirut ever since I sat in Gemayze's Angry Monkey quaffing 961 and listening to a live gig at GeekFest Beirut. Now we're quits, Beirut Geeks!

The Red Bull Wings team will be at GeekFest too. Geeks with wings! Whatever next?


From 8-9pm we have four talks and they'll be kept to a tight time schedule by a bunch of metalheads waiting to come on stage, so we've at last found an appropriate replacement to the timekeeping discipline introduced by Monsignor R. Bumfrey!

The talks are:

8pm Money For Nothing
So you've got nothing but a great idea. How are you going to raise the cash you need to make it work? Not the banks, they're useless. We all know that. From VCs? They'll take all your equity for pennies. What about crowdfunding? Or better, what about crowdfunding backed by equity participation? is the first equity crowdfunding platform offering a global solution. People give you money, you give them equity. Eureeca's speaker explains how it works - and how it's already worked for young UAE startups who needed cash to make that idea a reality.

8.15pm How Google broke search. And what that means to you.
Getting ranked by search engine Google is about the right keywords and building lots of links, right? Wrong. That used to work, but now it's last year's thing - because Google just broke search - the giant's new hummingbird search algorithm changes the game and means engagement and quality content matter more than links from loads of sites. Lee Mancini is CEO of search consultancy Sekari and he'll be explaining what's going on and how you can fix your broken search results.

8.30pm Social change and sameness
The [sameness] project is a Dubai-based social initiative that facilitates moments of sameness. The "sameness" is in understanding that we are all worth the same amount in our humanity, and the "project" comes through the on-the-ground initiatives like Water for Workers, The Conversation Chair, and We've Got Your Back, that bring the sameness to life. Jonny and Fiona from the sameness project will be explaining what it is, how it works and why diversity backwards is the way forwards.

8.45pm Make money at home doing what you like
It's the perennial promise of freelancing, isn't it? And while there's undoubtedly opportunity and need out there, we've also got unprofessional clients, rip-off merchants and the like. So how can you promote a freelance community of talented people willing to exchange skills with employers who need resources and talent now - and keep that community protected and the wheels of commerce in smooth motion? It's a big ask and Nabbesh CEO LouLou Khazen is doing the asking - backed by winning du's The Entrepreneur and a $100,000 investment round using none other than eureeca.


The wild men from Jackys will be showing LIVE and IN THE FLESH the sexiest printers since someone said 'Can we print Hovis?' and someone else said, 'Sure'...

Green Gadgets
Heard of The Change Initiative? They're green. They're so green you'd be greenly envious of their greenness if you were a Martian. And they've got gadgets. Oh yeah. Fancy the idea of a recycled cardboard boombox, say? This is something you wouldn't want to miss, then...

Will be showcasing cool mobile stuff, including their buzz-inspiring VibeX mobile handsets and super-lightweight clamshelly things!!!


We've got an Oculus Rift and we're gonna use it! This is a hyper-cool virtual reality headset the drooling gamer goons lovely chaps from t-break are bringing to GameFest. It's apparently the latest in puke-inducing immersive gaming gadgets. Apparently there are not only brain-spinning demos to play with but also @MrNexyMedia will be demoing his game in-development, so we're talking cutting edge beta type experience things here!!!

There'll also be a PS3 multiplayer area where people can make complete goons of themselves - always a popular element of GeekFest.


You got an old laptop you don't use any more? Clean it up and bring it along and we'll make sure it gets sent to Sri Lanka where poor young medical students from rural areas simply don't have access to their own machines to use in studying for their exams. I got involved in this after finding out about one such student, then we uncovered another four. Now we have a distribution system set up thanks to a philanthropically minded doctor in Kandy and we can use more machines. So bring that old PC down to GeekFest and we'll make sure it gets a useful - and potentially life-saving - second life. Alternatively, you can always bring those old machines to The Archive and ask for Bethany or Sarah.


There are caf├ęs, there is seating, there is a soundstage (hence Jay and the boys) and stuff aplenty. There is a hospitality area we're not quite sure what to do with yet, but rest assured someone will come up with something.

My books will be on sale there. Clearly.


Thanks to @AqeelFikree, GeekFest now has a website! Check out!


Here's the PDF map or you can use Google Maps like so. GeekFest will start, as usual, when you get there (if you come!) but about 7pmish is a guideline if you want to know what time to arrive late after. The talks will start around 8ish.

There's no registration, no age limit, no height restriction or any other form of organisation. If you'd like to come along, you're splendidly welcome. If you'd like to perform a plate spinning act or share your collection of left-handed Manga comics or old Adobe Acrobat SKUs get in touch with @alexandermcnabb or @saadia and we'll give you some space and power or whatever you need.

This may well be fun, people...


Marwa Yehia said...

Wow .. that sounds so interesting, too bad you don't have kids corner or I would have made it :) hope you guys have fun

Alexander McNabb said...

You are MORE than welcome to organise one, ya Marwa. As you know, we don't do anything but the community gets together and makes stuff happen in general - so why not start it? :)

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Oh dear, irrespective of my departure, it is apparent some folks will never learn and they need spoonfeeding all the time.

Has nobody ever heard of doing research, as opposed to showing stupidity, as clearly demonstrated by a couple of comments above!

Alexander McNabb said...

Rupert, both comments were that most egregious of things, 'comment spam' and have been removed and reported as spam.


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