Controversial Festival!

Controversial Festival!

Ninth Iran Web and Mobile Festival will be hold at 28 Bahman 1395; a festival that had many benefits and many controversies during its 9-year lifetime; from discussions about judgments to being accused that this is gathering of a specific range. Milad AhramPoosh, Shayan Shalileh, Reza OlfatNasab, Shahram Sharif and Akbar Hashemi talked about different aspects. Shalileh denies financial support of the festival and EhramPoush says that the festival was going to be closed many times because of lack of money.

Mobile Festival, judgments, mobile phones,business,CafeBazar, DigiKala

Ninth Iran Web and Mobile Festival will be hold at 28 Bahman 1395; a festival that had many benefits and many controversies during its 9-year lifetime; from discussions about judgments to being accused that this is gathering of a specific range. Milad AhramPoosh, Shayan Shalileh, Reza OlfatNasab, Shahram Sharif and Akbar Hashemi talked about different aspects. Shalileh denies financial support of the festival and EhramPoush says that the festival was going to be closed many times because of lack of money. Other topics include Shahram Sharif criticizing large number of sections in the festivals and rewards. He believes that large number of rewards brings the credit of festival under question. Reza OlfatNasab welcomes the presence of Shanbeh in the festival and emphasizes the importance of cooperation with public decision making organizations for saving this field. Shahram Sharif believes that presence of some of authorities as experts, speakers and opponents of free internet, brings the independence of festival under question. 

The first question is about goals you had for holding such festivals in years when web space was limited to blogging and there were less concepts like online business, VC and …?

EhramPoush: the goal of holing festival is a question which I had asked to myself many times and the answer was to create an environment for presence of Persian sites and applications so that they can be seen more; both from their own colleagues and investors who want to invest on this field. Another goal was increasing growth rate of this field; the growth we saw within next years in Iran; both in the field of using smart phones and mobile internet access. This shows that the festival could help this growth. On the other hand, expansion of internet and increase in using mobile phones can contribute to fruitfulness of this festival.
Shalileh: when the festival was held for the first time in 1387, we didn’t have an environment named startup environment like the one we see these days. At that time we had about 20 to 30 famous sites in Iran that all people referred to them. Many people were bloggers; that is there was no business for making money in web environment. We and some famous bloggers and site owners had gatherings. Thus the first round of Web Festival was a gathering. We asked 20 to 30 persons to introduce their favorite websites and we published them. In the second and third year, it accompanied with growth and development of web and internet space in Iran. During these years the festival had a good growth. One of our main goals was introducing websites to the public because Persian sites were very weak and they needed to be introduced.

What was your model for operating this festival?

Shalileh: we didn’t have a model the first and second years but in the third year we tried to consider Webby Awards and hold the festival according to it.

The first round was held in 1387 and with 500 sites. Now, after 8 years in the ninth round it would be held with more than 15.000 participants; that is 300 times growth. But this growth shows the quantity. On the other hand, we wanted to help the growth of this field. A growth that includes quality as well. What was the qualitative affect on online business in your opinion?

Shalileh: maybe we can’t talk about the percent of qualitative effect of this festival on Iran web space and growth of startups exactly and based on some specific parameters but we witnessed little growth. Maybe this festival can’t contribute to qualitative growth of sites and businesses because there are sites that participate one year and they even win but the next year they don’t exist. The duty of this festival is introducing an environment for business owners; that is the main message of this festival is that web space is a serious space for presence and launching businesses.
EhramPoush: what I have seen among developers is that when we choose a site or software as one the bests, they can make it a model. When we consider creativity and content and … as parameters of judgment, developers would see that we consider success factors of a business for judging thus we pave the way for them. Another part of our job is that even the public gets familiar with terms related to sites and software. I think quantitative growth shows the growth of this space in Iran.
Sharif: I think Web Festival has been one the most enduring award giving institutions in Iran during these years. It has high value and its value would increase because it works in the private sector and people who spend their time on the festival have always many creditors. Thus this festival is very precious in nature. But the point is that this festival isn’t like 9 years ago any more and it has many fans now. The sites even encourage people to vote on Web Festival by offering rewards; it means that businesses know the credit and value of this festival. In terms of quality, I think it seems that most efforts are done for executing the festival. But I think conductors can consider models for making the festival more qualitative. For example, decreasing the sections that get rewards can increase the quality of the festival because large number of sections leads to decrease of festival value. For example, Oscar offers 50 rewards each year and this adds to its value. But large number of sections in the festival has decreased the value of rewards.
EhramPoush: this year in Farsi sites section we have reduced two parts and we have 81 sections in Farsi websites. But in the field of mobile software we had 13 rewards last year and we have added 7 sections this year.
Sharif: look, the period we spend for giving rewards is very long and it shows that you should find solutions to reduce these sections. Maybe you shouldn’t reward based on category, because the number of categories would be increased. Does Web Festival want to continue this trend?
Shalileh: look, Webby Awards had more than 110 groups five years ago and it became 250 groups last year. I think that we should involve more people if we want to have a big and important effect. Each one who was conductor of this festival had offered for example that 80 groups became reduced to 18 groups in order to add to the value and credit of this festival. But what is the effect festival wants to have? The question is that is Iran web space is completely matures so that we can introduce for example 20 sites and say that all others become similar to them that are the best? We haven’t reached that level of maturity. Thus if we decrease rewards, we reduce the effectiveness of festival significantly and I disagree with decreasing rewards. Maybe we should change the groups. For example, this year we have transportation startup group that was in automobile group last year but this year they are independent and they are of our top brands.

It seems that some groups can be merged? For example entertainment with lifestyle.

Shalileh: it is practically very difficult. These two are technically different. Most people think that some groups can be merged. For example art and culture. For instance, we have 200 cultural sites and 200 art sites. In this field we can’t separate them from each other but we receive many messages and emails which say we aren’t artists and we work in the field of culture or vice versa; that is there are many objections in just one case of merging. In the field of literature we have the same problem because we merge poem and stories and ... but there are still objections.

Sharif: I think you look for big and significant effect on Iran web field, but you give many rewards, effectiveness would be reduced. In the way that the day after festival every site you open has received a reward in the festival!
Shalileh: we should take it into account that Webby Awards is present in a mature environment. For example the day before festival, it hold an event and give rewards and winners would attend the festival the day after with statue and losers would participate as well. But in Iran when we introduce the winner, others leave the hall because they don’t win.
Sharif: festival duration is too long and if anyone leaves the hall, it is mostly because of tiredness.
In Iran whoever wins praises the festival and if he/she doesn’t win the next year, he/she would vilify about the festival.
Shalileh: Webby Awards in 2016 had 378 categories and winners. But in Iran we just give awards in fields whose number have reached a certain limit. One year we put photography group in cultural section and then we saw that it can be a separate section.
EhramPoush: in terms of mergence, we should pay attention to this issue that sites must be of the same nature. For example, if we merge entertainment with lifestyle, facts and cooking would be placed in the same category with jokes.

For example Takhfifan would win in sales section, in lifestyle sections as well. Why does this happen?

EhramPoush: website and mobile software are different and probably Takhfifan has won in the section of group sales with its website and in the section of lifestyle with its software. We act like categorizing CafeBazar. Also it is possible that the market doesn’t have the capacity for group sales. CafeBazar is also categorized based on Google Play and App Store criterions. Each site has its own software.
Hashemi: I agree with what Shahram Sharif has said. I think that all those who work in the field of web, are the winners of Web Festival. For example if we visit Bank Sarmayeh or Saman site, we see that they have become the winner of this festival. We should accept that here is Iran and we should talk according to Iran situation. If Fajr Film Festival wants to offer a separate award to each genre, it should offer several ten awards. But they have defined professional content framework that for example CEO or UX can be the base of a professional frame in sites. You pay more attention to content. In the field of films, Ebrahim HatamiKia is producing films for 20 years and has gained Simorg twice but if there was a separate genre named Holy Defense, he would certainly gain 20 Simorg and maybe its value was not as much as these two Simorgs. I think that right now the festival is a place where all can enter.
Sharif: if the number of awards becomes decreased and for example it reduces to 20 awards and they are offered based on innovation rather than content.
Shalileh: we reduced its number in the fifth or sixth year and it was reduced to 30 groups but there were much more dissatisfactions.
Sharif: these reactions are normal. I think the value of awards is increased by decreasing its number.
Shalileh: I think it was the fourth year that we allocated a section to new commercial idea because many sites were stores and there were little creativity. Also in fifth and sixth rounds, we had a section in which we rated sites based on UX. Even one year Milad EhralPoush won in Weblog section but we didn’t introduce him as the winner because we didn’t want to be accused of misjudgment. The next year we removed bloggers from it because in the third and fourth year we had about 30 top weblogs in Iran who were judges in the festival and eventually one of them would win. Thus we removed it.
Hashemi: if the awards are diverse, it is normal that portfolios get more awards in all majors and then Web Festival would be accused of being the festival for that portfolio.
Shalileh: it had never been and won’t be this way.
Hashemi: it is normal if Takhfifan gets an award in terms of its software, DigiKala wins in another field and … because for example Sarava portfolio has the most software and sites and thus it receives more awards but either the audience don’t want to digest this issue or think that awards are given based on friendship and a bad atmosphere would exist.
Shalileh: we don’t want to decide according to peoples who poison the atmosphere.
Hashemi: I wanted to come back to this issue that why you remove for example Weblog section because of these poisonings. I think you should insist on one specific stance. For example if someone opposes Fajr Film Festival, authorities don’t pay attention to that and continue their work next year. There must be stability in judging this festival. I recommend that if you offer awards generally, the number of awards would decrease and you have offered your manifest in this way. If someone opposes your style, he/she wouldn’t participate.
Sharif: you have executed different models of judging and came to this model that the participants themselves judge it. But if more expert people become judges, it would increase the quality of the festival. Because it is possible that participants don’t vote for their rivals and vote for their friends. But if the judge is selected outside participants, he/she can help more.
EhramPoush: in mobile software section of Web Festival, scientific judges examine apps and judging in the field of mobile is more difficult than judging in the field of web. We have judged based on different parameters in different periods and in practice we have tested all models.

Based on which parameters do you choose the judges?

Shalileh: all those who have registered site can participate as a judge in the festival. This model of judging has been prevalent since the sixth round about which there were less critics compared to the fourth and fifth rounds.

Which critics did you want to respond to with using such a model of judging? Because some people accused festival conductors of lack of accountability.

Shalileh: there were many critics that for example why this site is selected not that one. We had about 30 to 130 judges; that is all expert web designers in Iran were among our judges but there were still objections; because best judges were the best site designers in Iran as well, because all top designers who participated as judges, had designed the best Iranian sites. This also made problems. We used two new rules for solving this problem and didn’t show the sites that belonged to a certain judge to him for judging. Even two years ago we said that each judge should judge in one specific category. For example one judge can only vote in the field of publications but it became very personalized because in practice each site was chosen by three or four people. Now we use a model which is exactly the model of Webby Awards.

How many people do participate in the festival as judges?

Shalileh: last year about 1500 people attended as judges who have 150 to 200 votes one the average.
Hashemi: why aren’t the judges names published?
Shalileh: when two thousand people have participated as judges, shall we publish the names of two thousand people?
Hashemi: yes. What it the problem with it?
OlfatNasab: all people can be a judge and these names don’t prove a special issue.
EhramPoush: judges are those who attend in this festival as the owners of sites; that is if a person had a registered site, he/she can participate in the festival as a judge and vote.
Hashemi: according to ambiguities related to festival judges, it seems that it’s better to be clearer.
Shalileh: I said everyone who has registered a site can vote; that is we don’t focus on a specific judge with specific insight. But we can put more statistics even on the site to make the judgment status clear. For example, we can even publish statistics related to the fact that who has voted for which site or how many people have voted.
Sharif: I think judgment is not only the problem of this festival and problems are caused by judges not the participants. I think if a judge has an expertise, he/she can provide more help but festival holders in previous years thought about models with low-margins and thus they looked for using methods for reducing protesters.
Shalileh: first of all we should think about models with executive capability. For example we have 2500 participants. Which expert board or how many people should I choose to examine this number of websites? Because in this case people’s taste would be applied and we should divide this number of websites among judges.
Sharif: this issue has a solution. You can choose a group that apply initial filters and choose a more expert group for sites that passes through these filters. For example, each year Javan Film Festival judges several thousand films but at different levels.
Shalileh: isn’t there any intention in such judgment? Isn’t there any margin about them?
Sharif: no no. the goal is not to have no critics and margins.
there must be critics, because if your goal is to reduce margins of festival, maybe in the end the festival become the victim of your behavior; because in each case, there may be critics and reprehensions.
Shalileh: look, when Webby Awards has come to this conclusion after 16 years that it should choose each person who has experience in this field and work in this field in America and Canada, as the judge, why we should try to reinvent the cycle. The global model of judgment is the same as what we have used. Why should we use a kind of expert judgment in our country which is not possible?
Hashemi: do we have the culture of Webby Awards in our country?
Shalileh: no we don’t but we should continue this trend to the extent that the environment becomes more professional. If we provide more than 2500 sites to 25 judges in the next festival so that each one examines 100 sites, maybe E-Network competitor be placed in my 100 sites. We follow an environment in our country that may become mature in the next 10 years.

Internet has been spread 30 years ago across the world and 15 years later Webby Awards is hold. Now when did internet come to Iran and when was Iran Web Festival held? Pay attention to this difference. Now we can’t spend time and energy for this festival like eight years ago. I think Web Festival is at least 5 years ahead in Iran. We had put a group named Entrepreneurship in festival site and gave statue of entrepreneurship to the winners when there weren’t such terms in Iran. I think it was the second or fourth festival when we put these words on the site and the festival promoted these new terms in Iran business environment. Our goal is affecting on this environment and I think that we could have affection.

Mr. Olfat Nasab, you work as Secretary of the Board of Internet Businesses and you have the responsibility of holding Web Festival for two years. Tell us more about the problems Mr. Shalileh pointed to.

Olfat Nasab: I agree critics and think that there must be modifications in judging process. Mr. Shalileh wants to reduce festival margins. Weird critics aren’t a few. Even holders had been attacked physically that why they didn’t give them any awards. I recommend that we hold Web Festival all around the world. For example, we can determine five places in different parts of Iran and hold Web Festival there.

Do you mean that we can judge at regional level with this plan; in this case many would be deducted and some would reach the final round in Tehran?

Olfat Nasab: yes and I think this can be an efficient solution because I agree with Mr. Shalileh who says judging thousands of sites is a hard task. Thus this solution reduces the workload to some extent.

How does the festival earn money?

Olfat Nasab: the association holds this festival for two years and accepts sponsors.

What are the expenses of holding this festival?

Olfat Nasab: hall rent, preparing Statues and … sometimes we have discounts and sponsors that for example may rent the hall for 12 million tomans instead of 30 million tomans. For example, last year up to 50 million tomans had spent for holding this festival. We have other problems too. For example, we had many critics for ShabNameh. Many people think that Web Festival doesn’t have a license. We have negotiated with many institutions and said that this festival won’t make any problem. Another problem is lack of stable financial resources for the festival.
Shalileh: currently we have at least 30 VCs in the ecosystem among which there are 5 big VCs. Last year all of them were the winners of the festival but none of them provided financial aid to festival. We always have financial problems for holding the festival. While we hold a big event globally, and have many foreign guests but what we gain at the end is critics and accusations that we earn large amount of income from this festival.

Hashemi: why don’t VCs support this festival financially? Do they think that cultural activity has no use for them?

Shalileh: they don’t understand and all win. They gain the statue every year because they invest on the best. Let me say that why people think Sarava is paying costs of this festival. There was no Sarava in the first five years. The sixth year was the peak power of this festival and more than 90% of sites had put festival logo on their home page. That year was contemporary to my investment on Sarava E-network and Mohsen’s investment on Avatech. Little by little VC concept became popular and Web Festival was very famous and the only VC in the ecosystem was Sarava. Thus if I wasn’t engaged, I would think that Sarava is organizing all these mechanisms.

Hashemi: I think for changing this image, you have come to Bamilo or Snapp and brought them to the festival?
Shalileh: no. we had Netbarg last year and DigiKala and this year one of my main works was to remove rudimentary figures. DigiKala is so great and has won for 8 rounds and it would win this year. Either Netbarg or Takhfifan; when one hasn’t come, the other has won. Or in the group of urban transportation do you think who would win? 133 Taxi Service site? No Snapp would win for sure and now Snapp has gathered us for the roundtable. There is no cheating. At the sixth round of the festival, startups had significant growth and Sarava had become famous. In our society people think that if a company or brand spends several million tomans for example for advertisement, the advertiser would be its slave. It takes time to change this thought.
Sharif: there are usually disputes about Web Festival. You have brought a person to the festival last year and put him in front of these disputes, that isn’t reputed in this ecosystem. This was not interesting for me and officials of the web. In fact you have brought a person to the festival who is against free internet in Iran.
Shalileh: the one you talks about is Mr. Momeni Nasab who insisted on holding the festival in the fourth and fifth years of the festival and in the hardest security situation of the country which was in 1389.
Sharif: what did he insist on?
Shalileh: he insisted on gaining license for holding the festival. If he didn’t sign, we couldn’t gold the festival because authorities said that web space avatar had become real people and businessmen. Yes, he has problems with a part internet and using it but he has supported this festival.
Olfat Nasab: why shouldn’t such a person come to the festival and speak on the podium?
Sharif: I mean that Web Festival should not become the podium for these people. Because Web Festival has the credit of private sector, credit of those who are active in web space and they have worked hard in this space and thought freely and they aren’t dependent on any organization or special institution or the government.
Shalileh: we can’t talk about this topic with certainty. This person gave a speech in the fourth year and the audience didn’t listen to him but last year they gave him a applause.
Sharif: the audience did so last year because he talked against a movement that was against web space. I want to mention that in issue is not good for Web Festival that brings people who don’t talk in favor of the ecosystem. Even they have issued license at hard times. In fact it was his duty to do so.
Shalileh: I live in Iran with all its special situations. Thus I can say that this person could give no support and issue no license.
Olfat Nasab: I believe that Web Festival and Iran Mobile should reflect the opposite voice as well. There are institutions that put the festival in a special category and even in a meeting I was told to remove the word “Iran” because you belong to a special category and don’t cover Iran as a whole. I think compliant and opposite dialogues should exist otherwise it would lead to ShabNameh. I have talked to opponents many times and the result was positive. I think we shouldn’t limit the festival to special people.
Sharif: I don’t consider it a limitation. You should use special people in the festival. For example in conference section you can invite good experts.
Shalileh: the critics you have raised, were raised in the fourth year of Web Festival as well but by bloggers and journalists because they said that filtering is under the control of this person. But businessmen and those whose business would be ruined b filtering, thanked us and was happy.
Sharif: so invite Shabnameh to Web Festival.
Shalileh: I would be so happy if they come and see that we are not aliens but they don’t come. One of my offers was that we publish Shabnameh in the festival. Why is Shabnameh criticized only at Basij bases? Why shouldn’t they be present in Web Festival and why shouldn’t we listen to each other?
Sharif: I agree that it should be published and criticized.
Shalileh: they should be present as well.
Sharif: I agree with dialogue but I say we should use famous people during the limited time of the festival.
Shalileh: they are famous.
Sharif: when you bring famous people to the festival who are against internet, you transfer this message to the audience that you want to make credit for the festival with these people.
Olfat Nasab: we are all Iranians and all have the right to talk. Thus we should put filters for people presence. When we talk to them and for example say we put a banner for the demise of a religious person in an event, they don’t believe. They believe that they made a mistake that they have made and criticized themselves. They also believe that they should talk to each other.

Mr. Olfat Nasab, is the association committed to follow selected businesses after the festival or support them with the help of public organizations?

Olfat Nasab: of course. Last year we talked to E-Commerce Development Center so that each person who wins at the festival, can get symbol of trust more quickly. We solve the problems of this field as much as we can and for example help them in the path of becoming knowledge-based.
Shalileh: the biggest help from the government in these years was no to interfere. Just in the sixth year, Ministry of Culture gave us financial help. We don’t want public help. I believe that we should stay 100% independent. We haven’t had permanent secretariat so far because we had no money but we believe that we should act independently.
Hashemi: many people say the festival site is not interactive; that is the site that judges, doesn’t allow people to provide comments and judge or there are many problems in the site.
Shalileh: we know that this site has problems and if people see 30 bugs in it we see 300 bugs. But no one comes to help us for example to upgrade the site.

I wish I could participate

Iran Web and Mobile festival has put two awards, one is given by the judges and the other by people, thus it is more exposed to critics from people than any other festivals or events. The audience of this festival are young people who know mobile and web, therefore they don’t just give comments like It’s good, I like it, great, I wish I could participate and … They have significant critics about this festival as well. Some say it’s bad or I don’t like it without telling the reason. Some other are very satisfied but they don’t tell us why.
But there are people who give important notes to which conductors of the festival can pay attention. One of the users named Vahid has written to us that the number of votes is not clear. We don’t know the number of votes for a person and thus we don’t say a thing. This can increase the transparency of this festival in the next years. Some other users have mentioned to this point so this is one of the main problems. Another user has written that it was better to provide a better categorization and more complete descriptions about functions of the site.
Another user named Sam has recommended considering an award for voters and he said that he didn’t vote because there was no award. Another person says: when the mechanism of public votes is not clear, no website knows its stance until last minutes and it is very simple to generate fake votes with cheating and coding and become the first. Another user asks for holding more festival in the field of mobile so that people awareness about the quality of mobiles increases.

Web and software festival

From 1387 until now, 8 rounds of this festival have been held. This festival is founded by Iran Websites News Station (Webna) and Shayan Shalileh. Iran Web Festival is being held by Iran Internet Businesses Trade association from the seventh round and ninth round of Iran Web and Mobile Festival will be held by this association and with the help of Digital Media Center of Ministry of Islamic Culture. Iran Mobile Software Festival is a festival for choosing the best Persian mobile software. From 1391 up to now, four rounds of this festival have been held. This festival is founded by Milad EhramPoush and Mohsen Barati. Iran Mobile Festival was integrated with Iran Web Festival from the seventh round and these two festivals have continued their mission under the brand of Iran Web and Mobile Festival.
Judgments

The way of judgment in Web Festival is as follows: each part has two winners; one is selected by expert judges and the other by people. All these years there were objections and critics regarding the way of judgment and in many cased the winners selected by judges and people were not the same. In general, Iran Web Festival judgment is done in five stages; 1. Work registration committee 2. Initial judgment 3. Introducing candidates 4. Public voting 5. Announcing the winners. Iran Web Festival judges examine the sites that have been selected in the stage of initial judgment in terms of content, structure, visual design, function, interaction, general experience and score them. The website that has the highest score would be introduced as the jury’s choice. Judgment in the section of mobile software is based on parameters like functionality, user experience, content, creativity and programming and based on these parameters best softwares of the year are selected. The number of judges has increased from the first round of this festival. At the first festival we had 25 judges. This number has increased in the second and third rounds to 30 and 35 respectively. Sites of the fourth round were selected by 77 judges and in the fifth round, 146 judges chose the sites. In addition to jury’s choices, all registered sites and softwares participate in the public section of Iran Web and Mobile festival. In this section, the award is given to the site or software that has got the highest votes from users.

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