My personal opinion and sadness at the demise of the once great social forums provided by Qatar Living.

I have a lot to be grateful to Qatar Living for. It was a significant part of my first years here in Qatar. It gave me a social life/circle, it gave me important local information unavailable anywhere else and kept me cheerful throughout the day, every day.

Yes I was addicted to it was the first thing I checked when I woke up, it was the last thing I checked before bed, and every moment of downtime in work involved me checking QL for the latest news and social updates. There were social meetups, coffee, BBQ, Halloween Parties etc. As someone coming to Qatar on my own QL made my life so much better here.

Now the social forum side of QL is dead. There is tumbleweed blowing down it’s virtual streets, and all the buildings once occupied by users are abandoned.

Whenever I return to visit QL it makes me sad. Where are all those great personalities that inspired me, made me laugh and gave me something to think about. Yes sometimes it made me angry, but hey that’s life. I could rattle off the usernames of all my QL favorites but they know who they are.

I went and had a rant at some poor unsuspecting QL employee that was staffing their stand at QITCOM 2014. He was new to the company and thus had no idea of how mighty QL once was. It was an interesting verbal exchange that ended with me conceding one or two points. Yes QL is a business and needs to produce revenue, yes perhaps QL is still the No 1 site for classified advertising, yes they are working hard to regain traction. But I think I managed to make him see how disappointed I was that someone in power at QL, had managed by choice or bad decisions, in my opinion killed off it’s social side. And I will never forgive whoever that was for allowing this to happen.

People living in Qatar, coming to work here, or thinking of coming to work here, turned to QL for help and advice more than any other resource online or otherwise. You could ask any question and once you pushed aside a couple of idiots who’s replies were less than useful, you got your answer. And not just an answer but an opportunity to enter into conversation for clarification.

QL was in theory staffed by hundreds of willing volunteer forum users, scanning it’s forums for something to comment on, answer a question or just have a laugh. Sure it needed a lot of policing by QL Moderators, but it worked and was worth the effort. All those willing users are now gone. And I miss them 🙁  Now who will give all that valuable assistance on a one to one basis that they did.

Within days of coming to Qatar I was introduced to the great Khalifa Saleh Haroon. The founder and mastermind behind ILQ (I Love Qatar dot Net)
Khalifa had a different vision for ILQ than that of QL. His website had a social section, but it’s strength was, and still is today, it’s massive and up to date event/activities listings along with Khalifa’s influential input and comment. It has grown and evolved from one man’s vision to a powerhouse of staff developing more and more online content. ILQ Radio, ILQ on YouTube and ILQ everywhere you look. But it’s social forums section never gained the traction of QL. I’m sure if asked Khalifa would say social forums was never his focus, and it was QL’s forums that I was drawn to. ILQ evolved and conquered and now is one of my major sources of information.

On May 28th 2012 there was one of Qatar’s most serious and sad tragedies. The Villaggio Fire. And for the first time I became aware of Doha News. They were reporting more comprehensively on the tragedy than any other resource I could find. They asked if they could use some of my images taken on the day, and I willingly gave them access. They had something different to other Qatar online resources, professional staff journalists. And from that day on, I, and indeed every expat I know here in Qatar, turned to them for quality local news that once upon a time I accessed QL for.

ILQ was giving me event and resources listings better than any other online resource, Doha News was giving me invaluable, timely local news updates and QL’s social forums were suffering a slow painful demise. One by one I was watching QL users drop off, and I like others was turning to other websites for information. My allegiance was switching.

When I arrived in Qatar 5 years ago, QL were masters of the universe here. For several years following they continued to be so. But once their social forums began to fall apart my visits became less and less. Now I only visit QL once or twice a month, whereas there was a time when I would literally visit 100’s of times a day. Where as I could mention QL to virtually anyone and they would know QL and would at one point or another have used it, now most don’t know it exists. I was proud to be a contributor on QL, to be associated with it and now I get a blank stare from those I mention it to.

Where once there was only QL for me, now there is Doha News, I Love Qatar and Twitter. The great days of Qatar Living have gone for me, and I can’t ever see them coming back. The brew of people and talent that were users of QL’s social forums at a time when there was nothing else made an online giant. A perfect time, place and circumstances that I don’t believe can ever be reproduced at any price.

Could QL be the equivalent of the mobile phones Nokia story? Did they fail to evolve and take advantage of their powerful position while they could? I believe they could still be getting lots of use, I believe their classified section is still unmatched, and I believe they are trying hard to provide the same type of information as ILQ and Doha News that once they led the field in. They may even still attract the most hits per day here in Qatar. But my opinion is that they missed the boat. They may be producing more revenue than before, they may have a better business model than before and they may (as they claim) continue (if they still are) to be Qatar’s No 1 website. But they lost me.

Well done I Love Qatar, well done Doha News, well done Twitter and from me, bye bye Qatar Living. Thank you so much for all that you gave me, but without your social forums I have no more use for you. I can get better elsewhere.