Dot BG

From 2002-2004 I wrote a column called DOT BG in the Sofia Echo, here they are:

Web spreads in Bulgaria

Thu, Aug 22 2002 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 180 Views
WHEN I arrived in Bulgaria some four years ago, I discovered a country with little or no internet culture. That came as a great surprise to me, considering the fact that my mission was to employ world-class Bulgarian programmers whom I had contacted using that very same medium. Indeed, except for some exceptions, only programmers and other internet entrepreneurs had even an email address on their business cards.

Internet users were mainly students who crowded the internet cafe’s browsing the web, and contacting each other and the outside world through chat programmes such as Web Messenger and ICQ. For many others the only way to have these pleasures was to use internet at work, although few companies had even a dial-up account.

Most Bulgarian internet usage was for the purpose of communication, especially personal.

It was no surprise that few businesses had plans to develop a web site, even the Government had little or no online info.

It feels like a century has passed since my first visit. Today it seems as if the `cyber revolution’ has taken over the country. In between the banners of Beers and Mobiles, we even discover small www.levski.bg and www.cska.bg banners. The Government invested a little money in what looks like a beginning to online information on their www.government.bg site.

Regrettably, most web sites here start with little vision, and very modest budgets, and therefore tend to be produced by web development companies offering the lowest bid. The sad reality of this trend is, that this prohibits the elite of the Bulgarian IT companies to work on domestic projects. Most companies involved in the local market are of a temporary nature, operated and staffed by people who have one eye on the keyboard and one eye on emigration.

The good news is that there are some companies and organisations in Bulgaria who are bucking this trend. Many companies, embassies, NGO’s, and even our very own www.sofiaecho.com have created a professional web-presence.

Web sites of NGO’s such as Beautiful Bulgaria and the Institute for Sustainable Communities are good examples of the new trend in local web sites.

But it is not just the design and the functionalities of a web site that makes it good, bad or ugly.

Text translations for multi-lingual web sites are often greater challenges then originally foreseen. Often a professional translator is employed to translate the original text, but the translations of news items, and other updates tend to be done by others.

Many web sites suffer from the non-update syndrome, especially in the other languages. As a result several sites are now only available in Bulgarian, and some Western orientated sites only in English.

To make the world find a web site in Search Engines such as www.google.com and www.yahoo.com requires `optimisation’ of the site. This involves the writing of text, both visible and invisible, that these Search Engines will read when their software (Spiders) visit your website. These texts are a combination of the Know-How that you have about your industry, and tests performed by the web-development company in terms of relevance to Internet users.

Although Key Words such as SEX, GIRLS, GIRLFRIEND and LOLITA will increase the amount of visitors to your site, these visits will not be from people who are interested in your NGO, bank or embassy… (At least we hope not!)

Many Bulgarian based sites suffer from lack of Web-Marketing, mainly due to lack of budget and planning. Another reason is, that few Bulgarian IT companies employ marketing orientated staff.

Sites with .bg names are less likely to be searched for then .com. It is advisable to own both: http://www.mycompany.bg and http://www.my-company-bulgaria.com. It makes sense to host the .bg for the Bulgarian market in Bulgaria, and .com for the international market outside of Bulgaria.

It will be my pleasure in coming weeks to inform you about the great mystery that is the Cyber Empire. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg.

Netting romance

Thu, Sep 12 2002 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 220 Views
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After a day of running around my office trying to deal with a major virus attack on our system (we won!!!) and trying to get warranty service on my broken brand new GSM (Germanos/Siemens are ahead on points), I was contemplating to write a useful item on the merits of anger control management and regular breathing.

Instead, I have decided to help you through the jungle of online dating, especially in Bulgaria.

Only last week a client of mine, a Brit in his early thirties, told me that every time he travels anywhere in the world he arranges a date using www.adultfriendfinder.com. He told me that he has rarely been disappointed with his new friends. He found it a refreshing experience, especially in Eastern Europe, to arrange dates with professionals, rather then to meet the usual bar flies or professional girl friends.

Visiting this site, you will find a fast, professional website with some 2 000+ listing from Bulgaria. The ratio men versus women is 10:1 so the liberated ladies amongst you will do a lot better than your male counterparts! Funnily enough in their www.friendfinder.com version, which omits the adult factor, you will find a more balanced ratio of 1 000 listings each way. Both sites also offer man2man and woman2woman selections. You will need to complete a free registration form, and you will be offered paid status upgrades once you have started using the site. The sites have all the obvious functionalities such as pictures and profiles, but also include voice messages, and special email accounts.

You will find an abundance of `Love from Bulgaria’ sites when you go to www.dirbg.com and search with the word `dating’. Many sites are multi-lingual, although the most visited site www.bgdate.com is only available in Bulgarian. The site is well designed, so with a good dictionary you should go a long way.

www.ICQ.com is a very popular medium in Bulgaria. ICQ is widely used by people of all ages, both for professional and personal use. Another expat friend of mine uses ICQ regularly to date in Sofia. His advice is to be as direct as possible when making new friends. Give out very little info about your identity until you are absolutely convinced that you really want to meet this person. Many over-eager ladies seem to make a habit of harassing foreigners by ICQ. Beside ICQ you may also want to check out the ever popular: www.yahoo.com, www.bulgaria.com/chat/ and www.chat.bg.

If you are actually looking for a mate for life, there are many local online marriage agencies. www.velida.net has an easy to use website, a lot of hearts in the design, and they even offer a 10 day free trial membership. The pictures in the photo gallery made me realise that I am a very lucky happily married man!!! www.bulgarianwife.com speaks for itself, a very loud and scary website, loads of hearts and flags, but the ladies look very friendly. And then there is www.allianceagency.com whose slogan is: “International dating with the highest ethical and moral standards”

In addition to these sites for those with straightforward tastes, there are alternatives for those who seek sexual variety. www.bulgayria.com is a very professional English language gay portal. It not only looks after the dating, but offers a Club Guide, Instant Messaging, and a variety of other useful tips for the gay community. The website already boasts over 4 000 registered users. You may also want to look at http://bgmen.gaytaboo.com/eng/.

For the swingers amongst you there is http://free.bol.bg/bgswingers. The site is available in English and Bulgarian and offers chat, pictures, and loads of info and links about “lifestyle”.

And once you have come to the realisation that a date is more than just a date, and you want to keep her or him forever and ever….. visit http://bulgaria.domino.bg/pernik/fir-mi/obred/ for a well organised wedding in Pernik. I hope that you will take advantage of the 4 tokens “for buying white goods at a reduced price” offered on the bottom of the page.

If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg. As always, keep smiling. WEBFACTORY.BG.

Dot.bg

Googling for BG tourism

Thu, Oct 03 2002 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 199 Views
IT seemed a good idea to check online what the Lords of Cyber are currently offering as far as tourism in this beautiful country is concerned. Well… I have absolutely no idea where to start, other then to say that I am puzzled by the lack of online direction given by the Bulgarian travel industry. I decided to start with web sites that would get me here.

There are no web sites for either Balkan Airlines or Hemus Air. At least not in the search engines I use. (www.google.com etc.) After this I presumed (mmmm yes I know, never presume anything!), that the Bulgarian Government would help me along the way. At www.government.bg I was stopped short since there is no reference to tourism anywhere on the web site, even the internal search tool was no use, after trying the words `tourism’, `airline’ and `holiday’, I gave up. I started to wonder if the Bulgarian State has gone offline in terms of tourism.

After giving it another shot by searching in www.google.com for: “Bulgaria ministry tourism”, the Ministry of Economy popped up! Yes indeed, Nikolay Vassilev’s answer to all that is business in Bulgaria also has a button to Tourism. Just one little snag, you first have to know that it is there, secondly you have to click the American flag and expect the English language, and then you will be taken to a selection of some serious looking topics. My choice was Tourism Types, and since there was only some general info about `Seaside’ and `Skiing Tourism’, my choice became `Balneology tourism’.

After clicking on a link, I was whizzed over to an inside page of a web site called www.bulgariatravel.org. This site is allegedly owned by the `National Information and Advertising Centre’, and it can definitely win the prize for the least attractive tourism site of the year. It even has a picture somewhere of a wobbling Boeing 747 with an American flag on the tail. It gave me the 9/11 shivers all over again.

Some of the better web sites I found for `getting here’, are: www.ebookers.com – this site offers great airline and package holiday deals from many European countries, www.traveljungle.com and www.traveljungle.de offer selections of airfares from the USA and Germany. www.asfa.net offers discounted airfares from all over the world.

I searched further and found a good selection of private tourism web sites in Bulgaria that offer info, maps, and a wide variety of destinations.

I particularly liked www.bulgaria-tourism.com, they display an excellent selection of summer and winter tourism. Also worth visiting are: www.lidiatours.com, an excellent all-round website,

The ultimate Bulgarian winter-sport website must be www.bulgariaski.com it is a fresh looking, professional web site with loads of info on all the resorts. They are taking bookings online, using an email form. My compliments folks, job well done!!!

Extreme sports enthusiasts can find loads of info at: www.paragliding-bulgaria.com, an old fashioned site that looks like its been around for a while deals with Kayaking in Stara Zagora: http://arzus.dir.bg/english/index.htm. Also look at www.lidiatours.com/mountain.html for fun in the mountains without the snow.

Hunting and fishing are offered by: http://www.goldensands.bg/hunting/index.asp and http://www.travel-bulgaria.com/balkanairtour/hunting/hunting.html. It’s not my thing, so I refrain from comment.

The major tourist resorts have their own sites; www.albena.com is an excellent site listing all their properties, loads of info, tips, and screensavers. Excellent site! And then there is www.goldensands.com this site offers all they have in a very basic fashion, the site is very slow.

www.sofiahotels.com covers the most important hotels in the capital. They even offer soccer packages for Levski and CSKA. Nice site!

Car hire is offered by: www.avis.bg, www.hertz.bg, and www.tsrentacar.com

For out-bound travel the best sites I found were: www.Alexandertour.com and www.polytours.com.

Don’t forget to visit http://bb3.beautifulbulgaria.com for an update on their tourism projects.

After all this I am on my way to www.st-maarten.com and will be back on 13 October. Keep smiling!

If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactory.bg.

Alternative news

Thu, Oct 17 2002 14:00 CET byKoos Jan Schouten 117 Views
Dot.bg 
ALTHOUGH it is not my intention to turn this column into a political platform, it seems appropriate to share with you some of the alternative news media available on the Internet. Yes, there are alternatives to CNN.COM and BBC.CO.UK. There are many websites expressing opposing views by the different parties involved in the major conflicts in the Middle East.

Many of the Arab Language websites are also available in English, and there is a vast selection of websites dealing with war and oppression issues across the globe.

One of the main websites in the Arab World is ARAB NEWS.COM, an excellent Saudi based English language site. The site is middle-of-the-road, although with strong pro-Palestinian sentiments.

Another professional site covering all the Arabic States is: MIDDLE EAST WIRE.COM and also: ASIAN TIMES.COM is a quality Internet-only publication that reports and examines geopolitical, political, economic and business issues.

MEMRI.ORG is the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute, exploring the Middle East through the region’s media. MEMRI bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media, as well as original analyses of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends. Founded in February 1998 to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organisation. Its headquarters is located in Washington DC with branch offices in Berlin, London, and Jerusalem, where MEMRI also maintains its Media Centre. MEMRI research is translated into English, German, Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish, Turkish, and Russian.

In Israel I found: HAARETZ DAILY.COM, a site which impressed me in both style and content, with very open news gathering and excellent editorials. The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism is an invaluable source of information originating in Israel: ICT.ORG.IL

WAAQIAH.COM reports on Muslim events around the world. It describes itself as: “a humble contribution to the Muslim Ummah relaying the latest news events and happenings from around the Muslim World, and in general how the daily waaqiahs (events) have an effect upon the Muslim Ummah, with truthful information and news to keep Muslims informed without the propaganda and misinformation being disseminated by the enemies of Islam.” KHILAFA.COM is similarly based on religious views: “We endeavour to provide a news service which provides factual and reliable information related to the situation of this ummah, the treachery of her rulers and the failure of western civilisation to tackle the manifest problems the world is currently facing.”

A must visit is JEHAD.NET and you may find the translator functionality of JAH-EEB.COM useful. JIHADUNSPUN.NET offers a comprehensive insight into Jihad. It explains: “Jihad Unspun is an open information source dedicated to understanding the issues behind the US war on “terrorism”. We publish mainstream and uncensored news, articles, and opinions without influence of any government, corporation, or association.”

The views of Libya can be read in JAMAHIRIYANEWS.COM

Iraq has few websites defending its issues. Up-to-date info from the Iraqi government can be found in: IRAQ2000.COM, URU-LINK.NET and specifically the site of INA – Iraqi News Agency. Iraqi TV is online (when the American software is working) on IRAQTV.WS.

COVERTACTION.ORG and MATHABA.NET bring a different perspective to a variety of issues concerning Africa, the Middle East, and the World.

KAVKAZ.ORG Kavkaz-Center is the Chechen independent international Islamic Internet agency. I came across a heart-warming story of love and humanity in this crazy muddle of politics and religion. It’s about a young couple in Chechnia.

If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: WEBFACTORY.BG.

Web marketing 101

Thu, Nov 07 2002 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 109 Views

Football in the net

Thu, Dec 05 2002 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 1041 Views
ALTHOUGH for most of us a diet of 50 channels or so on the local cable TV plus all the SkySport one can handle in JJMurphy’s Irish Pub must be enough; there are still some who use the web for more detailed information.

There is a variety of web sites available both in and out of Bulgaria to follow your favourite sport.

Soccer, being the most watched sport in Europe, is well represented. In Bulgaria most of the main clubs offer their statistics online. The quality of the design is often of a poor in comparison to their western counterparts, which comes as a surprise in this paradise of web-development. www.levski.bg has a web site with an excellent club database, but it does need some serious graphic attention. It offers a language choice, and is easy to navigate. www.cska.bg also offers BG/UK language choice, a good design, and several other items that you expect to see in a professional website. I especially liked the multilingual Forum. Litex has a very basic site: www.fclitex-lovech.bg designed in their usual orange, which always warms the heart of this Dutchman. The site is rarely updated, and when I looked it was eight weeks behind on the games played. This is a trend you will see throughout the sport web sites in Bulgaria.

An exception is the site of www.bulgarian-football.com, which is BG/UK, easy to use and up-to-date.

UEFA has a site at http://www.uefa.com that covers not only the results of the different European Competitions, but also updates you on all the national leagues in Europe as well. Bulgaria’s page is: http://www.uefa.com/footballcentral/directory/country=BUL/Association=20/index.html.

Other very good international sites for soccer are: www.fifa.com, www.soccerbase.com, www.eufo.de, www.soccerstats.com and www.livegoal.net.

Several individual European clubs have excellent sites, and it seems at the moment that you can judge a club’s quality by its web site. If you accuse me of bias towards the ‘Sons of the Gods’ from Amsterdam, I will not deny it. But putting that aside, their website is second to none: www.ajax.nl. The English version should be live before Christmas.

The boys at Arsenal produced another excellent web site at www.arsenal.com. Just like most European top clubs, Arsenal changes its web site every season. Manchester United can be found at www.manutd.com. The site is very red and heavy with a lot of graphics.

I expected a lot more class from www.juventus.it. It’s a good portal in four languages, but I was hoping for a classier design. The site of AC Milan was even scarier, www.acmilan.it.it has no style at all. The Inter site is blue at www.inter.it.

In Spain, Real Madrid is even advertising its site on their shirts. Not a bad site, with three languages English, Spanish and Japanese, but not great either. It’s just another portal.

Now if you want to see a really cool site visit www.fcbarcelona.com. The site is well designed; loads of content, portal capabilities and the logos are not too loud. The site is a pleasure to visit, and not just because it shows three Dutch players on the Welcome Page.

Besides the usual statistics of the clubs and the games I found several sites covering SEX, DRUGS and ROCK ‘N ROLL relating to the game with the round ball.

The British Council has a site called www.footballculture.net and a must read article is Sex and the Man’s Game. This can be found at: www.footballculture.net/players/feat_sex.html.

www.salon.com offers some insight for American readers about just how sexy this sport is: www.salon.com/sex/turn_on/ 2002/05/30/soccer/

I will leave you with http://www.footballjokes.co.uk/anagrams. I must admit that, without this site, I would never have worked out Alex Ferguson = Sex organ fuel or Teddy Sheringham = He’d shag dirty men.

You can find a digital copy of this article on www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactory.bg.

Providing the answers
Thu, Jan 23 2003 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 170 Views
ONE of them most frequently asked questions for anyone involved with IT in Bulgaria is: “Which is the best internet provider?”

It’s difficult to make that determination since it has a lot to do with your requirements.

I have tried to make a comparison of the seven main Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the Bulgarian Market.

They are: BiaNet, Bitex, Bol.bg, Mobisurf, Orbitel, SpectrumNet and Techno-link.

The comparison was made in terms of:

1.ISP PoP’s – comparison by dial-up point of presence.

2.Dial-up subscription services – price comparison of “Dial-up subscription services”.

3.Prepaid services.

ISP PoP’s – comparison by dial-up point of presence

The two leaders as far as presence is concerned are Orbitel with 23 locations and Mobisurf with 22.

Techno-link and SpectrumNet both have 16, Bol.bg 14, BiaNet 11 and Bitex only eight.

Dial-up subscription services – price comparison

Because the ISP’s offer a wide range of subscription packages, the comparison is based on a subscription of 60 hours.

The best deals I found were the regular dial-up service of Mobisurf, and the ISDN services of Mobisurf and BiaNet.

Prepaid service

In the jungle of prepaid cards ‘Confusion.BG’ is definitely king. All the ISPs offer differently priced cards for differing lengths of time.

There are two kinds of cards, for local access only (cheaper) and for national use.

In the local access category I found the best value for money was the 156-hour BiaNet card for 40 leva (0.26 leva/hour). Bol.bg came a close second with their 69-hour card for 20 leva (0.29 leva/hour) and Mobisurf with a 60-hour card for 20 leva (0.33 leva/hour). The smaller cards ranged from 0.38 leva/hour (Mobisurf and BiaNet) to 0.90 leva/hour with the Techno-link 5-hour card at 4.50 leva.

Fewer companies compete in the national access class, and the best deal by far is the 100-hour Orbitel card for 50 leva (0.50 leva/hour). The most expensive national access card is the 3.5-hour/5.00 leva BiaNet card. (1.43 leva/hour), this is surprising, since they are such good value in the local access market. (see table below)

The argument for ‘the best deal’ is by no means just settled on price comparison, quality of service is of course a major issue. As I have not experienced all the different services myself, I held a small survey amongst a selection of my friends.

The dial-up service and line quality of Mobisurf and Orbitel got the highest praise. My staff rated Mobisurf and Orbitel the highest for overall technical capabilities (whatever that means), and out of the 30 individuals I questioned, 12 voted for Mobisurf and eight for Orbitel.

I heard a lot of complaints about smaller companies that are not quoted here since they are sub-sellers and obviously oversell. The main complaint was no access on the dial-up number.

An alternative to the traditional dial-up and ISDN services is Cable TV. Like ISDN there are set-up costs involved in terms of a more expensive modem (around 200 leva).

The average price per month for unlimited use is 99 leva for home use, which can be reduced to 79 leva with a year’s contract. There are cheaper packages available with restricted use. Most cable TV companies now offer internet services, but since the cable companies only cover certain areas, it is difficult to make a comparison.

I have been using cable TV internet with mixed results for the past few months for my company. The price is about 80 per cent less then what I used to pay BTC for my leased line with unlimited service to my ISP, but my downtime has increased quite a bit as well.

I will write a separate article on leased lines, Cable and other alternative services in the near future.

You can find a digital copy of this article at www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg.

 
 
Netting a job
Thu, Feb 13 2003 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 1696 Views 1 Comment
In the past few weeks I have been contacted by several foreigners who are looking for a job in Bulgaria. Some because their existing contracts finished and they would like to stay, and some because they followed a loved one across the border. Prior to starting Webfactory I was involved in recruitment, so I decided to approach this issue through the web.

There are several useful recruitment websites in Bulgaria. For IT jobs there is www.itjobs.bg. This site is bi-lingual, professional and there are loads of job listings in all sectors of the industry. It’s also a site to consider when you are looking for new staff.

http://www.bulgaria.com/jobs/ offers a variety of general jobs in Bulgaria, one that stood out was a listing for a sales and marketing director for an international hotel.

Then there is www.jobtiger.bg an excellent bi-lingual site with a host of opportunities. It’s easy to use, and very fast.

http://jobs.dir.bg/ is strictly Bulgarian, but that should be no problem if you think you can hold a job in this highly competitive labour market. For Varna have a look at: www.zenyt.com.

The international site Expat Index has a Bulgarian page, although all the listings are sites from abroad, there are several job listings for inside Bulgaria – www.expatindex.com/sofia-expat-jobs-bulgaria.asp.

Other international sites that have occasional listings for Bulgaria are: www.jobs.escapeartist.com, www.cyberking-employment.com, www.medhunter.com, www.mandy.com (Film Industry), www. findlaw.com, www.assortis.com, www.jobuniverse.com and www.golbalvis.com.

I noticed that several financial institutions have job pages such as: www.raiffeisen.bg/en/jobs.html.

Almost all the digital newspapers like www.sofiaecho.com have classifieds where you can offer your services.

In general I found the pickings very slim, and it seems to me that if you have a marketable profession, you should use the old fashioned pick-up-the-phone and send a CV system.

One should be aware that many Bulgarians are over-qualified for the jobs they are doing. In the current employment market a secretary must have at least one degree, and a marketing director possibly more, and of course influential friends.

Many under-qualified foreigners think they can just come over and walk in because they are ‘cool’ and this country can really use their expertise, only to find out that Bulgarians have already figured out how to walk into a McDonald’s and buy a Mac, and even worse, they’ve figured out how to use credit cards too.

In all seriousness, the Cyber World didn’t answer any question that the Real World didn’t already answer. This country welcomes real experts, usually sent by foreign governments and Non-Governmental Organisations. If you are one of these experts, then this is the route to follow.

You can find a digital copy of this article on www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactory.bg.

 
 

Dot BG

Thu, Mar 06 2003 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 103 Views
EVERY time people ask me what I think about Bulgaria, or what it is like to live in Bulgaria, I seem to answer differently. It entirely depends on the way I think the person perceives the question.

So instead of once again voicing my over valued opinion, I decided to give you some links of what the great big bad world thinks about the country of my choice.

There are an amazing amount of country reports written about Bulgaria. Some make you think that they were written by the Ministry of Public Relations and others by the Antichrist, although the latter seems to be more prevalent.

The BBC produced a country report that mentions the Roma and the Kozlodui power plant as the main ‘Sticking Points’ for Bulgaria’s failure to be included in the European Unions’ 2004 list – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1059735.stm.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) website http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/europe6.html makes for interesting reading on the topic of discrimination. HRW mentions not only the Roma, but also women, journalists and religious minorities as victims of abuse by state (police in particular) and society. In it’s 2002 report, Amnesty International adds ethnic Macedonians to the list of persecuted people in Bulgaria – http://web.amnesty.org/web/ ar2002.nsf/eur/Bulgaria. They also mention the extreme use of firearms by the police.

The European Union has a country report on Bulgaria at http://europa.eu.int/ comm/enlargement/bulgaria/ not surprisingly there is little to learn from this page; at least nothing controversial. The site is all about statistics, facts and links. It has a very useful library of links to many aspects of Bulgaria life. From the US Department of State comes an interesting report on religious freedom, which does have some surprising statements. “The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, however, the Government restricts this right in practice for some non-Orthodox religious groups. These restrictions are manifested primarily in a registration process that is selective, slow, and nontransparent. The Government prohibits the public practice of religion by groups that are not registered.” And also: “The US Government raised the issue of religious freedom repeatedly in contacts with government officials and members of parliament. The ambassador and other embassy officers periodically urged the Government to expedite registration of church groups. In one significant development, in early 2002 the Prime Minister directed that the Church of the Nazarene be registered. This decision culminated six years of efforts by the Church of the Nazarene, with US Embassy support, to achieve registration. Embassy officials have already engaged government officials and representatives of the country’s main religious communities on the three draft texts for a new law on religion.” The full story can be found at http://www.state.gov/g/ drl/rls/irf/2002/13925.htm

You can download the latest from the IMF at http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ cat/longres.cfm?sk=16339.0. It mentions that Bulgaria has continued to adhere to a framework centered on the currency board arrangement. (CBA) and also makes positive comments about the Government’s “Prudent and flexible fiscal policies”.

Many other reports can be found on the web. My search string for this mini report was http://www.google.com/search ?num=50&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&newwindow=1 &safe=off&q=bulgaria+country+report+2002

In addition to all this seriousness, I received an email with the following URL attached: http://tribal.abv.bg/gavra/ it’s partly in Bulgarian.

War reports online
Thu, Apr 03 2003 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 263 Views
AFTER watching the ‘made for TV’ war in Iraq for the last 12 days, desperately trying to digest the daily blur from ‘embedded’ journalists from behind and in front of the enemy lines in Iraq, I decided to hit the internet and get some diversified views from around the world. I decided not to comment on the content, as I do not think that it is prudent for me to express my personal opinions about the war in this column.

A high quality site to view is www.opendemocracy.com it describes itself as: “OpenDemocracy is a channel for knowledge, learning, participation and understanding that is not owned by a media corporation, does not serve a special interest and does not adhere to a single ideological position. With enough readers and members it will be a true arena for democratic change, for closing the distance between people and power, influencing global policy and will also be an enjoyable experience that shares knowledge across borders and differences.” It gives the views of the Iraqi on the street, the Kurds and many others. The site is very well laid out and easy to view.

Rating: design 3*, navigation 5*

www.unitedforpeace.org is a site that offers listings of news related to the anti-war effort, and lists sites of other organisations that oppose the Iraq War. It states in its ‘about us’ section: “United for Peace and Justice is a new national campaign that brings together a broad range of organisations throughout the United States to help co ordinate our work against a US war on Iraq.

Rating: design 2*, navigation 4*

Another choice is www.nonviolence.org similar in content to the previous one, but definitely not designed to please the eye. This was clearly made by a well-meaning amateur.

Rating: design 1*, navigation 2*

My personal favourite site in the Middle East is the Saudi based www.arabnews.com It is rofessional and well informed and has reporters inside Iraq. They tell us about themselves: “The First English Daily Newspaper in Saudi Arabia. Published simultaneously from Jeddah, Riyadh and Dhahran. In 1975 Saudi Research & Publishing Co. (SRPC) launched the first Saudi English-language daily newspaper, ArabNews. For more than a quarter of a century ArabNews has been breaking cultural barriers and unifying Arabs and non-Arabs alike in responding to their need for information. ArabNews has evolved successfully into the well respected, leading paper it is today.”

Rating: design 3*, navigation 4*

www.aljazeera.net is a fully Arabic website. But since pictures speak louder than words, this is the site to visit if you want to see the true horrors of war. www.aljazeera.net is not a terrorist news network, it is a serious Middle Eastern news provider.

Rating: design 2*, navigation 4*

Iraq has few websites defending its issues. Up-to-date info from the Iraqi government can be found at: www.iraq2000.com, www.uruklink.net and specifically the site of the INA – Iraqi News Agency – www.uruklink.net/iraqnews/eindex.htm The sites were all down when I tried to view them. This might have something to do with recent bombings.

I have been using a 1-5 rating system.

You can find a digital copy of this article on www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactory.bg

 
 
Easter surfing
Thu, Apr 17 2003 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 1179 Views
Bulgaria will celebrate Orthodox Easter on the 27th and 28th of April, and I thought it may be useful to direct you towards some websites with information on this mystical subject.

Most Bulgarians proclaim to be dedicated followers on the Orthodox Faith.

This includes most communists, mutri, and those neo-nazi fascist skinhead low life thugs that beat the hell out of my friend John Kabamba a few weeks ago.

Anyway, now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s have a look at some websites that can enlighten us.

The first place to visit is the website of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church http://bulch.tripod.com/boc/mainpage.htm. This site was built by volunteers and contains a wealth of information such as the history of the church, the different Holy Synods, and more.

The history page starts with: The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has its origin in the flourishing Christian communities and churches, set up in the Balkan Peninsula as early as the first centuries of the Christian era. The incursions of the Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians in the Balkan lands (sixth-seventh century CE) considerably damaged the ecclesiastical organisation and created difficulties for the mission of christianisation, but were not of a decisive significance for its further development. Byzantine writers testify to many contacts of the Eastern Empire with the new settler-Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians, as well as to the relations of the conquerors with the christianised native populations. The Christian religion infiltrated the population of Bulgarian Slavs (the ancestors of the Bulgarian people) as early as the sixth and seventh centuries CE. The continuous process of Christian influence gradually enfolded the Proto-Bulgarians, too (seventh-ninth centuries CE). The internal development and the international relations of the Slav-Bulgarian State (founded in 681CE) favoured the successful penetration of Christianity, which infiltrated even the Khan’s court (ninth century CE). The local population, the Bulgarian Slavs who had already adopted Christianity, the steady contacts with Byzantium, the exchange of prisoners of war, the use of the Greek language and other factors paved the way for the mission of christianisation in the First Bulgarian State. Pope Nicholas I was informed that as early as the beginning of the 860s “a great majority of Bulgarians were converted to Christianity”. After the adoption of the Christian faith by Prince Boris I (865 CE), Christianity became the official religion in the Bulgarian state. Joseph Genesius wrote that “elect high clerics were sent from Constantinople to Bulgaria to consolidate the Christian faith there”. The word of the Gospel yielded plenty of fruits.”

The site is a few years old, hosted on a freeserver with loads of junk pop-up advertisements. But still, in this case the content over rules some of the modern requirements of a professional website.

Rating: design **, navigation ****

www.b-info.com/places/Bulgaria/Easter/ is site that explains all about Bulgarian Easter. The site is also an older site, and part of a Bulgaria info page. The site needs urgent updating, but is well worth visiting.

Rating: design **, navigation ****

Another choice is www.plovdivcityguide.com/Sacred/easter.html similar in content to the previous one, and more recent.

Rating: design ***, navigation ***

I found on www.ocf.org/features/Easter Sermon.html the Easter Sermon of John Chrysostom (Pastor of Constantinople ~ 400CE) His intro:

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?

Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?

Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

I wish you all a loving Easter, especially John Kabamba. I hope he has recovered by the time this goes to print.

I am using a 1-5 rating system.

If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactory.bg

 
 
Dancing into cyberspace
Thu, May 22 2003 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 410 Views
It is that time of year again and I want to get out into Bulgaria’s beautiful countryside to celebrate the blessings of nature. This time of year I have to fight off overwhelming urges to look for celebrations in the open air, where like minded groups of individuals hold hands and dance through the valleys and frolic amidst the rose bushes.

Yes my friends it is time to address the digital realm of Bulgarian Folklore. I have found some fascinating websites about this subject, which I can’t wait to introduce to you.

The first place to visit is http://www.balkanfolk.com. This Bulgarian made, owned and operated site is so professional, it’s almost scary. Not only is there an up-to-date list of events, they offer T-Shirts, wallpaper for your website, ring tones for your mobile, and a real online shop! It even offers an affiliate program. The website is also the home for Balkan folk 2003, a genuine workshop for all that is Folk Culture. The workshop will be held from July 18-31 in Pamporovo. It is advertised as a practical seminar for Balkan folklore including Bulgarian, Serbian, Turkish and Greek folk dances; musical instruments – gaida, kaval, gadoulka, tamboura, tapan, tarambouka and accordion; Bulgarian folk singing, embroidery, cooking (traditional cuisine) and language folklore evenings.

Rating: design 4*, navigation 5*

http://bulgarianspace.com/bmg/article/folk_bnm_eng.htm is a well-written article about Bulgarian folk music. In addition you can also find links to other highlights of Bulgarian musical culture such as jazz and rock. The article writes covers the history and variations of Bulgarian folk. This page is well worth visiting.

Rating: design 2*, navigation 3*

Another choice is http://www.bgbooks.net /folk.html an online shop with an interesting selection of folk music and instruments.

Rating: design 1*, navigation 3*

http://www.balkan-shop.net/music.htm is more of the same, but with a slightly better design.

Rating: design 2*, navigation 3*

http://www.angelfire.com/folk/balkan/ “In this site you can find information about the Bulgarian folklore dance and music, interesting folk events in Bulgaria – concerts of orchestra, singers, folk dance groups and folk festivals.” This site is so ugly that I am not sure if I should show it to you or not. But it does have links and content that relates to our subject. But it desperately needs help, major help.

Rating: design 1*, navigation 2*

Finally I want to introduce you to http://bal kanarama.com. It is the digital home of Balkanarama. They describe themselves as: “A Seattle band that plays dance music from Bulgaria, Macedonia and surrounding countries, including many songs from the Roma (Gypsy) tradition. Our sound features sax, clarinet, violin, synthesiser, guitar, bass, drums and four vocalists. We’ve been together since 1997 and regularly perform around the Pacific Northwest. The site is very professional, with loads of info about the band, sound downloads, but also a variety of interesting links to subjects related to Bulgarian folk. I really had a good time surfing this site, and that doesn’t happen often… Simple but effective! Don’t forget to listen to one of their clips.

Rating: design 4*, navigation 5*

Other unrated sites you may want to visit:

http://www.folklorefest.com/Festival/eng_part/groups/mainBulgaria.htm

http://www.geocities.com/paulbourbin/sredets.html

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/stranja.html

http://www.radost.org/calendarpast.htm

Conclusion, beside www.balkanfolk.com and www.balkanarama.com there is not a lot quality out there. If I am wrong I will gladly stand corrected, and please send me an email with links to more and better sites on this wonderful subject.

I am using a 1-5 rating system.

If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactory.bg

 
 
Taking a critical view
Thu, Jun 19 2003 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 287 Views
IT is not often that I take issue with statements made by other columnists in this wonderful medium. This may surprise some of you, since I am well known for being a typical irritating-opinionated-Dutchman… But my friends, the wrath of the editor, and even worse, the public flogging and possible crucifixion by the publisher have stopped me up to now.

As a great fan of Rowan Atkinson I was surprised by the review of Pavel Ivanov in issue 23 of the Sofia Echo, and the two-star rating he gave Atkinsons’ new movie, Johnny English. I didn’t really have any time in recent weeks to see the movie, but when Pierce Brosnan told Parkinson last week on his BBC Show that he fell of his seat laughing, I had to go. And guess what, I enjoyed it as much as Brosnan and I gave the movie two thumbs up.

The enlightened among you may have figured out by now what this is leading to.

Yes, web sites about film critics.

First of all let’s visit the site of the Over Lords of Critique, that fearsome duo from Chicago, that can make or break a movie, Ebert & Roeper (Roeper replaced the late Siskel). They can be found on www.ebert-roeper-movies.com. The site is a true portal of entertainment, and you can listen to all the Ebert & Roeper reviews online. The site, owned by Disney Enterprises, is of average design, but very fast and easy to navigate.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHHH

Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper can also be found on the website of the Chicago Sun-Times http://www.suntimes.com/ index/ebert.html and http://www.suntimes. com/index/roeper.html

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critics/ is a portal for all that is Movieland. A well laid out web site with a wealth of information about what’s fresh and what’s rotten. The “critics” page features different opinion makers from across the USA and Canada. This page is well worth visiting.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHHH

Another choice is http://www.filmcritic.com like the other sites you can also buy and rent videos and DVDs. The site itself has almost no design which in this case is not un-attractive, but it seems to be a little behind on it’s reviews.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

www.ukcritic.com is more of the same, but with a great LINKS page. It is regularly updated, this week it features the Montreal Film Journal.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHHH

www.cinemaclock.com is a Canadian movie guide with loads of regional listings, and of course in English and French. Visitors are invited to vote, leave their opinions, and do total reviews. A really cool site.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHH

www.critics.com all there is to know about critics can be found on this site. Definitely one of my favourites. Check out the list of critics.

Rating: design HHHHH, navigation HHHHH

Not rated but worth visiting: www.movie-times.net, www.bbc.co.uk/films/film_2003/index.shtml (with Jona-than Ross), www.imdb.com (Internet Movie Database), www.goldderby.com (funny)

Conclusion, it truly is a jungle out there… But here in Bulgaria I found very little in terms of Critique. I looked at: http://kino.dir.bg, http://kino.gbg.bg and www.programata.bg. Nice sites, but none offered much more then listings, and some online shopping. There is definitely room for improvement. So although I didn’t see eye-to-eye with Pavel Ivanov last week, I am happy that there is a capable, yet lonely voice in the Bulgarian wilderness expressing his opinion about the Silver Screen.

I am using a 1-5 rating system.

If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dutch business

Thu, Jul 24 2003 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 146 Views
In 1615, Willem Cornelis Schouten sailed from Texel Island, Holland, in command of an expedition to find a new passage to the Pacific. By doing so he hoped to establish a trading route free from restrictions imposed by the Dutch East India Company.

Avoiding the Strait of Magellan he rounded the south coast of Africa a year later and named it Cape Horn, after his birthplace Hoorn. Heading north along the coast of New Ireland and New Guinea, he visited what became known as the Schouten Islands.

However, despite opening an unknown route, the East India Company claimed infringement of its monopoly. Schouten was arrested and his ship confiscated in Java, although he was later re-leased.

The Dutch East India Company was largely responsible for the wealth created by merchants during the Netherlands’ ‘Golden Age’. Largely uninterested in the culture or policies of those countries in which it operated, unless this effected their trade, the company dominated business in the region from 1602 until the late eighteen hundreds.

Much has changed since then. Today, Dutch trade is strongly focused on bilateral co-operation and Dutch corporate executives take serious consideration of the cultural and social climate in the countries with which they trade.

The Netherlands is a dominant player within those supra-national institutions that promote international trade and business links exist between Dutch companies and most countries on the planet. Names such as Philips, Heineken and Shell are known around the world, as are the great banks of the Netherlands such as ING and ABNAMRO. In Bulgaria many of these companies have their own offices or are represented by local companies.

Earlier this year an initiative was undertaken to create a networking platform for the Netherlands’ business community in Bulgaria. This aims to bring together all companies, agencies, governmental organisations and individuals involved in the commercial relationship between the Netherlands and Bulgaria. Today the Bulgarian-Netherlands Business Club (BDBC) has some 55 members and is growing every day.

Further ties between the countries will be encouraged through monthly social activities, usually in the form of sponsored presentations, joint charity projects and an interactive website http://www.bg-nl.com.

Currently the BDBC supports the activities of the charity ‘Aandacht Helpt’ (Atten-tion Helps), information about which can be found on the club’s website.

The website also enables businesses to register and be displayed online in its trade directory.

The BDBC has identified a number of Dutch companies based here with interests in recruiting Bulgarian nationals who have studied or worked in Holland. There are also a growing number of Dutch nationals who have emigrated to Bulgaria. A skills directory has been set up on the website to encourage these trends.

Although supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Sofia, and several Bulgarian state organisations, the BDBC is strictly independent and apolitical.

The Chairman of the BDBC is Koos Schouten of Webfactory (koos@webfactory.bg) and the Treasurer is William Smit of TMF Wil-liam (Smit@tmf-group.com).

Dot BG

Thu, Oct 09 2003 14:00 CET byKoos Schouten 93 Views
I HOPE that you have all recovered from your summer holidays and are back in our wonderful city.

The more experienced residents among you are no doubt out there shopping for winter boots, ice picks and kneepads, awaiting the winter season. The challenges of Sofia’s favourite sport “horizontal glacier sliding” are upon us.

I am sure that the possible change in the management of the pearl of the Balkans will make little or no difference, as the snow and frost always arrive on days that all responsible management are on the ski slopes.

Anyway, I decided to have a look at the web sites of cities around the world where I had the pleasure to reside; to see how the local gods (note the small ‘g’) use the internet for their communiques with the plebeians. My victims this week are Sofia, Amsterdam, London, San Diego, Calgary and Paris.

First of all let’s visit the site of Sofia Municipality http://www.sofia.bg. The site is an extensive information web site for Sofia. If you can read Bulgarian, you will find almost every contact you may possibly need. In English it is mainly a tourist and investment web site. This site is of little use to non-Bulgarian speaking residents. The design is very basic, but having in mind the purpose, which is to give information, this can be overlooked. http://www.sofia.com is not owned by the city, and it does not seems to be updated. Other good sites about Sofia are http://www.sofiaecho.com and http://www.sofiacityguide.com.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

http://www.amsterdam.nl is the website of my hometown. It is a portal for all that is Amsterdam. A well laid out web site with a wealth of information in Dutch and English. Although the information seems different for Dutch and English it is just laid out differently. The design is done in the red and black of Amsterdam with loads of pictures. Other sites that are a must for the visitor are: http://www.visitamsterdam.nl which is the Official Tourist board site. (Excellent) Also worth mentioning are: http://www.amsterdamhotspots.nl and http://www.amsterdam.bg.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHHH

The Greater London Authority can be found on: http://www.london.gov.uk. The site starts with the friendly face of the Ken Livingstone – The Mayor of London. It is nice to see that he takes personal responsibility for this site. The site deals with many operational issues such as waste collection and transportation. If there ever was a web site that needed multi-lingual facilities it is this one. The design is as boring as a local tax form. I had hoped for more. For more excitement please visit: http://www.londontown. com, http://www.timeout.com, http://www.londontouristboard.com and http://www.visitlondon.com.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHHH

http://www.sannet.gov is the digital home of San Diego California. This is a great example of how a municipal site should look and feel. There is so much info on this site, it’s amazing. The slogan of San Diego is: “The Most Efficiently Run Big City in California”. You can even pay your water bills online… No other languages, which is surprising for a city with so many Spanish speaking residents. Two Thumbs UP for this site. Other site to click on: http://www.sandiego.org, http://www.sandiegozoo.org and http://www.sandiegomag.com.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHHH

Although I didn’t really enjoy living in Calgary, I must admit that they put some serious effort into their portal. I really like the fact that they have a link to ‘dog licences’ on the front page. (Nadezhda this is the way to WIN!!!) Talking about digital government, these guys are ahead in the race. A very good site. The rest of Calgary can be found here: http://www.calgaryherald.com, http://www.calgarytower.com, http://www.calgary-stampede.com, http://www.calgaryfolkfest.com and http://www.calgarysun.com.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHHH

Last but not least we visit http://www.paris.fr in French and partly in English. Nice job, simple but fashionable design and loads of info. The site is easy to navigate and friendly although efficient in its delivery. Other site you may want to look at: http://www.paris.org, http://www.abcparislive.com and http://www.louvre.fr.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHHH

I am using a 1-5 rating system.

You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

And the winners are…
Thu, Oct 23 2003 14:00 CET byKoos Schouten 331 Views
FROM October 16 to 18, the fifteenth International Com-puter Art forum “Computer Space 2003″ was held in the National Palace of Culture. The forum was carried out under the patronage of President Georgi Purvanov.

The competition included five categories: computer graphics and digital photography, computer animation and digital video, computer and electronic music, offline multimedia and web design.

Web Design had five sub-categories: arts and culture, society and institutions, entertainment and hobby, technology and market and information and media.

There is not enough space in my column to discuss all the winners, but they can be found on http://www.computerspace.org. I will restrict myself to the Web Designs.

The winner of the category arts and culture was http://www.perperikon.bg created by Stayu Kasabov. The site has an excellent look and feel, and it aims to bring your right into the atmosphere of 2000 years ago. It is too bad that a much too obvious logo of ING Bank has to disrupt the illusion. A well deserved victory for Stayu! Runners up: 2. Dimitar Hristov- http://www.54ka. pimdesign.org 3. Svilen Dimchevski – http://fkeramika.hit.bg 4. Angel Vachev- http://www.imagess.org 5. Hristo Spasunin- http://www. designbyseal.com

Number one in the Society and Institutions category was the website of the Chitalishte Project http://www.chitalishte.bg. I would love to comment on this excellent production, but that would not be ethical since the brilliant Atanas Georgiev who works at my own company Webfactory Bulgaria made this. http://www.webfactorybulgaria.com. Instead I chose the Nr.2. http://www.minfin.bg this one looks like the fan club site of Milen Velchev. The site is well laid out, full of useful information about macroeconomic indicators and other stuff that I will never understand. All in all, a well done job by the State owned Information Services PLC.

Runners up: 3. Dimitar Tzankov – http://portfleet.outlinez.net 4. Stanislav Jordanov, Silvia Todorova – http:// http://www.vik-ruse.com 5. Silvia Todorova- http://www.ru.acad. bg

Entertainment and Hobby was rightfully conquered by the website of Jana Ivanova http://www.secretsbg.com. Jana created a very special site, with loads of interesting stuff. Job well done! Runners up: 2. Vladimir Vasilev- http://www. katrafm.com 3. Yavor Simeonov and Svetlozar Ivanov – http://www.absolutworld.com 4. Josif Iliev- http://e-jay.hit.bg 5. Petko Petkov – http://www.newfreshart.hit.bg

The honours for Information and Media went to Ivan Hristov and Anton Raijekov for an excellent production http://www.spuideguide.net. A professional portal for all that is broadband. The navigation is logical and the site does everything it should. Bravo colegi, I really enjoyed this one! Runners up: 2. Dimitar Slavov, Manol Rujinov, Stoyan Jovchev- http://weather.digsys.bg 3. Miah Morshed & Soma Ray – http://www.projectmiso.net 4. Silvia Todorova – http://www.fashion.bg 5. Yavor Furnadjiev, Ivajlo Ivanov- http://autoactual.com

Finally, Technology and Market went to http://ibd.antipodes.bg. Wow, I usually do not like Flash Sites, but this one is cool. Design your Bathroom Online by Yani Gjulev of Antipodes. Great idea and well implemented!!! Runners up: 2. Emilia Hristova – http://www.indigodesigners. com 3. Ivan Ivanov- http://www.karoll.net 4. Petar Dushanov – http://www.itjobs. bg 5. Aleksander Nikolov- http://www.bgStore.com

After viewing these sites, I am absolutely convinced that web development in Bulgaria is truly alive and kicking… I wish to offer my compliments to all the participants and winners. You are all getting better and better each year.

You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG

Mon, Nov 10 2003 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 98 Views
To help you all get ready for the many seasonal festivities ahead I have visited some food websites.

I was please to find such an incredible selection that I could have filled this entire page.

Most of the websites that I visited were either recommended, or I actually use myself to find recipes and tips.

I was pleasantly surprised when I asked my friends how many actually use the internet to create meals and special drinks.

The first site is a true food-lovers feast of a site: www.mangiarebene.net, an Italian recipe archive and cooking site. The culinary academy presents a host of recipes divided into categories. Food, Wine, History, Ingredients a true encyclopaedia of all that is Italian cooking.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHHThis is not a website about just apples and oranges. Find out more about soncoya, santoli and Salak. www.thefruitpages.com is an amazing foray into fruit – why you should eat it, how to eat it and what fruits are out there beyond apples, oranges and bananas. Nutritional facts and information help us understand the crucial role that fruit plays in our lives.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHHH

Then there is www.oportowines.com. The site enables you to buy wines online, but it also gives excellent info about the wines, the region, the history and a variety of dishes that accompany Port, with mouth-watering dishes and detailed

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

www.foodandwine.com is the website of Food & Wine Magazine. Excellent layout and loads of tips. I checked out the Fried Chicken and Thanks Giving tips. I put on several pounds just reading this excellent and efficient site.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHHH

The British Government created a website called www.foodfrombritain.com. Beside helping exporters and other traders, it really provides loads of information for the general public. Not much design, but then again it’s the government.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHHH

I found some excellent information and recipes for Bulgarian Food on the website of the Tangra Group. www.tangragroup.com. The site describes itself as: “Tangra was established in 1993 to preserve the Bulgarian food making traditions spanning more than one thousand years of experience. We are based in the Rhodope Mountains and the Valley of Thrace, in the southern part of Bulgaria. After the fall of communism, the Stratev family organized several villages in a co-operative. Located in one of the most ecologically clean areas of the Balkan Peninsula, the Stratev Co-operative focuses on the preparation of natural milk products with world-famous nutritional values, such as Tangra Bulgarian Feta Cheese, Tangra Bulgarian Kashkaval, Tangra Premium Bulgarian Yogurt, Tangra Bulgarian Crema with herbs, and Tangra Milk Powder. Our organization uses the high quality rich sheep’s milk of the Rhodope Mountains where the animals range free on thriving pastures. We carefully select the members of our co-operative and require them to abide by our guiding principles.

Another site you want to look at is: www.passionateaboutfood.net/bulgarian.php

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

I am using a 1-5 rating system.

If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

In search of freedom

Thu, Nov 27 2003 13:00 CET byKoos van Schouten 85 Views
AFTER the well-publicised events regarding the decision by the Council for Electronic Media (CEM) to cancel the court registration of Union Television, which produces and broadcasts the Den TV national cable programme; I thought it might be useful to discuss some web sites that deal with this issue.

There were a lot of mainline and fringe sites to choose from, but all had one thing in common, the freedom of speech for the media.

As was to be expected, there are a lot of US based organisations with excellent web sites on these issues.

The first site that caught my eye is the web site of the Freedom Forum Foundation WWW.FREEDOMFORUM.ORG. “The Freedom Forum, based in Arlington, Va., is a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. The foundation focuses on three priorities: the Newseum [an interactive museum of news], First Amendment and newsroom diversity.” An excellent web site, well designed with loads of information.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHH

Then there is the website of the Freedom House, WWW.FREEDOMHOUSE.ORG. This is an excellent site with loads of links and detailed explanations of all their programmes. “Freedom House, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, is a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world. Through a vast array of international programs and publications, Freedom House is working to advance the remarkable worldwide expansion of political and economic freedom.”

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHHH

I also visited WWW.CPJ.ORG the web site of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organisation founded in 1981. We promote press freedom worldwide by defending the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.” The site is basic in design, but offers a wealth of information about the individual freedom of journalists around the world.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

The web site of Reporters Without Borders WWW.RSF.ORG is not only well designed, but also has excellent simple navigation. Inside this site you will find the Second World Press Freedom Ranking Bulgaria finds itself on a shared 34th position with Albania and Nicaragua. Ironically the “land of the free” is only a few positions ahead on the 31st place shared with the ‘cradle of democracy’ Greece.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHHH

http://www.europarl.eu.int/charter/ is the web site of the European Parliament. This link connects to the pages relating to the Charter of Individual Rights.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHHHH

“The World Press Freedom Committee, with 44 affiliated organisations on six continents, is in the forefront of the struggle for a free press everywhere.” WWW.WPFC.ORG also hosts the Charter for a Free Press. In part: “A free press means a free people. To this end, the following principles, basic to an unfettered flow of news and information both within and across national borders, deserve the support of all those pledged to advance and protect democratic institutions. Censorship, direct or indirect, is unacceptable; thus laws and practices restricting the right of the news media freely to gather and distribute information must be abolished, and government authorities, national or local, must not interfere with the content of print or broadcast news, or restrict access to any news source. “

The site is endorsed by the White House: “I commend your work to promote media freedom and more access to information across the globe.” George W. Bush, US President.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

There are other sites such as WWW.UN.ORG that may be of interest. Also worth viewing are: WWW.UNESCO.ORG and WWW.RCFP.ORG.

The Declaration of Sofia of the European Seminar on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media (with special focus on Central and Eastern Europe) September 13, 1997 can be found here: http://www.unesco.org/bpi/eng/unescopress/sofiad.htm

I am using a 1-5 rating system.

You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG – Sites to sleigh you

Thu, Dec 11 2003 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 140 Views
I WISH you all the Hap-Hap-Hap-Happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby danced with Danny Kaye…..

And to stay in tune with the Pagan Rites that are upon us, I thought to visit a few sites that relate to this celebration of Peace, Happiness and burned-out credit cards.

There were many sites to choose from some very good, some not, but all in good spirit.

The highest ranking site in the search engines is WWW.SANTAS.NET. This site describes how Christmas is celebrated in many different countries of the world. Not much design, but loads of content. Well worth visiting.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHHH

Then there is the Merriest Place in Cyber Space, the home of Claus on the web, WWW.CLAUS.COM. This is an excellent site with loads of links to Claus related subjects. Great little cartoons, partly in Flash. Your kids will love this one!!! The site describes itself: “Santa Claus has the Village full of new fun this year for both kids and parents. Check your Naughty or Nice rating on the new Nice-O-Meter(tm). Visit the new Toy Workshop to choose your personal Elf Buddy and see the most incredible Toy Making Machine yet. At Santa’s House, see him playing basketball and having snowball fights on the The Santa Show. You can even listen to original Claus.com Christmas songs and see a fully animated cartoon! Play with the reindeer in the new Reindeer Barn. Play games in Elf School. Print your Honorary Elf Diplomas. Try funny holiday recipes. Send E-mail to Santa Claus. Follow Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. And much more. To get started, click on any Village building or the text links below. Have fun and come back often!” These people really understand what the internet is all about!!! This site deserves 6 out of 5.

Rating: design HHHHHH, navigation HHHHHH

I also visited WWW.NORTHPOLELETTER.COM this website sells personalized letters from Santa. Great idea and uses the available technology well. The say: “Imagine . . . if that something was a letter from Santa Claus himself, in his handwriting… And what if that letter said exactly why you were good this year and what you wanted for Christmas? Now you can give that thrill to the special child in your life… or even to an adult who’s a child at heart!”

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHH

Children can track Santa’s progress on the web again this Christmas. The North American Aerospace Defence Command will monitor where Santa is in the world as he delivers presents. Kids can also see pictures of Santa caught on Santacams at landmarks around the world on the Norad website. Santa’s globetrotting will feature on the Internet at http://www.noradsanta.org, from 7 am December 24 to 2 am December 25. NORAD, which is responsible for air defence over Canada and the US, began tracking Santa for kids more than 40 years ago. The tradition started after a shop advertisement for kids to call Santa on a special “hotline” included a misprinted telephone number – putting callers through to NORAD. Officers answering phones had to tell children where Santa was up to on his travels round the globe. At the time of my visit the site was down :( So no rating.

WWW.SANTACLAUSONLINE.COM is not designed at all, but has loads of cool links and many cute pictures to download.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHH

“Freehold, Iowa – Satan’s evil plan has created jobs for hundreds of thousands of old lecherous pedophiles throughout this Godly country every December. These filthy homeless hobos just lay on their urine-stained cardboard beds 11 months out of the year, dreaming of Christmas when they can drunkenly traipse into the warmth of departments stores and have innocent little Christian children sit on their vermin-infested laps. Unwary parents happily snap pictures while Satan’s obese wheezing drunks ask their children whether they’ve been “bad” and whisper lewd suggestions in their angelic little ears with their filthy booze-breath and cigarette-discolored lips. How many unsuspecting tots have suffered a quick grope before Satan’s little helper moves on to the next hopeful child in line?” Although this website ‘hopefully’ represents only the view of few, it scared the living daylight out of me. http://www.landoverbaptist.org/news1299/santy.html

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

I am using a 1-5 rating system.

You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit mysite: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG – Expatriate expertise

Thu, Jan 22 2004 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 371 Views
SINCE we are still in the first month when this column will be published I will be hopefully the very last to wish you all the best for 2004! Health, Wealth, Happiness and above all a fast internet connection. (keep dreaming….).
Anyhow, I was thinking about the needs and desires of my average reader, if there is such a person. It seems appropriate to assume that most of you are expats. So here is a selection of web sites from around the world catering to legal and illegal aliens.
The obvious news sites in Bulgaria are http://www.sofiaecho.com, http://www.pari.bg, http://www.news.bg, www. bta.bg and others.
The first website I want to show you is WWW.EUROEXPATS.COM. This website is aimed at Expats from all over Europe, South Africa and the USA. It has little design, but since it is a portal it shouldn’t have. Although they do not offer a Bulgaria specific section, there was loads of news about this country. Bomb Blasts, Drug Dealers, NATO all wonderful stuff. The information varies from international news, accommodations, jobs, schools and much more. Excellent production and well worth a visit.
Rating: designHHHH, navigation HHHHH

Then there is WWW.EXPATS. ORG.UK “a free source of information for British expatriates, working or residing overseas”. An interesting site with country reports, news, women and children abroad, transport, banking etc. The site has little design but loads very fast and really does the job.
Rating: designHH, navigation HHHH

Other sites for Brits are: http://www.thebritishclub.com, http://www.britishexpat.com, http://www.backinblighty.com, http://www.brits-away.co.uk, http://www.missingbritain.com and http://www.exresidents.co.uk. All these websites serve the same purpose, to comfort that lost and lonely species ‘The British Expat’.
I also visited WWW.GTHHH. COM the home of the Hash Hound Harriers. the world’s most eccentric running club, the Hash House Harriers. With more than 1600 groups in every major city in the world, it is now easier than ever for you to find fun, trails, and friendship where you live. The Hash House Harriers is a more social version of Hare and Hounds, where you join the pack of hounds (runners) to chase down the trail set by the hare or hares (other runners), then gather together for a little social activity… known as the On In or Down Down. In most groups, all are welcome, young and old, fast or slow. The only prerequisite to hashing is a sense of humour, so check out a hash near you. The Hash House Harriers received its humble beginnings in 1938 from a Britisher named Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, in what is now Malaysia. Having a fondness for the “paper chase”, he gathered together several expatriates to form a group in Kuala Lumpur that would later become a worldwide legacy. The fraternity received its name from the Selangor Club Chambers, which due to its lacklustre food was commonly referred to as the ‘Hash House’.
I did enjoyed my visit to this site, although it could do with some more design, it really serves it’s purpose. The local site for Bulgaria is WWW.SOFIAHASH.ORG
Rating: designHH, navigation HHHH

Another site I liked is WWW.TALESMAG.COM. This site enables the visitor to leave behind real life experiences about living abroad. In addition the team of Talesmag have started a small charity which is always a good thing to do. My visit was an all-round pleasant experience. I like their article under the heading Practical Planet: “Are Americans friendly, easygoing and trusting? Or impatient, competitive and disrespectful? Gary Weder-spahn’s fascinating article, Avoiding the Ugly American Stereotype, is a must-read for anyone working and living in a foreign land.”
Rating: designHHH, navigation HHHH

Other Expat sites worth visiting are: WWW.EXPATNETWORK. CO.UK, WWW.EXPATFORUM. COM, WWW.EXPATSREUNITE. COM and WWW.EXPATEXCHANGE.COM.
Finally I discovered WWW. RUNTHEPLANET.COM, After this week’s State of the Union speech, you may excuse me for thinking that I had stumbled upon George W’s personal web site. But it isn’t, WWW.RUNTHEPLANET.COM is the largest worldwide running community on the internet. From Antarctica to Zimbabwe, Run The Planet offers 3130 descriptions of where to run and walk in 2294 cities around the world presenting running information told by the locals. Run The Planet is for you to use when you are away from home and looking for a great place to run.
Come join the community that has been growing worldwide since September 7, 1996. Your run starts here.
Rating: designHHH, navigation HHHH

I am using a 1-5 rating system.
You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG – My eye on the ball

Thu, Feb 26 2004 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 113 Views
Before I start this week’s column I would like to react to the many e-mails and phone calls I have received in the past few weeks about the enormous influx of spam mails. I use Matador from http://www.mailfrontier.com; it has reduced my spam burden by 75 per cent. They offer a one-month free trial version. I hope it helps you.

Since the European Football Championships of this year involve both my home teams, Holland and Bulgaria, I did a little surfing to discover if the cyber balls are also round…

I visited the sites of some of the major and minor teams and associations.

The high quality of the design, content and general look-and-feel of the sites I visited was a pleasant surprise.

Beside the main web sites for the associations I have added some additional links from independent sites. Some of the private sites are of extremely high quality (www.socceritis.com deserves a special mention).

I hope you enjoy this perspiration-free exercise around Cyber Soccer Land.

I started my journey with the web site of the organisers UEFA. Their web site is http://WWW.UEFA.COM. This is truly one of the greatest portals in the world, the site is well organised, has a professional presentation and offers minute-by-minute news. This is absolutely the Digital Walhalla for football fans. It deserves 6 out of 5 for content! Also see: http://www.fifa.com

Rating: designHHHHH, navigation HHHHH

Then there is http://WWW.BFUNION.BG the website of the Bulgarian Football Union. A very functional site with loads of info about Bulgarian football. The news and data is well organised. The fact that the site is only available in the Bulgarian language surprised me. I thought that the recent good form of the National Team would be an incentive to go international. The design is almost non-existent. The navigation is very user friendly. Also visit: http://www.zagorka-football.com, http://www.footballbg.net, http://www.pfl.bg and http://www.bulgaria-football.com, http://www.levski.bg and http://www.cska.bg.

Rating: designHHH, navigation HHHH

I also visited http://WWW.KNVB.NL the web site of the Royal Netherlands Football Association. The site is stylish, multi-lingual and full of interactive stuff. Visiting this site is like watching the Orange Boys play football, never a boring moment. This is a solid web site fast to load and easy to navigate. Also see: http://www.footballnl.com,www.teamoranje.info and http://www.voetbal.nl

Rating: designHHHH, navigation HHHH

Another impressive site I visited was http://WWW.THEFA. COM. The site is designed like a portal and has an impressive content. Not just about top football but also about grass roots, women’s football and youth. Games, Feed Back, Quizzes, Online kit ordering you name it! Just like the UEFA site, a pleasure to visit. The navigation is simple and efficient especially considering the enormous volume of info. Also see: http://www.soccernet.com, http://www.e-soccer.com, http://www.the-english-football-archive.com, http://www.socceritis.com, http://www.football-league.co.uk, http://www.4thegame. com and http://www.football365.com.

Rating: designHHHH, navigation HHHH

Of course I also clicked on the site of the hosts, the Association of Portuguese Football WWW.FPF.PT The site starts with a massive pop-up; someone should tell these people that Google doesn’t like that at all. Beside that the site is only in Portuguese, very colourful, loaded with data. The site is an all-round good production. As with the Bulgarian site, the fact that it is not even partially translated puzzles me.

Rating: designHHH, navigation HHHH

I use a 1-5 rating system.
You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG – Ticket to ride

Thu, Mar 11 2004 13:00 CET byKoos Schouten 344 Views
TODAY I need to start this column with a correction to the DOT.BG in issue 9 where I said that the Bulgarian Telecommunication Company http://www.btc.bg has no prices in English. I am sorry to say that I overlooked the chart on http://www.telecom.bg/portal/services/prices/internet_en.htm. My apologies to the good people at BTC.
I was shopping online for airfares from Sofia and I found several new web sites servicing the cyber skies.
I visited the sites of a selection of airlines and travel agents that service the Bulgarian market.
The general results were rather good and I even found myself a deal or two.
I started my journey with the web site of national carrier Bulgaria Air. Their website is WWW.AIR.BG The web site is in Bulgarian and English and contains everything you need to know about the services and promotional fares of Bulgaria Air. The navigation is simple and the design is light and pleasant. The only thing missing is an online booking facility. Best offers: Vienna for 190 euro and Tel Aviv for 199 euro.
Rating: designHHH, navigation HHH

Then there is WWW.FLYBEXX.COM the website of Bexx Air. Bexx Air offers amazing rates from Bulgaria to Austria, Slovakia and Germany. Not only is the site easy to navigate, but also has an excellent look-and-feel. The site has an online booking system and a very useful Travel Manager which remembers your bookings and your details. Best offer: Germany 49 euro One Way.
Rating: designHHHH, navigation HHHH

I also visited WWW.HEMUSAIR.BG. This site is very basic, but with loads of information about the airline and its routes. No online reservations possible but it does have an excellent reply form on board. Best Offer: Tirana 69 euro One Way.
Rating: designHHHH, navigation HHHH

I also liked http://WWW.ALITALIA.BG the site has some original designs and loads of content. The site contains local information and fares and links to the international site http://www.alitalia.com. Best Offer: Boston 490 euro.
Rating: designHHHH, navigation HHHH

Finally I also visited WWW.VIAGGIOAIR.COM. The web site is currently under construction but I have been assured by the airline that it will be up-and-running by the end of March with an online booking system.
Rating: designHHH, navigation HHH

Also see:
http://www.sofia-airport.bg, http://www.austrianairlines.bg, http://www.britishairways.com, http://www.lufthansa.bg, http://www.thy.com, http://www.olympicairlines.com, http://www.airfrance.com, http://www.swiss.com, http://www.aeroflot.org, http://www.aerosvit.com, http://www.airmalta.com, http://www.ami.md, http://www.csa.cz, http://www.malev.hu, http://www.elal.co.il, http://www.klm.nl, http://www.laudaair.com, http://www.lot.com, http://www.tarom.ro, http://www.syrian-airlines.com and http://www.jat.com.
And these travel agents: http://www.polytours.com, http://www.alexandertour.com, http://www.selecttours-bulgaria.com, http://www.tsrentacar.com, http://www.bucketshop.com, http://www.miragetravel.bg, http://www.asfa.net, http://www.citytourssofia.com and http://www.bg-travel.com.

I use a 1-5 rating system.
You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com.

Dot BG – Preparing for the Games

Thu, Mar 25 2004 14:00 CET byKoos Schouten 172 Views
With the Olympic Games in Greece rapidly approaching (with or without roofs on the Stadiums) I thought you might like to see some of the Olympic web sites.
I visited a selection of sites related directly and indirectly to the Spectacle of the Flame.
The general results were rather good and some of the sites were even excellent.
Most sites gave the expected info regarding the venues, the sports, the athletes and, most importantly, the officials…
I will follow up this column with another one in a few weeks covering some alternative sites dealing with the Games. A few examples at the bottom of this article can already be enjoyed.
Firstly I visited the official web site of the Olympic Movement WWW.OLYMPIC.ORG. The website is in English and French and has an enormous news section about everything you always wanted to know about the Olympics, but forgot to ask. Items about former medal winners, statistics, building progress, security, drugs, personalities and of course that great organisation itself. The web site has a professional look and feel and easy navigation. The whole experience is clean and efficient.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHH

Then there is WWW.ATHENS2004.COM the official web site for the Athens Games. In English, Greek and French. Colourful, pleasant and inviting; exactly what this site should be. The few tickets that are still legally available and are not in the hands of the ITTM (international Ticket Tout Mafia) can be purchased on this site. There is also info about the Paralympic Games in September 2004. The site also promises live results: “The technological expertise and know-how of the ATHENS 2004 official web site staff and their partners, will provide visitors with the opportunity to be informed, and constantly updated through an interlinked data framework, on topics ranging from: Press and Media information (Press releases by sport, preview and summation of the days events, announcements), Photos of events taking place in the Olympic Venues, Competition Schedule, Start lists, Team Rosters, Athletes Bios, Team Officials and Judges, Live Results, Performances for specific Athletes or teams, World records set and comparisons to previous Games’ records, World rankings of Athletes and/or National Teams (depending on Individual or Team Sports), Sports Statistics and Athlete statements and interviews. During the Athens Olympic Games, the homepage of the ATHENS 2004 official website will list the day’s Events according to the official competition schedule.”

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHH

I also visited the website of the next Olympics in 2008 in Beijing, China, WWW.BEIJING-2008.ORG which is presented in Chinese, English and French. This site is still rather basic, but with time I expect that much more info and many more pictures will be added.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHH

And naturally the web site of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee WWW.BGOLYMPIC.ORG. The site is simple, fast and easy to understand. There is a lot of detailed information and of course several pictures of Ivan Slavkov. The site is in Bulgarian and English.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHH

Also interesting are: http://www.musarium.com/kodak/olympics/olympichistory, http://www.olympiccentury.com, http://gogreece.about.com/cs/sexingreece/ and http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics_2004.

I use a 1-5 rating system.

You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG – 419’s no lucky number

Thu, Apr 08 2004 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 155 Views
FIRST of all I would like to congratulate you, the reader, with putting up with me waffling on about the internet in 25 DOT.BGs (this being the 25th).

Second, I would like to thank the Governing Fathers of this fine city for cleansing my neighbourhood this week. Parchevich, Solunska and all other streets in our quarter have never looked better.

Now let’s get to the topic of this column. You may have noticed that from time-to-time you receive strange e-mails from Africa. Sometimes from Nigeria, sometimes from other countries, offering you the most amazing financial deals.

All involve some upfront payment and after that you hear the sound of silence…

These so-called Nigeria 419 Scam e-mails have become a major issue and there are several international web sites giving advice on this.

I will not be rating the sites this week since they were not designed for their beauty, just for information.

http://home.rica.net/alphae/419coal/ – The 419 Coalition Website – The Nigerian Scam Defined – “A Five Billion US$ (as of 1996, much more now) worldwide Scam which has run since the early 1980s under Successive Governments of Nigeria. It is also referred to as ‘Advance Fee Fraud’, ‘419 Fraud’ (Four-One-Nine) after the relevant section of the Criminal Code of Nigeria, and ‘The Nigerian Connection’ (mostly in Europe). However, it is usually called plain old ‘419’ even by the Nigerians themselves.”

http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml – United States Secret Service – 4-1-9 Schemes frequently use the following tactics

An individual or company receives a letter or fax from an alleged “official” representing a foreign government or agency.

An offer is made to transfer millions of dollars in “over-invoiced contract” funds into your personal bank account.

You are encouraged to travel overseas to complete the transaction

You are requested to provide blank company letterhead forms, banking account information, telephone/fax numbers.

You receive numerous documents with official looking stamps, seals and logo testifying to the authenticity of the proposal.

Eventually you must provide up-front or advance fees for various taxes, attorney fees, transaction fees or bribes.

Other forms of 4-1-9 schemes include: c.o.d. of goods or services, real estate ventures, purchases of crude oil at reduced prices, beneficiary of a will, recipient of an award and paper currency conversion.

http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org/419statement.shtml – The Embassy of Nigeria, Washington DC, US – Statement on 419 Scam. “The Embassy of Nigeria, Washington DC, and indeed the Federal Government of Nigeria has noted with deep concern the increasing wave of 419 scams perpetrated by a clique of unscrupulous Nigerians in collaboration with their foreign counterparts. They, have through their actions, given the country a very bad image. The scam, even though of international scope, but because of the alleged ‘preponderance’ of Nigerian perpetrators has come to be associated with the country and has negatively impacted on government efforts to attract investment into the country.”

http://www.scamorama.com/- Presents the Lads from Lagos – This website is informative, funny and a great source of information about all that is 419.

Also worth visiting:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3526209.stm, http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/nigeria.htm, http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Nigerian-419-scam, http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,57760,00.html?tw=wn_story_related, http://www.justiceonline.org/consum/nigerian.html, http://www.potifos.com/fraud/, http://www.crimes-of-persuasion.com/Crimes/Business/nigerian.htm, http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/HBScams.shtml, http://www.greaterthings.com/News/NigerianScam/

Look for a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG

Thu, May 13 2004 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 97 Views
Just like everyone else, I was totally shocked by the recent developments in the court case of the medics in Benghazi, Libya.

The news about the conviction of Kristiana Vulcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropulo, Valya Chervenyashka and Snezhana Dimitrova and doctor Ashraf al-Hajuj came as a total surprise especially after all the hugs and kisses Colonel Gaddafi recently received from his new friends in the European Union and the US.

I thought it may be useful to have a look at what is said about this on the international news websites.

It seemed that most sites in English covered similar stories but all with interesting variations.

Some of the links will be a bit lengthy; they can all be found on the http://www.sofiaecho.com website.

The BBC includes a video clip on its website: http://news.bbc. co.uk/2/hi/africa/3689355.stm presented by Khalid Javed. They covered several issues including: At one point, the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, had accused the health workers of acting on orders from the CIA and the Israeli secret service, Mossad. Libya later retracted this allegation. The medics had always protested their innocence and said they had been tortured by the police, with daily beatings, sexual assault and electric shocks. They called expert witnesses, including one scientist from the team which discovered the Aids virus, who said this was an epidemic caused by poor hygiene at the hospital, not by any international conspiracy.

Header: ‘Libya Death sentence for Medics’

The website of Reuters http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L0777743.htm quotes Snezhana Dimitrova, who told Bulgarian radio: “No one will ask whether we are guilty or not, now that we have been sentenced. I’m absolutely sure the prison guards will take the law into their own hands”.

Header: ‘Bulgarian nurses fear prison murder in Libya.

CNN has the story on: http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/africa/05/06/libya.bulgaria/ where they quote several Bulgarian sources condemning the verdict. ‘Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi claimed the medics were tortured while they were in the custody, according to The Associated Press.’

Header: ‘Libya to execute HIV-jab medics’

Terra Daily a website of France-Press http://www.terradaily.com/ 2004/040507154846.hn0qwjp2.html quotes some of the nurses: “If we are taken to Djudeida (prison in Tripoli), we will be killed at the door by the prisoners,” nurse Valia Cherveniachka said. “There are places where we were detained in Tripoli which were terrifying. Even here in (the northern city of Benghazi), the parents of children infected (with AIDS) may lynch us,” another nurse Valentina Siropolou said. A third nurse Kristiana Valcheva said she felt like a prisoner “in a horror film.”

Header: “Bulgarian nurses facing death penalty in Libya fear attack in prison”.

Arabic News covers the story on: http://www.arabicnews.com/ ansub/Daily/Day/040510/2004051012.html. This article was mainly about the anger of the parents of the infected children after the US criticised the verdict. “Hundreds of Libyans organised demonstrations in the streets of the Libyan coastal city of Benghazi during which they burnt the American flag in retaliation to the American criticism over Libyan court death penalty sentence against six foreigners working in the medical field that caused the infection of hundreds of Libyan children with HIV virus.”

Header: “Libyans burnt the American flag in Benghazi”

The International Herald Tri-bune: http://www.iht.com/articles/ 518699.html covered the reaction of the European Union: “In Brussels, the head of the European Commission, Romano Prodi – who last week hosted a landmark visit by the Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi, during which the issue was raised – said he was disappointed at the ruling and urged it to be reviewed.”

Header: “Libya sentences 6 to death in AIDS case”.

Also interesting are:

http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=9916, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4912720/,

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,9494143%255E1702,00.html, http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2004/05/06/world/libya_bulgaria040506, http://www.timesofmalta.com/core2/article.php?id=15329,http://www.aegis.com/news/afp/2002/AF020520.html, http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_738443,0050.htm, http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?sf=85&click_id=68&art_id=qw951722821971A320&set_id=1

You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG -

Thu, May 27 2004 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 174 Views
I think its time to start inviting friends and relatives to Sofia again. The weather is becoming quite nice and it is fun to be outside.

Yes, it is time to have a look at how the hotels of Sofia are presenting themselves in 2004.

First of all, I would like to mention the site of The Sofia Hilton http://www.hilton.bg was made by my little company. Modesty prevents me from rating it, but please do visit this site. It is as wonderful as their Sunday brunch. The site describes every aspect of their services in detail. From the outset the plan for this website was to highlight all the forms of perfection this wonderful property offers.

Firstly I visited the website of the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan. I could only find a link through the Starwood website: http://www.starwood.com/luxury/search/hotel_detail.html?propertyID=186

so I presume they do not have a site of their own. The best way to describe these corporate portals is boring, boring, boring. A little info about how far the walk to wherever is, a few words about the most obvious, and please book here. Not a very interesting experience.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHH

Then there is the Radisson SAS Grand Hotel Sofia. Just like the Sheraton you have to the dubious privilege of fighting your way through their corporate site unless you know the direct link: http://sofia.radissonsas.com. This was an absolutely forgettable experience.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHH

I also visited the website of the Best Western City Hotel Sofia http://www.sofiacityhotel.com. The site is easy to use in English, Bulgarian, German and Russian. Overall, this is a pleasant site with clear pictures and easy navigation.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

I really enjoyed visiting the site of Hotel Light http://www.hotellight.com. The site is also MAC enabled which is very rare these days and completely made with Flash Technology. Although I am usually not a great fan of Flash, these guys really did a nice job. Many pictures are made with a 360 degree surround view. The navigation is well thought out and gives a great impression of the hotel.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHH

The Kempinski Zografski has what looks like a new site. http://www.kempinski.bg is a professional site, easy to navigate with loads of information about the property and ample tourist information about Sofia. The addresses and contact information of the main shops are a useful addition.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

I have to mention the website of the Jasmin Hotel in Simeonovo. http://www.jasminhotel.com. This site shows how a small friendly hotel can compete with some of the biggest name in the industry by displaying a small and friendly website. The site is easy to navigate and has a no nonsense approach. Job well done!!!.

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

Also interesting are:

http://www.central-hotel.com, http://www.alexandertour.com, http://www.travelescape.bg, http://www.hotel-downtown.net, http://www.hotelconsul.com, http://www.maxisofia.com, http://mail.hotelbrod.com, http://www.bucketshop.com, http://www.chepishev.com, http://www.serdikahotel.com, http://www.gloriapalacehotel.bg, http://www.svetasofia-alexanders.com, http://www.kapri-hotel.dir.bg, http://www.meg-lozenetz.com, http://www.crystalpalce.travel.bg, http://www.rai90.com, http://www.slavyanska.com, http://www.hotel-europe-bg.com, http://www.baldjievahotel.com, http://www.aquahotel.net, http://www.aphouse-sofia.com, http://www.stvalentin.visa.bg, http://princess.pc-link.net, http://www.apartmenthouseiztok.com, http://www.hotel-restaurant-perla.com, http://www.rotasar.com, http://www.hotel-lion.net, http://www.online.bg/rila/elitza/info/index-en.htm, http://www.peakview.bg/ganesha, http://marialuisa.bol.bg, http://www.hoteledi.hit.bg, http://www.hotel-geneva.com, http://www.atlantic-bg.com, http://www.hotelodadjiyski.com, http://www.rodina.bg, http://clients.ttm.bg/hrankov.

I use a 1-5 rating system.

You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG

Thu, Jun 10 2004 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 93 Views
I will spend this weekend in Veliko Turnovo, “The third Rome and the second Constantinople”. The city will host the 2004 National Cultural Tourism Fair.

Promoting cultural tourism via the Internet is very difficult. The main reason is that it is a big challenge to combine modern media with pictures of ancient locations and items.

The key to success is ample detailed information and great graphics. Visitors should be able to totally enjoy their visit to the site as well as being able to discover as much as possible in advance.

Many sites just give boring facts and figures that can be found in any guidebook. Websites have the capability to offer every little detail and unlimited amounts of pictures, and even sound and film clips.

The websites below are only a small selection of what is available on the web. Some towns have several websites, some authorised and some not. In some cases it was hard to tell.

It seems that most municipalities in Bulgaria have so far left the responsibility of promoting their treasures to private websites usually operated by travel agencies and real estate brokers. This is disappointing since it results in much needed revenue being lost. Under funded cultural venues could really benefit from internet exposure.

I firstly visited the website of Veliko Turnovo http://www.veliko-tarnovo.net. The site was made some time ago and was definitely state-of-the-art in 2001. A new site is currently in the making so I shall refrain from being too harsh in terms of the design. The navigation works well and there is loads of info about the town, the area and its history. Also see: http://www.veliko-turnovo.com

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHH

Then there is Varna. There is little to say about http://www.varna.bg other then that it must have been made by a bored accountant on a rainy Sunday afternoon; (sincerest apologies to all my accountant friends who are wonderful people and I am sure would never do such a horrible thing). Varna calls itself “the Cross Road of Civilisations”… As far as this website is concerned, civilisation kept moving down the Digital Highway! Also see: http://www.varna-bg.com

Rating: design H, navigation HH

I do like the site for Panagyurishte where you can find the famous golden treasure. The site could do with some more design, but has loads of valuable info and great pictures. The site is easy to use in English and Bulgarian. This is pleasant site overall, with clear pictures and easy navigation. The site was developed with the assistance of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria. You can find more towns here: http://www.bulgaria.domino.bg/

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

The website for the Boyana Church was made in 2002 but is still in a Master Class of its own. The site is tri-lingual, Bulgarian, English and German. The simple layout in combination with great content and a large picture gallery makes it a great example of how to make a cultural site. The navigation is well thought through and gives a great impression of the church.

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHH

I looked for some sites from Kazanlak but all I found was http://www.kazanlak.com and http://www.kazanlak.bg and neither site is worth rating.

I also recommend the UNESCO website where you can find all the Bulgarian heritage sites: http://whc.

unesco.org/pg.cfm?CID=31&

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

I use a 1-5 rating system.

You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

Dot BG

Thu, Jun 17 2004 15:00 CET byKoos Schouten 113 Views
ON June 5, the United States lost its 40th President.

Former president Ronald Reagan died at 93 of pneumonia after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He gained the White House after defeating President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election.

Reagan ushered in a Republican conservative political revolution that insisted, in his words: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”

He survived an assassination attempt and the Iran-Contra scandal to serve two terms as president. He virtually disappeared from public life after revealing his illness in 1994.

Much of Reagan’s presidency, of course, was dominated by the Cold War and the long struggle against communism. In a 1983 speech he shocked many by giving his truth about the Soviet Union:

“Let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness – pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world….

I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written….

I urge you to beware the temptation of pride – the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire.”

The efforts of Ronald Reagan and other conservative leaders in the West gave courage to many brave men and women behind the Iron Curtain to stand up against this evil empire. And it is because of them that we are now freely, without fear of arrest, able to express our opinions in Bulgaria and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

There is a great selection of positive and negative websites on the topic of Ronald Reagan.

A good starting point is the official website of the White House, which offers a basic biography: http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/rr40.html

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

Then there is a rather unusual site owned by a private company http://www.ronaldreagan.com. The site includes an online gift shop, a message board and a forum. Reagan would surely have approved of this private initiative.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHHH

Also worth visiting is the official site of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: WWW.REAGAN.UTEXAS.EDU

Also see: WWW.REAGANLIBRARY.COM, WWW.REAGANFOUNDATION.ORG and WWW.RONALREAGANMEMORIAL.COM

Rating: design HHH, navigation HHHH

The USS Ronald Reagan has also made a website for the man whose name it proudly caries across the oceans. The site displays a quote of Reagan from his speech in Normandy, France in 1984: “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared. So we may be always free.”

Rating: design HHHH, navigation HHHH

WWW.REAGAN.DK is a very interesting site, which mainly concerns itself with Reagan’s relationship with the Soviets. It has a discussion board and is well worth visiting.

Rating: design HH, navigation HHH

Also see: http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/presidents/ronald-reagan/, http://www.reaganlibrary.net/, http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2004/reagan/, http://slate.msn.com/id/2101842/, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3800315.stm, http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/Politics/reagan_index.html, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47732-2004Apr27.html, http://www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=Ronald_Reagan, http://www.cato.org/dailys/06-07-04.html.

I use a 1-5 rating system. You can find a digital copy of this article on http://www.sofiaecho.com, which you will find easier to click through. If there are specific topics you would like to see addressed in DOT BG, please feel free to email me at koos@webfactory.bg or visit my site: www.webfactorybulgaria.com

That was the last one, I continued as DOUBLE-DUTCH IN BULGARIA
  1. Debra Scouten
    March 5, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Hello ! I see you have a block about Willem Cornelius Schouten. You are probably a descendent of his? We do extensive genealogy about the Scouten family in the U.S. and are highly interested if Willem could possibly be related to any Scoutens in the U.S. Do you know if he ever sailed a ship to North America? Is there any information you can give us?

    Thanks for your time and patience.

    Deb Scouten

    • April 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

      Hi Deb,
      I am not a descendent of Willem Cornelius Schouten, he was from the town of Hoorn and my family is from Laren, Bussum, Blaricum which are three small villages in the a region called ‘t Gooi in the centre of the country.
      I am pretty sure that WCS never sailed the North Atlantic, he sailed via Cape Horn to Fiji and Australia and then Indonesia.
      What are the oldest familt members that you could trace in the US?
      Best regards,
      Koos

  2. September 23, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    OK!

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