Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

Versatile Blogger Award

I have been nominated by Jemima Nalumansi who has the full list of how the nomination got to me akin to walking like the Muganda lady of the Ffumbe clan (http://www.ffumbeclan.org/) she is, so anyway a tough challenge she put up to me but I have to rise up not to disappoint….

The rules of engagement:

  1. Thank the person that nominated you and include a link to their blog (just did above)
  2. Nominate at least 15 bloggers of your choice. When considering a fellow blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award, keep in mind the quality of their writing, the uniqueness of their subject matter and the level of love displayed on the virtual page.
  3. Link your nominees and let them know about their nomination.
  4. Share seven facts about yourself.

Seven facts about me:

  1. I love good food and coffee … but most of all give me a hot cup of spiced, brewed tea then you have me hook line and sinker….
  2. I am driven by my culture that provides me with a moral and social compass, plus a decision making baseline confused a little by the modern world …
  3. I am self taught software developer – only have my street scars to show
  4. I try to be as reliable as I can be – at times bending over backwards to deliver to the tasks assigned to me or promises that I have made hence I am making fewer and fewer.
  5. I am venturing into agriculture as I know it is the next frontier, but it gives me a chance to bond and experience what mother nature has to offer
  6. Proud father of 4, husband to one – and still trying to figure out what all of that means
  7. I love difficult, abstract and challenging problems, they stretch my mind and body to extremes … I enjoy the challenge of following Alice down the rabbit hole to see how far it goes

My blogger list in no particular order

  1. James Wire – entrepreneur, farmer, ICT all round guy but old skool values
  2. David Mpanga – he is a blogger not in one place but his social commentary hits home. My offer to him is to help him setup his blog hoping he reads this
  3.  Maria WhoIsThatChic Nathaniel – hard hitting, bone crushing no holds barred writing
  4. Brian Ssenoga – tech, FOSS, Health in ICT
  5. Stephen Magero – words carefully chosen
  6. Patricia Kahill –  aka Kasozi, my go to social media consultant
  7. Beewol – Mondays will never be the same again
  8. David Okwi – geekprenur
  9. Onyait Odeke – quiet calm photographer, techie
  10. Mushabe Dickson – author, enterprenur… but blogger still
  11. Solomon King – I head the fan club if that exists, the creativity and passion that makes me feel like a droid slogging through the world. Hope he will provide a better link than Google+
  12. Jethro Musoke – he does not like writing but when he does …  but he needs to write a lot more
  13. Emma Cuppycake Asio –  read and judge for yourself
  14. Olive Nakiyemba – traveller, runner
  15. Micheal Niyitegeka – tech, education, Rotary, and running
  16. and one for the road Simon Kaheru – oh yes I read every blog post you write, Colin Assimwe you two… and of course the Master Apprentice Kizzy Katawonga a new addition fueled by insomnia 🙂

Jemima, as per #4 of my failings, I have delivered …

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Tech Tip: Websites on Github with Jekyll

We have been facing a challenge on how to manage the Styx Technology Group corporate website without having dedicated resources to host, deal with security, updates and maintenance. Having been in the website business for over a decade at the turn of Y2K,  having an easily maintainable solution was key for the long haul.

Enter GitHub pages (https://help.github.com/categories/github-pages-basics/), of course any decent software developer and team are using some form of version control, but the beauty is that it allows projects, users and organisations to have self hosted sites that are managed through a repository.  That in combination with Jekyll (http://jekyllrb.com/) supports content management without a database.

To further speed up our development process, we leveraged existing themes for the website look and feel that were close to our need, while keeping the site design very simple so that we focused on solving the problem at hand.

It was suddenly music to our ears as the team did not have to leave their IDEs (random plug for Jetbrains IDE tool suite that we have standardized upon)  in order to make updates to the website. Just create a new markdown document, verify and push … And bam!! the updates are done, version controlled and all, no more hassles with database configurations …

Need help getting your website up and running in such a fashion do shoot us an email at consulting at styxtechgroup dot com and we shall be happy to help and engage…. Have a great weekend

Service Provider Dilema – How to Choose and Live with Your Choice

The dilema and rants of “Service Provider” quality of support and services is one we go through day by day. This morning I awoke to a rant by a Tweep on the costs of certain bank services, in this case US$2.5 (UGX 6,500) for an over the counter withdrawal. I smiled because I has been hit with a similar charge for a statement on my account at US$4.7 (UGX 12,000) per month (irrespective) of the number of transactions.

So then I started thinking, yes its going to get me into trouble, how does a consumer (non-technical) but who knows what they want live with service providers. Personally I follow a couple of rules of thumb:

  1. Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
    • I cannot change the service provider however, though I can get them to listen to me
    • The service is mass market so is not optimized for my particular convenience and usage, so I may need to modify some of my behavior to suit my needs
    • If the service is not working for me I can change it, but I must be willing to pay the price for the change
  2. If you make your bed, you need to sleep in it
    • Once you select a service provider, you may need to adjust to their shortcomings in order to make the best usage of their style of service delivery
    • The cost of changing service providers is usually high, so either stick to the one you have or pay it and move on
  3. Research your service providers before committing to them
    • The reality is you never have enough time, but if you do focus on the basic service you need and your special needs (those on which you cannot compromise)
    • Most times the service provider you choose will be based on a referral or positive feedback so accept that you will not know enough when you jump in
    • Read social media on experiences (spend the time now, and you will know better later)
  4. Use multiple service providers
    • This may not always be possible hence  #1, #2 and #3 above
    • If its possible however, you need to determine what each provider is best at focus on that, and mitigate where they are weak. I use 3 different Telecom providers for mobile phone & data services, because over the three plans I am totally covered for voice and data needs.
  5. All service providers cost the same
    • Even with different service offerings, always check the exceptions which is where you will get hit the most (#3 – Research)
    • Henry Ford recommended creating a product or service that caters for 80% of the populations basic needs, leaving 5-10% who have special needs and are willing to pay extra to get it…. Pick a service where you fall in the 80% and it will work for you most of the time
  6. The best tool for the job is the one you know how to use well
    • In the new consumer driven information age, this is true, learn to use your service providers as tools, at times they change to you, other times you change to suit them

How do you manage the relationships with your service providers? How do you deal with their shortcomings?

Mara Foundation Business Hackathon Pre-Launch – Startup Reality Check

This was the theme of my presentation at the January 25 pre-launch event for the Business Hackathon event organized by the Mara Foundation (http://www.mara-foundation.org/) and Mara Launch Pad (http://www.mara-foundation.org/entrepreneurship/mara-launchpad.html).

This would be my second hackathon-style event after the Startup Weekend that I had participated in April 2012 (http://wp.me/pXn3W-5v) where I pitched an idea that had been cooking, baking and squirming in my head for a coupla years. When Nigel Ball (@nigel_ball) asked me which side I wanted to be on, I took the opportunity to sit at the end of the table to mentor.

So back to the prelaunch event, assembled were the following (in the order that they presented):

  1. Reinier Battenberg, @batje, Director Mountbatten and Open Source Evangelist, Drupal, mapping et al
  2. James Makumbi, @jmakumbi, Software Developer and Founder of Billable Hours Uganda, a cloud based law firm management solution, and one of the first Ugandan developers on Stack Exchange (my inspiration to join and become active)
  3. Simon Kaheru, @skaheru, Director Business Convergence SMS Media is one of Uganda’s first enterprenurs in the tech scene through SMS Media and a though leader in the mobile technology space
  4. Solomon King, @solomonking, Web Solutions Provider and Founder of Fundibots, a non profit to encourage passionate African children (and adults) grow and experiment with machines, gadgets and technology – do I hear soldering, garage workshops and Sky net development in basements.
  5. Christine Ampaire, @axtine831, Founding Team member MafutaGo, GirlGeek, Geekprenur
  6. Davis Musinguzi, @davisthedoc, Health IT Developer and Enterprenur, Mentor for the WinSenga team that won the Microsoft Imagine Cup in 2012

The first presentation (below) was a reality check on what the enterprenurs are to expect before the event, and after to provide context with regard to what opportunities are out there and what to take advantage of.

 

 

Additional lessons that were given by the other panelists are summarized below:

  1. You do not have to start a business with a product, you can provide services to customers by packaging and supporting existing software solutions 
  2. Tech startups do not have to be about software and hardware, they can provide laptop sleeves, covers, and other accessories using local materials
  3. Look at alternate revenue streams by leveraging the brand and buzz created by your core product or services
  4. Do not be afraid to pivot your business, from Eric Ries of the Lean Startup: Pivot or Reboot (http://to.pbs.org/WaCA9w) or Pivot Do not Jump to a new vision (http://bit.ly/TAFZ36)
  5. Not all the people you pitch to will have the same vision as you do, listen to them, do not give up, learn from them
  6. Leverage and use the simplest technology you can
  7. Use other people’s money, 100% of $1,000 is way less and more risky than 10% of $25,000 investment – watch the numbers, allow investors to let you  grow to sustainable levels
  8. Develop credibility – register a legal entity, track the total cost of ownership to client (licenses, hardware, warranty and support costs), have a person who watches the money (revenue and costs)
  9. You need teams of people to support your vision, you cannot do it alone
  10. Complete your education and take opportunities that arise when they do, those papers “may” help you get to the next level
  11. Get out of the office to the street and into the lives of the people who use your product – listen to them and learn from them

What are your opinions, what did we miss? Leave a comment

Samsung Galaxy Pocket Launch in Uganda – Thoughts, Coverage and Opinion

Well there I was for another product launch, this time for the Samsung Galaxy Pocket launch, for those who do not know, its one of the youngsters of the Galaxy line of phones and tablets, and hyped it has been through my social media channel, Twitter, where I got the invite. The best thing for me was that I was to meet 3 different potential partners for a work focused market assessment study I was doing, talk about mixing business and pleasure.

As is my tradition, I was there ahead of time, why so early in the morning, I have to drop off my kids to school before the traffic picks up at 6:40am, so by 7:00am I am either at my desk slaving away (I love what I do), or waiting for any morning appointments to show up. So back to the launch,  the background was a relentless video advert reminding us that the phone provides access to over 400,000 Android apps from Google Appstore, plus a faster internet connection, and great look. With all the hustle and bustle I am hearing rumors that we may actually get a chance to play with the phones and test them out.

The lounge was well done up, in Samsung blue, thankfully I was decked out in the same so we blended. I took a few photos, using the webcam of the 17″ HP Envy 3D laptop I was lugging around (now that is a review for another day) since I had no camera. While the photos were not award winning, they pretty much captured the mood for the morning.

As we waited I had a chance to catch up with Joyce Tonda, Managing Editor of Enterprise Technology magazine, whom I had not seen for quite some time. Then came another media opportunity, in walked Ernest Bazanye, one of the few Ugandan writers I admire, very witty satirical and a social critic. I asked him what he was doing at the launch, and what his expectations were, well the video is http://youtu.be/BnY1dmLDlMI

Once that interview was done the official ceremonies began with MC, Crystal Newman (https://twitter.com/CrystalANewman) intended to keep the event young, hip and energetic. The welcome note was by the head of Marketing based out of Nairobi, then a quick word by the Uganda Country Manager. This is where it became interesting, some users had got the phone a few days before and were to share their experiences:

  1. Richard Zulu (http://twitter.com/richardzulu) – enterprenur, business person  – he was happy with the battery life, available disk space, and response time
  2. Duke Danny (https://twitter.com/dukedanny4)  – chef, geek, mobile application developer – said it was snappy, did not have to charge it all the time, and could test his apps
  3. Karungi Terry (https://twitter.com/Kashweeti) – student – downloaded many learning apps, used it for entertainment, accessing social media and down right loved it
  4. Navio (https://twitter.com/naviomusic) – musician and entertainer – runs all his email, schedules contacts in one place

There were a few challenges, and winners of phones for best photo, most tweets, best rendition of a song with Navio. All in all it was an interesting launch

Obviously you did not expect me to stop there, now what is my take!! This is an interesting battle for supremacy for the smartphone bragging rights, and also for growth especially in Africa and the rest of the developing world. While only few can afford the high end smartphones, Iphone, Samsung Galaxy SII and SIII (okay I want that one), HTC One X, Motorola Droids (hmm have not heard of one in a while), the real mover and shaker for the adoption is in the $100 range which was dominated by Nokia Symbian feature phones, but is not being relentlessly barraged by the Huwaeii, ZTE and other Chinese/Asian manufacturers. The Samsung Pocket, is a baby in the family but in my opinion is a great starting point for users to upgrade to the higher end smartphones. As with all smartphones, battery life, touch issues (we have lots of dust, and dirt with little access to cleaning agents), are key.

However growing the ecosystem to add value will increase uptake, with Android the operating system and platform may be available, but useful applications in the local context are key to pushing adoption and usage. That is the one area, Samsung and Google need to cooperate with local developers, government, NGOs to develop a value proposition for acquiring and using the phones not forgetting pushing the local telecom network operators to push down data costs to make the application usage feasible.

What are your thoughts?

MeetMTN – MTN Uganda Executive Management Town Hall Meeting

Well 2012 is upon us, and the incubmbent US President Barack Obama, has started his battle for a second term in office, so that he can complete the change that he promised the American people. The battle for his first term was epic, first against Ms. Hillary Clinton, which intially changed from a David vs Goliath story to a battle of titans that he won. The one against the Republican was a massacre as Mr. John Mccain shot himself in the foot and head one campaign after another.

Why all this about President Obama, well one of his campaign tactics was town hall style meetings in different towns, and constitencies in order to connect with the people in the ground, and hear what they have to say directly.

Teleport straight to Uganda the Pearl of Africa, home to great beauty among other things, as well as to multi-national corporations which are running a large chunk of the core economy activities. Well these corporations have been facing a backlash with regard to service delivery over the last few years (which was terrible), the wrath of most was directed to UMEME the national power distributor due to the incessant power shortages which sort of brought the economy to its knees in 2011. At the height of the backlash, UMEME started to reach out to the populace to inform and educate the general public who did not understand their roles, challenges and strategies for attacking the rampant power problem. One of these events was a Tea Party for social media enthusiasts – bloggers and tweeps covered here https://ssmusoke.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/umeme-tea-party-quick-and-dirty-review-and-perspective/.

Well MTN Uganda, the largest telco by market share, numbers and revenues, has also reached out using a similar strategy this time called MeetMTN, where tweeps and bloggers were invited to meet the MTN executive management to discuss issues pertaining to service delivery and what is being done to work around the known issues.

Here is a summary of the major issues raised during the meeting, and responses from MTN executives who attended:

1. Provision of an API for Mobile Money and development of a partner ecosystem – information on when an API will be provided for mobile money as the largest provider and one with the largest reach. From the recently completed startup weekend, 12 of the 13 startup ideas depend on Mobile Money for payments. However no details of the availability of an API for 3rd parties were given citing a need not to commit to predefined dates. .The API is coming soon

2. Staff Attrition – there are rumours in the grapevine that there is a higher than normal attrition rate of talent over the last quarter, and whether this is one of the root causes of the recent outages and lowered quality of service delivery. The CEO mentioned that MTN leverages its regional strengths, but focuses on developing the local talent within the countries that MTN operates.

3. Service Health Dashboard – whether its possible to provide a public dashboard on the health of different services, inspired by Google approach. Also whether it was possible to spread information on service slowdowns and outages through different channels, Facebook/Twitter/Website/SMS, Radio/TV and customer service centers for extended service outages.

4. Lottery Games – there was a game which involved amassing points by answering questions for a chance to win UGX 10,000 (~US$4,000), and one of the attendees played the game using his family resources, and his wife almost divorced him. He was wondering how many points were needed to win the prizes so that he would be contented. The executives thanked him for playing and wished him better luck next time.

5. Unsolicited, Spam and Junk SMS messages plus hidden charges from content providers licensed by MTN and the company itself – There are many SMS messages for caller ring back tones, both from MTN and licensed content providers both as spam and also unknown activations which charge user numbers. We were informed of a blacklist code to enter I seem to have forgotten it, but this is not publizied … similar to US “Do Not Call Registry”

6. Does MTN Sell Customer numbers to content providers – MTN does not sell numbers to content providers, however these numbers are collected as part of normal usage for example promotions etc which may be done by friends, relatives. Ms. Maureen Agena of Text-to-Change also provided her organization’s experience with collecting targetted numbers which corroborates the information and policies from the executive.

7. Postpaid Service upgrade – customers on post paid services cannot upgrade data bundles in case they run out on a pay-as-you go service once the post paid bundle runs out. The executive informed us that the billing platform for all services is converged therefore this should be cleared in the very near future.

8. Hoax Promotions – there are cases when a promotion sale of phones or devices is announced, but they are not available because they were gobbled up by MTN staff. Management promised to look into this

9. IPV6 Migration – internal testing is in progress, but roll out to all customers is not confirmed until the services are confirmed as stable

10. SME Pricing – there seem to be no plans geared towards the SME sector as the current plans are either consumer (too expensive for SME at retail rates), or Enterprise (capex and opex costs too high for SME)

UPDATES – from Reader Feedback:

11. Simcard registration process and charges – there are claims of some agents charging for sim-card registrations, bu there is no charge for sim-card registrations. Also MTN intends to use this exercise as a “Know Your Customer” exercise and to deal with the spam/junk SMS message problem highlighted above.

12. Mobile Hotspots – the internet is not usable in a few parts of the country, and it would be better if there were hotspots at least in the urban areas, so that customers do not need dongles but just connect, and pay for usage. The technical team informed us that this was something that they were considering.

13. Internet Bundles using airtime once they expire without approval – currently once the Internet bundles expire the user’s airtime is charged which is the default option. There are ways around this and MTN intends to educate its customers on how to use these options

14. Slow Speed of the Website – the website is too slow, actually one of the slowest in Uganda, and the website self service features do not work. The website is currently being upgraded for speed and features, and a new one will be unveiled soon (BTW this is very embarrassing for multi-national telcom company).

Overall the interactions were excellent, and the available MTN staff were knowledgeable of subject matter they were discussing, which left a ray of hope that finally the behemoth is listening to its customers. Obviously the gift packs at the end made the trip worthwhile too. In closing I would like to say again as I did on Twitter:

“The only way @MTNUGANDACARE can support #startups and #enterprenurs is to provide a #mobilemoney #API #MeetMTN”

If I missed anything, just let me know …

The Christmas Gathering and Beyond

I know the first thing that came to mind is who gathered, where and for what. And for those of ye who have knowledge of old English or Celtic history you are thinking of a meeting of wizards, witches, faires, elves, dwarves, gnomes or smurfs 🙂

Well it is nothing like that, this is where it all began. A friend of mine Dennis Assimwe a talented pianist has had this knack for writing and social media, Facebook in particular provided him with an outlet for his writing he has a coupla good notes out there. Anyway whilst reading his notes, we suggested that he creates a group intially to share his notes but it later turned out to attract others who have an interest in the “written word” creative writing and so on. Personally I am trying to find my artistic side, trying to stimulate it so that it does not wither and die on me something which I have always enjoyed but never had the time to do.

I am trying to read the classics, started with the Art of War, now moving to Shakespeare, am also starting to listen to soft rock as I have been advised that the artists there still write, pour their hearts and souls into the music.

Now back to notes, well we started the group now 700+ strong, and then an idea came, what if we were to meet, put faces to people and share more in person.

The idea was hatched and in October we had our first Gathering. The format was simple have a guest speaker, then interweave it with music, poetry, and let it take a life of its own. Fortunately there is a cafe, Soho’s (FB Page here), which we used. On the day the weather was terrible, it rained from 3pm to 7:00pm, and the traffic was not just murder, but unbelieveably bad. But 15 or so turned up, and our first speaker for the day was James Onen, a radio presenter, free thinker and well articulated atheist. His topic of choice was Hotel California by Band Name, the lyrics, meanings behind the lyrics etc, the history of the band, link to Satanists etc. It was enlightening and we wondered where time went … There were a few renditions, and a blues number by one Susan Anique (Google her) but all in all it was a great evening.

Since the first one was a success we decided to have a second stab at it, this time with Santa thrown in and see how much trouble we could get into …

The date was set Wednesday December 14, at our venue Soho Cafe and Grill, with the usual guest speaker, this time I Am Enigma (http://iamenygma.wordpress.com/), an MC and Hip Hop artist, did not know what to expect, plus buffet, egg nog and mistletoe (the package of this got caught in customs so we could not partake of the meanings).

The ladies were out in the sweet little red and black dresses, it was definitely a sight to behold …

Well I was late, occupational hazards, but thanks to a power outage, I was able to get  in fashionably late in my blue outfit, the green elf outfit did not dry because of the rain. So there I was all spruced up and ended up becoming the master of ceremonies …

The guest speaker was up next, he walked us through the lyrics of one of his songs, and explained the thinking process being the lyrics and how he brings the words and rhymes together using anagrams, plaindromes, and related places e.g., Lebanon (near Isreal for freedom), you and me are like decepticons on their way to the prime (the journey of life to the top).

The Q&A highlighted differences between MCs and DJs, why he wears the mask, his path to the top, etc. After which was food, after a prayer by our guest speaker which started in Arabic and ended with an Amen 🙂

After food was music time, Suzan our resident crooner did a rendition of Little Drummer Boy (of course I pushed for that one), James Onen did an oldie by Silk with the end being Dennis on the keyboard and Ouma Myko on the guitar and can those boys mix the beats.

A gathering is never complete without something on the wild side, not so, well we then had some freestyling poetry between myself and Justyne, called “Nightfall Lover” which is a poem about two lovers and their romantic adventures …

We then cut the Gathering Xmas cake, secret Santa gave out gifts to those who had brought (all u had to do was pick out a package that u did not bring and there were some very nice surprises). Finally the moralities were done then it was time to mingle and shake hands, drink more of the punch and just chill out …

Before we knew it … it was way past midnight and other gathering was concluded. Just watch this space for the next one which will be informal and we already have an eye on our guest speaker …

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