The Curious Incident of the Missing Market – Technology for Africa ’07?

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Dave Duarte and Mike Stopforth have put together a regular marketing podcast for South Africans, which is shaping up to be a promising part of the ecosystem.

Recently there was an attempt to get a “web 2.0 conference” done in SA in May, which didn’t happen for whatever reason. Apparently there isn’t enough interest, which I can picture, but like Mike and Dave, I have my doubts about how the market was approached… Which is a shame…. but that leads me to my next point ;-)

They contacted me earlier in the week to do a Skype podcast, which I naturally said of course to, and after having swanky dinner with Tim tonight, over Flirtnik, I’ve come home and decided to listen to the podcast while getting some work out of the way.

Anyways, it’s always weird listening to your own voice, but I think I get the message accross about what we’re trying to do with the conference, much better than if I could write it here…

So, go check out the blog post, and listen to it.
Tell your mates about the conference, sign up yourself at the conference site so we can mail you more info, and get involved!

Also – while you’re at it – sign up for the Amplitude podcast, and you should also probably keep an eye on Dave and Mike’s blogs… ;-)

Also, while I’m thinking about it, if you’re interested in what we’re up to in London, then this is also worth watching, although in the next few weeks I might have to eat my shorts… but more on that when the time is right.

The pain of blogging

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It seems an age since I last blogged regularly. I mean, I used to live blogging. I love the ideal of it, the ability to communicate with anyone anywhere in the world with access to the internet, the way the long tail brings you together with people in a way that you never thought entirely possible. I love the application of blogging too – support tool, notification tool, reminder tool, news tool, memory tool, family tool, community tool, collaboration tool – and in each of these ways I’ve missed the contact I used to get every day through blogging.

People used to laugh at me and ask me why I blogged – “What’s the point?” they’d say; “Who’s reading your blog?” thay’d ask; and so it went on and on and on. I just smiled and told them that it was more for me than anything else. The catharcism of blogging is unique in human existence I think. When else were we as individuals able to communicate with so many of our own kind at the click of a “Publish” button? That was my excuse and I’m sticking to it. [ As an aside, to all the doubting Thomas', today I can honestly say that I have a business, doing more business than I could have ever imagined a year ago, with two partners I would have given my left testicle to work with a year ago, doing the kind of work that I love doing, because I blogged. Put that in your pipe and take a deep breath ;-) Blogging works. ]

I used to just read and absorb as much as I could, and then simply point to it. My blog was only useful to people who wanted to find the kind of stuff that I was pointing to. Now, when I do blog, I try to make my blogging useful in it’s own right. There are loads of people pointing so why add to the noise? If you are any good with a search engine these days, you shouldn’t need a pointer – blogs are indexed so regularly now that if you use the right search phrase and you’re specific enough, you go right to the source – so I’m not going to try point anymore unless it’s really something I think you might benefit from, especially if it’s a bit of humour, or something I’ve got first heads up on ;-)

The pain is that good blogging takes time. It’s time consuming because to write something good takes something out of you, and it requires that you think before you write. At the moment, everything I have is being poured into my business to get to where we want to be, so I have little left to give outside of getting sleep, going to gym and running, eating properly, and having a small semblance of a normal social life. I don’t bemoan it, but I do feel guilty for not blogging more than I would like to.

The greater pain is that I have started to realise what I can blog about, where I can actually offer something of value to readers, and the ideas that pop into my head all the time are all great blog posts, but they need time. And like any good cobbler, I’m so busy that I’d rather not blog, than blog something half-arsed and half-conceived.

What do you think?

Anyways, this is a brain fart. I’ve got about 20 mins before I need to catch the last tube home, so I thought I’d post something for a change, and it’s been really cool just letting the words come out. The good news is that I’m starting to change my role within the business, so that I do less code & project management, and more communication, so hopefully that will lead to more regular posts about good stuff. I also need to introduce you to Doris, and I’m really looking forward to that.

Adios for now ;-)

37Signals using Amazon S3 for file storage on Basecamp

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Was just trying to download a file off of 37Signals’ Basecamp, and got an error message – turns out the error message was an XML snippet from the Amazon S3 webservice.. Which is not really that interesting to anyone other than real Geeks who are wondering who is going to supply their massive storage needs in the near future, and who else is already doing it to make their decision any easier … ;-)

FYI:
_ Amazon.com: Amazon S3, Amazon Simple Storage Service, Unlimited Online Storage: Amazon Web Services
Amazon S3 is storage for the Internet. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers.

Amazon S3 provides a simple web services interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. It gives any developer access to the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, inexpensive data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites. The service aims to maximize benefits of scale and to pass those benefits on to developers.

Technology for Africa ’07 credit card test passed, speakers announced

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The last week or so has seen us sit with bated breath, waiting to see the reaction to the web and emerging technology conference we’re going to put together for Africans (with an African context of course). Well, we’re happy to say that the credit card test has passed, and the response has been really positive – At the moment we’re getting a sign up rate of 25% of visitors that view the site, which is not too bad I think. You can view what people are asking for at the conference, at our feedback results page.

So, that’s great but who are the speakers?
In alphabetical order, here you go for now (more on the way):

Andy Budd

Andy Budd wearing a suit but no shirt collar, sits with his hands clasped in front of him.Andy Budd is an internationally renowned user experience designer and web standards expert. Andy is a regular speaker at major design conferences and recently spoke at @media 2006 in London, and Webmaster Jam in Dallas, Texas. Andy is also the driving force behind our annual d.Construct web development conference.

Andy wrote the best selling book, CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions. In this book, Andy shares his years of experience in creating attractive, standards compliant websites.

Andy’s design experience and knowledge has been called upon many times as a judge in web design awards, most notably the Bubu Awards, the ReUSEIT Contest and the Web Standards Awards, which he founded in 2004. Andy currently sits on the advisory board for .Net magazine, the UK’s leading web development periodical.

A more personal side of Andy can be found at Blogography, a popular weblog where he writes about web design and web standards issues, as well as his passions for travel, photography and diving.

Andy is the creative director at Clearleft and runs their web standards training program.


Andy Clarke

Andy Clarke

Andy Clarke has been working on the web for almost ten years. He is a visual web designer based in the UK and started his design consultancy Stuff and Nonsense in 1998. As lead designer and creative director, his clients include local and national businesses, charities and government bodies and he has designed for The British Heart Foundation, Disney Store UK, Save The Children and WWF UK.

Andy is a member of the Web
Standards Project
where he redesigned the organization’s web site in 2006. He is also an Invited Expert to the W3C’s CSS Working Group. Andy regularly speaks at workshops and conference events worldwide and is the author of Transcending CSS.


Demian Turner

Demian Turner has been involved in web development for the past 9 years. His primary focus is on developing multi-tier web applications. He also has experience building standards compliant XHTML GUIs, acting in a customer-facing role and managing projects.

Demian specialises in PHP/MySQL/Apache development on Linux and also has experience in system administration, requirements gathering, UML and Object Oriented Analysis and Design. He is the maintainer for the Seagull framework project, and contributes to SimpleTest, Max Media Manager and the PEAR open source projects.


Malcolm Hall

President and CEO of Open Box Software, a 50+ team of .Net developers out of Cape Town.

Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Malcolm was a founder member of a successful start-up (The World On Line) focused on Microsoft Great Plains—a mid-market ERP package—in the 1990′s.

Upon moving to the UK in 1998, Malcolm has, as a member of the Deloitte & Touché (UK) and then e2i (UK) management teams, managed consultancy teams in the London, Central and Northern regions of the United Kingdom. Malcolm has extensive hands-on technical experience and has also programme managed IT projects across the UK, Germany, France, Spain, The Netherlands and the US.

Since founding Open Box, Malcolm has divided his time between US, UK and South Africa overseeing operations and project delivery. He is also responsible for developing further relationships with prospective and current clients, as well as partners and suppliers.


We’ll be announcing more speakers as we confirm, and if you’re interested you can view what people are asking for at the conference, at our feedback results page.

You get what you pay for… every man is in his underwear on the web.

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I’ve just had an interesting experience these last few weeks, where I’ve been woefully underwhelmed by a supplier that I thought was going to do a lot better than was eventually produced. Throughout the process I was defending the supplier with my colleagues, thinking that I would hold on ‘cos that great piece of work I was expecting was around the corner.

Unfortunately it never arrived, and I had to face the fact that I was out of time, and couldn’t afford to take things further. It kinda sucks, but this was for something that is really, really, really important to us, so I had to stop things in their tracks and find another supplier.

This is all pretty standard in most business lifecycles I think, so nothing great so far, but what is important is that on the web every man can literally be in his underwear, warts and all, but pretend to be as amazing as they would care to portray. Now I’m not for a minute insinuating that the person in question is or does pretend, but the fact remains that since we’d not met personally, nor worked together before, I had no yardstick with which to measure things with. No experience to make an informed decision on.

I guess the point is that originally we looked at our budget and decided against the Ferrari ‘cos we didn’t have the cash to pay for it up front. Instead we went with what we thought was the Audi. As life would have it, the Audi simply didn’t perform well enough, and now we’re back with the Ferarri (on a side note, we’ve managed to mitigate the cost of the Ferarri with a barter, so we should really have been that creative from the start, instead of assuming we would have to pay outright. Note to self I think) and since we’ve worked with the Ferrari before we know what the results are likely to be.

Bottom line for web work (and I guess most everything) is you get what you pay for.

My lesson is to never ever make the assumption that you will save money in the long run by choosing the cheaper option in the short term, ‘cos the cheaper option in the short term will almost always have other costs you didn’t factor in that will probably equal the more expensive option, so why not choose the more expensive option and save yourself some hassle, and get something better in the process?

Anyways, catharcism over – any thoughts?

Making digital headway in 2006

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Just posted another piece over at Lemon Foundation on how businesses should be going about finding their digital suppliers… Here’s the intro:

It’s becoming apparent that the digital arena is starting to pick up, certainly much more than it has year by year over the last 4 to 5 years. Businesses are starting to look at their digital / online / technical / IT / software needs and are realising that they really ought to start improving their online presence / taking advantage of sales on the web / leveraging the advantages of online collaboration etc. The corollary to this is that whilst there is a growth in spend, it produces an increase in competition between the vendors or suppliers that provide services to the abovementioned organisations.

Read more

Basically if you’re a business looking to do stuff digitally, I think it’s more important to understand what you want to be doing before you go about finding a supplier, as you’re less likely to be led down the rabbit hole, and more likely to be invested in the outcomes – it also means that you’re more likely to find the right supplier, and less likely to get burnt.

More on this soon though – I’ve got one or two angry posts stewing up some steam ;-)

In Luxembourg

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I’m in Luxembourg today ’till friday doing client work, and I have to say that Luxembourg is definitely not what I expected! I’ve not yet been into the city yet, so can’t really comment on that, but from what I’ve seen it’s absolutely beautiful and very modern – albeit a bit sparse ;-) Also got a bit scared doing 180km/h on the freeway in the taxi!!