06 August 2014

ZA Tech Show Episode 371 - Show me the (mobile) money!

Brett Haggard gets together with his favourite Internet booze-hound, Andy Hadfield and his favourite analyst, Steven Ambrose for a mobile (money) heavy episode. Topics discussed by the panel include:

  • Vodacom’s new R550 smartphone;
  • Pep’s partnership with Google on an ‘African’ Android;
  • The Internet.org app;
  • Xiaomi overtaking Samsung in China;
  • What’s going on in the mobile money space;
  • Yo and Red Alert Israel Integration;
  • What’s the latetst on MXit; and
  • Andy and Brett’s impressions of Bodytec.

Our technology picks of the week are:

04 July 2014

What pisses me off about the NGO sector...

In this interesting stage of my life (post startup) - where the party line is "actively seeking next gig", I've had a rare and cool opportunity to start exploring the commercial landscape to see what's out there and what I want to work on next.

Something that has always appealed to me is the NGO sector. The chance to use your skills to actually do some good in the world. Sure, money is nice - and I want lots of it. But sometimes the job satisfaction isn't all its cracked up to be. When you look back at age 55 (young retirement these days) - how will you feel about the jobs, startups and projects you undertook?

Photo Credit: B. Baltimore Brown (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bbaltimore/9064647)

And yet. The more I investigate the NGO sector, the more broken it appears. Forget the fragmentation - if just 20% of the millions of amazing projects out there could just find a way to band together, can you imagine...

Forget the people (who are awesome). I have grown an enormous amount of respect for those that ply their trade within this sector. They're more than tireless, many are superhuman.

Here's the crux. If you think corporate politics are bad - you should just dip your toe in donor funding.

I wanted to try and outline these thoughts, because I'm sure there are many NGO's that are breaking this mould. I'd love to know who they are. One of the trends in this sector appears to be towards "social business" as opposed to "non profit". That's starting to make some sense. Making money while making an impact - a positioning I can get behind.

A quote to kick things off. From the bastion of capitalism, Private Equity...

"You’re probably wondering why a private equity magazine is writing about impact investing.Well, three reasons, really.

The obvious answer is that some of the world’s leading impact investors don’t believe they have to sacrifice financial returns to deliver social returns; indeed, in some cases, they think that addressing a social problem can actually deliver outsized financial gains. In other words, these groups differ from regular private equity firms only in the strategy they pursue to achieve their returns (and the dual proposition they can offer investors, of course).

Perhaps more importantly, though, we take the not-very-controversial view that the future significance of impact investing – the scale of its own impact, if you like – depends to a large extent on its success in gaining access to institutional money and the capital markets more broadly. And this is the audience that we speak to every day.We know from talking to big investors that they have a growing interest in this area; we also know that they’re still a bit nervous about it. So we’re interested in looking at this issue from their perspective, and examining the pros and cons in a way that’s useful to them.

There’s also a third (slightly selfish) reason: this stuff is just really interesting to write about. The prospect of unlocking private capital to help solve big societal problems – from recidivism in the suburbs to malaria in Africa – is a hugely enticing one."

-- James Taylor, Senior Editor of Private Equity International 

My fundamental problem informed from early stage investigations into this sector: you're expected to have made your money first, before you can make an impact as a senior role-player in the NGO sector.

If you want to work your way up from the bottom, you have to make an enormous lifestyle and wealth sacrifice, very contradictory to human nature (and the primary reason why I've developed such immense respect for the 1000s of committed NGO grinders I've come across lately).

WHY? Why will NGO's not pay market related salaries (broadly speaking, there will obviously be exceptions) for senior people? Or just for people full stop?

The answer lies partially in the politics of donor funding. How every donor buck has to be accounted for - to the point where some NGO's spend more time accounting for their actions than taking actions. Every donor buck wants to make an immediate impact. Not an impact to an organisation or team that might make a bigger overall impact over a longer time period.

I came across one Managing Director of a kick-ass NGO lately. He was currently earning what I used to earn 9 years ago - as a fresh faced whippersnapper in the ad industry. And I haven't been exorbitantly paid throughout my career. It was disgusting. And yet he continued on, doing invaluable work that actually helps people - on the ground - where they need help.

Have we created a situation where NGO's are scrambling for cents instead of making sense out of the myriad of problems we, as a developing country, are faced with?

There's a TED Talk, given fairly recently, that I highly recommend you watch. It tackles the some of the issues I've raised: the lunacy of donor funding, donor restrictions and procedures on how that funding can be spent - and how "impact" is best achieved.

Don't get me wrong. I know very little about the NGO sector. If I'm way off here, tell me. If not, watch this. Talk about the problem. Go hug your friends that are working in the NGO sector and say thank you.

It may sound selfish, but it looks like I'm going to have to go and make some more money to pay off debt and fund the sproglet's education - before I'm "allowed" or able to enter this sector. Perhaps. Or perhaps someone will show me there's hope out there.

Perhaps I've found a problem I want to help solve one day. One day.

TED: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.

04 June 2014

ZA Tech Show Episode 304 - Sour Apples

It’s back to the usual rhythm this week as Brett Haggard, Adam Oxford and Andy Hadfield gather to discuss Apple’s announcements, the world’s first Afrikaans social network and 3D printed limbs.

  • iOS 8 announced at WWDC;
  • Google’s new designer Glass;
  • Toeter;
  • Tizen on Samsung Phones and Smart Devices;
  • Vumatel winning the Parkhurst Fibre tender; and
  • The doubling of mobile data usage in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our technology picks of the week are:

  • Adam picks Roboleg;
  • Andy picks the Discovery Insure Driver App for iOS; and
  • Brett picks Cyclemeter for iOS

21 May 2014

What apps are on your home screen? (#HomeScreenSurvey)

Competing in the app economy isn't as easy as you may think. Last year, I read some studies on app usage and app abandonment rate that scared the marketer in me. Here's a paragraph from a TechCrunch article listing many of the sources:

"Back in 2011, around a quarter of mobile apps were downloaded, used once then abandoned. Today’s users are far more fickle, given their greater choice. According to Mobilewalla founder Anindya Datta, speaking to USA Today last year, an estimated 80 to 90 percent of apps are eventually deleted from users’ phones.

Talk about having only one chance to make a good first impression."

First impressions are important, it would appear. At first, this sounded a bit over the top. Over 80% of apps were likely to fail the first impression test and get deleted, immediately or consigned to the waste bin of screen 3, 4 and 5 on your phone. Over the top until you look at your own phone and think about how many apps you regularly use that AREN'T on the home screen. Try it.

Which makes me wonder, just who are we competing with when we build apps and try to get people to use them? I'll give you a clue, it's the big guys. And they're winning at the moment!

Over the course of this past week, I asked my followers on Twitter to submit screenshots of their home screens, compiled the data and tried to gather some insights on what must be 80-90% of app usage on their smartphones. I doubt this is a statistically significant sample - but it's a sample nonetheless. Most likely:
  • tech savvy, Twitter users who follow @andyhadfield :)
  • iOS dominant (this was interesting, over 90% of respondents were on iOS)
  • know how to take a screenshot
In the spirit of open source, here's a link to the 54 home screens that were submitted and the Excel I put together to work out the frequency of particular apps. Do with it what you will. Credit and link back here if you please.

I'd love someone with a bit of a research bent to dig into this a little more. Until that person pops up, I've put together a little frequency map for you to have a look at - with some of my findings / thoughts below.

Rules I applied:
  • Just the home screen apps were noted down
  • Apps within folders were ignored (because I couldn't be sure exactly which apps they were)
  • Folder names were jotted down
  • Folder names that were almost exactly the same were combined (eg. Photography vs Photographic)
  • Widgets (eg. weather) on Android home screens were indicated as such

Please leave any comments around insights you may have picked up. Here are a couple of things I found interesting:
  • The dominance of iOS was odd in the sample. 
  • Embedded Apple apps were obviously the strongest - didn't expect anything different.
  • Twitter and Instagram beat out Facebook, only just. This may have been because the sample was more Twitter orientated. Twitter beat out Facebook quite heavily if you count 3rd party Twitter apps.
  • Clock and Torch apps still rank highly, even though iOS 7 allows you to swipe up from the bottom to access those functions (I personally removed both these apps off my home screen when that happened - saved some space).
  • Chrome is moving up the ranks but Safari is still almost double the frequency. Again, the Twitter audience is likely more tech-savvy hence the presence of Chrome.
  • Why on earth would people include the Contacts app on your home screen when you can get to it via the Phone button?
  • Everyone has the "Phone" app - except one person. 
  • Folders are popular.
  • Both iTunes Store (indicator that buying music is increasing locally?) and the App Store / Google Play Store performed strongly. The presence of an App Store is just more evidence of our dopamine-based app culture. Quick hits of "trying out new stuff" before deleting and moving back to what our phones are really for - utility.
  • Paid for navigation apps (eg. TomTom) have a tough job where the alternatives are great and free.
  • Banking apps (FNB and Standard Bank were the only ones to make an appearance in this sample) aren't quite the home screen stalwarts I suspected they might be. Or they were consigned to a folder...
  • ... and then there's the long tail. One of the most fascinating things about this list is the sheer volume of apps I've barely heard of that users have deemed important enough to occupy that valuable home screen. Browse through it - there's some dopamine to be had.

And finally, from a business perspective. Hopefully now you can see how tough this world of apps is. Not only do you have to be discovered inside the app store. But you've somehow got to get onto the primary screen - or your usage is going to be an uphill battle.

What else can you figure out? 

14 May 2014

Open Source Code for Real Time Wine

As I promised in the closing down email and the post mortem "lessons learned" article - here is the code for Real Time Wine.

A couple of things:

a) Thank you to Prezence Digital for compiling this. I know agencies haven't quite embraced the "open source" thing, so I think it was a big step for them and I hope they get some joy and cool community engagement out of it.

b) That said, there are a few modules used in Real Time Wine that remain proprietary to them and are not in this download. Mainly it's their handset adaption tech (phone recognition and rendering a mobi style site according to screen size) and image manipulation tool.

c) This download excludes images (that download would be about 4GB). I'm also not sure that it can just be executed as is (in fact, it probably can't)... There are a few notes (included at the bottom of this post) that Prezence provided. If you're a developer, you should understand what's going on.

d) Remember the apps weren't built natively. To remain lean, we built a sexy mobi interface and the wrapped that up in some native code which controlled GPS, camera and a few other functions.

e) The Blackberry 10 App was native though.

f) If you use any of this, just let us know. Keep us in the loop. Or not. But it'd be nice. If we did something wrong, no haters. If we did something cool, pats on back absolutely welcome.

g) Any questions, chat to me on Twitter.

Enjoy. Hope it helps. Without further ado...

If you need any context on Real Time Wine, suggest scrolling through all the posts on this blog. This link will get you there: early posts with context and launch info / more recent posts with the closure announcement and post mortem.

Or read some of the early PR: TechCentral article / Daily Maverick Article

Developer Notes on Real Time Wine

Android Configuration:
These are the project folders:

These depend on the Facebook android library project which can be found in the "android_facebook" project.

To change environment variables, see com.real_time_wine.BaseActivity:
public String baseUrl = "http://www.realtimewine.com";
protected static final String URL_HOMEPAGE = "/wine/trending";
protected static final String URL_LOGOUT_IDENTIFIER = "/users/logout";

BB10 Configuration:
BB10 source can be found in the folder real_time_wine_bb10.

To change the environment variables see the CustomDatasource.cpp file. The project is reliant on an api that is produced by the mobi site. The api_url has to be set to wherever the mobi site is deployed.

IOS Configuration:
iOS source can be found in the folder realtimewine_ios.

To change the environment variables see the RTWViewController file.
The BaseURLString has to point to wherever the mobi site is deployed.

Web Configuration:
The web files (front-ends and api) can be found in the folder realtimewine_web.

For the front-end, the following values will need to be modified:

Configure::write('blog_url', 'http://blog.example.com/');
Configure::write('advertising_url', 'http://blog.example.com/p/advertise.html');
Configure::write('info_email', 'info@example.com');
Configure::write('Bitly.User', '');
Configure::write('Bitly.Key', '');
Configure::write('Google.analytics_key', '');
Configure::write('webserviceUrl', 'http://api.example.com/api/');
Configure::write('imageUrl', 'http://api.example.com/files/');
Configure::write('frontendUrl', 'http://example.com/');
Configure::write('apiUrl', 'http://api.example.com/');
Configure::write('cdnUrl', 'http://example.com/');

Social Links and App download links should be configured in core.php
Configure::write('app.download.itunes', '');
Configure::write('app.download.google', '');
Configure::write('app.download.samsung', '');
Configure::write('app.download.vodacom', '');
Configure::write('app.download.amazon', '');

Sidekicker API details required for content adaptation - see prezence.co.za for contact details.

// The authentication username.
$config['DeviceSniffer']['username'] = '';
// The authentication password.
$config['DeviceSniffer']['password'] = '';
// The encryption key used when interacting with the api.
$config['DeviceSniffer']['key'] = '';

Database details required.

public $live = array(
        'driver' => 'mysql',
        'persistent' => false,
        'host' => '',
        'login' => '',
        'password' => '',
        'database' => '',
        'prefix' => '',
        'encoding' => 'utf8',

Regarding Proprietary Code:
Certain parts of the web souce have been encoded with popular encryption software, ionCube.
The software to run the encrypted source, can be obtained free of charge on the ionCube website http://www.ioncube.com/.


Image credit: Roo Reynolds. https://www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds/8574509123