Saturday, December 27, 2014

Editing digital content

Here I will refer to "traditional" content as content that is translated via TV, newspapers and radio; it is centrally produced and once published cannot be changed. I will refer to "digital" content as content that is translated via the Internet; it can be produced by any number of people and can be changed even after publication. The primary difference between traditional and digital content is that the reader cannot know how many times the digital content has been edited over, or by who. In order to build an audience that trusts digital content, digital content creators (including curators, editors, etc) need to be open in their approach to their content. This requires transparency with both, contributors as well as readers. It also requires a consistent editorial policy, such that content is edited in the same ways, following the same rules, across all articles. These are developing thoughts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

#TheNewTZ

"In an unprecedented move, angry patients who had waited for services of a medical officer in vain were forced to flog him from a nearby bar where they found him drinking alcohol." From The Citizen today.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Direction of time II

A few recent thoughts on this subject: 1. Time has no direction per se. We created a direction for it. 2. We share a common concept of time so we can work on the same schedule. 3. Most products and services are utilized in the day time, eg: Cleaning, Food. 4. Some products and services are utilized at erratic times, eg: Transporting, Drinks. 5. Some people do not share the common schedule. 6. Some people create their own schedules, ie: their own time. 7. A different concept of time does not necessarily conflict with the common concept.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Direction of time

Does time have a direction? We treat it as though it is linear, irreversible and infinate. Yet, the shape of the skies repeats each day, as do seasons and the visibility of faraway stars. So how linear is time exactly? I find that the saying "history repeats" is remarkably true. What seems to change with different societies is how they get along with one another and what about themselves they value most. Not so long ago - about 60 years ago - we didn't seem to get along too well and decided that we all needed our space/borders. A little later - and still common today - we seem to want to understand each other more but continue to need our space and are willing to protect our capital. How does this compare to our behavior, say, 1000 or even 5000 years ago?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reflecting on Banksy

"Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours, it belongs to you... its yours to take, rearrange and re use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head." - Banksy

Saturday, October 25, 2014

On streaming stuff

Read this article on FT Magazine today. Interesting how artists can benefit from the streaming industry after all, just when it looked like artists were going to go broke due to free streaming and downloading online.

Can this be applied to learning? For instance, can teachers benefit from putting out custom curriculum that they write from their bedrooms? Better yet, can students benefit from asking the right questions on the web? The answers to these may lie in who we think are the "artists" in this situation: The teachers, or the students, or someone else?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Extract from Maalouf's "Leo The African"

Harun, towards the end of The year of the rebels: "I have killed only murderers, I have robbed only thieves. I gave not ceased to fear God for a moment. I have ceased only to fear the rich and the powerful. Here I am fighting the unbelievers to whom our princes are paying court, I defend the towns which they abandon. My companions in arms are the exiles, outlaws and lawbreakfers from all lands..."

Harun, the protagonist's best friend and brother in law, has all the qualities Hasan wished he had but could not seize. In previous posts, I seem to think that this character is usually the enemy, the ante, the foe. But in Leo the African, the other is on the same side. Perhaps, then, the importance is not in which side the different perspectives support, but in the difference of perspective itself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nyerere day

20.09.1974:
"Comrade Nyerere is very much interested in education and public health. He is very interested in learning how we have faced the problem of illiteracy and the problem of educating our people. True, we did not have a situation as serious as Tanzania's, but it was serious in that in the early days of the revolution we had some 30 percent of illiteracy and almost 50 percent of the children were not going to school."
- Fidel Castro on Julius Nyerere (13.19.22 – 14.10.99) and Cuba. Archive here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fast food school

"Students may find their own ways of assessing quality by applying the approach they might take when shopping online for shoes or mobile phones to selecting a university course."

Full article here.

User-centric design or just fast-food school?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Eightyfourish

This post was created on 19th October 2014 at 1640. However, it was published into the past, on 15th September 2014 at 1640. There is not much point to this post, except 2 lessons: (1) History can be fabricated, (2) history is being fabricated. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Radio dilemma

I always knew our radio industry could be better, but today it got a bit more real. I see two scenarios:

1) We take global fun-talk (eg: fashion, Gaga and Cadillacs) and try to replicate it in TZ; something of a cosmopolitan-slanted-Westwards approach.

2) We take our talk (eg: corruption, Kubanda and Toyota) and try to understand the world through those lense. 

ie: Should TZ radio bring the world to TZ, or take TZ to the world?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quote from The Blacklist

Been getting into The Blacklist, thanks to Aly. Still early days, but Raymond 'Red' Reddington went into a monologue once that goes like this:
A farmer comes home one day to find that everything that gives meaning to his life is gone. Crops are burned, animals slaughtered,
bodies and broken pieces of his life strewn about. Everything that he loved taken from him - his children. One can only imagine the pit of despair, the hours of Job-like lamentations, the burden of existence. He makes a promise to himself in those dark hours. A life's work erupts from his knotted mind. Years go by. His suffering becomes complicated. One day he stops - the farmer who is no longer a farmer - sees the wreckage he's left in his wake. It is now he who burns, he who slaughters, and he knows in his heart he must pay.
Fantastic oration by James Spader, here and in many other monologues. Kinda reminds me of a post I wrote 6 years ago discussing heros and villians, and then a revisit on the topic 2 years ago. Also reminds me of Frank Costello - played by Jack Nicholson - in The Departed:
When you decide to be something, you can be it. That's what they don't tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I'm saying to you is this: when you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?
When it comes to binary oppositions, does it matter what the extremes are?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"TOR"

Officially, this abbreviation stands for Terms of Reference. But I've seen it so many times in the development space that I now see it as an outsourcing tool. Which is OK, unless you're outsourcing the most interesting, audience - facing and practical part of your work. If that's the case, then what do you do exactly?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Digital voice

Many clients I build websites for seem to think a website is like a press release; that once it's first iteration is complete, no further work is needed. But digital communication is becoming more adaptive to every-minute interactions, similar to how we change our voices' volume level, tone and pitch depending on where we are talking. In other words, digital forms of communication need to be adaptive, which changes the one-version-works-forever way of thinking. Particularly, more effort needs to go into watching peoples' responses to your deployment and having conversations with them. Out of this, new tweaks need to be made as you progress over time, creating space for new conversations at every turn. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On CSR

Corporate Social Responsibility seems like the reinvented wheel of economic activity itself. That is, products and services ought to be useful to peoples' lives, otherwise one would wonder why they last the sight of day. (OK, I know there are reasons why some products proliferate even though they diminish life's value, but that discussion is for another post).

Following this, CSR should be thought of as business as usual. Your primary product or service should be socially responsible. CSR should not be an afterthought, or charity. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

On digital copy

Text is only as good as people who read it.

I have such a hard time finding the right kind of help on design projects, not because it is not available, but because 80% of people's comments are useless. It feels like just because they had the facility to contribute to the discussion (ie: open commenting), they did in the most bland way possible, thus increasing scroll time, shortening patience and serving no value to the reader whatsoever.

#21stCenturyProblems #TooMuch(Little)Help

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The thing about contingencies

The thing about contingencies (in budgeting, planning, etc.) is that you cannot anticipate them. Likewise, you cannot anticipate their value (positive or negative). Yet, they are everywhere. Some markets have more pervasive contingencies than others. In an atmosphere where contingencies - such as delayed dues, or corruption - are inevitable, what kind of plan or strategy works?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Games

You play games in life (*) for one of two reasons: either you like what happens when you finish the game, or you enjoy making moves within it.
* Assuming there can be games within "life", even if one thinks life is a game.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

On human development

Human development is not just about what people need, but what you can do for them. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Forced market entry II

Following on from yesterday's post.

Perhaps it's not just about economic transactions, but more about revolution across the board. When the political, economic and social status quo is so entrenched in thinking X, but a new way of thinking Y has far reaching consequences on this status quo, then perhaps the only way is through force.

It's important to consider different forms of force here: Through written or pronouned words, produced sounds, or through physical action. I meant physical action for the majority of this and yesterday's post, but force may come in different ways. And along this line, force may come through natural as opposed to human interventions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Forced market entry

Thanks to a reading club that happens once a week in Khane (thanks SL!), I've been getting into Marshall Hodgon's The Venture of Islam (Book 1). The section titled "Muhammad's Challenge 570-624" has made me think about history unlike I did back at the IIS.

Particularly, one question: In any instance when a new way of transacting goods and services was introduced, was force necessary?

We could discuss market entry, but that would imply an assumption that there is a market in which people transact based on known and accepted methods. Today that means that cash and credit can buy you a good or a service. Barter could also do, but you may have to try extra hard.

But that assumption did not exist in 570 AD. Barter was a viable option, and so were other forms of currency which came from different lands. So in order for Muhammad to introduce a way of being - including a way of doing business that was based on a philosophy of why business should be done - there had to be some kind of significant shift in reasoning.

It's this significant shift I am contemplating now, particularly the methods by which the shift occurs. The section includes descriptions of the Nakhla Raids and the Battle of Badr, which were necessitated for various political, social and (my current interest) economic reasons. I'm not implying that the forms in which people transacted changed after these events, but the way in which they thought about transactions changed.

So, is force necessary when introducing a new way of transacting?

[Note for later: Highly undeveloped thoughts here. Need to fix.]

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Security questions

Where you have an ideal that you have gained support for, but which is being violently taken away, how do you protect the ideal?

Where you are pushed into a corner for a fault you have never been given notice of, how do you protect your dignity?

Where you and the people around you are consistently abused by the law which you try never to break, what law do you formulate to make sense of the situation?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The opportunity cost of bookspam

Today I observed a discussed on Facebook prompted by one of my friends on whether or not books should be delivered to Tanzanians' doorsteps.

On one hand, my friend and his supporters (myself included) contended that not all books can be delivered to one's doorstep given scarcity, and following this logic, the people who will come to view a book at a store in person are most deserving of the purchase.

On the other hand, people argued that we live in an age where home delivery is a premium service, and only those service providers who will deliver will survive. The rest, those who demand a customer to come to them, will lose out in the long run.

OK, so let's assume that every product and service was brought home to you. In this state of affairs, you need to be prepared to make wise choices, otherwise one of two things will happen, assuming that our need for stuff is never satiated: Either you will run out of money and into debt, or you will have too much shit lying around at home to make sense of.

Also, let's think about books compared to other products for a second. Books are a learning resource. Their returns can be quite larger (or smaller in that respect) than the money they are exchanged for. They are also many, many book titles out there, on many, many topics. So the opportunity cost of having the exact book you want delivered to your doorstep is the cost of going to the bookstore and having to browse through other titles similar to the book you want.

This is an opportunity cost worth taking up, rather than foregoing. Sure, this is my point of view, but I get where my friend comes from. Book stores ought to do anything they can to promote more people coming through them, otherwise I think we might end up with too many book lovers in debt because they ordered too much of stuff they didn't need. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Personal vs. business

I have a feeling I have written about this before. There is a popular saying (even in The Godfather) that goes something like this: "It's not personal, it's business". But some time ago, this seemed like an oxymoron to me. That is, if a business is very close to one's philosophy and way of acting, then the business is not just personal, it is the person.

But in recent days, I have come to realize one important distinction between what is personal and what is business, and it has to do with the kind of people one interacts with. One's personal space may not - and in most cases does not - involve the same people as one's business space. Yet, one's business space is what keeps one's personal space happy and prosperous.

In this light, "it's not personal, it's business" has taken on new meaning for me. Sometimes, the personal needs to stay out of business, otherwise there would not be enough time or resources to satiate everyone's personal appetites. At the same time, the business needs to stay out of the personal, otherwise our private, intricate relationships would wither into calculated, emotionless transactions.

Some comparisons I played with:

Business: Personal
Revenue: Expenditure
Work: Pleasure
Labor: Recreation
Public: Private

One more thing: This reminded me of a previous post, Binary oppositions.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Revision Rinsed V: Tech design

If technology is a tool to get things done more efficiently, then there are two prerequisites to any implementation of technology: First, there needs to be a thing to be done. Second, this doing could happen in more efficient ways. With these these two prerequisites, the implementation of technology seems to be appropriate. Without them, the implementation is likely to face trouble, if not failure.

However, if technology is not a tool to get things done, then we need to think further about prerequisites. In what cases do technological artefacts and the habits they involve manifest a unique culture? Who is involved with this culture and what are their motives? What is "the start" of this culture and what is "the end"?

References:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The misuse of language

Words are tools with which we can express ideas. But when words are abused to shy away from a solid idea, one of two things needs to be done: Either the idea does not need to be expressed and nothing needs to be said, or proper words are used. Sentences such as "Like you know what I mean?" or "a thoughtful way to think about" or "let's plan to try and go" or "I'm almost uncertain about this" are misconstruing the point or are simply unnecessary. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

HH and the Canadian Parliament

HH will be addressing the Canadian Parliament tonight. We are without a state, but we're lucky to have networks in the political economies of the states we live in.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Corrupt, lawless and racist

Today was hard. I always manage to convince myself that my city of birth can't be hard to live in - it's my city after all. I've been over being clamped for no reason by confused parking authorities and lost a whole day of work as a result. I've been misfined by the police themselves. I've been robbed. But today was just hard. I almost hit someone because they were crossing the road without looking, and ended up taking all the blame for a burn-mark the size of my thumb on his knee... and being called a white racist who wants to murder people on the road. Funny how, no matter how hard you try, the stranger in the midst of the public is out to fight you quite hard because that is how the world looks to him. Therefore, it's got to look the same for everyone, otherwise people just get downright shafted. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Like a car


It's difficult to control how others will steer their ambition. You only control what you drive. The challenge is navigating the path before you to the best of your advantage with as little obstruction to those around you. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Investing lessons from Li Ka-Shing

There's a bunch of works on investing that I've spent minimal time and attention on. But today I clicked on a post referred by a friend, and found some simple but fantastic words from Li Ka-Shing (who I only found out about through this post).

Here is an extract: "Life can be designed. Career can be planned. Happiness can be prepared. You should start planning now. When you are poor, spend less time at home and more time outside. When you are rich, stay at home more and less outside. This is the art of living. When you are poor, spend money on others. When you’re rich, spend money on yourself. Many people are doing the opposite."

This puts a lot in perspective for me, compared to the other works I've seen. Thanks, LKS and NM!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Necessary constraints

Human life, among other things within it, is limited. Dreams may exist without boundaries, but in order to bring them to life, they must have constraints. These constraints must be proportional to those that constrain life itself. In making constraints, sacrifices are necessary and inevitable. Choosing which sacrifices to make might seem an open-ended task, but in reality it seems to make most sense to exclude any sacrifices that prevent the choice-maker from living a happier, longer and more prosperous life (if not, then the possibility to one day make less choices may become a worthy sacrifice and that is contradictory). 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

On cave paintings and reports

Stories have been told throughout humanity. Sometimes they were told through cave paintings, and other times through paper documents created on Microsoft Word. Fact or fiction, they are stories, and are all ready with the same instruments. The situation in which they are read may change, but the principal of telling the story for another person, group or even generation to ready does not change.

What, then, should be expected of the number of stories? Is it proportional to the human population? Does it depend on the ability of storage devices (from caves to disks) to stand the test of space and/or time? And can some stories last forever?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

MG

Met MG Vassanji at Moto last night. Should have reread The Gunnysack before showing up, but it may have been difficult to bring up specific questions anyway.

He had read some of the groups' work and mostly advised on writing logically. For example: No need to describe every detail and context as the story happens because that's not how humans typically live. The story should unfold just as our senses observe life unfolding. Tenses also need to be consistent... but I didn't quite understand that, and asked if all these "rules" around the logic of writing apply to poetry. He said some rules do but not all.

He did also say that if you cannot live without writing, don't write. I'll be thinking about that one for a while. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On volunteering

To volunteer is to step outside the belief that immediate material returns on investment are the only reason to work. It is to believe in something larger than oneself, in a different kind of return to a different kind of investment. Contrary to popular discussion, volunteering is indeed an investment.

(Thanks Femima HIP!)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

To the best Jester

Chris: I will never forget your names, jokes, disses, always-on attitude, choice of music and your bike. Thank you for showing me that the boundaries we create in life are malleable and, most times, irrelevant. Hopefully this isn't the last I'll see of you. Rest well, my friend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

On the economy of academia

Two more Economist articles.

This one suggests that academic journals are likely to lock down their clients' sharing tendencies (including asking their clients' to remove published content from their own websites). One journal, Elsevier, has already started asking people to take stuff that belongs to their journal down. I appreciated this quote from Thomas Hickerson, chief librarian at the University of Calgary:
“Requesting such removals…seems at odds with the nature of an academic enterprise, in which the sharing of research information is an essential element.”
Another article discusses the skew of research itself; that it is mostly based on the US, where there is an abundance of data available. It's a sad situation for the world's poor, who ironically need the implementation of all the cool things that academia finds out:
"The world’s poorest countries are effectively ignored by the profession. From 1985 to 2005 Burundi was the subject of just four papers."
Two problems persist, and I have written about this before: Academia is not free for all, and its content is not about all. But, if academia is supposed to be a product of society and whose products are for society, then how did these problem arise?

Effectively, I would like Elimushare to deal with both these problems. The trick I think will be to make sure its design is akin to Tanzanian students. The web isn't always available to students... but is academia for students only, or does its implication touch the rest of the society as well?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Two thoughts on burning libraries

A library was recently torched in Tripoli. This is not the first time I am reading about the burning of library texts. I have two thoughts I want to share with future kin about this matter.

First, that knowledge is manifested through the actions of mankind should be regarded as fact. That is, knowledge has physical implications. For example, the knowledge of how to build a car is manifested in the building of a car; the car is proof that a systemic plan (which includes its corresponding theories and all the experimentation around those theories to prove them as true) was executed. But knowledge itself is not physical. It exists first in the mind.

Second, whatever mankind's opinion, knowledge ought to be preserved. Even for "bad knowledge", future generations ought to understand the prevailing interests of past times. Otherwise, if knowledge from different points in time or communities is erased, then history is obscured. Using the example of building a car, how would the most efficient car of the time be built without evidence of past trials and errors around car-building attempts before? History is never written with an absolute 0 bias, but history is enriched with more information on the direction in which the bias slants.

By torching libraries, we burn not just ourselves but also the understanding people of the future will have of us.