Reflections MozFest EA 2015

After a great experience at MozFest London in 2013, we set out on an exhilarating, but challenging  journey to bring MozFest to East Africa. We did this for various reasons such as;

  1. Not every one could come to London to experience MozFest. Its extremely costly, the visas are challenging and slots for participants are limited, so – Not everyone can be there.
  2. MozFest is a platform for learning, sharing, and co-creating, and celebrating the works of innovators. A place where we are inspired to think disruptively and are reminded of the potential of the web, and ourselves as individual. This is something we find very important yet lacking in our communities in Africa. From the onset, our educational systems and societies provide a sufficient environment for innovation to thrive.
  3. East Africa had key challenges that we believe collective efforts at MozFest would help us solve – see http://goo.gl/tDdIIH for more on this.

So with the support of Mozilla we held our first Mozilla Festival in 2014. Over 300 participants joined us to celebrate learn and make cool stuff on web. We were persuaded that MozFest has a roll to play in the growth  of technology, innovation and internet in East Africa and we would continue to ship MozFestEA.

In 2015, this persuasion has been reaffirmed by the doubling of the size of MozFestEA with over 800 participants. Various partners such as Victoria University, Vodafone Uganda, Pepsi Cola, TTC Mobile and the New Vision came in to support the festival. An amazing team of volunteers from accross the globe worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the event.

As lead of the organizing team, I was particularly inspired by the commitment and diligence of the organizing team spread across multiple time zones. The team consisting of the MozFest London producer Sarah Allen, Amira Dhalla from Canada, Simeon Oriko from Kenya, Soumya Deb from India, Elio Qoshi from Albania and of course, the Mozilla Uganda. The team was phenomenal, in fact such a team of dedicated volunteers can only be united by  noble cause.

Building on the learnings of 2014, we were able to accomplish great fits such as hosting the president of Uganda, H. E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as chief guest. Build massive support from sponsors and partners. Doubling in the number of attendees and sessions. As well as what was accomplishments during the weekend.

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In just its second year, the festival has become a key launch pad for innovation hosting product launches such as the Outernet light house that was launched during the weekend.  It is providing visibility to innovations that were otherwise not known and enabling innovators to interact with the masses to get feedback about how to improve on what they are creating. The festival also provides affirmation from global festival participants to local innovators casting a glimmer of hope into the potential within. It was rewarding to see innovations receive support to continue to grow their innovations to help grow them to maturity. To the country and the region, its a re-echo, that innovations are happening and a source for information as to what can be done to strengthen it.

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The festival is also inspiring new pedagogical techniques, moving from conventional instructor/student learning styles to facilitative and practical learning where everyone contributes towards a common idea. At Mozilla, collaboration and open minded sharing is key to our learning process. We learn by sharing, and such is the spirit of MozFest.

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This kind of learning has a key effect of developing confidence and esteem among the facilitators and session attendees as well as producing collaborative groups of people sharing various skills sets and knowledge to solve common problems and challenges.  At the festival, people with ideas, meet with people that share passion for their ideas and together begin to shape them into useful solutions. It was exciting exciting to see the sessions on how open data can be used for governance and citizen management, led by a team from USHAHIDI/MAVC, passionate groups of participants working together to establish useful learning content that would be beneficial to learners and can be beamed on the Outernets platform, participants creating apps using the Webmaker app created by Mozilla and getting to understand the web more, developers getting introduced to development of apps using open technologies for Firefox OS. A particularly, amazing scenario was to see a participant pick up the skills and immediately created a puzzle game assembling the Firefox OS logo as a way to create brand visibility while having fun.

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What we accomplished on the weekend of the 17th – 19th of July was invaluable, however, it was not all that we wished to accomplish and so in 2016, the adventure continues;

We would love to open our horizons to passionate people from across the globe through virtual participation. We are working with our partners to ensure a high speed connection available for those who cannot be present in person.

For the makers, we would love to make learning more practical with DIY kits, Arduino boards and Raspberry Pis. This a key component that lacks in our education systems here with many schools and learning institutions focused on theoretical learning. Through the festival we would love to give our participants the opportunity to transcend their imaginations, an add to their experience of making.

Mozilla Uganda is working on establishing a co-working space to enable groups formed at the festival continue to work together on ideas. In this space, we will provide an environment encourages innovation to thrive – an internet connection, learning content, access to mentors, more.  This is a major challenge and request of many of our festival and other events participants.

 

 

Coping with change in the software world

One of the great things Mozilla is that while many organizations out there focus on profits, Mozilla focuses on the user. As user centric organization, it means that we focus on what will give the user the best experience. As such, Firefox and other Mozilla products are always evolving to continuously improve the user experience.

One caveat to this is that sometimes in the process of evolution, we end up dropping some futures that are very critical to some of our users or move them to places where they are completely hidden from the user. While some users will take this lightly, some will not.

Recently, I attended a ThoughWorks, TechRadar event,  and met some colleagues with whom, I had worked earlier and when I introduced myself as Mozilla Representative and Community Lead, they had a lot to discuss and most of it was about futures that helped them debug their software that had just disappeared and they had to switch to Chrome which now offered the capabilities they were looking for.

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I can’t find it

Two days ago, I begun looking out for a utility to benchmark site loading statistics and general performance. I read about YSlow and wanted to try it out.  I installed the addon but had no way to find and use it. I went to the view menu to try and make the status bar visible but realized I couldn’t. I did a quick Google search and found this article about where my addons are and on the YSlow page this comment about how its both perfect and useless.

“YSlow is one of the best tools for web developers ever – it is so much helpful to improve any site by improving access speed and minimizing broadband waste.
However, since Firefox updated itself to version 29, YSlow is completely useless. That is because the only way to access YSlow was through an icon in the add-ons bar, and now this bar does no longer exist.
The same problem happens with some other add-ons, but then you get help if you click on the menu item “Customize” or press F10 to get the menu bar.
-Customize provides you with some of the missing add-on icons, so you can add them either to the address bar or to the bookmarks bar – but then, the YSlow icon is not available.
-The menu bar helps you. But not through the “View – Toolbars” menu, which has the add-ons bar missing so user cannot even opt in to have it, but rather because at the tools menu there usually is some alternative access to the add-ons – but then, the YSlow menu item is not available.”

I understand how very frustrating this can be for a user who is desperately looking out for a way to use an addon like this one or some other feature that may have been moved or dropped. Of course, sometimes it a result of not looking beyond where you are, in my case, the a post on support page of Mozilla helped me realize that there was an addon that could restore the status bar for you.

So what should I do if I can’t find something?

Good question, sometimes its just in a different place but other times it is completely gone. Chances are, that by the time you are searching for it, a dozen others already did and there is some information out there. A quick web search will usually return useful results like it did for me.

In the case of Mozilla, you can drop a question on the support page or your visit the sumo blog.

How about if its completely gone?

Again that happens too. I’m sure that by now any major software development company realizes that uses find a given future and it could be the one thing that makes them never leave. While it may be a good idea to move on at anyone time. Leaving a possibility for a user to access a given feature when ever they need it is a plus one.  Designing and developing for backwards and forwards compatibility will help you both retain existing users and acquire new users fascinated by a new feature.

I would like to hear your thoughts about how you deal with such situations. Drop a comment and share your thoughts.

Travelling? – Make your journey memorable

Never flown before? Flying for the first time? Flown many times?…,every journey is unique, filled with anxiety and the desire for it to be better than the last. Sometimes this anxiety is so strong that it ends up ruining even what was promising to be a great journey.

So let’s delve into what it takes to make a journey, and by this I mean one that involves flying, more exciting and fulfilling. Murphy’s law states that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong“, and yes, I have been left by a flight even after reaching the airport four hours early, slept in the airport even when entitled to bed and breakfast in a hotel outside the airport, forgotten belongings in a hotel room even after packing well in time…and a lot more. May be all this is not the worst that could happen, but could be bad enough to ruin all the joy that comes with travelling.

I have been fortunate to have travelled quite a bit and yet even on my last journey, I made some mistakes, yes, some that I have made before  and thought I had gotten over them. But becausetime heals all things, I soon forgot and there I was in the same predicament. I began thinking of how I could prevent them from happening again. As I  talked to a friend who was at the same event, I realized it had happened to him too…hmm, so that’s just two of us, how about the others we never got to know about?

So while I was waiting for my flight, I begun meditating on this, and did a quick search online and found this amazing travel guide on Mozilla’s wiki [1] and this great post by Christian Heilmann on how to save money  when you travel [2]. They have a lot of amazing insights that would save you a ton of stress and loads of money so I will not duplicate what is already there but will build on it sharing some personal experiences.

Use the screens in the airport to manage time

On this fateful day, I reached the airport at 10am for a flight at 2pm. I was wearing a watch, that had lost time…practically an hour and a half behind. I never looked at the screens because I kept looking at my watch. You know what happened? I missed that flight. Nugget “Whatever you do, always keep your eyes on the screens in the airport, they always have the correct time and you will never go wrong on that”

Be conscious of time zones

On my very first flight, travelling to Ghana, my itinerary stated that I would leave at 9am and arrive at 2 pm, approximately five hours. Little did I know  that in the plane, the departure time is local but the arrival time is the time at the destination and for me it was five hours ahead. I kept looking at the clock, 2 pm came and passed, and we were less than half way through the journey, you can be sure what was running through my mind by the third hour. Nugget “Be conscious of the time zone of your destination to avoid any mistakes.”

Avoid the closets or use them explicitly

On two occasions, I have forgotten my belongings in a closet when I travelled…disapointing, isn’t it? You could have every explanation and judgment for this but the reality is, it happens. Thinking about it though, as the idiom puts it, “Out of sight, out of mind”. Anything out of your sight naturally has a pretty good chance of being forgotten.  Nugget “Try not to put your belongings in the closet when you travel, but if you must, then put everything there, just so you naturally will go back there. Also pack in the night or hours before your travel to reduce chances of forgetting”. On this fateful day, while still packing, 12 floors up, the alarm went off and you cannot imagine the panic; I ended up with quite a number of clothes left behind.

Read through and understand your itinerary

Many a time, when we are so busy or excited and distracted by other things that we never get to look at our itinerary which actually contains invaluable information. Airlines like Emirates have offers that they never explicitly mention to you for example, dubai connect and state in the terms that you should request for it at least 24hours before your flight, implying that finding out on your way to the airport may not save you. Nugget “When you choose an airline, read through their website for useful information, and make sure you know all the information stated on your itinerary, read it early enough  (the moment you get it) and make sure you act accordingly.”

Carry everything you need

You do not know what it will cost to buy that umbrella, power adapter, toothpaste, winter coat…name it. Sometimes its ten times the price  you would have paid where you are coming from and you only need it for a few days. In essence, it’s not worth the cost but now you need it so bad that you end up spending on it or suffering without it. Sometimes, you just can’t find it in the neighborhood where you are.  Nugget “if you can’t do without it, carry it, don’t plan to buy it”

Use your coat and carryon to free you

So at every airport, there is a number of checkpoints. Sometimes enough to get you to forget a few things or drop them. I know that I will remove my watch, belt, shoes, keys, coins and anything metallic. Don’t leave them in your pockets as they just add to the delay. Nugget “keep them in your coat and carry on and wear shoes that don’t have shoe laces” You will be glad you did. Put them back on after the check at the last stop to your destination.

Use public means or negotiate with a cab driver before you use it

Christian Heilmann mentioned this one. I remember this cab guy in San Francisco, he was of Indian origin and I sat in his cab. As he drove, we talked and I asked him if he could offer me a discount and his response, “…after the meter starts counting, you cannot negotiate…”. Negotiating before will allow him to make some decisions like not to use the meter and offer you a discount.

Ask when not sure

I love technology, Google maps is great, GPS is awesome and paper maps rock, but don’t forget, even with these, you sometimes just can’t help getting lost and that’s just  direction. A lot more things will be unclear…like whether the TV is free or not (some channels are paid for), the phone, the mini bar…and more and using these without asking can cost you a fortune. It may be a queue in the airport, don’t just follow people, ask…and remember to be polite and smile, be courteous and you will get all the answers you need.

Carry some money in the currency of your destination

Even if you do not envisage spending it, remember it may come in handy. When your late for the train and need to take a cab or find no one at the airport and need to make a phone call. Credit and debit cards are great, but may disappoint so ensure that you have some cash at hand.

That said, travelling can be fun and is fun, just have the knowledge and be keen to apply it and your flights will always be memorable.

Am eager to hear your thoughts and experiences so please leave a comment.

 

[1] https://wiki.mozilla.org/Travel_Guide

[2] http://christianheilmann.com/2014/02/16/how-i-save-money-when-traveling-for-work-san-franciscovalleyus/

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2015: A resolution to share Inspirations

2014 has been a great year, a lot of things have happened to me and the people around me. I got married, had a daughter, held a webmaker mentors training with Michelle Thorne and had Mark Surman around for the first ever Mozilla Festival, East Africa held in Uganda, travelled to various countries, joined the Mozilla Reps council as a council member and a lot more.

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San James and Leatitia Kampiire. Our wedding was awesome, thanks to Bishop Zac Niringiye for officiating

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Dad and Daughter: Little Atuki Amari Ruby Irankunda San is very special

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An epic moment with council members, peers and other reps mentors in Portland, Oregon. It was lovely meeting you all.

In all this, there has been a deep desire to share with the rest of the world what was going on but I didn’t. Probably the most I did was to share a couple of pictures on Facebook and of course, a few insightful comments. These can be quite informative and revealing, yes, because as the old adage goes…a picture, is worth a thousand words. However, for many others, we do love to read the story as we look at the pictures. It brings out the story a lot more elaborately and gives a lot more meaning to the pictures.

So in 2015, one of the conscious decisions I have made is to blog about the different things that happen in my life. The great experiences that I go through as well as the challenging times that by Gods grace I have always overcome.

So you would ask…what took you so long to make such a simple decision?

Indeed, it’s a simple decision…to many, but to some it involves quite a lot, especially in the beginning. I remember, when I first started out on this journey, having become a Mozilla Rep and having to blog about the different activities I undertake, I had no idea what a good blog post would look like, or what it would be like to have a personal blog. For sometime this was a challenge and even though I tried, I just did not feel the impact. My blog articles did not appeal even to myself…ever been there? I didn’t seem to have the time to invest in setting up a blog or following up to ensure it was up to date. But more so, I did not have a place to start, for real, it was just not obvious.

So what has changed? how did you find where to start?

Over the years, I found out and trust me, the best place to start, is to read other experienced peoples blogs, especially of events you were involved in and part of. You will be amazed, its inspiring and will get you just ready to take your next step.

Reading other peoples blogs about events I have been to with them has changed me. Take for example Michelle Thorne’s blog post on the webmaker mentors training in Kampala and Mark Surman’s blog post about the Mozilla Festival in East Africa, they are great reads, right? Its not just a report back about how the agenda was followed but what inspiration is drawn from the event and useful information that is shared. How about Christian Heilmann’s blog on Google IOU? or Mitchell Baker’s blog post about herself? They are all amazing, and when you read one article, you want to read another. I could go on and on with this list of amazing blogs I have come across and you know the list is endless.

Of course, one would argue that these great authors also possess lots of experience, for example Mark Surman has more than 20 years’ experience, has written two books presented at 100+ conferences and numerous blog posts over the years, but every journey has a beginning and this is mine! Thanks to all who have inspired me to take this step.

Diving into 2015, I’m looking forward to a more eventful year and will be sharing every detail of it right here. I will also keep drawing more inspiration from exciting blogs and will not forget to link back to them.

Sooooo! 2015, blog, blog and blog some more!