Taking a leap of faith – Elan Lohmann – Tech4Africa 2014

Elan Lohmann quit his corporate job and set out to change the lives of 100 000 people two years ago. He has grown the SleekGeek social health and fitness community from 10 to 25000 members to date, and is well on track to achieving his goal. He will be sharing his personal story with the Tech4Africa audience, he says.

“I’m going to be telling the story of how I built this brand using digital platforms with no real budget, doing it from my bedroom and creating something from nothing. In that there’s the story of a whole bunch of people whose lives are affected – as well as the story of my life transitioning from a corporate to being an entrepreneur.

“I’m going to be talking about authenticity and the importance of it in the social media space,” he conitnues. “I’m also going to talk about what real community is. We use the term quite loosely. People also use the word ‘value’ for the customer like its jargon but I really believe the secret is giving people what they want and what they need.”

In amongst that, he adds, he’ll be talking about intent and social entrepreneurship – and how your intent is linked to your results.

Lohman has been off the corporate speaking circuit for a while, he says, and was invited to speak at Tech4Africa by founder Gareth Knight – Lohman inspired him to lose a lot of weight and he decided Lohman’s story needed some airtime.

“I’m not giving people a social media lesson,” Lohman adds, “all I can say is what I did and why I think it worked and people can take from that whatever they will.”

Celebrating failure – Andy Hadfield – Tech4Africa 2014

Hadfield is presenting the lessons he learnt as a failed startup at Tech4Africa CT and Jhb this year. Says Hadfield: “Gareth Knight and I are continuing a little tradition that started at the last Tech4Africa… #FailCon. Trying to change that stigma that the South African startup scene has around failure. Like it or not, failure is a part of startup culture. Everyone forgets that 95% of these things fail. And yet we tend to hide failure instead of celebrating what we’ve learned. With the closure of Real Time Wine and the publishing of a certain blog post that did the rounds, I’ve unwittingly become the poster boy for startup failure! A moniker I’m happy to wear for a little bit, hopefully not forever…

“The point is, both Gareth and I are happy to share our failures – if it helps others succeed. Our industry could do with some more sharing. This will be a brutally honest fireside chat about the realities of startup life. Come and ask anything you ever wanted to ask about the messy behind-the-scenes nature of a tech startup. Hopefully between the tears, scars and cashflow issues, there’s enough in there to inspire more people to go out and start something.”

Hadfield has spoken at almost every Tech4Africa since its inception. “I’m a huge supporter and glad to help out any way I can,” he says. “This is OUR SXSW-in-the-making. Be there or be [ ].”

If you’re a first timer Hadfield has some advice for you: “As with any conference, it’s always more about the people than it is the content. In terms of content, pick topics to attend that are WAY outside of your comfort zone. That way, you’ll learn something. In terms of people, don’t be scared to say hi. Scan the # for interesting comments. Buy people coffee (it’s free after all). Say hi.”

Tech4Africa comes to Cape Town

Now in it’s 5th year, the annual Tech4Africa conference will be running the first Cape Town event on August 28th. Tech4Africa focuses on deep technical workshops and sessions for practitioners, and then engaging talks which impart knowledge, perspective, African context and inspiration.

The unapologetic vision for Tech4Africa is that the best tech ecosystems in the world have regular events that bring together everyone in tech to learn, meet new people and have lots of fun.

Tech4Africa bills itself an un-conference – they don’t like suits and ties, there are no plenaries, committees or chair people. Their focus is on great content and value for all who attend, coffee all day, and fun at night. Placing greatest emphasis on learning, interaction, engagement and discussion, they want Tech4Africa to be a place for new ideas and to encourage people to make and change things.

“We were skeptical of bringing Tech4Africa to Cape Town, but after watching the clear growth of the industry in the Cape, we felt that in keeping with our own Lean / MVP approach to Tech4Africa we would kick off a Cape Town event this year.” said Gareth Knight, Founder of Tech4Africa. “There are so many great new things coming out of the Cape, it’s going to be great to hear the stories that emerge…”

Tech4Africa Cape Town will take place at the Old Mutual Conference Centre, Pinelands in Cape Town, on the 28th August.

Tech4Africa was sold out in 2013 and it is strongly advised that interested parties book as early as possible.

Sessions:
This year Cape Town will be showcasing over 20 speakers [http://cpt2014.tech4africa.com/grid/], in 4 rooms, running sessions concurrently every hour.

IBM SmartCamp:
There will also be an IBM SmartCamp running on the same day, and startups are strongly encouraged to attend in order to benefit from the mentoring on offer.

The following topics will be covered:
Community and Activism, Content and Distribution, Design and Development, DIY Hacker and Maker, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurialism and Business, Growing into Emerging Markets, Health and Medicine, Impart wisdom, Mobile and Emerging Markets, Talk about success or failure in a positive way, WTF and Beyond.

Tech4Africa
Dates: 28th August 2014
Venue: Old Mutual Conference Centre, Pinelands in Cape Town
The Schedule

Tickets:
Tech4Africa: R500
Register

SUBMISSIONS
Applications for speakers for Tech4Africa Johannesburg 2014 are open. Candidates may submit their session at http://speak.tech4africa.com for consideration and voting.

JoziHackathon Hashtags

Hey everyone,

We’re going to be starting with the following hashtags for todays Hackathon at JoziHub:
JoziEducation, JoziSchools, JoziPower, JoziCorruption, JoziSection27, JoziCops, JoziRoads, JoziCrisis, JoziEvents, JoziFun, Jozi, Johannesburg, JHB, Gauteng, Tech4Africa, JoziHack, T4A, JoziHub, JoziEducation, JoziSchools, JoziPower, JoziCorruption, JoziSection27, JoziCops, JoziRoads, JoziCrisis, JoziEvents, JoziFun.

Pls use these hashtags if you can, so that we can get *more* data around Jozi 😉
We’ll be posting tag clouds during the day, and if you would like us to track more hashtags, pls just comment below.

Thanks!

A quick update on the #JoziHackathon tomorrow

Hi All,

A quick update on the schedule for tomorrow, looking forward to a great day!

The following is the rough schedule we’ll follow during the day:
We’ll start at 10:00am.

We’ll make sure everyone get’s an intro, and knows where to find coffee, red bull, food and wifi etc.

We’ll then ask questions to find out what:
everyone can do / is capable of
what everyone wants to get out of the day
what people are passionate about.

After that, we’ll group everyone into logical groups, with groups max 5 in size.
We’ll then ask the teams to work out who is doing what using the massive JoziHub whiteboard!

At around lunchtime we’ll do a quick standup session to see what everyone is intending to work on.

After that, we’ll focus on getting the most out of the time and people we have left, with:
lightning talks from speakers and mentors; no one will be forced to attend / take part.
demo’s from various people on different technologies.
There will be the mandatory talk on GitHub!

At about 4pm, we’ll stop everything to do something fun. This is a surprise!

After that, we’ll carry on coding, and aim to code through the night and into the morning, taking turns to sleep and get features / functions / classes / API’s etc built.

First thing Saturday morning, we’ll take a look at what everyone has done.
Of course, some things will break, so there will be time to work on fixes.

After that, we’ll get all groups to put their work onto the whiteboard with the following:
Name; Description or Problem / Solution; Technology used; People involved
And then we’ll take photos!

At around lunchtime we’ll break for presentations, where we get to look at what has been done and how.
Ideally, we’re looking at 3 to 6 minute presentations each, and some questions from everyone else.
After that, we’ll open source whatever the coders want to open source, write up group progress, blog the photos and screenshots and then go to the pub!

Looking forward to it!

Team Tech4Africa.

Quick update on the Hackathons

A quick update on the Hackathons.
Both Hackathons are all nighters – so be prepped for 24Hrs of Hacking. You can however join at any time.
Cape Town is tomorrow (16th August) at the Bandwidth Barn.
Jozi is next Friday (23rd August) at JoziHub.

Confirmed speakers (Cape Town and Jozi):

Cloud:
#DiData will have speakers on hand to talk through getting setup in the Cloud. They will also be giving away FREE vouchers for anyone attending.

Agility:
Patrick Turley from #Thoughtworks will be talking about Agility and the hard graft of getting products to market.

Mobile:
Ben Adlard, Product Manager for #Vumi at #Praekelt, will be at the hackathon to take questions and give away free accounts for Vumi. The entire core dev team will also be available on IRC during the hackathon to assist any developers with questions. Vumi is the product Wikipedia has selected to deliver content over USSD and SMS.

Product:
Gareth Knight, founder of #Wedo and #Tech4Africa, will be giving a talk on “Talk is cheap. Execution is everything. Product management in the ADD world of today.”. He will also be on hand to answer product dev / execution questions, and is easily bribed with good coffee and pizza.

We’re working on more speakers, which we’ll announce over Twitter and on this blog. Stay tuned, and stay classy.

What to expect from a Tech4Africa Hackathon?

In a recent post regards Hackathons we talked a little about what we think Hackathons should be about. So in this post, we’re going to go into a little more detail, to make things a bit clearer. Applies primarily to: #JoziHack | #CptHack.

Enter the dragon

WillCodeHTMLForFoodFirst, we make the assumption that most people who code for a living these days are in the typical corporate 60 / 30 / 10 trap.  That is, 60% of their work is uninteresting / lacks stimulation, 30% is kinda interesting, and then perhaps 10% is the icing on the cake, the really co0l w00t, w00t, super interesting, I wanna do more kinda stuff. It’s not abnormal, so we’re not trying to change that – but we can offer a nice distraction 😉

511292936_e0b87fcd70Secondly, we make the assumption that most devs work in teams that are less than 10 people (and if they’re lucky the team is 50% real developers / engineers), and so their proximity to other people like them is pretty low. As a result, feedback loops are limited to what is read online and in forums (which is cool, we all do that), but that also means limited potential for peer reviews, some closed mindedness and narrow perspectives, fewer super technical discussions which make things interesting, and of course simply people who understand that Dependency Injection and Factory Pattern can be complimentary to each other.

blarg-1Third, we make the assumption that most non-technical people who sign off on projects don’t know enough about technology to make good decisions (they’re driven and motivated by different things), and so the potential for trying new things is also pretty low.

In fact, most teams are probably still deploying code from 3 years ago, or they’re caught maintaining code that was written 3 years ago because there is no budget to update. Very, very seldom is there an opportunity to try new things, change old things to work better, or just improve skills. And so the typical developer ends up continually doing change requests, small features, maintaining old code to keep the site from breaking when new things are tried, and of course good old releasing 4 week projects by next week Friday.

So, when you put all of that together you get frustrated devs who would like to be challenged more, who would like to meet more people like them, and who want to try new things.

Enter the Hackathon

hackathon-poster1
So our solution to this is to give developers, engineers, hackers, coders, savants, curious folks, learners, students, designers and even sysadmins 😉 a place to get together and do the following:
  1. Have fun hacking on cool new stuff [1]
  2. Drink beer, eat pizza, drink red bull, play poker, eat pizza, go for breakfast, write mad SQL, deploy
  3. Meet new people, hang out with people they already know and do stuff they enjoy doing
  4. Take a look at an interesting problem, figure out ways to solve it
  5. Learn about cool stuff that isn’t on the radar at work

[1] Hack is not a four letter word

And that’s it. We figure (from experience) that the most important element to this is beer, and for everyone to have fun. After that, all the magic happens!

So what’s the deal?

necktielanding_ninjaThere are 3 parts to our Hackathons, and they are
a) having fun
b) learning new stuff
c) meeting new people
d) kicking ass.

That’s 4. Glad you can count. Keep up 😉

Free as in beer

ninja_deskFor a) We make sure there are people, music, beer, pizza, Red Bull, loads of coffee, snacks, all on tap.

We also think the following principles are important:
Hackathons are free.
Everyone is welcome.
Anyone is welcome.
You don’t need credentials to join us. You don’t have to belong to a particular tribe (I’m talking to you, Mr Erlang).
You can be at school, you should be at university, and you’re never too old.
We encourage curiosity, humour, sharing, communication, open data, open thinking, open source, solving problems, being proactive, being humble, no bullshit, no suits, no ties, no malarkey.
Lastly, execution is everything. Ideas are cheap, indeed everyone has ideas, but execution is what makes ideas happen, and that’s what Hackathons are about.

Learning is good

For b) We make sure there are talks throughout the Hackathon. Some will be longish, some will be shortish, and others will be impromptu. For each Hackathon we’ll find folks who can contribute by helping / teaching / imparting knowledge.

Sharing is caring

For c) We’ll make sure that everyone gets to meet each other, talk about what they’re doing, what they’re interested in, and what they’re working on at the Hackathon.

Everyone wants to kick ass

ku-xlargeFor d) We get out of the way, and leave that up to the folks doing the Hacking.

We’ll do our best to promote the work that comes out of any Hackathon, we’ll demo good work at the Tech4Africa conference to show people what is possible with a small group of committed people, and we’ll go to bat for you with the larger companies who wish they could innovate but can’t becuase they move too slow, so that you get more time to hack 😉

The truth is that most of the major innovations and success stories in the last decade came from developers Hacking at an itch, and then productising their work. So that’s what we’re trying to encourage. Join us, do something fun, do something cool, solve a problem you care about, and most importantly, just come along for some fun!