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  • Declining search quality: Is Google losing the battle?

    Has Google lost the battle against the companies that game its system of ranking search results? It certainly seems that way from my anecdotal usage. John Byrne, the former BusinessWeek editor seems to feel the same. He recently launched a site that looks at business schools: Poets and Quants. He published a post detailing his frustration at Google's listing of the site, or rather its failure to list the site. C-Change Media Inc.: Google? Where are you? "One of the most fascinating aspects of our debut is what Google has been able to discover, or fail to find, about the site. "...So what...

  • Finding your unique voice on Twitter

    Twitter is an acquired taste. If Facebook is checkers, then Twitter is chess. It's the VIP room to MySpace's open house party, the platform with almost direct access to celebrity's biggest and brightest entertainers, to politicians, brands and thought leaders, it's undoubtedly the juggernaut driving today's social media. And I do mean, literally, "today's". There's probably another platform on the rise in some kids dorm room as I type this --TwitMySquareFace -- or something of the ilk. But, right now, if you want to sit at the cool kid's table and not be the elephant in the room, then...

  • How to build global technology companies from Africa

    During a relaxed and informal panel discussion at the Tech4Africa conference in Johannesburg entitled “Building for the Global Market. Lessons and learnings from the coalface”, Leila Janah of Samasource, Sheraan Amod of Personera and Malcolm Hall of Open Box Software spoke about the challenges of building tech companies while being based in Africa. The discussion was facilitated by Toby Shapshak of Stuff magazine. ON BREAKING INTO THE AMERICAN MARKET Leila Janah: The biggest challenge we face is that Africa has a damaged reputation in the service sector. And being a non-profit doesn’t exactly help us either. There is a...

  • UX guru Andy Budd warns that websites ignore usability at their peril

    At the Tech4Africa conference in Johannesburg, Clearleft’s Andy Budd spoke at length about why, given the choice, users will always pick easier to use products over better architected products. Using real world examples, Budd explains how this principle should be applied to website design in order for websites to compete effectively. Decide whether you sell a product or an experience Using the coffee industry as an example, Budd spoke about the coffee farmer that makes around 1p for a cup of coffee while a gourmet coffee shop in London sells that same cup for upwards of £2.30 a cup. The...

  • Former Virgin online marketing head on the future of online advertising

    Alex Hunter is an independent digital ninja, brand consultant and angel investor who built a grassroots marketing campaign for Virgin America before heading out on his own. He shares his insights on getting large brands online, paywalls and what the future of online advertising might look like. MB: Should online publishers be looking at more innovative ways of generating revenue online? AH: There are so many digital options available; from wap sites and apps, to websites, to Facebook pages, to viral video campaigns, to email campaigns – how does a brand decide what to prioritise, what to tackle first and...

  • Samasource CEO on bridging the digital divide and creating a global meritocracy

    While aid programs in developing countries are ubiquitous, precious few empower the people they’re trying to help on a sustainable, ongoing basis. One that bucks this trend is Samasource, a non-profit based in San Francisco that distributes digital work from large US multinationals in manageable chunks to poor but educated workers in developing countries such as Kenya, Uganda, India, Pakistan and Haiti. Samasource workers do basic digital work required by US companies that American workers wouldn’t necessarily be willing to do. For example, Google Maps has local business information that changes when a company moves, expands or shut down....

  • The Internet’s profound impact on the way we live

    The average age for Nobel Peace Prize winners is 63, but earlier this year it was decided by popular US tech culture magazine Wired that the most deserving recipient was only 33-years old. That's quite young in Nobel terms, but when one considers the “accomplishments” of the Internet, it is perhaps not such an unreasonable nomination. In a very short period of time the Internet has had a profound impact on the way we live. I have no doubt that its social repercussions will take decades to be fully understood, but it has already produced much benefit to the world....

  • Mesh Potato device could dramatically lower connectivity costs

    Steve Song has spent the past two years as a fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation, looking at ways to lower the costs of communications infrastructures. On Day 1 of the Tech4Africa conference in Johannesburg, he introduced the fruits of his labour to a captive audience, the Mesh Potato, a low cost wireless mesh device that you can also plug into a normal phone to provide cheap and simple connectivity. During his presentation, Song made a passionate plea for lowering the costs of communication in Africa, arguing that innovation will never take place until, in the words of Clay Shirky, we...

  • Lead developers from web giants share their insights at Tech4Africa conference

    A Question and Answer session at Johannesburg's first Tech4Africa conference featured developers from some of the world’s best known tech companies, and revealed insights on everything from startups vs corporations, San Francisco’s tech community, mobile/web development to making browser upgrades a global warming issue. The panel was chaired by Andy Budd, UI guru and MD of Clearleft, who posed questions to Dustin Diaz, a Twitter user interface engineer, Joe Stump, the SimpleGEO founder and former Digg lead architect, John Resig, who created jQuery and Jonathan Snook, a lead prototyper for Yahoo!. On the hardest challenge you’ve ever been faced with: Stump:...

  • Social currency: the real value of conversations about your brand

    Measuring a brand’s value is an inherently tricky business. Even in a supposedly clearcut case like Coca-Cola, which is essentially commoditised sugar water dressed up in world class marketing, the actual value of the brand is difficult to separate from the product (or service) itself. Yes, crowds of fans spontaneously sang the Coke song during the World Cup, but how much is that sort of thing actually worth to a brand? Do the people who talk about your brand actually buy it? What about recommending it to their friends? A fascinating new study by Vivaldi Partners - a marketing consultancy -...

  • 5 golden rules for (ab)using your coffee shop as your office

    Next time you’re at a coffee shop, take note of how many people are sitting alone. Plenty. The digital age has taken the "lonely geezer" label off those sitting in solitude. Chances are, they’re actually socialising up a storm in a chat-room, flirting with someone on Facebook ... or running a very successful business from their virtual office. This is indeed the ‘brave new world’, where public space is gobbled up by private individuals partaking in public activities and working at the same time. But just like a ‘real’ office, using a virtual office requires a great dose of...

  • Wikipedia wants South Africans to contribute

    Despite being one of the most visited sites in South Africa, only a fraction of Wikipedia readers contribute to the open encyclopedia by creating or editing articles. A local movement wants to change that. Wikipedians and open source enthusiasts gathered at WITS University this weekend to discuss the formation of a South African Wikimedia Chapter. They plan to launch initiatives to address gaps in local content, with particular focus on minority languages. A recent count shows that South African languages are still tiny when compared to the almost 3.5 million English articles. Language Number of Articles Afrikaans 15,830 Swati 183 Tsonga 173 Venda 164 Zulu 145 Xhosa 115 Tswana 105 Sotho 69 Recording knowledge from largely oral traditions was...

  • Clay Shirky on ‘freak-outs from Africa’ and becoming Clay Shirky.

    Clay Shirky is crazy about Ushahidi. He thinks the crowdsource crisis tool is the perfect technology for demonstrating cognitive surplus in action --the positive power of what people can do with their free time and how it benefits society. But what other technology does Shirky rate and what’s his advice to local entrepreneurs Memeburn spoke to the best selling author on the line from New York. “In terms of technology, obviously the most exciting thing is what is going on with the mobile phone, that is the transformative technology,” Shirky said from New York. “I do a class...

  • 10 tips for outsourcing your web development

    Setting up or improving on an existing online presence for a small business or startup can be a daunting experience. This is especially true if you don’t have a trusted in-house team to rely on to build a great web or mobile site. There is a minefield of designers and developers out there who can take you for a ride and exploit your inexperience for their own gain if you’re not careful. Here are some tips for negotiating the minefield without wasting time and money, and coming out at the other end with an effective base for your online marketing...

  • Noah-gate: Lessons learned from Cell C’s controversial ad campaign

    There has already been reams written about the new Cell C campaign, including a whole raft of my own thoughts on the campaign. I wanted to step back and pull it all together after the ad campaign that launched and to look at what lessons can be learned from this whole saga. If you’ve missed it all, then let me recap. South Africa's third mobile network operator, Cell C, embarked on a new marketing campaign by creating a fairytale story about how Mr. Lars Reichelt, CEO of Cell C, was so distressed about a comedy skit uploaded on YouTube by...