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ZuQka: Social Networking and News in Kenya

zuQka in the newspaper

My first day back in Nairobi after a couple months, and I see some new website being heavily promoted in my Daily Nation newspaper. In fact, it’s got a full 16-page mini newspaper all about it. It’s called zuQka, and it tells me that I’ll “be famous” if only I register. I pop over to the site, but I’ve got 1hr 15min 11sec before it goes live.

Wondering what this is all about, I start to dig around trying to find out who is behind it. Low and behold, after a quick Whois search, I find out it’s none other than Kahenya Kamunyu. A local tech VC and entrepreneur, head of Virn.net and who I interviewed at Barcamp Nairobi this summer. He’s an outspoken advocate for African-born and built technology developments, and it looks like he’s putting his money where his mouth is. Now I know what he’s been hinting at on Twitter for the past couple weeks…

So, what is zuQka?

From what I can tell, it’s a portal site for weekend entertainment around Nairobi, but with a social networking component as well (video, audio and blogs). It’s a cross-medium service too, marrying newspaper with the web. Honestly, I learned more in those 16 pages about stars like Angela Angwenyi, Amani and Daniel Ndambuki than I would have thought. Besides entertainment stars, it has coverage of auto, gadgets, pubs and the weekend calendar.

I kind of wonder what I’ll find once the site opens up. I also wonder what Kahenya has to say about it…

[Update: I was able to talk to Kahenya and they’ve had some server issues, making the launch a little sketchy. Like any new big website, this is understandable, check back in 2 weeks would be my suggestion.]

Site is live

(as you might be able to tell, I’m blogging this in a stream over a couple hours).

I haven’t been able to get in touch with Kahenya yet, likely because he’s busy trying to get this site live and all the kinks worked out. The site is live now though, with a couple minor errors. Like any newly hatched web service, things are a little slow and since it’s a user-generated content site, there’s not much content yet. This should change with time.

The zuQka dashboard

Overall I like the dashboard. The techie in me really likes that they used the Simile timeline for the calendar, makes a lot of sense. The profile page is extensive and there seems to be a lot of options to add content on the site. My plan is to come back later when it loads faster and I can see it with more users.

57 Comments

  1. African social networking is waking up so far and the best i have seen so far is iborian.com. Zuqka is not live as i write this. Interesting how this will play out as both as Kenyan projects i.e Zuqka and Iborian.

  2. AGANDA CHARLES. O.

    December 5, 2008 at 10:41 am

    its anice idea to come up widh the social networking,my request is come up with an academic forum whear we can exchange knowledge,and infact look at ways of solving problems facing us as youth.other wise kudos.am calling on all youths in kenya to register.story ya churchil jo ina inspire.

  3. AGANDA CHARLES. O.

    December 5, 2008 at 10:43 am

    its anice idea to come up widh the social networking,my request is come up with an academic forum whear we can exchange knowledge,and infact look at ways of solving problems facing us as youth.other wise kudos.am calling on all youths in kenya to register.story ya churchil jo ina inspire me alot keep up churchil tell him walete NTV kakamega

  4. The website is mediocre. Totally unacceptable for a firm like NMG which has got all the resources they need.

  5. The idea is brilliant but hope it won,t be corrupted as it happens day and night in our hometowns. The website should also be perfected lacks so much information…Need ideas? Kindly speak out!!!!

  6. Njoroge Onedear

    December 5, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Need to step the quality of your website since all of us are interested in becoming famous. This is a good idea however. In case you need to feature my beautiful photos in the site, let me know……i ready for this fame idea.

  7. The site seems to be down already. I get the following message:

    This Party Is Under Construction

    Please leave your telephone number and email address and we will get back to you when the site is launched.

  8. Njoroge Onedear

    December 6, 2008 at 2:35 am

    Need to step the quality of your website since all of us are interested in becoming famous. This is a good idea however. In case you need to feature my beautiful photos in the site, let me know……i ready for this fame idea.

  9. we know u r still new but look for catchy stories and more comprehensive topics because as it is , its like u r plagiarising pulse.NMG is big plse live up to our expectation.And next time on ‘take five’ plse bring serious people .

  10. kudos an excellent idea for personal development.pliz spice up the premier league column by introducing scores bet.

  11. Brilliant concept. Social networking is all the rage now. Loads of room for new ones. I look forward to further developments.

  12. Overall I think this is a good idea, and I’m interested in seeing how it develops once the kinks in the technology side are worked out. Needless to say, it probably would have been better to run the big ads about 2 weeks after a soft launch to get more content and make sure the system worked properly.

  13. Zuqka runs on Drupal – an Open Source CMS – Its for free. May be all Kenyans should launch their own social networks,

    You can download Drupal here and sambaza to all everyone.

    http://www.drupal.org

    Let every kenyan create his own social network

  14. Looking forward to see how it goes.

    The site uses drupal with some heavy customizations as you will see once it gets back up. Some serious php going down. This is an idea on time.

  15. Ohh pleeez Which PHP is going down.?Drupal is free and the source code is open. Let me see the customizations. The template looks like a free template in the drupal portal.
    At best i think zuqka should not call itself a social network but an online magazine!!

  16. Hpoe this site will act as a platform for youths to connect,sensitize and learn through the various experiences that they gone throu’………………..kudos

  17. Kudos to nation for coming up with such a concept. Its about time we developed local content. I think this was our resolutions at the recent Tandaa 08 conference.

    Lets develop more social networks and keep kenya ahead.

    Humphrey Kebaya

  18. Interesting – While I occasionally read your blog Erick, I never tend to post anything simply because of time and interest. But Social networking apps have been an area of interest to me for a long time. I set up Mlevi.com about 7 years ago when the buzz word wasn’t even coined yet. Today, I myself exist on the likes of facebook and hi5 comfortably without thinking of starting another social network.

    Am a little baffled as to what NMG is trying to accomplish. It doesn’t strike me as anything different from what they seem to have been doing because to me historically the NMG website itself already is a failure so what makes us think that Zuqka will be any different? I mean what type of company would change their website, change their URL, dismantle their previous url (nationaudio.com) and then point their new URL to a page with 3 links??? And still expect to be successful. Someone should tell the people at NMG we read Nation only because there are no other similar options – but 40% of Kenyans in the diaspora check bbc for Kenyan news first, kinda makes me wonder why nation.co.ke struggles to update their portal. The best thing they ever did was the Youtube integration… (and thats NTV and not Nation newspaper). Nation reporting just sucks period.. In Kenya we have reporters and not journalist…(but that’s another story all together)

    While I think there are great developers in Kenya and aspiring entrepreneurs, I think some of the people who manage online strategy suck. They have no foresight of the Internet today, where its going and have little or no understanding of the future of the web.

    Whats the difference between Zuqka and Haiya (http://haiya.co.ke/) .

    I think generally a lot of people have a misconception of what Content is, especially when you look at the whole Tandaa conference and the approach towards facilitating content networks, and social platforms.

    Even if the plan is to utilize already existing tools as with the NMG website which runs on Joomla, and this that runs on Drupal. The problem is not the tools the problem is the strategy. Zuqka is such a heavy site its amazing any transactions and activity can be committed on the site. Its slow, the navigation and UI meaningless not withstanding the choice of colors unattractive. I mean this is supposed to be a site where people have fun, read interactive stuff and get informed about Lifestyle and Entertainment related news. To me this is not a social network, its just another site created to try and capture an already existing online market. Maybe Nation should have built a Facebook application – shoot 300,000 Kenyans already exist on Facebook, and about another 200,00 on Hi5… instead of creating a project that wont last..

    But maybe thats just me – ranting as usual.

    Erick thanks for the updates as usual. // maybe you should tell the Zuqka people and NMG that you reach as more frequently and more effectively from your Facebook messages and updates (all the users on your Ushaihidi Group 🙂 )

  19. “Even if the plan is to utilize already existing tools as with the NMG website which runs on Joomla, and this that runs on Drupal. The problem is not the tools the problem is the strategy. Zuqka is such a heavy site its amazing any transactions and activity can be committed on the site. Its slow, the navigation and UI meaningless not withstanding the choice of colors unattractive. I mean this is supposed to be a site where people have fun, read interactive stuff and get informed about Lifestyle and Entertainment related news. To me this is not a social network, its just another site created to try and capture an already existing online market. Maybe Nation should have built a Facebook application – shoot 300,000 Kenyans already exist on Facebook, and about another 200,00 on Hi5… instead of creating a project that wont last..”

    – Well spoken – its good someone sees my point – Zuqka is another online magazine not a social network – just like kenyaimagine.com or other numerous social media sites

  20. Christine Kajuju

    December 12, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Iborian – Be Yourself

    Zuqka – Be Famous

    Do i smell some beef cooking?

    http://www.zuqka.com

    http://www.iborian.com

  21. Leo, you make some good points, and thank you for your well thought out response. It is a little frustrating to see how media groups work here in Kenya. But, just like their counterparts all over the world, they struggle to grow and maintain relevancy in this quickly digitizing world. Basically, I’m guessing that the ZuQka team was shackled by old-school media minds when putting this together.

    Time will tell…

    Here are two thoughts, that probably should be their own post:

    1. I actually think many of your points speak to a more troubling trend that I’ve seen. That is, for some reason, many Kenyan organizations think they have to follow the lead of their Western counterparts. Sure, there are some things to learn from them, but it misses all the context and cultural relevance for Kenyans.

    2. If NMG/ZuQka (or anyone else) really wants to reach Kenyans, then they need to move beyond the web that is only accessible by computers. Where’s the mobile phone side of it? Why doesn’t the social networking component work on that too, instead of just my computer?

  22. True Hash.Well spoken..concerted effort needs to be made towards the mobile front. A mobile phone is more accessible to millions of Kenyans than a computer.

    Thanks

  23. Can someone tell me why no media company has thought about partnering or buying out Mashada.com? Can you tell me why Wananchi, Access Kenya, Iway… Or better yet lets get extreme, people like Safcon or Celtel/Zain have never thought of building a community?

    To me it makes perfect sense for a company like NMG to buy out Mashada.com and build their infrastructure and expand the community… Sometimes I think that’s why i stopped trying to focus so much on building apps for Kenya because the entrepreneurs and businesses in Kenya just didn’t see the real value.

    CocaCola tried a few years ago with the support of 3Mice through an initiative called – LifeinRed. That was a good jump start the effort was very inspiring. Although the market was not ready, we didn’t know what we were supposed to do with that website, we couldnt connect the portal to the product or the rewards strategy.

    As I look at Zuqka or Iborian – the fact that none of these apps even utilizes Open ID is scary (it means I have one more application I need to worry about logging into … ) You can tell am very frustrated by all these efforts, mainly because I know a lot of energy is being put into them, a lot of money is being spent yet no real strategy is being implemented.

    While I agree with mobile integration, I still think we have a device issue and a network issue – however its probably more viable to have a mobile web strategy as opposed to these online portals that don’t seem to hold any real weight.

    Why hasn’t anyone built a facebook application to date??? Why is it easy for us to build a whole new website rather than planning and implementing a facebook application that will attract Kenyan users? Anyway i can go on for days – the fact is as John said this is another Online Magazine… great effort!

  24. Nicholas Gentile

    December 13, 2008 at 4:15 am

    This is an amusing situation. The first thing Africans have never understood is that its not what technology you run. It rarely is the issue. From what I can tell Haiya uses drupal, one of this other sites I saw uses phpizabi. Its not about that. Its not the software. Its your concept. your idea. Kevin Rose runs Revision3 which runs on WordPress. Why hasn’t anyone complained about that? Its not that Nation Media Group should show its might in paying a ton of money for a seriously hot Social Network. It rarely works out. Damon Dash paid a lot of money for his social network. Where is it now? Yahoo has been trying all this time, with their crack developers to get social right. Still fails. Cyworld pulled out of America and Europe, despite the heavy investment. During a stint at Ycombinator, one of the gurus there told us, why don’t you just download an opensource app, modify it and save yourself a great deal of time and money. Gtalk runs of Jabber. Not even a custom app. Jabber. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel and writing your own custom social network if you are playing the catchup game. If you are the first with the idea, write your own app, but catching up, you don’t have time.

    I can almost bet you that the main failure with Zuqka is not even technology or software, but rather a push/pull struggle. The idea and technology is conceived by one person, and a bigger company assumes a big brother role and tries to rebuild the thing. You guys need to get your facts straight. Facebook, Myspace, Flickr and all those other apps were built by small guys with almost no funding. But there was no-one to tell them what to do. The end result is that they built it, caught the eye of a VC, big company or became instantly famous. There is no such thing as a Boardroom Social Network. Get over yourselves for having good programming skills to write a good custom app if you are playing the catch up game. You can waste a year building it, in which case the competition gains traction or you can build a quick thing and get it going. If Africa wants to have a chance in becoming a big machine, they will have to learn to let go of their pride and get with the program.

    Looking forward to my first visit in Nairobi this February. I hope I will meet Zuqka developers.

    Ciao.

  25. Ha ha ha well spoken Nicholas. NMG is a bureaucratic beast. I’m surprised this was them. That they actually launched. Zuqka looks doomed to fail under NMG.

  26. Leo I really feel you.Nicholas well spoken.

    In my own research, developers of social networks – that run on open source or privately developed, have this deep seated inner desire to be bought out by a large company. This is what might have happened to the developers of Zuqka. NMG might have bought them out.

    I do agree – strategy is very important. Whether you run a website on opensource or either, if your strategy is right – everything else will fall in place.

    On a final point – developers need to realize that our main goal is to meet the needs of our users. We need to make their online experience rich,easy and captivating.

    Mobile – the final frontier.

  27. Is it me or is Zuqka is incredibly boring? 🙂

  28. The Navigation of Zuqka is so typical of a newspaper. They are aggregating the content in pretty much a similar manner as they would with a newspaper or a magazine or a news site. Get it right guys. Stop trying to aggregate content in sections. That is so lame. Have one section called blogs and within it categories and stop trying to force us to have only 7 categories. Its shyte boring. Wake up Zuqka.

  29. I don’t have the words to appreciate the ZuQka newspaper.I read the Fridays one i.e 12.12.2008, and could not believe it.Actually it was fantastic! Keep it up!

  30. Since I am a Journalism student and ECN Radio(104.7FM) news anchor at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication(KIMC),ZuQka will give me and other students a chance to learn more from it.So this will also act as a training ground for the Journalism students.ZuQka, continue with the same spirit!

  31. Joseph Njane – you work for Zuqka? Interesting~! Self promotion here~!

  32. Hi everyone ,

    iborian.com goes mobile.

    you can now access it at

    m.iborian.com

    email me your feedback at kebaya@iborian.com

    thank you

  33. Luv 2 hia 4rom ma fav mag in KENYA at all times pliz.Kip me notified 2 all tha updates.Thanx.

  34. its a good i dear 4 zuqka social networking data 2 b estasblish some of the facts, that one needs to fame, and can u be able 2 support someone to get a job? or advise someone 2 b somewhere than 2 b idle coz currently the youth are looking 4 jobs but give up and end up in bad company,zuqka keep up the good work have learned something from u.

  35. “developers need to realize that our main goal is to meet the needs of our users. We need to make their online experience rich,easy and captivating.”
    Guys this is a Good point.

  36. Very interesting discussion.
    Very interesting!

  37. I still wonder what happened to both Haiya.co.ke and Campusvybe.com.
    ZuQka has a long way to go, if only to avoid heading in the same direction.

  38. zuqka! whats new entertaiment joints in nairobi 4 social networking coz i never see any zuqka personel in pubs or sports club wassup!!!what gonaa happen kesho as we wait 4 obama yo! as he goes 2 white house?

  39. How does this work?

  40. We should promote our local social website. In kenya we have very nice social web like kasarani.com, friendsfina.com , rich.co.ke just try them

  41. men its ma first time here and i like it very much ..hope to find freinds and socilise wit pple………

  42. Interesting discussions by Leo,Nicholas and Kebaya.I couldnt agree more with you guys,zuqka is just wack!
    Leo,you da bomb! loved it when u used to present at 98.4,its never been the same since your departure

  43. The zuqka magazine is the boom!Guys, keep it blazing.It encourages me as a youth as thats ma career.lovely!!!

  44. NMG can creat something better than this to call awebsite kwani the developer has no creativity pls add some colour to it zuqkas .the name is hard its whack ,cant catch pulse with such kind of work pull up ur socks.

  45. I have been invited to iborian.com before, but it seems to be an offshoot of whive.com, where I have already been a member for 6 months. Whive appears to have the bigger membership from Kenya. As for Zuqka, time will tell.

  46. to be brief this is the 1st of the best

  47. The biggest social networking website in Kenya is actually http://www.Whive.com which has more than 5000 members and is growing rapidly.

    These networks are good social tools for encouraging business and commerce in the East African region.

  48. these things are the best they separate the 21st century from the rest

  49. The site is interesting.Am still in the learning process.

  50. realy its a kenyan stuff.Continue doing the good work.

  51. There is also another kenyan website that has sprung from the ground right up into the kenyan hands! Its really well built with social networking, videos, chat, forum, social blogs, jobs listings, real estate listings and some other nice things like Facebook login integration. Infact i really found this thoughtful as guys really hate registering to sites and thus the need to just click on a button, login using FB and thats it! i luved that alot.
    Well its true kenya is taking social networking to the next level, and i am loving what kenyans are doing just to achieve this.

  52. heres the link if you wish to check out the site; kenyan social network

  53. .. i love the socio networking forum and can still be used in addressing contentious issues…………………thank you to the zuqka team………….. i love it

  54. Edward M Laichena

    May 31, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    This is a very good idea, and I’m interested in participating to make it develop and grow to be the best website, through My Art-work and my writing skills and many other skills. I am looking forward to make this happen. Am also willing and ready to share my photos should you need them.

  55. i like it guys keep it up ma y God bless u, so that u can continue the gud job ur doing well done!

  56. Mpangowakando.com is social networking website strickly open to adults ( 21 and above ) who want to freely mingle and make new friends. first step is to sign up for free .this only takes a few seconds .after successfully signing up you are granted permission to the private sector of the website where you can add friends /manage connections .your privacy is a priority so we’ve made profiles not accessible to non-members. Communication is also much easier here a chat is available on the right hand side ..here you’ll be able to chat to all the other members you have an existing connection with/friends. if a member is not available you can leave them a quick message using the pm(private message option).blockng /reporting abuse is also an option on the profile.enjoy using mpango wa kando and experience social networking like never before .

  57. Zuqka.com is back. Check it out, and let us know what you think

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