How I Instagram


(This is my daughter at Lake Naivasha at sunrise)

Enough people have asked me about how I Instagram that I thought it might be worth creating a post on it. I take a lot of pictures as I travel as it gives me something to do along the way, so there are a lot of pictures in my stream from all over the world. I’m a hobbyist, with no pretensions of being a pro.

You can find me at @White_African on Instagram.

I’m starting a tag game with this, now hitting @Truthslinger with #HowIInstagram to see how he does it.

Hardware

iPhone only (I’m on an iPhone 5 these days). I’d guess that 80% of my shots are taken with just the camera and no extra hardware. However, sometimes I mod it with the following items.

These are the hardware mods that I use for iPhone Instagramming: Olloclip + Lifeproof + Joby

These are the hardware mods that I use for iPhone Instagramming: Olloclip + Lifeproof + Joby

An Olloclip lens ($70): which gives me a wide-angle, fisheye and macro-lens all in a small form that I can fit in my pocket. It’s fantastic. Here are 3 examples of it.

Olloclip macro

Olloclip fisheye

Olloclip wide

Underwater Lifeproof case: I don’t have this on all the time, only when I’m specifically going out for underwater or am in a boat taking crazy angle shots. Another great add-on that let’s you take some cool shots.

Lifefproof underwater

Joby GripTight Microstand (Tripod) ($30): I hardly ever use it, but when taking some macro pictures it comes in very useful as I just can’t hold my hand steady enough to get the shot.

Something I’d like to get is a good telephoto lens for the iPhone.

Software

Camera+ ($1.99): This is my most basic quick-edit app, since I can do multiple shots quickly and it does a good job with clarity and quick filters. I tend to tone down most of the filter choices.

Snapseed (free): When I really want to edit an image, a special one that needs a lot of extra attention to detail, I use Snapseed. If you’re an Android user, they have it for you as well.

ProHDR ($1.99): I like color, so to really make colors pop I’ll use an ProHDR to do it properly. A lot of good in-app controls. My favorite picture from last year was taken with it:


(A tree in a park in Camden, Maine during the Fall)

Over ($1.99): If you like to put text over your images, there is no better iPhone app for it than Over. Many awards and also made by my friend @AaronMarshall.

Other apps that I use either randomly or rarely:

  • NoIMGdata ($0.99): wipe all the sensitive EXIF data from the picture for privacy
  • SlowShutter ($0.99): a great app for light trails or low light
  • Reduce ($1.99): for when the image size needs to be smaller

10 of my favorite shots


(Boats near the harbor in Camden, Maine)


(Making sun tea in Diani, Kenya coast)


(A quiet pool and shady trees in rural England)


(At Yale University, USA)


(Mark and Tosh relaxing on Diani Beach, Kenya)


(The iHub team at Diani Beach, Kenya)


(Satellite, the only way to get internet at a ranch near Tsavo, Kenya)


(Emmanuel doing a summersault off a dhow near Lamu, Kenya)


(Olloclip macro lens on a burning candle)


(Jumpshot at Strathmore high school, Kenya)

The Kenya365 Project

In September 2012, we started a #Kenya365 project for anyone in Kenya to take a picture a day and tag it with that hashtag. The amazing @Truthslinger runs it, and we have weekly themes that he sets up. Take a look to see some great shots from around Kenya, and join in. The only rule is that you can only tag one picture per day with #Kenya365 on it.

Mobile Apps in Africa (2011 Report)

I maintain that Russell Southwood and his Balancing Act newsletter and reports are some of the best material on pan-African technology and broadcast information that you can find anywhere. Their recent “Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps” report is one of them, and here are some interesting tidbits from it.

The report is broken into three parts: device, developers and distribution.

Device

South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania all are good markets for apps, due to their population, 3g pickup and smartphone penetration. It should be noted that the highest smartphone penetration is in South Africa at 10%, though the high-potential countries are expected to grow by 8-10% per year over the next 3-5 years.

“Interestingly, infotainment activities score high off-line (using the phone’s features) and online (mobile Internet).”

Balancing Act provides a very interesting visual of what the “Handset pyramid shift” looks like in Africa.

Africa's handset pyramid, and its shift

Developers

The development of smartphone applications in particular commercial apps will depend on the rate and level of smartphone adoption. Developers in countries like South Africa, Kenya or Egypt with encouraging smartphone penetration rates have more opportunities in terms of apps development and uptake by potential users.

The major international apps stores (Apple, Android, etc) have set a figure of 70% of the revenue generated by apps will be going to the developer. This is very good news for African developers because so far with SMS based content, the revenue sharing model is not in favour of developers since less than 30% of the revenue generated by the content is going to the author. It is African mobile operators that make the most out of them as they take a minimum of 50% of the revenue generated by SMS services. The major international apps stores also offer additional revenue to developers via advertising and in-apps purchases. These revenue streams are becoming more and more significant for developers.

Building into the next section on distribution is the issue that developers have with creating apps for the international app stores. It’s very difficult, and often impossible, to sell apps on them and for African customers to buy them.

Distribution

The major consequence of the “success story” of the apps store is that it
establishes a distribution model for mobile content that breaks away from the monopoly and exclusivity that mobile operators have enjoyed so far on the delivery of services to their mobile subscribers. Today the mobile apps distribution ecosystem can roughly be divided in 4 main groups:

  1. Operating system app stores
  2. Handset manufacturer’s app stores
  3. Mobile operators’ app stores
  4. Independent app stores

So far, most African mobile operators have been little affected because smartphone penetration rates are very low in most African countries and also because African smartphone users still have access issues to the full portfolio of international apps stores.

The report goes on to express Balancing Act’s thoughts on how mobile operators can get into and take advantage of mobile app stores, “While revenue potentials are promising what else do mobile operators have to consider if they want to roll out their own apps store?” The report establishes the following 8 recommendations:

  1. Be OS agnostic
  2. Know the devices on your network
  3. Use “white label” apps store
  4. Source international content from third party content providers
  5. Don’t forget about additional revenue streams
  6. Build a strong local flavour to your apps store
  7. Make apps affordable to your subscribers
  8. Use carrier billing

And there’s More

Unfortunately, I can’t put all of the good stuff in this blog post. There are a lot more interesting points in the report, and you can buy it here. Amongst some of the best are:

  • What smartphones do South Africans want?
  • Nigerians love their BlackBerry
  • Examples of mobile apps start-ups companies in Africa
  • Morocco: Mobile internet users and penetration rate
  • Mobile Internet subscribers and market share per operator
  • Advertising and in-apps purchases potential income for developers

Nokia World in a Time of Flux

I’m at Nokia World this week in London as part of the final judging panel for the $1m Growth Economy Venture Challenge. I’ve been reading and reviewing dozens of entries from all over the world, and I’m excited to see the finalists in action as they do their presentations tomorrow.

Nokia in Flux

There are a lot of things going on within the world of Nokia right now. The Monday Note has a great overview of the big challenges facing Nokia right now, not least their incoming Canadian CEO, Stephen Elop, and the effect that it is having internally on other high level executives.

A couple months ago I gave a talk on “Innovating Africa“to some of the Nokia executives in Nairobi, they largely dealt with Africa, as well as specific products and operating systems. Most of my suggestions were directly from passionate customers of theirs from all over Africa. The Nokia brand is still very strong in Africa, the game is still on here. However, Nokia needs to be careful that they don’t lose this advantage by faster moving, cheap Chinese manufacturers and the better software and UI found on the Android/iPhone smartphones.

Developers, Money and Nokia in Africa

Smartphone growth and marketshare is getting more and more aligned with the types of apps that are available for people to use. If the apps, utilities and games that they want aren’t present, then they’re more likely to move somewhere else. In Africa, where unlimited, high-speed bandwidth isn’t the norm, the mobile web as an option isn’t quite reality yet. It’s a different paradigm than in the West.

This means that you need third-party developers interested in building apps on your operating system. While almost all operating systems have a store for apps now, including Ovi, iPhone, Android, Bada and others, there is a glaring hole in Africa:

You can’t get paid…

So, here’s a hint for Nokia, taken from the talk months ago: make it easy for developers to make money, even in Africa. Figure out a way that people get paid and can bill via your server-side offerings like Ovi.

Smartphones

Africans are aspirational; they might not be able to afford the Mercedes Benz, but everyone is working their way towards buying one. The same holds true for smartphones, though the vast majority cannot afford a high-powered iPhone, the latest $600 Android phone or the Nokia N8, they look to who the leader is in the space. He who controls the mindshare of the smartphone space, holds the mindshare of the mobile brand as a whole.

Nokia N8

I’m looking forward to testing out, I’m sure it will have excellent hardware as all Nokia devices tend to be well engineered. However, I’ve yet to find a Nokia with good software or UI, and since it’s running the brand new Symbian 3 OS, it will likely be laden with bugs as all first-time OS are prone to have. (Engadget and CNet reviews)

Testing iScribe: African Pixel’s first iPhone app

african-pixel-logoIn the Summer of 2009 I was approached by Wilfred Mworia, a talented programmer in Nairobi. Wilfred’s big idea was to open up a small company where his main goal was to create mobile phone applications for platforms like the iPhone and Android operating systems. This company is called African Pixel, and Wilfred is well on his way to becoming a mobile app developer of some note, regardless of the fact that he lives in Kenya.

His first application is iScribe (iTunes link), a simple tool for writing a journal on your phone. It’s the tool I’m using to write this post as it pushes to WordPress.

Scribe

iScribe was built to be simple. A way for you to write a journal entry quickly, and then add images, video or audio if you so choose. While I’ve been actively involved providing feedback to Wilfred on the app, I’ve had to constantly remind myself not to ask for more features.

iscribe-writing

“How does it work? Simply, type text, take photos or videos, press a button to record and play back audio recordings, save your stuff, press another button to share online or by email and voila!”

Besides the simple journaling and multimedia capabilities iScribe entries can be emailed or pushed to a blog. This is especially useful as few people write solely for themselves.

Here’s Wilfred giving a walk through of the application:

Go ahead and give this first iteration of iScribe a try. Send Wilfred your feedback on how it can be made better or if you find a bug.

My feedback
The pushing to a WordPress blog is where there are a few shortcomings. I did push most of this post from there, but the images didn’t work right, nor was I able to add links. There are some user experience items where the user needs feedback on when they pushed a button and if something is happening. These are mostly minor issues though, nothing which makes iScribe unusable.

African Pixel

This is one application, something that should make some residual income for Wilfred. I know he’s interested in building more applications that he can sell on the iPhone app store and the Android marketplace. That’s the idea anyway, and it’s encouraging to see that he’s doing it from here, realizing that the web/mobile world means that you can do this anywhere.

Wilfred is currently working on a second application, one that he started in August which has even more potential than iScribe. To keep up to date with Wilfred and African Pixels, follow him on Twitter, African Pixel on Facebook and the blog. Guys like Wilfred need seed capital to get going, to buy the time to create those first apps where they can begin seeing cash flow. If you’re interested in that, I know he’d like to talk to you.

iWarrior: an African iPhone Game

There aren’t a lot of African gamers, as would be expected due to the general lack of access to gaming technology and platforms in Africa, relative to other parts of the world. There are even fewer game developers on the continent. Due to being a gamer myself, I like to keep track of this as much as possible, and it’s always fun to announce a new one.

iWarrior - an African iPhone gameiWarrior is an iPhone game (iTunes link), created by the cross-Afrian team of Kenyan Wesley Kirinya and Ghanaian Eyram Tawia of Leti Games. It’s a unique top-down shooter game that utilizes the iPhone’s inbuilt accelerometer to both move and shoot. Your goal: protect your village, livestock and garden from the incoming marauding animals.

It’s a great first-effort from the team, and I believe it’s the first game created by a team in Africa. This itself is a much more difficult task than what many might expect. Just to get an iTunes account and a way to be be paid for your application is a challenge due to Apple’s inbuilt prejudice against Africa (they’re not alone in this, as many other platforms, like PayPal’s or Google Checkout’s are the same). That seems like a dramatic statement to make, but I ask you to stay your judgment until you’ve walked in the shoes of an African programmer.

Gameplay
I’m not an exceptionally talented twitch gamer, so I found the unique movement plus shooting actions hard to come to terms with. However, as I played it longer, I found myself slowly figuring it out and getting better at it. Thankfully, the team has built in a completely different way to play using your finger to slide and tap, you can move and shoot. So, for the accelerometer-challenged (like me) there’s another option. :)

iWarrior also allows you to play your own music while playing the game. This might seem small, but it’s something a lot of game maker’s overlook, and it’s a lot more fun than listening to the same repetitious in-game music.

The game costs $2.99, which is a little steep for new games on the iPhone. For many reasons the costs of most applications (games or otherwise) on the App Store have been driven to about 99cents. So, it takes either a really big name or an app that has hard to replicate features in order to break past $1.99 and sell a lot. In the team’s defense, it’s difficult for them to download paid games to test and see if they compare to their own prior to putting it on the market (again, due to them being in Africa).

Graphics
The graphics are okay. I’m a stickler on this type of thing though, and I go for either over-the-top quality or simplicity. Examples of this is comparing Fieldrunners to Doodle Jump, both excellent graphically, yet with completely different aesthetics.

iPhone game design - fieldrunners vs doodle jump

So, I’m going to ding the team on this part of the game. This, after a lengthy discussion in Ghana with Eyram over the difficulties of finding quality digital artists. It’s not an easy thing to do, the best designers aren’t digitally literate, with a few exceptions. So, you get great sketching and painting, but few can put that into vector graphics, 3d or even Photoshop.

Though the challenge is high, we live in a digitally connected world where top quality digital artists from Asia and Eastern Europe can be found to do the work at acceptable rates. There are other options, and a game can be made or broken on looks alone.

Summary

iWarrior is an excellent first game on the iPhone platform from two highly talented and creative African game developers. I expect that there will be a lot of good games, and other applications, coming from this team over time – both on the iPhone and other platforms. It’s a game to be proud of and one that I hope a lot of others will buy.

iPhone and Computer Game Development in Africa

I’ve got a new theory: one of the best tests of a tech community’s creativity is how many people are coming up with non-business related applications and games. It makes sense that the two games below come from Kenya and Ghana, two of the biggest “tech hubs” in Africa.

Another 3d Shooter from Nairobi

I think it’s a good sign that I just heard about a new 3D FPS shooter game called Mzalendo (not to be confused with the “eye on Kenyan Parliament website also called Mzalendo that Ory and M put together…). It is being created by Morgan of TriLethal Labs in Nairobi, and they have just released the Beta version of the tech demo outlining the capabilities of the New Siege3D graphics core.

Mzalendo - FPS 3d shooter game

Mzalendo Game - using the New Siege3D graphics core

Africa’s 1st iPhone Game?

I’ve profiled Wesley before, and he’s now partnered up with another game developer in Ghana named Eyram. Their newest claim is that they’re about to release (early April) the first iPhone game from Africa, called “BugzVilla” (I’m not sure if it is the first game, let me know if it is/isn’t).

It’s a game in which you crush bugs by tapping the screen and earn points as you level. Shake the screen to release more bugs, and watch out for the red ants! Here’s a short video on their new game:

I’ll try both of these new games out as soon as I can get my hands on them. Eyram assures me that their new game will be on the iTunes App Store in April, so you can bet I’ll buy it and play it.

Ushahidi Updates from Nairobi

I’ve had a rather active 5 days in Nairobi. Eventful enough to give an update on what’s going on with the Ushahidi developers, the pilot projects and some mobile phone fun. I head out tomorrow for Johannesburg for the MobileActive conference, and will also be attending the Friday night meetup and Barcamp Jozi on Saturday.

Ushahidi Smartphone Developments

(more on the Ushahidi blog)
Steve Mutinda and his Ushahidi Java app

Steve Mutinda put together a working Ushahidi Java application – and surprised me with it, this Saturday. It works well, and he and Wilfred Mworia are hard at work on the Ushahidi API to ensure that this app and the Ushahidi iPhone app both can sync with the database easily.

Speaking of iPhone apps, Chris Blow and Joe Jones have finished making changes from the feedback received on the first mockups. Wilfred Mworia starts this week on his new iPhone to get this working. We’re thinking it will take about 3 weeks.

Ushahidi iPhone Interface v0.3
(We’re still looking for feedback on the iPhone screens)

Ushahidi Devs Meetup

Just last night we had a great Ushahidi dev meetup in Nairobi. The combination of brains and energy in the room was just incredible. We ate good food, got up to speed on the latest Ushahidi news, and had a geeky good time.

Checking out the latest Ushahidi build

One of our advisory board members was there as well, Patrick Meier, from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. He fit right in, as he also grew up in Kenya and went to secondary school in Nairobi.

Jason Mule and Wilfred Mworia are going to start running monthly Ushahidi dev sessions, so get with them if you want to jump in.

Pilot Project Meetings

The last, but probably one of the more important things that I’ve been doing while in town, is the meetings I’ve been having with the different organizations that have agreed to test out the alpha release of Ushahidi. This is extremely important for us, as it gives us a chance at some feedback and direct hands-on experience with launching Ushahidi instances in the wild.

More updates on this as we get through them, but in short, everyone is very excited about being a part of the pilot and the potential for Ushahidi to change the way the gather and visualize information from the field.

Testing the new WordPress iPhone App

So, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the new iPhone WordPress app [iTunes link]. Not because I forsee creating a lot of new content with my thumbs, but because it’ll make it easier to add images straight from my phone and easier to edit old posts. Lastly, the team behind WordPress tends to put out good stuff, so I want to see what it’s like.

Setup is simple and intuitive, just enter domain, username and password. Choose how many old posts to archive on the phone, and then get writing.

Now, I’m going to try to add pictures from my phone. Hmmm, not possible to just add an image inline, seems I can only create a gallery. I’d like some way to add individual images easily. I wonder if they could do this by allowing you to hide the keyboard?

I like how the screen automatically scrolls to the bottom when you revisit a draft.

Overall, this is going to be a useful app and will stay in an honored position of page 1 on my iPhone.

UPDATE: looks like the photos were not added correctly as a gallery, but inline. Not good. Let’s see if manually adding the gallery tag will fix it.

Update 2: that fixed it. Now to delete all the code injected. The last 2 images show the frontside and editor-side of this mess.

NYT Article on the Kenya Tech Scene

Gregg Zachary happened by Barcamp Nairobi last month and had a chance to meet with a few of the techies who were lingering around after the event. Conversations from that night spurred his article today in the New York Times titled, “Inside Nairobi, the Next Palo Alto?“.

It’s a good read on why Kenya, even after the violence in January and February, is still a tech hub in Africa. Between Skunkworks, Google Kenya and an active (and creative) coding community you have the makings of a great place to do web and mobile development in Africa.

Here’s the excerpt on Wilfred, who is building the Ushahidi iPhone application. He’s also using my old MacBook Pro and, assuming everything goes right, he’ll have an iPhone to play with later on this year. :)

“Consider Wilfred Mworia, a 22-year-old engineering student and freelance code writer in Nairobi, Kenya. In the four weeks leading up to Apple’s much-anticipated release of a new iPhone on July 11, Mr. Mworia created an application for the phone that shows where events in Nairobi are happening and allows people to add details about them.

Mr. Mworia’s desire to develop an application for the iPhone is not unusual: many designers around the world are writing programs for the device. But his location posed some daunting obstacles: the iPhone doesn’t work in Nairobi, and Mr. Mworia doesn’t even own one. He wrote his program on an iPhone simulator.

“Even if I don’t have an iPhone,” Mr. Mworia says defiantly, “I can still have a world market for my work.”

It’s really good to see the Kenyan tech community get this high profile piece. Riyaz, Josiah and Eric have been the steady center-pieces of the growing Skunkworks crowd. Chris and Joe are doing great things at Google Kenya.

Oh, and Nairobi is a small town after all… Most don’t know that Josiah (Skunkworks) and Chris (Google Kenya) are old classmates from Starehe. A lot of old connections just like that tend to be the glue that keeps everything together.