"I'm Not Convinced We Know Anything"

In 2013, Think Beyond Yourself

In 2013, Think Beyond Yourself

“Come! Baby Come!”, said the egomaniac as he faded into the annals of obscure history. Miguna Miguna was a big mouth with a literal big mouth, and he was a classic example of someone full of himself. But where that has gotten him is a good lesson for others to see beyond their self importance.  He got a whole nation talking about him and used the fifteen minutes to ruin his chances at an actual shot at real fame. One would say if he had any more pride he would have had precisely 15 minutes of fame.

Humility unlike pride doesn’t come at a price. But humans are a weird lot  always going for the option that is more resource intensive, the option that has been shown over and over again to bear bad fruit. And yet it’s the option of choice for most of us. It’s the option that drives us to add another sports car to the collection when there are tonnes of people whose lives would be changed or even saved if the money was spent on them instead. It is the option that drives North Korea to invest a shitload of money in nuclear weapons when its people are suffering. It is the option that makes the developed world spend a lot of their excess wealth in excess military strength when other countries can barely feed their people.

In our pride driven race to get to the top, we often forget that we live in a society and the one thing that should identify as apart from non humans is our humanity. And yet we keep driving, going faster and faster, viewing humility as and humanity as a reserve for the naive.

Humans always want more, and do anything to get there while in the process stepping on the guys without even though they could share what they have with them and both rise up. And it’s not like this is an encoded part of our DNA, it’s actually a flaw we choose to inherit and to nurture.

It doesn’t help to always put oneself first. Before making everything about you think about the other person. How are they affected? Before doing something to someone we should ask ourselves if it something we wouldn’t mind being done unto us. I don’t draw my morality code from the Bible but I appreciate the fact that there’s some wisdom in it. There’s one verse in particular  that I think Christians should spend more time practicing than reciting. It says “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. And it’s not just Christians who should observe it but everyone else keen on seeing better things happen around them.

Be selfless today and do a good thing to a random person. See if it gives you satisfaction. If it does, it means you have it in you. Humanity. And if you like that it gives you satisfaction, why not do it again. And again. Why not live your life like that. Why not make the world a better place, by thinking beyond yourself.

Of Product Development

Over the past two weeks I’ve been lost in code working all day sometimes up to 6AM in the morning. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the zone – that state where you have a concept in your mind and you can’t help yourself focus all your mental energy into seeing it through. And nothing can distract you, even when you are not it you think about it.

One important thing I learned a few months ago in my time as a Code4Kenya developer is that it’s not enough to create a product with cool features. Programmers are usually trying to push their products further and further extending the features, updating it to current technologies and basically trying to make it awesome. Something we often forget however is to focus on usability. Instead of making it more readily usable to the end user we push for the ‘wow’ factor. Unfortunately that only impresses our programmer buddies but the targeted user will only be impressed if it makes their lives easier. But if they have to get a user manual to make use of the product they develop cold feet probably look for alternative even with less ‘wow’ as long they do what they want in a way that makes practical sense to them.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I was doing a write up of the product for a business plan and I realized that some of the wow features that kept me up all night are actually very petty and I can’t even write them as part of the product description no matter how cool it sounds in my programmer head.

In the end you want to be able to describe what your product does in a very simple sentence. Also you want to make sure it does it do what it claims to do. And it does it well. Is it bugged, or smooth? Is it tested in different environments? Therefore you must spend less time coding and more time planning, testing and debugging. Start small with a basic version of the product that is stable and has a clean and easily understandable UI(user interface).

It’s very easy to push debugging and UI clean up to the end after chasing the ‘wow’ features. But if the product gets out there with bugs that could have been avoided it might end very underwhelming considering the amount of work that had been put in even if the bugs are fixed later. Thing is when you introduce a new solution to the market, people are skeptic. They subconsciously wonder if it actually makes sense, especially if the solution is introducing a new way of doing things. Trust me even the tech savvy people are very conservative deep down. That’s how Google Buzz failed and people recoiled back to their Facebook dens.

In a nutshell, keep it simple, make it stable, ensure it actually works!