June 16, 2010
Youth Day During South Africa's World Cup
It was 34 years ago today that black students protested the apartheid policy of teaching classes in the Afrikaans language. The riots that day marked the beginning of the Soweto uprising, which in addition to drawing the attention of the world helped put the African National Congress (party of both Nelson Mandela and the current president, Jacob Zuma) in a leadership role in the struggle against apartheid, ending white rule within a generation.
The boy being carried in the photo to the left was killed by a police bullet that day. The Hector Pieterson Museum, which commemorates him and the struggle, is a moving and essential visit if you are in Johannesburg.
So it was appropriate that among other events to mark the day the South African soccer team played their second World Cup match this evening. Here is a video with Graeme Addison, a South African journalist who was at the scene on June 16, 1976.
June 15, 2010
Horatius, San Francisco's World Cup Host for Portugal
Horatius, in San Francisco's Potrero Hill, is an art gallery, bistro, event space, wine bar and culinary specialty shop. It is also one of the few places in San Francisco open for the 4:30 a.m. matches from South Africa, and offers the biggest screen in the city on which to watch them.
Horacio Gomes, founder and CEO, has like others given us a gift by sharing his passion for soccer, especially the Portugese variety. This morning Portugal played its first match of the 2010 World Cup, against the Ivory Coast. The match started at 7 am but by halftime most of the seats were taken by a crowd that included at least a few fans of Cote d'Ivoire's Elephants.
The space is more like a gallery than a bar or cafe, lit by candles on either side of the large screen. Folding chairs take up most of the floor and there are couches along the sides if you get there early enough. Farther back are tables where you can set up a laptop and eat breakfast.
Though the match was scoreless it was entertaining, with much artistry, and the crowd appreciated the drama and flow. Here is a short tour of the space, followed by an interview with Horacio (his last name is pronounced GOMSH, not Gomez, as it was mangled in the video). He'll be here every day, for every match. Come share a few.
June 11, 2010
The Bar Less Traveled: Mexico vs South Africa in World Cup Opener
A Yanqui walks into a taberna and... GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!
The El Farolito Soccer Club is the place to watch Mexican football in the Mission, but it was already mobbed by the time the second half began. Just on the opposite side of the BART station entrance is Carlo's Club, which had two TVs and about 25 patrons devoted to the match. Day workers, a few tourists, some neighborhood fixtures, but mostly people of all sorts ducking in for a few moments on the way to the train.
Before being able to order an orange juice the ball was in the back of the South African net, an unmarked Rafael Marquez recipient of a cross-field pass which he calmly deposited, generating an impressive early-morning roar from the assembled. 1-1.
One patron noted that Mexico scored upon my arrival so I was made a good-luck charm. This was confirmed as regulation time was running out. South Africa played long ball for most of the rest of the match and almost converted, a shot from a speeding Katlego Mphela hitting the outside of the left post in the 90th minute.
Back to Farolito for the exodus. Most of the patrons were dressed in team colors. Many looked as though they had spent the night with their heads on the bar. This, by the way, is the great challenge of the tournament for social drinkers living on the West Coast. San Francisco, for example, is dry between 2 and 7 but the first match starts at 4:30. Does one get a few hours rest, an early breakfast, disappear into the darkness and drink out of a bag? Maybe a pickup game at the nearest soccer pitch. Match of the Living Dead.
The fans looked pleased with the result, perhaps relieved given the fact Mexico fell behind and almost lost in the final moments. South Africa is not an elite team but the host nation is always a danger lurking in the high grass.
Something has happened between 2006 and 2010 in the United States, or at least on the coasts. The World Cup has gone from under-appreciated to ubiquitous. The U.S. match with England tomorrow is even going to be shown at AT&T Park for free (and there's a ferris wheel for after). Have we finally fallen in love with the world's sport? Is this part of the Obama effect, our global re-entry? Or is it just another event to market and over-expose with product tie-ins? A little of each, maybe.
Here, by the way, is a great resource for finding out where to watch matches in the Bay Area, especially if you're looking for a country's home field advantage, as it were. They're looking for additions if you know where the North Koreans are hanging out.
Uruguay and France in less than 30 minutes. Meantime, chapeaus off for Bafana Bafana, as the South African side is called, extending the streak of host nations never losing the opening match.
May 20, 2010
Top Twitter CitiesAs an avid tweeter and someone who has lived in countless countries over the years, I found this chart incredibly fascinating....twitter usage and popularity around the world, starting with London in first place, LA in second place and Chicago in third (a surprise). The rest of the line-up through #70 below.
May 20, 2010 in America The Free, Europe, New York, On Australia, On Branding, On China, On East Africa, On France, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On South Africa, On Technology, San Francisco, Social Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
May 19, 2010
Should You Pack Candles for the World Cup?
In January of 2008 South Africa endured blackouts that crippled the country, shutting down some of the major industries for days and causing a general drag on the economy.
Power has been rationed to the major consumers and general public since then and other conservation measures have been in effect.
Yet blackouts continue, in spite of a reduction in demand due to the global recession's effects on South Africa's economy. The problem is a result of decades of neglect in capacity generation and is exacerbated by power cable theft. Increased supply is supposed to help the problem but this isn't coming until 2012.
The problems were serious enough to draw the world's attention and questions have been raised about whether the country would be able to power the World Cup.
A trip to South Africa 18 months ago included a meeting with Eskom, the public utility which supplies 95% of the country's electricity and is one of the world's ten largest producers, and a meeting with FIFA, the international football organization presenting the tournament.
Questions to Eskom were met with brief and confident responses, and FIFA's answers focused on the games themselves, with reassurances that power generators would provide sufficient electricity for the stadiums during play.
When the same questions were asked of business leaders and the general citizenry the responses were much less certain. Many people mentioned crime and public safety as a trouble spot, but electricity was the primary infrastructure concern cited, with ground transportation a distant second (freight transport workers are on strike and the passenger train unions joined them earlier this week).
Now with the tournament less than a month away it is clear that authorities are worried. Eskom recently released a statement saying that they "expect quantities to be sufficient" but acknowledge pressure on the system and increased their calls to spare usage. Color-coded referees will appear on television to alert citizens and visitors about imminent reductions in power, at which point people will be asked to limit their usage to one light and one television.
Hopefully they are also asking people to "power pool," something that would make sense for a social activity like watching football. Perhaps an ad campaign of "Got Torch?" (We call them flashlights in the States).
The scheduling of matches can't help. FIFA understandably wants to avoid overlap. But 19 of the preliminary round's 48 matches are at night, with an additional 19 finishing after dark. Only 10 are day games. Among South Africa's biggest electricity consumers are the natural-resource extractors, but these consume electricity day and night. Residential consumption increases dramatically in the evening, and the games are taking place during South Africa's winter, so people are going to need heat as well as light.
In addition to concerns about the effect on the games themselves, there is the considerable matter of public safety, particularly with large crowds. It's not going to matter that FIFA has sufficient generator capacity to keep the bulbs on in the stadium if the traffic lights, street lights and public transit are shut down.
Meanwhile, here in San Francisco the first matches begin at 4:30 in the morning, or at nautical twilight, which is the point at which seafarers are able to discern a soccer ball against the horizon. Our biggest concerns are whether to stay up all night or wake up early, and how to change the city's liquor laws so that the game's first match can be met with a civilizing Bloody Mary or Mimosa. How about a new pub tradition called Groggy Hour? Ah, the problems of a first-world nation in consumptive decline.
Which brings us to the matter of global perception. This is being pitched as South Africa's coming-out party. It's been 17 years since the end of white rule, close to a generation, and the country is eager to demonstrate its modernity and readiness for a prominent place among the many new players in the global economy.
But what happens if the lights go out while everyone is watching?
April 08, 2010
On Humans Becoming Firefox IconsBelow is a recap of my first contribution to Memeburn which launched about a week ago in South Africa.
The site is dedicated to news and opinion, tech culture, innovation and business, and while focused on emerging markets, it monitors worldwide trends. This post is the result of a dream I had where I had turned into a Firefox icon and was jumping from browser to browser in offices of new start-ups, a world I intimately know.
Nothing was real in the 'human sense' and yet I was connected to everything and everyone - in this online virtual world, the kind that so many of us have created for ourselves.
ARE WE BECOMING FIREFOX ICONS?
A few weeks ago in a very bizarre dream, I was a beautifully customised icon on my Firefox browser, adorned in bright colors with HC on the bottom right.
HC didn’t stand for HealthCrunch, nor was it an alternative to creative commons. What it stood for was Human Connector. The difference between this multi-colored creative HC icon and all the others was that it could jump from one Firefox browser to another. It could also pop in and out of people’s IE and Safari worlds, hang out, and observe their behavior.
HC didn’t have a face, but had a magical wand that allowed me to engage with whomever I wanted, a power granted by the HG – Human Gadget – who mostly hung out in the open source galaxy that only a few of us insiders knew about.
DREAM VERSUS REALITY
In this dream I watched a group of people in an Internet Café somewhere in Silicon Valley. They were referring to each other by their Twitter names, and many were shouting random things into their iPhones, such as “I just got tagged in a photo” and “I just joined the ‘I’m a social media addict group’”. The waiter seemed a tad confused by the names people used, particularly @madjellyman and @toadwalker.
Oh, the things I saw as HC. I watched my human self too, not unlike the way Sully watched his blue-bodied Na’vi body in Avatar. The difference was that my icon was the human and the human me had become the alien.
A couple of weeks later, I discovered a YouTube video that showed a Twitter and Facebook café with people doing the same things as I’d dreamed of. It was so similar it was surreal.
The always-on world is catching up to us in ways we’re not even aware of, simply because the rate of change is too fast. Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near talks about the intense pace we’re moving at, as does research on the psychological and sociological impact of technological stimuli on the human brain.
Our digital world moves so rapidly that the reality and the dream can become one before you’ve realised it’s happening.
Are we really ready to become Firefox icons? Will we have a choice?
We’ve become so addicted to the adrenalin we get from new gadgets or social media tools that it’s all too easy to put the human connection aside – even if it’s only an hour less people-time than it was last week and the week before. It’s a gradual thing when machines take over.
There’s no doubt about it – I love discovering new tools that help me navigate the web in different ways, social media apps that give me a richer experience on the web and iPhone downloads that fascinate me during a boring panel discussion.
When Foursquare came out, I was hooked within a week. Why? Because it’s cool. Not only is there a game component like many of the geo-loco services on mobile devices, but there’s a Twitter-like “wow” when you discover that a friend just checked into one of your favourite places.
Services such as Skype, Twitter, Wordpress, Foursquare and Facebook are perfect for connectors like me who not only engage with people in their professional capacity, but in their personal lives as well.
These tools allow me to connect with people from countries all over the world. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t talk to Europe, Australia, South Africa, Israel or other American states.
Additionally, voices that were unheard 20 years ago now have countless platforms to tell their stories, in video, audio, on a blog, or in 140 characters or less.
While there’s no question that I love trees and lakes more than my Blackberry and iPod, the connection that I have to my devices isn’t a small one. These devices go with me everywhere, the technology “hooked factor” sets in and the result isn’t always a healthy one.
You are not a Gadget argues that Web 2.0 designs value the information content of the web over individuals. Says author Jaron Lanier: “It suggests that only the aggregator (like Google, for instance) gets rich, while the actual producers of content get poor. Web 2.0 is a formula to kill the middle class and undo centuries of social progress.” He also believes that the internet has become anti-intellectual because web 2.0 collectivism has killed the individual voice.
It’s another perspective, not one that everyone shares. Yet I don’t know anyone who doesn’t agree that managing an ever-growing world of online content and conversations sucks up far too much of our time – and many are opting out because they simply can’t keep up.
While the grass is growing around me and the waves are crashing against a shore somewhere not far from my house, their voices are getting dimmer as the calls from my countless inboxes and browsers are getting louder.
It’s no great surprise that as technology continues to beckon us with its magic and promises, our time connected to it will increase.
But as our inboxes, IM and Twitter clients, Facebook pages and text messages continue to grow, isn’t it long overdue that we demand products that give us more time with friends, more time on mountaintops, and more time playing with our children?
We need tools that really merge and converge, not tools that only promise this. We want solutions that simplify, not complicate, and smart aggregators and personalised curators.
We need to demand solutions that humanise our daily lives and serve our personal needs. Before it catches up with us and turns us into Firefox icons.
April 05, 2010
Memeburn Goes LiveMemeburn goes live, a news and opinion platform tracking tech culture, innovation and business. The new site, founded by Cape Town-based Matthew Buckland, focuses on the web, mobile, social media, online media and social networking fields.
I am a contributing blogger together with dozens of others, and although Memeburn has a particular focus on emerging markets, it tracks innovation worldwide.
March 04, 2010
Get WILDLY Creative About South Africa Online BUZZ CampaignThis week, South Africa marked the start of the 100 days countdown to the 2010 Fifa World Cup with a variety of patriotic celebrations and flag-flying spectacles. The football spectacular kicks off on June 11, 2010.
The newly announced "Get Wildly Creative About South Africa" online advertising contest aims to inspire South Africans to get together as a nation, use their creativity, collaborate with the international community, and come up with ways to promote the country as a vibrant destination ahead of the World Cup.
The eight-week, people-inspired, online ad contest, which starts on March 15, is part of a major nation branding research project undertaken by the CMO Council and the International Marketing Council (IMC) of South Africa.
The IMC is responsible for defining and shaping Brand South Africa’s image throughout the world.
With social media networks hosting billions of monthly visitors, conversations and connections, the CMO Council’s new GeoBranding Centre is looking to evaluate the level of voice, influence and creative pull in these interactive online communities, particularly as it relates to shaping perceptions of countries, destinations, locations and origin of products.
GOING VIRAL BABY
The Get Wildly Creative About South Africa ad contest will be hosted on the Zooppa.com people-inspired advertising platform and will use viral communications, online conversations, blogging and cyber-chatter to pump up the interest and participation in this country branding program targeted at the world’s 1.7-billion Internet users.
Current and aspiring creative professionals, digital media buffs, South African citizens and expatriates, and anyone with a lust for travel to Africa, are invited to come up with inventive ways to produce a fresh and evocative message about a country that has gone from tragedy to triumph in less than two decades.
Cash and prizes - donated by SA Tourism, in-country partners and creative technology solution providers - will be awarded to the top submissions within each category. These are Best Print Campaign, Best Online Banner Campaign, and Best Video Segment or Commercial.
Among other things, the Winning entrants will have their work showcased globally to the CMO Council’s 5K+ members who control more than US$150 billion (R1.2-billion) in annual marketing spend and recognized at a special IMC-hosted reception in New York City, the world’s media centre and creative hub.
October 02, 2009
Cape Town: The Silicon Valley of Africa?
Silicon Cape is a new event in South Africa started by investors and entrepreneurs who have spent time in Silicon Valley.
More than an event, it's a brand, an idea that everyone could 'rally around' in the Cape. My blogger pal Matthew Buckland, who has been asked to MC the kick-off event, writes about the launch on his blog.
The goal is to attract the best entrepreneurs, technical brains and foreign investment to South Africa.
The kick off event will gather partners and key innovators in the incubation and investor space, where they plan to bring together key stakeholders from all sectors -- entrepreneurs, investors, marketers, media, big business, and local government.
Further adding weight to the launch will be the attendance of Provincial premier Helen Zille (and another important dignitary yet to be announced). Their hope is to push this out to the community to run with it.
Why not? After all, isn't that the Silicon Valley way?
August 29, 2009
Four Thumbs Up for District 9
Having lived in South Africa twice, both times before Apartheid was officially abolished, seeing District 9 -- the movie, was incredible, no unbelieveable, no so damn authentic, that you find yourself wanting to see it again to catch all the parallels.
Brilliantly captured, the personalities bring you back twenty years, no ten years, no two years......it sends shivers through your bones. To top it off, Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson make sure you experience the category its in: Sci-Fi.
The main character is bureaucratic civil servant Wikus van de Merwe, who is "promoted" to a role that takes him from shack to shack to evict and move an alien species stranded on Earth from one refugee camp to another in Johannesburg. Sound familiar? It's shot in Soweto and there's enough in the action shots to bring you back to the horrifying memories of the 70s.
It continues to unfold as van de Merwe transforms. More and more onions are peeled back and then just when you think you know how the movie ends, there's another twist. SEE THE MOVIE. Four thumbs up.