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Tech4Africa themes

Two weeks ago I went to Tech4Africa up in Joburg. It was my first time attending t4a, and going Up North is always interesting. I made a lot of notes from all the talks and I'll publish some scribbles from the two days shortly. This post is about the themes that I picked up. The conference had a lot of tracks to pick from, so some of the themes may be subject to selection bias by me.

  • Metrics. Several speakers kept keep coming back to metrics as very important. Metrics give you ammunition to justify your choices, let you show that you've improved, and by how much. Its not simple, of course. What metrics do you measure? How do you make those stats as friction free as possible to collect?
  • Start small. Whatever change you want to implement in your organisation, or new ideas you want to bring in: start small. Run a pilot project first, or build a prototype. Let the success (or failure) of that guide your choices about where to go next.
  • Know your user. Big data and personalisation kept cropping up as themes acorss talks, often linked to each other.

I enjoyed the conference, but I'm not sure I'll attend again next year. Joburg is not for me, two day conferences (especially away from home) are a bit long, and more than two tracks just get silly.

There were also a couple of smaller, specific, things that I thought could do with some improvement for next year:

  • Technical problems. There were lots of issues with speaker's slides getting reset, the projector conking out, and the video feed for the talks were a bit laggy and wobbly. And as you'd expect at a tech conference: the WiFi was terrible!
  • Related to this is more runners. On the first day there were a lot of tracks. Some of the smaller rooms had technical problems, but there were no volunteers around to help, so speakers and attendees had to sort things out. I think that if you want to have a lot of tracks, you must make sure that you have enough runners to look after them all.
  • Timing. Generally the timing was pretty good, but hungry or tired people are disinterested people. Don't let your speakers run over time on the slot before a break.