This is a follow-up blog post on My Thoughts on Garage48 Lagos.
There has been a significant amount of feedback on my blog post about the Garage48 Lagos hackathon. The fact that these discussions are taking place in the aftermath of the event, is a testament to the success of Garage48 Lagos. I am pretty sure the Ghanaians cannot wait to have the Garage48 team within their borders.
A member of the Call Camp team at Garage48 Lagos posted a beautiful exposition in defense of the Call Camp team and idea, and I deem it absolutely necessary to ensure everyone sees it. Here it is:
Lots of hate for callcamp on here! Guys, I didn’t know there was so much animosity (joke)
I’ll have to warn you though: since hardly anyone has defended callcamp on here I’m about to launch into an “in defense of” article. I disagree with much of what has been said here and you can read more on callcamp on this site: http://www.portlagos.com. That said….
Seriously though- I think David should revise the article a little. The callcamp team was able to demonstrate all aspects of the system, and in terms of moving from an idea to a demonstration, I feel we achieved that.
We demonstrated a support call, routing/redirection to agent on mobile + CS broadcast, and callback. One thing you all didn’t know was we were prepared for an audience challenge and would have successfully executed callback to anyone who sent us a support SMS.
We also had logging and customer tracking up and running as well. Another thing you didn’t realise was that the judges gave us a hard time before the demos even launched- we were forced to demo/pitch the product over and over again and they seemed concerned that we were going to use a ‘scam’ approach and just make some fake phone calls.
As a result, we were under tremendous pressure to perform, and as you rightly said, its’ a pretty lofty idea and no-one expected us to get it working at all. The grand prize I believe was a reflection of that: A project such as that just does NOT start working in 48 hours and to be honest there was a lot of luck involved. You can take a look at a rough overview of the story here: http://www.portlagos.com
One reason why you would not see anything on the website is: we did not demo (or build) agent signup- and agents will be the primary users of the website. The real meat of the product is on the CSU side (which we had running for message tracking and CS broadcast) and on the agent side (which we had fully functional, with HTTP notiifcations still working even till today) on the android side.
Also, you should not belittle the work of our visual designer (Deji..an awesome guy!) who demonstrated an flair for clean and eye-catching presentation. As developers we have a tendency to look down on aesthetics but I can assure you- half of the victory of callcamp was assured when the audience sees the glossy JPEG on the landing page and the JQuery stuff we had on the menu page, even if functionality there was low.
Our backend developers, Dami and Ibrahim demonstrated a level of competence I find really hard to corellate with what I have gotten used to in Nigeria. Dami had to wipe and restart several times- he actually had agent signup modules up and running on day ONE, and we had to cut it out because it was outside scope and other infrastructure would not have been possibnle to complete in 48hrs. Several times he had to throw code out and start from scratch.
Ibrahim had to learn and code up a twilio API engine with a tight deadline: we didnt give him marching orders till the very end. And I had to condemn an entire SMS server architecture I built for the android app and rebuild to use JSON and web services on the last day. Ibrahim was awesome about syncing up the twilio API with the app and in the end we had notifications, broadcast, callback up and running. The mentors witnessed all this firsthand and I’m sure whatever other factors that were there, those guys would have earned us points for effort. Not to mention the fact that Temi had her vision for the project so concrete and clear that anyone she engaged on it had no problem grasping what we were doing in no time at all. And what about buzz? Kole, our marketing guy worked miracles as far as buzz was concerned and I found myself swamped with messages asking what callcamp was…. and even then I found myself overwhelmed by the wave of audience support that followed.
In the end, does it really matter that callcamp won? Honestly I feel the real reason why there is no prize for the winner is that ALL teams efforts are recognized. Personally I have a softspot for three projects: City explorer, parkbench and mycash. All three are projects I would not have regretted being a part of, and would not begrudge a win. As for the others, I cant think of one that is not an excellent idea, and I cannot judge the level of functionality anyone achieved because as far as I am concerned, as a forum for bringing out the best in all Nigerian developers, garage48 was a massive success.
What we need to do now is forget about the competition aspect of things and get to work. The spirit that led us to even bother to work on callcamp was “Nothing is insurmountable, and oyinbo nor get two heads”. We ignored “difficulties” and forged ahead with whatever seemed possible to do in the short term. When we are done with callcamp, you may not recognize it (we may abandon some ideas that end up not being workable, we may put in stuff that makes more sense in nigeria such as SMS-initiated chat-based support…etc. For example imagine using BBM as a support platform? Imagine being able to have a BBM session created between you and a savvy user of your chosen technology after sending one generic SMS? With the infrastructure we have ALREADY on ground, that is possible with a single additional plugin)
Sorry to go off like that, but the truth is, there’s more to callcamp’s success than Temi’s excellent presentation skills! Peace
It is a pity that most people (including me), did not get to see the intermediate demonstrations made to the Garage48 mentors by the Call Camp team. Maybe if we did, we would better appreciate the amount of work the Call Camp team seems to have been able to get done in 48 hours.
The Twilio API seems to be the same one used by Opeyemi “Kehers” Obembe in building Goahoy which has existed for a while now. A similar service worthy of mention is Chatslab developed by Klein Devort. So, the question of whether or not Call Camp is technically feasible (in terms of programming) is actually a close-to-stupid one.
Basically, I have almost no doubt in the ability of the Call Camp team to ace the technical side of the Call Camp project judging from the amount of work they seem to have already done, as stated in the detailed statement by Wale Awelenje. Furthermore, judging from the wealth of experience the members of the Call Camp team have been able to acquire before now (judging from their profiles on their blogs/websites), it would be easy to come to the conclusion that technical ability is not lacking in the team.
I mentioned in response to one of the comments on my initial blog post about the Garage48 Lagos event, that the difficulties faced by Call Camp are not just technical. In fact, the technical aspects are probably not as formidable as the business aspect of things. I would also be quick to note that Call Camp would either make it really really big, or would become a great idea executed in a less than stellar fashion. Call Camp fundamentally has a lot of smart decisions to make in adjusting the service as necessary in order to match the technical and business reality it faces.
After all is said and done, I really cannot wait to see Call Camp become a full working service. The fact that they are getting so much attention is actually a possible sign of good things to come. It has its downsides though. Expectations are lofty.
“Well done” to the call camp team. Please keep working. Keep making the Nigerian tech community proud. And for the Garage48 team, thanks for giving us the opportunity to showcase a little bit of what we can do, as well as learn a huge number of valuable lessons that can only be learnt within the structure of an event such as Garage48.
Wale Awelenje, a member of the Call Camp team (and the same person who came up in defense of the team’s hardwork), has a great article on his experience working on Call Camp at Garage48 Lagos. You should check it out here.