Education, Politics

Nigeria’s Copycat Democracy: Is it Actually Working?

First of all, I am going to readily admit that I am no political expert. I’m just a little boy with a brain that happens to work (at least, most of the time). So these are not necessarily the opinions of an expert or someone who even claims to be even slightly knowledgeable in the area of political science. However, the important thing is that I have an opinion and even more important is the fact that I have the right to have one. :p

Nigeria has had a democratic government for almost 12 years. Arriving at democracy definitely did not happen easily. The country had to go through many military dictatorships typically characterized by brutality and utter disregard for the opinions of the Nigerian people. Finally, we were able to wiggle our way to democracy. But is the system of democracy being practiced in the country actually working? How did we arrive at the kind of system we currently run?

Nigeria is the fourth largest democracy in the world. A VOLUNTARY handover of government from military to civilian rulers is quite unusual in an African setting similar to Nigeria’s. The change in government was quite smooth. Also, Nigeria was brave enough to break away from their colonial constitutional heritage, rejecting Britain’s parliamentary form of democracy and modeling the nation’s democracy after the American model instead. Just like the United States of America, the Nigerian president has a four-year term, with the possibility of a second term thereafter, the national assembly is bicameral (composed of two chambers) with a Senate and a House of Representatives distributed among the states of the population, the independent judiciary has at the apex of its federal structure a supreme court, each state has a governor and a deputy-governor, a unicameral House of Assembly and an independent judiciary. Certain procedures are also similar to the American model. For instance, appointments to the cabinet, the Supreme Court, and ambassadorial posts require Senate confirmation. So, fundamentally, the Nigerian democratic government system can be said to be a copy of the American system albeit with a few very slight differences.

It is said that the choice to follow the American model was basically because, just like Nigeria, America is large, complex and heterogeneous. However, is it safe to say that America and Nigeria are similar enough to share the same type of government structure? Frankly, I believe Nigeria is a much more complex nation both in terms of the kinds of humans that form its population as well as the myriad of sociocultural challenges the nation faces. It is easy to see that most of the “well-to-do” nations of the world have their own unique forms of government that seem to work, at least to a certain appreciable extent. Examples include Germany, China, Britain and Japan. Of course, we have to admit that they also have their own unique problems as well.

But, this is where the issue lies. As a nation that had been independent since 1960, why did Nigeria not just come up with its own UNIQUE democratic system based on about 39 years of experience as an independent nation? It is no news that Nigeria and Nigerians are quite unique in almost every way and usually cannot be said to be exactly like any other nation on the planet. For instance, the vast majority of Nigerians would vote according to ethnicity and religion rather than according to party ideology or individual principles. This can hardly be said of the Americans we so gallantly copied. Americans are known to be quite individualistic in their decisions, especially those that have to do with politics.

Wouldn’t it be logical to have a governmental system that is just as unique as the people it is formulated to govern rather than just a copy of some other model? Unfortunately, Nigeria has not even been successful in copying the American model. Instead, the democratic system we now practice seems to be a poor copy much like a poor Chinese imitation of an American product. This is obvious from the many problems the country is currently grappling with.

I know there would be some people out there who have been able to come up with their own ideas of a unique governmental system for Nigeria. However, it is pretty obvious that such things have been ignored, especially considering the fact that the present system seems to be working for some very few people who have been able to enrich themselves through the present system. Am I alone in thinking that the present political system makes it quite easy to find a large chunk of the national cake to steal? So many possible political appointments to clinch both necessary and unnecessary… Just a thought.

These are the kinds of things I believe our universities are meant for. Universities that have political science departments need to make a significant impact on the country’s politics. Novel political theories and systems that work, and are specifically tailored to the unique complexities of Nigeria are to be found in our universities’ political science departments. If these are not found there, then these departments probably do not deserve to exist. However, there is no denying the fact that even if all this resarch is done and put forward, it is likely to be ignored. This is just simply unfortunate.

During the military era, which many would agree was a terrible time for the country, democracy was touted as the magic solution to the country’s problems. Finally, we found democracy where we had hidden it. But from what we can now see, democracy is not, in and of itself, a solution to a nation’s problems but a mere stride towards possible solutions, and the present form of democracy we practice in Nigeria does not seem to work effectively. This is not to say that making adjustments to the democratic system would be another magic solution, but it might help.

I strongly believe Nigeria needs to restructure its governmental system to more accurately reflect the complex nature of the Nigerian people rather than copy some foreign system that happens to work for some other nation. Of course, this can only be done after a comprehensive study of the things that make us unique as a nation as well as the many challenges we face as a result of our complex nature. The resulting system of government emanating from such a study and a consequent revamp might not be deemed absolutely palatable by the globalization-crazy international community but it might go a long way in helping
Nigeria make giant strides towards being a nation that would be a model for others rather than a hapless copycat.

Share
Standard
Internet, Interviews, Technology

My Interview with Tekedia.com

I just got interviewed on Tekedia. The interview mostly centres around my involvement with adloopz.com, a social advertising platform built by a great team of Nigerian software developers.

Here is a transcript of the interview which can also be found on the Tekedia website.

Tell Us Your Name and Background
My name is David Adamo Jr., I am a 21 year old software/web developer, an avid music and technology enthusiast. I have a first degree in Computer Science from Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State. I am one of the co-founders of the adloopz.com social advertising platform.

I have had quite an adventure with computers and software during the course of my life, and the excitement of this adventure seems to show no signs of waning.

Introduce us to Adloopz and its products and services
First off, Adloopz was founded and is maintained by a team of young Nigerian software developers comprising myself, Tola Anjorin Jr., Adedayo Adekunle, Efe Amadasun and Shope Johnson.
Adloopz is an internet startup. It provides an advertising platform that emphasizes a social approach to the business of advertising.

Primarily, Adloopz helps advertisers and ad consumers get the most out of adverts by taking advantage of their presence on other social networks (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) and the many intricate social connections (loops) created on these social networks by their respective users. This enables advertisers reach a large number of people who share similar interests, thereby increasing the likelihood that advertisers reach their intended audience and convert adverts into sales. By building on the social interconnectedness of people, Adloopz creates an avenue for adverts to be easily shared amongst networks of friends, thus creating a simple yet highly effective referral system.

On a secondary level, Adloopz.com also aims at providing online equivalents of real-world adverts in such a manner that these adverts are easily reachable and accessible anywhere, anytime on the Internet. In the real world, adverts are often seen and consumed on the go and there might not always be ample time to get the desired necessary details from these adverts. Adverts are delivered to us through billboards, television, radio and a vast array of other media.

We might come across billboards while we are in an automobile, or hear an advert on the radio or see a TV ad but the time spent consuming these ads is often dictated by circumstances we cannot control such as advert run time or the time it takes to drive past a billboard. Because of these limitations, we typically are not able to get the most out of these adverts. Adloopz therefore aims to work hand in hand with advertisers to create online equivalents of these real world ads in such a way that they are accessible on the Internet anytime, anywhere and can be downloaded for full consumption by prospective customers and at whatever time they deem convenient.

At the surface, Adloopz can also serve as an online marketplace where individuals and businesses can advertise their products and services while having an opportunity for two-way interaction with their prospective clients. In this way, Adloopz provides a system where advertisers are able to create adverts that can self-regenerate and provides advertisers with the ability to measure the impact of ads in real time (reach, likes, referrals, etc.). Essentially, for individuals, we desire to create innovative ways of searching, accessing and sharing adverts.

Why did you guys create Adloopz and how did you consider that an opportunity?
At Adloopz, we think there is a lot you can do with your friends, and the friends of your friends. This is basically the same kind of enthusiasm you would find in companies like Facebook/Twitter, and this is the same enthusiasm you would find in the Adloopz team. There is no denying the fact that one’s “social graph” is an invaluable tool for dispensing information and for learning about new things. Obviously, the business of advertising is one which knows no end and would definitely continue for as long as people need to sell goods and services to one another, which basically I assume would be forever, except something totally drastic happens to the human race.

With advances in technology and the widespread and ever-increasing acceptance of social media as a valuable tool in marketing strategy, the Adloopz team deemed it necessary to create a tool that would leverage technology and social media as a means of enabling advertisers reach out easily to their prospective clients. Simply put, the opportunities that exist as a result of the social interconnectedness of people on the Internet is almost limitless. Interestingly, this social interconnectedness is constantly on the increase and is not likely to stall anytime soon.

Could you share with us how you came up with the name? We like it
The name Adloopz defines the core of our service and this is one of the reasons the founding team agreed readily to it. The connectedness of people on social networks and indeed the Internet as a whole can be seen as series of intricate loops. So, the Adloopz team simply took a look at this and said to one another, why don’t we just take advantage of these “loops” and get advertisers to “loop” their “Ads” through already existing social networks?. Then, we kind of felt the letter ‘Z’ looked really cute and much more adorable than the letter ‘S’, so we decided to throw it at the end, and that is how we arrived at “Adloopz”.

Specifically, share with us how this company is doing and what your future plans are
Adloopz has been in beta since its launch in March, and has been able to amass quite a number of beta users (on an invite basis), who have given valuable feedback concerning the system. The Adloopz team, based on the valuable feedback we’ve gotten from our users, is working as hard and as smart as it can to implement and refine some essential functionality before the system moves out of beta, and I have to say that is when the fun really starts.

So far, the Adloopz team has received kudos for our work in implementing the system. In other words, reception of and comments concerning adloopz.com have been really encouraging. The Adloopz team has quite a number of plans that are urgently being put in the works. Besides the implementation and deployment of some additional functionality that is sure to give our users a reason to keep logging into the adloopz system time and time again, we are also taking our mobile strategy very seriously at the moment. This is obviously because we realize just how important it is to leverage the popularity of mobile phones as a medium through which services on the Internet are consumed.

Not least among our immediate plans is the monetization of Adloopz. We have come up with a few ways of achieving this while still providing the highest level of value and satisfaction to all users of adloopz.

In the long run, we hope to make adloopz an ubiquitous presence all over the Internet. At this point, I would love to say that having a link to Tekedia’s adloopz profile on tekedia.com would do the blog absolutely no harm.
(all smiled and Editor promised to see how to do that because it will require some coding to make space )

How do you plan to scale this business? It has a promise in Nigeria
This is definitely a very important thing that we need to get right. Every business needs to be built to scale. One of the most important steps we are taking to ensure this is making sure that our business procedures and systems are well-documented. This would enable us access and constantly update information concerning our systems in an organized manner as we grow bigger as a business.

And of course, there are certain issues peculiar to scaling an internet startup and server infrastructure (hardware and software) forms an important part. As our user base increases, we have to ensure that we are able to adequately sustain the amount of traffic we get. Also, establishing a smooth bug fix and product development pipeline is something we have already worked extensively on.

However, at this point I would like to reiterate the fact that in a startup’s life, scaling only becomes an urgent issue after one has gathered a team, decided what they want to build, shipped v1.0 of the product, raised money and demonstrated that people want your product. Until we have achieved all these milestones, scaling is not going to be topmost on our priority list even though I can assure that the Adloopz team is not silly enough to leave if off the list.

What are the opportunities for your business line?
Adloopz is in the business of advertising. All we have done is take advantage of new advertising trends and existing technology. As I have mentioned earlier, unless something really drastic happens to the human race, there would always be opportunities in advertising as long as people keep on coming up with relevant and innovative ways to reach and appeal to prospective clients.

Tell us the challenges your business is facing
Every business faces challenges and finding ways to solve them can be really interesting. I guess that is one vital aspect of being an entrepreneur. Generally, it is not easy doing business in Nigeria as one is faced with challenges, typically emanating from infrastructural problems. This is something most entrepreneurs are familiar with in the Nigerian environment.

During the early development stages of adloopz, the team came up with a large number of powerful features that we hoped to deploy in the initial release. After a lot of hard work, we came to the painful realization that the server infrastructure we could afford could not support all the features we had implemented. Therefore, the current version of adloopz.com that you see is actually a trimmed-down version. So, getting the necessary hardware to enable adloopz reach the heights we have planned for it is posing a major challenge.

Another hurdle the adloopz team is working hard to cross is generating much needed publicity for the tool we have created. However, we are confident that we are moving in the right direction in this regard.

Share with us how you are mitigating those challenges
We’ve gotten quite a number of people who are interested in supporting adloopz. With their support, we are making moves to improve our server infrastructure especially in the area of storage space, so we can fully roll out all the useful features of adloopz we have already implemented. Also, we are making moves to get the word out about Adloopz and Tekedia has already helped us kick start this campaign.

Like I’ve said earlier, mitigating our challenges is one thing the adloopz team finds very exciting.

Your message to other founders and entrepreneurs
I have a simple message for other founders and entrepreneurs. Create a USEFUL product or service, aim to set a standard and do not settle for mediocrity even if everyone around you seems to be nothing much more than average. It is only this way that your contributions can be fully appreciated by those that derive even the slightest benefits from them.

We digress here, you write well and just accepted to become a Tekedia contributor. What will be your first post? Our readers will like to know.
First, I’d like to say I’m honoured to be part of the Tekedia contributing team considering the calibre of people that are already on it. I can only hope I make significant contributions to the growth of Tekedia. I have been having a couple of ideas lately and anyone who has gone through my personal blog at http://www.davidadamojr.com would be able to tell that my blog posts are not solely about programming, software development and technology but span a wide range of issues.

I have been planning to revisit the issue of the mediocrity that can be readily seen in the corporate websites of Nigeria’s universities. This mediocrity becomes so glaring when you make the slightest attempt to compare the web presence of Nigerian universities to that of other well-placed universities in other parts of the world. Therefore, there is a possibility that my first post would have something to do with this. However, it is not a 100% certainty. I just might come up with something else. I’m sorry I am not able to give an absolutely definite answer to this question. One thing I can say is that I intend to put in my best.

Should you become a LGA chair, Governor or President, tell us how you will make technology to flourish in your country
I am Nigerian and I would never deny that fact. Nigeria is a country with a stupendous amount of individual talent.

First and foremost, solving the electricity supply problems we have in Nigeria would go a long way in kickstarting rapid technological development in the country. I have absolutely no doubts about this.

Secondly, I believe the key to harnessing the talents bestowed on the citizens of my country lies in our educational system. Unfortunately, the educational sector of Nigeria is not exactly one that can be copied by any entity looking to achieve great things. Therefore, if I happen to be in a position where I can make a quick difference, I would focus on realigning the priorities of our educational system towards an emphasis on hands-on technical adeptness rather than mere knowledge of verbose theories. Special attention needs to be paid to vocational and technical schools (including polytechnics) rather than the current situation where they are being slightly neglected and held in low esteem.

I strongly believe that an educational system that lays emphasis on hands-on technical skill and home grown technological innovation would go a long way in helping technology flourish in my country.

Thank you
Thank you for having me.

Share
Standard
Hacking, Internet, Politics, Technology

Nigerian Presidential Inauguration and Nigerian Hack Attacks: To What End?

My dear country Nigeria has decided to spend 1 billion naira or thereabout (about 6.6 million dollars) on the inauguration of her President on 29 May, 2011. This is a move that has been widely criticized by quite a number of people, particularly those that constitute the younger generation. This is quite apparent, even on Twitter, where people have taken to their timelines in order to air their opinions on the issue:

@djsoniq: @NaijaCyberHack I personally do not condone the idea of spending 1bn naira on the inauguration of a president dat we’ve had 4 3yrs already!

@greggihenyen: 1M to 1000 top diverse entrepreneurs >> @NaijaCyberHack: Do you know how far 1 billion naira will go in creating emploments for our youths?

Personally, this is something I am really not happy about. However, it is not surprising considering the prevailing culture of fund misappropriation and wastage in this thoroughly blessed country. It is appalling to know that the government would decide to spend flippant amounts of money on events and occasions when Nigeria is plagued with rampant unemployment despite its vast resources and raw technology talent. Apparently disgusted by the Federal Government’s decision to spend 1 billion naira tax payers’ money on the inauguration of the president, a group of crackers (there is a difference between “crackers” and “hackers”: hackers are programmers) who call themselves “NaijaCyberHacktivists” have decided to take up an interesting form of protest. In a letter, posted on one of the websites they momentarily took down, the group expressed their disgust over the huge amount of money slated for the inauguration, and also made certain demands while giving an ultimatum for them to be met. I read through this letter and I was quite pleased to see how well written it was.

In the letter, the “hacktivists” were able to point out that:

To worsen the matter, the FG is to spend N1bn naira on Jonathan’s inaguration. An inauguration is simply an induction into office, the formal transfer of power to an individual AND NOT a costly long-running festival nor a series of open-ended events organized into convoluted books and chapters.

Frankly, I do not see why the presidential inauguration has to be this elaborate and of course I do not exactly see why it has to cost about a billion naira.

It is not just the idea of spending about 6.6 million dollars on the presidential inauguration that has gotten a good number of people dizzy with disgust. The hactivists, as well as other citizens of my dear country, have also made it clear that they want the Freedom of Information Bill passed as soon as possible. The hacktivists have said that if their demands are not met, they would not only take down government websites, but also coordinate cyber attacks on all financial institutions, e-payment companies and telecommunication companies.

Considering the fact that there have been some notable attacks on some U.S. financial institutions, and on Sony networks by other hacktivist groups, the threats of these nigerian crackers cannot be deemed to be entirely empty.

So far, the Nigerian hactivists have already carried out attacks on some government websites including that of NAPEP and NDDC. Apparently, taking down government websites, according to the hactivists, is just the beginning, as they have made it clear that they would stretch their attacks further. Many of their threats, especially those that have to do with financial institutions and e-payment bodies might actually make a strong impact if executed. However, taking down government websites is mostly a waste of time, in my honest opinion. It simply does not achieve much. However, it is probably a good, but basic demonstration of what the hactivists are capable of.

While noting the fact that most of the websites being brought down by Nigerian crackers are barely in use, just what impact do they think they have succeeded in making? I seriously do not think that these Nigerian agencies care all that much about whether or not their websites are “up” or “down”. Afterall, the majority of these Nigerian (government) websites are actually crappy in the first place. As a model in crappy websites, please take a look at http://www.nigeria.gov.ng. It is quite difficult to believe this is supposed to be the official website of the Nigerian government. I remember that at some point, there was said to be some sort of rebranding of Nigeria’s international image. Websites like these make one wonder just what kind of rebranding was being done and how far it actually went. I am not trying to say sincere efforts were not made by the people in charge of the so-called rebranding. What I intend to point out here is the fact that when it comes to the international image of the country, our leaders (in various institutions of the country) simply do not understand the importance of having proper websites. This was the bone of contention in a previous article of mine. A website serves as a doorway for “strangers” and friends who intend to know more about the people who own the website. Why the hell do some people have a hard time getting this?!?! (I dey vex) A website should be given close-to-top priority.

The questions that are yet to be answered do not deviate far from: what would be the end result of taking down government websites, or even coordinating attacks against financial networks and e-payment bodies? Would this make the Nigerian government scamper to meet the demands of the hacktivists? Is the Nigerian government actually responsible enough to make an attempt to listen before there is pandemonium? Is “hacktivism” the right approach to the many issues that plague our governmental system and lack of discipline?

So many questions, but few answers. How disheartening! I am waiting to see how this plays out, and I am pretty sure I am not alone in the spectator stands.

Share
Standard
Internet, Programming, Software, Technology

In Defense of the Call Camp Team…

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 :-D (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.

Share
Standard
Internet, Programming, Software, Technology

My Thoughts on the Garage48 Lagos Event

Garage48 is a “hacking” event that aims at bringing programmers together to pitch innovative ideas and then go from idea to working service in 48 hours. At the end of 48 hours, teams are expected to have come up with a working service based on their initial ideas. For the first time ever, the Garage48 event came to Africa, specifically Lagos, Nigeria.

I am typically not one to take part in these vents, especially because I do not live in Lagos. However, I was opportuned to take part in the Garage48 Lagos event and I have to say I had a great time.

Considering how difficult it is to organize such an event in Nigeria and in a city such as Lagos, it is necessary to say that the Garage48 team really did quite a good job in making sure the event became a reality. I particularly liked the food at the event ;-)

Garage48 Lagos gave me the opportunity to meet and work with great people including Ahmad Mukoshy, Ernest “Namzo” Ojeh, Jesse Oguntimehin, Damilare Akinlaja, Ayo Olaniyi and Akinwande Adegbola. We were all part of the Flippii team at the event. This team was an awesome one made up of people with undeniable individual capabilities.

Namzo, Mukoshy and I Hacking it out at Garage48 Lagos

I had met Ernest once before Garage48 Lagos. Ernest “namzo” Ojeh is a superb UI/UX designer and co-founder of devedgelabs. He created the beautiful Flippii interface showcased at Garage48 Lagos. I do not think I have ever worked with a faster UI/UX designer, and the interesting thing about the way he works is that you hardly ever see him doing it and being serious about it. I do not know how to explain his work style any better than this.

Jesse Oguntimehin is one of the most energetic and enthusiastic individuals I have ever met. He always had a way of infusing a great deal of energy into the team. I would love to have a person like him as a marketing partner any day, any time.

At Garage48 Lagos, Ayo Olaniyi pitched an idea very similar to a startup I co-founded (adloopz.com). After he pitched his idea, I went over to him to tell him about adloopz and we somehow ended up on the same team working on Flippii. Working with him, I could see that he was a soft spoken, smart and business savvy fellow.

Damilare Akinlaja is someone I had met and spoken to at length before Garage48 Lagos. He has a strong passion for mobile technology and mobile software. I have met only a few other people with the kind of willingness to learn and experiment with new technology that Damilare has.

Akinwande Adegbola was the Android guru at the Flippii team. One thing I noticed about him was that he was not one to talk very much. However, his willingness to get things done was absolutely evident from the way he got things done.

Have you ever had a mentor younger than you are? For me, Ahmad Mukoshy is one (He might be 21 just like me, but I am slightly older than he is, by a few months). Before Garage48 Lagos, I had never met him. But without ever meeting him, I had learnt one important lesson from the things he had achieved: IT IS NOT HOW MUCH YOU KNOW THAT REALLY MATTERS, BUT WHAT YOU DO WITH THE “LITTLE” YOU KNOW. That said, I was glad to finally meet and work with him.

After the Flippii team was formed, it was interesting to see tweets on Twitter about how it was unfair to have all of us in the same team.

@harkinlarjar: RT @mambenanje: @harkinlarjar who are your team mates ? namzo mukoshy wande davidadamojr and two product managers

@mambenanje: @harkinlarjar waooh you guys are cheating… why take the best and put in one team ?

@mayorbrain: @namzo, @davidadamojr and @mukoshy in the same team? Now that’s just unfair to the others. #smh #garage48

@mukoshy @mayorbrain hahahaaa not really, other teams also got geeks ;)

A few people were of the opinion that the team was a little bit too high powered and indeed a good amount of red bull and coffee went down human drains on this team.

There was no denying the fact that this was a team full of technical power. However, I think this resulted in a team that could not focus on effective presentation and communication of the Flippii idea instead of focusing on technical details. It later became apparent that technical ability was really not what was going to make a team come out tops at Garage48 Lagos. The final results of the Garage48 event made it pretty obvious that the metrics for judging the demos definitely did not center around technical skill and use of innovative technologies but rather on strength of idea and the “wow factor” resulting from sound presentation of a strong idea.

The fact that the teams at Garage48 Lagos were not provided with accommodation for the 48 hour duration of the event made it seem more like a Garage30, since we really did not have a 48 hour coding marathon. Teams could not be together during the entire 48 hour period and I believe this affected the quality of demos shown on the Garage48 Lagos live demo day.

As I have earlier noted, I was part of the Flippii team. I sincerely think Flippii was the most misunderstood idea at Garage48 and was believed to be a platform for Nigerian software developers to share their ideas and get feedback. At least, this was how it was described on the Garage48 Lagos “projects” page. Flippii is a whole lot more than this.

Flippii is a software platform that puts systems in place to encourage a culture of idea sharing, collaboration and innovation amongst different people around the world, between individuals and companies, or just among employees within a particular company (intranet or “cloud”-based). It just a matter of time before Flippii is launched fully. Flippii is currently host here and is still under active development.

There were many great ideas pitched at Garage48 Lagos. My team shared a room with the MyCash team. The MyCash idea centered around expense tracking and enables people track how and where they spend their cash. MyCash is a great idea and had a great team even though they once came close to throwing blows at each other. Personally, the MyCash idea is something I had made plans to work on before Garage48 Lagos but somehow never got around to doing so.

The concept of MyCash would make for an excellent mobile application. Little wonder the MyCash team won the best mobile app category at the event. I am hoping against hope that the MyCash team would give me the devices that Nokia promised them. :|

Another interesting idea was Extramiles which aims to make it easy for volunteers to signup for volunteer service. I think this is a really noble idea. The Extramiles team won as runners up for “best execution”.

Cook ‘n Chop was a beautiful idea that proposed a solution that creates an online database of Nigerian food recipes. These recipes would be available in text, video and audio. I like the angle taken during the cook and chop presentation which made the Cook ‘n Chop project seem like the saviour that had come to save Nigerian food recipes that were dying away. I really would not want my grandmother to die and be buried without passing on those magical food recipes of hers. Cook ‘n Chop is a superb and realistic idea and the team would have no insurmountable challenges getting it to a working service in very little time. The Cook ‘n Chop project was a fantastic one from many perspectives. It was excellent because of its focus on local content and it is good to know that the Google representative at the Garage48 Lagos event readily acknowledged this fact. I see Google supporting this project because it might become mutually beneficial for both parties.

Call Camp came out overall winners at Garage48 Lagos. Call Camp aims at taking away the problem of inadequate and inefficient customer care personnel by enabling individuals serve as customer care agents wherever they are and at anytime. The Call Camp idea sounds excellent and “heavenly” in theory but in practice, the difficulties to be encountered are a little less than exciting. The jury, in my opinion, was a little short sighted (too farsighted??) or rather over-excited, and disconnected from the realities of Nigerian society and the Nigerian business climate in judging Call Camp overall winners of the event. Or maybe they were just being visionary :s

“Visionary” is one way to look at the call camp idea. The problem is Call Camp has so much to do in order to make their service a reality. They have a sh*t load of thinking and implementation to do. After 48 hours, on demo day, call camp was as far from a working service as they could ever be, not due to laziness or anything of the sort, but simply due to the realities of putting up such a system. The demo day presentation of Call Camp is here.

I believe the concept of Garage48 is to achieve a useable service in as little a time frame as possible. I do not see myself becoming an ad hoc customer care agent using Call Camp anytime soon. Not because I do not want to be, but because the service is probably not likely to function anytime soon. Basically, I am quite pessimistic about the ability of Call Camp to become a fully working service in the next 48 weeks.

If the actual idea of Garage48 does not center around getting a full working service in as little time as possible, then definitely Call Camp deserved to be overall winner of the event due to the strength and innovativeness of the idea as well as the undeniable existence of the problem they are trying to solve. Call Camp got the idea part of Garage48, but the working service part??? I’d like to see them make that happen. Frankly, I am not a believer in Call Camp for Nigeria (especially considering the fact that the angle they want to attack from is the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, MTN, Airtel and the like). It might be feasible in a few other countries with more stable infrastructure, but probably not in Nigeria.

For me, the fun part of Garage48 is the part where we get to see which of the applications showcased at the event gets to live up to expectations in the long run. Even though all the teams at the Garage48 Lagos were short-term winners in one way or the other, we just have to wait and see who the long-term winners are. This is something only time can reveal.

A member of the Call Camp team, Wale Awelenje, has posted a beautiful comment in defense of the team. It has spawned another interesting blog post here.

Share
Standard
Internet, Programming, Technology

How Important is Typing Speed to your Ability as a Programmer?

Jeff Atwood said in one of his blog articles:

Coding is basically just typing. So if you want to become a great programmer, start by becoming a great typist.

I completely and absolutely agree with him.

I am not YET a GREAT programmer, but I have a great deal of pride in my ability to type about 108 Words Per Minute (WPM). I owe all that to my father. When I was a kid, while my peers played their video games all day long, my father made me sit in front of a typewriter, with a typing manual and made sure I learned to type. It all seemed like some sort of punishment back then. But now, all I can say is “Thanks Dad!”. My ability to type properly and efficiently has become one of the most invaluable skills I possess, in my humble opinion.

I have to commend the university I attended for the fact that it made keyboarding compulsory for almost every student. However, my university made one vital mistake in exempting computer science students from keyboarding classes. If keyboarding classes are important to any set of people, it is the computer science students. Steve Yegge in one of his blog posts made this statement:

I was trying to figure out which is the most important computer science course a CS student could ever take, and eventually realized it’s Typing 101.

This is exactly my point. It is a good thing that my university decided to “force” make the majority of students take typing classes, but they made a major error in exempting the CS students.

Many people might disagree with my belief (and indeed Steve Yegge’s and Jeff Atwood’s) that the ability to type properly and efficiently is absolutely essential to the programming profession. I’d like to see a programmer who codes without his keyboard. I cannot really take a “hunt and peck” typist seriously as a programmer. I know as programmers, we might not code at the speed of thought, so therefore our typing speeds might not exactly translate to a drastic reduction in software development time. However, an efficient typist, would always,in one way or the other make a better programmer in many ways. In fact, programming is not just about writing code. As a programmer, you are always in a position to type one thing or the other. This could be the documentation for your software, an e-mail explaining one thing or the other to a fellow programmer, or some other piece of documentation. My point is, a good programmer has to undertake a huge amount of typing in order to get his work done effectively. So, as a “hunt and peck” typist, I just wonder how much you would be able to achieve. Even if a programmer does not exactly know how to type, he might be able to write a few lines of code and get a basic app running. But just imagine how much such a programmer would hate commenting his code and I am sure we all know just how important generous and well placed comments are in programming. To make matters worse, I am pretty sure such a programmer would hate creating any form of external documentation. Software might be spectacular, but without proper documentation, it is almost useless.

In the little experience I have had as a software developer, I often find myself having to explain concepts to other people on the Internet using Instant Messaging (IM) or even e-mail. Of course, I do not write with a pen on my computer screen; I HAVE TO TYPE IT using a computer keyboard. Judging from my own experience, I believe most programmers find themselves in this same situation. So, what happens when a “software developer” does not type efficiently? It seriously affects his ability to communicate effectively with team mates or just about anyone on the Internet that has anything to do with his ability to effectively produce software. I believe communication with other people is a vital aspect of the software development process. Personally, I have serious problems communicating with programmers on the Internet who have serious issues with typing! I guess the programmer who cannot type would just have to relegate himself to hallway discussions. Unfortunately, most software development teams hardly ever share the same hallway!

Jeff Atwood goes ahead to say that:

When you’re a fast, efficient typist, you spend less time between thinking that thought and expressing it in code.

Many of us are familiar with the following scenario. You decide to go into a room with an original intention of doing something in that room but by the the time you get there, you completely forget what brought you there. One way of looking at this is that in the time interval between moving from your original location to your destination, you have forgotten the reason for which you got up in the first place. In essence, because of the time you have spent trying to express your original intentions, your body and mind has forgotten exactly how and what to express.

This same scenario happens when writing code. There are times when you have a particular idea and due to the time interval between thinking about it and expressing it in code, that particular idea drifts away or loses its original efficacy.

However, I have to make one thing clear. I am not saying that every programmer must go through formal typing classes. But at least, every programmer should be able to type efficiently. I mean, if you actually claim to be an efficient programmer, then you must have spent quite a significant amount of your time working with a computer keyboard long enough to buy you a near-destructive ability on the keyboard even if you do not follow all the formal processes involved in typing. These days, learning to type is pretty easy. Despite the fact that I’m still pretty young, I still had to learn to type using a manual typewriter and absolutely no software. But today, we’ve got software like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and Typing of the Dead to teach us how to type using fun methods that are really not as boring as the old ways. In Typing of the Dead, you actually get to learn to type by shooting zombies!

I’d like to end this article by quoting the closing remarks of Jeff Atwood in his own article:

There’s precious little a programmer can do without touching the keyboard; it is the primary tool of our trade. I believe in practicing the fundamentals, and typing skills are as fundamental as it gets for programmers.

It is empowering being able to type almost as fast as you can think.

Share
Standard
Internet, Technology, Uncategorized

The Evil that is a Touchscreen Device!

As programmers, we tend to spend the greater part of our day typing characters on a screen using a regular keyboard. So what happens when a programmer gets hold of a touch screen device?

For me, it is quite difficult typing on a touchscreen device compared to the ease with which I type on a regular keyboard. On a typical computer keyboard, I type an average of 95-100 Words Per Minute (WPM). However, this speed is drastically reduced when I find myself having to use a touchscreen device such as an iPhone or an iPad. Just like Jeff Atwood put it, the minute I switch from a touchscreen device to a regular keyboard, I go from being Usain Bolt to The Flash. In fact, it is even easier for me to type on a phone with a tiny QWERTY keyboard than it is for me to type on an iPad or iPhone.

People who use touchscreen devices might testify to the fact that they tend to avoid having to create long strings of text and more often than not, leave their text compositions to the fate ascribed to them by whatever predictive text technology exists on the devices. Often, the predictive text system on a touchscreen device might not adequately produce words that relay the intended message. In fact, most people who use touchscreen devices are lazy typists and it is sometimes a pain to have to read (and understand) the text messages or other correspondence they produce.

So, really, what’s the problem with touch computing? iPads and iPhones are beautiful devices no doubt, and touchscreen devices have a vital role to play in computing. I do not hate the iPad. In fact, one wonderful thing about the iPad is the fact that it turns on instantly and does not have to go through any sort of complex boot sequence. However, devices like the iPad tend to turn us into voracious consumers of data and information rather than benevolent producers or creators of information. On a mobile device with a QWERTY keyboard, I would probably create just as much data/information as I would consume. However, on an iPad I am very likely to consume data a whole lot more rapidly than I produce any, simply because of the way it is built. In fact, the iPad is so beautifully built without a keyboard that even if you originally intended to get some work done (especially if it involved creating large amounts of text), your mind is quickly changed once you get a grip of the device. Once you get your hands on such a device, you would probably just decide to play games, watch videos and passively surf the Internet instead. Furthermore, due to the lazy typing syndrome touchscreen devices tend to infect us with, our ability to create quality (text) content is often quite effectively hampered.

Scott Adams, in his blog, asked the following pertinent question and gave a probable answer which I found to be quite thought-provoking:

What happens when people become trained to think of information and entertainment as something they receive and not something they create? I think this could be a fork in the road for human evolution. Perhaps in a million years, humans will feel no conversational obligation to entertain or provide useful information.

I think we all need to sing the praises of the humble keyboard. Like Jeff Atwood said, the keyboard is “the device that, when combined with the internet, turns every human being into a highly efficient global printing press.” With the help of a full-sized keyboard, and the Internet, I have been able to create this blog post (in a matter of minutes) that can be viewed by anyone, anywhere. I have successfully become quite an efficient global printing press. I cannot even begin to imagine having to type this on a touchscreen device, whether an iPad, an iPhone or whatever.

For a programmer, it is absolutely important to be have superb typing skills. Jeff Atwood has said that “if you want to become a great programmer, start by becoming a great typist”. An obsession with touchscreen devices definitely would not help. I sincerely believe we are typists first, then programmers second. Being able to type, and how important it is to a programmer’s career would definitely be the subject of another blog article, probably the next.

Share
Standard
Education, Programming

Do Certifications Really Matter?

This is coming on the heels of an excellent blog article I read a long time ago written by Jeff Atwood at the coding horror blog. Jeff Atwood starts off his article by saying:

Name any prominent software technology, and you’ll find a certification program for that technology. For a fee, of course. It’s a dizzying, intimidating array of acronyms: MCSD, SCJD, RHCE, ACSA. And the company offering the certification is quite often the very same one selling the product. No conflict of interest there.

There are all sorts of certification programs out there with all sorts of acronyms. As has been aptly noted by Jeff Atwood, the companies that offer the certification courses are quite often the very same ones selling the product. Are these certification courses just another means of generating revenue for the company offering the products? It might not be exactly right to say so. However, it definitely does not do any harm to their balance sheets.

The purpose of this article is not to incite an argument as to whether or not certification courses are just a rip-off. Rather, the concern to be addressed here is whether or not certifications are to be relied upon as a metric for judging the competence of their holders. Are they credentials that can be depended upon? And just like Jeff Atwood asked in his article, “Do people who have these certifications perform better than those who don’t?”

It is funny how certificate-oriented our society has become. The average Nigerian employer of skilled labour (and in most other countries as well) seems to be easily impressed by people who have a dizzying array of certifications so much that they have a tendency to ignore the question of whether or not the persons holding these certificates can actually competently carry out the tasks required of such a technical position. Many people who have written some professional certification exams in such technologies as Oracle, MCSD and the rest of them, can probably testify to the fact that one does not really need a hands-on technical knowledge of these technologies in order to pass their corresponding certification exams. Now, the question is, how is it possible to pass a certification exam without actually knowing the technical nitty-gritty of the subject? Well, maybe we can blame it on the testing system. For many certification examinations, all you probably need is a good set of question dumps. Once you can master and/or memorize the question and answer patterns in these dumps, you already have a good chance of passing the examination since the examinations do not vary a great deal from the dumps you are likely to have already seen. In fact, the questions might be exactly the same. This is especially true of certification examinations that follow the multiple-choice question pattern.

This is not to say that certification exams are pointless. However, they have become slightly abused. It is necessary to note that whether or not someone actually succeeds in gaining or improving a skill after preparing for and writing a certification exam, is often dependent on the individual’s purpose for trying to get certified. If an individual actually goes through it for the purpose of acquiring knowledge and technical adeptness, there is nothing stopping him/her from actually getting the knowledge and skill he desires while getting certified at the same time. Unfortunately, it seems the intents of the vast majority of people getting certified are less than “noble”.

Why do some people go through the pains of preparing for and writing these exams if they know that it may not necessarily give them a comprehensive technical knowledge of the subject? Shouldn’t knowledge and skill acquision/improvement be the goal of getting certified in any field? Apparently, this is not always the goal.

From things that can be seen and heard, I have come to the conclusion that the the goal is often simply to increase one’s chances of getting a job. Who is to blame for this? And is this necessarily a bad thing? I would say it is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. However, I would love to go on to say that the problem primarily lies with employers who have been given the impression that certificates are an appropriate metric for measuring technical competence. This is an impression that has been made almost permanent in their minds without them even knowing it. The danger in this is that employment based solely on how many certification examinations you have managed to pass, would inevitably lead to employment of individuals who are less than competent in their various fields. In order words, the primary question employers need to ask, especially employers who hire programmers/software developers, is not “how many certifications do you have?” but “what have you done with the skills you claim to have?”.

Jeff Atwood put it very succinctly when he said:

Your credentials should be the sum of the projects you’ve worked on, and specificially how much you learned from your failures. Certainly, your actual experience, your portfolio, counts for a lot more than whether or not you passed some arbitrary, one-time test.

Truth be told, there are a lot of people who have bagged a large number of certifications, and still have close to no idea what they are doing. There are a lot of SCJPs, MCADs and the rest of them who cannot write the simplest of programs to acceptable quality standards. It is quite unfortunate really.

The debate on certification has raged on for years. Many people have different opinions on the issue and each argument has its valid points. The questions I might not be able to give satisfactory answers to are: What is the real rationale behind certification? Is certification something implemented for the benefit of society or for the benefit of the certifiers? Do people who have these certifications perform better than those who do not?

Conclusively, just like Jeff Atwood, I do not believe in certifications. He made the reason clear when he said:

The certification alphabet is no substitute for a solid portfolio; you should be spending your time building stuff, not studying for multiple choice tests.

Of course, certifications are not worthless, as long as an impressive portfolio can be presented along with them. I would rather hire the founder and creator of Gistcaster, than hire someone with all the certification acronyms in existence with nothing to show of it.

Share
Standard
Uncategorized

Chipmunk and Chris Brown’s “Champion” – A Constant Source of Motivation for Me (Part 2)

Chris Brown and Chipmunk

If you have not read part one of this article, you can find it here. It would help you better understand what I’m rambling on and on about.

In verse 3 of this well-crafted song “Champion”, Chipmunk renders the following lines:

It’s only you believing in you
they turn you into a bastard the moment you’re rude
attitude a little out of tune
but thats how champions move

If there is one thing that is peculiar to people who end up being successful, it is their remarkable tendency to go against set norms, traditions and protocols. Typical examples? Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, famously known for dropping out of Harvard University. I can just imagine that no one else believed in them, but themselves. I can imagine Zuckerberg or Gates saying “Hey mum, Hey Dad, I’ve got good news. I’m dropping out of Harvard. I’ve got better things to do.” The typical Nigerian parent would probably threaten to disown any child who decides to do this, and might probably make good the threats, to an extent. I am currently going through something SLIGHTLY similar, but nowhere near being as serious as getting disowned. :D

Quick note to that bright Nigerian kid: DO NOT DROP OUT OF SCHOOL. IF YOU DO, YOU ARE VERY LIKELY TO SUFFER AND YOU ARE NOT LIKELY TO BECOME THE NEXT GATES OR ZUCKERBERG. NIGERIA IS NOT A PLACE FOR THINGS LIKE THAT.

I’m glad I have gotten that off my chest. Maybe I’m just not brave enough to believe in that. Maybe a true “Champion” would attempt that regardless of the environment he finds himself in. Afterall, the ways of a champion often seem like folly. Many influential and “successful” people in the world today often seem to have their “attitude a little out of tune” and often come across as rude to people who barely know them. They have a tendency to seem abnormal, a weird tendency to react abnormally and unconventionally to things. But Chipmunk is right, that is how champions are known to move.

In verse 4 of the song, Chipmunk goes ahead to say:

I guess you’re on your own
build a foundation with the bricks that they throw

Opinions aint fact, take ‘em and let ‘em go

I absolutely love this. When you are on your own, abandoned and isolated, and people throw bricks at you (could be criticism for a mistake you have made), instead of raising your hands and getting yourself mercilessly pelted with these bricks, use those hands to make a foundation that you can stand on in order
to go higher and achieve what you originally set out to get. As humans, we all need to realize that what people say about us as individuals are nothing but opinions, some true and many more false. If only we would “take ‘em and let ‘em go”, we would find it easier to move on towards our dreams despite discouragement and negativity emanating from the people around us.

Chipmunk and Chris Brown’s song “Champion” is a really great record. It is great when we can look beyond the bass, the snare, the guitar, all the other instruments and the persona of the people behind the music, and look towards the message they are trying to get across. In this way, music can be a really great source of motivation.

In conclusion, I would go by the words of Chris Brown’s well executed chorus on the track. They are words I believe in. They are words I have chosen to identify with.

I’m always pushing myself to the limit
making sure I stay ahead
you’ve made me who I am, from the words you said

Some people have to learn
Some people wait their turn
Some people, BUT NOT ME
I was born a Champion

Some people have to fight
Some people give their lives
Some people don’t believe
I WAS BORN A CHAMPION

***I have noticed that many people in the UK hate Chipmunk judging by the comments I have seen on forums, youtube, etc. I do not understand why, but I intend to find out. Although, his flow on this track was not particularly wonderful (the words were on point), he is not all that bad. However, Chris Brown totally trumped him on his own track. It is even obvious from the video.

The full lyrics for this song can be found here.

You can download the track at my favourite music site: iM1music – Chipmunk;Chris Brown – Champion

You can also find the video for this awesome song at: http://im1music.net/2010/12/26/chipmunk-ft-chris-brown-champion/

Please check the song out. I hope you will love it as much as I do. :)

Share
Standard
Motivation, Music

Chipmunk and Chris Brown’s “Champion” – A Constant Source of Motivation for Me (Part 1)

Chris Brown and Chipmunk

So, I am writing this blog post while listening to Chipmunk and Chris Brown deliver one of the best tracks they’ve ever created, in my opinion, that is.

I assume most people familiar with contemporary R&B already know who Chris Brown is, and already know that Chris Brown is a popular American R&B singer. However, it might not be safe to make the same assumption about Chipmunk.

Chipmunk is a British Hip-hop/R&B artiste and songwriter from London. He is signed with Columbia Records of Sony Music UK.

Chipmunk and Chris Brown’s recent collaboration on the track titled “Champion” has created a musical masterpiece that contains a constant slew of motivational words. There is absolutely no instance when I listen to this track that I am not reminded of the joys of overcoming adversity and being able to muster up the strength to trudge on towards set goals and objectives despite all the negativity that surrounds us.

In this blog post, I intend to highlight particular sections of this song, and what I make of them.

In the first rap verse of the song, Chipmunk delivers the following lines:

They wanna hold you back, tell ‘em pee off
whenever they say you can’t, take the T off
I remember when they told me I couldn’t be famous
Now my dreams and reality are simultaneous
and work your own way to the top
if they put you on a pedestal, they can take you off
and there’s a higher level than the top
you gotta make more, don’t do with what you got
yeah, so get in, go sunny
not everybody gets a second chance at getting money
or even getting lucky
so you gotta feel the hunger in your tummy

In Chipmunk’s first rap verse, a couple of lines caught my attention. The first was:

I remember when they told me I couldn’t be famous
Now my dreams and reality are simultaneous

I think this is a wonderful illustration of success. Almost everyone has dreams of doing one thing or the other. Some people dream of being celebrities, or at least wielding a significant amount of influence wherever they find themselves. We all have our dreams,
things we hope to achieve before we are one with the dust. However, as long as we have not achieved these things, they are just dreams and nothing more. Until we can make these dreams manifest in reality, we are not yet “successful”. What better way can you define/illustrate success, than when “your dreams and reality are simultaneous”? In other words, your dreams and reality are now one and the same. This is just wonderful to imagine.

Chipmunk was on point with that.

Another piece of Chipmunk’s rap verse that caught my attention was:

and work your own way to the top
if they put you on a pedestal, they can take you off

In life, as we strive to be at the top of whatever we do, the typical route we take is to use our connections in high places to get the things we want, or get to the places we want to be. In Nigeria, it is often said that in order to get anywhere in life, you need to make use of who you know and not what you know. It actually works. However, the downside to this is that if you do not make an effort to “work your own way to the top” and instead decide to depend entirely on other people to “put you on a pedestal”, there is also a chance that the same people who have elevated you can take you off just as easily, especially if you refuse to be their puppet. This sort of thing is characteristic of the Nigerian political landscape. I do not think I need to say more.

As I have mentioned earlier, I was not always a fan of Chris Brown’s music. I once saw him as a dancer and nothing much more. That has changed gradually. For those who have followed Chris Brown’s career up till this point, you would know that he has been making a
foray into the rap genre. This can be seen from his numerous rap songs on his mixtapes. I must say, he is not bad at all when it comes to rapping. In fact, I think he is pretty good. On this track, he decided to show off his rap ability and he did a wonderful job. Honestly, I would say his single rap verse was more solid than all of Chipmunk’s combined. Chipmunk had the lyrics but could not get the flow down.

These are the lyrics of Chris Brown’s rap verse:

This gon be the realest sh*t I ever wrote
Off the record, no camera’s, forget a quote
Some of my family doing good, most doing dope
I’m from Virginia where they hang ‘em n*ggas by a rope
I used to see my momma getting beat down
Is that the real definition of me now?
I fell off, back on my feet now
headed to the sky, can’t even see down
award shows, I poured my heart out
and people still steady tryna point my flaws out
and I’d be lying if I said it aint get to me
but I’m a champion, legend, history

CHRIS BROWN’S RAP VERSE IS JUST WONDERFUL. It is lyrically “heavy”. He has succeeded in talking about a very important issue within the limits of a single rap verse, and it just might actually be “the realest sh*t he ever wrote”.

I’m from Virginia where they hang ‘em n*ggas by a rope
I used to see my momma getting beat down
Is that the real definition of me now?

Chris Brown was born in Tappahannock, Virginia, USA. His parents got divorced and he had to grow up amidst domestic violence from his mother’s boyfriend who constantly maltreated her. This was one of the reasons he was terribly criticized for his acts of violence towards Rihanna (another popular R&B singer he was dating at the time). It was hard to believe that someone who grew up watching his own mother being constantly “getting beat down” would choose to do the same to another woman. For some time, Chris Brown was labeled a woman-beater. In fact, that threatened to become “the real definition” of him and his career and quite a number of people still hold it against him.

I fell off, back on my feet now
headed to the sky, can’t even see down

Yeah, Chris Brown really fell off. The physical altercation with Rihanna put him through one of the most tedious times of his musical career. In fact, a good number of people felt that would mark the end of his career. His songs were withdrawn from many radio stations, he was charged to court, had to go through community service and counselling and even had to make a public apology. But what is most amazing is how he has managed to get back on his feet. Instead of resigning himself to his fate and battered reputation, he actually decided to work harder on musical
abilities. He kept on churning out good music the best way he knew how, hoping that someday he would be appreciated more for his musical contributions to society than for his personal issues. After the brief hiatus in his career, I can say Chris Brown’s career has been on the up and up.

Chris Brown goes on to say:

award shows, I poured my heart out
and people still steady tryna point my flaws out
and I’d be lying if I said it aint get to me
but I’m a champion, legend, history

Arguably, the best performance at the last BET awards show was the Michael Jackson tribute by Chris Brown. Anyone who is willing to be objective would readily admit that he nailed it, and it probably would have been something Michael Jackson himself would have been proud of. One notable aspect of that performance was when Chris Brown literally broke down crying when it was time to sing along to MJ’s “Man in the Mirror”. I watched this performance
completely for the first time four days ago and I ALMOST cried myself. Chris Brown came under some criticism for trying to garner sympathy for himself and his problems by publicly pretending to be so emotionally shattered about MJ’s death. It was probably a bit difficult for him to believe that people would still hate him so much after such a wholehearted performance. He would definitely be “lying if he said it doesnt get to him”. But in the midst of these, he has shown the resilience of a “champion” and if he gets it right, he just might end up being a “legend” who would forever be remembered in “history”.

It is unfortunate that I would have to put my thoughts on the rest of the lyrics in a second article so I do not risk this one being too long and getting slightly boring. So, like the caption after part one of a typical Nigerian movie: THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING. TO GOD BE THE GLORY. WATCH OUT FOR PART 2.

The full lyrics for this song can be found here.

You can download the track at my favourite music site: iM1music – Chipmunk;Chris Brown – Champion

You can also find the video for this awesome song at: http://im1music.net/2010/12/26/chipmunk-ft-chris-brown-champion/

Please check the song out. I hope you will love it as much as I do. :)

Share
Standard