Impact and Reconstruction

October 23, 2009

I had the privilege of spending a day at the Impact Direct Ministries in Athone, Cape Town on Monday of this week.

I spoke with the Director of IDM, Roger Peterson about the work they are doing with local people in need and in particular the success they have had helping to get people off drugs.  One of the keys to getting people off drugs has been to give them something new to focus on i.e. RLabs.  RLabs was set up by Marlon Parker, who I first met in February 2009 at the launch of Living Labs in Southern Africa, LLiSA.

Marlon has pioneered the use of mobile and web technology for social change in Athlone, Cape Town, South Africa.  The “Reconstructed Labs” or “RLabs” are truely a great example of a “living lab”.  The technology is applied to real life issues related to drugs, AIDS and general traininng of the local community in social media and mobile technology.  See details of these projects on the RLabs website here.  Marlon gave me an overview of the project:

I also spoke with a few of the team who have been helped off drugs and are now key members of the RLabs team.

Mobile technology can be used for social change and this particular project is inspiring!  I am hoping to work with RLabs Team going forward so that the Betavine Social Exchange project can benefit from all they have learnt in this space.


As I tell the story of the Betavine Social Exchange I get asked questions for clarification.  This really helps me to think through the story and make it clearer.  Here are some of the frequently asked questions which will end up in an FAQ on the website.

How do we keep challenges and solutions visible once the site has 100’s of users?

I got caught out by this question in Joburg!  We provide a good filter function on the challenge and solution pages so that you can filter by words used in challenge, region, partner or user tags.  This should help locate relevant challenges.

The fact that challenges are shown in reverse chronological order was mentioned and I was asked if regular updates to the challenge would keep it on the front page?  Yes, I think that could work but we need to consider more sophisticated solutions and maybe regular “mailshots” for unsolved challenges.

Do I have to link a solution to a challenge that is already on the site?

No. Solutions may be uploaded that are not linked to specific challenges.  This will allow a range of solutions to be uploaded and linked to challenges at a later date.  I hope we can have a large range of pre-existing solutions to select from.

What if there are several challenges that are very similar?

This may well happen and some challenges may look different but the underlying issues may be very similar.  At present we could link several challenges to the same solution.  In future we may add in a “similar to” button that gives a list of existing challenges and then similar challenges may be linked.

What mechanisms exist to publicise my challenge?

The Betavine Team are providing the BSX platform and general promotion.  A particular challenge could be promoted by a “tweet this” button which sends it out on the Betavine twitter feed to be re-tweeted by others.  We could also add in other mechanisms to make it easier to publicise challenges.

How do I start an off-line discussion around a particular challenge / solution?

At the moment you would need to give out an email address in a discussion forum.  In future we may have a direct messaging capability between registered Betavine members.

Will a challenge owner get notified when someone links it to a solution?

No, but we are planning to add this feature.

Who owns the IPR of particular solutions?

The creator / developer owns the IPR as is the case today on Betavine.  Once a challenge / solution pair has been created and it moves into the commercial discussion phase (off-line) then this is Business as Usual (BAU) for the local mobile operator or local businesses. Any commercial discussions on licence fees etc. will take place off-line.

Will all the software on BSX be open source?

No.  We will encourage software developers to select an open source licence e.g. GPL2, but it is up to the developer to decide.

I am sure there will be lots more questions posted soon.

After a great effort by the Betavine Team we reached the launch of the Betavine Social Exchange at 19:44 (RSA time) on the 14th October 2009.  This was a soft launch a day before the formal launch in order to get some content uploaded.  Thanks to Marlon and Nicky for helping out.  It is a “beta” so we are expecting the odd bug to be reported … and quickly fixed.

The launch event was held at the end of day 1 of the Sangonet Annual Conference in Johannesburg.

Turbine Hall, Johannesburg - location of #Sango09

Turbine Hall, Johannesburg - location of #Sango09

The launch of BSX was supported by Vodacom and their VEMCI team.  I presented a few slides on VEMCI and a few on BSX and then showed the website live … which worked!  I got some very good questions .. one of which I could not answer: “if there are thousands of challenges on the site how do I keep mine in focus and ensure that it is not forgotten?”  Well, the team will have to work on that one.

Launch Presentation #sango09

Launch Presentation #sango09

More at day 2 of #sango09 tomorrow and then off to Cape Town to meet some more NGOs.

Please check out the new site and give us your feedback and suggestions.

1 week to launch

October 8, 2009

It is almost exactly one week until we launch the Betavine Social Exchange in Johannesburg.  I will be standing up in front of the Sangonet Annual Conference delegates at 17:30 on the 15th October …

The development team and the content team are rather busy right now testing and debugging and trying to get the copy together ready for the big event.

I am also putting together a press release with Vodacom , our local supporter, to be released soon.

Here is a sneak preview of the challenge page:

new challenge page with test content

new challenge page with test content

We are still looking for people to help with the pilot, sign up here:

Please follow the action on twitter:  stevewolak and the hashtag #bsxpilot