Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rest Cure Success!

This weekend I got to spend a lovely weekend at Lake Malawi with my new friends Kiran, Shona and Cornelius, and a local Malawian who I will call T (because I cant spell his name).

Well at the end of last week I was going kind of nutty. I was feeling a bit exhausted - luckily I got to spend a fantastic weekend splashing around lake malawi, talking about human rights and going to a black missionaries concert. I sadly left my sen book at the hotel - but thats ok - I have some renewed vigor to read Rawls and some works on cosmpolitanism (which does not sound profound because of its relationship to cosmo magazine) For now though, I will turn to poetry and my kindle and read some Meredith on Africa.

But back up to last friday I went to a local Windows 7 tech presentation at the Lilongwe Sunbird hotel - everyone's favorite malarial swap. I don't have a windows computer. Those of you who know me - know that I actually worked at microsoft briefly - where I had my infamous meeting with Bill G to discuss social networks. Ahh the salad days of youth. Even then I did not use microsoft products, but while working at MS I had to develop in C++ or C#, MS SQL Server, and Visual Studio. Make sense, a company should use the products that they sell. At the other MS( Morgan Stanley) I recently was working in F#, which is a cool language - although it would be much cooler if it was interpreted rather than compiled into .NET bytecode. I do think Microsoft has great desktop software development tools - but with applications moving online, or to the cloud, I think that this bonus will become irrelevant.

At the tech event, I met the guys from Baobab again. They are a linux/ubuntu house and were groused by the windows presentation leader. I also met some tech people working on various projects (bank projects/government projects). It was cool. I should have taken a picture but I did not. Again, I had a meeting the Legnani, a local python/Django developer, and his business partner. It was there that I discovered Ushahidi's deep dark secret (really not that secret) - it is written in PHP! Oh the HUMANITY! On of the Baobab guys, Soyapi, a RAILS guy, contributes to Ushahidi - but only writing AJAX - he told me. PHP! Oh the HUMANITY (again). DISCLAIMER - I LOVE USHAHIDI - I think its a GREAT service - I just like making fun of PHP, Visual Basic, and ocassionally java - even though I program in all three languages.

I really hope I can work with some of these developers, I have given them all rapidsms demos and information about how to install and develop on the platform. Josiah, up at Mzuzu U is the only one so far who has seemed to try anything out. As I said before, I am not going to hire a local developer for this project.

1) My main UNICEF contact who would approve this hire is on vacation for 3 weeks - so it would be pointless to hire someone without being able to work with him and train him for a few weeks.

2) Most of the software development will be done (by me). I am under such a time constrain here, and have so much work to do -that it would take more time to actually hire someone and have them do the work. Especially considering there is no one at UNICEF who could budget this at the moment .

3) UNICEF is starting a big AIDS/HIV project that will need a software person with similar skills. There is actually funding for this project - so that developer could also maintain the INFSSS project (that is the project I'm currently working on)

So my solution was/is to train two webmasters. I did that last week - although I still need to write up/print up some training manuals - that will probably happen once I return to the US. At least I got the word documents for the Rwanda training manuals so I dont have to do this from scratch (THANKS EVAN!)

I will write about my fantastic weekend at the Lake tomorrow. Tomorrow I will also write about my first day in the field. Finally! This took a lot of arm twisting. When I first got here Stanley, my contact, said I would be spending my first two weeks in the field. Although probably due to some cultural misunderstanding on my part - we are actually spending the last two weeks in the field. I am going with a junior staffer, Benson, who has been my main contact while Stanley has been on vacation. I think Benson is living it up while the boss is out. He really did not want to go to the field (we were supposed to go last week - and he balked) - and then this week we are only going to the field for 3 days. I really miss Stanley - I wish I was able to work with him longer.

Also - I would like to thank everyone who responds promptly to my emails - you are the best!

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