Sunday, July 30, 2006


Friday was a big one. We hustled down to Palo Alto to meet up with Meg Lee at the D school at Stanford for a chat. It looks like a model that I expect to see more of. Bring multidisciplinary groups together from different departments on campus introduce them to design methods and take on interesting problems that have some interest for all. For Jon and I this struck a chord with us considering that after a few days, of presentations and reporting on project developments, the Microsoft conference concluded with a call for a more human centered approach to technology in ICT for development projects. I wasn't there but I feel like the comment identifies the dichotomy between those projects that go with an answer and those that go with a question.

We presented our question to IDEO over lunch for a crowd of 20+. So happy Aaron could reschedule our presentation after a minor communications mishap on Wednesday. It was good to a see that there were plenty of folks interested in the topic. It feels like the design committed are always interested to see how design performs in new contexts.

Christina from Life in Africa was already at home in the Kiva office by the time we arrived. We discussed our plans for testing when we get back in August. She will be out of town until the 10th which will give us a good chance to work directly with her staff. Before leaving Premal let us all know that the phones we were hoping to secure were confirmed. So Christina found out that we will pilot our project with her and she stood up and waved her arms. She is a great ally and continues to support our work with her. I cant wait to run this thing with the LiA folks they respond quite freely, and Christina would have it no other way. We should be able to get plenty of results from our time with them.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

#20 Jeremy Frazao

Jon picked up a book from the Microsoft conference that featured the greatest programmers of all time. I think that it is a bit biased but nevertheless we are doing our best to confirm Jeremy the #20 spot. He is developing an application based on the results of our research that will allow the credit officers to send journal updates from the field after they make visits to the borrowers. We are calling it the Miracle Mobile Solution. Blogger is already allowing its users to do this but only from within the US. Although that feature is very exciting for the avid on the go blogger the feature seems custom made for the needs of the credit officer who needs to overcome crippling infrastructure issues. The phones that we saw were always powered, which was a sharp contrast from the one day off one day on power situation. Secondly, access to the internet can be an all day affair. What the MMS does is create a channel for uploading content to the web through the mobile phone without paying to go to the internet, which is roughly 10 times as expensive.

Jeremy will go down as the guy who opened up Multimedia messaging (MMS) to the masses. From the little I understand about coding it looks like its a job of rearranging existing chunks of code that are built to accomplish certain tasks into a new permutation that accomplishes a new task. All that is done within an architecture that puts certain additional constraints on the arrangement. Jeremy?

The MMS consists of two parts, the text and a second medium; audio, photo, video. At the moment the text has been resolved but the image is being a bit stubborn. Whether we get the image to appear in the journal space or not we can still test and gather plenty of results during August. So now its time to create the plan for testing so that we can prove without a doubt that what we have developed is more than just a Mediocre Mobile Solution.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kiva on ABC news

We landed in San Francisco coming from Portland and received a call from Matt asking for our Africa footage to be shown on one of the US news channels. They wanted them sent overnight so edited down some videos and sent them. Today was a big day at Kiva headquarters in San Francisco. Matt and Premal were featured on ABC news. Some of the videos created in Uganda and Kenya were featured.

Have a look to the news

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Human focus?

I arrived in Seattle and wanted to be supportive with the passport loss of Cale so I lost my digital camera (or it was stolen I would prefer to say). After a nice walk in the city I took a bus to the Microsoft paradise in Redmond and got surprised with all the TUDelft crew that was there. Some students had participated in another design competition and we enjoyed some delicious beers in one of the Microsoft's gardens.

Today we had our conference day at Microsoft. Hardcore technical stuff: .Net application, Windows mobile and lots of programming tips for it but we also had the chance to give a fast presentation of our result and had feedback "could you put the presentation in this flash disk?" JC also arranged a meeting with one Daniel Makoski who is responsible for Windows emerging markets and one of the (few) designers in Microsoft. We shared presentations and he showed some of the work they have done on the topic with a well known Dutch company (the world is small).

After the technical presentation, an open discussion was held and the issue of how to bridge social issues with technology was raised. "We need multidisciplinary groups that combine different expertise", "technology push is not the only answer to solve social problems", "we need a bridge between engineers and ethnographers". My brain couldn't stop with the word: design, design, design... I was glad to see that we still have tons of work to do.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The meeting

I suppose this is what happens when you are working as a consultant for free and the person paying the bills stays quiet until the end of the project. You can’t go wrong, or rather everything seems to go right.
Kiva is an organization that is understaffed and underfunded as many non profits are. They have a to-do list a mile long and the prioritization seems to shift depending on where the fire breaks out. Fortunately Jon and I had some fireworks and were able to draw plenty of attention to ourselves while here and we got the entire Kiva crew locked down for a day long into(context) extravaganza. There were 6 Kivans and 2 interns present.

We confirmed our suspicion that the blog is an excellent design tool for communicating the results of design research by providing a connection between the context research team, the design group as well as the client. In our case we represent the first two teams. The Kiva members present had been following us since we arrived in East Africa and they were familiar with both our approach and some of our initial findings. The result was informed questions and an obvious involvement. They were familiar with quite a lot of the details that we would highlight in the presentation and it left us to concentrate on weaving those elements together to create a cohesive whole and justify our conclusions.

We set things up so that the first half of the day was a pretty much a “sit and listen.” There was quite a bit of material to go through and for us the difficulty was to narrow it all down, as almost all of it is of interest to Kiva. Jon had the presentation running of his computer and midway it went on standby and shut down so we got to have a very fitting East Africa electricity failure moment. Before we broke for lunch we covered our final conclusions. This took the shape of a set of briefs for designing an appropriate solution for the MFI’s.

We decided that with the amount of time that we have with Kiva our best bet was to present those ideas that we had been steadily creating over the past few weeks rather than start from scratch with brainstorming. The briefs were reiterated after lunch and helped the Kiva crew to critique the ideas that we presented. As hoped they helped to create a set of principles for designing an “appropriate” technology solution. Our ideas built upon or confirmed points raised in the ongoing dialog that occurs at the Kiva office and the briefs, as well as limited Kiva capacity, helped us to quickly decide on which ideas to pursue. I was particularly happy to see Jeremy defend the choice of one idea over another by using the briefs list that was projected on the wall during our discussion.

We were very much on the same page with Kiva and quickly nailed down a plan of attack for the month. Jon and I can use our time to develop a Kiva manual while the Kiva staff creates the software to support the idea of a Kiva Miracle Mobile Solution (Kiva MMS). This will be a mobile based journal updating solution for the credit officers who operate in the field with the beneficiaries. Together they may take the form of a mail out kit that can be delivered to the individual MFIs.

After the presentation we got some nice feedback on the critical side as well as the celebratory side. Whether he was joking or not CEO “Matt Flannery” tagged our presentation as “unimprovable” and said “guys before you realize someone (at Kiva) will work overnight and develop (programming) those ideas”

By the way intocontext website has been updated with the context research results have a look!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dame mas...Give me more

(For English scroll down...) Hay algo Americano en hacer todo mas fuerte. Todo lo que pruebo aqui transmite lo que deberia pero mas fuerte. Que quieres un sandwich? Pues doble con extra salsa, un batido? Pues triple con sabor extra a fresa, una bebida: Bloody Marie, una moto bio-diesel? La mas rapida del mundo. Pero no nos podemos quejar, SAn Francisco es una ciudad donde se vive bien (si te lo puedes permitir): buen clima, gente abierta, mucho movimiento y actividades por todas partes. Y no es que vivamos mal. Vivimos en Portola Valley encima de Palo Alto mirando a la bahia y esta manana he desayunado con unos animales parcidos a Bambi en la terraza. Estamos en el norte de California y algunos coches llevan pegatinas que dicen: North Cal. Algo asi como el toro en Espana (o burro en Catalunia). Cale esta contento porque me estamos conociendo la mejor parte de Estados Unidos. " No esta tan mal no?" Yo sigue cantando la de Americanos...

There is something American about doing it strong. Eveything that I've tried here delivers what it is supposed to and much stronger than anywhere else. Sandwich: double size with extra sauce and super plate of salsa, milkshake: triple with extra strawberry taste, drink: try a stiff Bloody Marie and then there was the bio-diesel motorcycle: trying to break the world land speed record. But in the meantime San Francisco looks like a nice place to live (if you can afford it): nice climate, open people, lot's of activities and things moving... We couldn't have been hosted any better. I already saw some kind of proudness in some cars with the tag: Nor*Cal. Cale is happy I get to know the best parts of US. "Not so bad, right?" Americanos...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

We are moving

We have spent a week already working with Kiva and we realized that our experiences in East Africa don't differ so much from our experiences in the US. First we are getting charged too much for fruit. In Africa it was because we are white and here there is no explanation. We are hosted like royalty (I'm blogging looking to the San Francisco bay and I had a visit from some deer while eating my breakfast this morning). Workshops are delayed (first trial with Kiva yesterday but the projector was not working). Spartan office environments. Kiva just moved in to their new office so not much clutter at the moment. Despite being so close to a Wifi empowered city we are having connectivity problems but we have grown quite used to it. I tried to upload photos here but it didnt work.

Things are moving along, we hope to have our first workshop tomorrow with all the Kiva crew. Power point, pictures, videos and some African experiences to share. We hope to define what to do until the 2nd of August in order to be tested when back in Africa. We have already begun dialog with staff and judging from their response thus far we are looking forward to giving them everything we've got tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Americanos...os recibimos con alegria!

Lleamos ayer a San Francisco y me di cuenta que todo el mundo me entiende en Espanol (influencia Mexicana) y como en casa se han conectado al Blog (y se me esta olvidando bastante) he decidido continuar en Spanish (sorry English speaking people) Llegamos ayer hacia las 14.00 hora local y 22.00 hora de Amsterdam. Primera experiencia con el "jet lag". Nos metimos a la cama a las 22.00 de la noche algo asi como 7 de la manana hora Amsterdam y nos despertamos a las cuatro de la tarde hora Amsterdam, se ve que estamos acostumbrados a hacer "gaupasa".

Nos recibio Matt el fundador de Kiva y nos condujo a una casa de un trabajador de Kiva (que tambien trabaja para Yahoo!) que esta de vacaciones: el piso de mis suenos cuando empiece a trabajar (lo de ahora es casi trabajo) creo que es algo como esto lo que me imagino. Equipazo de musica conectado a Mac, cocina clasica pero de calidad, futbolin, mega-cama etc. para el solito. Y nos dice Matt que la proxima semana nos vamos a una mansion... (yo creia que esto ya era la mansion pero parece ser que no...).

Bueno pues la llegada a USA tampoco fue tan problematica, aparte de las tipicas preguntas tipo: es usted terrorista? o Tuvo alguna relacion con el movimiento Nazi durante los anos 1932 y 1945? No me preguntaron nada raro. Hoy es dia 4 de Julio fiesta nacional Americana, Matt nos dijo que haremos barbacoa en su casa tranquilamente. Cale se ha ido a hacer las compras para desayunar, dice que algo "typical American" miedo me da...

Por cierto ya tenemos telefono Americano: 0014156453431