Work continues in Johannesburg
It’s been a hectic two days here in Johannesburg, and as the participants sit down for some talks about the balance between legal protection and the good of society and pitching to investors, I finally can find some time to write.
As always, I am struck by how when you get people from different backgrounds together to discuss ideas freely people get really energised and enthusiastic. Any profession or group of people has their own world view, and it’s easy to get stuck in that after a bit. Being open minded and discussing issues with the participants here is fascinating.
While the teams work on the 6 chosen ideas, there were also other great ideas that I hope will be taken forwards. Ideas about making government more transparent, the jobs market, buying local and growing your own food were all discussed this weekend.
One of the particular aspects of this weekend has been a lack of developers to help turn the solutions into working prototypes. But I’m pleased to say the teams haven’t let them hold that back, and they shouldn’t – this weekend is all about developing ideas, and as long as a team can clearly explain what they want to do and can demonstrate they have considered the issues it’s fine.
Tools that have been used to do that include user stories, where people think up a list of imaginary characters with names and details. The characters should want to use the the service for different reasons, and come from different backgrounds. This ensures you consider your idea from many different viewpoints.
For instance, if your working on a service to encourage people to buy local goods you have to think about the shoppers and how and why they will use your service. But you also have to think about the local producers and shop keepers; why or how would they use it?
Other tools used have been wireframing, where people sketch out how a website will look in a very simple style. Keeping the style simple helps people concentrate on the functionality and not the design. Doing this properly helps you discover problems and solve them.
For instance, if your working on what a search page for your users will look like you may say “we want users to be able to search by this variable” and so you draw a box on your wireframe plan. But then your suddenly think “wait; is that possible – do we have that data?” and you realise that you need a bit more information for your idea to work.
Finally, it’s important to really focus on a core set of features. It’s easy to come up with a long list of features doing this, but you have to be ruthless and really cut back to the one simple thing that your service does and start with that.
Especially remember that with any idea and especially a idea that involves building a community, your users will probably have different ideas. You always have to be open and listen to feedback from your users, and change your plans if necessary.
The final pitching and judging starts in several hours and the teams are busy; stay tuned!