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December 6, 2013

RIP Madiba

Last night we lost one of the world’s greatest icons – the father of our free and democratic society. May Mandela forever be remembered in history, he was a true legend that never stopped believing in a better future for all people.

He truly lived his life by the poem that got him through prison:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

“Invictus” – William Henley

When Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island, someone snuck in a copy of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” and had every inmate circle or underline their favourite passage. Mandela’s is hauntingly beautiful.

“Cowards die many times before their death; The Valiant never taste of death but one”

Mandela is one of those people with such a long and interesting life, first committed to solving South Africa’s problems with violence, he took a u-turn on this policy, and effectively changed the society around him. It is a far more difficult change to make, from violence to preaching non-violence and acceptance. Hence my great respect for the man, who learnt from his past mistakes. Compared to Gandhi for example (who I have great respect for), I feel his message is hence stronger due to this reason.

Because at the end of the day, forgiveness is a far more powerful tool than revenge. And I really hope that with the passing of Mandela, leaders around the world can remember that message.

Rest in Peace Madiba.


October 17, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know About The Microsoft Surface Tablet

Microsoft Surface is an upcoming series of tablets designed and marketed by Microsoft. It was announced by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at a Los Angeles event on June 18, 2012.
The Surface will be available in two versions, “Surface” and “Surface Pro”. The “Surface” model will run the Windows RT operating system and use an ARM CPU. The “Surface Pro” model will run the Windows 8 Pro operating system and use an Intel CPU. The display is a 10.6 inches (27 cm), 16:9 widescreen HD Display (Surface), or Full HD Display (Surface Pro).

The Coolest Features

VaporMg™ casing
The casing of Surface is created using a unique approach called VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as .65 mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong.

Integrated Kickstand
The unique VaporMg approach also enables a built-in kickstand that lets you transition Surface from active use to passive consumption – watching a movie or even using the HD front- or rear-facing video cameras. The kickstand is there when needed, and disappears when not in use, with no extra weight or thickness.

Windows RT and Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview
The fact that you get a full-blown version of Microsoft Office on a tablet is a really good sell. RT will have a slightly stripped down version, but its obvious that Microsoft is pushing the enterprise use cases with this tablet, as I really see this being incredibly useful in IT and office environments.

Front and rear-facing 720p HD video cameras
Surface also has built in HDMI, HD video camera. “If you use your PC to design and create things, this is for you. It’s less than 2 lbs, less than 14mm. It’s a full PC.” The surface also has a great resolution display.

Extremely Durable
Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live Division, on Twitter showcased that Surface can be converted into a Skateboard and still hold the weight of a whole person!

Below is a comparison of Microsoft Surface to other prominent tablets in the market, right down to the technical specs:

Microsoft has already placed an order for 3 million to 5 million tablets, similar to amount of tablets orders placed for Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. There is definitely market demand, but for consumers it may be a tough sell. You are paying $100 extra for the keyboard, and $499 is a very high consumer price point. Another challenge for Microsoft will be making sure the average consumer can differentiate between these tablets and the full Windows 8 experience. In any case, I firmly believe Microsoft is looking at the long tail and business users, as apposed to quick wins in the low end consumer market.

Another challenge is that the tablet is not going to run x86 apps. Right now you’re limited to what’s available in their app store which is comparatively tiny to the x86 app market. Companies have made large investments into Google, Apple and Amazon apps and are not going to be quick to place another investment into a Microsoft market app. Despite the app problem, the focus of Surface is that it is a content-creation tablet, not just a content-consumption one. Even the RT version of Surface has the features for creators to get real things done. Updating your presentation on the go, writing a full proposal for an important client while you are on the jet, or even design a sketch for your new website feature while you are on the coffee shop! Doing all that in iPad or Android tablet is a nightmare.

One exciting part of Microsoft’s Windows RT experience is that it will open up the market for manufacturers that want to create their own Windows RT tablets and devices. This may see a whole new device-agnostic market opening up in competition with Android.

Be sure to check out the first official Surface ad below. It doesn’t show much in terms of features, but is pretty fun to watch:

October 4, 2012

Facebook Hits One Billion Users

Facebook just officially reached one billion active users, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced. If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest behind China (1.3b) and India (1.2b). His official blog post follows:

This morning, there are more than one billion people using Facebook actively each month.

If you’re reading this: thank you for giving me and my little team the honor of serving you.

Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life.

I am committed to working every day to make Facebook better for you, and hopefully together one day we will be able to connect the rest of the world too.

Despite this positive indication that the network is consistently growing, its stock price suggests a different story with the stock down by 2% today.

As Facebook matures and solidifies its business models and cash generating products, it will uncover its long term viability and attractiveness to investors. In the meantime, Facebook suffers the problems of declining user engagement, increased fake accounts and lack of monetization of its mobile offerings. Zuckerberg has good reason to celebrate, but the cork should stay in the bottle until these glaring fundamental issues are addressed.

October 3, 2012

The SA Social Media Landscape Report 2012 is Out

Large corporate brands in South Africa have woken up to social media, following in the footsteps of their customers.

The South African Social Media Landscape 2012 study, released today by technology market researchers World Wide Worx and information analysts Fuseware, reveals that 95% of major brands surveyed have some form of social media strategy aimed at consumers. However, only 51% rate their efforts on Facebook as effective – and only 33% believe they are effective on Twitter.

“The survey shows that corporate South Africa has woken up to social media, but it hasn’t yet figured out how to dress for the role,” says World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck. “Most large companies are still neutral on the impact of social media, and are still feeling their way.”

The report includes analysis of South African consumers’ use of Facebook, Twitter, Mxit, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Foursquare, as well as a survey conducted among corporate brand owners. The headline findings of the consumer study were released at industry events in Johannesburg and Cape Town at the beginning of September, while the corporate findings are contained in the final report released today, along with detailed analysis of consumer trends.

“We interviewed representatives of 61 major brands, and found that corporate use of social networks tended to be a case of responding to media hype,” says Fuseware managing director Mike Wronski. “The most popular social media platform in South Africa, Mxit, is used as a marketing tool by only one out of five large brands. This compares to Facebook, with nine out 10 using it, and Youtube, with two out of three.”

Other key findings announced today include:

• 49% of South African corporations surveyed leave social media in the hands of a marketing team, while 18% allocate it to public relations and a further 18% outsource it;
• The most commonly cited reason for using social media is as an effective PR channel, with 70% of brands using it for this purpose, while 62% use it as a core part of their marketing campaigns;
• Sales represent a key element of social media for corporations, with 43% using it for customer lead generation;
• Only 13% of companies are using social media specifically because their competitors are using it;
• Most companies intend to make investments in training their current people in social media best practices. A full 36% intend to use specialist social media agencies to assist in their social media PR and marketing. Only 15% say their skills are optimal.

The survey shows that that corporate brands are also still getting to grips with how to measure their social media effectiveness. While 74% use number of followers as a key measure on Twitter, only 24% measure the number of their own customers who are followers. Similarly, while 72% measure effectiveness according to comments and mentions, only 40% consider Sentiment analysis, i.e. evaluating the positive or negative tone of the comments.

An even bigger gap is seen on Facebook, where 83% of brands live by comments and mentions, but only 37% use Sentiment analysis.

“The survey shows that companies haven’t quite figured out what is more important,” says Goldstuck. “It comes down to separating volume from value, and that takes time and energy, rather than just a dashboard of numbers.”

Wronski adds: “When we asked companies what barriers were preventing marketers from getting more value out of social media, the most commonly cited was, ‘Time to properly manage these channels’. This is the largest bottleneck to social media success. Brands are struggling to allocate resources and time to manage social channels.”

Download the executive summary of the SA Social Media Landscape 2012 report, including the above information as well as a full contents list, by clicking here.

September 12, 2012

Social Media breaks barriers in SA

Social networking in South Africa has crossed the age barrier, the urban/rural divide and even the relationship gap, according to research findings announced today.

The South African Social Media Landscape 2012 study, produced by technology market researchers World Wide Worx and information analysts Fuseware, shows that the fastest growing age group among Facebook users in South Africa is the over-60s. From August 2011 to August 2012, the number of over-60s on Facebook grew by 44%, compared to less than 30% for those aged 30-60, less than 20% for those aged 19-30, and less than 10% for teenagers.

“This is a reflection of Facebook going mainstream in South Africa,” says World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck. “The younger segments are still far from saturation, but we’re not seeing the same heady pace of growth among the youth as before.”

At the end of August, 5.33-million South Africans were using Facebook on the Web, 2,43-million were on Twitter and 9,35-million on Mxit. Because Facebook does not measure mobile-only usage among those who have registered via their cellphones, however, the full extent of its penetration is significantly understated: primary research by World Wide Worx shows that 6.8-million people access Facebook on their phones.

Twitter use measured in this primary research indicates that its user base had grown to 2,2-million by the end of June, or 100 000 new users a month since August last year. Fuseware data, collected directly from Twitter through an API (application programme interface), shows that the number reached 2,4-million at the end of August, exactly matching the growth rate measured by World Wide Worx, and validating the earlier data.

“The integrity of data, and its interpretation, is vital for business decision-makers and marketers who are investing in social media,” says Fuseware managing director Mike Wronski. “Different methodologies allow us to gain deeper insights, as well as providing cross-validation for our data.”

Other key findings announced today include:

• Both Facebook and Twitter have grown at a similar rate, at around 100 000 new users a month, for the past year.
• LinkedIn has grown substantially, but at a slightly lower rate, to reach 1,93-million South Africans.
• Pinterest is the fledgling among the major social networks, with only 150 000 users in South Africa.
• *WhatsApp has become the leading instant messaging tool among South Africans aged 16 and over, living in cities and towns, with a user base of 4,6-million.
• The youngest mobile instant messaging tool to emerge on the measurement radar in South Africa, 2Go, has close to a million adult users.
• The most common “Check In” sites for Facebook in South Africa are airports and shopping malls.
• The biggest tweeting day of the week is a Monday, with an average of 9,6-million tweets sent by South Africans on the first working day of the week. Friday is next, with 9.6-million, while Saturday is the slowest Twitter day, with 8,4-million tweets.
• Both Facebook and Twitter have crossed the urban/rural divide. The proportion of urban adults using Facebook is a little less than double rural users – but rural users are now at the level where urban users were 18 months ago. Twitter’s urban penetration is a little more than double its rural penetration, but the rural proportion has also caught up to where the urban proportion was 18 months ago.

One of the most fascinating findings reported today is that the number of single users has grown faster than any other relationship group, by almost 25%, to reach 957 000. The number of married and engaged users has each grown by 16%, while the category of those “in a relationship” has increased by 9%.

“Clearly, Facebook is filling a relationship gap in the lives of many South Africans,” says Goldstuck. “But social networks are also so much more – we see them playing the roles of communication, information and entertainment networks.”

Wronski adds: “Social media fatigue has set in for the more over-active users, who follow too much, communicate too much, and vent too much. But most users are arriving in this world for the first time, and new users are going to keep coming. It’s mainstream today but, tomorrow, it will be pervasive.”

April 9, 2012

Facebook Acquires Instagram: What we can Expect

Mark Zuckerberg posted under an hour ago that Facebook is acquiring Instagram, the incredibly popular photo sharing app. His statement is copied below:

I’m excited to share the news that we’ve agreed to acquire Instagram and that their talented team will be joining Facebook.

For years, we’ve focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we’ll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.

We believe these are different experiences that complement each other. But in order to do this well, we need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.

That’s why we’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.

We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.

These and many other features are important parts of the Instagram experience and we understand that. We will try to learn from Instagram’s experience to build similar features into our other products. At the same time, we will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook’s strong engineering team and infrastructure.

This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.

We’re looking forward to working with the Instagram team and to all of the great new experiences we’re going to be able to build together.

Here are my top predictions:

  1. Facebook will increasingly push its mobile strategy, with a focus on making photo sharing even simpler. Most newsfeed items published are graphical in nature, so we can expect things like one click instant photo uploads from your cell phone.
  2. With Instagram’s effect filters integrated into Facebook photos, we can expect a much higher increase of the (often nauseating) effects added to profile pictures and other photos. Hopefully this won’t be driven into the ground as everyone begins pretending to be a vintage 70’s photographer.
  3. There may be a move to see popular content in my area that may be outside of my network – leading to a way to discover events around me, and even meet new people in my area based on shared interest through photos and videos
  4. An interesting point to note is that Mark mentioned that Facebook will be developing Instagram independently. To date, they have absorbed all of their acquisitions into their Facebook products, or simply killed them off in order to hire the staff. With Facebook approaching maturity, this is a wise move on their part as it diversifies their product line without causing a conflict of interest to themselves.
March 16, 2012

Further Clarification of the South African Brandometer

The South African Brandometer is an online ranking of the most influential brands on social media, in South Africa. Since Fuseware released it this week, it has had tremendous media exposure – some good, some bad. I would like to use this post to clarify many of the questions people are asking.

1. “Why is Julius Malema even listed, nobody likes him anyway”?

The Brandometer rankings are not determined by a panel of judges, by voters, or by the opinions of Fuseware or its partners. It is a completely unbiased index of online brands, based on their actual influence on social media. This influence is measured using many different factors, including reach and number of followers, engagement with social network of fans and followers, and how influential the brands’ content is within their network. Each brand is measured exactly the same way, so if Malema happens to come in number 2 in the Politics section, that is because he has been ranked as that influential in the social media space.

2. What do you mean by “social influence”?

Social influence isn’t exactly like real influence, although the two have a strong correlation. For example, the South African president account is less influential than the Malema account on Twitter, according to its social scorecard. This, of course, does not mean the same for actual real-world influence. What social influence means is that if that person posts a tweet on their social account, more people will read, respond to and share that content than less influential brands. This influence isn’t a popularity indicator, nor is it a sentiment indicator – it is merely a brand scorecard on how much weight they have in their social network to spread a message.

3. Why release it for free, or at all for that matter?

There are many free ranking tools out there, but none are backed up by an official social media analytics company. Fuseware has been in the analytics game for over two years – not only do we understand social media metrics and how best to combine them into rankings, but the rankings have a greater level of trust than a random website that pops up a score for you. The Brandometer is and always will be free to use – I feel it is a valuable service that the public can use to discover amazing brands, and that agencies can use to gauge relative influence levels of the brands they work with to assist their campaigns.

4. I don’t like the idea of benchmarking brands.

Every established form of media where brands play in has some form of regulation and ranking – from radio to TV, and more recently the digital space. Rankings are a fact of life and help us disseminate the most valuable brands and content in an easy to read format. When you use Google every day, Google ranks all websites by an “influence” metric that they have crafted together to best serve their customer base. Social media has been very fragmented in this context, and I hope to bring a level of knowledge and categorization in this space through the Brandometer.

5. How can a brand increase its influence ranking in social media?

We currently rank 4 of the largest social networks in the country – MXit, Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. Each network has its own metrics by which we measure influence, but broadly speaking the following are the major variables taken into account:

  1. Size of your network– this is the number of fans, followers or connections you have. The bigger, the better.
  2. Engagement – this is how often you connect with your network, and how they connect back with you.
  3. Influence of your network – if you are connected to other influencers, you become more influential yourself
  4. Sharing potential – how likely is it that your network will share the content you produce, through retweets, Facebook likes, social shares and the like.

If you have any questions regarding the Brandometer, please shoot me an email at mike [at] fuseware [dot] net.

January 14, 2012

8 Mindblowing Technologies from CES 2012

The future is here. Ladies and gentleman, take a look at what the world’s best tech companies are coming up with to make our lives even more exciting, streamlined and connected!

Samsung’s Smart Window

Check your Twitter, browse the web, view the weather and even close your virtual blinds on Samsung’s knockout “Smart Window”.

WaterBlock coating

A thin film coating applied to a phone or other device’s electronics allows it to be completely submerged in water without breaking.

Google TV

Google seems to be entering every tech space imaginable these days. With Google TV, your TV turns into an interactive media centre – the next evolution of Youtube brought to your home screen.

Gorilla Glass

Super thin, super strong glass for your smart phones and other screen-equipped devices. This finally life-proofs our mobile gadgets that we tend to drop all over the place.

Sony Crystal LED Display Tech

Sony’s latest TV has a screen made entirely from tiny LEDs. This allows for a very smooth picture with a much higher number of different colours, lighting and contrast.

Toshiba 4K Display

Extremely high resolution TV that claims to emulate 3D without needing glasses. 4K is extremely high definition technology that will make any video appear almost life-like.

Makerbot 3D Printing

A modestly priced device that is capable of creating and colouring 3D objects. Designed for the consumer market, anybody can download 3D models and print them into real life objects. Imagine being able to custom design and create your own chess set, from the comfort of your couch.

Intel Ultrabooks with Microsoft Kinect

Intel’s new line of notebooks are super thin, super stylish and super powerful. They also have Kinect technology integrated into them, allowing us to use hand gestures to interact with the device.