Celebrating Mediocrity

No, I’m not the average Nigerian with a blind / misguided belief that Nigeria is a great country when it comes to Information Technology. Nope, we are not! And if drastic steps are not taken, we wont get anywhere.

While several industries in the country have put modern technology to good use, the software industry is lagging far behind. I remember vividly when I first heard of StartupsNigeria, I thought: “Cool. We have out own Techcrunch!”. I felt this would encourage the creation of innovative startups in the Nigerian IT sector, and as well help showcase  what we can build to the world.

But alas, the reverse is the case. Seemingly pointless services come up like every moment. I know the word pointless is far fetched but what do you say when everyone is trying to become the next Nairaland or the next Facebook. The ‘pointless’ part comes in when you realize that these so called aspiring entrepreneurs have nothing in the works to distinguish them from whoever they are trying to compete with. We see social networks based on open source scripts, forums built on existing platforms.

Why the heck would someone want to build the next big forum anyway? It hardly makes any business sense. Yet, we see so called technology bloggers making noise about these products and hyping them beyond what they really are. A good example of this is turenchi.com. Its supposed to be a service that aggregates Nigerian news articles from various publishers. Looking at its entry on StartupsNigeria, I must say I’m disappointed that such a ‘not-ready-for-alpha-test’ service is talked about like its the next Google News killer. Wow.

Ok, maybe I’m being too harsh. Let’s take a look at turenchi. The site’s layout just doesn’t do it justice. Apart from that, the service has little or no features. I’d rather subscribe to keyword-filtered Google News alert than subject my eyes to such boringness. No social features like those available on Topix, no commenting system, no nothing! Just plain news. I believe these are points Loy should have addressed in his post, rather than all the praise he showered.

I bet if we look Nigerian entrepreneurs in the eye and honestly tell them how we feel about their products, we’ll be doing each other a lot of good. One other thing I’ve noticed is the fact that when you tell someone his/her product isn’t up to standard, they prefer to ask you what you have done. That’s plain wrong. We need to posses that hunger to be better. We need to listen to people around us. We need to be innovative and not just lift scripts we cant extend or even maintain. We need to study other companies out there and find out what makes them tick. We need to develop a passion for what we are working on. We need to___ (wait a minute, I’m beginning to sound like a preacher. LOL).

The future of the Nigeria’s IT industry is in our hands.

Update
Thanks to plastiQ, just saw http://nigeria70.com I like the interface.

23 thoughts on “Celebrating Mediocrity”

  1. I half agree with you, Ezra, but on the other hand, I think there should still be a form of encouragement…while placing the constructive criticism. I don’t think Startups did wrong by praising their innovation, because now that they did what they did, i’m certain some Nigerians are now geared up to do better. Competition is infectious, and it should begin spreading already because some developer somewhere wants to get the accolade as well. Regards from the ex-president’s office.

  2. Damn right. I wonder this all the time. And no, to the poster above me, I don’t see the point in encouraging such people because then everyone will feel like they can just take an existing idea and hope to create the next big money maker. i can’t count how many times I’ve seen people posting links to the ‘New Nairaland’ or the ‘Nigerian Facebook’. All sub par by the way.

    I have NEVER understood the hullabaloo about friggin’ forums. They’re not new, not that exciting. The first time I visited Nairaland, i was bored and downloaded the software. Installed it on my home computer in no time. No offence to all the forum chasers out there, but it’s not magic.

    Celebrating mediocrity is what Nigerians are good at. They all get touchy if you criticize them. Instead of saying, ‘he can do better’, we prefer to say, ‘Oh well, at least he did it!’ What?!

    Yes, this subject aggravates me dearly.

  3. I am glad that I am not the only one that feels this way, we have too many mediocre websites claiming to be the next big thing. I do hope our so called technology blogs, start focussing on innovation instead of peanut stands.

    Great Post by the way.

  4. I am sorry you feel this way about turenchi.com, we are not trying to be the ‘next anything’ , we are trying to aggregate Nigerian news in the most sensible way and present it to consumers of Nigerian News, plain and simple. A visitor to our website should be able to get a feel for what is currently happening in Nigeria within the first minute…that is our goal.
    So far we have made that news available as a facebook app (apps.facebook.com/turenchi), on mobile phones (turenchi.com/mobile) , RSS feeds , and embeddable widgets.

    turenchi.com is not based on any free script, the site is hand coded from the ground up.
    We had a commenting feature at launch, but we removed it cos no one used it. If you want to comment, you can still do that on the facebook app. All the ‘facebook-y’ social features are also available in that app.

    what part of the turenchi service do you consider not-ready-for-alpha ?

    Since most of the comments here agree with the original post, I encourage you guys to point out what makes turenchi ‘mediocre’ by your own estimation.

    1. Hi Nnanna,

      First of all, I didn’t state that you were trying to be the next anything. And I didnt state that it was based on a free script – that was a reference to forums and social networks. Social networks in particular.

      I do appreciate the fact that a Nigerian stepped up to the task of creating our own news aggregation site. What i dont appreciate is the fact that technology blogs and the populace in general are very much ok with the feeling that something has been done without facing the fact that it can be better.

      In technology, we are supposed to be solving problems, not compounding them. I suggest you get a user-experience expert to look at turenchi.com and come up with ways it can be better. I’m a visitor. I wasn’t impressed, and obviously, I’m not alone.

      When I said ‘not-ready-for-alpha’, its because the application looks like a proof-of-concept job to me rather than something meant for everyday use. Take a cue from other well known news aggregation sites.

      You have a facebook app, cool. I’ve not seen it but based on your comment, why not extend its cool features to the main application as well… for those who aren’t facebookers. I’m a facebooker tho, but I don’t dig facebook applications.

      One last note, If this is your goal: “A visitor to our website should be able to get a feel for what is currently happening in Nigeria within the first minute”, then it’ll be cool if you keep the visitor reading with a cleaner and less repulsive interface.

  5. Ezra,

    I appreciate open and honest feedback over trying to prove any points, and for having taken that route, I have to thank you.

    We are continuously improving our site, but you may be surprised to find that a lot of our repeat visitors email us to say they come to our site specifically because of the interface.
    We are working on features to improve the ‘news’ experience , but you will probably not find animated graphics jumping up and down on our homepage anytime soon.
    We should probably take this conversation offline, so that I don’t derail the original thrust of your post.
    Send me an email, and I’ll call you, cos it may just be possible you have a point that is getting lost in print.

  6. Ezra I just check on turenchi website and I think you are right about the layout. I found out from my dealings with people that so many developers out there don’t really care about tomorrow, but care so much about make the little cash by designing a website with little or no concept in it.
    A guy on a popular website wanted to develop a website for as low as 10k, to me that crazy but I am sure we have so many developers that would not reject the offer.

    We need to develop ourselves and also change the way we think. The industry needs a rethink, we all need a rethink. Ezra the last time I checked you are the son of a preacher, I guess u are one then.

  7. The future of the Nigeria’s IT industry is in our hands.

    Such a big anti-climax. Just when you were warming up your readers, you had to kill the fire. Take your time o. Meanwhile, I like this post. It says a lot, talks to all of us (even me). I kinda like the way you made mention of the turenchi post on StartupsNigeria.

    I thought startupsnigeria

  8. The future of the Nigeria’s IT industry is in our hands.

    Such a big anti-climax. Just when you were warming up your readers, you had to kill the fire. Take your time o. Meanwhile, I like this post. It says a lot, talks to all of us (even me). I kinda like the way you made mention of the turenchi post on StartupsNigeria.

    I thought startupsnigeria would be the mecca for Naija IT peeps. A place to meet and grow. I just realized it’s only another worship ground.

  9. @Nnanna: Take a cue from http://www.nigeria70.com/ It was done by a Naija boy. Handcoded from the ground up and still visually appealing. All the people telling you that they love your interface are just worshippers.

    Screen them off and focus on tooshing up your website. I think a lot of people would assume the website is just another generic click to install software based on even the color alone. Try some earth tones. if you can, let there be thumbnails that go with the news. Images soothe the eyes, especially when confronted with so much data.

    You are doing aight, just brush up on some things boss. I must praise the fact that you started this good thing, this service. AT least let us praise ourselves as Nigerians: We have finally started adding content to the WWW. Now is the time to start cleaning up house.

  10. Ezra, nice post. however, i dont see anything wrong with these kinds of startups. or with startups nigeria reporting them. i see a lot of crappy startups on techcrunch too.. To be honest, i love turenchi’s design and i find the site useful.

    The important thing here is to promote a good startup culture in Nigeria, whether good or bad. As usual, the good ones will succeed and the bad ones will fail over time.

    Also, we’ve to remember that the success of a startup is not in the initial traction it gains, but in the overall usefulness and the long term sustainability.

    thumbs up, we need posts like this to keep the fire burning.

  11. Lovely post Ezra, I think it’s important we look ourselves in the eye and tell the truth. It’s hard, and maybe discouraging, but it helps build a better environment. I looked at how much several startups out there were bought for (http://www.tnl.net/blog/2006/10/09/no-bubble-20-yet/), you have to start asking if what you’ve done can really make someone in their right minds think of buying you over for (even if its a fraction of that amount)?
    I have been running a shopping mall since 2006. We’ve made lots of sales, but not until after business school did I realize why we were yet to be profitable. We’re working and hope we get there. Visit us if you get a chance to: http://www.234world.com
    Thanks,
    Kachi

  12. Wow!
    I just found this post while I was combing through my google webmaster links.

    I just want to say a big “Thank you!” to you for noticing and plugging http://nigeria70.com Ezra (and PlastiqQ).

    I spend a lot of time adding features to the site but not nearly enough publicizing it, so its a big surprise to get a mention anywhere. ;-)

    The site has been around since January 2007, and I work very hard at providing a good clean interface for our users, but I would really really love to hear any criticism or ideas that anybody has to help us improve.

    We are on twitter
    http://twitter.com/nigeria70

    facebook
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nigeria-70/60566302469

    and recently Google Buzz
    http://www.google.com/profiles/thenigeria70

    Drop by. Stay a while.
    We’d love to have you. :razz:

  13. I dont really agree with you on that. It depends on which countries you are comparing Nigeria with.
    With countries like US and UK , we are no where but with other third world countries, you will find that we have made asome impacts already.

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