Trip Log: Mozilla Kenya

I recently had the unique opportunity to make a short trip to Nairobi with Pierros Papadeas to do a series of talks at various schools and groups there, and attend the Firefox 4 release party there. The superbly organized Mozilla Kenya group made our stay enjoyable, making the most of the time we had there, giving us an opportunity to talk with many many people about Firefox and Mozilla.

Day 1

  • Flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, had from 10pm to 2am, did some Skype meetings and code reviews. Sometimes oddly productive, these transient hours.
  • Flew to Doha, Qatar. Barely enough time to peek around the duty-free megastore that the terminal is centered around before flight departs to Nairobi. I’ve never been to either, but from the air Doha looks like Dubai’s younger sibling: lots of tall and shiny new buildings.
  • Land at Nairobi. It’s the middle of the day, and I’ve basically not slept in 24 hours now. The currency exchange before immigration won’t take Thai Baht (hadn’t heard of Thailand!). I need 20USD to get through. I can’t hit the ATM because I lost my debit card in China last week. Immigration holds my passport while I go to the Barclays outside… who won’t give me a cash-advance on my Visa without… my passport! Lovely. Eventually the immigration guy walks down with me, watching closely to make sure I don’t try and escape into Kenya.
  • Got a sim card for 3USD. I’ve been in Africa for 30 minutes and already have 3G.
  • Checked in at the hotel. Met with Alex Wafula, head of Mozilla Kenya for lunch.
  • Tried to stay awake. Didn’t work. Which is fine, because I had so little sleep that I slept mostly through the night.

Day 2

  • Had curry lamb for breakfast at the hotel, and some pieces of fried dough, kinda like a doughnut piece, but with no sugar.
  • Met Pierros for breakfast, and then met Alex and more of the Mozilla Kenya crew in the lobby, and into the pop-top van we go, driving halfway across the country for our first talk!
  • About 45 minutes outside of Nairobi, we come down a mountainside overlooking… the Rift valley! The cradle of civilization. There are craters in the middle, which really add to the awe-inspiring-ness of it.
  • We finally make it to Egerton University in Njoro, about 120km from Nairobi. Still have 3G coverage.
  • Flyer for the talk.
  • Fantastic turnout for the talk! The room is PACKED. We team-presented on general Mozilla stuff and Firefox 4, demo’ing features as we went along.
  • Tons of questions, from high-level to fairly technical. The questions really made the trip worth it – a super interested and engaged group.
  • One subject we talked about was that most people don’t understand how the web works, and therefore have skewed expectations of privacy and security. An idea that came out of it was to warn users every time they’re entering passwords and not on an HTTPS site. Kind of like a lighter and fore-warning HTTPS Everywhere.
  • A woman brought up a bug where if you start a download while tabs are loading, you can see all the throbbers stop. Gotta file a bug and figure out what’s blocking there…
  • Alex then presented on Mozilla Kenya. They are a busy crew: new portal site with forums and a “Faces” feature so you can get to know the community, new localization activity. Wow, super impressive.
  • The Mozilla Kenya peeps and the Egerton organizers. I want a banner like that.
  • Long ride back in the van. Dinner at a local spot. Tasted mugali. It’s something you have to learn to love, methinks.

Day 3

  • Morning meeting with the government ICT group was cancelled in true governmental form: 10 minutes beforehand.
  • We headed out to iHub, a co-working space and cafe. I’d heard of iHub because Mark raved about it after Maker Faire Africa last year. Super cool spot – has mix of pay and non-pay programs, and different work areas. Great espresso, fast wifi, downtempo tunes and a beautiful naturally-lit space. I want one in Portland. Hung out for a few hours hacking and chatting.
  • Afternoon presentation at Strathmore University had a scheduling conflict, so that’s cancelled too. Works out because we were able to spend the time preparing for the Firefox 4 release party, and cleaning up the slide deck.
  • Huge turnout at the party, over 200 people. Tons of younger people. Amazing decorations. Emceed by the amazing @g33kmate, who seems to be all places and involved in all cool things in Nairobi.
  • Very little swag, since the box of swag for the party is stuck in customs. This is an ongoing problem. I will not rant here.
  • Mozilla Kenya unveiled their new web portal for contributors! Super slick design, and features like forums and community phonebook. So cool to see how proactive this group is.
  • Pierros and I presented on Mozilla and Firefox 4, and the future. Alex and Mozilla Kenya unveiled the new web portal!
  • A lot of people stuck around chatting afterwards, asking questions. Did a ton of demos Firefox 4, HTML5, Jetpack, dev tools, etc.
  • Everywhere I go, I demo the new Web console in Firefox 4, and developers 1) haven’t heard of it and 2) freak out. We need to be trumpeting this feature more.
  • We mentioned Firefox mobile in the presentation, and a bunch of people asked me why it doesn’t work on the Android phones in Kenya. Turns out that everyone has this phone: The T-Mobile Comet (Huawei Ideos U8150). It’s priced at just under 100USD. The stock browser works fine. Opera works fine. But Firefox doesn’t run on the CPU it’s got. And it probably doesn’t have the memory required for Firefox to run well. These conversations were not fun for any of us. I want to bring Firefox the handsets of people who live in countries where the handset is the primary communication mechanism. We’re not there yet.
  • CAKE.
  • After a run to the store, where we saw some local specialties, headed back to the hotel, got a beer and worked until 3am.

Day 4

  • Some hacking in the morning, then a three hour meet-up with Mozilla Kenya! Very serious group shot.
  • We talked about the Firefox 4 party, what worked and didn’t. How to improve future big events.
  • We planned for how to reach new audiences in Kenya
  • We talked about Swahili localization efforts, and how to get the community involved.
  • Headed back to iHub to hack the afternoon away.
  • That night, we were lucky enough to notice that the first of FOUR Clasicos was on, so were able to watch the whole thing on a big screen in the hotel bar… the room packed with Kenyan supporters of Real. Awkward.

Day 5

  • Safari! Left the hotel around 6am with Cliff and Vicky, in a pop-top van. Headed to Nairobi park, which is a large nature park just outside the city (about 15 minute drive). You gotta get out there early because almost all the animals hide out during the day, and are invisible by 10am.
  • We saw a huge lioness right off the bat. Then water buffalo, Jackson hartebeast, antelope, gazelle, lions, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, black rhinos, warthogs, giant antelopes, impala.
  • Went back to the hotel, caught a nap.
  • Met up with Kennedy, the local Fedora ambassador, for lunch. Ended up walking to the west side of town, more upscale and Indian neighborhood. Had an amazing meal of, well, Indian food… but not like Indian food. There were some typical items – curries, tikkas, masalas. And there was an assortment of “chips” options – french fries that after being fried, are pan-fried in a curry sauce. SPICY.
  • We kicked it at the hotel for a bit more, then talked our way up to the top of a building that looked about the tallest in Nairobi for some sunset pics.
  • Had dinner at Simmers, at William’s recommendation. Beer, tasty grilled chicken, and an Arsenal game. Not a bad evening at all.

Day 6

  • Early talk at AkiraChix, a group focused on empowering women and their use of technology in Kenya. Gave the Firefox 4 presentation, and then talked about things like WoMoz and P2PU, School of Webcraft.
  • No break, straight to the next talk! This was at Nairobits. This is where Vicky went to school, and this place has a *fantastic* vibe. It had some amazing murals, and a couple of rooms full of computers and students. The school is funded mostly by the Samsung “Real Dreams” project. Vicky graduated from there, and is now doing web dev and teaching at various places around the city, and mentoring some of the students at Nairobits. Seems like a fantastic program. I’d love to see Mozilla get involved in these kinds of educational programs, to teach Open Web technologies and values.
  • The talk went well, but every computer in the room already had Firefox 4 on it, so we didn’t really surprise anyone 🙂
  • We grabbed some lunch downtown, and then I headed to the airport for another set of 3 different flights. Optimizing for short layovers on the return trip is possibly not optimal…

4 Comments on “Trip Log: Mozilla Kenya”

  1. […] Dietrich Ayala reports on his week in Kenya for a series of talks and a Firefox 4 release party. Mozilla Kenya organized an incredible week of activities that helped foster new Mozillians. Read all about it. […]

  2. cliff says:

    Two weeks lived to the fullest….. Inspired and encouraged, everything was positive!

  3. […] We also had people attending MozCamps and other Mozilla events across the globe last year. Dietrich visited Nairobi for some Mozilla Kenya events and found that the most widely used Android phones in Kenya are all ARMv6 devices. In addition, […]

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