Reboot and Reasons for Nairobi

20 Feb 2016

I am leaving for Nairobi in 2 weeks. It’s all quite surreal. I started writing in this blog again with the hopes of creating a habit. I don’t think it will be as technical as my first attempt happened to be. This is not to say that I will no longer discuss technical topics. I just won’t go into granular detail on how, say, scoping works in Angular. They say code doesn’t age well. The same can be said about blog posts discussing how scoping works in Angular.

I guess I’ll start by elaborating the purpose of my trip. For the past year, I have been working for a startup, Sokowatch, that aims to leverage technology to create smarter distrobution in developing countries. In other words, we are creating a mobile app that will track the movement and sale of various products. The intention is to then use this data to create a more efficient distribution network.

For the past couple of months I have been building an Android mobile app using the React Native framework. This app allows our end users to capture their sales data as they move from store to store selling a variety of products (think soap, gum etc.). In just these months I’ve faced some thrilling challenges building the app. These include things like accomodating for situations where internet connectivity is uncertain, tagging user responses with geolocation, and getting images to display the right way (this last one hasn’t been all too exciting).

Overall, my goal is to understand the psychology of the app user. I have been working with Liz, a brilliant young designer, to create a struture around the field research I’ll be embarking on. The intention is to shadow and interview the foot soldiers that will be using the mobile app. By creating a research plan we can study how our end users engage with our app and use that to identify problems and improve the experience.

I have never done this before. Previously, I was responsible for the construction of the technology. The business team decided that our app needs to do X and Y. From there Liz would mock up the look and feel and I would work with my colleagues, David and Seth, to design the architecture of the data that would move from the server to the app. Once that was completed I would then build out the functionality that was needed. The app worked exactly as was asked but was not being engaged. This created problems. There was an obvious disconnect between the product and the users of the product. To account for this problem I am heading off to Nairobi in the hopes of creating the process that will determine what X and Y are with increasing transparency.

Published on 20 Feb 2016