Suggestions for revamping the system of checkpoints in Nigeria

For a while now, I have considered a number of the systems in Nigeria, trying to understand why they do not work, or why they do not work perfectly, so that I can figure out ways to make them do just that, and while I cannot claim to understand completely the inner workings of the polity, the various ministries, parastatals and agencies in this country, I however have some knowledge of what the systems entail, and can also read human nature and predict outcomes to a reasonable level. Over the next few weeks, as I find the time, I would be analyzing different systems across Nigeria and outlining my suggested solutions for reworking them for better efficiency.

What is the purpose of all this?

With the terrible leadership at play in this country, clueless ministers and “elected” officials running around like headless chickens, there are two options left for the Nigerian:

  • To duck down and let everything go to shit, while looking for the tiniest opportunity to vanish off to another country. Which I admit is the more appealing option to be very honest
  • Or, to try in any way to help the situation. To speak up when you can, to advise where you can, and to help in any way. This is a thankless job and well, risky somewhat. But somehow, it is the more honourable option, and bless her soul, my mother raised me to be honourable

So, I am posting this here, online, so that anyone can see it, and use it. I only ask to be referenced.

That said.

In all my thinking, I have realized that the major underlying factor that plagues the Nigerian system is an overpowering urge to copy the modes of operation of systems in play in other (more developed) countries. This is not endemic to Nigeria though, in many African countries the same can be said. However, this forces the Nigerian system which has not evolved enough to attempt strategies that are way beyond its ken. It’s akin to a baby trying on a meal of salad. While we know that salad and greens are good, awesome and healthy food (yaay! #Fitfam), a baby needs food with more heft at that stage of its development. And if that’s not enough, you should know a baby cannot chew cabbage with those pink gums.

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“You really think I can eat this bush? Somebody that went to school…>_>

My panacea to the matter has always been to understand the extent and purposes of the modes of operation in place within the systems of developed nations and modify them to suit the Nigerian system, state of mind and place in the evolutionary chain. You can feed a baby bran and milk, or even vegetables, but by and large they have to be mashed first for the baby to swallow, since it has no teeth. As the baby evolves, or grows older, the food is modified till it is the same with what mummy and daddy chew. There are systems in play in Nigeria, but they are a direct copy of what is in play in developed nations, while our modes of operation for those systems, our state of mind and our place in the evolutionary chain, are not on par with the systems. The solution is to modify what we have learned to match with what we need.

For the purpose of today’s lesson, we consider the Nigerian checkpoint system.

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Perhaps, as a carryon from the old military days when everybody was as distrusting of their mother as they were of their neighbour, the checkpoints were a wonderful idea: situate armed police and military officers at certain locations to search vehicles and occupants to ensure none is carrying contraband items, attempting to flee a restricted zone or “plotting”.

Remember, back then the old NADECO members would pile into vehicles and in the guise of taking a leisurely drive around town, plot and plan their subterfuges.

Till date, over 17 years into the democratic era, the checkpoints are still in full force. There is an argument, which makes sense that states; the checkpoints serve to detract the actions of nefarious individuals from carrying out their actions. The mere presence of a checkpoint within a particular location is enough to detract your average criminal and besides, the police officers on duty are trained in certain psychological techniques to detect those with criminal intent who try to pass through the checkpoints and can hold them at will.

Question 1: But, what of the more than average criminal? Or more likely, the police officer who does not understand or cannot remember the psychology principles taught during basic training? How do they stop criminals from passing through?

nigeria-police-480x360The police checkpoints have over time become sites of corruption, where thousands of naira exchanges hands daily and hundreds of criminal individuals pass through uninhibited and unhindered, their pockets only slightly lighter.

Question 2: How do we stop police officers from taking bribes?

In many different situations, I have witnessed brutality occurring at the checkpoints, where officers of the law are engaging in lawless thrashing of (sometimes, innocent) individuals simply due to a lack of evidence. Going beyond their purview to beat or fine people who park the wrong way, do not have (or forgot) a certain permit among their papers or who just look fishy in the eyes of the sergeant on duty.

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Question 3: How do we stop police officers from going beyond their purview, to fining or beating people without proof or beating people at all?

In busy cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, police checkpoints are an absolute nuisance. The population in those cities and the number of cars that ply the roads on a regular basis are a nightmare when combined with the presence of checkpoints at almost every other kilometre. PIC. 5. TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK ON AGEGE ROAD IN LAGOS ON TUESDAY (12/2/13)Traffic jams are the outcome, along with overly stressed police officers, angry and irate passengers, drivers and other road users and in the midst of all this mayhem, the opportunity for criminals to sneak through.

Question 4: How do we reduce the number of checkpoints while still maintaining the value position they present?

There are many other questions that may arise, but I am certain that by the end of this post, I would have answered most of them. And now, the answers.

NB: Some of the answers/suggestions may overlap.

Suggestion 1

The more than average criminal is certain to pass through a checkpoint manned by police officers. The mere presence of the checkpoint does nothing to deter the criminal from passing through. The major reason behind this is the preparedness on the part of the criminal. The knowledge that a checkpoint exists on Street K, and will be there every night from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am in the morning, gives the criminal advance warning and enough intel to prepare. Criminals pay off officers on duty in advance to let them pass through, plan their movements for before or after the checkpoints have been dismantled, or properly hide their contraband items in places the police officers will not check and so on. The very presence of a checkpoint now serves as a motivation for the dedicated criminal to improve on strategy to ensure they pass through.

Image result for police van on patrol in nigeriaThe solution to this is to employ roving vans/patrols instead of checkpoints. The element of surprise that is employed with the roving patrol van is a better strategy to detract criminals. Only an exceptional criminal would be able to evade a roving patrol which can appear out of nowhere, and at any time, set up a road block and begin checking vehicles. This method is sure to limit the level of preparedness of the criminal.

Psychological training for police officers is a matter of policy: Policy employed to ensure regular training sessions for all police officers assigned checkpoint duties to ensure they are constantly up to date with the most recent strategies to spot the criminal behaviour and apprehend it.

Suggestion 2

Bribery (both in the giving and collecting) is a character vice and can only be curbed using strict punishment as a deterrent. Stringent punishment for offenders (givers and takers and those found guilty of colluding in the crime or witnessing without reporting it), in form of instant sack or dismissal from places of work (whether public or private), “Walk of shame” parading in front of media outlets, as well as fines and prison sentences, combined together will serve as adequate deterrent to future misbehaviours. The only way to stop police officers taking bribes at checkpoints is to fight the practice completely, punishing those who ask, those who offer and those who accept.

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Ehn..Leave it like that

A follow up question would be: Who would make the arrest? And how can we be sure the “arresters” are themselves not guilty of the crime? The answer is simple and a lesson as old as time. It takes a scapegoat. When a bunch of officers, and some private citizens are arrested, punished and paraded on major news outlets for “small bribe”, citizens would refuse to part with (ostensible, at the least) bribes no matter how pressured by police officers at checkpoints. By limiting the source, the supply would drop and the market would end.

Suggestion 3

This is a matter of policy first of all. The policy that ensures well trained officers are the only ones on the road. Secondly, a database should be created from all of the information garnered over the years related to number plates and other vehicle registration details, drivers license details etc. accessible on the internet with regularly updated copies made in both soft and hard copy available at all police stations (or Zonal HQs at least) across the country.

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We don’t even need to have all this…

With a simple shortwave two-way radio, a text or a phone call,  a police officer at a checkpoint can confirm from a dispatcher at the station if the man behind the wheel is indeed the owner of the vehicle, especially when the driver forgot his/her papers, or even more importantly ascertain if the registration papers or license that were presented are genuine.

This system of communication/confirmation with the stations will also help police officers track down fugitives and offenders who beat checkpoints.

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And dem go dey hail am…

NB: An enterprising car thief could mock up fake registration papers and pass through veritably every single checkpoint in this country, and only a system such as outlined above can prevent that.

 

 

Suggestion 4

Like earlier suggested, roving patrols would provide a better option than checkpoints. At certain important chokeholds, such as at state or city boundaries, a checkpoint is a great idea. Also, within a specific radius of important locations such as government houses and the presidential villa, checkpoints would serve a good purpose. However, to put them on every street junction is foolhardy. Patrol cars parked unobtrusively at the side of the road in certain areas, and then some leisurely patrolling through the streets would serve a better purpose, reduce the possibility of traffic logjams and improve the ability of the police officers to spot threats.

Now, my suggestions are just that, and the comments are open for any additions and discussions. I intend to continue with this series and would appreciate suggestions on other topics we can discuss.

Disclaimer

  • Warri babies eat anything, from what I hear
  • I am not responsible for whatever lessons an enterprising criminal may glean from this
  • I am responsible for whatever lesson a law abiding police officer, citizen or policy maker gleans from this
  • The suggestions here are not limited to the Nigerian Police Force

GOD bless Nigeria

Follow on Twitter @Stillweather

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One, One, One and all I learned from #DevFestSE16

First of all, I am not a coder, not a core one by any definition. Once upon a time I learned MySQL, worked about two weeks as a database admin, did a short Java and Android course and never typed another line of code again. Anyway, I am a proud member of GDG (Google Developer Group) Port Harcourt and on Friday, 18th November, 2016, we had the privilege to host the Google Developer Festival (DevFest) for Southern and Eastern Nigeria.

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Godfrey Ayaosi taking a selfie with some GDG members at the end of the event

This post is not so much a review as a recant of my experiences and the lessons I learned being a part of the organizing team.

Becoming a GDG Port Harcourt member

Okay, to begin, how did I become a member of GDG Port Harcourt? It was sometime last year, in one of the very few instances when my former employer showed some mettle, he recommended me to a free UI/UX Masterclass being organized by the GDG Port Harcourt. It was during the two day program that I met Gino Osahon, Sharon Georgewill, Sokari Gillis-Harry, Joshua Joshua, Precious Chukundah, Daniel Ekpo, Godfrey Ayaosi, Ihunanyachi Thompson and a number of the really cool guys who make up the GDG PH. Naturally, my team performed excellently at the UX Masterclass event and I asked Gino if I could join in. It was that simple. I subscribed to the GDG International Facebook page, submitted my email address and phone number and got added to a Whatsapp group and then a mailing list.

Bam! I was a member.

See also: What I learned at the GDG UX Master class

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With Ihunanyachi Thompson of ShabTech Innovations. (Black and white photo so you understand time haf pass) 

Now let’s fast-forward a few months into the future, take out the afro hairdo and the boss with the lack of mettle, and we have #DevFest16.

DevFest

This is Google’s Developer Festival, one of the many free events Google organizes annually, to teach people more about technology, especially Google technology, as well as encourage them to utilize Google products. Festivals usually have codelabs, hackathons, pitch sessions and panel sessions as part of the program and this year was going to be no exception. Except for one thing, this time around I was going to be part of the team. Somehow during the first meeting of the chapter lead and his team members, someone had suggested I would be likely to volunteer.

They were right.

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Mr. Precious Chukundah for the boys and girls dem

LEADING THE RIGHT TEAM WILL ALWAYS GUARANTEE SUCCESS

One of the best things that can happen to you as a leader is to have the right people in your team. Whilst being a part of the sponsorship team, I was also tasked to handle the Online Media publicity team of the event. Considering the level of the event, it was probably going to be one of the toughest tasks I had ever carried out. I was excited to do it, already envisioning different campaign strategies to be used, content to be created and so much more, and this was before I even met the team I would be working with. Jerri Nnah and Dorothy Mepba of AdForumCo are two of the most talented media people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. At the risk of disappointing clients and my future employer, I have to admit, these guys and their team did so much work for this event, I was practically lazing about in the background. With minimal direction, they achieved so much, my supervisory role was illusory.

After trending online for 3 days straight, with hundreds of interactions coming off this event, it was no surprise when we exceeded our registration quota of (500 attendees) with over 532 people registered by the morning of the event, and then perhaps a thousand people who actually attended, some of them not even registering.

BE PREPARED, ALWAYS

This is one lesson, I should have noted from my days with the Boy’s Scout when my father would lug me into the backseat of his Volkswagen Beetle and drive me half-dressed to the parade ground on the grounds of the St. Paul’s church at Airport road in Benin City. Every single Saturday, whether I was dressed or not, once it was time, I was tossed into the car and he would drive off.

“Be prepared, Oare,” he would say.

A few months to the appointed date, we were prepped, and all teams assembled. We were going to take #DevFest16 like a monsoon wind (since saying storm is too mainstream), and then Google announced we should hold off on any kind of publicity et al., until they give approval. The wind went out our sails. Everything ground to a halt. Planning committee team members traveled from the state, some got married and pregnant (hehe, I kid), everyone went back to their usual duties, I put away my already printed “I set to KILL IT in the DevFest Planning Committee! YAAAY!” t-shirt. As expected, apathy set in and we all forgot about our duties.

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A tiny bit of Godfrey, a surprised Adebanjo Ajibade, Joshua Joshua pouting and the wonderful Mrs. Ifeoma Igweze

Then, with barely 20 days to go to 18th November, Google gave the go-ahead. The scramble was the stuff of history movies (the kind where stuff blow up). First of all, the entire thing was happening in grainy black-and-white, none of our anticipated (money-laden) sponsors would sponsor the event, publicity was slow in kicking off, the website for registration and co was suddenly littered with bugs, the hall we planned to use was suddenly in danger of being booked on that day, and all the while the hours kept ticking away. We ought to have kept up with our planning, we ought to have stayed prepared. This is one lesson I would not forget.

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Gino Osahon, the boss, Manager, GDG Port Harcourt and Host #DevFestSE16 with Dorothy Mpeba and Ushers from AdForumCo

MURPHY’S LAW WAS CAST IN STONE WITH THE BLOOD OF BINI WITCHES

Looking back now, the event was a definite success, all things considered. Participants and delegates from across Southern and Eastern Nigeria and beyond, all went back happy, and knowledge was imparted. However

murphys-law

Everything that could go wrong did. The speakers came slightly late, the cords that had been bought were miraculously too big to fix in the jacks, the walkie-talkies did not work, data connectivity was slow, program schedule was a binsh to handle, PHCN and the PHED (Port Harcourt Electricity Distributor) kept taking power, the backup generator was slow to come on, the ACs were overworked, one of the projectors refused to work, participants brought along more laptops and devices than we had sockets for, name-tags for organizers had the wrong names on them, sometime after maybe 800 people had been served refreshments, the food finished, there was a typo on a poster no one noticed until event day, as well as sponsors whose logos were not included in the backdrop. The list goes on, but each of these mentioned contributed to causing a bit of mayhem at the event.

When planning events, it is wise to consider every kind of eventuality because a tiny grain of sand out of the way can expand a crack into a crevasse.

EVEN CLOSE-KNIT FAMILIES FIGHT, WHAT MATTERS IS WHEN THEY COME BACK TOGETHER

As was to be expected, we fought. Bitterly. Blood everywhere. Tempers were raised, egos were crushed, insults were tossed from one end to another, legs and heads were threatened with dire harm, organizers threatened to boycott the event and so on and so forth. But in the end, the GDG Port Harcourt came through like a family, albeit a shaky extended one, with too many wives and offshoots, but still a family. When it mattered the most, members had volunteers came through and put their very best to work for the success of the event. And this, not the planning or logistic magicks employed by Banjo, Joshua and Daniel, was responsible for whatever successes we recorded that day.

ONE, ONE, ONE…AND STICK TO ONE THING

There were many takeaways from the event, but one stuck to me more than most. Aniedi Udo-Obong, the Google Developer Groups Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa and Chief Host of the event, when taking his keynote address said (amongst other things); “Read one book, watch [and finish] one tutorial and join one community”. He aimed to advise beginner/amateur and expert devs who were considering too many options at the same time to concentrate on one and be a master of it. Stick to one.

It was brilliant advice and another one I would always remember. Stick to one thing, join one community. I am happy I joined GDG Port Harcourt and was a part of #DevFestSE16.

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And the post-event selfie: with Godfrey, Gino, Sokari, Wisdom, Esther and Vivien

For more information on details of #DevFestSE16 and pictures, visit @sedevfest on Twitter, @devfestse on Instagram and most especially, http://www.facebook.com/devfestse. You can also follow GDG Port Harcourt on Twitter @GDGPHC and on http://www.facebook.com/gdgportharcourt

Website is http://www.devfestse.tech

DISCLAIMER

  • Murphy’s Law can be calculated to the furthest significant figure and you will still fall short. You have to also prepare for that. LOL. Inception-y.
  • It is not coincidence that I have the same sweatshirt on first day I joined GDG Port Harcourt and well, the last. I just don’t have clothes. Buy for me please.
  • That last disclaimer is not so much a disclaimer as a very thinly veiled cry for help. Epp mi, plis…

Peace. Follow me on Twitter @Stillweather

My Experience at #GrillandRead Port Harcourt

Last week, I happened across a number of posts on Twitter about #GrillandRead. I almost always read while I eat so the Grill part caught me. This is a candid post on my personal experiences at #GrillandRead.

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GrillandRead, like the Convener, Abigail Anaba, author of Sector IV, (@anabagail on Twitter) says, is a gathering where people who love reading, the occasional readers, writers (the Serious, Not-So Serious and the Pretentious), Poets, Spoken Word (artistes?) and people interested in literary stuff, can come together in a conducive atmosphere and have fun talking about books while networking and munching on grilled food. There was a lot of buzz about it on Twitter; dozens of retweets clogging my timeline on a regular, all the cool Port Harcourt people and @TouchPH were behind it and so I just had to come.

In the past, I have had terrible experiences with literary events in Port Harcourt, and I was a little apprehensive, but with convincing on Twitter from Franklin (@ThatPHCBoy on Twitter) and the Convener herself, I decided to. By the end of the event, I had decided to write a review of my experience and well, here I am.

Location

If you are organizing any event at all, one of the things you have to pay attention to is the location. GrillandRead did a very good job with that. By situating it at the junction of Elekahia Estate and Stadium road, which is centered in Port Harcourt, the organizers could be sure of a solid number of attendees from all over the city. And this was what happened. There were attendees from Choba, Aluu, Mgbouba, Elekahia, Artillery, Old GRA, GRA Phase 2, Rukpokwu, Eliozu and so many other places. I had never been to the location before that day but it was easy for me to find, all of the taxis on Stadium Road knew it. There was also a large banner placed at the gate entrance, which is just at the junction and so even those without my 20/20 *cough* vision could find it.

The garden which was also used (Name withheld abeg, #NoFreeAdverts), was conducive enough, contributing lots to the right kind of ambience (as much as you can find it in grey-weathered Port Harcourt) and for all that, high marks in my books.

Sound and music

Music is a huge part of any groove, book party or fraternity shindig, and the DJ played an okay selection of music, calm enough not to be too jarring, but boring enough that I can barely recall a single song that was played. I do remember though, that there was almost no correlation between the songs played, save that they were “RnB musiks”. Music is a huge part of the arts and I really hoped the music at a book get-together would have been a little more stimulating, in going with the rhythm or theme of the entire event. Alas, too much to hope for.

Also, the microphone kept having really terrible signal and made a large part of the proceedings nearly unbearable to un…d…sta…and. In my opinion, the organizers did not plan or determine any kind of theme for the event or even bother arranging a playlist with the DJ. Neither did they test equipment properly before the event commenced. Low marks here.

Open Mic, Spoken Word and Master(?) of Events

First off, the Open Mic session was the very best of the entire event. I thoroughly enjoyed myself here. Dozens of people, including yours truly had opportunities to read some of our stuff as well as, stuff we had read somewhere to the entire audience. I listened to some really good poems and heard some really nice voices. The spoken word poets present were the very best and big kudos to the Convener for encouraging the Word Phantoms (a spoken word group out of University of Port Harcourt) to perform. I had my fingers nearly sore from clapping again and again.

I read Lamentationem. Click here to read.

The Master of ceremony however was terrible. His jokes were boring, and more than half the time he seemed unsure of the programme he was running with. Thank goodness literary enthusiasts love to talk and helped him out a lot of the time with their own comments and jokes. That session would have been a disaster. It was Hallelujah when the Convener came up and gave us leave to hit the grill, mingle and ignore the MC.

Food, drinks, books and ticketing

To attend GrillandRead, the ticket fee was N1,400, with options to pay online or with a bank transfer and also at the gate. This was favourable for me because my USSD mobile transfer didn’t go through when I tried and while a large part of Port Harcourt is indeed in this decade, quite a considerable number remains as traditional as they come. However, at the gate I was charged N1,500. I am not sure even now if that was inclusive of a “gate charge”. It was very bad form to charge a different price at the gate, from what was listed on the website.

Speaking of bad form; tickets came with stubs for food and drink. Ergo, the food (which was Holy and Blessed by the Almighty Port Harcourt Bole and Fish, served in a styrofoam pack with plastic – imagine! – forks) is supposed to paid for with the ticket right? Wrong. Getting to the grill, I was informed that the ticket only paid for fish (a tiny thing I would get across the road at Elekahia estate for N100-150) and that for the yams and plantain (that make up the actual bole), I would have to pay a sum. Bad, bad, bad.

The drinks were not so bad, with orange juice in a bottle and lemonade poured in a cup being the options. I chose lemonade, which was okay, packed chockfull with ice cubes as it was, and can only surmise the orange juice was as good. The only other options for drink available were sold.

Authors, Discussions and Books

The panel of authors which included Othuke Ominiabohs, author of Odufa and A Conspiracy of Ravens,  Ifeanyi Ajaegbo, author of Sarah House, Franklyn FineCountry, author of Avenger of Blood and Merit Gogo-Fyneface, author of White Places were completely uninformed (or so they had us believe) of what their duty was at the event and spent most of the time (when the faulty microphone let them) saying, “So, I don’t know what you want to know. What do you want to know? Can someone help me?”

I didn’t know as well so I couldn’t help.

The discussion devolved immediately after it started, with the very boring and barely grasped monologue of a young man (didn’t get his name) who kept trying to compare Things Fall Apart with the movie adaptation (which almost none of us had seen or could remember seeing) and trying to align the comparison with comments on the Nigerian movie industry of today. I was lost from the very beginning and I have seen the 1971 movie adaptation of Things fall Apart.

Like with most events that happen in Port Harcourt, the discussion became much too intellectual (and boring). People began leaving their seats and milling about as the authors on the panel tried not to disagree too much with some (book buying and patronizing) members of the audience, several individuals hustled for the faulty microphone with the MC, each posturing and desperate to make their voice heard and have their say while using too many words, the DJs went around the corner to eat their (hopefully free) bole and out of the corner of my eye, I watched the Convener flee to the carpark where some fellows had gathered around several bottles of palm wine and it seemed a very interesting discussion was brewing.

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Book dat cost

I went to the carpark too after passing by the book stand.

The book stand had books by each of the visiting authors, as well as some others. And to my greatest surprise, the costs of the books were such that I was tempted to question my motives to read more African writers. One would imagine that with the amount paid at the gate, the book vendors would have agreed on a discount rate with the organizers. Apparently, the money paid for the venue had to made back or something because that did not happen.

Final Words – Will I attend another GrillandRead event?

Yes. I made a couple of new friends at GrillandRead Mr @CharlesOzi and Miss IB (@Designerkath on Twitter) among them. The networking session could have done with a little help, such as games and other fun events to pair attendees and help loosen the characteristic shyness most book lovers suffocate themselves with. It would have helped me for sure. Perhaps I should have eaten a hearty lunch before attending and come stocked with more cash for books, and perhaps a less apprehensive mind, but I am sure with a little improvement and adjustment to the more tense mien of the Port Harcourt people, GrillandRead will do better next time.

6.0/10.

Disclaimer

  • Just my opinion o! I have a manuscript with publishers, before I hear say ehen…Na joke I dey
  • LOL. I am not joking. I meant every word.
  • If I mispell a name or book, please forgive

Follow on Twitter @Stillweather.

Peace.

UPDATE (31/10/2016)

Spoke to the Convener on Twitter and she said, prices of tickets were set to be cheaper online than at the venue to encourage people to pay ahead of the date. Also, GrillandRead did not promise food for attendees, but only fish, palmwine or fruit juice on the ticket. These details according to Abigail were stated clearly in the @GrillnRead tweets prior to the event.

I unfortunately did not see those tweets before this post.

 

What I learned at the GDG UX Master Class

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The Google Developer Group (GDG) Port Harcourt organized a UX Master Class for the 14th to 15th of August – last week Friday and Saturday, and as one of the early applicants, I got an invite to participate in the event. The venue of the event was Focus Hub, a growing tech hub in Port Harcourt and it was to this place that I journeyed on Friday along with Kelechi Ogbonnaya and Michael Matthew of Netopps Digest.

GDG Port Harcourt is a collection of young and talented developers who are interested in developing automated solutions to problems while using Google technologies. The User Experience (UX) Master class is one of the events organized by the GDG and it teaches interested people what they need to know, to think about and to do to launch the right kind of product for specific users. As a content developer to whom any string of code different from “System.out.println” is a complete anathema the thoughts of the class initially scared me, but it did not take long for me to discover that User Experience had nothing to do with code. The following are some of the things I learned from the class.

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Focus on Users

This is one of the fundamentals of UX. It is easy to design products, but the emphasis at all times should always be on the user. Whatever design is incorporated into the product, whether it is an app or otherwise, the focus should be on what the user would like to see and do with your product. Designing the product to meet the user – rather than your needs, is what provides the perfect user experience.

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Do your research

Another fundamental of UX, this one states that before launching a product, you should always carry out as much research as you can. Research the product area – this refers to the particular industry or aspect in which your product is focused, and your competition. Irrespective of whatever product you develop, a competitor likely exists. Researching that competition gives you an insight into the product the competitor offers and provides an avenue to identify the loopholes present in the product so that you can easily plug it.

5

Strive for simplicity

The KISS rule is a fundamental of UX. Nobody likes an app or a product that is too complex to use. This does not mean that the product should not solve a complex problem or have a complex mechanism in its solution – read, a bunch of strings of code, but the application of the product should be simple to users. For example, the principles behind mobile telephony would confuse a lot of users, but the ease and simplicity with which a user can access a network from almost any location is what makes the user experience so interesting.

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Prioritize speed

When designing a product for a user, make the most important actions the easiest to perform. If you build an ecommerce app and the Checkout point is difficult for a user to perform, you mar the user’s experience and this would go a long way in damaging your retention curve.

Never stop learning

This everlasting lesson is also a fundamental for User Experience. No matter what you do or how far you go with your product, never stop learning. Keep researching ways to improve your product while ensuring your user remains satisfied.

Solve big problems

Your product should always focus on a big problem. Identifying the big problems in society is not a very difficult task and what the user experience class taught in this respect was how to understand big problems and create simple solutions for them.

“Go Wide, Go Narrow, Test and Iterate!”

Creating the perfect User Experience goes through 3 phases which are founded on the principle above. The first phase is where you collect the requirements necessary for the product, evaluate your competitor and size the opportunity. The second phase is the really practical part of UX and is shown as a cycle of Designing the product, Testing the design on users, Analyzing the feedback from the user, Refining the design and going back to Design. After a good design has been gotten, the next phase is when you launch the product. User Experience does not end after launch. Metrics on sale and retention, user feedback and FAQs would be collected and evaluated and you would then go back to the design table.

In the task given to my team, we tackled the problem of a persona called Kainda who is a 24 year old part-time Economics student and Bank Account Manager. Kainda spends money using mostly electronic channels to shop for food, entertainment, fashion etc. and is worried about her spending. She is interested in saving up money to buy clothes and she would also like to keep track of her expenditure. We came up with a concept to satisfy Kainda’s needs by first identifying her major problem before narrowing to the smaller problem. In the end, we created a concept for an app that not only helped Kainda to save money, but also helped her to keep track of her spending on all the different categories she was spending on.

I truly enjoyed my experience with the GDG UX Master Class. It was thrilling to reason with the many brilliant young people who also participated. Some of them were developers already affiliated with Google, others were artists, writers – like me, and tech enthusiasts. Solutions developed from the UX Master Class were later collated for programming by GDG programmers. And I am already looking forward to counting the dollars the app designed by team would rain in very soon. GDG Port Harcourt has other events lined up for the year 2015 and I am eagerly waiting for their announcements so I can participate again.

NB: This post was originally published here