Thinking about Ubuntu, but not just the Unix sort.

Warning. Vendorprisey gets deep and meaningful, some may say soft in the head.

I’m sitting at Frankfurt airport, making use of the excellent (free for T-online DSL customers) wifi. This post has been lingering in the back of my mind for a while. A delayed flight seems the ideal time to finish it.

I find myself reading a lot of South African blogs, well I tend to start at Mike Stopforth’s blog and follow his link trail.  I think he nails the zeitgeist of social computing , while at the same time linking to interesting broader  South African topics.  (Having grown up in South Africa it will always be part of me, wherever I live. My good lady describes this rather well.)

Mike wrote a super post about selling enterprises on social computing, and it is worth a read for anyone anywhere selling or thinking about selling  enterprise 2.0.

Maybe I was reading too much into it, and I’ll tread carefully here,  but one thing irked me. It was the phrase “especially in South Africa” It smacked of the  “tip of Africa chip.”  I used to have it, but moving to Europe cured me.

I have worked in South Africa, Germany, the UK and the US, and I’ve visited big enterprisey customers all over the world, and some of the world’s best ERP implementations are in South Africa.The top SA customers are often first to implement the new bleeding edge stuff. Visit any Sapphire, and you will find SA companies showcasing stuff that the Americans and the Germans haven’t yet figured out.  Companies like SAB are our toughest, but most valuable customers. 

Thinking about the social in social software and social media…

I’m by no means a social media expert, but I do lurk on the edges of the social media collective. (For a real expert check out Jeremiah who works at Podtech)

Most software folks outside SA,  when they hear the term Ubuntu think of  world class open source Linux, but if you look at the Zulu word, it pretty much encapsulates everything that the cluetrain, social software  and enterprise 2.0  are trying to achieve and a whole lot more. In western English we need long paragraphs and new buzz words with numerical suffixes to describe this. Collaboration and emergence  seem counter intuitive after centuries of individualism and control structures, both in the social and the corporate sense. 

Graphic  from the Ubuntu website. ubuntu definition

I know zip about Linux, but I can’t help but be awed by Mark Shuttleworth.  

At Wits Business School I had the luck to be lectured by Peter Christie.   He is an expert on Ubuntu (not Linux) I wish he had more on the web but I stumbled on this paper the other day about storytelling  that quotes him

Sitting around the fire later that evening, over the cauldron, and having sacrificed Arrogante to the ancestors, the wise elder and the wise hunter looked deeply into each other, knowing that only when the eyes see can the mouth speak and the ears hear. Then they began to drum and they began to chant, quietly and alone at first, then louder and louder, and together with all their brothers and sisters, elder and hunter alike. The spirit of ubuntu had been resurrected in the Ndabandaba, and the tribe sang out their praises.

“If I see you, and you see me, together we’ll the richer be.”
“If I see you, and you see me, together we’ll the richer be.”

“If I see you, and you see me, together we’ll the richer be.”

So thereafter for the Ndbandaba tribe, with the spirits of the ancestors appeased, never were the yields more plentiful, the hunts more bountiful and the times more prosperous.

We read a lot about the competitive advantages of India, China, London or the Valley.  Yet African storytelling and community could teach Western Europe and the US a lot more about social media, blogging and the cluetrain than we realise.  Social media isn’t really about wikis and blogs, it is about telling stories and listening to them.  Watch the master here.

It is on the Ubuntu CD, of all places…

I don’t think it is a fluke that the most successful and talked about cluetrain consumer marketing success is a South African winemaker, StormhoekHugh is the main storyteller, sure, but Stormhoek bet their brand on this.

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7 thoughts on “Thinking about Ubuntu, but not just the Unix sort.”

  1. Nice blog!

    Social Media, I think will really change the way conventional media runs.

    I think it will really bring to the world what goes on behind some of the world’s most secretive states-North Korea, etc

    Men! you have to listen to the analysis some guys made on BBC world radio yesterday!



  2. Thanks for the post and kind words Thomas. I do agree that there is a prevailing ‘chip on the tip’ mentality among some South Africans – but I was more referring to the practical limitations of interfacing with the Web in SA. Things like broadband connectivity. The lack of broadband connectivity means less people engaging in social media (which largely lends itself to broadband access), which means less people playing, which means less people learning that it’s ok to experiement. Successful social media interactions rely heavily on a play factor – something South Africans are largely scared to do (at least from a corporate perspective…)

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