Posted by: beninmwangi | July 9, 2007

Interview Coincides with African Loft Official Launch

african-loft-log.gif 

Recently, I had a chance to interview the entrepreneur behind the African online community upstart- African Loft.  This entrepreneur simply goes by the name “Caretaker” and from the looks of it Caretaker lives up to the name.  Although, the African Loft site has been up for several weeks now, it officially launched over this most previous weekend.

 Both before and since the official launch of the site, I have found a number of very thought provoking blog articles from different writers.  And my guess is that somehow the “Caretaker” probably has something to do with this.

So here is the interview:

bm.com How many years has African Loft been in the making?

CT: AfricanLoft started brewing around August 2006 – after series of consultations and modifications and by His Grace it went live on June 2, 2007

bm.com: AfricanLoft – is a watering-hole for the indigenes, descendants and friends of Africa worldwide; it’s an interactive platform where to celebrate, flaunt, query, and discuss your “connectedness” to the motherland. So how will the AfricanLoft be relevant to both surfers from specific African nations and surfers from the broader African Diaspora? 

CT: AfricanLoft (AL) is relevant in several ways – in concept, design and content.
As a demographically heterogeneous group the African and Afrophilic community needs an online space that encourages interaction across national, tribal or ethnic boundaries, either through discussion, social networking or both, and this space must enable the sharing of diverse content (multimedia) as well – seamlessly. For this space to be useful, it must be simple to navigate, and users must be able to find information of relevance (either by their location/region or topics of interest).  Finally the space must be aesthetically, mentally and socially stimulating.

These variables are factored into the design of AfricanLoft, well, to the extent possible. Using the blog format, AL is built to serve as a pool of information and resources – there is a wide array of contents ranging from op-eds on current affairs and social issues to cooking recipes and fictional novellas – and to initiate interaction among the users. AfricanLoft permits anyone anywhere with access to a computer and Internet to be part of  to the discussion or community- and the easiest way of doing this is by joining the AfricanLoft Community.

The AL community is  a social  space where members can post their profiles; create content and/or initiate discussion via the forums (fora) and through blog entries; or do multimedia content-sharing (pictures, audio or video upload). User members can even initiate, or aggregate into, Groups based on certain characteristics – for instance there is the “Swahili Bloggers” group – where those blogging in Swahili can aggregate their content, well, if they want, and there are several others. The ability to create Groups within the Community helps users to assume or maintain any identity of their choice.

Aside from enabling user-generated content, AL comes with a “ChatterBox” – a Web 2.0 feature that tracks and algorithmically aggregates entries from pre-selected blogs and news media. Gone are the days when aggregated blogs are merely displayed as numbered text-links: ChatterBox shows the buzz in the blogosphere and news media by highlighting the connections (discussion and relations) between aggregated feeds. ChatterBox has a second generation aggregator provides users with 1-2 hourly snap-shots (also archived) of the conversations in the African blogosphere and major news sites. 
For users that prefer some formality – the Discussion Lounge offers editorialized and categorized articles and materials. Here submissions are screened and written by only selected authors.
 
Aside from the broad categories in the Discussion Lounge, AL also comes with an extensive array of tagging features – users can tag or drill-down to contents by region and topics. Of source the site comes with a great search engine.

bm.com:What are your goals for the AfricanLoft?

CT: To tell our stories and showcase our lifestyle, values and experiences, individually and collectively as Africans and Afrophiles, and build interactions and foster relationships that cut across artificial boundaries.

bm.com: How do you want people to see you as a web pioneer or as an entrepreneur?

CT: None of those descriptions apply to me at the moment. I’m just an ambitious blogger trying to do things differently. I may have pushed the envelope a little bit, but I think it’s allowed. In short, I’m just a facilitator, or better still – the CareTaker of the Loft.

bm.com: OK. I know it’s not about you, but sometimes the readers and users like to know who is behind the site that they are reading about, so can you tell us a little bit about yourself, like where you’re from, what has influenced you, and about where you see yourself going?

CT: Who am I? I’m one of the several Nigerians living in upper Mid-western United States. I started blogging May 2005 – by accident, and since then I have initiated four websites/sites, but I had to shut one down of them down (partially) because of AL.  The trends of event of AL is really encouraging and by His Grace, sky is the limit.

bm.com: What languages does the site support?

CT: At the moment it’s monolingual, although some of the aggregated feeds on the ChatterBox are in French, Swahili, and Ethiopian I think. Very soon some Francophone writers and contributors will be pulled on board.

bm.com: If there was just one thing that you would want the readers of this interview to know about the AfricanLoft what would it be?

CT: AfricanLoft is not about me; it’s about them. They should visit, engage and share their wealth of experience on Africa. And they need not be African to use the site. 

bm.com: What was your biggest motivation behind putting this site together?

CT: I’m a proud African and I hate the stereotypes. Most importantly, my experience as a blogger pushed me in several directions that made creating AL inevitable.

bm.com: Where would you say that the site ranks in terms of user friendliness?

CT: User-friendliness is a relative term. The most common “complaint” relates to the extent of content on AfricanLoft and this can be daunting. Most users seem not to know where to start on getting to the site.  Check this out – one of the AfricanLoft Community members (almost 50 years old) has never written a blog nor uploaded pictures unto the Internet prior to joining the Community, but the story has changed since June 2nd! If AfricanLoft can open a new world to this person, then I feel the site is not difficult to use; however, measures are being taken to make the site less intimidating.

I need to emphasize that to a great extent, AL is a child of collaboration. Right from August 2006 up till now, I have been blessed to have access to some very fine and extraordinary individuals who have graced the conception, development, and birth of AL, with their time and invaluable insights. I won’t go into name-dropping – they know themselves. To these people, I say “Thank you”.

And just in case anyone was wondering, I decided to feature this interview here because the African Loft, in part is a multi-user blog platform-meaning that it constitutes a form of media. And although the Caretaker does not see starting the African Loft as being entrepreneurial I am sure that there are those that might say that it contains all of the components of entrepreneurship.  But if you’d like to see for yourself, then I’d suggest visiting the site.  Please let us know what you think.

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Responses

  1. […] Read more […]

  2. GREAT INTERVIEW!!!

  3. […] The Carnival of Africa Enterprising can be found at Africa Loft. And here’s a blog interview with the entrepreneur behind Africa Loft. […]

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