BLOCKCHAIN 101: Why Should You Be Interested?

Blockchain is raw but full of potential

This one liner is a decent summary of Blockchain in 2017.

Now think of a world where no one can change the actual creator of an art! No one can copy a music track! No one can possess money from an invalid source!  A billion dollar property can be sold or, bought in minutes with full transparency and credibility! No vendor can delay the delivery of a product, or no client can change requirements in the middle of a contract!  -These are just few examples of what Blockchain is capable of doing!.

 

Blockchain in simple words:

Blockchain facilitates secured online asset transaction,any object that has a value. It makes asset transfer as easy as how one sends a document through the internet! The whole process is fully transparent and irreversible that makes each transaction 100% credible.

 

Blockchain is fast and secured:

In a blockchain environment, any kind of asset can be transferred from anywhere at any time with least costing so that a product or asset (such as- a bitcoin, a diamond or something as simple as a pen) can be monitored from origin to the latest owner and owners in the middle as well. Therefore, none can deny a transaction that s/he has made and adding to that, cannot do an illegal transaction, which s/he does not own. For instance, if one has 10 coins, s/he can send at best 10 coins to someone, not more than that. If s/he sends 5 coins in the first transaction, he can’t send more than 5 coins in the second transaction. To send money first one has to get the money. So there is no scope for illegal money.

 

Blockchain facilitates Smart Contracts:

Another important and interesting characteristic of blockchain is, here two transactions can take place at a time. There is nothing like- if I get the product, I will pay; or if I get the money, I will send the product. Here money and product transaction take place simultaneously. Once requirements/deliverables have been set, it cannot be changed.

For example, Organization A and studio X has agreed on a contract like this:

“Studio X was hired by “A” BDT for making a video with subtitle and 50 photographs which has to be delivered by 5pm on 1st May. The payment will 300,000 BDT and if delayed, 5% of the payment will be deducted for every 24 hours.”

If any of the above conditions weren’t fulfilled, there will be unavoidable consequences. If the Studio X delivers the deliverables on 2nd May, 285,000 BDT will be transferred to their account from A’s account. So, the contracts are unbreakable and totally automated.

 

Who are using it?

Fintech companies around the world have taken blockchain very seriously. A good number of Silicon Valley start-ups are getting funded in millions to work on blockchain. Even world’s biggest crowd-funding project, named DAO, is a blockchain project.

Again, organizations are also using blockchain for non-financial innovations as well. From retail companies to large scale IOTs are already on it. A huge potential market is yet to be explored and here is a good read on where blockchain can revolutionize the world. Here is another article on non-financial innovations with blockchain.

 

Why should you be interested?

Blockchain has the potential to solve majority of the problems related to asset transactions. It has made  transactions easy and flexible, privacy is well maintained and everyone is accountable for the transactions made.

Blockchain facilitates asset transactions in an easy and flexible manner so that one can make such transactions from his mobile phone or computer sitting at home. One doesn’t need to go through paperwork and associated complications.

Adding to that, sender and receiver’s identities are all hidden so that they have full privacy. On the other hand, sender can’t execute an illegal transaction and receiver can’t deny a transaction being taken place. Moreover, a contract once made can never be broken. So, the chances of fraud and cheat become lower than ever.

All these exciting features make blockchain the next big thing the world is going to embrace. Billions of dollars are getting invested, the largest and most credible organizations are adapting the technology in their operation; global specialists and idols talking about the future of blockchain, and all these pose the most important question- “Do you need more reasons to get started?”

5 Side Income Ideas For Programmers.

In this article, you will learn about the 5 side income ideas that will help increase your income without quitting your full time job.

1. Passive Investing

For many programmers, saving money is just good enough.

It is very simple thing to do. You get your salary deposited to your current bank account. You spend some of your salary and the rest remains idle in your bank account.

Of course as long as you spend less than you earn (which you should), your net worth will gradually increase over time.

The issue is that leaving cash in your bank account is not ideal as your net worth growth will be painfully slow.

If you want to build your wealth, all indicators show that you have to invest your money.

If you just started your programming career right out of college, you probably know nothing about stock market investing.

 

Here is a beginner’s guide that will teach you everything you need to learn about stock market investing.

Just to be clear I am not talking about day-trading and spending all your free time buying and selling stocks! That is a job in itself and you will not have the time or the energy to do that because you already have your full time programming job.

What you should do instead is focus on passive investing.

All you have to do is invest in safe companies and let your portfolio grow over time.

If you don’t have the time or skills to handpick specific companies to invest in yourself, you can just use robo-advisors like Wealthfront or Betterment.

 

This is the definition of a robo-advisor according to investopedia

Robo-advisors are digital platforms that provide automated, algorithm-driven financial planning services with little to no human supervision. A typical robo-advisor collects information from clients about their financial situation and future goals through an online survey, and then uses the data to offer advice and/or automatically invest client assets.

Both Wealthfront and Betterment allow you to invest in ETFs and mutual funds which are relatively safer than handpicking individual stocks yourself.

However, because of the relatively low risk, don’t expect a huge return.

But still, definitely better than letting your cache sit idle in your bank account.

 

2. Start Your Own Programming Blog

If playing around with stocks isn’t your thing, you can earn some extra money by starting your own programming blog.

The advantage of this method is that not only will you be making money, but you will also be making yourself a name in the programming community.

Marketing yourself as a software engineer is extremely important and it will open the doors for a lot of opportunities in your career.

In addition to that, I am a strong believer that you can’t fully learn something until you teach it.

With a programming blog, you will be teaching others about programming while improving as a programmer yourself. All that while making money at the same time. How awesome is that?!

I actually wrote an in-depth article about how you can create your programming blog from scratch if you haven’t created any websites before so check it out if you want to learn how I built this blog.

And it doesn’t have to be expensive, you can start your WordPress blog today for as little as the price of a cup of coffee

Or if you are technically capable of hosting your website or blog on your own (and you should), you can use my $100 credit if you sign up with Digital Ocean. (Note: this website is running on Digital Ocean)

But wait a minute, how can you make money from your programming blog?

 

You can monetize your blog in several ways:

First: Advertisements

The first method is to simply put ads on your blog.

If you don’t know where to start, you can always start with Google Adsense.

Google allows you to put Google ads on your site and get a share of the ad revenue every time one of your readers click on the ad.

Here is a good in-depth article about Google Adsense.

If you decide to monetize only with ads, you should always be trying to increase your readers as your ads income is directly proportional to the size of your readers.

After you get comfortable with Adsense, you can start experimenting with other premium ad agencies.

For example, popular programming blogs/sites like coding horrorcodewars, and others use carbon ads.

 

Second: Being an Affiliate

Alternatively you can try to set up your own affiliate system by selling other people’s products.

For example, you can sign up with Amazon associates and start selling any amazon product on your blog.

That’s pretty awesome because Amazon has pretty much everything under the sun.

When you sign up, amazon will give you a referral link that you can use on your blog. If your readers go to amazon through your referral link and buy anything from amazon, you get a commission.

The commission varies a lot based on the product, your performance, and other variables.

Since your readers are interested in programming, you should always suggest products that are valuable to programmers like programming books and software.

Unlike monetizing with ads, when you monetize through being an affiliate, there exists a financial incentive to recommend expensive products even if you have never used these product yourself.

This is dangerous!

Whatever you recommend, make sure that you recommend products you actually use.

This is extremely important because the most valuable asset between you and your readers is trust.

Don’t ever compromise this mutual trust for a few extra bucks. Make sure that you recommend good, valuable products that you use yourself. If you don’t use the product, don’t recommend it. Period.

Third: Selling your own products

Selling your own products on your blog requires the most work but it brings in the most money.

Once you set up the products you want to sell and do everything on your end, your blog will continue to passively make money for you.

Make sure that your product aligns well with your readers.

Your products should be valuable to programmers and computer scientists.

For example, you can sell books about programming and the software engineering career.

Let me be clear here, selling your own product isn’t going to be easy.

Among other things, you will need to learn about online marketing and proper ways to promote your products.

However, these skills are extremely useful for you as a person and as a software engineer.

So by all means if you decide to go that route, trust me that it is not going to be a waste of time. Just be aware that it will take time.

 

3. Start Your Own YouTube Channel

If you want more of a personal interaction with your audience and you have a likable and friendly personality, you can start your very own Youtube channel.

Believe it or not, most software engineers could use some experience when it comes to public speaking.

After all, being able to work on your public speaking and communication skills can be very beneficial to you and your career.

So even if we were to entirely disregard the potential income (which could be significant), starting your youtube channel is still worth it.

I personally think starting a youtube channel is much more effective than just starting a blog.

Because Youtube allows you to build a much stronger relationship with your audience at a much deeper level than a programming blog would.

Of course, the best strategy is have both.

Now when it comes to monetization, making money on youtube isn’t very different from making money from your blog.

You can also monetize with youtube ads, affiliate links, or selling your own products.

 

4. Create a Video Course

At this point in time, there are actually more positions for skillful programmers than there are people to fill those positions.

With that in mind, it is easy to conclude that programming is in incredibly high demand right now, and will be for years to come.

With that much demand, not only can you make money through programming but also you can make money teaching programming.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of people in the world who want to learn what you already know.

And if you are a talented teacher, this could be an excellent side income for you.

You can literally teach programming to anyone in the world. It’s is a HUGE market.

Platforms like Udemy make it super easy to create your courses and make money from them. All you have to do is create a high quality course.

They will take care of the marketing and everything else.

 

5. Build a Piece of Software and Sell It

To end the list, here is a strategy that requires the most work out of the bunch – making your own piece of software in order to sell it.

You are a programmer. You write software. This is what you do.

The idea here is very simple.

Instead of writing software for someone else to sell, make some software that you sell yourself.

This requires more than just your programming skills, you need to develop an eye for business needs and opportunities.

Build a software that the market needs or that helps other people solve their problems and you will be in good shape.

You will also need to work on your marketing skills as well to be able to promote your software.

All of these skills, despite being extremely important, are skills that the average programmer does not have and you will be at a huge advantage if you can learn and employ these skills.

That said, not everyone who tries to make their own piece of software succeeds.

In fact, the probability is quite slim. But if your product does take off, it can be very lucrative.

You can create a phone app, a SAAS service, or just a downloadable software. The sky is the limit to what you can do.

Conclusion

There are many ways you can try to generate more side income as a programmer. All of these ideas require work. Don’t expect the money to come out of nowhere. The more work you put in, the more income you get.

To increase your income, you could:

  1. invest your savings
  2. create a programming blog
  3. start a youtube channel
  4. create a video course
  5. build a piece of software and sell it

Original article posted by Karim from afternerd.com

 

Test-Driven Learning: A Better Way to Learn Any Programming Language

Learning from your mistakes isn’t a new concept. Scottish author Samuel Smiles wrote in 1862 “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success.”

The view has been popularized recently in software development by teams applying the DevOps and Agilemethodologies of producing small improvements iteratively. If a feature doesn’t work as expected, it can be scrapped; it is a concept known as “fail fast.”

“Fail fast, learn fast” is the main premise of Jez Humble’s book Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation. In the context of this book,  Jez is referring to building reliable production software by releasing as often as possible. Any failures should be small and cause little impact, with the ability to rollback to the last working version and learn what exactly went wrong.

We can apply the same concept to learning. Fail as often as you can, and learn as much as you can from those failures.

Learn to Code by Doing

Schools have taught us to learn the facts first and  then, only when we know what we are doing, apply the skills in practice. We go to school, college, or university and then off to work with all the knowledge we have gained.

This idea has been extended to video-learning sites, such as Pluralsight or Udemy, which are great, but a little boring. I learn best by doing, and only when I have struggled with a subject, do I ever find books or videos on the subject interesting.

In the 16th century, before schools existed, people learned by doing. A child would be an apprentice, learning from a master until they were good enough to perform the job by themselves. The apprentice would practice repeatedly with most of the output getting thrown away. But more important than the output was what they learned from their mistakes. When they became a master, they had years of mistakes that they now knew how to avoid and techniques for all kinds of scenarios.

We are going to use the same repetitive practicing technique to learn to code a new language by creating tests for different problems and solving them in a variety of ways. Only when we don’t know how to write a test or figure out the solution, do we need to look in a book or at course material—do first, learn as you go.

Applying Test-Driven Development to Learning

Test-driven development (TDD) wasn’t my idea; it originated from a range of techniques called extreme programming in the 1990s to help improve software quality in development teams. The core idea of test-driven development is:

  • Create the smallest failing test possible for code you are planning to write.
  • Run the test and fail.
  • Write the code until the test passes.
  • Refactor the code bit by bit, and keep running the tests until the code is maintainable and readable.

The main benefits we are using from TDD is the refactor step. Once the tests have been created with well-defined inputs and outputs, the solution can take many forms. This refactoring step is really useful when learning to understand how built-in language features work and how different ways of approaching the same solution lead to the same output. Another benefit is motivation; it’s addictive watching the tests go from red (failing) to green (pass!). It’s like a kind of game.

The idea of learning through TDD isn’t new either. While learning JavaScript I was introduced to this approach via freeCodeCamp, where from the first lesson you are required to pass failing tests to complete a level. I also recently started learning Ruby and was introduced to Koans via the Edgecase Ruby Koans site.

The idea behind freeCodeCamp and Ruby Koans is to present a long list of failing tests for you to fix. This approach of fixing tests one by one is ideal if you are just starting out. You don’t need to write tests yourself, which sometimes sucks the fun out of learning.

Learning Through Testing Promotes a Deeper Understanding

Early in my career I survived by searching through Stack Overflow, looking at the code already written in the codebase and randomly trying code snippets to see if they would work. That was fun but with some major drawbacks: Some of the code I was writing had unintended side effects. Fixing it involved more searching and more hacks upon hacks. My shortcuts actually caused me more work, and everything took longer and made me hate seeing a tester walk toward my desk with yet another bug.

It wasn’t only my project that suffered. When applying for new jobs, I was able to answer superficial questions that I found on the internet, but when the interviewer probed further, I didn’t have deep enough knowledge to answer any further questions. These problems could have been avoided had I been practicing test-driven learning.

The main benefit of approaching learning by testing is a deeper understanding of the code you are writing, how to interact with library functions, and what output can be expected in different scenarios.

The refactoring is the fun, experimenting part of the process; the same problem can be solved in a multitude of different ways. Experimentation allows your brain to play with an idea and provides a greater understanding of the limits and cool features of the language and where to use them.

I have been practicing TDD for quite a few years, but when I recently needed to learn Ruby, I thought I would try out learning through testing.

My process was:

  • Read the bare minimum about a concept.
  • Write a test for that concept.
  • Test the limits of the concept by refactoring multiple times with different solutions.

Each solution offers advantages and trade-offs. Writing down each solution adds a new tool to your toolbelt, so when you do come up against a situation where you need an algorithm, you have a collection of solutions that you now have a deep understanding of because you have already struggled with the concepts.

Learning Through Testing Helps You After You’ve Learned the Basics

I’ve found that once you have the basics, there are other benefits of learning this way. I am much more likely to use test-driven development when writing production code; if I get in the habit while learning, I just continue on when applying it in practice. I also have a sandbox for working out difficult problems. If I have an issue with some code buried deep in a code base, isolating the problem usually speeds up the diagnosis, and if not, it’s much easier to paste that isolated code into Stack Overflow!

Tech4her Africa Won the Silicon Valley’s AngelHack Competition 2018 Hosted at Impact Hub, Lagos.

Tech4Her Africa, a social enterprise driven to raise the next generation Science and Technology leaders emerged the winner of the AngelHack Hackathon hosted at Impact Hub, Ikoyi on 28th – 29th July. They are shortlisted to represent Africa at the Global Demo Day taking place at Silicon Valley, US and are joining other winners from 50 cities around the world for the 12 weeks Angel Hackcelerator program. Announcement on AngelHack’s website here: http://blog.angelhack.com/meet-the-hackcelerators-2018-startups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AngelHack’s HACKcelerator program connects ambitious hackers with thought-leaders and experienced entrepreneurs to help them become more versatile and create fundable startups. With a startup portfolio valuation of $70m, acquisitions from tech giants such as Google, and industry innovators such as BOX, AngelHack is the highest valued pre-accelerator in the industry active in 106 cities around the world. This is the first Hackathon organized in Africa.

The team is led by Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards (also Founder, Tech4Her Africa).

Members of the team (some of who are students of the University Of Lagos (Adeola Akinwale, Dolapo Otufadebo, Chukwudumebi Onwuli, Chiamaka Eguzoro, Chidera Ofokansi);

Mentors on this team are: Mrs Fayo Williams (Certified Business Consultant)  & Dr. Roselyn Isimeto (Lecturer at Computer Science, UNILAG).

 

The team developed Tatafo App- Watson AI based app that helps university students access  information and resources instantly at a click.

In the mobile powered economy, University students need instant access to answers just like they can have on Google.” said Mrs ELizabeth Edwards (Team lead & Founder, Tech4her Africa).

 

Mr Yele Bademosi the CEO of Microtraction,

Judge and Mentor during the just concluded Angelhack Hackathon Lagos took to twitter to congratulate the ladies saying “ 5 years ago I went for my first tech event @Angelhack London 2013 and it changed my career path. Congratulations to the kick-ass female developers from Tech4her Africa who won the hackathon”

We hope this new achievement can further encourage others to join Tech4Her Africa, help them reach more of its target audience and foster new partnerships. Learn more about Tech4her Africa on their website (www.tech4herafrica.com).

The future is definitely Female!

Chatbots and The Future of Education

Ever noticed how quickly people learn when it’s something they’re truly interested in?

I for one only learned how to write songs because I was curious about how words and melodies can be put together to create something that has the power to make people happy or sad.

I didn’t go to music school to learn how to write songs. I simply listened to my mother while she sang, I played my father’s records while he was at work, and I watched my sisters whenever they got together to do something they called composing. I was eight years old at the time and I was fascinated by all this.

I wanted to know how it was done so I could do it too. Why? Because I wanted to see if my songs would have the same effect on people.

By the time I was twelve, I was using my own pocket money to buy singles and albums of artists I liked. I would listen to tracks over and over again, read the lyrics in the liner notes, and imagine myself writing them. At fifteen, I wrote my first song and at 21, I released my first collection of songs written and co-produced by me.

Self Education

What I’m trying to say is everything I know about songwriting is largely self taught. And I did it all out of curiosity.

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It only killed the cat’s lack of insight and increased its appetite to learn more. Today, many people are educating themselves and learning new skills on the internet by watching videos and presentations on YouTubeSlideShare, and Lynda.com.

The beauty of teaching yourself is that you are motivated by your own interests and what you want to achieve.

Having these learning platforms on the internet is like having your own private teacher on demand. But it’s not so easy to get a real one-to-one session with these online teachers because they are far too busy creating more content.

So when people have burning questions about something they didn’t quite understand in the slides and videos, they ask their eTeachers in the comments section and hope to get a response.

Problems

This poses a real problem because it can have people waiting days on end for an answer. Sometimes, they don’t even get one. Some of these eTeachers have huge followings and it’s simply impossible for them to answer every single question.

This is a problem that educational chatbots can solve. A chatbot is simply software that simulates human conversations like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.

Today’s students are mostly millennials who love messaging platforms like WhatsappiMessage, and Snapchat. Wouldn’t it be more efficient if these eTeachers had messaging chatbots that could answer basic questions for their students?

Imagine a situation where a student is stuck on a particular aspect of Photoshop and needs answers there and then in order to finish a project with a close deadline.

That student could send a message to Lynda.com’s chatbot for instance, who will then search the platform and send the student a message with the most suitable answer.

Solutions

IBMs artificial intelligence technology is currently being used to power a teaching assistant for an online course at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Jill Watson gives human professors and assistants the time they need to address more important issues while she answers routine questions from students.

While this is great for the university and its online course, it’s not so great for those who do not have access to that service.

I envision a world where a single conversational messaging app can pull answers from a host of educational institutions. You simply ask your question and the chatbot will search for answers from the online courses of top universities and all digital learning platforms.

Freemium or Premium?

This suggests that education in today’s world should really be free. But long established universities probably oppose this move because they’ve become accustomed to their ever increasing tuition fees.

Another approach might be to charge an affordable monthly subscription fee to access the library of information on the app, similar to the way people pay for music libraries on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

Imagine a billion people or more paying £9.99 per month for access to the world’s library of educational information.

In this way, value will still be created and people around the world would have the power to truly educate themselves on any subject they might be curious about.

Chatbots have huge potential to make this a living reality. With their machine learning capabilities, they could even learn to teach post graduate courses.

The only time you’d need to see an actual human teacher would be to spend time on more complex theoretical or practical issues like philosophical discussions or physical experiments that require the knowledge, guidance, or supervision of an experienced expert.

Imagine what we can achieve when billions of people are liberated to learn in their own way, at their own pace, and in their own time.

Think of all the innovative ideas that will spring forth when anyone with access to the internet becomes empowered to educate themselves and learn about things they truly care about, in a seamless way.

It’s mind blowing!

6 Ways Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots Are Changing Education.

Chatbots are about to change the world in more ways than we can imagine. Already, bots around the globe can complete a diverse set of varying tasks. From ordering pizza online to mashing faces together in Project Murphy, chatbots are about to become a normal element in everyday life.

As the scope of chatbots becomes broader every day, there are new applications popping up constantly. Education has traditionally been known as a sector where innovation moves slowly. During the most recent years, there has been a large hype over innovative tools to enhance teaching and learning through educational technology.

The time has come for chatbots and artificial intelligence to meet the educational sector. Already, there’s a lot happening but there is no question technology will have an even deeper reach in the near future.

We’ve come across six applications of both chatbots and artificial intelligence within the educational area that could have an astounding impact on the whole industry.

1. Automatic Essay Scoring

Giving feedback on individual written essays is an enormously time demanding task that many teachers struggle with, and in massive open online courses, the problem is even larger. Because there are often over 1000 students in one class, there’s simply no realistic way to give individual feedback to written essays.

To combat this problem, innovators have been flirting with the artificial intelligence (AI) industry, and a solution is relatively close at hand.

By feeding a machine-learning algorithm thousands and thousands of essays, many people believe there’s a good chance of replacing human feedback on essays with AI systems. The project has made rapid improvement since 2012 when The Hewlett Foundation sponsored a competition between essay grading systems. The winner presented a 0.81 correlation, on average, with human graders.

Since then, researchers and scholars have continued accelerating and improving systems in full force. One report claims to have achieved a 0.945 correlation on the same data as in the Hewlett competition. Astonishing!

However, there’s also strong opposition towards relying on only technology when setting grades. Skeptic Les Perelman has set out to expose the true nature of grading algorithms and has successfully managed to point out weak points amongst auto-grading vendors.

How will auto-grading turn out? The future is not yet clear, but realistically there should be a chance of replacing at least one or two of the necessary graders with AI in a few years time.

 

2. Spaced Interval Learning

Repeating old lessons right when you are about to forget them is an optimal learning super-hack. It’s called TheSpacing Effect.

Polish inventor Piotr Wozniak has come up with a learning app built around the spacing effect. This app keeps track of what you learn and when you learn it. By incorporating artificial intelligence, the app is able to learn when you are most likely to forget information and remind you to repeat it. It only takes a couple of repetitions to make sure the information sticks for years to come.

Instead of students studying intensely before finals only to forget everything a few weeks later, schools and universities should aim for more lasting knowledge retention using this method.

Sadly, findings like the spacing effect have had a small impact on the educational system, which lives up to its reputation of being a sector of slow adoption of technology and innovation.

3. Conversational Course Assessments & Student Ratings

Student evaluations of teaching-surveys have been around for almost 100 years. Despite moving from paper to online surveys, there has been minimal progress to make the feedback process better in any way.

As student evaluations of teaching are often the most valued source of information, it’s obvious that they need improvement.

Because of modern day technology, such as AI-driven chatbots, machine learning, and natural language processing, there are lots of exciting opportunities to explore within the teacher-feedback-area.

Using a chatbot to collect feedback is the ultimate compromise between a qualitative and a quantitative research method. As teachers are normally way too busy to collect qualitative feedback from each student, an end-course survey is often used.

A chatbot can collect opinions trough a conversational interface with the same advantages as a ‘real’ interview but with a fraction of the required work. The conversation can be tailored according to the responses and personality of the student, ask follow-up questions, and find out the reason behind opinions. It’s also possible to filter out personal insults and foul language, which are sometimes present in teacher ratings.

Other than being a compelling option to surveys and with more qualitative data, a chatbot brings many other advantages for teachers who seek to improve efficiency in teaching. By involving more data sources such as self-assessment, grades, peer feedback, and the latest scientific findings on how to teach effectively, it’s possible to form a more nuanced picture of teaching performance. Comparing the data to that of other teachers around the world should make it possible for the system to suggest new and powerful ways to improve teaching and share findings throughout the teacher’s community.

4. Watson, the Teacher Assistant

At the Georgia Institute of Technology, students were charmed by the new teachers assistant, Jill Watson, who managed to respond to student inquiries in a fast and accurate way.

What the students didn’t know was that Ms. Watson’s true identity actually was a computer and powered by IBMs AI-system with the same name. Computer Science Professor Ashok Goel fed Watson more than 40.000 forum posts to get the system up and running.

Answering common questions is a perfect application for a chatbot and a much more interactive approach than using an FAQ-tab.

After getting huge publicity, Jill Watson is spreading her wings and is now being implemented in universities across the globe. One of the latest to be added to the list is BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway.

5. The Chatbot Campus Genie

At the Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, development is in full swing to complete the first ever chatbot campus genie. Just like in the case of the AI teacher assistant, the intelligence behind it comes from IBM’s supercomputer system, Watson.

 Once operational, the Deakin genie will be able to answer questions related to everything a student needs to know about life on campus. How to find the next lecture hall, how to apply for next semester’s class, how to submit assignments, where to find parking or where a counselor can be reached are all questions that can be handled by the genie.

When new students swarm the campus, they have similar questions every year which makes for a perfect application of a chatbot.

William Confalonieri is the driving force behind the genie-project and the CIO at Deakins University.

“The most promising opportunity to use this technology,” he says, “Is to support a much more personalized approach to on-campus services that still appeals to a large crowd. The system will also help lower the burden on stressed-out faculty, as they no longer have to explain the same things over and over to different students.”

Confalonieri hopes to be able to expand the capabilities of the system rapidly in the coming years and have it handle significantly more complex tasks in the future.

 

6. Student-Centered Feedback

The current educational system can, a bit maliciously, be described as a factory-line where the end-goal is to produce competent students to fill employee needs. The factory expects the same raw material (students), the same response to treatment (lessons) and the same result in the same time frame.

As human beings are complex beyond the reach of even the most advanced science, the factory approach is not ideal when it comes to transferring knowledge to a diversified new generation.

Entrepreneurs are now exploring a new take on the educational model. A student-centered system where student’s own personality and interest is the most decisive factor when it comes to curriculum configuration.

The content adapts to individual learning pace and can present gradually harder problems to accelerate learning as the student comprehend more and more. This way, both fast and slow learners can keep going at their own pace without being discouraged by other students.

It’s also possible for an AI-driven curriculum to foresee future trouble areas and present more problems related to it in order to prevent future struggles.

6 Storytelling Tips to Tell Your Business Story Like a TED Pro

“The greatest tool of communication given to us by Mother Nature is on the table,” says John Bates, CEO of Executive Speaking Success & Business Coaching. This tool he’s referring to is the power of storytelling!

Business Storytelling Ted Presentation

Image via Flickr

I recently joined John Bates and some fellow Boston professionals in a modern, glass-enclosed room at JLabs in Cambridge to learn how to tell a story like a TED Pro. Once I saw TED in the title I knew the talk had to be good (and I was right). John Bates has an impressive background actively coaching CEO’s and executives at big name companies like Motorola and Johnson & Johnson, training 100’s of TEDx speakers and “is considered one of the best communication trainers working today.”

The Importance of Storytelling in Business

So what does storytelling have to do with your business? Everything! If you can’t properly convey a story then your products are not going to appeal to your audience. Bates reminded us that we love stories so much that we have to be trained to not fall for anecdotal evidence. Why? “Because our brains value stories over anything else,” states Bates.

Stories can be incorporated into all your forms of content: blogs, e-books, whitepapers, and even your “About us” page to captivate your audience. The value of storytelling can also be transferred to other departments to grow your business – for example training your sales reps to tell the story of your company or product or using your story to captivate investors and bring in the big bucks $$$. Once you learn to tell a good story, your audience is always going to be wanting more, which will turn your readers into leads, your leads into customers, and your customers into loyal customers.

6 Key Tips for Business Storytelling

Well, what if you’re an awful storyteller? Then keep reading because I’m about to share some of Bates TED-worthy wisdom.

When Bates was young his dad, a Vietnam War veteran, would tell gory war stories and he would sit there bug-eyed with his jaw on the floor, mesmerized by every word that rolled out of his dad’s mouth. Little Bates asked himself, are all kids bloodthirsty, or is there something wrong with me? But as he grew wiser with age he realized that war stories have it all, which brings me to the first takeaway.

1. Every story needs the 5 C’s – Circumstance, Curiosity, Characters, Conversations and Conflict

So why was Bates fascinated by his father’s tales of battle? Because they always incorporated these 5 mesmerizing C’s. So when crafting your story lay out the circumstances. Set the scene and give the vital information that will provide context for your reader. Use curiosity to leave the reader wanting more (this trick works in headlines too). If there is nothing to be curious about then why would the reader keep reading? Characters and conversation go hand-in-hand. If you’re telling a story without any people and no dialogue your readers will likely doze off. And last but not least, conflict, which is easily the most important element. As Bates explains, “If there’s not any conflict then there’s not much of a story.”

2. Stop bragging and start relating to your audience

I can still remember sitting in the 90-degree heat draped in my black cap and gown as sweat dripped down my legs on the day of my college graduation. As I sat their impatiently twiddling my thumbs and trying not to pass out, I attempted to listen to the keynote speaker without throwing my Poland spring bottle at the stage. The speech was awful and resembled a laundry list of his accomplishments.

At the end of the day no one cares that you graduated top of your class from Harvard or cured a rare form of cancer in Africa. These accomplishments are wonderful and noteworthy and I would definitely recommend sharing them on your resume, but when it comes to telling a story, people want to hear about your failures. Why? As human beings we relate to your failures because we are all flawed. “People don’t connect with your successes, they connect with your messes,” states Bates. “Your message is in your mess.” Bates went on to explain that you don’t want to be the Luke Skywalker of your story, but instead be the Yoda: “You’re not the hero of your talk, your audience is.”

3. Spark the emotional side of your audience’s brain

For those of you that did not cry in HardBall when Baby G was shot or in The Notebookwhen Noah and Allie die holding hands, I have one question, what’s wrong with you? I’m kidding, but in all seriousness even if you did not cry during these heart-wrenching scenes, your heart strings were pulled and you felt something. Whether you feel sad, happy, scared, or content, feeling something makes us feel more alive, which is why it is critical to make your listeners or readers feel. “None of the facts and figures matter until you have some sort of emotional connection,” said Bates. “Stories are a great way to connect emotionally.” When crafting a story, Bates recommends thinking about what emotion you want to communicate and then provide information to support the emotion.

4. Get Your Readers Engaged Through the Senses

The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies rushed into my nose the second I opened the door. The dimly lit Christmas lights gracefully draped across my warm basement apartment, and I could hear the sound of Carolers singing in the cobblestoned neighborhood streets outside. Do you see what I’m doing here? Did your heart just melt into a fuzzy ball? Appealing to the senses through your story immediately engages the reader. Set the scene by describing what it visually looks like. What sounds occurred? What smells filled the air? How did it feel? Appealing to these senses that the majority of your readers have experienced has a way of engrossing them into your story. As Bates stated, “Get the entire brain engaged instead of just a thin slice.” Bates follows the principles of VAKO: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Olfactory. With these four elements in your story, you’re likely to draw in and lock down your audience. But make sure not to overdo it, your story needs some meat (cough, cough the 5 C’s) to keep your audience interested.

5. Start Your Story in the Middle

Far too often storytellers or marketers give way too much detail upfront. They start their story in chronological order, putting the audience to sleep before the exciting stuff occurs. By the time you’ve reached the AH-HA moment, your audience members are synced into their Instagram feeds or in a deep-dream filled REM sleep. Perhaps they just clicked onto a new page, never to return again. If you are anything like me then your attention span is about as long as an inch-worm so snap out of it and get your audience into it. “Life happens in chronological order – that’s boring!” states Bates. “Start in the middle, where things are exciting. It’s much more interesting.”

6. Give Your Audience What Matters

Do you remember that time when you told a long, detailed story to realize your friends looked about as engaged as they do during their commute to work on a Monday morning? At the end you come head first with a sarcastic “Good story…Tell it again.” Your face turns as red as a strawberry and you immediately cross story-telling off the list of things to do in a social setting. I’m here to tell you that your story didn’t suck! Congratulations! The way you told it did. Why? Well, it might have actually been an awful story, but you likely included waaay too much unnecessary detail. No, we do not care that your alarm went off on-time as usual or that your bus was a few minutes late. We’re much more interested in the fact that your teacher was fired for a rumored relationship with a student or that your bus driver was drunk and knocked over 4 mailboxes before getting handcuffed in front of the principle. Bates said it well, “Give us what matters to us. Pick three points and don’t cram unnecessary information in. Bring just the key things to the top.”

So keep your audience on the edge of their seat with these tips to charm them and leave them wanting more. Before you know it they’ll be avid followers of your content.

These tips are just dusting the surface of what it takes to tell a good story, therefore I’m curious:

What do you believe makes a great story?

How do you incorporate storytelling into your content marketing efforts?

 

culled from wordstream.

How To Start A Successful Business In Africa With $100 or Less. Here Are 5 Entrepreneurs Who Did It!

There are two myths that are often associated with success in business. One is that you need a considerable amount of capital. The other is that it could take you many years to beat the odds of success when you start with nothing much in hand.

Here are five entrepreneurs who made it BIG in Africa with about $100 or less in hand and who now earn a considerable amount after just having started a few years ago

 

  1. From school drop out to insurance magnate (Kenya)

In 2007, Heshan de Silva dropped out of school and as things got worse for him in the US, he joined his parents back in Kenya to get his life back together.

Aged only 18 at the time, his parents gave him 10,000 Kenyan Shillings (US$116), which he used to start a new business. He targeted the bus travel sector in the country by selling insurance bundled with the bus ticket purchase. And it is widely reported in the media that by the end of the year, the business had made 90m Kenyan Shillings (US$1.05m). Isn’t that amazing!? Heshan has since invested that money in his new business, De Silva Group, a venture capital firm.

With an incomplete education, no capital, not even a great deal of life experience and yet Heshan made it in a short period of time. He was featured in CNN and Forbes Magazine as one of Africa’s most successful young entrepreneurs.

 

2)    From graduate to high-profile online marketing company (Nigeria)

Abasiama Idaresit graduated with an MBA at Manchester Business School and moved back to Nigeria in 2010 to start his own business. Today, he is the Founder and CEO of Wild Fusion, a digital marketing company.

Guess what? He started his company in 2010 with a gift of $250 from his mother and it took him 8 months to make the first deal. Just three years later, Visa, Vodafone, Samsung and Unilever as well as several large Pan-African corporations are his clients and his company is valued at over $6 million in revenue. Yes, you heard that indeed right; $6 million! And yes, he started in 2010. Wild Fusion has now become Google’s certified partner in Africa!

  

  1. From a broken iPod to a chain of mobile phone repair shops (South Africa)

Take Axel Fourie from South Africa. By the time he was 27, he had tried unsuccessfully to set up several businesses. When his iPod was faulty and he was told by specialists that nothing could be done about it, he searched for a YouTube video online and learned how to fix the iPod himself!

He then put an advert into a local newspaper and offered to fix faulty iPhones and iPads. The response he got exceeded his expectations as he was flooded with calls and requests from potential customers. He knew he was onto something!

Axel opened his company iFix and started fixing iPods and iPhones from his university dorm. This was in 2007. Today, Alex runs a chain of 8 stores and employs 85 people. He has since expanded his business into manufacturing mobile phone accessories which he exports into 12 countries across Africa. Oh, we forgot to mention the amount of his starting capital. Here it is: Zero! (unless he paid a little for that newspaper ad). 

 

  1. From 4 pigs to a commercial farm with 4,000 pigs (South Africa)

Anna Phosa started her pig farm venture in 2004 in Soweto with about $100 in hand. She bought four pigs with that money after she was introduced to pig farming by a close friend.

A little less than four years later, in 2008, Anna was contracted by Pick ‘n Pay, the South African supermarket and retail giant to supply its stores with 10 pigs per week. This was a first breakthrough and the request by the retailer grew quickly to 20 pigs per week.

But the really amazing bit happened in 2010 when Anna signed a breathtaking contract with Pick ‘n Pay to supply 100 pigs over the next five years under a 25 million Rand deal – that’s nearly 2.5 million US Dollars! She did not even have so much land or enough pigs! With a contract in hand, Anna received funding from ABSA Bank and USAID to buy a 350-hectare farm property.

Anna started with 4 pigs in 2004, today her farm employs about 20 staff rearing 4,000 pigs at a time. Her perseverance has made her a millionaire!

 

  1. From African backyard tree nursery to biggest garden centers (South Africa)

And now to one of my favorites, because it is really such a hands-on job anyone could start today, tomorrow or next week. It’s the story of De Fynne Nursery. I know what you’re thinking but this is not a children’s nursery. It’s actually a tree nursery! You have to be aware of this amazing story!

The venture started in 2001 by South African entrepreneurs, Jacky Goliath and Elton Jefthas, in Jeftah’s home backyard. I don’t know exactly how much they invested, but it must have been peanuts, because tree seedlings to get you started in Africa usually cost a few pennies. And then you just need a backyard and some plastic containers. That’s it for a start.

Back to De Fynne Nursery: market demand grew fast and steadily which meant that they moved the nursery to a 0.5 hectare land in 2005, and in 2008 had to move again to a 1.5 hectare area outside Cape Town where they hosted 600,000 plants!

Today, the De Fynne nursery supplies its products to retailers such as Woolworths, Massmart and Spar in South Africa and it was reported that they since moved to a whopping 22-hectare commercial property. This is a simple start up idea on a shoe string budget anywhere in Africa where you have a booming housing & hotel sector and expanding city areas!

Marketing Doughnut Series: 4 Steps To Marketing Your Small Business With Zero Budget.

Every small business needs to be focused on marketing at all times, even if you have a full order book and clients waiting, you must keep on marketing and the best marketing is creative marketing. It’s smart, very affordable and delivers measurable results. Let’s get started…

 

1) Facebook

Create a profile for your Facebook page.

You can use your existing personal facebook profile or create a new profile for this purpose. For instance if your facebook page is ‘Pearls Connect’, you can create a profile also called ‘Pearls n Pearls’ or something close.

Note that a profile is different from a page. Essence of this profile account Is to be able to tag your contacts when you post.

A Facebook page however will require you to have a budget to promote anything.

Smart thing to do is to make that profile the admin of your facebook page.

—– Another simpler method is to share posts from your page using your existing personal profile, then tag your contacts.

 

2) Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups such as ‘Sell and Buy anything’ allow you sell products and services to members of the group.

You can upload pictures, set prices of your products, receive direct messages from clients.

Very simple. Look for the groups tab on facebook page. Choose a group category that works for you. Look out for marketing groups.

It’s better to use your created company profile not personal profile to join the group. You cant join a group with your business page.

And be sure you are allowed to sell on the group.

 

3) Email Marketing

—Look out for all the business cards you’ve received at events.

— On a plane sheet/computer, create 5 columns: Client Name, Business Name, Product/Service, Email & Phone Number.

— Categorize these clients based on what you are offering.

— Don’t market first, share some useful tips, trends.

— Infact don’t SELL. Just pitch how what you have can get them what they need.

— Emails, SMS, Phone Calls work well.

— Follow up

— Make sure you have new entries on the sheet (5-10clients) weekly.

— Meet 5-10 potential clients weekly. Don’t just chat away, get their cards/email/phone nos. Add them to your list.

 

4) Online Directories:

For Nigerians try:

– Jiji.ng

– OLX.com.ng

– Vconnect.com

 

For Nigerians and other countries try:

….Take note of the featured products you see on the front pages.

… Identify the tags used.

…. Use these tags to set up your business ad.

…. On these directories, you can promote your product for as low as N800 for 7 days.

 

Further Reading:

Eight Creative Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

Every small business needs to be focused on marketing at all times, even if you have a full order book and clients waiting, you must keep on marketing and the best marketing is creative marketing. But marketing doesn’t just consist of online advertisements, landing pages and selling. It actually consists of so much more, if you’re stuck with the same old marketing ideas, take a look at how you can make marketing much, much better with these strategies.

1.     Creative Marketing Best Tip Ever – Develop An Awesome Elevator Pitch

When people ask you what you do, whether you’re in an elevator, in line at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office with the kids or at a business event, it’s important for you to be able to explain to the people asking what it is that you do in a succinct way that invites more questions.

An elevator pitch isn’t just a 60-second monologue; it’s more like learning different ways to answer the same questions based on the audience you’re speaking to, so that they leave understanding what you’re about.

Let me give you my basic elevator pitch “I help businesses identify realistic online goals and then I help them achieve these using website design, content and online marketing”

I sometimes expand upon this however unlike most website designers, I’m trying to focus on the major benefit I give to my customers whilst also telling them quickly and in a way everyone can understand, this is one of the fundamentals of creative marketing, you tell people what you can do for them in a creative way they understand and that they can see the benefits.

 

2.     Get Involved Online and Offline

Get out from behind your computer and get involved in offline events. Go to meetings, business networking events, and conferences. In addition, participate in telephone conferences, webinars, and social media. But do it all in a proactive, involved way that advances your business goals.

Before doing any event, online or off, ask yourself which goal being involved in this particular activity helps you achieve. Then, base your participation and how you communicate with people at the event on reaching that goal.

3.     Develop Meaningful Relationships

Finding a person to collaborate with is a great way to improve your business and find new ways to market. By creating short-term joint ventures with individuals and companies who market complementary products and services to the same audience, you can expand your reach exponentially. Don’t form these alliances willy-nilly. Each venture and each relationship needs to have its own goals involved which align with your overall marketing goals.

4.     Write a Book

You’re smart and you know about your niche. You either know how you became successful, or you know a lot about a particular subject that you can share with others. Writing a book, and getting it published today, is a simple process. All it’s going to take is time. Be sure that your book has an ultimate goal aside from making money. It’s not likely book sales alone are going to make that much. But a book used as a marketing tool to sell other products and services can help increase your net worth substantially.

Alternatively you could incorporate a blog within your website and you could write and add content to it, the more content that you add and the more regularly you do this, the more visitors and the more successful your website will be and all it takes is a little creative marketing and brainstorming to get started.

5.     Speak in Public

Once you’ve written a book, you can leverage it to engage in public speaking events. Find events that are attracting your target audience and simply go tell them your story. Create a “one page” document/web page to market you’re speaking and subject matter to event leaders.

At first you may need to do some events free (get permission to record it) and later you can actually make quite a living out of public speaking if you desire to go in that direction. If not, the act alone can be a great marketing strategy.

6.      Give Your Opinion

Find ways to get your name associated with expert status. Use the service Help a Reporter Out (http://www.helpareporter.com/) to find people to pitch your articles, speaking, and answers to and who will use your quotes in stories. The more you’re quoted, the more you will become known as an expert. You can do the same thing with targeted and focused guest blogging, expert panels, interviews and more.

 

7.     Ask for Creative Testimonials

Go straight to your current customers and clients and simply ask them to write, record or make a testimonial for you. You can even have a contest to make it more interesting. For instance, “Create a meme about how awesome your product is, share it with friends, get the most votes, and win a $100 dollar gift card to use towards my services.”

8.     Break the Mold

If you really want to differentiate yourself from the crowd, find a way to break some rules. You don’t have to be unethical to push boundaries and break rules. Many people believe they have no right to take a leadership role without having first been a follower. That’s insane, because you can be a leader without having been a follower. If you are good at what you do, there is no reason you have to punch any cards or push any particular buttons in any particular order to be at the top.

Creative marketing means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something different than you are currently doing. If you’re not doing something new every quarter at least when it comes to marketing, you’re not really trying.

 

Article by Elizabeth Edwards, Tech4her Africa’s Founder.