Friday, February 6, 2015

Wrap up

Writing this sitting in the green grass of the garden of Sakani Camp in Arusha, in the shade, not so humid, nice temperature. Starting tomorrow, I probably will not have any internet connectivity while watching hippos, elephants, wildebeests etc,  so please do not stay up late waiting for updates...

There were 3 days left before I would leave Dar on Thursday. We tried to make those as useful as possible. Unluckily we were not able to get in touch with some of the participants, present in the Dar workshop, who said to be very eager to learn more technical details that we only could touch upon during the workshop. We could use the free time to start working on our evaluation report. Now the things we done are still fresh in our memories.

On Tuesday we had an Skype call with surprisingly good sound and video quality from my hotelroom with the two Elsevier volunteers coming in April and May, Charon and Evalyne. We discussed the possible programs they might want to offer on online publishing models, open access and marketing &  sales. They both wanted to know what the participants might want to know exactly. There's only one way to know that: ask. So Evalyne and Charon will draw up a list of questions that Maaike can distribute among those who might be interested in attending their workshops / seminars / whatever-form-they-can-think-of.

Wednesday we took Maaike for a farewell dinner. Sushi and other seafood, good South-African wine: a good way to close the Digital Publishing part of Publishing without Borders.

But it was not really  the last time we saw Maaike. She had agreed with Erica, coworker at COSTECH, to meet on Thursday to discuss the online library that COSTECH maintains.
We talked on the way the backend application Greenstone was set up and user rights were probably not implemented correctly; we searched some wikis and online manuals of Greenstone; we learned that other participant Mlenge proposed Dspace, a library tool used by Muhimbili University; and we noticed that some publications on the current library were not categorized correctly because of incorrect metadata. At the end of the morning Erica had a couple of great ideas to help her library improve further.

We had lunch with Walther and Mkuki Bgoya to celebrate the end of the digital Publishing workshops in a very never lunchroom downtown, close to Walther's bookshop. It would have been better had we started the series with this lunch, but hey, this was good as it is. Good to hear that Walther and Mkuki are seriously thinking at suppliers to help them digitizing their back catalog. Also we talked the current Tanzanian government policies to publish all educational textbooks by the ministry itself. Disaster waiting to happen, if you ask me, but Tanzanian publishers are not strong and united enough to withstand this. And how digital publications can get the youth of all Tanzania to read, so to change their "reading culture". Distribution is a big problem!

And this was the end of Dar for me. VSO driver Swedy was very grumpy today because he had had a small accident with his car earlier this morning and reparations would cost him at of money. Still, he managed to bring me to the airport safely. Couple of hours later I was standing at the Kilimanjaro international airport to be picked up in a large Toyota Land cruiser to start our safari. Posting will be difficult from the Serengeti, so bye and see you all in The Netherlands, or maybe even Tanzania! Who knows?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Zanzi Bar

On Saterday, while my friends where camping out in the snow in Stadtkyll, Germany, Geraldine and I took the ferry of 9:30 from Dar heading to Zanzibar. Or we tried to take the ferry, but due to technical problems we had to switch vessels and had a huge delay. Oh well, this was a holiday, so not to bother too much. Finally, we could see what Dar looks like from the Indian Ocean:

The amount on red tape to get onto Zanzibar amazed me: metal detectors, health and visa forms, a doctor to check you on ebola, Geraldine was even questioned on her purpose - it is like entering another country. No wonder the Zanzibari were very interested in the recent referendum on the independence of Scotland; they might want to split off from the mainland Tanzania as well.

The ferry port is a crowded place, and everybody seems to want money. On our 5 min walk to the beautiful Warere Town House we were followed by a old man who wanted 5000 Tsh for giving the right directions; for that kind on money we could have gotten a taxi.

The hotel had refreshing cold towels at arrival - Stone Town is even more humid and warm than Dar - clean rooms, high beds and a roof terrace for breakfast and diner with a lovely view and cooling breeze.

It even had Zanzibari wildlife - or should I say "wildlief"

We did bring the mother cat some leftovers from our diner at Mercury's. The fish head was completely gone the next day, as where the chunks of tuna.

Which brings me to the most famous descendant of Zanzibar. Why do you think the name of the seaside bar annex restaurant is named Mercury's, the toilets are aptly named "King" and "Queen", and Bohemian Rhapsody is played day and night there. Yep, this guy is born on the island

Stone Town has a very relaxed feel, completely different from Dar. Admittedly, the store owners are pushy, but that is about the major nuisance. It feels safe to just get lost in the narrow alleys, knowing that you will get out somewhere. We did manage to walk past all the landmarks: the Old Castle (now a cultural centre), Forodhani park, the former Slave Market with the Christ Church, we saw it all.

Apparently, we couldn't get enough of touristic attractions, so the next day (Sunday) we ventured out to a "spice tour"; after all, Zanzibar is the one of the "spice islands". Omar the guide took us for a leisurely walk through some "fields" with peppers, cloves, palm trees, grapefruits, lychees, vanilla, mango trees, cassave, ginger, lemon grass, you name it, it grows on Zanzibar. The picture shows the piri piri (or pili pili) "hoho", which should be the sound you make to quench your mouth after eating it. They look so sweet, but are not.

We were decorated with palm leaves hats and necklaces, and given lunch: rice with the spices we just smelled and tasted.

Sunday afternoon was relaxed, as well as my Monday morning: just sitting in the shade, reading a book, having a beer (or coffee). Geraldine was dhowed to "Prison Island" to see the tortoises, and was bruised when getting off the dhow. At that time I was already back in Dar, in the pool of the Slipway.

Dinner at the Indian place Flames was excellent, just like the first time we were there. This time we had meat :-)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Workshops in Dodoma

Writing in the bus back to Dar. Don't make it too easy on yourself. This will be long post, mostly I do not feel like splitting it into a post per day.

So we stayed in the VETA hotel in Dodoma. It's a beautiful place, lots of space

with shelter from the rain, that did fell in large quantities Wednesday night

and some pets

VETA stands for Vocational Education & Training Authority and is therefore a training facility. It showed in the quality of the staff. Some were quick to react, others really honored the polepole tradition of Tanzania and did have some "training" to do.

The venue

Next to Maaike and Geraldine and myself, a couple of participants from universities elsewhere in Tanzania, like Arusha, were stationed in the VETA Hotel. The workshops in Dodoma were held in the Council Room of St John's University, the smaller of the two universities of Dodoma. Luckily John's University had arranged a private daladala to take the complete group to the venue. A big room with tables in Carre layout, much better to have direct contact with the participants. Unfortunately there were too many participants, 22 in total, to fit at the carre.

And as we were in a Christian university, there's a cross to constantly remind you:

First day: Tuesday

We were welcomed by two vice-presidents of St John, who were "honored to host this very important workshop for Tanzanian academics". We couldn't agree more! After these encouraging words we did the customary round of names. The "Dodoma group" was a lot more homogeneous than the "Dar group": every participant works in one of the Tanzanian universities outside Dar: Mogororo, Arusha, Dodoma,... All universities publish their work in their own journals, mostly on paper; some already have switched to online, using African Journals Online (AJOL).  All were very eager to explore the possibilities to publish online digitally.

We started off with an introduction which was basically an adaptation of the presentation of Damian Gibbs (DDD) as he did in Dar. Digital Publishing is hard - we all struggle. With this information in mind we asked the participants to write their objectives on a sticky note. Some surprising objectives came: accessibility, online editing. Good questions, that we could not address in detail, unfortunately.


The rest of the program was roughly the same as in Dar. The production process of copyediting, typesetting, proofreading and publishing, with serving as example

A big discussion on the definition of proofreading followed,showing that this piece of workshop fell in more fertile earth in this Dodoma group, compared to Dar.

We ended the day with metadata, with their own publications serving as examples to extract metadata. Interesting enough, just as in the Dar the participant also regarded the layout properties of the paper journal as metadata (those who know me know that I do not share this view :-) and also were having trouble determining the metadata of the authors, like addresses and affiliations. Are those properties of the paper, or of the author? We at Elsevier struggle as well :-)

At the end of the day I even got the metadata from the VTW to show how complex metadata might become...

Second day: Wednesday

Ebook, ebook, ebook. We started with some theory on available formats. Then I gave a better prepared demo of the ebook management tool Calibre. After that, let's make your own ebook. After lunch: present your ebook to the group. Participant Rex even showed how to share your Calibre library with other, which I found really impressive (read between the lines: I did not even know of the possibilities)! And some participant found out the hard way that PDF is not a suitable format to start from.

Observation: Tanzanians sure like to decorate their desktops with pictures of themselves. I wouldn't like to look at my own face the whole day. But tastes differs, let's keep it with that.

The day ended with the presentation on online data cleanup.Yes, when you publish online you also need to look after the way to "unpublish" your works, which was an eye opener for some.

Third day: Thursday

After the presentation of Geraldine the misunderstanding in digitizing your legacy content was lifted. Digitizing is not about getting your journals online; instead it's is all about how to transform your paper journals and paper books to a form you can publish digitally. So scanning, OCR-ing, cleaning, and maybe even try to find a supplier to do the work for you, that's the kind of work you are looking for. Instead, a big discussion started on layout on the journals instead of how to create a digital copy.

When we discussed the requirement you need to think about to get suppliers to do the correct work, Aida owned the template for suppliers (her own words!) and really did a good job in adapting it for her own needs.

After lunch and some work on file management the "internet on my laptop" was sloooooowwww. The laptop is slowly dying. So I could do no demo of OJS word2xml tool, which is a shame.

The workshop ended with handing out the certificates.

The stay in Dodoma ended with a very good Indian dinner at New Dodoma hotel. It turned out that there is no pool table in Carnival, so we couldn't verify Silas' claim that he was very experienced and would beat us all...


Tanzanian soap opera

8 hours in a bus, watching a Tanzanian soap opera. Hilarious! Below some typical subtitles for the parts spoken in Swahili
or
or, eh what?

Google Translate anyone?

For the die-hards: the film "Chausiku" can be seen on youtube as well, at least Part 1.

The afternoon ended with the masterpiece Bridge of Dragons. Dolph never misses a shot, kills the bad guy and gets the girl at the end.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

To Dodoma!

8 hours in a bus. Not really my first choice of travelling, but hey, as African buses go, it was all right. AC was working, I was sitting to a German lady who shared a roasted corn with me, and even swapped places with me so I had some more leg space. Things to notice: The bus station is a crowded place with a lot of movement;

Dar is really a big city, it took almost an hour to leave the "suburbs"; Tanzania has a green countryside; and Dodoma is more cooler and less humid than Dar.

The Veta Hotel in Dodoma is basic, but pleasant. The terrace is a nice place, the food is good and cheap and comes in big portions.

And there was even a big TV so I could watch DR Congo draw against Tunisia, so they both go to the quarter finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, while kicking out Zambia.

After dinner we stepped through our first presentations for the first workshop tomorrow. And that is about all there is to tell about this day.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Long weekend

Friday was mainly rest, which I kind of deserved. Geraldine was very brave to immediately hop onto safari today!

I did some wrapping up of the workshops, prepared the presentations to be shared with all participants, and developed some ideas how to improve the following workshop, next week in Dodoma. Late in the afternoon I met Maaike at VSO HQ. This is only a 10 minutes walk, but even in that short span literally the driver of every bajaji, motor taxi of real taxi MUST honk at you. "Hey mister! Where you going?" No, I rather walk...

Maaike had a ton of bills and reimbursements to organize and signatures to be written, so there was not too much time left to discuss the workshops. Not that I could mind very much, this being a Friday afternoon, or in proper Dutch, "vrijmi". Some of you might know which two letters usually follow the "vrijmi": "bo". That is exactly what we did, after we uploaded all presentations, pictures and other materials to Dropbox to share with the participants. Russell, Joelle, Ruth and Sue from VSO also joined us at the Waterfront, where we ended with pizza and ice cream.

Saturday Maaike was set to get the bus tickets for our trip to Dodoma. The tickets can only be retrieved at the Ubungo Bus Terminal. I agreed to keep her company, also because I would have the chance to experience the dala dala (mini busses that go all over Dar) first-handed. For 400Tsh (roughly €0,20) you will get at any place in Dar. But it can be overcrowded, bumpy, slow and hot. On Saturdays it was not too bad. It's still an assault on all your Western senses - bright sun, lots of noise, a whole range of smells in quick succession, distorted sense of direction - but eventually you get where you want.

It took us about an hour to get to the local bus terminal. We took a fast and expensive bajaji to the terminal for the outward bound buses, where we were flocked by a whole bunch of touts - that is what the Lonely Planet call them. They are at best annoying. Luckily Maaike knew where she was going...

I used the afternoon to work some more at the presentations. I was kindly invited to "Maaike & Joelles place" for diner; an offer I could not refuse. Andrew was also present, the four of us shared spicy cabbage, ugali, rice and lentils, with some very tasty guacamole, flushed down with some beer and wine. Good stuff!

We ended the night at the Samaki Samaki: a trendy night club / restaurant / bar, recently opened, with a lot of wood furniture, giving the interior a jungle feel (I suppose that was the intention), loud American R&B music and no dance floor, oddly enough. Not exactly my first choice, but hey, you should try new things any time.

Sunday -today, hurrah, I've caught up on time! -  I worked on some presentations, took a dive in the pool, listened to Geraldine's safari stories - she had a great time. And updated my blog, as you can read here. Done!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Third workshop in Dar

Today was the last day of the Dar workshops. The morning session was completely booked with "digitization of your back content". Geraldine explained how and why Elsevier has converted their old paper books, stacked in warehouses all over the globe, to proper digital products. This has been a big project, even for Elsevier. It illustrates quite well some of the pitfalls and challenges Tanzanian publishers might also encounter in digitization of their "legacy content".

Damien agreed to elaborate on how DDD would be able to assist Tanzanians to help turning their "old books" digital. Quite impressive what DDD has done in the past; I'm sure they can help the participant as well.

After lunch some forgotten threads were picked up, and we also improvised a presentation to answer Mkuki's question on file naming. Not exactly our cup of tea, but we managed...

The workshops ended with handing over the certificates and filling in the evaluation forms

The general feedback on the workshops was nicely described by Mkuki Bgoya:

"It was a great 3 days and I am glad to meet all the new people and reconnect with old friends."

So, now it's time for a refreshing Kili!

Second workshop in Dar

On Wednesday the group was even bigger (so it seemed). Also 3 representatives of Digital Data Divide were present, so the room was quite crowded.

Today we started discussion ebooks and the epub-format. I improvised a demo of ebook management and creation tool Calibre. Damien Gibbs of DDD gave a very good presentation on his vision on digital publishing, and how DDD is able to assist. After lunch, the participants were asked to create their own ebooks.

Some groups picked it up quite nicely - not suprisingly if your name is Mlenge and you create ebooks as a service. His group converted all five sample documents and even made book covers to match.

Other participants had more trouble, but in the end everyone managed to create its own ebook.  Ruth and Phil from INASP visited just at the right moment to witness this sense of accomplishment:

Also Phil and Ruth grabbed the opportunity to discuss the current state of the project with Walter Bgoya.

The day ended with a good presentation on plagiarism and retraction by Geraldine. The participants from the universities were really enthusiastic; although it must be said that for other persons this topic was probably a bit over their head.

Friday, January 23, 2015

First workshop in Dar

The first day we started with a customary round of introduction. We also asked the participants to write 3 sticky notes on what they would like to learn. That evening I digitized the paper notes using http://listhings.com/ (also a form of digital publishing, by the way) which yielded something like


We would revisit the sticky notes at the end. But we knew already that we would not be able to cover everything. A learning point immediately arose: the views on the definition of "digital publishing" are not all the same. Maybe we should have dealt with right away.

Other topics covered
  • generic publishing process, loosely based on the Open Journal Systems
  • the Elsevier process
  • metadata
  • document management (way too theoretical)
The participant were asked to
  • discuss in groups their own process and create a short presentation to share with the group
  • finding metadata on a set of documents we handed them. 
The latter series presentation was interrupted and ended by one of the participants, librarian Abbas. He needs good metadata on a day-to-day basis and so instructed the rest why he found that proper metadata handling was not only to his advantage, but certainly also to the advantage of everyone publishing works. Anyone must be able to find the content! Really helpful, and I suppose it took some courage of him to stand in front of this group unprepared:

A big thank you!

Workshops in Dar: general observations

The time and energy were both insufficient to type a post right after the workshops. Luckily, it's Friday, I do have some time to kill while Geraldine is on safari, so let's start typing away on posts on the workshop.

Let me use this first post to give the general observations.

Getting there and back

We had been warned by Steve, Lily and of course Maaike: the traffic is terrible. Without traffic, going from the Slipway to the Luther House is a breeze. Google thinks you might be able to do it in 15 minutes:


To reach Luther House during rush hour we tripled this time. At least. So Swedi, the regular taxi driver for VSO, picked us up at the Slipway at 7:45. Apparently every car in Dar must cross the Selander Brigde at exactly the same time. This results in a traffic jam that we are not used to in The Netherlands: traffic can just be halted completely for half an hour:

But I must say, African drivers sure know how the use the road at its maximum capacity. With a bit of give and take everyone eventually can get moving again.

And by the way: getting back in the afternoon was even worse. We did have the change to see some "scenic routes" offered to us by the taxi driver looking for some way to slip through.

The venue and the food

The Board Room in Luthers House is quite a big room that is spacious enough to keep the 30+ persons we catered for.

We did not experience any power cuts and even the wifi was quite reliable. Not that TIA then!
Even the AC did function properly, and it was set to freezing, so every time I left the room I did get the punch of the heat outside. The first time in Tanzania I wore two layers of clothing...

The food was very good, except for the coffee (but that is just me, I guess). Not just a "koekje bij de koffie" en "een boterhammetje met kaas", but good snacks -those samosas are delicious- and lunches with rice, noodles, vegetables, chicken and fish. It's a good thing Maaike practiced some energizers, otherwise the lunch dips would last much longer. The "kichwa, mabega, magoti na vidole" was hilarious.

The people

Quite a mix of backgrounds, and 27 of them in total. Academic and commercial publishers, librarians, graphics designers, suppliers of conversion services, even a copyright specialist. Some very experienced, some with basic knowledge in "digital publishing". Some very outspoken, some mostly silent. It turned out to be quite hard to cater for everyone, but more on that in the posts on the separate days. 
Luckily the discussion within the groups were mostly lively, so one goal of the workshops was met easily: share and connect. 

The days: