We first got information about Mimiboard from the Umuntu founder, Johan Nel, some 9 days ago. Nel was to later announce the new service at the just ended Mobile Web East Africa in Nairobi. He said they’ve had developers working for 7 months to come up with the product which is going to be “a game changer in the African market.”
The new platform according to Nel is basically a personal virtual notice board of sorts to which an individual can pin stuff of interest to them, have other people communicate with them, contribute their own stuff and even transact on the platform. The service is location aware, offers direct SMS communication between the curator of a board and the people reading it, and even offers a means for ordinary people to create their own newspapers and print them for distribution.
Today, Umuntu released more information about the service. In today’s release Umuntu provided some usage scenarios to explain the concept. Scenarios like the ones below.
A publisher knows what their readers want to talk about so they create a few Mimiboards for their readers. Daily traffic tips, Classifieds, Restaurant reviews, citizen news, chat room etc. etc.. The publisher saves those Mimiboard as a stack, names the stack (Your News as an example) and then hit the export to embed button. Our Wizard takes them through the steps and quickly a publisher has a fully embedded Mimiboard in his website. iFrame or RSS. So with the click of a few buttons the site has a fully integrated SMS, Android, J2ME and Rich web communications channel to the readers.
Simon the entrepreneur knows what his community talks about. Lifts offered, goods for sale and obituaries. He creates those Mimiboards for his town, saves them as a stack, calls the stack The Kafue Daily and he hits publish. Through our Wizard he chooses the layout, paper size, amount of notes to display (last 7 days or only today) He prints it out.
Getting a cab:
A Taxi driver printed a sticker on the side of his taxi with his Mimiboard ID. A tourist in the area opens Mimiboard on her phone and looks for Taxi’s in the area. She posts a note on the Taxi available board.
“Please pick me up at Kibera and take me to the airport. Jane 01282992929”.
The taxi driver gets a notification, picks her up and drops her at the airport. He updates his Mimiboard again to say that he is available. A new client uses Android, sees all Mimiboards close to him, he filters the boards to show only taxi available close to his location.
A fishmonger in Mombasa creates a Mimiboard called: Mombasa Fish Market. He tells all the fisherman to update their catch via SMS, Android, J2ME while they are on the water. He then sits at the market and looks at the latest catch on Mimiboard (some even include photos)
He spots a great catch and updates comment on the Fisherman’s note “I want those fish please. $3 per KG. Bring them to Thomas Market please.”
A local in the area also wants to buy fish for dinner tonight. He opens Mimiboard, adds the Fish for sale category filter on his discover screen and also sees the notes of the above transaction.
So far Umuntu Media has been doing news, and it’s been news the company employs journalists to gather. With Mimiboard Umuntu is taking it further; it wants to give any user the ability to create their own content. And the content doesn’t have to be news or some text content for reading. It can be services, direct communication between individuals or between businesses and all this is location based so that it’s always the most relevant content for the people interacting with it.
It’s a big promise Umuntu is making, and one not easy to deliver technically or even to get mainstream adoption for. Umuntu is taking on the problem of local content and they‘re not doing it the conventional way. They’re trying new ways, combining features from different services to create a whole new category and understanding of the word ‘portal’. In there you can see Pinterest, Esoko, some Foursquare, possibilities for FMNA style eTXT and Umuntu’s own news portals. It’s so much in one, the risk to attempt being everything to everyone is clear and may cause problems down the road. But let’s see.
If you want to get an invite to the beta, you can sign up here.