SA Team out in first round of Imagine Cup 2011

by Prof Barry Dwolatzky

SA Team at Imagine Cup 2011
SA Team at Imagine Cup 2011

Exactly a year ago today (July 11) the FIFA World Cup 2010 drew to a spectacular end in South Africa. I know that there is no comparison in size and content between that World Cup and “Imagine Cup 2011” … but I have had some déjà vu moments. Continue reading “SA Team out in first round of Imagine Cup 2011”

I’m in Geek’s Heaven

by Prof Barry Dwolatzky

Steve Ballmer - CEO of Microsoft - opens Imagine Cup 2011 in NYC
Steve Ballmer - CEO of Microsoft - opens Imagine Cup 2011 in NYC

For those of you who don’t know about it, the Microsoft Imagine Cup is a bit of a “geek show”. University students – working in small groups – develop software applications and then compete for prizes. Microsoft runs national competitions, the winners of which are entered into the World Finals.

Over the past few years I’ve been involved in Imagine Cup South Africa as a judge. The competition always attracts a good cross-section of socially awkward technology obsessive South African youth. Race, religion, social background, gender – none of this matters. They all share a common “geek-ness”. From the SA competition we have always carefully selected the best team of local geeks and sent them off to compete in the World Finals. And here I am at the World Finals!!!

Over the past year 350,000 computer geeks from 183 countries have competed to represent their species at the Imagine Cup World Finals-  the “Computer Nerds World Cup”. And here they are at the 40-storey New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. 124 competing teams from 40 countries together with 80 judges and 140 journalists. They come from every corner of the world. Most have never flown in an airplane. Some have never stepped onto an escalator … and yet they share something in common … a love for software technology.

Last night Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, opened the event. It’s the first time I’ve seen him live. If an alien from outer space came to earth looking for a good specimen of a “1970’s computer nerd” to send back home to a zoo in their distant planet, Steve Ballmer would be a wonderful choice. He is everything his generation (my generation?) represented – and more! When he announced that every contestant would receive an XBOX Kinect to take home with them, a cheer went up that must have been heard on the moon. (Thinking about it… the cheer wasn’t instantaneous .. It took about a minute for Ballmer’s announcement to be understood in 40 different languages.) In any other audience most people in the room would have been sitting there saying “what’s an XBOX Kinect, and what will I do with it?” My only regret is that I’m a judge and not a contestant.

There were also speeches from Jeffrey Sachs, Professor of Economics from Columbia University and special advisor to the UN on poverty alleviation, and from Dennis Crowley, co-founder of FourSquare [I admit to having to ask someone what “FourSquare” is]. Jeffrey Sachs was there because: (1) he was at nursery school with Steve Ballmer, and (2) the theme of Imagine Cup 2011 is “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the world’s toughest problems”. The challenges of the UN’s Millenium Development Goals are a particular focus for contestants.

Everywhere you look in the hotel there are groups of students dressed in their team t-shirts sitting around fiddling with devices – laptops, tablets, smart phones, fancy cameras, i-pods, etc. I can’t understand many of the conversations but I’m prepared to bet that its about the latest app, download or gadget.

Today I will be working hard. I’m a judge in the Software Design section. I will be listening to and marking presentations by the teams from Mexico, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia and Greece. By the end of today the top 18 groups will go through to round 2, which we will judge tomorrow. The final is on Tuesday and the winners will be announced at a gala event at the Lincoln Centre.

I’m in Geek Heaven!

As the year draws to an end …

by Prof Barry Dwolatzky

Barry 2

When I embarked on this blog in April everyone who knows me reacted with a large dose of scepticism. People said “How will someone who is too busy to even answer his emails manage to post regularly on a blog?”

Well – up until 28th October I was proving them all wrong. Between 5th April and 28th October I posted 33 items. (That’s more than one a week). I recorded 8,134 visits from 3,343 visitors. Ten or more visits were recorded from 23 countries. There were 135 comments. The 3 most visited postings were:

  • The software engineers at Mahindra Satyam – the unsung heroes of the World Cup
  • Are you a good programmer? I’m not!
  • Does South Africa need professional software engineers?

I was doing so well as a blogger … and then life caught up with me – this is my first posting in 5 weeks.

As the year draws to a close, I’m determined to do as well – and even better – as a serious blogger in the year ahead. At the end of this week I’m setting off to the seaside for a much needed break. I will use some of the time in the Cape sunshine to put fingers to keyboard and contemplate Software Engineering in South Africa.

I hope that everyone who has shared “The Software Engineer” with me over the past 7 months has a fantastic end to 2010 and will join me again in 2011. Have a peaceful and happy New Year!!

Watts Humphrey – inspirational software engineer – 1927 to 2010

by Prof Barry Dwolatzky

Watts Humphrey

I’ve just received the really sad news that Watts Humphrey died today (Thursday 28th October) aged 83 years old. 

Watts Humphrey was one of the world’s most influential figures in the field of software engineering. In 1986, after retiring as the head of software at IBM, Humphrey joined the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh USA. For the next 24 years he drove the development of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), the Personal Software Process (PSP) and the Team Software Process (TSP). His work brought the concepts of process, measurement and continuing improvement to the software development industry. 

Watts Humphrey’s death came a few days after I unveiled my ambitious strategy to create 1,000’s of new jobs in the South African software sector. This strategy is largely based on Humphrey’s contributions to software engineering. The strategy began to take shape when I first met Watts in Mexico City in 2008, where I was leading a delegation from South Africa investigating TSP adoption. He was keenly interested in the South African software sector and its future prospects. 

Anyone who met Watts Humphrey could not fail to be inspired by his clear vision and boundless energy. His books are wonderful to read – they’re filled with the wisdom of his decades of experience and lots of common sense. 

I will always be inspired by Watts Humphrey. I remain determined to build, here in South Africa, on his wonderful work. I see his work as a tool and inspiration that will change the lives of those in our country who develop and use software.

So you want to start a business? Come jam with us!

by David Jagoe


 Jagoe 2 

To paraphrase Wikipedia: Jam sessions are often used by musicians to develop new material. They may be based on existing material suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from gatherings of amateurs to sophisticated improvised recording sessions intended to be edited and released to the public. Continue reading “So you want to start a business? Come jam with us!”

I’m not a lone nut, I’m an entrepreneur!

posted on behalf of David Jagoe

David Jagoe


If you haven’t seen Derek Sivers’ 3-minute TED talk entitled “How to start a movement” I strongly recommend you watch it right now! If its not the most inspirational thing you’ve seen this year, you can have your money back. Continue reading “I’m not a lone nut, I’m an entrepreneur!”