Adding Our Voices to The World: Why I’m contributing to Mozilla’s Common Voice

I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes gets frustrated when the voice recognition apps on our devices fail us. The problem is mostly not with the technology itself, rather it’s the apps’ inability to understand our accents.

Our apps and the voice recognition software they use were created by people who don’t speak like us. They did a splendid job but we also have to play our part to improve the voice database.

That is why I’ve recently started contributing to Mozilla’s Common Voice, an “initiative to help teach machines how real people speak.”

On the site volunteers can “donate” their voices by speaking out some simple sentences or “validate” other people’s voices by listening to recordings.

The idea is that more diverse voices will help us teach machines to understand our voices better. In the future I might, for example, be able to choose an accent on my device, not only to have my instructions understood, but also so that I understand the responses/alerts/notifications.

So if you have a bit of time and an internet connection, consider heading over to Common Voice and add your voice to the future. you could just validate other voices too.

Who knows, maybe one day my jogging app notification will tell me, in deep Karanga accent, to “Run for 15 minutes”. That’d be awesome.

What I’m Reading This Week

This week I’m reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a book I started many years ago but never finished but to which I’m returning because I made a resolution to declutter my reading lists this week.

The fiction book I’m reading this week is Blood and Bone by Ian Esselmont. Again this is a book I’ve been reading for the past three months and I’m like 80% through. Hope to finish it up this week.

Next week I’ll be finishing up Trevor Noah’s memoirs Born A Crime, which I picked up last year but never finished.

The review for Blink will be up on the weekend, perhaps so too the Born a Crime one. Both are enjoyable reads .

I’ve also been peeking on  Meditations by the emperor Marcus Aurelius, but I’ve already read that and it’s just for enjoyment’s sake.

What are you reading?

The Absurdity of Tanzania’s Cyber Laws

In another ridiculous African decision, the government of Tanzania recently signed into law regulations that , among other things, require bloggers to pay a fee for the right to own, maintain and publish a blog.

Reports the CNN:

It’s not just bloggers affected by the provisions, but online radio stations, online streaming platforms, online forums, social media users and internet cafes.

The “Electronic and Postal Regulations” also requires Internet Cafes to have surveillance cameras, presumably to catch people who make posts on social media that are deemed unsuitable by the government.

The much lauded President Magufuli, at least at the beginning of his term, has revealed his true colors: He’s just another wannabe strongman who cannot take criticism and whose only tool is authoritarianism.

It makes me sad that the people of Tanzania are subjected to such unreasonable and draconian laws at a time when the world is making progress with regards to freedom of expression.

Punishment will also be meted out on those who publish “content that causes annoyance… or leads to public disorder.” All this in an effort to curb “moral decadence”

Honestly you can’t make this up.


The Android Apps I Use

There has been a discussion about the apps we use in our phones in the Techzim Whatsapp group and I thought I should list mine here and why I use them. These, then, are my favorite Android apps, the ones I install on every Android device- and all of them are free.

  1. Inbox by Gmail: This is my preferred email client.
  2. Twitter: No explanation required. I use the official app. It works for me.
  3. Facebook Lite: For Facebook I prefer Facebook Lite because it doesn’t gobble as much data and works even when I have shitty network- which, in this part of the world, is plenty of times.
  4. Instagram: I recently discovered Instagram and occassionally post a pic. Mostly however I just look at how fat or rich classmates are now and at nice cars.

    My homescreen, showing some of the Apps I use most
  5. Reddit Offline: I’m a big fan of Reddit, as I’ve mentioned before. Reddit Offline allows me to download subreddits and then read them later such as in a kombi, bus, when I don’t have data or when I’m just plain bored.
  6. Google Keep: I take plenty of random notes, from reminders of what i should buy to interesting quotes. I use Keep for this because it works across all my devices. There are many Android Apps for Note taking but I love Keep for its simplicity.
  7. Google Chrome: My preferred browser on all platforms. I used to like Opera Mini for Android but not anymore. I occasionally use it but I can probably do without it now.
  8. Facebook Messenger: Messenger makes communicating with people on Facebook easier. Not a huge fan but it serves.
  9. WhatsApp: The first app I install. Whatsapp is called App in these parts, and for a reason. I use it to call, to communicate, to catch up on the news and try to be civil in family groups.
  10. Feedly: Feedly allows me to subscribe to the feeds of my favorite sites. This brings all their headlines and stories to one platform. Useful for going through the news in the morning.
  11. Journey: Successful people keep diaries and journals. And since I want to be successful I keep a journal. Journey is the app of choice for this task, allowing online backup and offering a very minimalist and smart UI.
  12. Sofascore: I watch a lot of football and Sofascore allows me to track games in almost every league in the world. There are plenty others but I like Sofascore best. It allows me to reviews player and team statistics, highlights, in game stats, a discussion forum that’s like watching a game with lunatics and many other functions. It also has many other sports but I use it exclusively for football.
  13. Shazaam: Shazaam is one of those incredibly simple apps that perform trivial tasks that we seemingly don’t need until we do. It identifies songs and it does so very well. Useful for when you hear a new song on the kombi or even in a bar.
  14. Google Calendar: A calendar. Of course. I like all things Google, so I use the default one.
  15. Here Maps: I learnt about Here Maps when I used Windows Phone. It’s main advantage is that you can download the maps and use it offline. Very useful, it has helped me make some rendezvous at places I didn’t know. Works extremely well.
  16. Reddit: I love Reddit and I use the official app to “lurk” and very rarely post on my favourite subreddits.
  17. WordPress: The means with which I sometimes update this-and other- blogs.
  18. Aldiko: While I don’t usually read on my Phone, prefering, instead, my Kindle, occasionally I download a new book and have to check it out on the phone. Also for those times I don’t have my Kindle with me. It is the best ebook software out there.
  19. WordWeb: I also write here and there. Coupled with reading it means I sometimes need to check the meaning of words. WordWeb is the finest dictionary for Android.
  20. Podcast Addict: A friend recently introduced me to Podcasts and I have grown to like a couple. Podcast addict allows me to listen to my favorite podcasts.
  21. Rocket Player: My preferred music player though rarely used since I hardly ever listen to music on my phone. It’s, however, useful in the gym.
  22. SwiftKey: Odd that this should be so far down. In truth I probably install SwiftKey before any other app because it’s the best Keyboard app of all and without it I cannot type a damn thing.

The Gym…Again

After the holiday I’m told I’ve gained weight. Good thing we don’t have the girther movement here.

Of course I disagree and I’m prepared to defend myself against such malicious allegations. Though, if truth be told, I’ve had one too many beers and other unhealthy stuff- but that was just me cultivating mass. Bulking up, so to speak.

Who doesn’t want to bulk up?

But, just in case there’s a shred of truth in the allegations, I’ll be going to the gym again tomorrow. Blame the holidays, resolutions blah blah. Perhaps this time I’ll last.


Or perhaps I should just follow Tim Ferris’ experiments advice in The Four Hour Chef and get quick results. Either way changes are coming- again.

Ronaldino, Football’s Smile

Everything has something that makes it beautiful. That’s kinda meaningless I know. In fact what I wanted to say is every sport has someone who makes it beautiful.

The game’s smile

For football it was/is Ronaldino, who, the newspapers report, has resigned. But, God, he made the beautiful game,indeed, beautiful.

That’s why there’s this great article on him in the Guardian. Brilliant, like Ronaldino himself.

The ever-smiling Brazilian was not only prodigious talent, he was also football’s smile. He lit it- and us- up.

I warn you, dear reader, not to look for his videos on YouTube. You will spend hours. Or days.

Farewell Dinho. You did magic.

A Brand New Year

Happy new year everyone. I realise I’m over two weeks late but, as they say, better late than never. Hope you all had a great festive season and drank plenty of beer with family and friends. I did.

Been quite a while since I last wrote anything and in the meantime so much has happened. So much, in fact, that my life- and the lives of millions of Zimbabweans- completely turned around.

The military takeover intervention of November last year that resulted in Mugabe’s “resignation” is without a doubt the most significant political event since 1980. It was so surreal and sudden, so much that I couldn’t even write about it. I just took notes and decided I will reflect on it from a much sober position some time in the future.

Aside from the coup-not-coup life’s been pretty normal, if anything can be normal after the departure of dear old Bob. So that means the usual- disappointments, unmet deadlines, drinks, friends, not finishing projects, drinks, unfinished books, drinks and so forth.

And 2018 promises to be just the same, though there are a couple of big things that will be happening   this year including elections here in Zimbabwe and the World Cup. Also will be interesting to see how the cryptocurrency craze turns out. It’s one of the most important developments since the internet came to us, and it promises to change the world. On that note, yesterday I found this article in the New York Times quite interesting.

Lastly, of course, New Year’s resolutions. And these, as ever, remain more or less the same: Make more money, exercise more , blog more, read more books, drink less beer on weekends, finish projects , learn new things blah blah.

Ladies and gentlemen, to another year of disappointing our parents hehe.

On GOT Season 7, Morality and Other Things

Game of Thrones season 7 ended last week and since then we’ve been rightly wondering what to do with our lives until Season 8 begins. And that, if reports are to be believed, is not anytime soon.

Anyway I have written a review of the seventh Season.

It’s on the Techzim website here. Please do check it out.

In other news the craziness in Africa continues, this time in Uganda where the government has reportedly acquired an anti-pornography machine that’ll apparently aid in the fight against pornography. You seriously can’t make this up.

Still on morality, there’s been some noise over whether a South African dancer should attend Zimbabwe’s carnival. The problem is that she reportedly dances without underwear.

The dancer, named Zodwa, has attracted the notice of ministers and the Censorship Board and it remains unclear as to what decisions these eminent persons arrived at. By the way one of the members of the Censorship Board is President Mugabe’s daughter.

With all this foolishness going on the only good thing is that football is back this weekend and that, unless you support Arsenal, is surely great news.

Activism and Outrage in the Digital Age

When First Lady Grace Mugabe allegedly assaulted a young South African model a few weeks ago she probably thought nothing of it. She is, after all, a First lady and such small things cannot inconvenience anyone of her stature- or so she thought.

What happened, instead, is that the girl took to Twitter and her outrage became the outrage of thousands of people. The South African Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, who loves Twitter, had no option but to act.

A matter that twenty years ago would have been quietly settled became a global affair that complicated diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa as the South African government tried to protect Grace Mugabe while at the same time keeping in the public’s good books.

In the end Grace Mugabe got diplomatic immunity and left South Africa unscathed but no doubt deeply shaken. And not before she became an internationally notorious figure giving rise to plenty of articles and hundreds of memes.

Even now there are some in South Africa still pursuing the matter, and in the aftermath her two sons had to leave the country and come back to Zim.

The political and legal consequences aside, this case highlighted, again, the power of social media.

Social media is cheap, instant and vast and the consequences of messages on social networks can be monumental. The Arab Spring, Fees Must Fall and other movements show what social media can achieve.

And closer to home the likes of Fadzayi Mahere and Evan Mawarire rode on social media popularity to launch political careers. At the same time the same social media takes the likes of Grace Mugabe to unprecedented infamy.

In the digital age there are no small crimes, no “big fish” and no small causes.

The death of compassion and ethics in the age of selfies

The Herald reports a horrific accident that occurred a few days ago when two cars collided and more than 10 people were burnt beyond recognition in the resulting inferno. 

An unlikely hero of that terrible event is a guy who was herding cattle. He pulled a number of people to safety from the burning vehicles. 
Says the Herald:

“We spent almost 30 minutes before any car passed-by and when the first car arrived, most of the motorists were interested in taking photos and videos.
“If many of us were helping people from the wreckage all of them would not have been burnt. Some people were burnt while they were still alive. Maybe they would not have died”

– Herald 

This is such a heartwrenching story and kudos to this guy, a real hero. He deserves a medal. 

But what struck me was the fact that some people chose to take pictures instead of assisting in the rescue efforts. 
So instead of more lives saved, we got horrific images of burnt bodies on WhatsApp and Twitter. Isn’t it enough that families have lost loved ones, must they see their corpses on chain messages as well? 

Where’s the compassion? The ethics? 

That is what technology has made us; callous automatons, always eager to snap a photo, to tweet, never that quick to help.