VC4Africa.com builds on Afridex.net

As many of you know, VC4Africa.com will now build itself on the Afridex.net engine developed by Jon and his team at Appfrica.org. Interested in knowing more about the system and how it works? Please read this latest posting put up by Jon.

Africa’s Crunchbase Back Online
from Appfrica by Jon

It’s been nearly a year since the proof-of-concept version of Afridex.net went online. Here’s what I had to say about it then…

‘I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I wasn’t 100% inspired by Mark McGranaghan’s work on TechCrunch’s Crunchbase.com. Although the backend of Afridex isn’t nearly as robust as Crunchbase (which was built in Ruby On Rails), I’ve got a lot of plans to improve it over the next few weeks. Crunchbase is a business database of startups and companies in the U.S., mostly all related to technology and Silicon Valley. With Afridex I’m taking the same general thought and applying it in a way that I feel benefits business professionals, start-ups, NGOs, non-profits and government institutions operating in Africa.’

That version was admittedly, shoddy, buggy and wasn’t built to scale at all. It was little more than a rough sketch of an idea. So what have we been doing since then? Quite a bit, actually. The biggest thing was actually setting up Appfrica Labs and getting our first few projects done and out the door. Now that we’ve launched a few apps, we’ve been able to go back where we started and work on the Afridex build. We’ve gone back to the drawing board to introduce features inspired by sites like LinkedIn, GetSatisfaction and (of-course) Crunchbase. So what’s new with the ‘Dex?

Well first, say hello our mascot and the guardian of the Afridex, Dexter. Don’t mess with us or he’ll gorge you.
From PHP to Django

We’ve completely rebuilt the entire application for starters! Originally Afridex was built by combining a bunch of custom code with a hacked version of WordPress as the back-end. Of course, that was because I was clumsily trying to show my vision for what was possible. Soon thereafter, Appfrica Labs developer Moses Mugisha came up with a plan to rebuild the entire project using the Python framework Django. So for the past few months, while juggling other work and his position at the Google Summer of Code, Moses managed to build out Afridex into something that looks very much the same, but under the hood it’s 100% different. By switching to Django, Afridex is now more stable, more extensible and far-easier to scale.


Wiki-Like Community

After Afridex was first announced last year, my inbox was flooded with hundreds of companies who wanted to be listed. I apologize to anyone who’s been waiting for so long but rest assured, you will be added. More importantly, you can now add yourselves by simply clicking the “Add Company” button. By crowd-sourcing data from across the continent, we can work together to build one of the most robust databases of African talent, start-ups and businesses ever attempted. Anyone can submit, but all entries must be approved by an administrator who will verify details before they go live. This ensures that we aren’t overwhelmed by spam.

The Rhino Will Find You

In addition to being able to submit your own company, Afridex will soon begin actively crawling the web for data about African businesses. If you don’t find us, we will find you. How are we doing this? Partly through some of the search features we developed in house and partly through manual aggregation and data-entry. We’ve also got partnerships in place with organizations that only monitor the African market for such data. It’s not doing anyone any good to sit-on such valuable info, our goal is to ‘open it all up’.

Also, Dexter likes carrots. If we promise him a big snack at the end of the day, he works overtime to ensure your data gets added. (Have you ever seen a rhinoceros type? It’s pretty amazing.)

Leveraging the Social-Graph of the African Business Community

One of the newest features of Afridex is the ability to create a personal profile. This allows the companies to list their staff, and staff members to claim their employers. The idea of Afridex was to make an online index of information about the African continent, this makes it easier for investors to find companies that are attractive or for the unemployed to potentially find new employers. But all in all, it’s about sharing information. We’ve taken this out for the public beta, but it’ll be back in the next week or so.

Micro-Formatted for Your Convenience

Micro-formats are a way of marking up data to be easily parsed by machines. Much like the old version of Afridex, the new version allows for one-click addition of a company profile to your address books.

Portable Data

The portable data generator allows one to cite any company listed in the database. For instance a reporter might want to reference a company like Zoopy, with a brief description of the company and link to a page with information that’s easy to consume. Rather than link to the companies actual website, they might want to link to a reference that’s more easy to consume. We respect this and give users the choice of going directly to the company website, or the company’s profile on Afridex.

Persistent Search and Brand Monitoring

Companies who like to know what’s being said about them on the web will be pleased to find that the persistent search feature is now improved. We think we’ve refined the algorithm to only return data about the company being featured. For instance, before a company with a more common name might return results of companies with the same name. The search is now more accurate, returning only results related to the company listed. We’ll continue to improve upon our search algorithms as we move forward.

Customer Commenting

Customers looking to rant, praise or just drop an informative note to a company in the hopes that it will reach the staff can now do so using the commenting function. For companies who are interested in engaging a two-way conversation with their customers, that too will be possible.

Pro-Features (Coming Soon)

For companies who want more control of their profiles, there will soon be options to ‘claim’ your Afridex profile. This would allow a company to, for instance, turn off the commenting features or add custom data, like links to their presence on other social networks.

Mobile Apps (Coming Soon)

Afridex will also feature a robust set of mobile functionality which we plan to unveil soon.

API (Coming Soon)

It wouldn’t be ‘open’ if we didn’t offer an API. In the coming weeks we plan to make our data even more portable so that other companies can take advantage of our legwork in collecting this info.

More, More, More!

So we’ve gone from private beta to public beta, but believe it or not we’re still only in our infancy. The feature-set we plan to unveil in the next few weeks is massively robust in addition to everything we’ve mentioned here. All of this will amount to a massive repository of data about Africa that will help everyone working in the sector. Thanks for your patience and please help us by adding your company’s profile now. We’ve put Afridex back online just so you guys can help us with the aggregation. Over the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out many of the features listed above and making some other big announcements related to Afridex.

Moses Mugisha is the Lead Developer on Afridex and is a participant of the Google Summer of Code.

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About zia505

The world is changing right before my eyes. Sometimes I don't know how I will ever keep up. There are so many ideas floating around on this internet. If only I had the means to collect them....

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