Knott-Craig, Silber pen book on MXit
Alan Knott-Craig is set to release a new book later this month looking at mobile social network MXit and SA’s broader mobile landscape. By Craig Wilson.
Alan Knott-Craig, the former iBurst MD and now CEO of social network MXit, has teamed up with writer and journalist Gus Silber to pen a new book on SA’s mobile industry, with a focus on the rise of MXit.
The book, called Mobinomics: MXit and Africa’s Mobile Revolution, looks at what mobile technology means in broad terms for SA’s economy. However, it’s anchored by the MXit story, Silber tells TechCentral.
He says MXit started as an instant-messaging client for mobiles but has expanded far beyond that and is used today for everything from education and drug counselling.
The book looks at the unique “language” that has developed among MXit users. “The language of Mxit is a barrier for a lot of people but works well for the market — it keeps parents and teachers from prying. Privacy is a primary function for teenage culture,” says Silber.
“My initial reaction as a pedantic English user was horror but, when you start acquainting yourself with it, it’s a clever, vital, evolving language. I like to call it ‘Mxlish’. Once you understand it, it’s almost eloquent.”
The book is aimed at “anyone who’s interested in mobile tech and social networking”, Silber says. “It’s not a straightforward business book; it’s about the culture of MXit. The Mxit community evolved a culture of its own like Twitter has through its users.”
Originally, it was going be a book about mobile technology in the broadest sense, which is a huge topic that still needs to be written about, says Silber. “We were talking about all of those aspects when the MXit deal came up.”
Silber recounts how he met Knott-Craig for a quick breakfast late last year and the meeting was cut short. “Knott-Craig said, ‘I have to go, I’m going to buy MXit’. I thought he was joking, particularly as I knew he’d tried previously.
“MXit numbers are phenomenal. When they do market research they have amazing responses, and that’s when you really get a sense of the scale of it,” Silber says. MXit generates 30 000 to 50 000 responses to most questionnaires it posts. “That’s huge compared to other media.”
Knott-Craig says the book was motivated in part by his extensive travels. “When you travel enough, you realise how fundamentally differently mobile technology has impacted countries like SA, and Africa generally.”
He says the book isn’t intended to serve as a bragging platform for MXit but that “when I started to learn a lot more about the details of Mxit I was absolutely gob-smacked by what’s going on lower down the pyramid, especially with the youth, and what they’re using phones for”.
Knott-Craig says he is astonished at people playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games using a text-based mobile application.
“The other thing that I found was that anonymity is actually good,” says Knott-Craig. “In low-income groups it’s important, it allows for a degree of escapism. Sometimes the online persona is who they are in real life, sometimes it isn’t, but it’s important for people to have that choice. It gives them a sort of freedom they don’t always get elsewhere.”
The book will go on sale in SA on 21 May. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media