Your community, in a global community

Can local groups and communities could use the wiki as their own way of connecting and sharing knowledge?

Answer: Absolutely!

Appropedia is not only a living library, but:

  • A collaborative workspace, both to grow the library, and for plotting real-world action.
  • A networking tool. While our platform (MediaWiki) is not designed as a social networking tool, this is a community full of hardcore sustainability buffs and problem solvers from around the world, and from all walks of life.
  • A “shell” within which communities can operate, serving their members and connecting with partners both local and distant. A community of communities, if you will.
  • A way of increasing profile & findability.
  • A way of increasing synergy. Why work on a greywater treatment page on a locally focused site, that will have a small number of contributors and readers, when you can work with a global community on making an awesome page?
  • You can have your own pages on your own projects, too, as part of a collection of designs from around the world. Be like the developer of the Home biogas system (Philippine BioDigesters), who received emails of thanks, along with design improvements, from around the world.

This was prompted by a question from Steven Walling during a a recent presentation on Appropedia. It made me realize how far ahead Appropedia is when I envisage it, compared to what a visitor to the site sees today (e.g. the greywater treatment page is one-twentieth or one-hundredth as good as I’d like to see it). People already say how great the site is, but I foresee something much, much greater.

(I know I say “around the world” a lot, but hey, that’s what Appropedia is about!)

Universal Edit Button

“The Universal Edit Button is a green pencil icon wiki.png in the address bar that indicates a web page is editable. It is similar to the orange “broadcast” RSS icon ExampleRSS.png that indicates there is an RSS feed available.”

I love this: the idea that you can edit this page should be a regular part of browsing the web, just like subscribing to a podcast or blog. Expect to see this on Appropedia soon.

At the moment you need a Firefox extension to be able to see the button in your url bar, but in time, enlightened browser developers will integrate it in their code.

Open access content on Appropedia

CD3WD (CD for the 3rd World), and WikiGreen (the first major green wiki) have done an enormous amount of work getting permission for books and other great resources in sustainability and development, and getting it online. All up there are thousands of pages on specific agricultural subjects, appropriate technologies for building, and more.

Much of that content has ended up on Appropedia. It’s valuable content, and we are (we believe) allowed to share it. But we’ve had a dilemma: it’s not under an open license, as far as we know. It’s open access, but can’t be reused or modified, and certainly there hasn’t been permission given to use commercially. That clashes with our default license.

So, do we remove it? That would be a great loss to the internet community when they search for answers on these important subjects. This is something I’ve agonized over. So instead, we are now placing notices on these pages, noting that these are exceptions to Appropedia’s regular license. So far, all the CD3WD pages that we have, have had the notices placed on them. Next, we need to list the good material made available by the work of Eric and Roy.

If you’re aware of any work which should not be displayed (i.e. the rights-owners do not give permission for it to be made available as open access), please let us know, and we will take action to fix things up (gain permission or remove it).

The impact of open knowledge

“Appropedia? That’s so cool! My daughter built her rainwater catchment system from Appropedia.” Another chance meeting, and a chance discovery of how this sharing of knowledge is impacting people’s lives, and helping us live lightly but richly on our planet.

Looking at that rainwater category – there’s some fantastic content, but it needs some serious work on organizing it. A good structure might be a main topic page, a general how-to page, and a number of specific design pages. (Any volunteers?)

Blogging on the road to open

This is not the blog of the whole Appropedia community. Not yet.

We believe in openness, and the wiki is in the hands of the community -but opening up a regular blog for anyone in the community to blog, without wiki-style checks and balances, is a recipe for fluff and inaccuracy.

So this is the blog of the Appropedia Foundation, and we use it to support the community and the wiki. There are plans for frequent guest appearances, highlights from the wiki, and stories about the imact the wiki is having in the world.

But we must become less, so the community can become greater. Something like Enric Senabre’s Wlog, a wiki based blog, would be a great way for us to blog as a community. I’m imagining it functioning something like Wikinews, with some kind of mechanism for drafting, improving and approving from within the community before publishing.

Just need to figure out how it works, and make the time to implement it.

15 days till OSNCamp.

Reuse – it’s bigger than papers and bottles

Reuse for efficiency and economic strength, not just for the environment. There’s no such thing as garbage. When we stop throwing resources away, we stop throwing money away. Biogas and composting can take the mountains of resources we throw away daily, and give us richer lives. Every kind of industrial waste has the potential to be recycled or reused – that’s industrial ecology.

But there’s somewhere we don’t usually go with re-use. It’s not just for physical resources – it’s also for knowledge, information, wisdom. Information can be shared and reused, and we’re using the Appropedia wiki to do that. Help build the wisdom on worm farming, and you’ll not only be turning your own kitchen waste into the next crop of food from your garden – you’ll be helping tens thousands, and potentially millions of readers do the same, when they read that article.