Green wikis #3: Greenlivingpedia

Greenlivingpedia is an active green wiki – one of the few. Covering the whole range of green issues, with a particular focus on sustainable buildings and the needs of the modern, green-minded urbanite, Greenlivingpedia is a nicely laid-out site with a good collection of information.

What’s remarkable is that it’s largely the work of one passionate person,* Peter Campbell, Melbournite and (when elections come around) a candidate for the Australian Greens party. I’ve met Peter in Sydney a couple of times, and found him to be an honest, direct, no-nonsense, with no patience for greenwashing and the dumbing down of the green message for the sake of profit. In contrast, Peter is building something solid, and it”s good to see what an impressive resource can be put together by one motivated individual.

It’s surprising to see, though, that more contributors haven’t joined up. We know what that’s like – many praise wikis, but far fewer actually contribute – so the efforts of one person can really stand out.

From the time we first made contact, over two years ago, we’ve extended the offer to collaborate on one site, but Peter prefers to keep a different focus. I can appreciate the value of market segmentation, at the same time as we’d love to work more closely with Peter. So we collaborate where we can, and our conversations continue.

As wiki software improves, new kinds of collaboration will become possible. In the meantime Peter’s persistence shows what can be achieved with patient work in green open knowledge.

*To see who has been contributing to a wiki recently, see the Recent changes page or equivalent, usually linked on the left. Each page also has its own history tab – available above the page title.

This is part of the green wiki series.

Behind the Headlines

Health headlines. Promises of cures for cancers (sometimes even a cure for “cancer”, which makes little sense as cancer refers to many diseases). Diets. Fitness. Weight loss. Heart health. The latest discovery by scientists, often using similar language to the opposite claim made not so long ago in the media.

New stories every day. A deluge of data, often unreliable data, that distracts us from the much harder search for actual knowledge.

This is the nature of the mass media – careful analysis isn’t as captivating as the appearance of new breakthroughs every day, and isn’t cost-effective from a media perspective. But as we become more media savvy, we question the media, and hopefully we turn to more reliable sources.

Here’s a very promising source of intelligent news about health: Behind the Headlines. It takes health headlines and discusses the evidence that does or does not exist for the headline. Fantastic.

Aside from being more informative about the individual cases, this also introduces critical thinking into the reporting and consumption of health news. The reader is presented with a framework through which each story is analyzed. Rather than a simple “Scientists have discovered that…”, a claim made must hold up to examination. Being told what to believe by someone in a white coat is replaced by sound argument and research. This is good.

Health professionals and those interested in the subject, please check it out and let us know what your assessment

Getting behind the noise on a wiki

Fellew wikiholics, how do we best apply this kind of critical analysis in a wiki? In our case, we deal with knowledge about global public health, international development, and sustainability, which are also contentious areas – this looks similar enough. It’s just a matter of applying it in the wiki world. Some of the principles have been worked out on Wikipedia – others will have to evolve on Appropedia to suit the different goals and guidelines, including more room for analysis. It seems to me that a community of informed, thinking people, a guideline for page structure and some editing tools will be the starting point for this evolution.

“Behind the Headlines” is provided by the NHS Knowledge Service in Britain. Many thanks to the British taxpayer – if it fulfills its promises, this is money very well spent.

Open knowledge in development – conversations start

The Open Knowledge Foundation has launched a new mailing list for open knowledge in development. Jonathan Gray writes:

We encourage you to join – whether you’re interested in:

  • visually representing development related open data (a la OKF Advisory Board member Hans Rosling)
  • sharing development information or making it easier to find and re-use (a la Aidinfo or PublishWhatYouFund)
  • sharing practical information for development, e.g. on sanitation or construction (a la Appropedia or Akvo)
  • open textbooks and open resources for education in developing countries
  • or in any other open knowledge thats related to development!

The full post is on their blog: New mailing list for open knowledge in development

Edit: Note the new Appropedia wiki page, Open aid and development.

Knowledge for development, knowledge as development

Looking at what One Laptop Per Child  is about highlights two aspects to knowledge in development:

  • knowledge as development (OLPC’s educational mission)
  • knowledge for development, which they’re happy to have included in the “content bundles” loaded onto the XO laptops (based on our conversations with them).

Both aspects of knowledge are essential – and so is collaboration to build this knowledge in an open way.