AppropediaFox is a free and open source plugin for the Firefox browser to help make editing Appropedia faster and easier, developed for Michigan Technological University (MTU).

MTU classes under Prof. Joshua M. Pearce learn about applied sustainability, including solar photovoltaic power, semiconductors and industrial symbiosis. Students document what they learn on Appropedia – making lots of great new pages. More info.

Now, because he wonderful folks at MTU do so much good work on Appropedia, a browser plugin was seen as a way to streamline their work. We worked with them to make it happen.

And AppropediaFox is free for all to use. It’s still an early version, but if you want to do some serious editing of Appropedia, check it out.

So, what’s it good for? First activate it (download and install, then View > Sidebar > Appropedia-Fox). Then check out the functions:

Adding categories and templates

It’s handy for finding categories to add to an Appropedia article – you browse through the alphabetical list in the left sidebar, click one and it automatically copies it to your clipboard (as if you’d gone right-click > copy). Then go to your wiki article and paste it in. Repeat as needed – one at a time.

Similarly with templates – browse the templates (by category, this time), then click and past in. Templates are harder, as you have to guess exactly what the template does, but the name gives an idea. Just try out your template first, by pasting it in then pressing “preview”. (If you want to view the template page, you can use preview and then click the appropriate link under the Appropedia edit box, where the page’s templates are listed.)

Marking technologies by stage of development

There’s also a “Status” function, useful when writing about a technology or a design. This important tool (developed by Prof. Pearce) tells the reader whether the technology is proven and in use, or just an idea, or somewhere between.

Creating maps

It’s possible to embed a Google map into an Appropedia page. Normally it’s a challenging job – too daunting. With AppropediaFox it’s much easier.

AppropediaFox lets you choose your display options and create the map, and shows what it will look like. When you’re done, the code is in your clipboard, and you can paste it on the Appropedia page you’re editing.


Okay, you can upload from the web and it looks pretty much the same. But if AppropediaFox is open, the upload form is one mouse click away

Download AppropediaFox for free here. To learn more about how to use and install it go here.

And here, a screenshot of AppropediaFox being used to create a map:

Screenshot: creating a map.

P.S. If you want to hide it, View > Sidebar > Appropedia-Fox (i.e. the same way you made it appear).

P.P.S. Message to the wiki universe: this plugin is specifically for Appropedia, but being open source, it could be adapted to any wiki, with a bit of work creating the template and category . And if your wiki has maps set up the same way as on Appropedia, that part would work.)


This wiki profile part of our green wiki series.

energypedia is one of the handful of ongoing, very active sustainability wikis. Benjamin Rebenich of energypedia describes their wiki project for us:

From an energy perspective, the world is facing two seemingly contradicting problems. On the one hand, CO2 emissions continue to rise, especially in transition countries like China and India. On the other hand, there are still many regions suffering from extreme energy poverty. For example, the electrification rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is below 25%. We at energypedia believe that we can tackle this challenge of combating climate change while achieving universal access to modern energy by promoting renewable energy solutions in industrial and especially in developing countries. Offering free access to up to date information is our contribution to a better and cleaner future.

Energypedia – Connecting Knowledge

Energypedia logo

There are many projects fighting against climate change and energy poverty. However, there is still a huge lack of information and knowledge exchange between those efforts resulting in the disappearance of important information and experiences collected by individuals and institutions. Energypedia tries to fill this gap, connecting knowledge by offering an open wiki platform where everyone can benefit from the experiences of the global society by reading, writing, and revising articles on technologies and approaches related to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

We not only want to foster worldwide social and economic development by removing knowledge and communication barriers, but we also intend to connect people. By bringing energy experts, universities, civil society, as well as the public and private sector together, theoretical knowledge can benefit from the lessons learnt by practitioners and vice versa to catalyze innovative sustainable energy technologies and services. Therefore, energypedia not only offers editable wiki articles but also social media features like a newsblog, an event calendar, and an internal messaging system.
Continue reading “energypedia”

Health and physical space

Where we live

The physical context we live in affects our community and our health. How close are you to your neighbors, and how often do you see them in the street? Is it walking distance to the train station, grocery store and cafe? Is it safe to ride your bike?

The built environment and its effect on community has been a passion for me for 15 years, since reading that community development programs are more or less successful depending on the layout of housing in the community. Where houses are spread out, interaction is less and community development struggles.

Young and old

A few years ago I saw a new (to me) application of this idea: a documentary about an orphanage in France which was placed together with a retirement home. Children without ancestors, together with ancestors without children – a gap was filled in the lives of both. I’m suggesting it as a panacea – it could be done well or poorly. One obvious issue is the importance of freedom to participate or not – to have common space for the young and old, but also have space for each to retreat when they wish.

(By the way, if you know anything about this orphanage and retirement home, please leave a comment – I can’t recall the name, and I’d love to know how it’s going. I may have some of the details wrong, but I saw it on the “Global Village” program, SBS Australia, I think around 2005.)

The following video describes a somewhat similar idea in the USA: a school that brings children, adult learners and the elderly together, with benefits for young and old in health and educational outcomes and in quality of life.

(The video here launches when he starts talking about the school. If you want to hear about Alzheimer’s disease, scroll back to the beginning.)

Government, copyright and the public good

At GovCamp Canberra 2012, the Australian Information Commissioner Professor John McMillan stated:

“When government is the owner of intellectual property, a proprietary approach runs counter to the purpose of government and the public good”.

We couldn’t agree more. Governments exist to serve citizens, not to compete with them. Any form of information produced by governments should belong to the citizenry.

Further, in this age of easy sharing of information there is no reason to restrict this access to the citizenry of one country. There is also no practical way to stop such access. I can and do access the public domain works of the US Federal government, though I’m not a US citizen. A Tanzanian can access works of the Australian government, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

These are sadly rare examples. Governments do tend to slap “Copyright… all rights reserved” notices on their works – including local and state governments in the US, despite the good example of the federal government. In Australia, open licenses are encouraged but not compulsory, and some departments are still struggling with the idea of letting people use the content however they wish. There are fears and misconceptions, but there are also advocates of openness, and change is happening in their corner of the world.

Based on Professor McMillan’s presentation, and on a conversation with someone from his office, he and his office are serious about promoting knowledge sharing by the Australian government. I hope we’ll see this approach followed in more and more governments around the world.

Are there local government councilors and state/provincial representatives reading this? Or representatives from countries that haven’t implemented open licensing yet? Think about your publications on recycling, or energy efficiency, or cycling, or sustainable housing, or foreign aid… Councils such as the City of Sydney and the City of Portland have a large amount of valuable content, and citizens as well as governments would benefit from this information being shared.

What would it take to put a Creative Commons Attribution license on all your publications?

The quote was captured and shared on Twitter by Pia Waugh – wording is accurate to the best of our knowledge.