Thoughts on appointing an Executive Director

 

Message from the Directors of the Appropedia Foundation:

In April 2016, Appropedia will celebrate its tenth birthday!

One decade since its launch and over 75,000,000 visits later, we can celebrate the wonderful work of the many thousands of contributors to Appropedia from around the world. With tens of thousands of articles – edited over 300,000 times – on solutions for building rich, sustainable lives, Appropedia has become a vital resource for international development, sustainability, education, research, making and sharing.

The Appropedia Foundation has been privileged to support the development of Appropedia. We have, we think, developed a culture and an approach which has worked well and gotten us this far. But we now want to go further.

Appropedia has now grown to the point where we think that new levels of commitment and investment are required to enable it to grow further. To reach more people. In more languages. With more content. With more quality. With the latest tools. And to bring its users together more.

The Directors of the Appropedia Foundation would like to hear your opinions on how we should invest and support Appropedia over the next ten years. While we remain committed to the mission and values that have guided Appropedia from the start, we want to explore how we might change our structure and how re-energize our engagement with the wider world.

We think that the Appropedia Foundation should recruit its first full-time Executive Director to oversee the development of Appropedia. This would take a fairly traditional structure for a non-profit, with the Executive Director reporting to the board and with responsibility for fundraising (including, initially, for their own salary). They would not necessarily need to be an expert in web technologies, but would rather support and develop a team to work on Appropedia.

Over the next four weeks, we would like to hear your thoughts on this idea of recruiting an Executive Director. What do you think of this idea please? You can leave feedback here, on Appropedia, on Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Once we have considered your feedback, we will make a decision on how to proceed and may come back to the community for input into the priorities of the Executive Director.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and, indeed, for for all your contributions to Appropedia. It literally wouldn’t exist without its users!
-Lonny, Chris, Curt, Andrew & Kiva

Meeting online in 2013

The tl;dr is:

First Appropedia Jam for 2013: Sunday January 13, at 10pm GMT.

That’s daytime Sunday in the Americas, and the morning of Monday Jan 14 in Asia/Australia/NZ – see the link for some local times.

Appropedia’s monthly online meetups continue this year. They’re a chance to work together to make fantastic resources for a sustainable and poverty-free society. We’ll work on these resources together, and by making grand plans together.

This next one will be very low key as we’re coming out of the holiday period (summer holidays for some of us – we’re a global community). But the chat will be on as always, it being the second Sunday of the month. So pop in, ask questions and lend a hand.

I want to use the time to troubleshoot the wastewater articles, dream about the year ahead, and (as always) connect with people from the Appropedia community. Perhaps those things interest you, or perhaps you want to work on something different, like an article on a medical device for isolated communities, or organizing a guerrilla marketing campaign. Either way, we’d love to have your company. (We’ll also do something bigger for February, so check back in early Feb for details.)

We’re meeting on IRC. Details for joining the chat can be found on the Appropedia Jam page.

Monthly chat – today, Sunday September 9

It’s Appropedia’s monthly chat time, 2nd Sunday of the month (or the Monday morning if you’re in Asia/Australasia). It’s an open discussion this month, so bring your questions about Appropedia, or your grand plan, or just come and find out how we’re making a difference.

It’s at 10pm GMT – some local times:

  • In the USA: 3pm PDT & 6pm EDT
  • London: 11pm
  • Eastern Australia (Melb/Syd etc): 8am Monday 10th
  • NZ: 10am Monday 10th

Easiest way to join the chat – just go here and enter a username. (Ignore the “Auth to services” box unless you have a Freenode account): http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=Appropedia It’s an old-fashioned chat, a simple page in your browser with a box at the bottom for typing into.

See our Monthly chat page if you need more info.

Hope to chat with you then. If you get this message late, then my apologies. You can mark it in your calendar for next time.

Tools for wiki spam warriors

We’ve been holding back the tide of spam, and I want to thank all fellow spam-warriors. Just in recent weeks, J.M.Pearce, RichardF and Danny B. have been deleting spam pages, and Lonny is working with other tech helpers on upgrading our server-level defences. Now, our spam-fighting has been getting better organized and I want to share some tools:

For admins (i.e. for those with the ability to delete pages) : A great and easy way to help is to keep an eye on the NewestPages. The spam articles are easy to spot by their titles. Spammy user pages show up here, but they’re harder – they need to be eyeballed.

For everyone: Keep an eye on changes by new and anonymous users. This is also good for spotting comments by visitors, difficulties faced by newbies, and good edits by newbies that we can say thanks for.

For IRC-using super-geeks: Danny B. set up a real time recent changes channel on IRC (that link might work if you have an IRC client installed – see A:IRC for help), and he’s been deleting spam that he spots this way.

For me: There’s a spam filter which I maintain, checking and tweaking to ensure we keep blocking most of the spam before it hits the wiki, but avoid blocking good edits. If you notice any new patterns in the spam that’s getting through, please let me know the details. I’m also happy to collaborate if someone else knows regex and wants to help with  writing the filters.

I mention all this because I’m cutting back my spam patrol to focus on meta-Appropedia work, like the internship program and fundraiser that I’ve been wanting to work on. I’ll keep maintaining the spam filter, but I’m closing my browser tabs with NewestPages and the changes-by-newbies feed  that I used to keep open permanently. and I’ll resist the compulsion to check on those. Thanks for understanding, and thanks to all those who are able to step up!

Appropedia on IRC

To chat with the Appropedia community, find us in the #appropedia channel on Freenode, where we talk about exactly how we’ll be ramping up Appropedia this year, how this will change the world… and perhaps some lighter topics as well.

That’s an IRC channel – Internet Relay Chat, which is very flexible way to chat.

In future we’ll be announcing meetings and Appropedia jams at set times, but for now, come and say hi, and if someone’s around, they’ll say hi back – then ask your questions and make suggestions. I’m in the channel most of the time that my computer’s on, so there’s a good chance you’ll find me.

There are a few ways to join the channel:

  • Via the web. This is easiest (but not suitable for older computers or older browsers). Go to Freenode Web Chat, pick a username and connect.
  • Chatzilla extension for Firefox (and other Mozilla browsers). Some suggestions for setup options here. With Chatzilla installed, this link will take you to the channel: #appropedia
  • A chat client that supports IRC, e.g. Pidgin. (I find Pidgin less easy and less sophisticated than Chatzilla, for the new user.)

For more ideas, see Appropedia:IRC‎.

And aside from the discussion channel, we also have a specialist channel:

Recent changes channel

Appropedia’s continued survival depends on the Recent Changes Patrol – rolling back spam and other junk as quickly as it is put up, and helping other editors. You can be part of the patrol by joining the #appropedia-rc channel and getting a live – this allows you to see what edits are being made to Appropedia, with a link to the “diff” for the changes. Thanks to Danny B. from Prague, a hardworking member of the Wikimedia community, who set this up for us.

So, drop in and say hello. And be patient if no one’s around to reply… there are a few of us using the channel so far, and it’s increasing, but you might have to try at different times. (As for me, I’m on AEST, the eastern Australian timezone, so if you’re in the US, I’m likely to be asleep during your business hours!)

Vinay Gupta and his influences

Vinay with the latest incarnation of the Hexayurt (the H13) at the Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Ireland.
Vinay and H13 Hexayurt

In the Appropedia community we often talk about thriving – but Vinay Gupta is a philosopher of surving. From the Hexayurt shelter to the Six ways to die‎ framework, to the upcoming book of essays The Future We Deserve, his focus is on dealing with the critical questions that vast numbers of people in the world face, and which we all might face if and when things go belly-up for us.

Like us, Vinay is a proponent of the value of open knowledge, one of the reasons he uses  Appropedia as a collaboration tool for his projects.

Vinay’s just been interviewed for Boing Boing, where he talks about his influences: Mahatma Gandhi, Buckminster Fuller and Richard Stallman.


Image credit: Vinay’s blog.

Community blog

I often find myself bursting with an idea and wanting to blog, but hesitant to blog here, where it looks somewhat “official.” I have my own blog (here), but I’ve wanted to have a space for the community to bat ideas around, if for some reason they want to do it as a blog rather than a wiki page.

So here it is, on LJ: Appropedia Community.

Check it out, and if you’re interested in contributing, then join the community and get in touch!

Community public relations

A few things in this post by fairsnape struck a chord, especially:

  • Think vision not project – Keep pushing the vision and objectives – why are we doing this

Something a few of us have talked about in Appropedia is our commitment to our vision – that if someone else comes along who does it better and gets more traction, then we’re happy to throw our weight behind them, and not be attached to having things go our way.

But it’s so easy to get in the mindset that our project is the one that’s solving the world’s problems, so “the vision” equals “our project,” and everyone should therefore support us. It’s good to listen – a lot – and support good projects, expecting to learn rather than evangelize.

  • Make the message come from the community, from the children NOT the committee

Do we do this? I’m not sure – one frustration is that although there are many contributors to Appropedia, relatively few take ownership or engage with the Appropedia project, as opposed to a few pages on the wiki.  So if it isn’t the same few people doing publicity work, it doesn’t get done. That’s okay, but it’s not the community-driven ideal we’d like to see. (If you’d like to be more engaged, check out the discussion lists.)

So how do we build some real community?

It seems that our compulsive fixation on Social Software is rooted in a real lack of community in Real Life… Greg Hirsch

There is a lot of truth in this. New social media like Twitter and Facebook can connect us with people around the world – yet it can mean spending our time in front of the computer rather than connecting with people face to face.

But what makes this so compelling? Part of it is the addictive nature of constant updates we get online – a bit like the orienting response to television. But more positively, I suspect that many of us feel a real connection to people online, and our regular suburban or urban lives are not all that connected.

On the other hand, we can use social software to connect in the real world. We can find like-minded people locally, as well as on the other side of the planet, that we would never have connected with in the past. I see this improving as the semantic web grows – it should be much easier to mark our profiles with our location, and preferentially connect with people within  certain radius. Websites like Sydney Talks, are a great indicator of the potential of this – but the real power of such features is yet to be seen, I’m sure.

We can also find fulfillment and connection online outside the sometimes inane chatterings of social media – for myself and quite a number of people I know, that’s helping building a resource that makes a real difference in the world, such as Wikipedia or Appropedia. Though, seeing how people are using services such as microblogging (Identi.ca or Twitter), I think wikis could potentially benefit from better integrating social features. (It’s already possible to allow you MediaWiki site to display your Twitter feed, for example, and that’s enabled on Appropedia – but there is much more to do to make this smoother. We have a few ideas, but need coders interested in working with us on this.)

And for all that MediaWiki is not designed for social networking, some of the coolest people I know, I’ve met in person through wikis: Wikipedia, Appropedia and other wikis. Lonny, the founder of Appropedia, actually first contacted me and invited me to check out Appropedia by leaving a note on my Wikipedia talk page.

We can use our new, like-minded online friendships to do something in the real world. For that to be most effective, I suspect it’s best to connect with those who are already doing something. For that reason I like Global Swadeshi as a social network – between them, these people are doing a lot of cool stuff. Some of us are talking about setting up an Appropriate technology village, somewhere such as the South of India, so we can do more work face-to-face.

My aim here is to start a conversation. There is much, much more to write about community in this era, about the creative real-world ways of acting for community, such as co-housing and other forms of intentional community. I also know this post could do with some editing. But excuse me if I post these initial thoughts in this rough form – I need to get away from the computer and meet people.

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!)