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

Why “rich” and sustainable?

An Australian friend looked closely at the front page of Appropedia and saw:

Sharing knowledge to build rich, sustainable lives.

He said “Oh, rich – you got that American thing happening.” When I stopped laughing, I told him why we use the word rich.

In developing countries, we’ve sometimes found a perception that sustainability is being foist upon them, to block them from having wealth like that of wealthy nations. Something like, The rich folk are already rich, and we want to be like them, but now they’re telling us we have to be “sustainable” instead. You can imagine the resentment. This isn’t entirely imagined, either – think of the worry about the impact of many Indians driving efficient micro-cars, when we the wealthy world’s job is to worry about the multiple enormous cars belonging to families in our own communities (and to think about the kind of leadership, the kind of “wealth” we’re modeling).

That’s not the sustainability we want. Appropedia stands for a fair and just sustainability. Moreover, we know that with the appropriate choices in technology and design, with access to medical care, with water, sanitation and transport, richer lives are possible. A small, well-designed passive solar house is a pleasure to live in – superior to a poorly designed mansion. Healthy soils yield fresh, abundant, delicious food. This is the prosperity we’re talking about.

These are the riches we envision for the world.

AppropediaFox!

Appropediafox.png

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.

Upload

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.)

Appropedia takes the Initiative!

Appropedia has grown rapidly in multiple dimensions since our early days, and especially in the past several months.   Both the volume and range of activity at Appropedia.org is up significantly.  We have content translation activity, content porting activity, partnership activity and site technology development activity all expanding in parallel. Twitter and Facebook communities have grown dramatically as well.

In addition to all the active participants, we have a lot of eager supporters that haven’t yet identified the best way to engage. We get notes like “I love what you’re doing!  What can I do to help?”  And for every explicit offer, we know there are many more unspoken.  To make better use of all this pent up energy and goodwill, we are beginning a new program for engaging volunteers, both new and veteran.

And so, without further ado, allow us to introduce <drum roll> Appropedia Initiatives!

The Appropedia Initiatives program is an open-ended series of specific activities that will benefit a lot from community engagement.  Each Initiative will be designed to attract a critical mass of contributions and enthusiasm, in order to build momentum on a particular topic or practice.  We know that our community of supportive people has a great variety of skills, and we envision a broad variety of Initiatives to engage as many people as we can.  Some Initiatives will be focused on the Appropedia.org site (either content or technology), and others will be more community oriented.  Essentially, Initiatives are ordinary Appropedia activities that are likely to have some broad interest. Like most things at Appropedia, users input and ideas will define the path for the Initiatives program.  To get things started we have about three Initiatives lined up, and a bunch of loose concepts semi-identified.

Our first Initiative is very timely.  We quietly began prototyping a “Travel Intern” program a few weeks ago, and there are several ways that the Appropedia community can help.  We will launch that Initiative very shortly and a few weeks later we will launch Number 2.  Each new Initiative will be highlighted on the Appropedia main page, and we will do community outreach in the form of blog posts and tweets to make sure that every gets a chance to see it.  Naturally, we welcome your help in passing the word, and identifying people, partners and resources appropriate for each Initiative.

The goal is for each Initiative to take on a life of its own and to continue for months beyond its initial moment in the spotlight.  To make sure that fledgling Initiatives have a good chance, we’re asking that each Initiative should have some semi-committed support in the form of a “Initiative steward” who will shepherd the activity for at least 3 months.  Through the magic of open collaboration and search-engine-optimization, an Initiative that gets off to a solid start will stand a good chance of gathering other support.  Check out the provisional guidelines for Appropedia Initiatives and see whether your favorite topic or project might be a good candidate for an Initiative.  If so, create a launch page and add your Initiative to the list!

Thank you all in advance for your help and support!

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!

Improved navigation

We’re working on ways to improve navigation in the wiki.

One of our challenges is that on any given topic we have many pages – howtos, project pages, designs, organization and collaboration, as well as subtopics, and more. Wikis have category pages, but they’re normally only used by hardcore wiki geeks. How do we make them friendlier? And how do we point people to browse the categories?

Here’s an early attempt. On the topic page for Permaculture is a notice that says:


Browse this topic’s subtopics, howtos, project pages, designs, organization pages and more at the Permaculture category.

and on the category page is a longer notice:

Permaculture is a form of whole systems design based on the sustainability of natural systems, seeking to reproduce that sustainability in our living environment.Read more about this topic at Permaculture.

Browse this category’s subtopics, howtos, project pages, designs, organization pages and more below.


There’s more to be done, and much work to do – especially portal pages, like our Appropriate technology portal.

What do you think?

Permaculture wiki, and an update

Update: I want to apologize to everyone who’s frustrated with our broken blog feed. We’ve been given pointers on how to fix it, but since we don’t actually have a tech team (anyone like to help?)  I need to dig in and fix this myself, and… I haven’t got it done yet. But it’s there on the to-do list. Now onto more interesting things.

Permaculture: Plug “permaculture” and “wiki” into a search engine and you’ll get a bunch of hits. Most of them will be pretty empty – inactive, spammed or dormant sites. So what about the dream of creating a freely accessible and usable permaculture manual for the world, for rich and poor alike? It lives.

This collaborative work on a permaculture resource is happening on Appropedia, these days. This is by far the most active site for permaculture topics, as far as I can tell, and I’ve spend some hours scouring the internet. So I’ve started a page to invite collaboration: Permaculture wiki. Check it out, and since it’s a wiki your perspectives are welcomed.

Btw, tech people: if you’re a WordPress wizard and want to help, let us know. And we’re also looking for someone who can pretty up the skin on the wiki…

http://www.appropedia.org/Permaculture

Finding curiosity

Curiosity..... what are they reading? by Tom@HK.

From Curiosity and Creativity in Children (OpenEducation.net blog):

Professor Steven Dutch takes very strong exception to the assumption that curiosity is innate… In his eyes children are not innately curious. Instead, they are tinkerers with generally short attention spans.

…“curiosity and creativity collide headlong with another trait deeply rooted in biology, the desire to minimize effort and expenditure of energy.”

This rings true for me, but note that in his direct quote, he’s not saying curiosity doesn’t exist, just that it’s overstated, and opposed by other forces. (Read a book or eat an ice-cream? Watch a documentary, or a cartoon?) And this is a highly relevant question for open educators, in terms of how we engage people.

When I refer to open education, I include projects such as Appropedia and Wikipedia, in the broad sense of offering education to all of society.

So how has Wikipedia engaged people and garnered such an enormous community of contributors? Here’s one thought: Although most of us might lack general curiosity, almost all of us have areas of curiosity. And in Wikipedia, they almost certainly have an article on your area of curiosity (and possibly a whole category structure) where you can learn more, and also share what you know.*

There is curiosity there. Those of us building community for collaborative projects just have to find it, and tap into it.

*I was going to add “and if there isn’t an article, you can create one!” but that’s not so easy on Wikipedia any more. Appropedia is still very open, because it’s newer and has different aims, different criteria, and a different approach to community.

Image credit: Tom@HK, available under CC-BY

Finding curiosity

Curiosity..... what are they reading? by Tom@HK.

From Curiosity and Creativity in Children (OpenEducation.net blog):

Professor Steven Dutch takes very strong exception to the assumption that curiosity is innate… In his eyes children are not innately curious. Instead, they are tinkerers with generally short attention spans.

…“curiosity and creativity collide headlong with another trait deeply rooted in biology, the desire to minimize effort and expenditure of energy.”

This rings true for me, but note that in his direct quote, he’s not saying curiosity doesn’t exist, just that it’s overstated, and opposed by other forces. (Read a book or eat an ice-cream? Watch a documentary, or a cartoon?) And this is a highly relevant question for open educators, in terms of how we engage people.

When I refer to open education, I include projects such as Appropedia and Wikipedia, in the broad sense of offering education to all of society.

So how has Wikipedia engaged people and garnered such an enormous community of contributors? Here’s one thought: Although most of us might lack general curiosity, almost all of us have areas of curiosity. And in Wikipedia, they almost certainly have an article on your area of curiosity (and possibly a whole category structure) where you can learn more, and also share what you know.*

There is curiosity there. Those of us building community for collaborative projects just have to find it, and tap into it.

*I was going to add “and if there isn’t an article, you can create one!” but that’s not so easy on Wikipedia any more. Appropedia is still very open, because it’s newer and has different aims, different criteria, and a different approach to community.

Image credit: Tom@HK, available under CC-BY

Appropriate Technology Wiki

People around the world are working on appropriate technology. Most of them don’t know each other – aren’t aware of others with knowledge that might inform their own work. Connecting these people and this knowledge is what we had in mind when we started this Appropriate Technology Wiki almost 3 years ago.

“Appropriate Technology Wiki” is one way of describing Appropedia – it could also be called a sustainability wiki, an international development wiki, public health wiki, a wiki for thrivability, for abundance, or many other things. But appropriate technology sums up so much: the right solution for the context, relying on ingenuity,  efficiency and awareness of the environment, rather than throwing resources at a problem.

By this definition, are you working on appropriate technology? Do you want to see a comprehensive resource, a guide to solutions? Join us: Use Appropedia, contribute to it, and make sure appropriate technologists around the world know about it. And leave a comment to let us know how it’s helping you.