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.)

Searching the green dev wikisphere

There is an ecosystem of wiki websites on sustainability, design and development issues.

Appropedia is a large and broad site; others include small but active communities and NGOs doing good, focused work (e.g. Greenlivingpedia and Akvopedia), wikis run by multilateral organizations (e.g. the UNDP’s WaterWiki and the OECD’s Wikiprogress and Wikigender), and (sadly) wikis where nothing has happened for years, and the community appears to have scattered.The ecosystem isn’t exactly thriving – even when we’re friendly (and we usually are) we don’t talk and we don’t share as much as we’d like.

As communities we want to collaborate and encourage each other, but as individuals we’re busy – and I’m as guilty as anyone. What can help is just being aware of what is on other wiki sites – knowing of good wiki pages out there in the green wikisphere, to learn from, borrow from and link from our own pages. That can even lead to the odd bit of drive-by editing on another wiki – all the better.

To that end, here’s a tool I’ve made: a search engine for green and development wikis.

It’s a Google custom search of over 40 wiki sites. Apologies to the good wikis I haven’t named in this blog post, but I hope you’ll check that your site shows up in the search results.

If you want to who’s writing about something on which wiki, this can help. The results are a little quirky, so allow a few seconds to scan the list to find what you want, and maybe try different search terms. Give it a try, and let me know.

May it add a little more unity to our wiki ecosystem.

Tech internships – positions open!

Want to be a geek for good? Help build a comprehensive database of knowledge for solutions in sustainability and in overcoming poverty – Appropedia.

We’re looking for two to three interns with a desire to learn, a willingness to try, and at least basic skills in managing software and accessing a server. You’ll be installing, configuring and testing software – focused on MediaWiki, with WordPress to a lesser degree, and possibly some other platforms and tools. Our intern team’s tasks will include helping to build our spam defenses, and building features to enhance the community on Appropedia.

Knowledge of PHP and/or Python is a plus (but not essential). Likewise for experience with installing software on a server, and experience with the open source platforms that you’ll be working with.

You will work as part of a team, with other interns and with mentors. We’ve been lucky to have an enthusiastic volunteer, Wesley, for the last few months, who’s made a real difference to Appropedia. Now we’re expanding the team.

This is a global, online project. Our address is in California but you’ll be working with people on at least two continents. You can work from anywhere in the world with internet access. That means you need to be someone who can manage your time, organize yourself and get things done.

Is this you? Get in touch – please leave a comment either below or on my Appropedia talk page, and I’ll get in touch.

Converting to wiki format just got easier

A very important task that the Appropedia community is taking on is converting valuable documents to wiki format, to make it part of the structured knowledge bank we’re building.

An key tool for this is wikEd, which can be used (by those with a Firefox browser) to convert formatted text to wiki markup.  And now there’s an even easier way to use it:  Just use the conversion box at Wikedbox. Paste in the formatted text, and press the “wikify” button above, which looks like this:  [w].  Voila – you now have wiki markup. Mostly it works very well, and saves a heap of time.

For more detail, see Using wikEd to convert formatted text to wiki markup.

Note that this isn’t enough to handle PDFs – we’re looking for people with access to Adobe Reader Pro who can help us with the first step (simple,  but you need the software) of converting PDF documents to HTML plus images.

Converting to wiki format just got easier

A very important task that the Appropedia community is taking on is converting valuable documents to wiki format, to make it part of the structured knowledge bank we’re building.

An key tool for this is wikEd, which can be used (by those with a Firefox browser) to convert formatted text to wiki markup.  And now there’s an even easier way to use it:  Just use the conversion box at Wikedbox. Paste in the formatted text, and press the “wikify” button above, which looks like this:  [w].  Voila – you now have wiki markup. Mostly it works very well, and saves a heap of time.

For more detail, see Using wikEd to convert formatted text to wiki markup.

Note that this isn’t enough to handle PDFs – we’re looking for people with access to Adobe Reader Pro who can help us with the first step (simple,  but you need the software) of converting PDF documents to HTML plus images.

Which wiki?

I was asked about licenses and wiki software, by someone wanting to start a wiki on a sustainability-related subject area. Here is part of the response I wrote (adapted slightly):

Licenses:

Not all licenses are compatible, so unfortunately there are some limitations. We can each share, but we can’t mix the content together. The Some sites uses the CC-BY-NC-SA, and we, like Wikipedia, use CC-BY-SA*. We don’t use the NC or non-commercial clause, as we would actually like people to use our content commercially or any other way. I’ve made some notes on an Appropedia page: Which open license should you use? There is a place for the NC license, and I can understand someone with a business choosing this license, but for most purposes we’re strongly in favor of CC-BY-SA.

* Actually we use GFDL, which is different in some details, but you can expect both Wikipedia and Appropedia to change to CC-BY-SA in coming months, now that this has been allowed by the people that manage the GFDL.

We do both use the share-alike clause – which prevents someone adapting our work and then not sharing the adaptation.

Wiki software:

I can see the appeal of the subwiki system that PmWiki uses, to allow communities to have their own space in the wiki. It seems to me that there are just a few things that PmWiki does that MediaWiki does not – although they are very nice things. We can set up pages in just the same way if we want, but don’t have the ability to adjust the sidebar and don’t have the RecentChanges for just the subwiki. Though with “Related Changes” MediaWiki has something close. We do hope to have the options to do these things through MediaWiki extensions, but I don’t know when that will happen.

MediaWiki is the most established option, but certainly it’s not the only reasonable option. We’ve heard good things of TikiWiki too.

But we like MediaWiki for a few reasons:

  • It’s well-supported, with mailing lists and websites devoted to it, and there are many extensions written
  • Being so popular, we can be sure the format will be supported in future.
  • It’s well tested. Wikipedia: nuff said.
  • Appropedia is a bit more like Wikipedia but wider in content type, in aiming to be a large and comprehensive compendium of knowledge, projects, how-tos etc, on permaculture, passive solar, hybrid vehicle design – you name it. For such a large project, something proven to work on massive projects is preferred.
  • We know MediaWiki (I was active on Wikipedia before Appropedia), and collaborators from the wikisphere know MediaWiki. Easier to contribute, and to manage the site.

The major drawback to MediaWiki has been the lack of a WYSYWYG editor, but that’s changing now with the FCKeditor extension. This is usable now, but we’re waiting until they’ve resolved all the issues with tags (as we tend to use tags a lot, e.g. reference tags <ref>).

Now as for a wiki on your particular area of sustainability & resilience – that is right up our alley, and we’d love to have more about this on Appropedia. Check out Appropedia before you start up anything. You will probably find, as with Vinay Gupta, inventor of the Hexayurt (flatpack emergency shelter) that running a wiki takes hours every month – he was glad to hand that over to someone else when he joined his wiki with Appropedia. Joining an existing wiki brings you into a network of like-minded people, and lets you work on the project you love, rather than pulling your hair out managing a website.

Or to put it another way, let us go bald on your behalf.

But regardless, keep in touch. Also check out Global Swadeshi – a very interesting forum site on open design and open technology for resilient communities, started by the same Vinay Gupta.

Related wiki pages:

International Development Design Summit

Very pleased to learn that the International Development Design Summit (IDDS) in Boston, running this month (note – originally posted July 2008), will be using Appropedia for documenting their projects.

This will be a great time to experiment with ways of using wiki pages for documenting open designs. My leaning is towards relying on the unstructured format of the wiki, documenting the designs in a fairly flexible way. But added to that, I see us using an infobox to help track certain features of the design, such as the heritage of the design – who has made it, how it has been used by others, and which other designs have been inspired by it.

Originally posted, by the same author, at Pablo Garuda.

Word to Wiki

There is an enormous amount of knowledge locked up in PDF and Word documents, which could be shared on wikis such as Appropedia, if only it could be easily converted.

Take Word documents. There are a few ways to convert them, with more or less messy results. OpenOffice 2.3 and above has an export-to-MediaWiki function, but it’s broken on my machine (I’m still looking for help), and reviews I found online are not very impressive.

Perhaps more promising: The Word2Wiki macro conversions are now more complete, as footnotes can be converted. See ReadFootNotes – at the moment it’s 2 extra macros (one by a programmer friend who I badgered into writing it, and one by me). But someone with Windows and Word and a modest knowledge of Visual Basic should be able to make a single macro out of everything on that page, that hopefully will do a very good job of converting the text.

See also:
Porting PDF files to MediaWiki

Originally posted, by the same author, at Pablo Garuda.

Word to Wiki

There is an enormous amount of knowledge locked up in PDF and Word documents, which could be shared on wikis such as Appropedia, if only it could be easily converted.

Take Word documents. There are a few ways to convert them, with more or less messy results. OpenOffice 2.3 and above has an export-to-MediaWiki function, but it’s broken on my machine (I’m still looking for help), and reviews I found online are not very impressive.

Perhaps more promising: The Word2Wiki macro conversions are now more complete, as footnotes can be converted. See ReadFootNotes – at the moment it’s 2 extra macros (one by a programmer friend who I badgered into writing it, and one by me). But someone with Windows and Word and a modest knowledge of Visual Basic should be able to make a single macro out of everything on that page, that hopefully will do a very good job of converting the text.

See also:
Porting PDF files to MediaWiki

Originally posted, by the same author, at Pablo Garuda.