Welcome to the Appropedia blog


This is the blog to accompany Appropedia, the wiki for solutions in the challenge of building rich, sustainable lives.

Follow our blog to understand how things work, and how we’re dealing with the challenges of a growing wiki expanding into new areas. Your contributions are very welcome – you can start contributing, let us know your questions (commenting here is one way). You can also keep watching here as we talk about how things work in this wiki world, and figure out where you fit in. (But we’d still love it if you dropped us a line.)

This was posted when we were still playing with the Drupal blog, before we switched to WordPress. So we’ll need to make another welcome, soon. – Chriswaterguy 23 Sep 2008

Buckminster Fuller Challenge


Appropedia made it to semi-finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. (Yay, recognition! Sob, no cash prize.) From our entry:

Difficulties in tracking down existing solutions to appropriate technology problems has led to engineers and fieldworkers wasting time, energy, and resources solving the same problems over and over again. A single shared infrastructure is needed so that the existing disjoint community of appropriate technologists can more easily and openly collaborate on their projects.

…and that’s exactly what we’re doing, in appropriate technology and many related areas.

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

Openness in the UK


Engineers Without Borders UK are interested in how to contribute to the Appropedia wiki, and the process of making content free. Which of course leads to questions about when someone’s content is their bread and butter. A section of that page, “But I earn a living from my content!”, addresses this question, but needs much more thought.

I’m at the Humanitarian Centre at Cambridge University – a “hub organisation that ‘thinks local and acts global’, sharing complementary resources and skills to achieve more than the sum of its parts.” This basically means that these world-changing organizations share office and meeting space, and get to do lots of incidental meeting with like-minded people. Great idea – every city should have at least one. Every small NGO (and big NGO for that matter) should be part of one.



A bunch of different folk are doing BarCamps* on a Green theme. This GreenCamps page lists the ones I could find, though I haven’t had time to organize the page.

Coming soon: OSNCamp, aka The Open Sustainability Network Conference, October 18-19 in San Francisco, at which the Open Sustainability Network will be launched.

*A Barcamp is also known as an unconference – a very ad hoc conference. usually they are mostly on tech subjects. Think how the conferences you’ve been to have often been more notable for the conversations that have happened spontaneously, rather than the main talks. A BarCamp has a lot more of the informal stuff, and short talks can be given by anyone, at short notice. You can choose which talks to go to, or just do your own thing.

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.

Original works on a wiki


Received an email from the founder of a fairly prominent UK organization, devoted to real-world action for sustainability. The query was whether Appropedia was a suitable place to work collaboratively on a book, which would later be published.

While we’d love to have this content, there are some reasons it may not be an acceptable solution for them. At the very least, contributors need to know what they are committing to when pasting on a wiki, and using a free license.

Rather than just explain this in an email, I thought it was a good question to answer on the wiki: See Original content FAQ.

Note that I’m starting to wonder if our old policy of using the “Original:” namespace is a good idea after all, as it requires a set of gatekeepers for what content is worthy to be placed in this namespace. And yet… an original document by a respected appropriate technology organization, for example, may deserve to be readily available. Or perhaps a link to a “diff,” showing the text of the original, with all the changes that have been made since the original document was first placed on the wiki – that will confuse the eye of the average non-wikiholic however.

Tricky issues. Feedback welcome!

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.