Tell your friends


Today I chatted to a stranger at an Indian diner, and when I mentioned Appropedia, he asked me to send him some links for his friend, who is a wastewater engineer.

I’ll share my message here, in case you know a water or wastewater engineer, or other knowledgeable person, and perhaps to prompt you to invite knowledge friends to contribute.

Hi ——,

Nice to meet you today. A few links for your friend —–, from our collaborative website,

Note that it covers all kinds of contexts, and there is an emphasis on cost-effectiveness and applications where resources are limited.

If he is interested or knows anyone else who might be, we’ re always in need of people to click “edit” and share their knowledge.

Thank you,


Poverty in a rich country


I’m in Jakarta, and discussing the state of Indonesia (you know, solving the world’s problems after dinner). The most pertinent comment:

“This is not a poor country. It’s a rich country with lots of poor people.”

As in many other countries, there’s no sign of a major change in the distribution of wealth any time soon. So is there hope for the majority of Indonesians? Fortunately, yes. For one thing, economic conditions in absolute terms seems to be  picking up; and importantly, health and quality of life are not a simple matter of money. Kerala is a fascinating alternative model of development.

I’ve been spending time here since 1995, late in the Soeharto era, and I’ve seen many changes for the better, and a few big changes for the worse. I like to think of myself as a realistic optimistist – I know that things can and do go wrong, but it’s possible to choose a different path.

The Future We Deserve


The Future We Deserve is “a curated collaborative collection of 100 essays about the future.” The contributions are being coordinated on Appropedia – see The future we deserve.

From the homepage :

The Future We Deserve is a new book project about collaboratively creating the future we deserve. We will be working together at internet scale on internet time to brainstorm and barnstorm our way towards an image of a world we all believe in, a world of fairness, collaboration and living within a harmonious balance with nature. The book is open to all contributions — essays about technology, politics, working examples of better ways and fantastic ideas which just need to get done.

The print edition will be created together, as we collaborate to select and coordinate what goes into the final book. We'll use open licenses and crowdfunding to lower the barriers to collaboration, and do our level best to make the book the start of a ongoing journey together into the future we are shaping with our lives.

This is creating The Future We Deserve.

Geek Moment: Shiny New CrunchBang Linux


CrunchBang Linux is an operating system based ona philosophy of lean code and usability. It doesn’t aim to be the easiest version of Linux, but for someone with a moderate amount of computer ability it’s straightforward and not bloated.

The upcoming version switches to the proven and stable base of Debian. This is version 10, named “Statler,” (naming is based on Muppet characters) and the alpha version available now has been receiving an enthusiastic reception from the CrunchBang community – a number commenting that it’s more stable than many distros’ final releases.

Now, while I’d love to see a stable Linux distro that works for everybody, a version that works extremely nicely for semi-geeks like myself is very, very welcome.

via Release Notes – CrunchBang Linux 10 Alpha 2 ~ CrunchBang Linux Wiki.

Earthquake mitigation for buildings


Design and choice of building materials have a major impact on a building’s earthquake safety.

Less rigidity in buildings and a combination of flexing and tensile strength allows for more resistance to earthquakes. Lightness of the building material reduces likelihood of injuries or of people becoming trapped if the building does collapse.

That’s a taste of “Earthquake mitigation for buildings“. One day when a major earthquake is reported on the news, I’d like to know that lives have been saved because appropriate techniques like these were disseminated and applied.

Wikis for Health


Health is another area where we all want the best information.

I’m a little surprised that there is no active and well-developed wiki on health information. could be promising, if it grows, but it’s very quiet – only 2 edit sessions in the last 90 days. (I looked for other health wikis listed on WikiIndex, but could find no active wikis – that’s an interesting pattern, to look at another day.)

There are other wiki options in health, though. Wikipedia is teeming with information, though it often means wading through a lot of detail, as the articles are not written with a particular focus on health. wikiHow has more practically oriented articles – see their health category.

And of course see Appropedia to look for – and build – information on global public health.

Sachet economy


Another page collaboratively written by people who’ve never met. The magic of a wiki community sharing their knowledge and solutions to the world’s challenges.

Here we’re sharing the facts and solutions of the sachet economy, the practice of buying consumer products in single-use packages, which is especially prevalent in poorer communities.  This contributes to litter problems, which in turn leads to drain blockage and flooding, as well as to air pollution when litter is burnt. So what’s to be done?

A few things, actually – financial solutions (microfinance), technological ones (bio-plastic, which is beginning to be used in high-end products) and reuse:

Picture:  Detergent sachets reused as rope. Source: Meena Kadri