Online collaboration doesn’t happen by magic


Blogger on global health issues, Christine Gorman, was researching patent issues around “Plumpy’nut,” an easy-to-make peanut-based food used to effectively treat malnutrition. (In brief, there are concerns about whether the patent is preventing some who need it from getting it, and even questions about whether the patent is valid.)

Gorman decided to try a collaborative approach – but as many others have found, getting concrete contributions is a challenge:

Online collaboration may be the wave of the future but it’s not so easy to convince people to do it…

This was not the instantaneous burst of community magic that I had hoped for. But a kind of long-amplitude wave eventually did materialize. My old Plumpy’Nut posts kept getting traffic. Maybe I had brought a fast-food mentality to a slow-cooking world.

And indeed, a year after the blog went up (and many months after I stopped posting anything new), I received an e-mail from Martin Enserink at Science, who was working on a story about Plumpy’Nut and wanted to include a sidebar on the patent controversy.

via Global Health Report: What Plumpy’Nut Taught Me.

The biggest part of online collaboration is making a start, putting it out there, and making it open for people to use. It’s hard to say when results will come – but sharing and practicing openness creates the possibility.

Blogging on the road to open


This is not the blog of the whole Appropedia community. Not yet.

We believe in openness, and the wiki is in the hands of the community -but opening up a regular blog for anyone in the community to blog, without wiki-style checks and balances, is a recipe for fluff and inaccuracy.

So this is the blog of the Appropedia Foundation, and we use it to support the community and the wiki. There are plans for frequent guest appearances, highlights from the wiki, and stories about the imact the wiki is having in the world.

But we must become less, so the community can become greater. Something like Enric Senabre’s Wlog, a wiki based blog, would be a great way for us to blog as a community. I’m imagining it functioning something like Wikinews, with some kind of mechanism for drafting, improving and approving from within the community before publishing.

Just need to figure out how it works, and make the time to implement it.

15 days till OSNCamp.