How to contribute to Appropedia

wikis

Our partners, Engineers Without Borders Australia, put us in touch with RDIC, a development organization doing great work with water filters and other development projects in Cambodia. They asked about contributing to Appropedia.

We’ve made some notes for you:

  • Appropedia is solution-oriented, not activist or political. (Discussion of policy is fine, but we seek to be apolitical. The promotion of sustainable and appropriate solutions is fine, but the main focus is on the solutions themselves).
  • Share anything as long as you are willing to let other people use it as they wish. We use an open license, allowing any use, including commercial, without additional approval, as this is the most effective way to ensure the information is used.
  • Share your information, but please share more: consider sharing designs, solutions that have worked for you, checklists that workers use in the field, project write-ups, how-tos, and/or successes as well as failures.  Don’t limit yourself – if it’s useful to you, it’s probably useful to someone in Thailand, Uganda, etc.
  • You don’t have to log in to Appropedia, but it’d be nicer if you do. Also, register your email under preferences; this helps people get in touch with you. Connecting with like-minded people is a great benefit here.
  • There’s a format bar above the edit box – play with it, but don’t worry too much.
  • Errors are easily reverted – so be bold!

For more information on how to start a new page – see Help:Creating a page.

Appropedia, a global community

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Can local groups and communities could use the wiki as their own way of connecting and sharing knowledge? Absolutely!

Appropedia is not only a living library, but:

  • A collaborative workspace, both to grow the library and for plotting real-world action.
  • A networking tool. While our platform (MediaWiki) is not designed as a social networking tool, this is a community full of hardcore sustainability buffs and problem-solvers worldwide and from all walks of life.
  • A “shell” within which communities can operate, serving their members and connecting with partners both local and distant. A community of communities, if you will.
  • A way of increasing profile & findability.
  • A way of increasing synergy. Why work on a greywater treatment page on a locally focused site with a small number of contributors and readers when you can work with a global community on making an awesome page?
  • You can have your own pages on your own projects, too, as part of a collection of designs from around the world. Be like the developer of the Home biogas system (Philippine BioDigesters), who received emails of thanks, along with design improvements, from around the world.

This was prompted by a question from Steven Walling during a presentation on Appropedia. It made us realize how far ahead Appropedia is when we envisage it, compared to what a visitor to the site sees today (e.g., the greywater treatment page is one-twentieth or one-hundredth as good as we’d like to see it). People already say how great the site is, but we foresee something much, much greater.

Sustainable community action

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Phil Green started the Sustainable Community Action wiki in 2004 – it’s about:

Information and knowledge sharing, but with a focus on what might be useful to community groups and active citizens interested in taking action to make their communities more sustainable and in support of environmental, social and economic wellbeing,

For some time he’s been looking for a new home for the wiki, and he’s decided to work with Appropedia. We’re very glad to have him Phil, and look forward to working with him.

Phil is now adding pages to Appropedia about locations around the world and their community actions – hundreds in total – which he has consolidated from over 2600 pages on the original site. Some of these form new pages (see the Sustainable community action category) and others are being merged with existing pages.

This builds an important area in our sustainability knowledge bank, and I hope we can find a powerful synergy.

Searching the green dev wikisphere

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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.

Appropedia takes the Initiative!

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Appropedia has grown rapidly in multiple dimensions since our early days, especially in 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, Facebook, and LinkedIn communities have grown dramatically as well.

In addition to all the active participants, we have many 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 much more unspoken.  To better use all this pent up energy and goodwill, we are beginning a new program for engaging volunteers, both new and veteran.

Appropedia Initiatives

And so, without further ado, allow us to introduce Appropedia Initiatives! The Appropedia Initiatives program is an open-ended series of specific activities that will benefit from community engagement. Each Initiative will be designed to attract a critical mass of contributions and enthusiasm, 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 wide 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 Initiatives program’s path.

Each new Initiative will be highlighted on the Appropedia main page, and we will do community outreach in the form of social media posts to make sure that everyone 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 Appropedia 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 have some semi-committed support in the form of an “Initiative steward” who will shepherd the activity for at least 3 months.

Check out the provisional guidelines for Appropedia Initiatives and see whether your favorite topic or project might be the right 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!

Which wiki?

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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: