[permaculture] database, wiki, blogs, forums, etc

Graham grahamburnett at blueyonder.co.uk
Sun Dec 17 07:56:50 EST 2006

It would be good if we could get the discussion going on the talk pages
of the wiki itself - I'm not sure who originally set up the wikia
permawiki, but it was me who began to put in energy and effort to try
and wake it up from what appeared to be a dormant state. I agree that it
would be good to have structure and protocls for formating articles nad
so on, the potential for the project is huge (I envisaged a kind of
online evolving designers manual) but still very much under-utilised.

As a first step I'll copy and paste your comments herewith to the
'Designing this wiki' page
http://permaculture.wikia.com/wiki/Designing_this_wiki unless you

Cheers Graham

On Sat, 2006-12-16 at 22:56 -0800, Paul Cereghino wrote:
> this time...;)
> >Rich wrote:
> >
> >If I were to implement this, I'd just use an off the shelf wiki, and 
> >write a documentation convention for how to format a page. Say
> >
> >This would need very little setting up, it could be done in a day.
> >It would meet the need of most users, who basically just want to read 
> >things.
> >  
> >
> Rich's comments are compelling.  I am not sure we have yet described a 
> cohesive cyber-animal.  I think we could examine this from the existing 
> 'permawiki' as a point of reference.  It is a valid attempt to create a 
> conceptual network.  What functions does it serve or not serve? 
> (http://permaculture.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page)  Is it evolving as 
> envisioned or hoped?
> I think the colaborative writing opportunities in a wiki are very 
> powerful.  What I mistrust is that the overall structure of the wiki 
> lacks form.  In other words... the whole is less than the sum of its 
> parts.  However, I am not convinced that a step up in complexity is 
> necessary, but rather a better organization of the wiki concept may 
> serve the purpose.
> I'd propose that this is due to to flaws: the 'pages' of a wiki are not 
> classifiable, nor are the ways that wikis connect with each other 
> clearly classified.
> Christopher Alexander's Pattern Language stands out as a stellar example 
> of a dynamic user-engaging presentation of complex design theory.  If 
> something of that power could be constructed for a permaculture we would 
> be on to something.  Why does it work so well?
> The structure of each "Alexander Pattern" is fairly constant.  The 
> pattern is connected to larger scale patterns, an argument for the 
> importance of the pattern is made, the argument is discussed, the 
> critical characteristics of the proposed pattern are summarized, and the 
> pattern is linked to the most relevant smaller scale patterns.  Rich's 
> reference to a documentation convention may be a solution.
> Each Alexander pattern is roughly located on a 'scale' axis -- from 
> large scale patterns to small scale patterns.  Wikis are not organized 
> along some critical axis in this way.  Can a category be assigned to a 
> wiki page along a scale continuum (landscape > Site > guild), and this 
> axis be used to organize total content?
> Each Alexander Pattern is the same kind of animal... it is a pattern 
> describing a spatial arrangement of an element or elements.  Permawiki 
> contains a whole zoo full of animals -- some oink and some fly.  Some of 
> them could qualify as 'design elements' (CHICKEN or FRUIT TREE) while 
> others are concepts (ZONES or KEYLINE) while others are actual design 
> patterns (HERB SPIRAL or APPLE GUILD).  Can a wiki either be narrowed to 
> one type of page, or have pages labeled so that they can be observed in 
> groups of similar pages.. A network of concepts, a network of design 
> patterns...
> The linkages between these each 'wiki' are only defined by the text 
> surrounding the hyperlinked word.  There is no convention for how 
> concept/elements link to eachother.  Structuring the discussion of how 
> on pattern relates to another may be the critical link.
> Here'd be my list of goals for a permaculture wiki:
> # The wiki helps a person identify interactions between elements to 
> develop new and unique patterns.  This can happen at various scales... 
> linking systems accross a landscape, or elements within a site, or 
> guilds within a vegetation mosaic.
> # The wiki allows a person to change scale or stay within the same scale 
> consciously, and stay on topic.  If the reader is interested in 
> reflecting on concepts, they can follow that path.. if they are deadset 
> on thinking about constructing guilds they can wander at that level.
> # the wiki references high-quality sources of information, but does not 
> attempt to contain all information within itself - the function of the 
> wiki is to describe linkages between elements, and design solutions that 
> integrate multiple linkages.  Public domain PDF's could be linked within 
> the server.
> # wiki pages would be peer reviewed, and elevated as 'high quality 
> drafts -- the whole wiki could be publishable as a PDF edition by using 
> consistent formating and large scale information structures.
> ## In terms of A wiki page should be as short as possible while serving 
> the function on fitting the concept, pattern or element into the whole.  
> I once had a professor who always gave us profound essay questions and 
> then limited the response to two pages double spaced 12 point font.  It 
> was brutal, and took twice as long as spewing out 10 pages of text.  To 
> achieve this the function of an information unit (a wiki page) has to be 
> clear as possible.
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Graham Burnett

Integrated Design for Local Environmental Resources


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