Interactive Projects/information/guilds database --+-- Idea for -- getting the DB effort off the ground quickly

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflondon at
Fri Dec 21 16:03:47 EST 2001

On Fri, 21 Dec 2001 10:23:20 -1000, "Elijah Smith"
<elijah at> wrote:

>I think we're all sorta busy til January - I know I am - having those
>mailing lists set up will be great, though.

They have been created, as of 1 hour ago but I need  to configure them
before we can use them.

pcplantdb@  general
pcplantdb-tech@ technical
pcplantdb-data@ information

>mEIKAL, in response to your comments about getting something up and interns
>entering data - my concern is this (and this is sorta something John said
> Without getting a clear idea of all the data we'll want to track, and how
>it's organized, it will be almost as big a deal to apply "fixes" to the data
>down the road as it will be to enter it in the first place.  An example:
>say, for instance, that a big part of the database has to do with plants :).
>Say, we define a plant as having:
> one or more common names
> a latin name (plus variations, synonyms, etc)
> annual or perrenial
> hardiness zone
> comments
> Ok, your busy interns get to work and enter 500 records.  Then, someone
>says something that makes us realize we need to enter what sort of plant
>this is: groundcover, bush, small tree, big tree, vine, etc.  That means 500
>records need to be individually revisited and updated... which is a lot
>slower than involving that data entry in the initial go-through.  And that's
>a simple example.  I've seen much, much worse... and it's no fun for anyone.
> That's why design is as big a deal with databases as it in permaculture -
>if you just get a bunch of interns out there, digging swales, installing
>ponds, and planting trees, you might not get a terribly functional system.

> So I'd like to push for spending January, at least, defining the major uses
>of this system, what it does, how it operates, etc.  Maybe at that point we

This is a very good idea; let's start this way.

>could "version" it out - and version 1 could be just the plant area, and we
>could pin the data structure down, and have a simple data input screen by
>the end of March when your interns arrive.  Or something like that?  Anyone

I hope we will be that far along by then.

> Also - re: "tying into" the pfaf and ethnobotany databases:  it would be
>very cool.  

I have found out from a PHP programmer/DB manager at ibiblio that this
very front end can be done with PHP.

>My only concerns are 1) bandwidth, if our server is retrieving

Bandwidth is not a problem at ibiblio, which is a mirror site for

>data from their servers to return to our clients, and 2) copyrights...
>let's explore that further.

Yes, let's explore that one further :-) We need to do that one right
from the outset. The data in my website is informally copyrighted
by virture of the fact that the bulk of it was posted to email lists
and usenet newsgroups. I would/could never use any of this for
financial gain but do feel free to make it available on demand from a
free public website - maybe this could apply to our use of this and
similar material that we glean from hither and yon.

>Lawrence, John, mEIKAL - I'd love to hear more about your backgrounds when
>it comes to this sort of thing.  John, you mentioned some QA/Test

I have no experience with anything to do with databases but am willing
to learn and have bought a small library's worth of books on the
subject to help me with this project over the long haul.

>experience, which is really my weak point...  though I'm in complete
>agreement with you when it comes to "developer interfaces"... We need to
>make this thing super-usable, first.

I agree that it needs to be user friendly; without users visiting and
spending time there and finding the experience rewarding it will 
serve only a small number of folks.
> Elijah
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Lawrence F. London, Jr." <lflondon at>
>Newsgroups: permaculture
>To: "permaculture" <permaculture at>
>Sent: Friday, December 21, 2001 8:53 AM
>Subject: Re: Interactive Projects/information/guilds database --+-- Idea
>for -- getting the DB effort off the ground quickly
>> On Fri, 21 Dec 2001 12:04:35 -0600, mIEKAL aND <dtv at> wrote:
>> >I just found this note from a few days ago.  I am really interested in
>> >something mocked up in the very least because I think we will have an
>intern or 2 by
>> >the end of march & it is a good time for them to do data entry before the
>season kicks
>> >in..  (this is wisconsin)  ..
>> >
>> >& one thing Ive been wondering about, is would it be possible for us in
>the end to
>> >design more of a master database strategy that can access any of these
>other databases
>> >such as pfaf or the ethnobotany database & import info from them as the
>result of a
>> >search?
>> It would absolutely be possible to do this. One of the best strategies
>> for implementing this is throught the use of SSI, server side includes
>> in one's html pages.
>> >& what was decided about a separate list?
>> We need a DB oriented toward North America and those in Europe need
>> their own. I plan to contribute to the North American DB effort. I
>> think we need to program our own DB's on our respective servers, using
>> whatever DB platform we choose (PHP/MySQL for me), and link them all
>> together with a common front end of some sort; then link all this to
>> PFAF and other external DB's. Seems this is all possible.
>> I plan to form two more lists to accompany this one:
>> 1) DB data acquisition, archiving, retreival exclusively
>> 2) DB techncal development discussion, software issues,
>>     decision-making, question and answer
>> I want to use our new list software, Mailman, to do these 2 new lists,
>> rather than Lyris, our current platform which will be abandoned in the
>> future. I will try to get this done as soon as possible - am busy
>> putting up a large barn/storage/toolshed building until early January
>> - maybe I'll find time between now and then but will absolutely have
>> this done by 2nd week in January. After I fine tune the lists'
>> functionality I will move everyone on this list to the new software.
>> Those wanting to help with the PFAF DB have a separate list for that
>> and we will have our own two (more if necessary) for ours. I feel that
>> all aspects of ours should be free to the public (open source, if you
>> like that label); this would include data, DB software code, all
>> scripts and html code. At any rate, everything _I_do will be free.
>> Of course, any of use can get grants and donations to help us get the
>> work done.
>> LL
>> >
>> >mIEKAL
>> >
>> >seems to be one of the shortcomings of list communities that it is easy
>to have ideas
>> >& toss them around...  another matter to know how to act.
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >"Lawrence F. London, Jr." wrote:
>> >
>> >>
>> >> Why don't you invite him to join this list and participate in the
>> >> development of the PC plants database. He will have
>> >> the opportunity to keep up with what's going on as well as being
>> >> directly involved with the project as well as the various invividual
>> >> efforts, Mielak's, John's, mine, his, i.o.w. whatever form it takes
>> >> and where it is deployed.
>> >>
>> >> Go here to join:
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> I have a new idea to help get the DB off the ground in a hurry:
>> >>
>> >> while the DB platform is being decided on, developed
>> >> and put online for use we can still start collecting  and categorizing
>> >> data in an easy-to-use interactive online resource:
>> >> a public, no-subscription-required, web & email forum
>> >> where all input is archived in a 4-way sortable, indexed, downloadable
>> >> archive that can be accessed by the big Web search engines, for
>> >> enhanced access & search/retreival. Everyone can use the data acquired
>> >> for our collaborative DB or their own. I can do this with Mailman, the
>> >> new list software this PC list will migrate to (RSN) when I have time
>> >> to make the conversion. I could call it:
>> >> pcplantdb
>> >> email posting id for input would be pcplantdb@<whatever the server
>> >> name is>.
>> >> website would be (not online yet)
>> >>
>> >> Does this suit John, Miekal and anyone else wanting to be involved?
>> >>
>> >> The advantage to this quickstart method is that it will be very easy
>> >> to use (submit input either through the Web interface [a form or
>> >> direct email] or by private email) and all information submitted will
>> >> be readily available to the public.
>> >>
>> >> A password-protected version of this can be created also.
>> >
>> >
>> L.F.London ICQ#27930345 lflondon at
>>  london at
>> ---
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L.F.London ICQ#27930345 lflondon at  london at

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