Plant DB - user-friendly, etc.

John Schinnerer eco_living at
Thu Dec 27 02:22:11 EST 2001


> My suggestion that the third world not be left out of a Plants DB was
> not meant to be patronising. The previous suggestion was for a
> European and North American Plants DB, which I would not like to see.

I assume you mean you object to limiting data stored to European/N.
American plants, and not to the very existence of such a database in

Limiting the *data* - what is stored in and retrieved from the
particular database we are contemplating creating - is still open for
discussion afaik.  

If space is available on ibiblio, I'd favor including all comers as far
as data goes, along with creating a DB architecture and interface that
lets users filter by various geographical divisions (or not, as they
prefer).  To me it makes more sense to take in as diverse of data as
possible, as that diversity will help further clarify parts of the DB
model and interfaces.

As I just posted at length, there is afaik no intent to limit the
availability of the *implementation*, that is, the software that is the
'engine' of the database.  If the initial effort's data set is for
whatever reason limited to (for example) N. American plants, others can
use the DB engine to set up additional (bio-?)regional databases (which
in theory can be linked transparently to the user doing a search).  

Ideally we'll have people from all over the planet contributing to both
the implementation and the data set or sets.  In practice the tiny
fraction of the global population with ready access to this form of
'high' technology will likely dominate. 
I thoroughly welcome your efforts to recruit a more diverse group of
participants, especially for the data set(s).

> Isn't that being patronising? 

What I find patronizing is this:

> ...their access to the web and useful data
> pertaining to their region needs a big boost,

Why do they need web access?  How will this boost their access to
'useful data' about their region?  

They *live* in their region, for Dog's sake!  Who am I to know more
about their region than they do, assuming they've looked about a bit? 
If they haven't done that (yet), the virtual worlds are IMO a poor
place to start learning about the realities of one's immediate

Now, I might be just plain wrong about that, and I might be patronizing
as well.  So ideally I'd go and ask them "what do you want?"  If they
actually tell me they really want computers and web access to learn
about where they themselves live, I'll offer to trade them technical
know-how for their indigenous plant/animal/forest/ag/medicine/etc.
knowledge, which I'll add to the database.

> and I would hope that a plants DB developed by permies would not only
> consider them, but in fact give PREFERENCE to them.

I think that my previous post made clear how all the 'they' out 'there'
who can be are implicitly considered.  If you disagree, please reply to
that post with specifics indicating how a free, open source plant
database engine designed to work with free software and systems and
inexpensive hardware fails to consider particular groups of potential

As for preference, I don't follow.  An internet-accessed technological
database cannot help but be unavailable to people without the essential
technology to access it - which is at present about 95% of the human
population.  Providing computers, connectivity and electricity to those
folks is neither free nor open source (nor even remotely sustainable,
IMO), so we'll have to find alternate ways of pursuing that if it seems

Meanwhile, I do think it's a great idea to learn what different people
all over the world already know about their plants in context and add
it to such a database, so that others can learn from it.  They don't
need to all have computers and web access; they just need to relate
with someone who does.

John Schinnerer, MA
- Eco-Living -
Cultural & Ecological Designing
Food - Shelter - Community
john at

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