[permaculture] Permaculture wikis & making a major impact

christophe mckeon gonzalez de leon chromatophore at gmail.com
Wed Dec 23 15:25:14 EST 2009

i think bob waldrup is pretty much spot on with regards to the
desirable qualities of decentralization vis a vis both the
permaculture 'movement' and the web.

let me just add a few things from a technical perspective though. the
web is on the verge of a major transformation towards machine
readability. if we really want to see many flowers bloom in cyberspace
then we must not just provide human readable & semantically dumb links
from resource to resource, but semantically rich & machine readable

the problem with having isolated wiki's is not that they do not share
a domain name or that they do not share the same data-store, but that
the data-stores are effectively silo-ed behind a semantically opaque
html interface. once you have machine readable linked data then you
can treat the entire web as your database, and suddenly the
effectiveness of any data entry you have done is magnified many times
over because it becomes grist for everybody's mills.

can i write a web application now which can automatically look at the
various permaculture & related wikis & sites and do things like:

suggest chicken breeds for my area based on availability by way of
trading with neighbors, success rates, and biome suitability?

suggest appropriate technologies based on knowledge of my site,
materials at hand, materials my neighbors have, and how the technology
might interact positively or negatively with the various
biological/food production processes i might have going?

suggest building techniques based on material constraints like above
but also knowledge of building codes and other red tape obstacles &
knowledge of how my neighbors have fared trying to circumvent them?

maybe i could build it, but the task would be herculean and the
results would be incredibly brittle and a maintenance nightmare,
because i would need to do all the work of parsing every-bodies html
and imposing an ad-hock semantic regime on a case by case basis on top
of each site scraped.

so even though human beings excel at the kinds of work i have outlined
above, having machines making those kinds of connections for us would
be a huge time and energy saver. not all of the suggestions would be
good ones, probably some would even be ludicrous, but most would be
great starting points for further investigation and making new social

so... my point being, the important work to be done now in grass roots
sustainability informatics is the formalization of the semantics of
the problem domains & the publishing of these formalizations so that
various wikis and sites can in turn publish their data in a machine
consumable fashion in line with the published semantics. there does
not necessarily have to be universal agreement either, or even great
complexity in the published semantics. for instance appropedia could
formalize on a simple ontology which defines what a technology is and
what a 'materials needed' list is & is composed of, etc, making it
very easy for the kind of site i was talking about to consume that
data in a meaningful way. if their published ontologies are of high
enough quality and sufficiently generic then they might even be
adopted by other sites in time.

the bioinformatics, biomedical and bioengineering communities are all
early adopters of semantic technologies because they are trying to
manage massive complexity. aside from the ethical nature of
permaculture, at base it is about managing complexity through design.
let's not let the bioengineers reep all the rewards of semantic
technologies, i really believe they are the right fit for a
permaculture knowledge-base.


On Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 11:07 AM, Chris Watkins
<chriswaterguy at appropedia.org> wrote:
> btw, some articles/essays exploring these issues - from our perspective, to
> be sure.
>   - Making a successful new wiki is
> hard<http://www.appropedia.org/Making_a_successful_new_wiki_is_hard>
>   - Wiki synergy <http://www.appropedia.org/Wiki_synergy>
>   - Yet another wiki <http://www.appropedia.org/Yet_another_wiki>
> They may be of interest.
> btw, I know I'm arguing my case strongly, and I do believe in it. But I
> respect other viewpoints, and above all want to see us all have more
> positive impact.
> --
> Chris Watkins
> Appropedia.org - Sharing knowledge to build rich, sustainable lives.
> blogs.appropedia.org
> identi.ca/appropedia
> twitter.com/appropedia
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