[permaculture] Permaculture wikis & making a major impact

Lawrence F. London, Jr. venaurafarm at bellsouth.net
Wed Dec 23 16:04:14 EST 2009

Chris Watkins wrote:

> There's a tension between the creativity of people doing their own thing,

Its no different from commercial farming, you either own the land you 
farm or you lease it. If that land needs upgrading in order to make it 
productive enough for a profit to be made and you're leasing it then 
the improvements belong to the land owner. If you own your own land you 
can spend as much time, energy and money on it and it all belongs to 
you, though others benefit from the products you sell them that come 
from your land.

Maybe many if not most people interested in spending time developing an 
online website and filling it out with resources of interest to them and 
others want to own that webspace themselves; own in the sense that they 
have complete control over all of their data and can pick it up at any 
time and move it wherever else they choose.

If they choose to do their favorite project in collaboration with others 
on someone else's site then they have limited control over the fate of 
their data and its value as an end product as it relates to the work of 
the other collaborators at that site, i.e. what is the value of their 
work and to what extent does their work contribute to the overall value 
of the whole project, does it detract, does it add or is the rest of the 
work contributed of less enough value that theirs was wasted on the 
collaboration and they should have worked on their project alone or with 
select people invited in?

> and the effectiveness of collaboration. If you think of a wiki encyclopedia,

Participating in a list, forum or a blog is one thing but with a wiki 
you will likely have a lot more investment in time and resources
in order to contribute what you consider to be of timeless value,
inspiring to other collaborators and a worthwhile resource for end 
users, some of whom may become contributors.

> you'll think of Wikipedia - not because they're the only ones who tried, but
> because they worked hard on it from the beginning (started as a commercial
> effort, got a mass of people) and because there are a lot of people watching
> any one subject.

> There's a misconception that wikis will magically create a useful resource,

Wikis can create useful resources, quickly and easily with low 
maintenance overhead. Better a Wiki than nothing at all.
In active use are lists, forums and blogs; add wikis as the next logical 

> but it's not true. The vast majority of wikis out there are near empty or
> full of spam. I did a project looking at this: Green wikis and development
> wikis <http://www.appropedia.org/Green_wikis_and_development_wikis> - you
> can click on the table columns and compare the size and activities of the
> wikis.

That does not mean that Wikis are not an excellent way to store useful 
information created and submitted by many people, access by many more 
and very easily developed and maintaines. Its just a little more 
difficult that using a list or forum.

I do not think there's much better out there now or on the horizon.
The Wikipedia has proved that this medium works and works well.
People use it all the time and it is referenced and linked to 
everywhere, like Google, used all the time. It is amazing to discover 
the scope of the resources there. Add to wikis all the online
collections of digitized literature, to download or read online;
add to that the vast electronic archives in permanent collections.
An example of how some of these collections are built is this:
Cyber-Help for Organic Farmers: Let the soil work for us
Let the soil work for us
A group of people in an agriculture list wanted a reprint in electronic 
form of an article in a scientific journal. They worked together and
after gaining the necessary permission put that excellent piece of 
information online. This is valuable stuff. I have archives of gems of 
info I have collected for 20 years. This is material ideally destined 
for a wiki. Wikis, especially MediaWiki, has robust features and is easy 
to use after a small learning curve. Its ability to let you create
well organized internal and external linking is one of its best 
features. This adds to the overall value of the various datasets 
contained therein.

> I tiny site isn't very visible, either in terms of search rankings, or in
> popular consciousness.
> Besides that, having 10 people interested in topic X all with that page on
> their watchlist and getting email alerts, on one wiki, is much more
> effective at building an article than 5 on one site, 2 on another, and 3 on
> other wikis. Then there's the tech side - by working in the same "wiki
> space", we divide the effort to manage the server, software etc. It's
> outsourcing that tech effort, so we can put more effort into documenting the
> permaculture.

Better a lot of small to large individual somewhat unrelated sites with 
good info than none of them. As Bob said, all of these can be brought 
together and interlinked in one place as if they all existed in one 
Webspace, with a Wiki. Its a simple tool, easy to use, that does a huge 
job producing what could become world class Web resources.

> None of this is to negate what you've said, but just to show why I believe a
> single domain is far, far more effective. And for all that we've done good

I don't agree with this at all. If you believe it then permaculture.info 
owned by one organization, The Permaculture Institute, permaculture.org 
would be your best choice to host a global permaculture online resource. 
Of course the Australians have their own excellent work online. The fact 
is that it is not necessary to have only one site covering the entore 
global permaculture movement. People can install wikis anywhere they 
choose and use a common preconfigured data template containing the data
that everyone wants to use. This data could be several types, an entire 
dataset containing an entire knowledgebase or just data representing
all the sites linked in the wiki, every individual link to existing data 
in all participating sites, tailored to their needs, or for quick 
startup just links to participating sites. There is a lot of potential here.

> work and are pouring our hearts into our work, we all know that there's a
> desperate need for us to be more effective.

Its a matter of just doing it. The resources are there, lists, blogs, 
forums, wikis, get online and fill them with data then build multiple
wikis that link them all together coherently in a highly organized way 
so that all the wikis look more or less the same. This should accomplish 
fully what you seek, a "single" global permaculture resource. I an see 
clearly how this can work perfectly to everyone's satisfaction.

> There are important issues that can be raised of course - e.g. how do we
> respect people's autonomy if most of us are on one site? That's largely
> about the culture of the specific community, but it's something we can
> discuss.

That's only a detail. Look at the bigger picture and the whole systems 
approach. Think Wiki.

> The idea of just linking between the sites is certainly an option - to my
> mind, seeking the greatest collaboration, this is not the preferred option.

Read what I wrote above, the ability for every participating wiki to 
link/access every piece of information in every particiating web 
resource and do it transparently. Go to any one of them and you are at 
all of them at once. This is the way it works.

> But if that's the path we take, the very least we must do is to add each
> other to our interwiki maps, which allows "interwiki linking" without the
> nofollow tag - this will give the sites a modest boost in search rankings.

That too, for sure. Enough admin types need to be attracted to this 
project so that tasks like this can be carried out in addition to lower 
level admins and editors. I disagree with allowing anonymous input,
certainly not with a global access system.

>> On Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 10:32 AM, Bob Waldrop <bwaldrop at cox.net> wrote:
>>> I think that cyberspace can be fairly compared to an eco-system.
>>> Mono-cultures are an issue.  I think it is better for the movement to let
>>> many flowers bloom in cyberspace.  All of the permaculture sites can be
>>> linked and their articles and such should show up in search engines, so I
>>> don't know that there is any inherent advantage in everybody working on
>> only one site, since links back and forth effectively make the whole
>>> cyber-ecosystem for permaculture potentially available from every
>>> permaculture site linked to the others    .  Sort of like rhizomes
>>> underground and runners above ground.  There is an article about and a
>>> link to the Appropedia wiki at www.permaculture.info , but it is rather
>>> rudimentary.  Perhaps when you get back online you could expand it a bit
>>> so it is more useful. I also don't see any particular utility on concentrating 
>>> on one domain name.

Bob's thoughts on this are absolutely consistent with mine. The 
comparison between an ecosystem and a wiki-infosystem is accurate
and a colorful way to describe things.

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