About

This site is a pilot project, and is under development!
Wanna help curate content?
Contact the website designer : Nikhil VJ, on nikhil.js [at] gmail.com

Short version:


Long version:

Story

The Problem

For those of us who are in the networks that are interested in sustainability related things, there’s so much awesome information emerging from all around nowadays related to sustainable food, agriculture, ecosystem management, shelter, healthy and conscious living, product alternatives, energy alternatives, (the list goes on).

Especially on whatsapp and facebook groups. But these social networks have some limitations :
1. There’s a limited set of people who are in these networks.
2. The structure of these platforms makes the information being shared ephemeral, or temporary.

After a month, it’s very difficult to go back and find the full details of that clothes cleaning tip that had been shared, or to trace exactly where was that farm that has pioneered a revolutionary multi-cropping method that you want to replicate. Most of us have difficulty recalling the whole detail, and we wouldn’t even remember who it was that had shared it in the first place. Even if we trace back to the sharer, they might no longer remember.


What's needed

So, there’s a need felt here to have something on the side that captures and archives this information as it’s buzzing about. It doesn’t make sense to advocate against the social networks.. it’s their very structure that is enabling all this sharing after all. What’s needed are companion mechanisms.

Also, this wonderful good stuff needs to spread to a far larger population that might still be clueless about so many solutions being there. Has it happened to you? You meet an old friend who’s new to this all and you have no idea where to even begin about the solutions you’ve witnessed?

So this companion mechanism we need has to be :

1. Publicly accessible and well-attributed, in a way that people can find their way to it even if they didn’t know what it was that they’re looking for.

2. Traceable and easily retrievable a long time after it was shared on the social networks, after the buzz has gone.


And sssooo...

I and some friends had started a site/blog called “Jugaadibility” a few years ago with these needs and others in mind. While the free wordpress.com blog platform was quite good, we had several constraints, and the default system of classification (categories) very quickly got overwhelmed. Even in terms of human resources, we didn’t have much hands on deck and couldn’t keep up all the time. In the years since, I’ve been learning more about the stand-alone wordpress.org platform, one which lets you extend your site’s functionality practically without limits. But such a project doesn’t need technology alone; it also needs many hands on deck.

In Feb 2016, at a national-level Permaculture Convergence, we had a session about networking and the need for such an archive was expressed by many people in the community. Now I’m seeing the possibility of many more pairs of hands coming aboard. So, the ‘Green Resources’ project is an attempt to take what we started with Jugaadibility a few steps further, and to try and meet some of the needs expressed by people in the common networks, bringing in more technology that I’ve learned, particularly a multi-dimensional approach to classifying things.

To help with this, I’m having a very unique advantage : over 150 posts we had published on jugaadibility, can serve as the initial content for this project to refine its classifications on. Generally people have to use dummy posts to be able to show proof-of-concept.. I have a high quality batch that’s all real. So I have imported here all the content we had on Jugaadibility, and am in the process of curating the posts with the new classifications.


About this site

This website is a pilot at a for-testing location, to develop and demonstrate what’s needed for a Green Resources database that archives the sustainability / holistic living related info being exchanged over several social networks. It runs completely on free and open source technology, namely a wordpress.org website platform and loaded with a lot of plugins.

The next tabs will help you dive into the details of the features we have at our disposal.

  Classification

Conventional tagging methods of classifying this heterogenous information has been seen to fall short.

For example, whether it’s a book or a movie or a news article, is a totally different kind of classification from whether it’s about farming or forestry or natural medicine.

Hence, different kinds of classification are needed, and these need to work in parallel. One great example is if you go to an online shopping website, and say you’re looking at phones, then on the sidebar you’ll find a filtering interface where you can parallelly set price range, brand, internal memory, etc and the search results will be filtered as per your specification. In wordpress (self-hosted version), we can achieve this through what is called custom taxonomies.

These are just like Categories, but each taxonomy exists in a different space of its own with its own terms, and can be attached to a post as a different kind of category. One can attach any terms from these taxonomies to a post/article/story.


In this site I’m using the following taxonomies, or parallel systems of classification:

Theme : this would tell what the post is about : subject matter areas like soil, water, farming, health etc. Click here to check out the themes evolved so far.

Category : Is it a book? A recent news item? A video? Is it featuring an NGO or a social enterprise or a resource person? Is it an event? A course? A job vacancy? A skills offering? So the “Category” taxonomy tells what type of article we’re dealing with. Click here to check out the categories evolved so far.

Level : Is the article detailing a solution that can be applied at the individual level, or village or city or state level? What’s the scope of what we’re checking out here? The Level taxonomy is used to specify this. Click here to check out the levels evolved so far.

Location : the general area where the article/story is coming from or where it applies. So it has a listing of all Indian states and UT, but also we can create sub-locations like district/city names and make use of the hierarchical nature of wordpress categories/taxonomies. So, a post with “Pune” location would show up when one is browsing “Maharashtra” archives, along with posts from Mumbai too. The Location taxonomy is about political or human-made geography. Click here to check out the locations evolved so far.

Agro-Climatic Region : As a counterpart of Location, this would have geography in terms of regions with similar environmental conditions, irrespective of political boundaries. So Konkan region, for example. Here too, hierarchical terms can help: one major agro-climatic region may also have sub-regions under itself. The need for this kind of classification arises especially when information is shared that is pertinent to an agroclimatic region, like species lists, planting cycles etc, and which doesn’t apply so well to other regions. Click here to check out the agro-climatic regions evolved so far.

Language: We want to archive sustainability related resources in India.. how can we leave out support for content in different languages? After looking at various options, I’ve decided to simply have another custom taxonomy for Language. So, for each article, we can assign one or more languages.

Features

Search & Filter

The key functionality of this website can be seen by clicking on the magnifying glass on the right edge of the browser window. A small menu floats in having a series of dropdown options. There you can fine-tune your search based on different classifications (see earlier tab for learning more about them).

For more search options, like choosing two terms in one taxonomy/classifications, please use the Advanced Search page.

 

Attributes

In addition to the normal post title and content box, the articles on this site also have some ‘custom fields’ that can carry specific info. Listing them below.

  Referrer: Where is the article coming from? If resharing from another website, let’s have the link to original. But the purpose of this website isn’t just to cover what’s already published. We want to digitize and archive even the kinds of knowledge that are presently not existing on the internet. If it is tacit knowledge shared by a reputed ayurved expert, then let’s mention the resource person, and if possible even keep a contact number or email here.

  Start and/or End Date: Depending on the category set, this info will become active. If it’s an event, a course, an internship opportunity, etc.

  Map Location: We’re mapping! While editing/creating, each post has a map where the author/editor can, if they want, mark a lat-long location, or even mark an area’s boundaries, and write labels for them. Note that this is different from the “Location” or “Agro-climatic region” taxonomies.. Those are general areas. This one is in case the article wants to point out some place(s) exact.

Attachments: If emails can carry attachments, then why can’t articles! This site incorporates an attachments plugin, and lists the attachments if any at the bottom of each article.


Other functionalities

  • Submit an Article section: for visitors (anyone!) to create and submit an article, without any hassle of signing up or passwords or whatever. It then enters a pending posts queue where it can be reviewed, properly attributed and published by the editing team.
  • Backup and Cloning : This site is automatically backed up regularly and can be rebuilt on another server should the need ever arise, in a few steps. In the interest of enabling open source data sharing and innovation and also as a community-backed failsafe, I’m keeping the backups at an openly accessible location (click here to open it!) (presently on the same server.. once we move to a formal place we’ll keep the backups on another server so they’re safe from server crashes). Anyone can download it and  re-deploy the whole website, and even develop it further. (Note: using the ‘UpdraftPlus Backup/Restore’ plugin)
  • Email protection: Email id’s written in articles will not be caught by spambots. So we can share emails without worrying about junk email.
  • Tabular view of all the articles: Showing the title, excerpt and Categories for now. There is a search box where if you type, it will instantly filter and show all the articles whose title or excerpt match your words. With this, you have a quick overview of all the articles that are there on the site.
  • Bootstrap and other web design features : Makers gonna make! Many popular wordpress plugins installed to get the best possible ways to create good looking and useful knowledge base items. You can see some of them in action on this page. We’re in shortcode heaven!
  • Create articles by sending an email: for rapid and convenient article creation. (aspects of this are still being explored..)

Possibilities

While I haven’t activated them yet, there’s scope for having these features up and running:

  • Q & A Forums
  • Chatrooms for live chats
  • Private or password-protected sections in articles
  • Voting / rating of articles
  • Dynamic tables in an article, to show tabular information
  • Map-based crowdsourcing
  • Posting on social media
  • Newsletters on monthly/weekly etc basis that will send subscribers the latest material; there are possibilities to customize it to certain themes/categories (eg: all events in Pune)

 

Content Scope

What would this kind of website aim to archive? Where should the main thrust lie?

 Note: Moving forward, depending on who comes on board for taking this further, this might change, hopefully with things better than what I’ve thought of for now. 

 

An added dimension to this question is that we’re not existing in isolation. Already there are many similar projects ongoing, many alternative news sites whose articles we share on social media regularly, and even mainstream news are covering sustainability-related stories more and more. So where would THIS kind of website fit in?

The answer to that comes from asking : What was the original problem we started with?

Simple. Today there is a dramatic upswing in amazing information regarding sustainability solutions and holistic living being shared across mailing lists, on facebook groups and by enthusiasts on their profiles, on whatsapp groups, and telegram too.

We want to find ways to capture this information, manage it properly, retrieve it reliably a long time later, and help it outreach to a wider audience by publishing it on to the www with a hope that search engines will guide seekers to it. And this hasn’t happened yet for India-specific things the way we would like it to be. Oh, and in whatever language possible.

So that defines the scope for what this website should aim for in terms of content:

All the good stuff being shared on our mailing lists, whatsapp groups, telegram, facebook etc.

 


Elaborating a bit further on the content to aim for...

And that brings up a corollary : we definitely don’t want to be trying to compete with the wonderful people who are already doing a great job at authoring and publishing sustainability related content. Examples that come to mind : thebetterindia.com, thealternative.in, vikalpsangam.org and many more. Rather, this site should link to as many of them as possible.

So what does that leave out? Small but several action items. Recipes. Plant species and seeds and planting info. How-to’s. Contacts of green entrepreneurs, details of services available. Local answers to local questions, that come from tacit knowledge and first-hand experiences. People and places that are resources for those wishing to learn.

The structure of this site is therefore designed not to have a few elaborate articles that are good reads, but to churn out large volumes of tiny actionable items. The parallel multiple classifications are in place to help users find the needle in the haystack. The dates don’t really matter (Rejoinder: unless the article is about events or courses with application deadline! :P), most of the content would be both timeless and timely to whoever needs it, whenever they find it.

 

...Which needs many hands on deck...

And that’s where the human resource component of this project comes in. Technology may be important, but far more important is to have many hands on deck. I wouldn’t dream of doing this alone, or even with a small team. The content out there is simply overwhelming if you sit to meticulously turn each share into a full-fledged article… believe you me, we’ve tried! While it’s fun no doubt, there are only so many hours in the day and we have other things we need to be doing too!

For these reasons I only set out to build a proof-of-concept, a working prototype. For taking it forward, I hope we have a large group of people finding this worthwhile and taking ownership.

IMHO, a good way of going about the task of content collection is to have several people using the Submit an Article section to create and submit content (which is queued up for publishing), and then someone from a team of editors reviews and assigns attributes and publishes it. We could then have other people going through articles and doing edits, touch-ups, more attribution like mapping.

 

.. And now coming to the verification question

Bringing up the touchy topic of verification. This is usually where most website projects retreat to not publishing things without some verification. However, on our networks we’re frequently sharing first-hand material. It could be tacit knowledge that may in future need thorough testing but right now there may be sufficient number of people who can relate with it and so have shared it enthusiastically, and it might be important to spread the word. Spreading the word also makes it possible to get verification in response. Besides, many of the things we would want to share will be cases where the mentioned solution has already worked out, so it bears self-attestment.

So cutting long story short, my two cents is that I don’t want to go too much into verification. The fact that it’s getting shared without serious challenge in a network whose members I know and trust, should by itself be all the verification needed. Let further checking be done in parallel by others. Our job is to catch’em’all and spread’em around.


  Checklist:

Search mechanisms

Search&Filter as sidebar widgets; and WP Ultimate Search in Advanced Search page. DONE
Styling of search mechanisms : The WP Ultimate Search is giving prompts too small, need to make them look better : DONE

Content

Imported all posts from Jugaadibility and have assigned attributes to a few. DONE
Assign attributes to a significant number of posts: PENDING
Draft / delete posts that don’t really apply to this site : PENDING

Look and Feel

Zero in on a theme that’s meeting the project’s needs: Oblique : DONE
Display custom taxonomies when seeing posts : DONE
Display custom fields when seeing posts : DONE
Display a web map if the article has map location information entered: DONE
Display attachments : DONE