Category cleanup

For Category:Locations, I'm thinking a slightly simpler version of Wikipedia's structure. (If it needs to get more complex later, that's fine, but for now I'm just putting continents straight under Locations, and sticking to, e.g. Category:North America, rather than having a subcategory Category:North American countries.)

Some category names aren't obvious - e.g. Category:Georgia (country), since Georgia is also a state of the US (and probably a few lesser-known places too). But we're generally agreed here that following what Wikipedia has settled on is an easy and good path in most things, failing other compelling reasons.

Changes I've made include:

Two questions:

  • Category:Organizations based in the United States is slightly different in meaning from Category:United States organizations, but the difference is minor enough (and fuzzy enough) that we probably don't need to worry for now. I prefer the second one for simplicity and being easier to remember - what do you think?
  • "Renewable energy" seems unnecessary as a category, and I think it adds to the category clutter - most of what's on Appropedia is renewable. Better to just have "Energy," that can include everything, to be described and assessed on their own merits. Is it ok if I remove Category:Renewable energy?

I'll keep plugging away at this, using Pywikipediabot to make the category moves easier, and to do the text replace for putting things in more specific categories. (I manually check each edit.) I want to deal with the glaring errors for now, at least.

Any other big category cleanups that need doing? --Chriswaterguy 12:15, 27 April 2011 (PDT)

I agree on your proposed merge of Category:United States organizations.
I would prefer to keep Category:Renewable energy because articles about non-renewable energy could be useful to Appropedia's mission to promote sustainability, for example by documenting the extent to which various non-renewable energy sources are not sustainable. How does coal compare to tar sands and shale gas, for example? Issues like carbon accounting, life cycle analysis, and peak oil are likely to impact on Appropedia's users. As will the merging of the food and fuel markets (when the price of oil rises, the price of food rises too now). Most if not all of Appropedia's users probably have a foot planted in each world, as we probably all burn some fossil fuels directly or indirectly. Petroleum-fueled travel and appropriate technology seem to go together like conjoined twins. If the appropriate technology agenda depends on the continued availability of cheap petroleum, we should document the extent of it, if only to consider what happens when petroleum is no longer cheap. Will the appropriate technology enterprise survive if long-distance travel is no longer a possibility for most people? --Teratornis 14:43, 6 May 2011 (PDT)

Correspondence with Volunteers in Technical Assistance

Appropedia has a lot of information from Volunteers in Technical Assistance. I recently contacted Enterprise Works which is the current name for VITA to try and clarify the license for these and see if their content could be released under the CC-BY-SA license. They replied by asking about the permission under which this content got reposted on Appropedia. The correspondence is posted at Talk:Volunteers in Technical Assistance.

I understand all this content is transferred from Alex Weir's CD3WD CDOM and also from some microfiche. Can anyone point me to the permission applying here? I will copy any definite info to the VITA talk page so we have a record there.--Joe Raftery 16:15, 29 April 2011 (PDT)

We inherited the content in a merger, and while we were told we had permission, we weren't given evidence. I put on the {{open access}} tags, to make it clear that we didn't have clear permission under our license... and to stop people contributing to those pages, when we weren't sure of having permission to modify.
Either permission was given casually by someone at VITA (an email or phone call) or, most likely, someone from the earlier project saw VITA content reproduced openly elsewhere, and assumed it was ok to use.
I'm not sure of Alex Weir's exact permission, but I'm sure someone at VITA would have given him permission to use the info on his CDs. That doesn't automatically mean we can use it.
I look forward to having this sorted out. While I'd like us to be able to keep the content on Appropedia (even open it up as CC-BY-SA), we will do the right thing legally and ethically.
Thanks for taking this up. I've emailed you with a few details. --Chriswaterguy 21:38, 1 May 2011 (PDT)
As we don't seem to have permission I phoned them today to see what I could work out. See the discussion on Talk:Volunteers in Technical Assistance and the rewritw of the Volunteers in Technical Assistance page.
I have agreed to add {{VITA}} to pages with their content for now.
They have agreed to think about their licensing strategy and come back to us on this sometime in the next few weeks/months.--Joe Raftery 14:33, 3 May 2011 (PDT)

reCPATCHA for account registration?

I've noticed that there's a lot of discussion about the number of spam accounts being created. Would it be possible to stop this using a better captcha? There are two (simple looking) extensions for this. and . The first seems to be more what would be needed. It forces users to complete a captcha for new accounts and anonymous edits with external links. --Tahnok 11:22, 2 May 2011 (PDT)

We'd love help with this. For at least some of the extensions, work needs to be done with image libraries, and that's what's held us back.
If you're interested, you could help test out one or more anti-spam extensions on the Coalition of the Willing wiki - I'm involved there, and they need help. Then on our own dev wiki, before going live. (Or start on the dev wiki, but it will be more interesting to work on a live wiki that's currently under a spam attack.) That would be fantastic.
Btw, I just discovered that Akismet is available for MediaWiki - that and Bad Behavior (which I often suggest) are potentially very valuable tools, as long as false positives don't create a bad experience for affected users. --Chriswaterguy 23:08, 2 May 2011 (PDT)
Are there many unregistered edits that are spammy? It seems a lot of the spam comes from accounts made by a spam bot. I'm gonna try on the devwiki first just because I have little experience with installing extensions and I'd rather not mess up a live wiki. Tahnok 07:46, 3 May 2011 (PDT)
Spam bots on wikis always register first - that's the pattern in recent months. Occasional spam will come from IPs.
Btw, there may be useful info here: mw:Category:Spam management extensions and mw:Manual:Combating spam. Also, the Coalition of the Willing wiki just had Bad Behavior installed, so we'll see how that goes. --Chriswaterguy 10:58, 3 May 2011 (PDT)
I took a look at both of those pages, pretty good resources. Tahnok 14:20, 3 May 2011 (PDT)
So it seems that the dev wiki (and thus the main wiki) is unable to use the basic recaptcha extension because it conflicts with ConfirmEdit. The more recent versions of ConfirmEdit contain code for reCAPTCHA, but it's only available for mediawiki 1.16 which the dev wiki is not. Would it be a good idea to upgrade the dev wiki to 1.16? In the end I enabled MathCaptcha on the dev wiki. It's the same as the default, only the question is presented in an image instead of as plaintext. --Tahnok 14:20, 3 May 2011 (PDT)
I guess reCAPTCHA would be an alternative to ConfirmEdit, so ConfirmEdit should be disabled? The approach you've taken is interesting, and probably very effective.
At some point we'll need to decide whether we want people to figure out simple math (ok for most people, but some people are blind to mathematics - dyscalculia) or work out an image. Another option that would probably work for a short time is something like "enter the word wiki" or "What color is the sky?" - I've seen that work on other sites. --Chriswaterguy 05:01, 4 May 2011 (PDT)
Actually I think using an upgraded version of ConfirmEdit would be best. It can be setup to ask simple questions from a file like the questions you mentioned. I like reCAPTCHA because it's the most advanced captcha and it has the option for audio captcha should the person trying to setup an account be blind.
As for people who have trouble with captchas, I took a look at wikipedia's solution and they have a form you can fill out to request an account. I'm guessing that a human takes a look at the requests and decides whether or not to create new accounts. --Tahnok 10:14, 4 May 2011 (PDT)
Yes, having a human review account requests (e.g. "Summarize what you want to do on Appropedia") might be the most effective CAPTCHA method short of meeting a human in real life. The main drawback is that it is slow and creates some labor cost. --Teratornis 14:46, 6 May 2011 (PDT)
I'm not suggesting that all accounts be vetted by humans, but I think there should be the option to fill out a form for those who can't complete the captcha process --Tahnok 11:10, 7 May 2011 (PDT)

I think the number of people who would need help would be small, esp if we use reCaptcha with its audio option. So the ideal solution, I think, is:

  • reCaptcha (scrapping ConfirmEdit if it gets in the way - it's done well for us, but no problem with changing), with...
  • an option for vetted registration (keeping it simple but spam proof)

Don't worry too much about the ideal, though - let's take it step by step. And this is just my take on it.

Update on Bad Behavior - using it on its own on hasn't helped. That would be a good place to try reCaptcha (after it's within on the dev wiki). Wesley, I've put you in touch by email with Michael Maranda, who oversees tech work on --Chriswaterguy 21:03, 7 May 2011 (PDT)

Skin help

Hello all

Not sure if this is the right section, but I figure the people I need are probably watching this page. I'm trying to get a copy of Appropedia's skin working on my own wiki for development purposes but I just can't seem to manage it. I've copied all the files in the mediawiki Skins folder I still get the default skin. Where on earth is Appropedia's skin hiding? --Tahnok 13:05, 12 May 2011 (PDT)

Sorry I can't be more helpful... but I assume it's the same as in any MediaWiki installation, so #mediawiki on freenode will probably be helpful? I've found it useful at times.
Re where to post, I think Appropedia talk:Tech intern team is best - but you can always place a pointer to the question on this page, especially while the tech intern team page is still gearing up. --Chriswaterguy 08:55, 17 May 2011 (PDT)
I've answered my own question. You can create a page called MediaWiki:SkinName.css and it will apply any css to SkinName. Appropedia and the dev wiki both have one setup for monobook. --Tahnok 13:25, 18 May 2011 (PDT)
Ah, I should have known that. Glad you found it! --Chriswaterguy 21:35, 18 May 2011 (PDT)

Topical navboxes


Do you think a more obvious "[show]" link would be good? (E.g. bold, but bigger font or CAPS are possible.) If someone is scanning the page and hasn't seen one nefore, they won't realize there's something to be unlocked :). Other than that, looks good and I'll keep thinking. --Chriswaterguy 12:44, 17 May 2011 (PDT)

This appears to be the applicable code in MediaWiki:Common.css to bold the show/hide button.


--RichardF 13:41, 17 May 2011 (PDT)

Also keep in mind the default "state" of a navbox is "autocollapse", which means the box is "uncollapsed" when by itself on a page. It's also possible to force a box to be uncollapsed, regardless of what's on the page. The original outer box was uncollapsed. I also changed two more of the above boxes to be uncollapsed, a totally likely way boxes like them would be seen on a page. The more navboxes out there, the more accustomed readers will be to expecting a body below the title, regardless of the original state they see. --RichardF 19:16, 17 May 2011 (PDT)
Thanks - for now, I've edited the collapseButton in MediaWiki:Common.css to "font-weight: bold". Does that look ok? --Chriswaterguy 22:12, 18 May 2011 (PDT)
That looks fine to me. I would say it definitely helps with noticability. What might help even more would be having a navbox or two at the bottom of every article. ;-) RichardF 05:33, 19 May 2011 (PDT)
A navbox or two at the bottom of every article might be a very good thing... that's where AutoWikiBrowser or a bot could be very, very handy, for semi-automated adding to each article in a category (i.e. it prompts y/n for each page). --Chriswaterguy 13:32, 19 May 2011 (PDT)
Yes, I made a few thousand Wikipedia AWB edits during The Great Userbox Migration. ;-) In this case however, the real work is in making the topical navboxes in the first place. The critical task is deciding what should be in and what should not be in the box. It's easy enough for me to start a basic box outline with title articles from a category and its subcategories. The tricky part for me is deciding the best starter topics. None of the main top-level navigation structures I've seen around here totally agree with each other. After that, my experience has been I can add the template from page to page simply by clicking the next link in the box. And that goes faster than AWB would allow me to go because of the enforced time delay between edits. --RichardF 16:56, 19 May 2011 (PDT)

Participation and navigation templates

RichardF has been doing some work with navboxes on various topics, which is great. This got me thinking - I'd love to see improvements in the templates we use for basic navigation and helping people to participate. See Category:Request participation templates & Category:Navigation templates (& please add other relevant templates to those categories if they've been missed). I've done some, but I'd like for others to have a go at it.

My idea is to have, on every category page:

  • a {{cat header}}, or something similar
  • a very compact but clear template helping people to create a new page, perhaps merged into the cat header. That's actually a complex thing to do well - e.g. if we offer a prefilled page, it'll be different for projects, topic pages and organizations.

If there's any largescale cleanup to be done (removing or changing tempates on many pages) - Tahnok and I both have a bot that can help. --Chriswaterguy 12:38, 17 May 2011 (PDT)

Hi Chris. Your idea about "a very compact but clear template helping people to create a new [category] page" reminds me of the Wikipedia:Portal/Instructions, "To create a new portal on the topic "Topic" using the {{Wikipedia:box portal skeleton}} template follow these steps:".
I like the part about offering a set of structured page layout creation templates. The part I find "incongruous" from my Wikipedia experiences is the Appropedia category pages look a lot like stylized article, portal or contents pages. My personal preference is for category pages to be minimalist in terms of "extras." What you're thinking about for category pages might be what I would think about as being more applicable to those other types of pages.
The vast majority of my editing at Wikipedia has been around designing portals (e.g., Cats, Dogs, Education, Indiana, Philosophy of science, Psychology, Science, Sustainable development, Religion and United States), plus the Contents page layouts by Type and Topic. I also designed the tabbed layouts.
I'm willing to work on a high-level contents/portal navigation system here as well. Along those lines, my personal preference is to put category info into contents/portal pages, rather than the other way around. --RichardF 14:22, 17 May 2011 (PDT)
I was thinking more of helping people to create a new page in the category page they're viewing - like {{Newpageresource}} only much more compact while still being clear. But helping people to create all kinds of pages is good, and there's a lot that could be adapted from Wikipedia.
Re "Appropedia category pages look a lot like stylized article, portal or contents pages." There's been a policy shift on this (from one informal policy to another) and such categories mostly should be moved very soon. Moving categories with history intact is a bit of work - I've done some and planned to do a bunch more around now, but had my laptop stolen, including that work in progress. So I'm going to check my backups for old versions (& I have a couple of old working pages (here & here).
Make sure you check what Teratornis is up to - he's done a lot of template work here. You two are our template experts. --Chriswaterguy 21:57, 18 May 2011 (PDT)
I'm all for making the category page template short and sweet - something that can be "substituted," rather than "transcluded." Sorry to hear about your laptop. It reminds me of a few hard drives that have blown up on me over the years. Probably the more folks who keep an eye on Teratornis (and me) the better! ;-) --RichardF 06:49, 19 May 2011 (PDT)

Integrating Appropedia subsites

As a relative newcomer to Appropedia, I have to admit that I find it rather challenging to figure out even the basic scope of what's going on everywhere. My personal inclination has been to think of the foundation as the central organizer, rather than the wiki. From that perspective, the wiki still is the primary project and face of the foundation, but that makes me more inclined to think about other things that might be going on as well. This topic is about other ways to think about presenting the web presence of Appropedia.

Page layout for Appropedia home page and subsites
Appropedia-logo.jpg APPROPEDIA - Sharing knowledge to build rich, sustainable lives.
Home | Wiki | Blog | Forum | Foundation | Social networking
Page body
Page footer

The basic idea that comes to mind for me is to use "" as the home page for the foundation's web presence. The wiki and other projects would be presented as subsites. In this arrangement, all Appropedia pages would have the same header and footer to visually and conceptually tie everything together. The page body would present the distinct content of the wiki, blog and any other major content within that frame. Some subsites might be literal, such as the blog, while others might simply be framed views into other site pages, such as the social networking section.

At a relatively low overhead and redesign cost, I believe an approach to integrating all of the current and future Appropedia subsites will be of great value to branding and growing Appropedia. --RichardF 06:58, 18 May 2011 (PDT)

Interesting. Most people will be using the wiki (and we want to encourage that) and I think that's a strong argument for the wiki being at I expect we'll have language subsites in time, so having subsites of a wiki subsite is also a bit unwieldy.
But we do need this kind of thinking about our structure. If we have a wiki based forum, the integration will be tighter, but we could still link it from a top row in a new skin. (We could even have a wiki based blog - we'll have to see if the extensions for that have improved, but that's a lower priority and a digression...)
Re social networking... that happens across the wiki, and potentially in a forum and blog. How do you see it fitting into the subsite model? Social media is a part of it, and by nature that's more scattered across the web - how do we better integrate that? Having "Add this" type buttons is one way to help (and Wesley is doing something on that). Improving our Appropedia:Social media page also. Thanks. --Chriswaterguy 22:10, 18 May 2011 (PDT)
Now that Widget:Iframe almost is up and running, a technically simpler approach could be to just put key subsites and related sites each in a big frame on a normal wiki page. Selected Iframe pages also could be highlighted using Main Page tabs, like at
For the social stuff, I was thinking about what's on the Appropedia:Social media page. Going back to the Iframe idea, "Social media" could become a portal, with each of the "Highlighted" sites on their own Iframe page, regardless if any of them (e.g., Blog, Forum) make it to a Main Page tab.
Well, so much for that idea. None of the social media "big shots" allow themselves to be framed. The only sites I could get to show up in the development Iframe were globalswadeshi, livejournal, stumbleupon and delicious. --RichardF 12:32, 19 May 2011 (PDT)
p.s. The wiki "Home" page really is not at "" - it's at "". That's just like is not the "Home" page of any of its encyclopedias. ;-) --RichardF 07:16, 19 May 2011 (PDT)
Other quick ways to highlight selected Iframe pages would be to just add them to the Sidebar or an announcement across the top. --RichardF 08:27, 19 May 2011 (PDT)

Popular topics

RichardF made this "Wordle" based on Appropedia's 5000 most poular pages of Appropedia's most popular pages

"Wordle" based

. I find it interesting, and I think it's useful for showing where we have content, and where we're lacking, or where the info might be poorly linked and getting little traffic.

This makes me think about the idea of something like a "category cloud" - looking like this, based on the number of articles in each category, and with each category title clickable. I think that would be both useful and engaging, and it's probably not hard to install the extension. (Wordle would still be interesting to play with, though, as it can use different inputs.)

What do others think about a category cloud? --Chriswaterguy 21:31, 18 May 2011 (PDT)

Not surprisingly, I like the basic idea. I had an article cloud at Kivapedia posted on the home page until spammers took over the wiki. Here's the code I used.

{{#dpl:namespace=|notcategory=Main Page portal|nottitlematch=%/%|addpagecounter=true|mode=userformat|listseparators=,<font size="%COUNTFS%">[[%PAGE%|%TITLE%]]</font>,|inlinetext=•}}


One concern I have is about the MediaWiki Extension:DynamicPageList (third-party) warning:

WARNING: the code or configuration described here poses a major security risk.


  • Allows users to inject arbitrary html (including javascript) into pages. This could allow an attacker to steal other people's accounts, or redirect users to another site (etc. See XSS)
  • Doesn't adequately check the dplcache parameter. This allows user to overwrite certain files in the filesystem (if they end in .txt), and possibly display the contents of certain files. In the worst case, if apache is configured to support scripting languages using the AddHandler directive, this allows arbitrary code to be executed on the server.

I don't know all the technical details involved with all the possible DPL extensions, but consulting with a MediaWiki expert first certainly sounds to be in order. --RichardF 06:00, 19 May 2011 (PDT)

I also should point out the particular wordle shown here is not a weighted representation of the most viewed articles. If that were the case, the wordle would be a huge representation of the two or so most viewed articles - Welcome to Appropedia and Solar Charged Lawnmower. Since that really didn't seem to be the story Appropedia wanted to tell, what I did was enter the titles of the 5,000 most popular articles with no weightings for page views. An example of a weighted wiki wordle by article title is at Wikipedia:Vital articles#External links. So, what the wordle here basically tells me is the popularity of article topics to editors, because they are the ones creating the titles. I thought I should clear that up. --RichardF 06:22, 19 May 2011 (PDT)

Okay, now I see that Mediawiki:Category:Tag cloud extensions shows lots more possibilities than the evil extension I used in the past. With the security question out of the way, that gets me back to the "Category" vs. "Article" cloud question. It looks to me that both possibilities still are there. My preference still would be to go with articles in the cloud because that's what an article-based wiki is about. Maybe the SRF tagcloud would do the trick.

Wikipedia has tools for projects that can display article lists by quality, importance and popularity. Here are two U.S.A. Project examples: Quality and importance tables and Popular pages.

A start of something along those lines that could be done here with article clouds would be to use Category:Highlighted content and Category:Topics as the only sources of articles for the cloud. That cloud would represent a combined high level of quality, importance and popularity at Appropedia. It also would be an interesting source of conversations for what articles should be in those two categories that are seeding the cloud. --RichardF 09:48, 19 May 2011 (PDT)

I made a quick wordle - Appropedia Cats - based on the 357 categories with 10 or more members, using the number of members to weight the size of each category, e.g., "Stubs:651" and "Solar energy:10". A MediaWiki category cloud would look something like this. --RichardF 18:47, 19 May 2011 (PDT)

Pages to highlight?

Would be great to have some new pages to highlight on the from page in coming weeks. What are your favorite pages that are neat, complete, and with a good image?

See Appropedia:Highlighted Projects for pages to date. Although that page and template are for projects, we could highlight any good page, as long as it includes a decent image. --Chriswaterguy 13:51, 19 May 2011 (PDT)

Vital articles – importance, quality and popularity

Here’s an idea. Start a vital articles project to help organize and communicate what’s important, good and popular about Appropedia articles. It can draw many of its approaches and tools from the Wikipedia:Wikipedia:Vital articles project. The project here then can be used to manage the basic conceptual framework for how the encyclopedic content of the wiki is organized, developed and presented to the readers.

The basic scope of the project would be for members to rate articles in terms of their overall encyclopedic importance and quality, monitor their popularity, and identify high-impact next steps for improving the Appropedia reading experience.

Drawing from Wikipedia, article importance can be rated as top, high, medium or low. Quality ratings can be featured, A, good, B, C, start or stub. Popularity is a ranking based on the number of page views for a given time perio These three attributes of the collection of articles then can form the basis for making decisions about article classification and navigation systems, as well as focusing article development and improvement drives.

One key departure from the Wikipedia Way I would want to weigh in on is to use the importance ratings as the primary organizer for presenting content, rather than the quality-featured content method. Quality still is important, but it should be #2 on the priority list. “First, do the right things. Then, do the right things well.” For example, the top-level importance articles can form the basis for all of the top-level article organization and navigation structures – Sidebar, CategoryTree and Topics category. All the other articles then can flow from this common foundation.

In addition, subprojects can be formed around each of the top-level importance articles. In terms of the three ratings attributes, quality always remains the same, importance is reassessed at each level, and popularity rankings are based on the same number of page views but only for the articles included.

So, that’s the basics. What do you think? --RichardF 07:55, 20 May 2011 (PDT)

Good thoughts. We definitely want some way of focusing on certain content. Are you interested in fleshing it out some more - e.g. starting to identify important content? Existing pages and needed pages? Six ways to die is one framework to keep in mind. --Chriswaterguy 10:26, 23 May 2011 (PDT)
As it turns out, I'm not much of an Appropedia content expert, but I am a self-proclaimed expert in making sense of content - I'm a lot better at describing "what is" than deciding "what should be." In terms of deciding what should be the top-importance topics/articles, I would start by looking at what's already in the Sidebar, CategoryTree and Topics category. After combining those listings, I would get a consensus on what topics are top-importance and what are high- or lower importance. Here's a table that combines those topics.
Vital articles, top-importance candidates
Sidebar CategoryTree Topics category Combined topics
no subcategories
Category Fundamental human needs not found

How would you like to go about building consensus on at least a first draft of the top-importance articles list? --RichardF 12:21, 23 May 2011 (PDT)

Sustainable tools to meet [ fundamental human needs


One type of basic criterion for deciding what should be the top-importance articles would be to operationalize the Appropedia mission into a conceptual framework that can be used to structure the importance of articles. The schematic here is my attempt to do that. In effect, I see Appropedia as a resource about "sustainable tools to meet fundamental human needs." I used a sustainable development three-domain model for the tools. All the projects here seem to be about sustainable tools. I used Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for, uh, needs. Six ways to die nicely fits in the needs hierarchy. In this approach, all of the top-importance articles would represent fundamental elements of this framwework. Any framework that better represents Appropedia's mission would work even better. --RichardF 13:19, 23 May 2011 (PDT)

Two navboxes I started, {{Solar navbox}} and {{Water navbox}}, are another early attempt to start organizing articles around tools and needs. The Sun and water clearly qualify as needs at the base of the pyramid. Sections within each navbox take a first go at grouping sustainable tools by topic. --RichardF 13:40, 23 May 2011 (PDT)

I'm surprised the "non-portable" copy of wikipedia:Template:Navbox you copied over the portable but insufficiently featured {{Navbox}} seems to be working here. See my comments at:
If I get motivated I might try to figure out how the non-portable template code can work here given that I thought we were not running HTML Tidy. --Teratornis 14:02, 25 May 2011 (PDT)
Yes, I was surprised too. I read your comments at template talk too. The problems I was having were related to the nested features of navbox, with groups and navboxes. The bad code looked like it was related to the nested table start code "{|" not rendering properly. I tested the full version in my sandbox area before I moved it over. So far, I haven't noticed any other issues, but I'll keep an eye out.
So, what do you think of the vital articles project idea? :-) --RichardF 16:23, 25 May 2011 (PDT)

Mobile Skin

I'm trying to get to work on a mobile skin, but I am hoping to get some input from members of Appropedia as to what they would want / not want in a skin. I've created a page listing page elements currently on Appropedia and my take on what I think should be kept / not kept. Feel free to disagree. --Tahnok 12:52, 20 May 2011 (PDT)

All right, I'm currently working on the skinning the edit page and I'm wondering about the necessity of keeping all of the warnings. I would prefer to make them invisible but there may be legal reasons why I shouldn't do that. Thoughts anyone? --Tahnok 12:57, 30 May 2011 (PDT)
Good points - how about something super brief, with a "more" link to show/expand the warning text? For legal reasons (and because so many people don't pay attention to copyright) I wouldn't want to hide the warnings altogether. --Chriswaterguy 12:17, 1 June 2011 (PDT)

A permanent topical navigation bar at Sitenotice

Another way to highlight the "top importance" vital articles at Appropedia would be to include their topics in a permanent navigation bar on the Sitenotice page. This would make them available on every page and distinguish them from all the other links in the Sidebar. A simple example is shown below.

Appropriate technology · Green living · Food & Agriculture · Construction · Energy · Health & Safety · Transport · Water
Check out some of the great projects on Appropedia - and share yours!

As can be seen from this example, adding the navbar doesn't stop the page from being used for announcements as well. A change I would make from what's linked now is I would make all the links to portals, not categories. Nice things about using Sitenotice for the navbar are that it's prime real estate so people will pay attention to it and likely click the links, it's already there and it's easy to change. --RichardF 20:44, 21 May 2011 (PDT)

Interesting - giving it a test drive now :). I don't know if the horizontal lines above and below were meant to be included, but it felt like there were enough lines around the top already. --Chriswaterguy 07:48, 23 May 2011 (PDT)
Thanks! Obviously, I like the basic idea. The horizontal lines were just to set off the two navbar text lines from the rest of this discusion. They weren't meant to be included in the Sitenotice page. Hopefully, that navbar can help draw focus to the related portals development and vital articles project. --RichardF 08:09, 23 May 2011 (PDT)

Fixing css

So I noticed that there are a couple of errors in the CSS for appropedia. For example there's no padding on navigation, topics & areas and appropedia. Also the toolbox has a slightly different style from navigation. I assume the current blue for links in the side bar is preferred over the grey of the toolbox so I went with that. You can see the style in action on the dev blog and the actual style sheet is at . Can one of the admins port the page over? --Tahnok 14:32, 31 May 2011 (PDT

After talking to Chris I have modified the css slightly so that the toolbox remaind a different colour. --Tahnok 12:10, 7 June 2011 (PDT)

Interwiki links to ported Wikipedia content

Whenever content is ported from Wikipedia, we can expect two things about the wikilinks. First, most of the wikilinks there will lead to articles. Second, a number of links here will be red. Rather than give up convenient access to the Wikipedia articles and leave the links red here for an unknown amount of time, I have the following suggestions:

  • add an interwiki link to "all" links from the Wikipedia content by using the {{w}} in-line template;
  • remove any red links here in the body of an article when the paired interwiki {{w}} link is present; and
  • change the "See also" section to "See also, and suggested pages to create" such as at Appropriate technology#See also, and suggested pages to create to hold any red links that definitely are new article candidates.

For example, the two main articles, Appropriate technology and Green living have significant amounts of their content ported from Wikipedia. They also have virtually all of their wikilinks paired with the original {{w}} interwiki links. At the time of this posting, Appropriate technology still has most of its original red links, while Green living has the red links removed.

If there is support to do this, I'll remove the red links from the Appropriate technology article. In addition, since Chriswaterguy showed me how to do a fancy search and replace for quickly adding the {{w}} interwiki links to an article, I'm willing to help do this for other articles too. Just let me know if this is an approach you all want to implement. --RichardF 19:52, 31 May 2011 (PDT)

I added a third suggestion above for using a "See also, and suggested pages to create" section to explicitly identify articles for creation here. That way, an article is not peppered with red links, and a location for generating article creation to-do lists is readily available. --RichardF 10:18, 1 June 2011 (PDT)

Quick thought re adding {{w}} links - I wonder if running A:AutoWikiBrowser would let you add or skip them on a link-by-basis? (It's a Windows program, and I haven't managed to get it running in Linux yet - no one has used it on Appropedia yet, AFAIK.) Or use a text editor with decent regex for search and replace? (E.g. Geany - but might be tricky to set up in Windows... what OS do you use?)
Listing suggested pages to create at the bottom of the article is good. A few redlinks within an article probably is a good thing. (We could customize the default text at MediaWiki:Newarticletext, though, so that people clicking on a redlink for the first time get a bit of an explanation.) --Chriswaterguy 12:34, 1 June 2011 (PDT)
I've used AWB at Wikipedia. It's fine for making judgments find-by-find, but tedious if you already know you want to do a global replace all finds. In the case of the wonderful {{w}}, I'm thinking it's much more efficient to use a global regex replace all and then go back and read the article for customized changes. That's what I did for the Appropriate technology article.
I still think the burden of being red should be on the creating editor to commit to starting that article real soon now if it stays inline. Otherwise, it should be just at the "suggested pages to cerate" section. :-) --RichardF 13:10, 1 June 2011 (PDT)
Cool - if that way works for you, then very good. I'll check out your new pages. --Chriswaterguy 02:05, 3 June 2011 (PDT)
Okay, I'm going to start removing the inline red links at Appropriate technology when they have a paired {{w}} interwiki link with them. On a case-by-case basis, they can be added back inline if the corresponding Appropedia article is about to be created. If an article is desired there but it likely won't be created in the near future, a red link for it can be created at Appropriate technology#See also, and suggested pages to create. --RichardF 05:58, 3 June 2011 (PDT)
Appropedia has the difficult situation that many of our articles mention or allude to a huge foundation of encyclopedic content, but it would take thousands of person-hours of skilled labor to duplicate the corresponding thousands of articles from Wikipedia. This is one of many reasons why Making a successful new wiki is hard. Red links can be a useful tool for stimulating other people to develop new articles, but this is only working if the residence time of a red link is fairly low (i.e., it doesn't stay red for long). If red links are piling up and hanging around for years to fester, then they are not a useful tool but merely a depressing eyesore. When an article has dozens and dozens of red links, it screams "neglect". I don't think red links are a particularly good example of Stigmergy (i.e., "the stimulation of workers by the results they have achieved"), because a red link is not substantial enough to constitute a stimulating "result". That is, the red link doesn't contain enough existing structure to inspire someone else to extend it. It's not much better than leaving dirty dishes around the house in hopes that someone else in the house will wash them. --Teratornis 15:39, 5 June 2011 (PDT)

I found 26 articles that used {{Attrib wikipedia}}. I started adding the {{w}} inline interwiki links and removing the corresponding red links. I also added two templates - {{Y}} Yes & {{N}} No - that can come in handy for keeping track of various to-do lists, like in the example below. This example also shows how {{Multicol}}, {{Multicol-break}} and {{Multicol-end}} can be used to format text columns.

MyRegexTester Search
Add {{w}} and remove red links for article Pages that link to "Template:Attrib wikipedia"
Done - Article
Done - Article
Done - Article

--RichardF 18:30, 5 June 2011 (PDT)

Task status templates

I added a few more task status templates to the available collection.

--RichardF 10:31, 6 June 2011 (PDT)

Redlinks and w links

Great to see this activity, described above. Some suggestions:

{{w}} links:I made this template seeing that it would be useful for cases where there was no Appropedia article (either because it was outside our scope, or it just hadn't been created yet) or the Appropedia article was still a stub, and the reader was likely to want more information than was offered there. To my thinking (and this is all up for debate, of course):

  • Blue links (existing Appropedia articles) usually shouldn't have a {{w}} link. The Wikipedia page can be linked from the article itself - even if it's a stub, it will hopefully be a useful stub, and should have interwiki links. The editor should use their discretion as to whether it's needed.
  • Large numbers of W links with few local links seems odd, as if the page is an index to Wikipedia articles on the subject.
  • Where a redlink is justified (see below) the {{w}} link makes it more bearable.
  • Avoid adding the W links to the "See also" sections - better to have a separate section. (I like to have an "Interwiki links" section - & we can use the Green Development Wikis Search if we want to look more widely for links.)

Redlinks: Agreed that dozens of redlinks looks messy. However, removing all or almost all redlinks seems un-wiki-like, since redlinks are one of the key features of a wiki. The question is how to get more attention onto turning red links into articles.

  • Redlinks to fairly basic topics within Appropedia's scope, that really should have an Appropedia article, should remain. Note that each redlink counts towards the topic's ranking on Special:WantedPages.
  • To turn them into blue links, there will be a few strategies we can use. One is to recruit more volunteers, interns and service learning classes and suggest Special:WantedPages as a great place to start. (Recruiting volunteers, interns and service learning classes deserves a separate discussion topic, but I've been getting interesting bites to our first ad on; EWB Australia is sending some tech interns our way, and we can explore expanding this program and others like it to include content internships.)

For Appropriate technology, a few of those redlinks would disappear if I do an import of the entire wikipedia:Category:Appropriate technology. I created a number of those articles, and I'd be happy to see them here, and they're a very good fit here. (I'll want my bot running to do some of the followup editing, so I'll wait till I've got my bot working on my new computer.) That might be a model for other imports from Wikipedia - import a selection of articles from the associated category at the same time. --Chriswaterguy 11:08, 6 June 2011 (PDT)

If I understand you correctly, your preference is for me to revert all of the redlink and {{w}} changes I made, and don't do that anymore. Is that correct? If that's the case, then I want to revert those article changes before many more edits occur. --RichardF 12:59, 6 June 2011 (PDT)
Not all of them - I'm just suggesting to be more selective. The w links are often a good addition, and a lot of the redlinks should be removed if adapting a Wikipedia article - I think that's a good approach. I realize that what I'm suggesting makes it more work - but of course it doesn't have to be perfect, and it's always possible to go back and edit. Those are my thoughts - I'm also interested in what you and others think.
I did one revert where it was just w links on existing article links, but most wouldn't be as simple clear cut. Thanks. --Chriswaterguy 13:51, 6 June 2011 (PDT)
Oops - I see that you made some other changes there, so I replaced one edit... was also going to replace one of the w links, which would have been fine, but decided to create the Attribution stub rather than just linking to the Wikipedia stub. This is what I mean about it being complicated. But it's all good - we're making progress. --Chriswaterguy 14:05, 6 June 2011 (PDT)
Well, if it's not cut-and-dried, I already made the edits that made the most sense to me. What I'm going to do, then, is leave my edits as is. If someone wants me to revert any particular article I'll do that on request. I'll also leave the remaining articles to others to decide how they want to interwikilink them. --RichardF 17:04, 6 June 2011 (PDT)
I'll keep making some changes to the w links, and I hope we can do some more work with the text in the articles as well. Some original content and remixing will help to avoid the search engines deciding it's just a copy of Wikipedia. (Not sure how serious that is... but still, it's good to have our own versions.) This is a good (small) number of articles to work with for now. Thanks again --Chriswaterguy 11:42, 12 June 2011 (PDT)

Fundamental category - faceted subcategories proposal

This is a proposal to rearrange the Appropedia Fundamental category to be more in line with The Forum on Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development framework Core Themes and Content Items. This framework is very much in line with Appropedia. A major benefit of updating the Appropedia category system to be more in line with this framework is that a wealth of information related to sustainable development already has been organized along these lines. The better Appropedia's category system matches up with this framework, the easier it will be for Appropedia readers and contributors to see the connections among these resources.

The SISD framework is an example of a faceted classificationW system - multiple ways to think about and find content. This is the way just about every wiki category system works. The SISD core theme facets are Critical Sectors, Development Goals, Geographic Regions, Research Themes, and Geographic Scale. A number of content item facets also are included, like Projects, Programs and Solutions. Any article can be coded by any of the facets.

The following table shows how the Appropedia Fundamental category could be rearranged to be more in line with the SISD framework Core Themes and Content Items. All fundamental subcategories and all Topics subcategories are included in this table. The revised Fundamental category would look as follows, with all other subcategories moved elsewhere.

This proposal includes a relatively small amount of changes to individual categories at the top levels. Most of the changes simply involve rearranging the parent and child relationships among categories. A few new categories also would be created. The biggest changes would be to the Topics category. First, the category would be simplified by removing some of the subcategories. Second, its name would be changed to something like Critical sectors.

Fundamental category SISD Core Themes SISD Content Items Fundamental candidates
no subcategories
  • Critical Sectors
    • Water and Sanitation
    • Energy
    • Health and Environment
    • Agriculture
    • Biodiversity and
      Ecosystem Management
    • Cities
  • Development Goals
    • Poverty and Hunger
    • Education
    • Gender Equality
    • Health
    • Environment
    • Global Partnerships
  • Research Themes
  • Geographic Regions
  • Geographic Scale
  • Projects
  • Members
  • Publications
  • Programs
  • Solutions
  • Commentaries
  • Education & Training
  • Integrated Studies
  • Key Journals
  • (Critical Sectors)
  • (Development goals)
Category Fundamental human needs not found
  • Geographic scale
Category Issues not found
  • Demote
Category Categories by topic not found
Category Portals not found
  • Content maintenance
    and help

If you're interested in updating Appropedia's encyclopedic classifications system, I'm all for it and would be happy to help. --RichardF 09:53, 10 June 2011 (PDT)

The following table shows how the 100 most linked-to article categories can be arranged by the proposed fundamental category structure. Each category is listed only once, although many of them actually go with more than one of the fundamental categories. That's what a faceted category system is all about.

Top 100 categories by proposed fundamental candidates
  • (Critical Sectors)
  • (Development goals)
Category Fundamental human needs not found
Category Issues not found
  • Demote

--RichardF 02:24, 12 June 2011 (PDT)

I like this idea as well it puts Appropedia more in line with the mainstream sustainability lit and make things easier to find. The easier the better. The critical mass of content is not too far away now and we want a strong structure to input the new info. --Joshua 05:39, 12 June 2011 (PDT)

Thanks RichardF. Agreed that SISD's framework is good, and worth largely adopting, though our needs will be slightly different. E.g. "Topics" is a clear catch-all for topics - i.e. subject areas. The suggested replacement, "Critical sectors," seems to imply it's more limited, like there should be a "non-critical sectors" category ;-). That might work better for SISD than for us - but maybe I haven't grasped the terminology.
I think there's a lot of good stuff in here, but I'm going to want to keep looking over this and figuring out the specific changes and how they compare to the current structure.
I'd be comfortable with suggestions for category merges, splits, renames, and deletions being dealt with in small batches - one or two or three at a time. Where categories are linked somehow (e.g. "Food production" and "Agriculture"), we can consider them together. How does that sound? --Chriswaterguy 11:34, 12 June 2011 (PDT)

Perhaps the best next step is to start by considering the root category of Appropedia, Categories in the context of the Wikipedia root category, Contents. Appropedia's root category has two paths - Appropedia and Fundamental. Wikipedia's root category has three main types of paths, with several categories of each type - encyclopaedic content, navigational content and content maintenance and help. The specifics are shown below.

Encyclopaedic content
Featured content
Navigational content
Content maintenance and help
Wikipedia administration

The "fundamental" categories on the two wikis are different. Wikipedia's is about basic types of existence. Appropedia's is about various kinds of articles with no unifying construct. The "topics" also are different. Wikipedia's are comprehensive. Appropedia's are related to aspects of sustainability and sustainable development.

Wikipedia's contents portals, which I helped design, use two broad facets - topic and type of page. That's relatively straightforward compared to the number of facets used here. That's why the SISD framework looks more complex, even though it covers a narrower range of topics.

The key for the encyclopedic categories is to pick a comprehensive conceptual framework and stick with it. Wikipedia shoots for all noteworthy knowledge. Appropedia shoots for some subset of that in more depth and beyond an encyclopedic style. Since every article is about some sort of topic, that category doesn't seem to be particularly useful to me here. If "Critical sectors" doesn't cut it, then maybe something like "Resources" comes closer. The point is to name the pie, find its edges, then start slicing it up and serving it out, preferably with some scoops of tasty ice cream here and there to jazz things up! ;) --RichardF 14:44, 12 June 2011 (PDT)

I'm a bit confused - it might help to explain what exact changes you're proposing - what gets moved, to where? Are there merges or splits?
The rename of Category:Topics to something something else isn't a structural change, though we can certainly talk about it here. "Topics" still seems like the clearest name. Re "Since every article is about some sort of topic, that category doesn't seem to be particularly useful to me here." - Yes, every page belongs somewhere in the Topics category tree, but if it's not a topical article (e.g. it's a project or design) then it also belongs in one of those other categories. Does that make sense? Thanks

I made specific suggestions for changes and I didn't see a lot of support for it. So I stepped back with a process suggestion at a higher level. Here are some bulleted suggestions than can be fleshed out as/if they're supported and implemented.

  • Have three "types" of subcategories from the root category:
    • Encyclopedic content
    • Navigational content
    • Content maintenance and help
If you want to keep the current top structure, I would do it like this.
  • Categories
    • Fundamental
      • Encyclopedic content
      • Navigational content
    • Appropedia
  • Outline a comprehensive conceptual framework for the encyclopedic content based on the principles of sustainability and sustainable development. The SISD framework seems like a good start to me.
  • Start aligning all of the Appropedia classification and navigational structures along these basic outlines, such as the:
    • Sidebar
    • Top navbar
    • Categorytree
    • The Categories system
    • Vital articles importance rating system

How's that? :-) --RichardF 13:59, 15 June 2011 (PDT)


I've edited the left-hand sidebar (diff), changing some of the categories to portals, arranging them in alphabetical order, and putting the category tree at the end.

Some of the categories suck, and some of them are missing. Is someone interested in making new portals? It's not hard, but I'd love to get someone else's take on it. Copy the source of one of the newer style templates - e.g. Portal:Green living or Portal:Appropriate technology and modify according to the new topic. And remember it's a wiki, so just taking one or two steps is also good. --Chriswaterguy 11:22, 15 June 2011 (PDT)

I've done quite a lot of work on portal design and wiki design. I'm willing to help out with portals here too. One of the overall design issues I see here is an ambiguous distinction among article, portal and category pages. I go for articles strong on narrative and media, categories strong on conceptual classifications with minimalist additions to the page, and portals as comprehensive entry points to major topics that showcase the best of what the wiki has to offer.
From that perspective, I see the overall portal design here as a bit weak. My impression is that's in large part to a relatively small amount of content and an incomplete conceptual framework for the content and wiki administration category system. It also seems those circumstances are on the threshold of stepping up a notch or two.
Before adding too many more portals using the current design, I would suggest a few other things happen first.
  • Update the top-level category system to whatever comes from the recent discussions about it.
  • Set up a number of portal background structures from Wikipedia that allow for consistent design styles and automated rotations of selected content.
  • Expand the portal layout design elements to include all of the top-level content and administration features of the updated category system.
I have experience in these areas and I'm willing to help set up the basic infrastructure and designs, given an expressed consensus of support from the established contributors here. --RichardF 19:04, 15 June 2011 (PDT)
I'd be happy to go for much less text content in the portals compared to, say, Portal:Appropriate technology. Other than that I don't see specific problems with them, and they're a relatively easy style to maintain. I'm not sure about the Wikipedia style of testing... but if I comment too much now it'll only be about my personal preferences, so we need to get some feedback, even do some user testing using two or more different styles.
What do you mean by portal background structures - templates used in Wikipedia portals? Does "automated rotations of selected content" refer to featured pages for a particular area?
Unfortunately it's hard to get much response here (one of the reasons I'm keen to get a wiki-based forum going in place of this page). But I'd be happy to hear what others think. --Chriswaterguy 21:07, 15 June 2011 (PDT)
There are lots of little maintenance design structures in Wikipedia portals, such as boxes, color palettes, page layouts, subpages, bots (I can't do those), time and random functions, cross-portal organizers, and so on. Above that, many topical projects of editors coordinate content creating and promotion efforts. That's the kind of stuff I think applies to general portal support and maintenance. It's a big part of what helps people make sense of a wiki. If that's not of interest here, then there's not much point in creating all the extra infrastructure. --RichardF 05:31, 16 June 2011 (PDT)
A lot of the content work (having enough good pages for the random thing to be useful, coordinated content and promotion efforts) depends on the community, so the priority (for me, anyway) is building that community - and a simpler portal structure makes sense to me in the meantime. But the random function may still be useful. The main thing is to have something that makes sense and shows people their main options... and that looks better and clearer than landing on a category page. --Chriswaterguy 10:59, 16 June 2011 (PDT)
Being a relative newcomer, I don't have a clear idea about the level and amount of quality content here. I'm not at all sure how many contributors and readers do. Maybe picking one topic with lots of content and testing more and automated portal sections on the development site would be a low risk way to go next. --RichardF 11:57, 16 June 2011 (PDT)
Sounds like a good strategy! --Chriswaterguy 01:26, 18 June 2011 (PDT)

An example of how a page can be used to randomly display its subpages is at the development site page, Appropedia:Highlighted_Projects/Selected. When that page is a subpage of something else, like a portal, the portal page never needs to be updated just because new selected items are added. The selected content will be rotated whenever the portal page is purged. --RichardF 14:10, 18 June 2011 (PDT)

I also made a layout page at Appropedia:Highlighted_Projects/Selected/Layout that could be used for highlighted projects just about anywhere. --RichardF 21:55, 18 June 2011 (PDT)
Appropedia:Highlighted_Projects/Selected now shows how {{Box-header-watch}} and {{Box-footer}} can be used to contain content. The size and location of boxes on portal pages would be controlled by the page layout design. --RichardF 13:41, 19 June 2011 (PDT)
Looking good - I think we could use that for our highlighted content boxes for each portal. --Chriswaterguy 04:39, 20 June 2011 (PDT)
Thanks. I'm starting to put together some pieces for a portal layout at my test user page. --RichardF 09:35, 20 June 2011 (PDT)

Okay, my test user page now has a sample portal page layout more like a typical Wikipedia portal page. It has two randomly rotating sections. Any thoughts on what you want do next? --RichardF 19:46, 25 June 2011 (PDT)

I now have a working test version on this site at User:RichardF/Portal/Appropriate technology. Let me know what types of changes you would like to see for it to go live. --RichardF 20:07, 28 June 2011 (PDT)
Another way to go is to just dump PortalSpace portals and put them on the corresponding category page. That's the inclination here anyway, so why not just go with it?! Here's an example at Category:Appropriate technology. --RichardF 10:19, 29 June 2011 (PDT)

Adapting ported content

Due to changes in Google's algorithm in 2011 (the "Panda" update) we need to be more careful about duplicated content, within the site, and copied from other sites. Not that we should remove it entirely, where it is good content, but it will help to change it and mix it with other content - i.e. make it more original. I wouldn't want to do this just for the search engines, but I also think it's a chance to improve the quality of these pages.

For ported content, where we've used content under an open license, the best thing is to adapt the content: add an introduction, expand it, and rewrite it as appropriate.

I've made a new {{copied}} template to place at the bottom of such pages. It requests the reader to help edit, and also adds <noindex> tag to the page - the noindex means it won't show up in search engines until the notice is removed, but it also helps prevent Appropedia being penalized.

I'll start adding this tag to some pages, and then pages listed here are the ones that will need attention. How does that sound? --Chriswaterguy 12:03, 15 June 2011 (PDT)

On second thoughts, the {{copyedit}} tag can do the same job as long as a comment is made about which sections need rewording. The copied template hasn't taken off, so in the interests of simplicity, I'm marking it as deprecated.
(I just realized that we had a copedit class working on Appropedia recently, and they didn't work on these pages because they weren't added to the same category as those with the copyedit tag.) --Chriswaterguy 00:53, 2 October 2011 (PDT)

Mobile Skin Alpha is live (on the dev wiki)!

Hello folks, I've just finished installing my very alpha release of a mobile skin on . It should work automagically if you are using a mobile device and you can enable it as a skin as well. It's called Thirteen.

Please let me know what you think and what works and does not. If you want to look at the code it's here ( ). Enjoy --Tahnok 09:33, 16 June 2011 (PDT)

Lever arms for pedaling

Some time ago I made an image of Maurice Houbracken's lever arm for use on cranksets (see link at Appropedia article). This system didn't run very smoothly (I saw it in action where he lives, but at a specific point the whole thing blocks up a bit, and this was inherent to the design. So, I made some other designs, and I placed the images of these at Pedal power. I was wondering whether anyone here has more knowledge on lever arms and could take a look at whether my systems would work. I need to integrate one in a first human powered vehicle I'll be modelling out, so I need to be certain it will work.

The lever arm system could btw be used in all pedal-power related articles, including electricity generator systems.

KVDP 02:50, 18 June 2011 (PDT)

Many people have tinkered with bicycle drivetrains for more than a century, coming up with all sorts of clever alternatives. If any alternative bicycle drivetrain was superior, it would immediately take over the bicycles on the professional racing circuit. Racing may be traditional, but racers who want to win readily adopt any technology (legal or not) that lets them go faster. Examples: lyrca shorts and jerseys to replace wool; aerodynamic helmets and wheels; clip-in pedals; performance enhancing drugs; etc. Alternative drivetrains have failed to dislodge the standard because they are less efficient. This is easy to verify by timing the same cyclist on a measured course using different bicycles or different setups. Racing cyclists who train and compete with the same people regularly get immediate feedback about whether an equipment change is helping or hurting. --Teratornis 14:38, 29 June 2011 (PDT)
Each extra bearing introduces more bearing drag and thus energy loss. More bearings also mean more openings where dirt and water can get in, thus more maintenance and more points of potential failure. Bearings wear out, and as they wear, the bearing surfaces get rough which increases the drag. --Teratornis 11:27, 7 July 2011 (PDT)

Religious content

I'd like to hear thoughts on a policy about religious content on Appropedia. We've got a couple of articles that very strongly emphasize religious belief. It doesn't seem appropriate, but on what grounds?

Relevance? Promotion? Appropedia isn't for promoting your band, so it makes sense that it's not for promoting your religion either?

This has been discussed in passing before, and there seems to be some agreement on moving religious content by a user to that user's userspace.

Religion can evoke strong feelings and opinions, for and against. I have my own opinions, but those aren't particularly relevant to this discussion. We need a clear policy that is consistent with Appropedia's mission, but of course respectful and sensitive. My concern is that by having religious pages in our article space, we're sending mixed messages about Appropedia's purpose, and to those who arrive here for the first time, it can appear as though Appropedia as a site or community is affiliated with a particular religion - which of course it isn't (nor with any absence of religion). Those are individual matters.

How do we formulate this? Thoughts, please. --Chriswaterguy

Appropedia certainly has ethical values. As a community, we are in favour of giving people satisfying lives, and combatting disease, hunger, etc.. Religious people (of whom I am not one) frequently derive their ethical convictions from their religions, and might therefore argue that religion is intrinsic to Appropedia's activities. Non-religious people can argue that the foundation for ethics is the desirability of having a world in which each of us, including myself, can lead a fulfilling life, and this foundation has nothing to do with religious belief.
If we can agree on actions to take, then it doesn't really matter if our reasons differ. In the interests of harmony, I think Appropedia should be secular, with no promotion of religion or any other philosophical viewpoint. If I find any content with which I strongly disagree, such as a religious tirade, I find myself being turned off, and my interest in other material declines. Turning people off from Appropedia is, I think, undesirable.
DOwenWilliams 14:59, 19 June 2011 (PDT) David Williams
"religion or any other philosophical viewpoint" - agreed. A:Policies already talks about politics, Appropedia being for describing and comparing alternatives rather than attacking those with a different point of view. This extends to certain types of philosophies, in my thinking. If it's a "philosophy" of how we treat the earth and the poor, that might fit in a certain context, but if it's Marxism vs Austrian libertarianism, no. Some projects will tend to reveal a more collectivist or more individualist perspective, and that's fine. And agreed about actions as our place of agreement. --Chriswaterguy 03:26, 20 June 2011 (PDT)
I suspect the narrative explanation for ethical behavior is often backwards, i.e. people do not so much choose to behave ethically as a result of having carried out some abstract reasoning from religious first principles, but rather religion is a handy way to rationalize the impulses some people feel to behave ethically, and we do not really understand where those impulses come from. "Because I felt like it" might be the real explanation for much of our behavior, but some people might feel uncomfortable admitting they do not really understand why they do what they do. Religion is not a convincing explanation for ethical behavior because religion doesn't lead all religious people toward any particular behavior, not even within a given sect. Sincere people have used particular religious texts such as the Bible both to justify slavery and condemn it. If religion has been unable to reach one durable consensus on an ethical question as basic as whether owning other people is permissible, how can it be a foundation for ethics?
As to the original question, Appropedia articles should be descriptive rather than prescriptive. An article could describe the religious motivations of a particular individual or group, to the extent that these motivations played a role in whatever work the individual or group did which is within Appropedia's remit. But an article should not state religious beliefs as facts, nor take an "in universe" perspective as if the religion is true, any more than we should take an in universe perspective with a work of fiction (for example, describing fictional characters as if they are real). Any first-person assertions of faith (or any other claims not conclusively supported by evidence) belong on user pages as opinion pieces. I'm all for everybody expressing their opinions in user space, because we enjoy sharing our opinions, and it helps Appropedia by disclosing our motives and biases to other contributors. But personal opinions interfere with collaboration, which is what the article space is for. We can collaborate effectively on descriptions of the objective reality which is available to all of us, but it is harder to collaborate on subjective beliefs and opinions that are only available to the individual who holds them. --Teratornis 12:39, 7 July 2011 (PDT)
I am newly registered here and was confronted with this question more or less straight away. I didn't know where & how to voice this and looked for policies without success. Hence I left a message on the Policy Discussion page. It is largely in agreement with the above comments. Do let me know if I missed something :) --Mischa Altmann (talk) 00:07, 17 January 2013 (PST)

We need a policy on manuals & guides

Dozens of pages on Appropedia use the word "manual" in the title - see the search results. I'm not comfortable with this - to me this a "manual" to imply something authoritative and comprehensive. The pages are generally still in early stages (aiming to be manuals, but not there yet) and by nature, a good wiki article is useful, but not exactly authoritative.

My suggestions:

  • The name': I prefer guide or handbook rather than manual, as they sound more like a useful resource rather than instructions that must be followed. ("How to" also sounds okay to me - though this probably describes a more specific topic.) This attitude seems in keeping with the wiki and open knowledge philosophy, providing something that we hope will be useful, but without any promise or warranty. That's how the choice of English words sounds to me, anyway. How do you all feel about the choice of words?
  • Starting a guide: My general preference is to build up the necessary info in the form of good articles, including how-tos, and when there is enough good content to form a comprehensive guide to a subject, then we could form it into something a guide or handbook, by using a category and a navigation template. Where a guide is needed on a specific topic, such as "how to choose a sanitation system" (taking the reader through choices related to context, costs and impacts)
  • Naming of components: As suggested in the proposed guideline at Help:Page naming #Topics, the name should be descriptive - avoid the form of "Foo 1," "Foo 2," or "Foo chapter 3" etc, as this doesn't tell someone browsing what they'll can hope to find on a page, and it breaks with the wiki principle of intuitive page names.

Thoughts? --Chriswaterguy 11:48, 25 June 2011 (PDT)

I tend to think of a "manual" as something that goes in my glove compartment or comes with my computer - it's about a specific product. I agree that term probably is overused here. When I was trying out navboxes, I came across the Appropriate living manual. It already had the {{Appropriate living manual menu}} across the top of the related pages. It looks like this.

Template:Appropriate living manual menu

I added the {{Appropriate living manual navbox}} to the bottom of those pages. It looks like this.

Template:Appropriate living manual navbox

Calling that series of articles a manual seems a bit presumptuous to me, but to be honest, I get that feeling about the concept of "appropriate" technology articles in general. Calling collections of articles guides or handbooks is a little softer in its connotation.
Another approach Wikipedia uses for related collections of articles (besides navboxes) is to tie them together with infoboxes of the style shown at Wikipedia:Category:"Part of a series on" templates. Two examples include Wikipedia:Talk:Ecology#Ecology template and Wikipedia:Template:Transport. These template don't presume the articles form a guide or handbook, but simply a common theme. --RichardF 14:12, 25 June 2011 (PDT)
I am not sure how I feel about manuals on Appropedia. I had originally thought that Appropedia would be the descriptive resource behind other people's prescriptive manuals on living. That is that we would be the library of project descriptions, processes, stories and outcomes, and then other organizations could make 'manuals' specific to their stakeholders and audience (since the idea of an overall living manual is ridiculous). On a separate note, some of the AT living manual is painfully terrible and colonial. You can see a few of my comments on just a small page here - Talk:Appropriate living and networking. I DO NOT like the idea of telling people how to live. I do like working together to find ways that work better in specific contexts. Some possible policies include:
  • An easy answer would be to avoid telling people how to live all together... i.e. no "how to live manuals".
  • A more balanced answer might be to make "how to live" pages much more specific, e.g. How to decrease your carbon footprint in the United States, How to secure clean drinking water in Dominican Republic, etc.
  • Another answer is to make "how to live" pages be under a user's page, e.g. User:Lonny/How_to_not_keep_doing_the_same_things_that_made_AT_fail_in_the_past... but invite others to edit that space.
Does anyone else have any other ideas? In the mean time, can we just delete pages like - Appropriate living for one person? I can't even figure out where to start a useful argument on how people should look (lean and muscular... really? all of us?). Sorry for the rant. I am really happy to be having these discussions and know that we can come up with ways, together, to provide resources for people and communities working towards a more thrivable life.
Thanks, --Lonny 18:52, 25 June 2011 (PDT)
PS I see this as a much different question than a guide on "how to size a photovoltaic system". I strongly welcome guides like that, where, if a person/community wants a photovoltaic system the cocreated manual can show the process (and hopefully it is then updated for clarity and accuracy by the people that use it). --Lonny 18:52, 25 June 2011 (PDT)
In my line of work, evaluation, we often make distinctions between characterizations (descriptions) and appraisals (values-based judgments). In this area, it seems that “sustainable living” is primarily descriptive, while “appropriate living” is fundamentally judgmental.
It also seems that it typically will be a lot easier to describe how to do this or that in a sustainable way – potential material for a manual. After that, values-based criteria can be applied to the practice to decide whether it would be appropriate for a given set of world views and circumstances – potential material for guides and handbooks.
It’s also possible to describe values-based criteria and judgments about things. That’s what encyclopedias are good for. So, it seems that an encyclopedia about appropriately sustainable stuff would have room for both descriptive material about sustainable practices that could be used for manuals; and evaluative judgments about practices, sustainable and otherwise, that explicitly present the criteria for those judgments as the fodder for developing guides and handbooks. That way, the readers have the opportunity to make their own judgments about the applicability to them for both sustainability and appropriateness of the practices in question in the context of their own values and circumstances.
The writing policies and guidelines in a situation like this then would focus on making sure claims about sustainability were primarily descriptive and independently verifiable, while assertions about appropriateness clearly described or referenced the world views, criteria and circumstances under which such claims would hold. This probably is a much higher standard than many appropriate this or that articles here can meet. However, putting clear guidelines and introductory materials out there about the basic distinctions between sustainable and appropriate technologies certainly would go a long way to helping contributors and readers understand the fundamental underpinnings of Appropedia, how it could be of use and value to them, and how the encyclopedia could be improved moving forward. --RichardF 22:39, 25 June 2011 (PDT)

Some comments:

  • Substituting the words "guide" or "handbook" for "manual" sounds to me like a pointless run on the euphemism treadmill. Whatever connotation we try to avoid by changing the name of a thing, it eventually reattaches under the new name as long as the properties of the thing remain the same. I think content is more important than titles. The primary function of a title, in my view, is to usefully summarize a page to facilitate search and recall, not to shape a reader's impression of it. People should and eventually will form their impressions of content by reading the content.
  • Name changes should be on a case by case basis. I don't think the number of pages with the word "manual" in their titles is, by itself, good or bad. For some of those pages, maybe the word fits, and for others maybe it does not. Maybe there are other manual-like pages that don't call themselves manuals, but should. Ideally we should respond to what we know are problems rather than what we think are problems. Is there a page for which we know the title is misleading people and causing harm? Let's fix that one first. Unfortunately we might be flying blind until someone complains.
  • I agree that numbers by themselves are not usefully descriptive titles, except for articles that are actually about those numbers. See for example wikipedia:1, wikipedia:2, etc.
  • I agree with Lonny that appropriateness is unavoidably specific to geography and context. For example with respect to gardening and farming, there can be dozens of distinct hardiness zones that determine what crops can grow in a given location. Gardening advice appropriate for the tropics probably won't work in Greenland.
    • However, I do like the idea of telling people how to live, or at least telling them what will happen if they ignore the laws of nature. An obvious example is the need to cut everyone's carbon footprint to one tonne or preferably less of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. That does not force everybody to live in exactly the same way, but it does enormously constrain our choices. People who manage to get anywhere near to the needed low carbon living will have a lot more in common with each other than with the high emitters. For example, I haven't seen a credible argument that it is possible to stay under one tonne while burning any liquid fuels for transport. Not when eating, by itself, generates about two tonnes per year.
    • I'm not a huge fan of the word "appropriate", not so much because it is judgmental but because it is vague. But I don't see it as an actively harmful word. Language isn't precise enough to express a problem that really exists in the world of numbers. What we really care about are things that can be quantified: kilowatt-hours, tonnes of carbon dioxide, various measures of soil fertility, agricultural yields, mortality rates, literacy rates, poverty measures, etc. Without quantifiable metrics we have no way to tell whether we are getting closer to whatever goal we have. Without numbers, all we can do is maybe feel good about ourselves.
  • I agree that primarily personal narratives belong on, or should at least start as, user subpages. Anything with the pronoun "I" in it. If an appreciable number of people begin to practice one person's approach to something, then it starts to become the basis for a descriptive article. When a particular method gets a name, we can describe it. Rather than presenting it as the only valid approach.
  • The more I see the difficulties on Appropedia, the more I understand the reasoning behind What Wikipedia is not. Some types of content lend themselves to massive remote collaboration more than others. Wikipedia has, for better or worse, made a formula for excluding most content that hinges primarily or solely on any person's opinion. On Appropedia, we embrace a big chunk of that content, so we have to work out how we are going to handle it.
    • In any dispute, there has to be a final arbiter. Hopefully we can resolve disagreements before the last guy (presumably Lonny) has to rule, but the last guy has to be there to break deadlocks. Otherwise the deciding factor becomes endurance in edit wars.

--Teratornis 11:42, 27 June 2011 (PDT)

Important topics

Interesting source of popular topics on Wikipedia about international development: Wikipedia:Wikipedia:WikiProject International development/Popular pages.

That could make a good list of ideas for anyone, say a student, looking for a topic to write on for Appropedia. --Chriswaterguy 12:44, 1 July 2011 (PDT)

I think those are very useful encyclopedic project tools for tracking popularity, quality, and importance. There are two basic types of online tools, one with popularity info and one without. Here's how they look for the International development project.
The Toolserver pages have lots of options for how the information is displayed, not just as they show up on Wikipedia project pages. --RichardF 16:13, 1 July 2011 (PDT)

I copied the Top 100 most popular list from Wikipedia and linked them here to see which articles already have been created.


--RichardF 19:20, 1 July 2011 (PDT)

Here's a similar list of pages and links for the environment.


--RichardF 10:33, 3 July 2011 (PDT)

I went back to the Wikipedia Release Version Tools for WikiProjects like International development and added them to the table below, Article ratings, indexes, lists and outlines. The ratings links are used to select articles for Wikipedia offline releases. When you dig into the details you can see that pageviews are part of the article selection criteria. Taken together, the article selection score adds up information about an article's importance, quality and popularity. While I was at it, I also included some related indexes (a-b-c order), lists (grouped by topic), and outlines (fancy lists+ grouped by topic). Viewing these tables is one way to see how Appropedia article coverage corresponds with Wikipedia article coverage.

Article ratings, indexes, lists, outlines, navboxes and trees

Ratings: Agriculture · Biology · Ecology · Energy · Egineering · Environment · Forestry · Health and fitness · International development · Medicine · Technology · Transport · Urban studies and planning · Water supply and sanitation

Indexes: Climate change · Conservation · Energy · Environmental · Forestry · Gardening · Health · Mechanical engineering · Soil-related · Solar energy · Structural engineering · Sustainability · Urban planning · Urban studies · Waste management

Lists: Environmental organizations · Environmental studies · Low-energy building techniques · Organic gardening and farming · Sustainable agriculture

Outlines: Agriculture · Design · Ecology · Energy · Energy development · Energy storage · Engineering · Environmental journalism · Forestry · Health · Nutrition · Sustainability · Technology · Transport · Water

Navboxes: Bioenergy · Electricity generation · Global warming · Solar energy · Sustainability · Wind power

Trees: Agriculture · Design · Energy · Energy storage · Engineering · Environment · Forestry · Health and safety · Nutrition · Sustainability · Technology · Appropriate technology · Transport · Water

While doing this, it occurred to me that if editors here developed a set of Appropedia outlines that laid out the basic intended content coverage by major topic, it would be very easy to see a number of things, such as the road map for Appropedia's content and how far it's coming along. Those outlines also would come in handy for updating things like categories, portals, to-do lists, etc. --RichardF 13:38, 8 July 2011 (PDT)

I started adding trees tables that include the Appropedia categorytree, plus the corresponding categorytree, article and outline TOCs from Wikipedia. These tables also can be used to compare coverages of topics. --RichardF 18:42, 8 July 2011 (PDT)
I added the first navbox, Solar energy, to the article mapping table. --RichardF 10:23, 9 July 2011 (PDT)

question about living roofs

I am hoping you would be kind enough to answer a question for me:

I would like to put a living roof on a new home, but I live in the woods and am concerned about mice and moles chewing up the waterproof lining and/or getting into the house through seams in the decking. Do there tend to be problems with this?

The lining would have to have seams, due to the undulating roof shape (structure is conical/hip design, and footprint is an irregular shape), and part of the house would be mostly-or-totally underground. The plan is not to cover the roof with dirt but with another, lighter growing medium.

Thanks much,


New portal design

User:RichardF has proposed a new portal layout - any thoughts? I think it's an improvement. It will take more work to set up and maintain than the current very simple portals, but if Richard is happy to take a lead with this, I think it's fine. --Chriswaterguy 12:23, 3 July 2011 (PDT)

I think it looks much better. I am a little worried about the added maintenance, and would rather see a little more automation. For example, having stubs and requests be automated (or maybe just have stubs, and have a bot find stubs within a category to populate that with).
Thanks for the awesome work, -Lonny 13:58, 3 July 2011 (PDT)
"A portal is an introductory page for a given topic. It complements the main article of the subject by introducing the reader to key articles, images, and categories that further describe the subject. Portals also help editors find related projects and things they can do to help improve Wikipedia." --Wikipedia:Portal:Contents/Portals
Thanks, Chris & Lonny. It's really not that hard to set up a portal. The effort is in selecting content worth showcasing and working on. That's really not a function of the portal itself. It's a function of the editorial projects that identify importance, quality, popularity and maintenance needs of articles related to the topic. If topics are going to be highlighted in the sidebar and similar top-level groupings, then they probably should have some type of listing of the most important subtopics (with existing articles or not) related to them. Those listing can provide the general basis for what gets showcased in the portals. The quality of those articles can help determine where they are showcased - requested, stub, selected. I really don't see much work for bots here. The work I see is for editors. A bot could take the 650 stubs and sort them into subcategories, but editors still need to decide which of those stub should be the focus of improvement drives. If Appropedia isn't ready for editorial projects, then those items simply could be removed from portal until it is. --RichardF 19:08, 3 July 2011 (PDT)
Lonny, I like the bot idea. I'll see if I can get the bot to make lists on the wiki for stubs within Category:Water etc... a bit fiddly, but not too hard. Then as Richard says, editors can choose from that list for the portal.
We could perhaps leave the requests until activity picks up. If there's an area that needs work, covering more than one article, then I wouldn't mind having that listed as a content request. Just a possibility. --Chriswaterguy 00:51, 5 July 2011 (PDT)

I implemented the new design at Portal:Appropriate technology. I'll redesign Portal:Green living next. --RichardF 10:47, 16 July 2011 (PDT)

The Portal:Green living redesign is live. --RichardF 19:11, 16 July 2011 (PDT)
Cool - looks really nice! --Chriswaterguy 22:20, 16 July 2011 (PDT)
Thanks. Water is up next. Would you mind changing its Sitenotice link to the portal? :-) --RichardF 05:31, 17 July 2011 (PDT)
Water is running. ;-) --RichardF 12:26, 17 July 2011 (PDT)
Appropedia wordle.png

Portal:Solar now is lit up. Considering "Solar" is the most common topical Appropedia article title word, would an admin be willing to add it to the sidebar and Sitenotice? --RichardF 19:46, 18 July 2011 (PDT)

Good call - and great work!
The sidebar is trying to cover all the major areas, so Solar doesn't quite fit (energy is the major area, solar is a sub-area). But since it's such a major theme on Appropedia, and we want to show off our strong points, I reckon it's great to have it highlighted. --Chriswaterguy 05:08, 19 July 2011 (PDT)
The sitenotice now highlights two of the new portals. --Chriswaterguy 05:16, 19 July 2011 (PDT)

Template:Portal box

Thanks. I also added {{Portal box}} that can be used to include portal links in article "See also" sections. The four five six seven eight nine ten portals currently using the Wikipedia style are shown to the right. I'll pretend like you didn't give me an opening to comment on how Appropedia presents "major areas" and just ponder my next portal project. ;-) --RichardF 06:32, 19 July 2011 (PDT)

The redesigned Portal:Construction and materials is built and operating. --RichardF 09:51, 21 July 2011 (PDT)

Still forging ahead with portals, and you've covered more than half of the main areas now - great stuff. {{Portal box}} looks nice too. --Chriswaterguy 00:41, 22 July 2011 (PDT)

Portal:Food and agriculture is cooking like yeast cakes! :-o --RichardF 19:08, 23 July 2011 (PDT)

The Energy portal is recharged! --RichardF 10:52, 26 July 2011 (PDT)

Portal:Health and safety is redesigned. --RichardF 21:29, 30 July 2011 (PDT)

Portal:Transport is running. --RichardF 17:26, 31 July 2011 (PDT)

Impressive work, in quality and quantity - with a bonus of wordplay ;-). They look very cool in that portal box to the right.

I managed to add Projects. --RichardF 16:23, 6 August 2011 (PDT)


I've proposed a guideline at Appropedia:Userfication and incubation.

There are a few pages here which aren't really suitable for Appropedia, but it's been hard for us to actually delete them as we don't want to discourage the editors, and would rather the page was just improved. But then we have sometimes really problematic content that stays on Appropedia... and often it doesn't improve. So I'd like to start userfying or incubating soon. (In fact I've already move 3 pages to an editor's userspace recently.) --Chriswaterguy 11:16, 7 July 2011 (PDT)

Anti-spam work

In case you're like me and spend more time here than on the front page, there's a new announcement:

After more than 24 million views and 170 thousand edits, we finally needed to implement a more robust spam protection. Thank you to all the vigilant editors that have helped keep spam off Appropedia over these years. Hopefully the new reCaptcha will help abate while not making Appropedia any harder to use on slow connections. Please let us know if you have any problems.

Please leave any feedback here - if you're finding it helpful, or unhelpful...

My initial observation is that it hasn't helped all that much - I just deleted a spam page and blocked the spammer, and we've had several new users that look like spambots. A little embarrassing since I've been championing the reCAPTCHA idea, but hey, we have to try...

But there are more options - I'm looking into how Wikipedia blocks proxies used by spammers - that might help. In the meantime, the admin team here will continue to delete and block so that the Appropedia community can continue building and sharing their knowledge. --Chriswaterguy 00:15, 11 July 2011 (PDT)

Yeah, it looks like ReCAPTCHA was too successful. There are a bunch of other captchas built into ConfirmEdit though. There's an upgraded math captcha that uses the <math> tags to create an image instead of just plain text. QuestyCaptcha lets you define a series of simple questions / responses. My favourite is KittenAuth where you have to chose the picture of the kitten to create an account / make a link edit :P --Tahnok 07:20, 11 July 2011 (PDT)
Quick thoughts:
  • Anything based on mw:Extension:ConfirmEdit probably has the best guarantee of being safe & stable, as it runs on Wikimedia sites. That includes the standard MathCaptcha - not sure about the upgraded one.
  • That said, I think KittenAuth sounds hilarious, and fun. If it works at least as well as other options, and there's an accessibility option for those who can't see the picture, I'd vote for that.
  • Maybe CAPTCHA's not the most important link in the spam chain to be working on first - maybe we need to find out how Wikimedia sites block "TOR exit nodes and other proxies" (as I was advised here). Maybe there's an update list from Wikimedia we can connect to, as with the Spam blacklist extension. My concern here is to not block genuine users - that can happen with IP blocks.
--Chriswaterguy 10:20, 11 July 2011 (PDT)
There's an extension called tor block. Would you like me to put it on the test wiki? --Tahnok 11:11, 11 July 2011 (PDT)
Yes please - that looks like the right one. I wonder if there are other IP blocking extensions/settings, or if it's just TorBlock?
Before going with it on live, we'll want to check wikipedia:Wikipedia:Advice to users using Tor to bypass the Great Firewall, and make sure we're not accidentally making it hard for people to edit. A few years ago I got blocked from editing a small Wikipedia (the Malay one) even when I was logged in, and that's an aggravating experience for a genuine editor. Not sure how, but something to do with a blocked IP address, even though I was editing from a house which definitely didn't have anyone vandalizing the Malay Wikipedia. Possibly it had to do with dynamic IP addresses used in Australia. --Chriswaterguy 21:43, 11 July 2011 (PDT)
What kind of blocks should be set for Tor usage? The default setting for that extension is to prevent users accessing the wiki via tor from creating accounts and possible from editing anonymously. Registered accounts are allowed to edit if they are logged in, but it looks like you could prevent "fresh" accounts from editing. What would appropedia's preference be? --Tahnok 08:54, 15 July 2011 (PDT)
Good question... how does it work on Wikipedia? I think they're pretty strict on Tor accounts, but they have an instruction page on what to do if you have to use Tor (e.g. Wikipedia users in China - less applicable to us). --Chriswaterguy 00:30, 16 July 2011 (PDT)

User tools for spam fighting?

I'm trying out some Gadgets at Wikipedia, hoping to find some user tools to make editing and maintenance easier. E.g. Twinkle has some useful features, but some of the features aren't relevant here, so we could maybe trim down the code.

Anyone have other favorite editing tools? --Chriswaterguy 00:58, 12 July 2011 (PDT)

I would like to have a one-click citation tool. I.e., click on any Web page, and automatically get the wikitext for a citation template completely filled out, with the original page automatically archived on WebCite to make it link rot resistant. I have not timed myself for doing the procedure manually, but it takes several minutes, requiring multiple browser tab switches and copies and pastes. It is troubling that not even on Wikipedia, where citations are fundamental to everything, is there any comprehensive citation tool that everyone can use. It doesn't help that seemingly every Web page finds new ways to obscure or obfuscate the citation data, making it hard for even a human to piece together. --Teratornis 11:54, 12 July 2011 (PDT)
What specifically do you mean by "editing and maintenance" in your first sentence? By themselves, those words are too broad to define what you want in a tool; each may encompass dozens if not hundreds of distinct tasks. A tool that someone else likes might not address your need. When looking for a tool, I suggest doing this:
  • On a user subpage where you take notes, list the tasks you want to automate in whole or part with a tool.
  • For each task, perform it a few times manually, and list all the steps in your notes. The steps which are mindlessly repetitive may be amenable to automation using currently available software technology. The steps requiring ill-defined judgment calls may not be.
  • Other people can then examine your tool specification and recognize whether the tools they use can meet it.
  • When looking for tools, Wikipedia is a good place to start, but often the problems and solutions on Wikipedia are much more elaborate than those on a small wiki. Therefore, look for existing ports of Wikipedia's tools to other small wikis. I.e., look for all the well-run small wikis we can find, in any topic area, and see how they handle their problems.
    • To the extent that I have looked at other small wikis, I have not been too impressed. But I have not looked at nearly all of them. It would be nice to find someone who reviews small wikis for their technical competence, who has identified the small wikis with best practice.
--Teratornis 12:31, 12 July 2011 (PDT)
I wanted to start with an open question, in case there are people who already have favorite tools. As for deciding what we want to automate, that's a good idea, though sometimes a good tool can suggest possibilities than hadn't occurred to me.
Changing the topic a bit from spam-fighting to general editing, I find that for real wikignome editing work, Pywikipediabot is good. I've also installed a "Wikibar," adapted from a Wikipedia user - and shared the instructions at User:Chriswaterguy/Wikibar. That's very low-tech, and has the templates and chunks of code I commonly use on Appropedia.
AWB looks useful for Wikignome work, and is easier than Pywikipediabot, but I'm getting an error when trying to install in Linux. (It's a native Windows app.) So I'm sticking with Pywikipediabot, and even helping to debug it and hacking it a little. (I'm not a coder, so it's very basic hacking.) --Chriswaterguy 09:15, 15 July 2011 (PDT)
I'll start a new topic below re #Interesting small wikis. --Chriswaterguy 10:26, 16 July 2011 (PDT)

Category sorting

I'm going to talk a bit geeky, so if that's not your thing, please skip this one! :-)

For the main page in a category, it's usual practice in many wikis to have it display at the head of the list of pages - this can be done by "piping" using a space - So to put an article at the top of Category:Foo, the category tag would be: . It took me a while to figure out what "best practice" is - now I suggest we do it this way.

(A small related item: Removing unneeded category sorting tags to improve usability. A few months back we changed default sorting of pages in categories, so pages sort by pagename - e.g. even if it's called "Appropedia:Foo" or "Template:Foo" it will be sorted under F for foo, not A for "Appropedia:" or T for "Template:". We've still got a lot of {{DEFAULTSORT:{{PAGENAME}}}} and </nowiki>|Village pump/Archive3</nowiki> piping in categories, and I believe that unneeded code makes editing more confusing than it needs to be for newbies. So, I worked out how to remove them with my bot and started removing them all. 695 pages done so far, but I've missed some, so I'll download the new site dump and run it again in a few days. Note: normally bot edits are hidden on the RecentChanges page, but there's a "show bots" option.) --Chriswaterguy 23:25, 14 July 2011 (PDT)

An alternative is to use {{Cat main}}{{Cat main}} to display the main article in the category page description. Advantages:
  • A user can look at the wikitext of the category page itself to see how that message got there.
  • There is no need to rely on a newbie-baffling indirect piping trick in the wikitext of the article itself.
  • The piping trick merely sorts the "main" article to the head of category list, but does not explicitly label the "main" article as such.
{{Cat main}} is not here yet so I will port it from Wikipedia now. Good luck on making categories "usable" - categories were probably the single most confusing feature for me when I was new to MediaWiki editing. I had to read wikipedia:Help:Category repeatedly before I understood how to do things such as create new category pages. There is probably no way to get around the learning burden of categories. People who are willing to make the effort to understand them eventually will understand them. People who don't like to read the manuals will have lots of problems. --Teratornis 10:55, 15 July 2011 (PDT)
Also, while working on categories do you intend to address the biggest problem with categories on Appropedia? Namely: many of our "category" pages are masquerading as articles, with enormously long article-like content in their description sections. This degrades the usefulness of category pages by violating the Principle of least astonishment. When someone browses to a category, they are looking for links to related articles, not the full text of what should be in the main article for the category. By misusing categories in this way, we are teaching people the wrong way to use MediaWiki by example, and (if I may generalize correctly from myself) likely putting off experienced Wikipedia editors who visit Appropedia. The more we deviate from best practice on Wikipedia, for no good reason, the more uncertainty we create for people who have learned from that practice. The presence of category pages masquerading as articles here raises the question of whether category pages are supposed to do that. --Teratornis 11:03, 15 July 2011 (PDT)
That's true - with a hatnote (whether cat main or cat header or something else) it's perhaps not important to sort the main topic to the top. --Chriswaterguy 08:13, 16 July 2011 (PDT)
While researching what is already here, I found that I had earlier ported {{Catmore}} to Appropedia, but (evidently) since then, someone changed wikipedia:Template:Catmore to a redirect on Wikipedia to wikipedia:Template:Cat main. These are examples of hatnote templates. See wikipedia:Template:Hatnote templates documentation. I will try to decode the maze of hatnote templates on Wikipedia and see what we should have on Appropedia. --Teratornis 12:11, 15 July 2011 (PDT)

There is also a {{Cat header}} template, which duplicates the function of Wikipedia's hatnote templates. In my view this is an unjustified deviation from Wikipedia's best practice. That is, the documentation for {{Cat header}} does not explain how it is better than Wikipedia's category page style. Given that Wikipedia is by far the world's most successful wiki, I think we should take it as the standard for best practice unless we identify a real reason to do something differently. Being different only for the sake of being different increases the learning burden for editors who are familiar with Wikipedia. --Teratornis 13:47, 15 July 2011 (PDT)

I'm biased here, since I made the cat header & topic header templates, but I'll explain my thinking. I like a more descriptive hatnote - a few words of explanation, enlightenment or provocation without having to go to the topic article. The words of context plus the possibility of a thumbnail image make it better looking & less dry/technical feeling.
In function it's almost identical, it's easy for the reader, and most editors don't edit category pages anyway. That doesn't negate your points at all, but it's a tradeoff. That's my preference, but I'm not so wedded to it that I'd fight a pitched battle for it. :) --Chriswaterguy 08:13, 16 July 2011 (PDT)
Any needed description can go below the hatnote. I never noticed a problem that needed fixing with the simpler style on Wikipedia (e.g. wikipedia:Category:Energy). Evidently millions of Wikipedia users didn't notice a problem either. This isn't something I'd go to war over, just something where I don't see how the benefits of deviating from Wikipedia outweigh the cost (giving someone who knows how to edit on Wikipedia another unnecessary thing to learn). --Teratornis 21:49, 16 July 2011 (PDT)
Below the hatnote can work, but I like the layout of the {{cat header}}, I like the look of it, the fact that the intro text is a parameter gives an implicit limit to the amount that can be written. The extra effort seems minor compared to our overall usability challenges. (Fairly self-explanatory, I think.) There's also the fact that Wikipedia categories contain topic articles, with the occasional list, whereas we have lots of article types.
I'd like to stick with this style for now, but if it turns out there's a wider preference for another style, I'm happy to either see the cat header modified, or go with the Wikipedia style. --Chriswaterguy 10:52, 19 July 2011 (PDT)

"Category articles" about to be moved to mainspace

Re "Also, while working on categories do you intend to address the biggest problem with categories on Appropedia? Namely: many of our "category" pages are masquerading as articles, with enormously long article-like content in their description sections."

There's a bit of a history here, but in brief, we've agreed on this a while ago, but that leaves the issue of moving them.

I worked out that by using Special: Export & Special:Import, (with an edit of the xml file in between) we can conserve the page history (since MediaWiki doesn't allow moving of category pages). I came up with that myself - since I'm not a coder I'm proud of any little geeky achievements I come up with.)

Re timing, I've actually just been working on the bot to help with the second stage (cleaning up the old category pages). There was a bug in Pywikipediabot which delayed me a few weeks, but it's now fixed, so when I can next spend a few hours with my laptop (probably 4 days from now) this is one of my first tasks. --Chriswaterguy 08:13, 16 July 2011 (PDT) --Update: been busy, but still hoping to get to this within the next couple of weeks. --Chriswaterguy 10:27, 2 August 2011 (PDT)

Related to this move, what should we do with {{Browsetopic}} (I think the function is served by {{topic header}} and {{Newpageresource}}? These are templates from the days when we had a definite "topic category" template (i.e topic info on the category page).
I can easily modify or remove templates with my bot. --Chriswaterguy
I finally got around to this - see below.
I decided to be bold and remove {{Browsetopic}} and {{Newpageresource}}. Updated templates can be re-added as appropriate, but they didn't look right on article pages. --Chriswaterguy 12:02, 5 November 2011 (PDT)

Best practice

About the phrase "best practice": there is a wikipedia:Best practice article (unfortunately, that article itself does not reflect the best practice for writing articles on Wikipedia, as indicated by the message templates at the top). No Best practice article exists on Appropedia yet (about the concept of best practices in sustainability and appropriate technology), nor an Appropedia:Best practice project page (about the best practices in building Appropedia itself), but there is a Category:Best practice and a Facebook best practice. I think everybody is, in one way or another, trying to find the best practice for whatever they do, so in a sense it might be a somewhat redundant buzzword. On the other hand, when we encounter a problem for the first time, there is a tendency to get absorbed in trying to construct a solution from scratch, and we forget that potentially thousands or millions of other people may have faced the same problem before. When a problem affects many people or groups, presumably one of those entities has solved or is solving it better than anyone else. Sometimes the best practice is not obvious. When we reinvent wheels unnecessarily, and without knowledge of the best practice, we are unlikely to equal or exceed the best practice.

Complicating the picture, the best practice for one person or group may not be the best practice for another, when solving the "same" problem, because of their differing resources and constraints. (This is of course fundamental to the notion of appropriate technology.) Thus the search for best practice unavoidably involves defining the problem we face as completely and accurately as possible, including the resources available to us for solving the problem, and the constraints on applying them. However, when we deviate from the best practice, we should always do so consciously and with justification, rather than out of ignorance of what the best practice is. --Teratornis 13:38, 15 July 2011 (PDT)

Good points. I've added "Best practice" to Appropedia:About#Content on Appropedia. --Chriswaterguy 22:05, 20 July 2011 (PDT)

Blocking Users of Tor

I'm trying to come up with other ways of stopping spammers as ReCAPTCHA doesn't seem to have slowed them down at all. It's possible they are accessing Appropedia through Tor which we could potentially block. I'd like to know if I could get a list of the spammers IP addresses so that I could see if they are using Tor. Assuming they were though, what kind of blocking should be setup? The options are:

  • Prevent Anonymous edits
  • Prevent Account creation
  • Prevent Logged in edits
  • Prevent Logged in edits for accounts younger than a set time period (eg: 1 week)

I think blocking account creation and anonymous edits would be a good idea. You could setup some sort of contact form should a new user want to edit via tor and create an account for them. --Tahnok 12:15, 16 July 2011 (PDT)

That looks good. For later: Preventing logged in edits might be useful too, but we could add that later. I think "prevent logged in edits" allows for exceptions, either for the account or the IP - so we can consider that if we're having a problem with logged in spammers.
I've just been reading these project pages on Wikipedia: Open proxies & Advice to users using Tor to bypass the Great Firewall - found them helpful in understanding the issue & how Wikipedia deals with them. --Chriswaterguy 21:39, 16 July 2011 (PDT)
I will set it up on the Dev wiki and then we can move it to live if all goes well? --10:56, 20 July 2011 (PDT)
Good plan.
I like it when we get extensions working that are used by the Wikimedia sites - proven in action, and we can expect them to work. Appreciate your work, Tahnok! --Chriswaterguy 20:35, 20 July 2011 (PDT)
I installed TorBlock and checked that it worked, but I've disabled it for now. By default anonymous editing and account creation are blocked when using Tor. --Tahnok 07:41, 24 July 2011 (PDT)


We have CARDOMOM and Cardomom (Practical Action Brief), both of which refer to their subject within their article bodies as "cardamom" rather than "cardomom". Wikipedia has a Cardamom article but no Cardomom article. I suggest moving the articles to what seems to be the correct spelling, but I'm asking here first in case I'm not seeing something, and since I wasn't previously familiar with the subject. --Teratornis 13:57, 21 July 2011 (PDT)

Ah, I love cardamom. Looks like cardomom is either a misspelling, a much rarer spelling, or correct in another language. Fair question, but I've gone ahead & moved it. The redirects can stay in case anyone uses the other spelling. --Chriswaterguy 00:37, 22 July 2011 (PDT)

New anti-spam tool

User:Tahnok and User:Lonny have installed a tool called AbuseFilter - thanks guys! That's a very flexible tool to let us match spam patterns in added text, and either flag them or stop them from being saved. (It's similar to our spam blacklist, but it matches anywhere in the text, not just the url.)

We don't have any filters yet, but we'll get to work in the next week, and then see if there are other spam patterns that need filtering. I'm hopefully the spam will drop off a fair bit after that.

Only admins can edit the filters, but anyone can view them and their logs, and anyone can propose a new filter or changes to existing filters.

Notes for admins:

  • let's start by importing filters from Wikipedia - there are 426 there, so I suggest:
    • we start with any that have more than 50,000 hits
    • if in any doubt, set it to log but not prevent the edit.

--Chriswaterguy 21:15, 27 July 2011 (PDT)

Original content policy

Input requested from wiki geeks :-). (From anyone, really, but everyone else will probably be bored...)

We have this page, addressing how we handle original pages that we have permission to use: Appropedia:Original content. We seem to be a bit stuck, and there are some details to be worked out. It would be great to have other perspectives.

Now I'm wondering whether we even want the original versions... if they original exists somewhere already, should we link to that, or is there an advantage of having it here on Appropedia? Another possibility is to open all pages up to editing, and link to the permalink of an earlier version, when it was still "original."

In practice, I look at a category like Category:Beyond dams and it's a mess, with 2 versions of each original - I think that's due to some half-executed plan that I can't remember, where we got stuck on a policy question half-way through. (Re naming... we made a separate namespace called "Original:", so if we do keep separate original pages, it makes sense to use that namespace. The pages ending in "(original)" need to be fixed.)

Would be great to have a clear policy, so we can start cleaning these pages up. --Chriswaterguy 10:00, 28 July 2011 (PDT)

Adminship nomination: Tahnok

I nominate Tahnok for adminship.

Tahnok (aka Wesley) has proven to be level-headed and competent as our A:tech intern, making good progress on a number of tasks such as getting the dev site active, testing extensions, getting spam-fighting tools installed, and making a mobile skin which is nearly ready. He's also been marking spam, and if he were an admin he could delete it directly (as well as work directly with the AbuseFilter filters).

Wesley - I'm assuming here that you'll accept the nomination :-).

(Note: I'm not following the exact process as for now, the Village Pump is the one place I know people will see this and comment.)

Please place your endorsement or disagreement, and/or comment, below. We can close the vote in a week (or earlier if we're clearly going to have strong consensus). --Chriswaterguy 10:22, 28 July 2011 (PDT)

  • Strong support! --Chriswaterguy 10:22, 28 July 2011 (PDT)
  • I support Tahnok for admin. --Lonny 10:52, 28 July 2011 (PDT)
I would be more than honoured! --Tahnok 07:23, 31 July 2011 (PDT)
Very good.
I should explain how I see this nomination process. We're aiming for consensus, and if no one objects, we have consensus even if only three people endorse the candidate. (Here we have Lonny & me, plus User:Curtbeckmann mentioned his support to me in an email.) Since you've mainly worked with Lonny & I on tech stuff, some people won't be aware of your work yet. That's no problem... but if anyone else wants to show support by adding their name to the list above, that would be nice too. --Chriswaterguy 09:06, 31 July 2011 (PDT)
Thanks all. It is done. Wesley, welcome to adminship. See User talk:Tahnok#Adminship for more. --Lonny 17:26, 16 August 2011 (PDT)

Importing content from another wiki

Hello everybody! I am a newb and I am so sorry if this question has already been answered. I looked around but could not see it, so here goes....

Is there a way to easily import the entire contents (or selected pages) from another wiki? We went and created - and then we heard about Appropedia! I wouldn't mind copy-and-pasting all the pages one-by-one, but reuploading all the images too would be a pain!

Can somebody help me? I have SSH access to the wiki's server so I can execute scripts or run MySQL queries to pull things out of the database, if that helps... Thank you all in advance for your help and patience! --Heenal 16:57, 1 August 2011 (PDT)

Hello! You can bulk export all your pages with Special:Export on your wiki, but it doesn't that you can do the same for Files... looks like you might have to do it by hand. This might be a great time for me to try and get Bulk Upload working... --Tahnok 19:19, 1 August 2011 (PDT)
Thankyou! I got this extension working on the Bottle Schools Wiki without too much trouble. Have you tried that one? I was thinking that, alternatively, I could just put one page on Appropedia linking to the Bottle Schools Wiki in its current location.... But that wouldn't be the best solution, would it, to encourage participation? --Heenal 02:42, 2 August 2011 (PDT)
Hi Heenal, glad you found us - great to have you here.
You're very welcome to either import your wiki or link to it. There are some advantages to importing it: more participation, as you say; more visibility; more interaction with a community that shares an interest in appropriate technology, development and education. In terms of workload - importing (with files) will be more work upfront, but will free you from managing the wiki in future, and allow you to focus on your project. (Or, if you want to check our tech work and lend a hand, that's an opportunity for team work, building a single excellent wiki together.)
Note you can still allow editing from your own site, of particular pages in Appropedia, by using our API. (Not sure of the details, but it's definitely possible.) Don't worry about that now, though - I'm getting ahead of myself.
Re how to import... we've merged wikis several times, but I didn't do any of the tech side, and we haven't documented the whole process (tsk tsk...). There is a way to import files via the server, and the the SpecialUploadLocal might help with that.
For the text, we have this instruction page: Appropedia:Importing wiki pages - that explains a process which very carefully avoids misattribution (i.e. if different people have the same username on each wiki). If someone has the same username on each wiki, no problem - otherwise, the xml file should be edited (quick search-and-replace) before importing.
One final thing - the license on your wiki is a non-commercial license, which is incompatible. Would it be possible to ask all the contributors to your wiki to make a note somewhere (here, on a new wiki page, or by email) that they're happy for their contributions to be relicensed under Appropedia's CC-by-sa license? The same applies to images, if they have a different source.
I hope I'm not being too pedantic :-). It's actually not that much work, and we can work together to get it done.
Thanks --Chriswaterguy 10:15, 2 August 2011 (PDT)

Organizations and usernames

I just noticed that Wikipedia has a policy of not allowing organization names as usernames. I think this makes sense - it avoids any potential problems of an individual seeming to represent an organization, and it later turning out that they didn't represent an official position of the organization.

Using an individual username might also help people to relate to Appropedia as individuals, and feel a part of the community.

What say we all...? --Chriswaterguy 12:28, 5 August 2011 (PDT)

Nice easy help pages

I'm running a workshop with a few lecturers at the University of Indonesia in 4 days time, about using wikis in education. At least a couple from the sociology department are interested in using Appropedia for sustainability-related student projects, but they haven't used wikis before. It's a good opportunity - to have students working with Appropedia, and to work on my explanations.

From working with one of the lecturers, I've realized how important it is to have the answers to basic questions easily accessible. Any improvements to our help pages will help new editors to feel confident, and stick around- would really appreciate any help working on this.

For a start, I just worked out how to make a search box for help pages, so I've added that to the top of Help:Editing. (That little bit of wiki markup can be adapted for any namespace or set of namespaces.)

Of course, we can give very brief explanations, and link to a more detailed page elsewhere. Wikipedia has detail (sometimes a mind-numbing amount of detail, but it's a great resource) and WikiEducator has some nice tutorials. (For the workshop I'm doing, I'll point them to the Indonesian Wikipedia's help pages, in their native tongue, but they speak English as well.)

Technical note 1: I've changed the system default helppage from Help:Contents to Help:Editing. The Contents page redirected there anyway - if it becomes an actual page, the default can be changed back.)

Technical note 2: A small confusing detail with the search engine at Help:Editing is that I've added the "Appropedia" namespace as an option, but to a newbie it'll look like it's an option to search Appropedia's mainspace articles. I tried the aliases for the namespace (A: and Project:) but they don't work with inputbox. Something needs to change - remove it? Make it checked by default? Spend days rewriting the code for inputbox? ;-) --Chriswaterguy 03:30, 7 August 2011 (PDT)

Personally, I would totally eliminate that section and the search box anywhere it's located, e.g., the help page and the category page. I would create a "See also" section at the bottom of the page and add a link to Category:Appropedia help. The entire category has only 43 pages. The odds of a newbie guessing the name of a useful help page are slim to none. I would strengthen Appropedia's content browsing features before I worry too much about its content searching capabilities. --RichardF 12:01, 7 August 2011 (PDT)
Improving the "See also" sections is good. But I don't see the reasoning for dropping the search box. Some people tend to navigate by available structure (categories, links) and others tend to navigate by search. Guessing a pagename isn't required - they just have to narrow down the pages by a keyword or two. --Chriswaterguy 13:43, 7 August 2011 (PDT)
Do we have any actual data on the search keywords guessed by new users when they need to find a help page? Search boxes seem to be a near-universal Web site feature these days, so presumably they benefit enough people to justify the space they take up. If we adopt the First, do no harm principle, we would not remove the search box merely because it is useless for some users. We would need some evidence that it is harming them. If a user cannot find what they are looking for, that only wastes a little of the user's time. For harm to result, the user would have to stumble on a search result that actually harmed them, for example by causing them to get the really wrong idea about what they should do. I.e. they would have to be incapable of recognizing and ignoring irrelevant search results.
A related digression: one problem with editing on wikis is that a new user needs to master a large-ish set of concepts that are different than what most people have seen before. The possible approaches to learning include:
  • Dive directly into editing, and try to learn each new concept as the need for it becomes apparent. That is basically the wiki way.
    • Pros: users might quickly see some preliminary, personally relevant results, thus providing a psychological reward.
    • Cons: easy to get frustrated by the large number of "known unknowns" (things the new user does not know and realizes he or she needs to know them) and (even worse) the "unknown unknowns" (things the new user needs to know and is not aware of needing to know them). Only a small percentage of the population is cognitively equipped to self-educate; the people who are best at coping with unstructured, unfamiliar complexity tend to have high IQs.
  • March through a structured education course, learning most of the fundamentals before attempting to edit independently at length. For example by listening to an instructor teaching from a book such as wikipedia:WP:TMM.
    • Pros: has the potential to work better for a much larger percentage of the population; this is why we pay for formal schooling instead of expecting most people to figure everything out on their own. Could yield editors who are more likely to at least be aware of what all the important points and gotchas are, without having to learn everything by trial and error.
    • Cons: slower than just diving in and trying stuff. New editor must plow through material seeming to have no immediately obvious personal relevance, before getting to do whatever motivated them to look at wikis in the first place. Potentially expensive if live human instructors are used. Not the wiki way as we have come to know it, although that's merely an appeal to tradition.
Educating new users is a problem on all wikis. Wikipedia (perhaps inadvertently) solves the problem by "skimming" the tiny minority of people who are cognitively equipped to self-educate by reading manuals on their own. By having such a large potential number of editors, due to its extremely broad topic coverage, Wikipedia only needs to recruit a tiny percentage of people to edit. Smaller wikis having limited topical or geographical focus have to be editable by a larger percentage of their smaller pools of potential editors, if they are to recruit sufficiently large editing communities to be viable. This is a very hard problem; it means Appropedia ideally needs to be better at educating new users than Wikipedia is. That may be possible, but I don't know how. --Teratornis 13:22, 15 August 2011 (PDT)
"Do we have any actual data on the search keywords guessed by new users when they need to find a help page?" - excellent suggestion. Turns out that Google Analytics gives us some data on searches, but not specifically for help pages, and it "does not include searches that find a page immediately." We could share that data (I could dig it out if it's a priority) but I think it might be much more useful to get an extension that lets us check records of searches made by site visitors.
Comments on learning to wiki - (can we make that a verb ? :-) )...
  • The structured approach is excellent where a there's a place that a structure can be implemented, e.g. in A:service learning, where students learn the basics, and continue to learn during their course.
  • Either with structure or diving in, some persistence (and/or inclination/geekiness) is required. Motivation is critical to whether people stick around long enough to learn. Feeling connected to the community and interested in what's happening on the site makes a big difference. I'm keen to see a few things happening to help people stay connected, including a newsletter and (as discussed in the past) a forum within the wiki. --Chriswaterguy 03:16, 18 August 2011 (PDT)
The Wikimedia Bookshelf is a project to create teaching and promotion materials for their projects. I think they are all CC-BY-SA licensed so we should be able to adapt them to suit our needs. Indonesian Wikipedia is quite active so it might be possible to find someone there who would help with some training. --Joe Raftery 14:42, 2 September 2011 (PDT)
Thanks Joe - a fantastic resource, that I was unaware of. --Chriswaterguy 11:04, 3 September 2011 (PDT)

Solar Bottle Light

I have stumbled over this nice project a couple of times, but still not figure out how to write the article or how to categorize it on Appropedia. Maybe someone could help and do it?

It is non-electric, but a solar project. It is actually named Solar Bottle Bulb, and the technology were developed at MIT

And I see there is a bottle LED light project here, so I guess there is a need to include more of these smart low-technology descriptions.

--Yeahvle 23:16, 8 August 2011 (PDT)

Portal views and Template:Bar box

The following chart to the right shows the numbers of views for many Appropedia portals, those listed on {{Portals navbar}}. It was added to Appropedia:Portals#Portal views.

The chart was created using {{Bar box}} added by Teratornis (talk · contribs). This template could come in handy for articles and Appropedia usage summaries. Thanks! --RichardF 20:14, 13 August 2011 (PDT)

To see how they played out, I added all portals to the chart. --RichardF 14:26, 14 August 2011 (PDT)

That's a very cool graphic - thanks to everyone involved! (KVDP for suggesting the Bar box, Teratornis for importing it, & RichardF for all the work on portals and sharing this graphic here.) --Chriswaterguy 22:32, 14 August 2011 (PDT)

I updated the chart to show the most recent portal page views for a week. RichardF 07:16, 21 August 2011 (PDT)

Spam patterns

I wanted to make notes somewhere about spam patterns, so I started Appropedia:Anti-spam and anti-vandalism/patterns. I haven't figured out Special:AbuseFilter yet, but when Tahnok has some time I'm looking forward to getting his help and clamping down on the recent spam. If anyone else wants to lend a hand with the filters, please LMK.

Admins - if you notice anything like a pattern in spam when you delete it, please note it on the patterns page linked above. --Chriswaterguy 02:36, 18 August 2011 (PDT)

I am finally done my exam and my other project, so I will have to some time work on AbuseFilters now! --Tahnok 17:16, 21 August 2011 (PDT)
Congratulations! Thanks, --Lonny 09:55, 22 August 2011 (PDT)
Glad to have you back! Hope your exam and project went well. I'm back myself, from a couple of distractions, so I'll also have a bit more time for Appropedia. --Chriswaterguy 12:22, 24 August 2011 (PDT)
For interested parties, the AbuseFilter currently logs edits that match one of the rules. You can find that log at Special:AbuseLog --Tahnok 13:06, 26 August 2011 (PDT)
Looking good - I think the hidden link filter for new users could go live. (A well-established user might very rarely have a reason - I put a hidden in MediaWiki:Copyright - that might be the only non-spam use of a hidden link on the wiki though.)

Biofuel Content Initiative

The Biofuel Content Initiative is about to take a step forward. I've just been chatting with Shahid, aka User:ShaMod, who is interested in working on this Initiative, focusing on microbial biofuel. He found it (and Appropedia) by Googling for volunteer biofuel. Welcome Shahid!

Let's see if we can find some more people interested in this area, to get some real activity and teamwork on this important area. I'll do some tweeting, blogging, etc, and invite others too, as well.

Btw, I have a habit of choosing pagenames then deciding later that they suck, and moving them... then sometimes even changing my mind yet agoin... the great thing about a wiki is that this hardly matters at all! Speaking of that Appropedia:Content Initiatives/Biofuel now strikes me as clunky, even though it's a natural structure for those pages... so I'm thinking Appropedia:Biofuel Content Initiative is a better form for such pages, and it'll look nicer when we're drumming up publicity for these initiatives. --Chriswaterguy 07:47, 25 August 2011 (PDT)

Copyediting class at work

Just a heads-up - there's a copyediting class working on Appropedia at the moment, led by User:Prstn, going through Category:Articles in need of copyediting (i.e. pages marked with {{copyedit}}).

If you know of pages that need copyediting - tag 'em now! --Chriswaterguy 09:36, 30 August 2011 (PDT)

CAT - Center for Alternative Technology in Wales

this organisation has been running since the 70's ( when appropriate still meant very alternative) and runs courses for school visits to full Graduate programs

you may wish to contact them as there are course spots avaliable for start still I think in September (12th) for a one year Msc where accom and food is provided within the program

they have for the first time appointed someone to do some marketing for them (not me) and they might be willing to add a page or two to your site.

As this is the oldest dedicated renewable and sustainable community in the Uk and has been running courses in this area for some decades now you may wish to spread the word. cheers —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Ecofitter, 30 August 2011

Hi Ecofitter. I'd been in touch with them before and they seemed to be in transition (or their site was) but sounds like a good time to get back in touch with them. Thanks! --Chriswaterguy 20:00, 30 August 2011 (PDT)
Here's a link to a page for these guys Centre for Alternative Technology that I created last December. I have visited a couple of times and I can confirm it is great place and well worth a visit just to see all the cool stuff they have put into operation there. --Joe Raftery 14:24, 2 September 2011 (PDT)
Cool Joe, thanks.
If anyone from the Appropedia community is going there soon - Joe, James Gourlay, Ecofitter? - I wonder if you could have a talk with the good people of CAT about Appropedia and the possibility of sharing their work here? --Chriswaterguy 05:37, 6 September 2011 (PDT)


Trying to work out how to have good-looking galleries on Appropedia...

Using the <gallery> tag (see Help:Images#Galleries) is easy and elegant, but it creates small images - smaller than a standalone "thumb" image - surrounded by a lot of padding in each cell.

On the Bowline knot page, the old version with gallery tag made images too small to see the knots clearly, so I replaced it with a simple table of thumb-sized images, here.

Here's the page in Gallery template version (0 lines). --RichardF 14:09, 10 September 2011 (PDT)
I added a Gallery/aux test to check for "lines=0" so that images galleries without text look a little cleaner, such as at this Bowline knot example. --RichardF 09:24, 11 September 2011 (PDT)


  • What's the best look for an image? One of the above old version with gallery tag, or simple table), somewhere in between the two, or something different again?
  • Once we've decided exactly what we want, if we do want something different from the gallery we have now... is it possible to adjust or hack the gallery tag defaults somehow to give us what we want? Note that the available settings are very limited - e.g. we can make bigger images, but they still have a lot of padding - see the gallery tag syntax guide on Wikipedia. --Chriswaterguy 05:31, 6 September 2011 (PDT)
If you wanted to have more flexibility with an image gallery, wouldn't it be easier to port over Wikipedia:Template:Gallery and parameterize things like padding in that template? RichardF 17:23, 9 September 2011 (PDT)
Here's a quick look at the gallery tag changed to the gallery template from the projects portal.
gallery tag --> gallery template --RichardF 18:04, 9 September 2011 (PDT)
What the heck? I just went ahead and added it. {{Gallery}} :-) --RichardF 18:58, 9 September 2011 (PDT)
Nice, thanks! --Chriswaterguy 02:21, 10 September 2011 (PDT)
Also, something I like about {{Gallery}} is that it's really just one long row of pictures, so big galleries always fit the available screen width, which is not the case for the version of the <gallery> tag here. Chris, do you still want the template's padding, and/or anything else, to be converted to a parameter? --RichardF 09:37, 10 September 2011 (PDT)

I parameterized the image padding at a default 5px, the same as the text padding. The example shows all the currently available parameters, with the padding at the default setting.

File:AEFfill.jpg| [[AEF greywater]]: Recreating a failing greywater marsh at the Arcata Educational Farm.
File:Aleiha_dish.jpg| [[Aleiha's parabolic solar cooker]]: A very hot parabolic solar cooker.
File:IMG_6743.JPG| [[Argentina photovoltaic]]: A small photovoltaic system for a [[natural building]]/permaculture institute in Central Argentina.

--RichardF 18:04, 10 September 2011 (PDT)

It looks like "padding=5" can be left out, unless the user wants a different padding. Nice - keeps it simple.
I really like the look of this new gallery style - what do others think? --Chriswaterguy 11:09, 14 September 2011 (PDT)
Yes, because it's the default value, "|padding=5" gets the same results as leaving that line out. I simply wanted to show all the available parameters. ;-) RichardF 11:56, 14 September 2011 (PDT)

Need a new loo

That's a lovely toilet on the front page. But it's been there a long while, and we need a new highlighted project, whether toilet-related or not. --Chriswaterguy 11:56, 8 September 2011 (PDT)

CAD files?

The Share CAD files page just asks:

can CAD files be uploaded here?
what about .blend files?

Anyone want to address that? (Of course, this page is a better place for such questions...)

Update": Don't worry about that specific wiki page - I checked the history, and found there was more interesting content there on a different subject that was deleted for some reason, so I restored and moved it. I'm sure our open hardware/maker community would be interested in uploading CAD and .blend files, though. --Chriswaterguy 13:40, 9 September 2011 (PDT)

Abuse Filter

I've updated abuse filter again because we seem to get a lot of spam links that end in .pl. Edits from anonymous or new (less than 2 days) will be flagged in the Special:AbuseLog page.

Just a note, there are other actions that can be taken by abuse filter (warning, blocking, throttling) if anyone thinks they could be useful let me know and I will set it up --Tahnok 20:34, 12 September 2011 (PDT)

-- There is a pattern in all the recent spam -- some words and then a number -- this seems like an easy thing to block - does anyone know of a good tool? --Fixer 13:54, 18 September 2011 (PDT)

That's something that AbuseFilter could block, but I haven't noticed the particular pattern. Fixer, do you remember the exact pattern? Or, if you see it again, could you please post it here, or let Tahnok know? Thanks. --Chriswaterguy 02:39, 1 October 2011 (PDT)

The "How to" template

The {{How to}} template is up and running. This template shows up to 25 How to steps in a table. See Barrel O' Fun Worm Bin Instructions for a working example.

Basic layout

| title = Title
| File:Default.png
| Caption
| 1
| Do something.
| footer = Footer


| title = How to Do Something
| File:Bpack bike trailer - demo 1.jpg
| 1
| Backpack frame bike trailer
| Do something.
| File:Aleiha dish.jpg
| Aleiha's parabolic solar cooker
| 2
| Do something really complicated that really isn't.
| 3
| Do something really complicated that really isn't that takes up lots of space and goes all the way across the page...

File:Bpack bike trailer - demo 1.jpg
How to Do Something

{{Steps|title=How to Do a Little Something|size=100|File:Fin2.jpg|CCAT's Vermicomposting Bin|1|Do something with little pictures.|footer=Oh, by the way...}}

How to Do a Little Something

| pics = no
| Do something with no pictures!
| footer = Don't forget! :-)

Do something with no pictures!

--RichardF 12:46, 17 September 2011 (PDT)

Combining the "How to" and "Gallery" templates

Of course, the very next page I came across with images and steps (How to clean refrigerator coils), didn't nicely fit into the one-pic-one-step layout! Fortunately, combining this How to template with the {{Gallery}} template worked pretty well. :-) Here's a layout example.

| pics = no
| Remove both (or just the kick plate, in built-in models) cover plates to expose the condenser coils. ...

--RichardF 16:31, 17 September 2011 (PDT)

Here's another example that uses {{How to}} and {{Gallery}} - A Hand Powered Hay and Leaf Bale --RichardF 08:47, 18 September 2011 (PDT)

Step numbers automatic or optional?

Okay, here's a design question. I've seen cases like the gallery above and How to make awesome thermal curtains, where every table row with an image does not necessarily have a step number. (I renumbered the curtain steps in order to use the template.) The original how to template design automatically numbers every row text cell. The insertion of a Step x: just as well could be optional. That would require another parameter for each step, but it also would make the template more flexible. If I'm going to make the change, I rather would do it sooner than later (fewer fix-it edits). Unless I hear otherwise, I'll make the change tomorrow. --RichardF 19:10, 17 September 2011 (PDT)

I made the step numbers optional, such as at How to make awesome thermal curtains. --RichardF 05:38, 18 September 2011 (PDT)
Parameterized headers

The table's headers now are parameterized, such as at Gallium arsenide solar cells.

| header1 = Figure
| header2 = Caption
| Image:EfieldSolarCell.jpg
| Fig 1: is a diagram that shows the workings of a solar cell's electric field. ...


--RichardF 15:02, 18 September 2011 (PDT)

Adding an extra column

Even though it is not explicitly a part of the template, an extra column can be added by using the html "" code. A working example of an extra column, plus an embedded gallery, is at Charcoal Cooler.

| header1 = Schematic
| header2 = Image<td>Instructions
| image:CC_step7_schem.JPG
| Apply to U-1 frames ONLY
| [[Image:CC step7 pic.JPG|160px]]<td><b>Step 7:</b> ...

Now there should be:

Apply to U-1 frames ONLY

--RichardF 19:09, 20 September 2011 (PDT)

Daydreaming about the future of spam

Some longer term thoughts about spam, and what we might be forced to do to deal with it...

This battle with spammers isn't going to go away - the spam bots will get smarter and smarter, and they'll be as good as humans at getting through conventional CAPTCHA. I suspect that we'll eventually have to start manually approving accounts, based on questions we ask at registration. That will probably be a good thing for the community, actually - make joining more of a conscious process. But we'll need a good system for approving them, like on Ning. I act as an admin on Global Swadeshi, which runs on Ning, and for new members we can require that they answer certain questions. This can be a simple question like "are you a human?" or "what color is the sky?" and (as the spammers get smarter) we can require that they answer more complex or open-ended questions.

For people who don't want to create an Appropedia account, I suspect we'll end up having to rely on various forms of external ID, including Facebook, Twitter. Google and maybe something set up through the Diaspora and StatusNet networks, where we piggy-back on other networks' spam-banning efforts. Maybe people could still be anonymous in terms of how Appropedia sees them, if they want, but there'll be some kind of gatekeeper service that verifies that they've been accepted as human on a reliable network. (E.g. if you're a Twitter user in good standing for more than 30 days and have tweeted at least 10 times, you can pass... I suspect the actual parameters will get quite complex to make it hard to game the system.)

Yet another option - build walls between content by established users and content by new users. Anything by new and anonymous users is automatically flagged as "draft" and is not visible to casual visitors to Appropedia. This could let us delay any restrictions to anonymous editing and registration. The "Pending Changes" function on Wikipedia (a.k.a. FlaggedRevisions) would be the natural starting point.

In the meantime, thanks to all who do battle - all those who revert spam, those who flag new spam pages and the admins who delete them. Thanks to the tech team for their continued work in building barriers against spam. --Chriswaterguy 01:32, 1 October 2011 (PDT)

Chiming in by analogy, verifying wikiworthiness by linking to an established and used Wikipedia account is another way to leverage previous wikieditor hoop jumping. ;-) --RichardF 07:32, 1 October 2011 (PDT)
A standard protocol exists for that, wikipedia:OpenID. See for example:
Also see these Google search results:
wikiindex:Category:Wiki Edit Mode classifies wikis according to how they choose to allow people to edit. It seems that with the increasing sophistication of spammers, all small public wikis will have to disallow non-logged-in editing, and use some system for manually approving accounts, and/or for inheriting accounts from some other system. See wikipedia:Wikipedia:Flagged revisions for more about using mw:Extension:FlaggedRevs to combat spam (good idea, by the way). Presumably if spammers find it impossible to make visible changes on a wiki, they will lose interest. Unless they are simply spambots on a zombie network that don't bother to check whether their spamming is having any effect.
And it probably gets worse:
Incidentally, the existence of spam gives me some doubts about the wikipedia:Technological singularity. As computers get faster, they also get faster at wasting their power by spamming each other. Computers may end up squandering their power to fight their massive parasite load. --Teratornis 13:03, 2 October 2011 (PDT)
See mw:Extension:OpenID as one possibility that can work in addition to whatever account approval hoops we might want to add. It seems likely that limiting edits to (somehow) verified users would drastically reduce spam. --Teratornis 13:09, 2 October 2011 (PDT)
I didn't think of OpenID as helping with spam, but I guess we can choose to only accept OpenID from sources that do some work on blocking spammers (which might be almost all of the major ones).
Actually - allow me to digress a bit - it would be nice to allow users on green dev wikis (Appropedia, Greenlivingpedia, Akvopedia) to quickly get full privileges on other green wiki sites. If we all set up to provide and accept OpenID, that would work.
One concern I have with OpenID though - isn't it a boon to phishing scams? I'd think it would be easy to set up a fake OpenID login to harvest people's login details for Yahoo, LJ and other OpenID providers.
Re the singularity... when Skynet becomes sentient, will it try to blow us up, or will it just be much better at selling us cialis? And able to feel sad when we don't take the bait? --Chriswaterguy 07:08, 3 October 2011 (PDT)
Wikipedia:OpenID#Security and phishing describes the risks but doesn't provide enough information for me to guess the probability of risk. I would be surprised if that risk was anything like Appropedia's risk of continuing to get spammed. It looks like the threat is primarily to the user whose cross-platform account might get compromised. Maybe a possible countermeasure might involve something like Wikipedia's user committed identity. --Teratornis 12:41, 6 October 2011 (PDT)

I'm looking at some wikis that appear in both wikiindex:Category:ByInvitation and wikiindex:Category:MediaWiki (i.e., wikis running on the MediaWiki software that require some sort of human screening of new accounts before they get permission to edit). One example is wikiindex:Beachapedia. See for example:

  • Help:New user - "To become a Beachapedia contributor, please 1) register on this site and 2) send an email to us at "beachapedia at" with your username and affiliation. This will allow us to adjust your account so that you can start adding and editing pages."
  • User group rights - this page should, I think, reveal the mechanism by which Beachapedia "adjust(s) your account". Perhaps the relevant group is "editors".
  • Active users list - shows modest activity in the past 30 days.
  • User list - the total number of users is much greater than the number who are editors. This suggests a lot of account creation by people or bots who did not get through the human approval step.
  • Recent Changes - this shows a lot of account creation, but no spam that I see in a quick glance.
  • Compare their empty block list to ours: Special:BlockList. And weep, as we continue to beat our heads against the wall.

It appears that Beachapedia has more or less eliminated spam, but not the creation of spurious (?) accounts. The main question would be how many constructive contributors are deterred by the need to send an email message, and whether that loss outweighs the gain of a spam-free wiki. My thinking would be, if someone can't be bothered to send an email message to verify their account, they probably aren't going to be a serious contributor. In any case, if Appropedia wanted to do something similar, we would need a way to circulate account request messages (whether transmitted via email, or via some on-wiki mechanism) to all the administrators, to minimize the time to approval. (With multiple admins in different time zones checking in daily, we should be able to approve new accounts fairly quickly. mw:Manual:$wgAddGroups tells how to give admins a limited ability to change user rights; normally only bureaucrats can do this.) We could also let the software grant new accounts immediate access to edit a limited set of pages, such as the Appropedia:Sandbox so they could practice editing right away. Anyway, this is just something to consider if we get tired of wasting our lives deleting spam. Requiring human approval of new accounts probably eliminates most of the need to install rocket science anti-spam software, which could probably never keep up with the increasingly sophisticated spammers anyway. Except on a state of the art wiki like Wikipedia, which seems to have thousands of users who are happy to specialize in fighting spam. --Teratornis 13:48, 7 October 2011 (PDT)

I've acted as an admin on a popular discussion board with thousands of members and virtually no spam. The key there was threefold - requiring an account to edit, admins approving all new account requests with emails, and immediately deleting spam. Without the first two steps, the third is all that's left. This isn't Wikipedia. Expecting a commitment to integrity before being given the privilege to edit is not unreasonable. No one has to register to read a page. That's what most people do. Rising to the next level - editing - should be earned, not stolen. --RichardF 18:43, 8 October 2011 (PDT)

Simple Technologies Can Improve The Lives Of Millions

Interesting article, very relevant to the knowledge shared on Appropedia: Simple Technologies Can Improve The Lives Of Millions In Developing World, Say Global Health Leaders.

So far Appropedia isn't getting that kind of attention. We do have 1 or 2 projects coming up that will increase the quality and amount of info here on simple technologies - but there's a lot more to do.

Thinking, thinking... there's a lot of info that we have access to (e.g. Practical Action Technical Briefs) that we're not making use of - there's a lot of semi grunt work there in converting them to wiki pages. It will really boost the quality of our content there - it's fantastic content. I guess we need to promote "Content Internships". --Chriswaterguy 08:53, 3 October 2011 (PDT)

Peter Ongele, Kenya

(This message was placed on the Appropedia:User requests page, and someone moved it to Appropedia:Stories. It didn't really belong there either, so I'm moving it here. It's more than 2 years old, but I didn't want to just delete it. It's an interesting window into the life of one Appropedia visitor. --Chriswaterguy 23:55, 4 October 2011 (PDT))

Am Peter Ongele from Kenya, Western region next to Lake Victoria. I am trying to figure out my commitment online and at the sametime distribute my time to the on ground community activities.I dream of changing ideas, horizons, knowledge, and putting ideas viable across on the public domain, organizations and good willed people. To be conversant with values and dream, I'm a rural empowering crusader, I do not believe on rural to urban migrations for employment which is making no difference in life sustaining approaches in food security. There is an electricity grid line passing next to where I do my agricultural activity, I am hoping to connect this with ICT. I also dream to have alternative energy supply which is environment friendly, our skies are shinning with tropical sunshine. I do hope to get interested people in solar power energy to join me and support my community and villagers in this. We have some of the physically challenged children, orphans who are even much more bright to go to school and have dropped out of school due to famine and poverty, they need assistance to feed and make it to school. The community need to put irrigation system for horticulture farming a long the lake and to drill the underground drilled water to help control cholera and water borne diseases which the community have suffered on, people lossing lifes and increased poverty situation going up rapidly. Right now, am still working on how we can bridge the starvation (famine) before the harvest and irrigation which is very important due to the more experience of unpredictable rains in the region. Would be greatful for contacts, organizations and cooperation towards my dreams. --—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Peter, 24 June 2009

Scanner question

Another orphaned comment. I'm merging Appropedia:Frustrating experiences into Appropedia:Stories in the interests of simplicity and clarity, and that page had just this one comment, and no responses. The page was actually meant for something else, but then, we don't have a page for these kinds of tech questions either. Once we get a proper forum set up we'll be better able to handle such questions. --Chriswaterguy 04:10, 5 October 2011 (PDT)

"I have two Mustek 6000P scanners which have ceased to function. The fluorescent lamps do not come on. The power supplies are OK. How can I find out if the fault is the cold cathode tube or the circuit that supplies it? If the tubes are defunct I might be able to recycle the circuitry to make CC fluorescent lamps." —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Kennyt, 14 July 2011

Your stories, please!

Check out the Appropedia:Stories page. I'm sure that's not even scratching the surface. What's your story? Is there a line or a paragraph you can share?

What was it like the first time you found Appropedia? Did something excite you? Did you learn something? Did you find an opportunity to share your knowledge?

On a personal note: I'll be making a presentation about Appropedia at a business conference in a week's time. The more stories I can draw on and point people to, the better. Thanks! --Chriswaterguy 10:15, 5 October 2011 (PDT)

I've had exactly zero responses - here, on the Appropedia blog, Appropedia:Stories page and on Facebook. Clearly I'm asking the wrong way. :-(
Any ideas? This is really important for demonstrating that Appropedia deserves support. --Chriswaterguy 04:06, 17 October 2011 (PDT)

Medical advice

Just came across the Horsetail page featured on Portal:Health and safety.

This includes a long list of problems which can be helped by this plant but has no references, nothing to back up the claims.

Do we need to have disclaimers added to this type of page -

Try this if you are feeling a bit under the weather but if you are sick you better see a doctor.

What is our policy on medical advice on Appropedia? Should we ban all medical advice except for links to other sites that do this better such as Where There is no Doctor?--Joe Raftery 07:12, 8 October 2011 (PDT)

+1 for clear disclaimers. We have Appropedia:General disclaimer linked from the footer of each page, but I'm all for beefing that up, and for having specific disclaimers on certain types of pages.
I'm inclined to allow all kinds of advice that isn't clearly bad advice... but have a way of flagging certain types of advice as unsourced, incomplete, or, as you say, something to try if you're not seriously ill.
It's likely we'll see a lot of pages about appropriate technologies for health and medicine before long (and if this whisper doesn't become reality, it will happen at some stage.) So this is a good and timely question. --Chriswaterguy 04:06, 17 October 2011 (PDT)

The $300 House

In case you haven't seen it, here's an FYI. Any takers?! :-)


--RichardF 12:54, 13 October 2011 (PDT)

I think this is very valuable as a design exercise, though not as a panacea. That leaves some middle ground... can it be a solution or set of tools to be used as appropriate?
See Critique of the $300 house has interesting perspectives (from "David Week... an architect with more than 30 years experience working in development.") I don't quite agree with that analysis - I think he makes good points, though I'm not ready to write off the project. But if we claim to create a good solution to this question, we must be able to answer all the issues raised there.
I was thinking about putting my name down for the team, but for now I'm just keeping my eyes open for any more news. I've spent time in the past discussing shelter design with Vinay Gupta, aka Mr Hexayurt, who is listed already. It's very interesting stuff. --Chriswaterguy 04:06, 17 October 2011 (PDT)

The Topicadmin notice

The {{Topicadmin}} tag is used on a handful of pages - it adds a note saying "This topic is moderated by USERNAME". There's a little more explanation at Appropedia:Topic experts. It's an old template from the early days of Appropedia, and its use hasn't been as Appropedia has grown.

Question: Do we abandon it? Keep it but use it more? Modify it? --Chriswaterguy 03:37, 17 October 2011 (PDT)

I would suggest asking a related question, so I will. ;-) Is there interest in expanding the idea of topic experts to simply be sections of "ApproProjects" (sort of like WikiProjects? How about asking the current topic experts if they want to be the founding members of their corresponding ApproProjects? That way, we would know at least two things: first, whether they want to continue on as topic experts; and second, whether they want to expand into a broader article improvement collaboration with other contributors. --RichardF 07:09, 17 October 2011 (PDT)
I'd love to have ApproProjects, and I'm ready and willing. The challenge is in developing a community or team around those pages. This hasn't proven easy in the past, with other specific work teams on topic areas or publicity or whatever. How do we make this work? (I have some ideas, but I don't think they're the whole answer... and I want to hear other people's thoughts first.) --Chriswaterguy 14:46, 18 October 2011 (PDT)
I would say the first step is to just do it. To be clear, for me, the subject matter of ApproProjects would be articles, which is different than the subject matter of of what's addressed on pages like Portal:Projects - real world projects outside of Appropedia.
That said, if you start an ApproProject, I'll join it and help out with setting up the Appropedia infrastructure. I'll also help out with various grunt work activities. :-) --RichardF 18:29, 18 October 2011 (PDT)

"Appropriate Technology" with a big AT

I was wondering about the term "appropriate technology" - and the fact that when you google it, it often yields it as part of a regular sentence - not as a technical term, but simply referring to the most appropriate technology in a certain context (whether a new computer system for a government department, or whatever). Someone (can't recall who) suggested to me that "Appropriate Technology" with a capital AT is sometimes used to distinguish the term as having the more specific meaning, of the kind of technology you can find on Appropedia. That makes sense - small letters seem like they're just the word "appropriate" and "technology" used together, whereas "Appropriate Technology" looks like a technical term.

So should we start capitalizing "Appropriate Technology"? Would that be clearer? --Chriswaterguy 14:03, 18 October 2011 (PDT)

"Appropriate Technology" implies a proper noun - the name of a distinct something. I don't know of any basis for such a usage of capitalization. At best, such usage probably would be a neologism. I'm not at all convinced the term has a sufficiently common meaning to warrant capitalization without qualifying the specific, unique entity it would reference. --RichardF 19:30, 18 October 2011 (PDT)
On the one hand, it's not a proper noun - that's a good point. In terms of rules of grammar, strictly it shouldn't be capitalized.
In practice though, terms which have an acronym (e.g. Carbon, Capture and Storage (CCS)[1][2]) are often but not always capitalized. If I google for "appropriate technology," ignoring cases where it's part of a title, sometimes it's capitalized, and sometimes it's not.
But "Appropriate Technology" is a distinct concept, and not a neologism - it's been around for decades, and there's a movement (admittedly an amorphous one) attached to it. Talk to people in permaculture and in grassroots sustainability and development projects, and there's definitely a shared understanding of the term, beyond the meaning of the two individual words.
So, if we want to be strictly grammatically correct, we don't capitalize (same as Wikipedia, at Wikipedia:Appropriate technology). I'm okay with staying with that. I'm still wondering though - would it help us be clearer in our meaning if we capitalized? --Chriswaterguy 00:11, 21 October 2011 (PDT)
I was referring to the undefined entity, "Appropriate Technology," as a neologism, not the established concept of "appropriate technology." If it were the name of a distinct movement, for example, that would be one thing; but as an "outsider," I'm still not seeing it as warranting the purported upgrade in status. --RichardF 14:37, 21 October 2011 (PDT)


I found this, as a new page at Tooty -fruity processing:

"Dear sir, how to good quality making tooty- fruity from green papaya chips ,mango bar,mango pulp.pls explain this small unit project details send me my mail" —The preceding unsigned comment was added by, 25 December 2009

Quite out of date now... This should be moved to a forum page when we get the forum set up. --Chriswaterguy 23:35, 20 October 2011 (PDT)-

RichardF for admin

I nominated User:RichardF to be an Appropedia admin as seen at Appropedia:Administrators/Nominations. He has contributed a lot of useful thinking and edits as seen at Special:Contributions/RichardF including some very interesting ways of looking at information on Appropedia in his userspace. --Lonny 18:14, 23 October 2011 (PDT)

(Note from Chris: I'm not following the exact process as for now, the Village Pump is the one place I know people will see this and comment.)

Please place your endorsement or disagreement, and/or comment, below. We can close the vote in a week (or earlier if we're clearly going to have strong consensus):

  • --Lonny 18:14, 23 October 2011 (PDT)
  • --Chriswaterguy 09:06, 24 October 2011 (PDT) Endorse! A lot of improvements in how Appropedia looks (portals, new table style) are thanks to Richard. We've seen things differently sometime, which is healthy, but Richard has always been friendly and positive throughout.
  • --Tahnok 19:05, 25 October 2011 (PDT) Endorse! Lots of excellent contributions to Appropedia!
Looks like we got distracted with all the site upgrades (and the usual wikiholic editing stuff...) Lonny, time to do the honors? --Chriswaterguy 23:23, 2 December 2011 (PST)
You are right! It is now done as noted at User talk:RichardF#Adminship. Thanks! --Lonny 23:47, 12 December 2011 (PST)
Thanks, guys! I wonder what I should do next?! ;-) --RichardF 11:23, 13 December 2011 (PST)

(minor) Mention on BoingBoing

Boing boing has an interview with Vinay Gupta that links to Appropedia! Source --Tahnok 19:09, 25 October 2011 (PDT)

Vinay and friend
Cool! I love the comment below the story: "What the hell IS a hexayurt? ... at first I thought it was some kind of nepalese yoghurt"
Vinay's a great thinker, and a great human being. You've prompted me to finally upload this pic of him, from 2008. --Chriswaterguy 13:05, 26 October 2011 (PDT)
Thanks again - I just blogged this on the Appropedia Foundation blog: Vinay Gupta and his influences. --Chriswaterguy 07:44, 29 October 2011 (PDT)

Occupy Sustainability

Hi everyone,

Check out Occupy Sustainability - fun and practical green ideas for protesters.

"Like" it if you're on FB, and share - especially send it to any protesters you know. We've had an increase in traffic lately - would be great to keep that trend going. --Chriswaterguy 13:32, 26 October 2011 (PDT)

Interesting quotes


I was reading some interesting quotes when it occurred to me that it might be interesting to have some interesting quotes on Appropedia, such as on the Main Page. For starters, I took one from those I posted at Wikipedia:Portal:Sustainable development. The complete list of quotes for that portal can bee seen at Wikipedia:Portal:Sustainable development/Selected quote. Here's an example.
--RichardF 13:49, 26 October 2011 (PDT)

I like the idea of good quotes. I'm sure we could come up with some different, interesting and informative ones, too.
We have the {{quote}} template (and the broken {{quotation}} template, FWIW) but we could make that better looking - and the exact look we want depends on the context. Relevant and informative quotes can also be great in articles - see {{text box}} which I made partly with quotes in mind. And I'm pretty sure I've seen a wiki where the CSS made <blockquote> tags put big quotation marks before and after the text - I liked that. --Chriswaterguy 11:58, 29 October 2011 (PDT)
Those presentation templates are more for use in articles. I was thinking more along the lines of portal-style quote presentations. I put a box here, but it disabled the edit links, so I removed it. This time, I replaced the quote with an image of the box quote. If the quotes were on the home page, I would suggest it be laid out as a portal box. --RichardF 17:05, 29 October 2011 (PDT)

Offer of assistance with graphic design...

We had a comment on the Appropedia Foundation blog, very supportive of our work and offering "layout, text, graphic or vector/logo designs".

I know we need help with our UI, but graphic design is really not my area or my strength. I've responded, and suggested that help with a brochure would be really appreciated, but maybe there are obvious things I'm missing? --Chriswaterguy 11:07, 1 November 2011 (PDT)

Big move of topic category pages

Re the promise I made above to move "topic category" pages into the main article space, I never managed to make time for this... so I did it tonight, instead of sleeping :-). This helps us be more consistent and avoid confusion, esp by newcomers.

I'd really appreciate it if some people could have a look through these and see if I've made any obvious mistakes. (I already found and fixed a couple.)

These are the former categories that have been moved to mainspace, history intact. If you'd like to help, you could add an intro sentence to one or more of these - that would make it look a lot better. (Just a simple description - e.g. from based on the opening of the main article): Africa, African American Environmentalist Association, Air pollution, Appropedia Action Groups, Biogas, Cogeneration, Constructed wetlands, Ecuador, GIS, Green businesses, Green power, Hybrid vehicles, Industrial ecology, Integrated cooking, International Development Design Summit, International development, Land use, Lawnmowers, Living roofs, Mobility and rehabilitation, Nanotechnology, OLPC, OSU Student Sustainability Initiative, Peace Corps, South Asia, Thermal curtains, Toilet designs, Vaccine refrigeration, Wastewater.

I also found these cases of redirect to category, where the category had no topic content. So I made a {{topic page needed}} notice to invite the reader to start the page, and added it to these: Category:Aceh, Category:Andhra Pradesh, Category:Bamboo construction, Category:Bamboo, Category:Banda Aceh, Category:Construction, Category:Creative Commons, Category:Culture and community, Category:Earthen construction, Category:Earthen plaster, Category:Earthquake safety, Category:Ecocities, Category:Economics, Category:Ferrocement, Category:Refrigeration, Category:Materials processing, Category:Appropedia site development, Category:Reverse osmosis, Category:Food crops, Category:Finance, Category:Health and safety, Category:Groundwater, Category:Haiti, Category:Heating and cooling, Category:HIV, Category:Humboldt County, California, Category:Hygiene, Category:Kitchens, Category:Languages, Category:Mexico, Category:Networking, Category:Nicaragua, Category:Philippines, Category:Policy ideas, Category:Prevent waste, Category:Pumping, Category:Santa Clara County, California, Category:Showers, Category:Stoves, Category:Sustainable business practices, Category:Sweden, Category:Technology for temporary communities, Category:UK, Category:United States, Category:Water filters, Category:Water purification.

Please let me know about any other category pages that need to be moved. There are a few that I'm unclear about listed here, so we'll have to talk to the people that manage those. (In the case of the academic pages, the instructors seem happy to do it this way, so until we come up with a better model that makes them happy, I'm inclined to leave those be.) --Chriswaterguy 11:59, 5 November 2011 (PDT)

CAPTCHA alternative

How do these Text CAPTCHA questions look?

I like the concept, especially as the CAPTCHA we have now isn't keeping the spammers out. But I'm concerned that they'd be confusing to users who aren't native English speakers. --Chriswaterguy 12:45, 7 November 2011 (PST)

CAPTCHA not enough to stop spam...

"The only tested sites where CAPTCHAs couldn't be broken were Google and reCAPTCHA. " - Researchers Defeat CAPTCHA on Popular Websites

We have reCAPTCHA, but we're still getting hammered by spam. (We're stopping it, but I'd rather be doing real work and I'm sure that's true for the other admins too). Either the spammers have better tech than the researchers are using, or there are humans entering the CAPTCHAs in spam attacks. I've heard about people in Eastern Europe being paid low wages to spam, and it is probably a semi-automated process, so I think this is something we need to address.

I've mentioned it elsewhere, but I'd like to invite users fill out a couple of questions when registering - one simple question or instruction (like "what color is the sky?" or asking them to enter a certain word) which would be required, plus a couple of other real question (about their interests, or "what brought you here?"). That makes the spammers easier to pick. We could still let anons edit - most of the spam comes from registered accounts rather than anons.

I'm not suggesting we stop using CAPTCHA - there are legions of spambots out there waiting to hammer us harder if we do that. --Chriswaterguy 23:18, 9 November 2011 (PST)

Here is a registration form for a wiki (our friends at Greenlivingpedia) using Google Spreadsheets. That also gives some data about new users, and an invitation for them to say something about the site. (There are some things we would probably change, but this is very close to what I have in mind.)

The slight barrier to entry can actually make joining seem more desirable - I don't think it does much harm. And instead of our new user log being a case of "spot the genuine editor" we'd have a list of all real people. If a number of us check for new users daily, the wait for approval should be very short. I'd like us to continue allowing anon edits (anon edits aren't the spammers at the moment, anyway).

I'm posting it here first rather than to the tech team, as I'd like to get wider feedback on the concept. How does it sound? --Chriswaterguy 10:17, 10 November 2011 (PST)

We should look into using the upcoming semantic mediawiki tools for user registration. I am not sure if there is already an existing tool that works (e.g. seems to not work with reCaptha). Thanks, --Lonny 11:25, 10 November 2011 (PST)
That sounds good - especially if we can set it to auto-approve users that pass certain tests. If it works as I hope, we could get by without reCAPTCHA (and possibly without any conventional CAPTCHA, by doing the spam-checking through questions in the form). --Chriswaterguy 21:13, 10 November 2011 (PST)

Community space

I've been thinking a lot about how to help people feel part of the community here.

What if we create a new namespace called "Community:" or something similar? This page could become "Community:Village pump" and it would be grouped together with all other community pages. Then:

  • If we add forum features (whether a wiki-based forum in the near-term, as I hope, or LiquidThreads-based discussions in the longer term) they would fit perfectly in a Community namespace. We'll need to test that idea out, but I think it will work.
  • We could then start a couple of community pages around specific topics, where people can discuss that topic area, ask questions and help each other with developing pages in that area - a bit like the WikiProjects on Wikipedia, but I'm thinking of something more friendly, as much about the topic itself as about the Appropedia pages. As the first couple of pages gather activity, we could slowly add others. (It's important not to have inactive "community" pages if we want things to be interesting, so starting small and encouraging those is key. So we must start with topics where we have some activity and some enthusiasts already.)

The upsides are:

  • Clearer "branding" for community pages - i.e. people see the big "Community" in the title and know what kind of page they're on - and get a bit of subliminal advertising telling them they're in a community, so they can join in :-).
  • Creating a connection between forum-type pages and collaborative pages.
  • Easier management - someone interested in keeping in touch with all the community space happenings can track the RecentChanges filtered for that namespace. (This can be done for any namespace, e.g. changes to the "Appropedia" namespace.) There's also Special:AllPages, filtered by namespace - another useful tool for keeping tabs on things. (I think we would can disable talk pages[3] for this namespace - that would make monitoring AllPages and RecentChanges more reliable too.)

I don't see any downsides, aside from very slightly adding to the complexity of the structure of Appropedia. I think that's more than offset by the added clarity.

Activity on community pages is more important than just about anything else that happens in Appropedia space, so I like the idea of honoring it with its own space, and giving community activity a bit of a boost.

Anyone else like the idea? Other ideas, modifications, shootings down? --Chriswaterguy 08:11, 18 November 2011 (PST)

Block urls from new and anon users?

I just spent longer than I'd like rolling back spam on dozens of pages (close to 50 pages, at a guess). I'm also concerned that checking RecentChanges, we tend to see more spam than real contributions. I'd like us to spend more time encouraging new users and the like, rather than dealing with spam.

So, somewhat reluctantly, I suggest that starting now we block new & anon users from posting urls. That will slash the amount of spam - we'll still get some gibberish posted, but without being able to post urls, there won't be the same incentive to spam.

To make the restriction on new users less of a burden, we can reduce the time to become an auto-confirmed user, who can post links. Probably 2 days and 2 edits is enough - even 1 day and 1 edit would stop the vast majority of the spammers. Note that people could still post links without the http:// - so they wouldn't be live links. So genuine users could post useful links if they want, which can be made into live links later by a registered editor.

We should also ensure that any error messages that people get for posting urls are as friendly and explanatory as possible, preferably with a link prompting new users to register.

How does that sound? --Chriswaterguy 02:35, 26 November 2011 (PST)

I see absolutely no good reason why Appropedia should allow itself to be hijacked by vandals. I also believe legitimate editors should be willing to support neutralizing vandals by earning the right to edit. The question to me simply revolves around, "What's the threshold new editors must meet in order to earn this privilege?"
I like the communication approach Wikipedia uses at Wikipedia:Wikipedia:User access levels, particularly in the User groups section for Unregistered users, New users, and Autoconfirmed users. I didn't notice a page similar to this at Appropedia, at least not by that name.
I support restricting unregistered and new user editing access levels up to the restrictions necessary to virtually eliminate instances of vandalism in any form from these user groups. --RichardF 08:23, 26 November 2011 (PST)
I've just turned on this filter: Special:AbuseFilter/3. If there's a problem and I'm not online to fix it, could an admin please go there and uncheck the boxes in the bottom section, so it can't do anything? Thanks.
I've gone for a very light restriction, and we'll see how that goes. A user need to be registered for 2 hours and have made at least 1 edit to be allowed to add a link. --Chriswaterguy 06:59, 13 December 2011 (PST)

Marking project pages

Is there a nice way we could mark pages as "projects"? Since we have projects, and topic pages, and how-tos all together, navigation would be helped and confusion reduced by having a nice header or tag at the top of a page to tell the reader in 0.1 second that this page is a project. (i.e. using color and standard layout so the visitor doesn't have to read it each time)

This was prompted by Power Generation from Mechanical Devices - I was about to rename it to lower case, standard for topic pages, then I realized it's actually a project page. (It still needs renaming, of course.) --Chriswaterguy 23:43, 2 December 2011 (PST)

Main Page redesign

No - Main Page redesign candidate #1 - browns, table frame
No - Main Page redesign candidate #2 - greens, no frame
No - Main Page redesign candidate #3 - blues, no frame
Yes - Main Page redesign candidate #4 - transparent, no frame

Now that we have a substantial number of box-style portals for most of the key Appropedia topics, perhaps it's a good time to look at ways to incorporate some updated version of modular design to the Main Page. As a discussion starter, I mashed together some basic portal design features already around, the current content on the Main Page, and rotating content for selected pages, highlighted projects and selected portal intros.

To be honest, a redesign of the Main Page is long overdue. Personally, I only look at it to inspire myself to find something better. I'm not at all sure who would want to go there more than once. However, with a little sprucing up, I'm sure it could become a very welcoming and useful resource.

As an incrementalist, I prefer to just get things going and improve things one step at a time. That's the wiki way! Just about anything that's more modular would be an improvement. Having a few candidates, trying out a few live trails sounds like a project to me. The ball is rolling. Who wants to join in? :-) --RichardF 06:16, 8 December 2011 (PST)

Hi RichardF,
I really like the incrementalist, wiki, get 'er done approach. I also think your Main Page redesign is far superior to our current one. I am a little concerned about the difficulty of editing, but I love that there is revolving content. I think we should implement this ASAP. Here are some of my stylistic comments:
  • I think we should remove the logo from the upper right, since it is in the upper left (and this would provide a little more space).
  • I would like to see announcements up higher as we sometimes have pressing announcements such as competitions that are ending soon.
  • Is there any way for the boxes to be worked into the existing borders? Does that make sense? I feel like there are too many hard borders and would love to see more use of open space (for example AKVO, Energypedia, or the more polished wikiprogress... here is their edit page).
  • I just asked nine different people about what they think. They all love that there is different content (especially the project image). They almost all dislike the the brown colors.
Thank you!
--Lonny 20:56, 8 December 2011 (PST)
I agree, the layout is quite nice, but the brown is not my favourite. --Tahnok 21:14, 8 December 2011 (PST)
Hi Lonny & Tahnok. Thanks for the feedback. One nice thing about the modular approach is that revisions are realtively easy. Although not totally distinct, the box portal approach here separates a good deal of the content from the formatting. One of my next steps will be to make the Main Page layout a lot cleaner by moving more of the content to subpages. As far as colors and element positions go, I'll leave candidate #1 pretty much alone and start candidate #2. That version will lose the table border, change the color theme to green (#3 could be blue ;) and rearrange some of the sections. This early example also just uses articles from the Appropriate technology portal. As I build a new Main Page selected articles section, (eventually edit protected) I'll add selected articles used in all the other portals too. Candidate #1 already uses all the highlighted projects I know of and all box portal intros. --RichardF 05:36, 9 December 2011 (PST)

We now have three four candidates for review - yucky brown with too much dressing, clean green, cool blue and even transparent is a color!. Go at it! ;-) --RichardF 06:16, 9 December 2011 (PST) --RichardF 14:02, 9 December 2011 (PST)

Thanks Richard - they're all an improvement to the layout of the page.
I like the ability to show new highlighted content each time, and to refresh that content by clicking. (Minor admin note, maybe stating the obvious: anything that gets transcluded onto the main page must be soft-protected at a minimum, so that vandals can't edit it.)
Of the 3 remaining, I most like #4, transparent (you knew I'd choose that one, given my minimalist preferences). Next favorite is #2, as the color better matches the current skin.
That's all I have to say about the design - I'd be happy to see that go live ASAP. (Any objections?) :In terms of content, I'd like us to trim the first section right back - keep it short and punchy, and to let the announcements come up higher. And to trim the "selected page" to bring it closer to the length of the highlighted project.
Ok, I've had a first go at the first section (old version, diff). The wording and maybe the format need work, but it's much shorter, and I think a bit closer to just the essentials. Thoughts? --Chriswaterguy 05:45, 11 December 2011 (PST)
As far as page protection goes, I assumed in the design all the pages showing on "Welcome to Appropedia" wold be admin-only editable. With that in mind, I'll start moving all the new subpages to be under it. The current exception is the collection of Highlighted projects pages and their layout page. They could be moved, copied or protected in place. My preference would be to move or copy then protect under the site welcome page. Then, everything could be found much easier. The original design of Selected pages & Highlighted projects intentionally had different sizes, with other types of boxes under projects for balance. Because all these pages are independent of portal subpages, shorter versions of the selected pages can be cut back for here without disrupting the portal layouts.
Just to make sure admins (esp., Lonny ;) know, this design includes just about all content in subpages. That means the Welcome page mostly just formats the page layout features. In addition, every content subpage can be accessed directly from the Welcome to Appropedia page without editing it! That's because the sections are based on the box-header template that includes a direct subpage "edit" link on the right side of the box-header bar (along with a "watch" link to the right of it). So, that means even though the overall design is more complex, the most frequent type of editing (section updates and tweaking) actually will be simpler.
The next decision, as I see it, would be for Lonny to decide which main layout style he wants and copy it over to the live page. After that, wiki away! :-) --RichardF 08:48, 11 December 2011 (PST)
4 and 2 are my favorites as well. I think we should go live some time tomorrow night after collecting a tiny bit more feedback. In the meantime, can we replace the wording "Show new Selected page, Highlighted project & Selected portal" with a super-scripted or parenthesized " - refresh" next to "Selected page" and "Highlighted project"? I think it would look much cleaner and easier to understand. The portal would refresh as well, which I think is fine without going through the trouble (I am assuming it would be more code) of putting a "refresh" next to Portal as well.
Thank you, --Lonny 14:01, 11 December 2011 (PST)
If you have facebook, vote for your favorite new main page at If not, please feel free to leave your vote here. Thanks, --Lonny 14:21, 11 December 2011 (PST)
I changed the purge links on the candidate pages. That should be enough for now. --RichardF 14:37, 11 December 2011 (PST)
Candidate #4 Transparent was the winner, with Green in second place. I really like both versions and look forward to seeing #4 as our new main page.
A couple of comments: 1) Something has changed in the announcements box, where Intellectual property internship is now formatted differently. Is that on purpose, or how do we fix it? 2) What do you we need to do to get the main page set up? RichardF, you are now an admin (welcome and thanks!) so you can edit the main page.
Thank you, --Lonny 23:50, 12 December 2011 (PST)

Yes Candidate #4 - Transparent it is! I made all the updates I'm aware of and protected all the related subpages. All that's left for you to do is copy the winner over to Welcome to Appropedia and take it for a spin! ;-) --RichardF 11:15, 13 December 2011 (PST)

It is done (and you are already editing it to make it better! :) ). In addition, I reduced the spacing between the lines in the intro. --Lonny 14:27, 13 December 2011 (PST)
Thanks (aka, I should have fixed some things before I said it was ready ;-). --RichardF 16:35, 13 December 2011 (PST)
Nah, it's a wiki, we all do a bit :-). You did an enormous amount of work, and it looks great. Thank you! --Chriswaterguy 17:37, 13 December 2011 (PST)

References to a coming ascension...

Off-The-Grid Raw Vegan Community On Big Island Hawaii has had this note added:


While I'm glad they're planning ahead, I don't feel that references to this ascension really fit on Appropedia. I could tag it with {{fact}} but that's a request for confirmation of an answer, whereas I'm not even agreed on the question :-).

I wasn't sure what to do, so I copied the whole comment to the talk page, and left just the first (non-controversial) part on the article page. I added a note to "See the note on the talk page.". --Chriswaterguy 04:59, 11 December 2011 (PST)

The topic of the Wikipedia:2012 phenomenon is encyclopedic. In fact, the Wikipedia article even includes Wikipedia:Template:Eschatology that uses Wikipedia:Template:Sidebar with collapsible lists

! ! ;-) Descriptively, a comment could be added like, "(For more information about "THE ASCENSION ON DEC 21, 2012", see Wikipedia:2012 phenomenon.)" --RichardF 05:49, 11 December 2011 (PST)

Not sure how much attention of any kind it should have in mainspace. I'm probably being too serious in reply to your levity, but it's worth a thought... I'm inclined to think that since a user can look up Google, Wikipedia or whatever by themselves at any time, we should only have Wikipedia links where we know there's content there of significant relevance both to the context, and to what people come to Appropedia for.
Re 2012, I think this picture explains how the whole thing started. --Chriswaterguy 19:58, 11 December 2011 (PST)
Oooh, I just checked Wikipedia:Template:Sidebar with collapsible lists (and scrolled down to the example) and that's very shiny. I've often thought how we could benefit from more navigation templates, and I think that's one good basis for good nav templates. --Chriswaterguy 06:31, 13 December 2011 (PST)
See? There's a reason for everything

! ! ;-) --RichardF 11:21, 13 December 2011 (PST)

Analysis page name

Street lighting Analysis - it's a student's work, so should it form the basis of a topic page (with some rewriting) or be clearly named and tagged as a project? Perhaps both - renamed as a project, and copied as the basis of a topic article. --Chriswaterguy 19:31, 13 December 2011 (PST)

Today's popular pages!

I was looking for a way to automatically update the Popular pages section of the Main Page (like Newest Articles and Newest Files), when I came across mw:Extension:CurrentPages. This MediaWiki extension shows a definable list of the most viewed pages within the past 24 hours. For example, the "Today's popular pages" section could show the five most viewed pages within tha past 24 hours. The "more" link then could show a page with the top 50 or so pages. What do you think? Of course, someone who actually knows how to add a MediaWiki extension would have to do that part. ;-) --RichardF 06:40, 15 December 2011 (PST)

I found an example of this extension's usage at the extension's website. See OrganicDesign - Today's most popular articles. I didn't actually find the code at the CurrentPages.php page, but perhaps the author, Nad could clue us in. Because the page visit counts update in real time, you also could watch these pages zoom up the chart as you check them out. In addition, the sidebar even updates the top ten popular pages! There must be an extension for that somewhere too! :-) --RichardF 10:01, 15 December 2011 (PST)

Fantastic! Let's see who can help us test it out... --Chriswaterguy 19:46, 15 December 2011 (PST)
I really like this extension. I am worried about the server impact. Our server is currently close to overloaded as it is, and the site is slower than it should be. This may be something that has to wait until after we do a server upgrade, unless someone that knows more than me can figure out how to reduce its impact on the server (or tell me that it is negligible). Thanks, --Lonny 15:06, 20 December 2011 (PST)
Would you be willing to contact the author, Nad, to get some estimates on the likely server load? --RichardF 18:01, 20 December 2011 (PST)

Selected quotes on the Main Page

Here's an example quote that uses the Main Page box style. I like the idea of putting quotes on the Main Page. My main concern at this point is where to find applicable quotes on Appropedia. Is the content out there? If so, where? What do you think of adding a section like this to the Main Page? --RichardF 19:47, 15 December 2011 (PST)

Welcome to Appropedia/box-header

Rachel Carson
The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe around us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.

Welcome to Appropedia/box-footer

I really like the idea. How about we collect, say, 20 quotes to start with? I'm thinking that some of the most interesting quotes, especially ones that people haven't seen before, will be those from designers and appropriate technologists. I'm sure we could find a bunch from people like Paul Polak, E.F. Schumacher and Amory Lovins, who have written books about appropriate/sustainable technology. Then there's Victor Papanek (couldn't find much when I googled for quotes by him, but his books are great), Amy Smith and more.
There are also webpages like 80+ Inspiring Quotes about Design - I quite like

"Every designers' dirty little secret is that they copy other designers' work. They see work they like, and they imitate it. Rather cheekily, they call this inspiration. — Aaron Russell"

And Quotes on Design. I like

"Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan. — Eliel Saarinen "

It'll be worth doing a source check where possible (Google Books might help). Misquotes and misattributions abound. --Chriswaterguy 20:42, 15 December 2011 (PST)
Cool. I'm not so much worried about finding relevant and reliable quotes outside of Appropedia. I was thinking more about the style I showed that uses a link to the person, in this case, "Rachel Carson." I like the quote, but the link goes to Wikipedia because Appropedia doesn't have an artilce on her. My concern is about having a link on the Appropedia Main Page that encourages readers to leave the site. Of course, the "simple" solution to that is just make a page here for anyone with a quote. As it turns out, I created the People category just yesterday. At that time, the category had nine articles and three subcategories. That's a start, but creating this quotes archive probably will mean growing the articles about people too. I'll call that a good thing. ;-)
Other sources to look for quotes are Wikipedia:Portal:Sustainable development/Selected quote (where I got the Carson quote), related Wikipedia portal quote archives, and pages like E. F. Schumacher sourced Wikiquotes and Amory Lovins sourced Wikiquotes.
For starters, I'll get a quotes archive set up. When it has enough content we can show them. I'll set them up so the content can be added to different pages with different styles, like the selected articles and projects can be used now. --RichardF 05:55, 16 December 2011 (PST)

Here we go. The Welcome to Appropedia/Selected quote is up and running! :-) I added the first four quotes and 40 subpages waiting to be quotified. The Welcome to Appropedia/Selected quote/Layout setup can handle source people without Appropedia pages by using the "|no link source=" parameter. The name will just show up unlinked. The examples shown here are from {{:Welcome to Appropedia/Selected quote}}. --RichardF 10:34, 16 December 2011 (PST)

I added the Selected quote box to the main page at full width for the best horizontal balance. Some quotes are short and sweet, some are a bit more...longer. Right now, the list is at ten quotes, and growing! ;-) --RichardF 17:47, 17 December 2011 (PST)
Nice, thank you.
I've invited suggested quotes to be added to Talk:Welcome to Appropedia/Selected quote. --Chriswaterguy 23:13, 17 December 2011 (PST)

Energy & renewable energy areas

I've had some feedback about our "energy" and "renewable energy" areas: " is a duplicate of Energy, where should something be posted ?

My response: "Thanks for pushing us to think this through. We'll want to distinguish them... my thought is to have Portal:Energy mainly about efficiency, and issues with current energy production (coal-fired plants etc), and have it link to Portal:Renewable energy, which is to focus on the details of renewables."

That could also be a guide to our categorization. How does that sound? Maybe it's stating the obvious, but it didn't seem obvious to me until now :-). --Chriswaterguy 22:23, 15 December 2011 (PST)

I have been considering tackling a re-categorization schema for our energy topics in my Engr370: Energy, Technology and Society course next semester. Of course, that should not stop us from making progress now. --Lonny 03:09, 16 December 2011 (PST)

Welcome to Appropedia/box-header

Appropedia wordle
Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.

Welcome to Appropedia/box-footer

I've added a number of Appropedia content classification resources at User:RichardF#Contents. To me, the basic question on this issue is, "What is the set of fundamental conceptual frameworks upon which Appropedia's content, structure and processes are based?" :-) Right off the bat, this question implies the answer will be "multi-faceted" - different classification schemes to address different aspects of how things are related. The current Wikipedia Contents navigation structure I helped design and implement includes a major domain on content topics and a major domain on the type of presentation of that content. At Appropedia, another major organizational domain is about processes, like projects, how-tos and courses. As far as the go-to organizers for Appropedia, I recommend using topical outlines as the basis for showing how subject matter concepts relate to each other. Other organizers, like categories, portals, navboxes, etc., can look to these outlines for guidance. Process-oriented domains like projects and how-tos also can be organized by these topical outlines. Some Appro-centric topical outlines and related lists can be seen at User:RichardF#Lists. --RichardF 07:09, 16 December 2011 (PST)
Looking at your page... not sure what you mean by "Article ratings, indexes, lists, outlines, navboxes and trees". (I can see why some of the articles are under "lists" but not sure about most of what's in that first box.)
Agreed that faceted classification is key. Will spend some time looking at your "Top 100 categories by proposed fundamental candidates". --Chriswaterguy 06:10, 17 December 2011 (PST)
The topical outlines are in the box at User:RichardF/Contents. The other rows show alternative ways of displaying content, but the outlines can be the authoritative organizers. --RichardF 06:46, 17 December 2011 (PST)
One advantage of using linked topical outlines is that red links make up good candidates for article development drives. That's because another advantage of these outlines is the higher the link in the outline, the more important the article is to the topic. that's related to User:RichardF/Contents#Vital articles, top-level importance candidates and the discussion at Appropedia:Village pump#Vital articles – importance, quality and popularity. --RichardF 07:18, 17 December 2011 (PST)
Now that Special:Book can save to Appropedia pages, topical outlines also can be used to help create books for the Bookshelf! ;-) --RichardF 18:59, 19 December 2011 (PST)

Beginner's guide to Semantic MediaWiki?

It's great that we've got Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) working here now. I'm thinking about how to help people who still find it confusing (including me). It would be wonderful to have a page at Help:Semantic or Help:Semantic MediaWiki (with the other as a redirect) explaining:

  • What SMW can do.
  • How SMW is used on Appropedia.
  • Templates and forms that we can use to get the benefits of SMW without having to do anything like coding.

The page could link to more extensive guides, but would be tailored for an Appropedian who's new to semantic functions.

And maybe someone can explain the new footers on redirect pages? E.g. on Main Page. And there's currently a similar one on this village pump page:

Facts about Village pump				RDF feed
Template	Welcome to Appropedia/Selected quote + 

--Chriswaterguy 17:20, 18 December 2011 (PST)

I created the help page and the redirect. There are few projects that have better documentation than SMW so I believe there is little value in recreating anything more specific to Appropedia and have simply linked to the most useful pages to start with.
There is nothing to be gotten out of having SMW installed without doing something exactly like coding. Tanstaafl. Semantic Forms can be setup as is the case with Portal:Medical Devices and that requires careful planning and implementation. See the Usage section there for specifics.
The footer you are seeing is called the factbox,
Jason Michael Smithson 16:04, 20 December 2011 (PST)
Hi Chris,
The factbox at the bottom of redirects is probably going to stay there. Redirects are semantic data (convey a meaning like synonym). I am not sure if we can get rid of them site wide, but there is a magic word for getting rid of them on a specific page.
After we get done with Portal:Medical Devices (over 100 more devices and a public launch by mid January) we will be working on an OSAT device form which will be of more use to more of our editors... then, with careful planning, we can start looking at even more semantic fun to be had (e.g. user pages, geocoding, etc.). For now:
Thanks, --Lonny 16:42, 20 December 2011 (PST)

New header for PV projects

I just added {{pv project}} to a bunch of pages - it looks like this:

User:RichardF & I put the template together, and I ran my bot to add it on (hopefully) suitable pages. The idea is to tie together projects on a related theme, and to highlight some particularly interesting pages. I tried to avoid adding it to pages that already had a header, and pages where I wasn't sure. But I didn't check every page carefully.

Consider all edits as part of the wiki "Be Bold" philosophy - feel free to revert or change as appropriate, or suggest ways to do this better. --Chriswaterguy 00:50, 19 December 2011 (PST)

I notice that when a page is loading, the template is in "show" mode - only after the page is loaded does it switch to "hide". That's sligthly annoying on a fast connection, but would be quite distracting on a slow connection. I wonder if there's a way to change this by changing the order that the HTML code is loaded in? --Chriswaterguy 19:48, 21 December 2011 (PST)
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