Go forward in time to January 2015.
During GUADEC 2012, Alex Skud Bailey gave a keynote titled What's Next? From Open Source to Open Everything. It was about how principles like de-centralization, piecemeal growth, and shared knowledge are being applied in many areas, not just software development. I was delighted to listen to such a keynote, which validated my own talk from that year, GNOME and the Systems of Free Infrastructure.
During the hallway track I had the chance to talk to Skud. She is an avid knitter and was telling me about Ravelry, a web site for people who knit/crochet. They have an excellent database of knitting patterns, a yarn database, and all sorts of deep knowledge on the craft gathered over the years.
At that time I was starting my vegetable garden at home. It turned out that Skud is also an avid gardener. We ended up talking about how it would be nice to have a site like Ravelry, but for small-scale food gardeners. You would be able to track your own crops, but also consult about the best times to plant and harvest certain species. You would be able to say how well a certain variety did in your location and climate. Over time, by aggregating people's data, we would be able to compile a free database of crop data, local varieties, and climate information.
Skud started coding Growstuff from scratch. I had never seen a project start from zero-lines-of-code, and be run in an agile fashion, for absolutely everything, and I must say: I am very impressed!
Every single feature runs through the same process: definition of a story, pair programming, integration. Newbies are encouraged to participate. They pair up with a more experienced developer, and they get mentored.
They did that even for the very basic skeleton of the web site: in the beginning there were stories for "the web site should display a footer with links to About and the FAQ", and "the web site should have a login form". I used to think that in order to have a collaboratively-developed project, one had to start with at least a basic skeleton, or a working prototype — Growstuff proved me wrong. By having a friendly, mentoring environment with a well-defined process, you can start from zero-lines-of-code and get excellent results quickly. The site has been fully operational for a couple of years now, and it is a great place to be.
Growstuff is about the friendliest project I have seen.
I learned the basics of gardening from a couple of "classic" books: the 1970s books by John Seymour which my mom had kept around, and How to Grow More Vegetables, by John Jeavons. These are nominally excellent — they teach you how to double-dig to loosen the soil and keep the topsoil, how to transplant fragile seedlings so you don't damage them, how to do crop rotation.
However, their recommendations on garden layouts or crop rotations are biased towards the author's location. John Seymour's books are beautifully illustrated, but are about the United Kingdom, where apples and rhubarb may do well, but would be scorched where I live in Mexico. Jeavons's book is biased towards California, which is somewhat closer climate-wise to where I live, but some of the species/varieties he mentions are practically impossible to get here — and, of course, species which are everyday fare here are completely missing in his book. Pity the people outside the tropics, for whom mangoes are a legend from faraway lands.
The problem is that the books lack knowledge of good crops for wherever you may live. This is the kind of thing that is easily crowdsourced, where "easily" means a Simple Matter Of Programming.
Growstuff has been gathering crop data from people's use of the site. Someone plants spinach. Someone harvests tomatoes. Someone puts out seeds for trade. The next steps are to populate the site with fine-grained varieties of major crops (e.g. the zillions of varieties of peppers or tomatoes), and to provide an API to access planting information in a convenient way for analysis.
Right now, Growstuff is running a fundraising campaign to implement this API — allowing developers to work on this full-time, instead of scraping from their "free time" otherwise.
I encourage you to give money to Growstuff's campaign. These are good people.
To give you a taste of the non-trivialness of implementing this, I invite you to read Skud's post on interop and unique IDs for food data. This campaign is not just about adding some features to Growstuff; it is about making it possible for open food projects to interoperate. Right now there are various free-culture projects around food production, but little communication between them. This fundraising campaign attempts to solve part of that problem.
I hope you can contribute to Growstuff's campaign. If you are into local food production, local economies, crowdsourced databases, and that sort of thing — these are your people; help them out.
Interview with Frances Hocutt on open and welcoming open source communities. With the crowdfunding campaign, Frances will be the one of the developers for the open food data API. She is an organic chemist by training, and an expert in Wikidata's APIs, so all the best!
I'm happy to announce that we now have a safety-list mailing list. This is for discussions around safety, privacy, and security.
This is some introductory material which you may have already read:
Everyone is welcome to join! The list's web page is here: https://mail.gnome.org/mailman/listinfo/safety-list
Thanks to the sysadmin team for their quick response in creating this list!
Since a month ago, when I broke my collarbone after flying over the handlebars, I've been incapacitated in the bicycling and woodworking departments. So, I've been learning to sew. Oralia introduced me to her sewing machine, and I've been looking at leatherworking videos.
The project: bicycle luggage — bike panniers, which are hard to get in my town.
Those are a work-in-progress of a pair of small panniers for Luciana's small bike. I still have to add strips of reinforcing leather on all seams, flaps to close the bags, and belts for mounting on the bike's luggage rack.
I'm still at the "I have no idea what I'm doing" stage. When I get to the point of knowing what I'm doing, I'll post patterns/instructions.
Go backward in time to September 2014.Federico Mena-Quintero <email@example.com> Thu 2014/Oct/02 19:19:04 CDT