I notice recurrent ideas and discussions throughout the various forums, blogs, diggs, and mailing lists that make up our community. I often see someone come up with a bright idea, which perhaps initially gets a lot of positive feedback and then fizzles out. Then someone else has the same bright idea somewhere else, and the same thing happens again. And again, and again, and none of these people seem to be aware of one another, or that there are other people excited about the same idea as them. If they were, perhaps they could work together to bring their idea to reality. Or perhaps not, but at least their enthusiasm would buoy one-another, and the idea would have more of a chance of growing into something concrete.
I think one of the big issues here is the way we communicate - spread across a number of sources, most of which have a very general purpose. Ideas and planning are occurring in all those places, divided from and unaware of one another.
I can think of a way to fix this, but it just involves making yet-another-place for those ideas. It would be somewhere much like the Open Knowledge Foundation working groups: http://okfn.org/wg/ which help keep people interested in a topic intouch with oneanother. But perhaps that's a bad solution; perhaps it wouldn't change a thing anyway, and people would continue to post to a variety of disparate sources, unaware of the existence of the working groups! It would require the full weight of the permaculture community behind it, and that's probably unrealistic given what a disparate bunch we are.
Nonetheless, I think it's an idea worth discussion. Does anyone have any bright ideas on how we can improve the ways we work together on new ideas?
That said, there are off-the-shelf solutions to this problem, courtesy of the open-source software movement. The one I'm most familiar with is the Drupal Project module (http://drupal.org/project/project) which makes it easy for (among many other things) threads of conversation to be flagged as duplicates of other threads. Once that is done, the duplicate conversation effectively ends and discussion continues on the original thread. I'm not recommending Project module for a permaculture discussion site -- it's too technical. But on the existing sites where we're conversing, we could establish a tradition of flagging conversations as duplicates, just by posting a URL in the comments.
Another approach would be to use a wiki -- ideally MediaWiki for cross-compatibility with Wikipedia, if not Wikipedia itself -- to archive what is definitively known about permaculture research to date and highlight the remaining questions that need to be researched (for example, with "stub" articles). It is my understanding that this sort of research coordination is the whole point of the various regional Permaculture Research Institutes, but in practice they seem to have their hands full with other projects. Again, the approach would be to steer conversation about questions that have already been answered but are posted elsewhere to a central archive, being sure to keep that archive open for new contributions.
Andru Vallance wrote:I think one of the big issues here is the way we communicate - spread across a number of sources, most of which have a very general purpose. Ideas and planning are occurring in all those places, divided from and unaware of one another.
Responding to a different part of the topic... I find that there's a near-total disconnect between the people who learn(ed) about permaculture primarily from books and magazines and those who are learning about it primarily from the Internet. It's my experience that the book-and-magazine folks (who tend to be older) are completely unaware that Permies.com exists, let alone that it is the largest permaculture site on the Web. So any attempt to pull the conversation together to one site is going to have to include PR in print as well as online.