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Plant and Tree Guild Database

 
Abe Connally
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is there a comprehensive plant/tree gulld database online?

If not (I haven't been able to find one), I am going to start one, and make it like a wiki.  It would be nice to be able to input tons of stuff and get everyone to share their experiences, species, and combinations.

What do folks think about this?

I have a ton of hosting space and the software, so it won't be hard to get up and running, as long as folks think it would be good to have.  I personally would love it!
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I don't know of an authoritative one on guilds.

Plants for a Future has a good database. The internet does offer some good lists re: companion planting, but rarely with the word "guild." I suspect a large portion of the knowledge is held by people who don't use permaculture nomenclature.

I would definitely want to hear from ecologists about naturally-ocurring guilds, and from ethnobotanists about traditional guilds.

Most people don't realize this, but Wikipedia began its life as Nupedia. It was incubated by a team of paid experts, who established the norms of the project, and served as editors of the content early on, with the intent of maintaining centralized control.

I think paying them was a bad idea (Cf. Benkler), and obviously central control of a wiki would defeat the whole purpose, but there's a lot to learn from their story. A committed core group seems to be necessary to build a big wiki, and careful attention to the norms by which that community operates seems to be important in building a healthy one. I would advocate for getting some academics and some permaculturists together on this, and starting very slow and small.

I have some particular ideas on how computers might help reveal the sorts of patterns a guild would embody. People who actually program, though, don't seem interested in my ideas, and I admit they're based more on intuition and philosophy than on expertise. It would also be a seriously large amount of work, but here it is: Because text editing is less central to the task at hand than is match-making, my vision of the site would look less like a wiki, and more like OkCupid (which BTW was written to promote the server software that makes it possible), with some lessons from the Netflix prize incorporated into the design.
 
Brenda Groth
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Personally I think it would be a wonderful resource, I've had to do a lot of research to find out information for the few guilds I have developed, especially the Walnut tree guilds. I did find a pretty good source on Walnut trees here

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet
Horticulture and Crop Science
2021 Coffey Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43210-1086

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Black Walnut Toxicity to Plants, Humans and Horses
HYG-1148-93


I would love to see more information on  other guilds available
 
Dave Miller
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I have thought about this as well.  I would tend to design it as a true database, not a wiki.  I would design it so people would be motivated to, and find it easy to submit things they have observed in their yard/farm/region, both in "natural" areas and in their food forests and guilds.  e.g. "today I noticed that my blackcap raspberries were covered with small wasps and bees"; "the combination of lupine and yarrow in my apple tree guild seems to be doing really well"; "on a nature hike today I noticed that stinging nettle seemed to reduce the density of reed canarygrass", etc.  It is all of these little observations which become very powerful when they are understood and combined.  It would be ideal to be able to include photos and GPS coordinates.  But I agree that you should walk before you run on any ambitious endeavor such as this.  I'm just floating some long-term ideas.

It definitely needs to be broken out by ecoregion or USDA zone.  I have found that many of the "permaculture masters" live in ecoregions and hardiness zones different from me (e.g. Australia), thus few of their guild plants will work for me.

I'm wondering if it may make sense to use permaculture principles to create a guild-learning-and-sharing system such as this?
 
Abe Connally
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That is a good response so far.  So, what I am hearing is that a wiki is not necessarily the best format, and possibly a database is better.  We also need input from knowledgeable folks as well as backyard permaculturists.

Plants for a Future is an excellent resource, but it lacks information on the connections between species, which is one of the most important aspects.  Focus on the connections, rather than the individuals for a better system.

GPS and zone info is definitely a must, as well as water needs, frost hardiness, shade/sun, etc.  I've built several large mapping systems using the Google Maps API, so mapping the database data would be very easy, actually.

@Joel - send me your ideas on how to organize this.  I am a programmer, but I also practice permaculture, and I am open to anything, especially if it leads to a successful project.

The thing I like about wikis is the ability for anyone to contribute, and that would be a core necessity.  Group collaboration is a must. Centralizing things can be good on one hand, like centralizing the database files, access, etc, but beyond that, I think we try and make it as open and usable as possible.

I guess the place to start would be to figure out what sort of information we want to collect, how we want to display it (tables, maps, etc), how to organize it (searching, tags) and then we could start building a model.

I would be willing to donate the programming time, the hosting, the domain names, and all the data I have gathered towards the project, as long as other people would be interested in using it and contributing.

As far as getting something running, I have tons of software available that might help us.  The idea that it could be a wiki was just because I have that software and it allows collaboration, but we could make anything do that.

If we set it up more like a database, we'll need to figure out a rough outline of fields needed, and then the system can help us sort and link the actual data.

I am completely open on ideas, but I do feel like it would be worth doing, so PM me or email me (velacreations.com) and I will start working on it.
 
Trevor Newman
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Excellent idea- absolutely necessary!
http://www.apiosinstitute.org/
 
                            
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I thought about doing this, but decided it was more work than I wanted to do.  I would love to use one though.  One problem I foresaw and didn't know how to fix was how to detect bad information.  A lot of information out there is just somebody's guess.  Even some published and popular books are mostly guesswork.  Propagating bad information isn't what we need.
 
Abe Connally
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yeah, bad info can be a problem, though if everyone can edit, we have a lot better chance that it will be caught.  Decentralizing the management is key to that sort of thing.

I am thinking about how to combine the ease and "freeness" of a wiki into a database.  What I like about a wiki format is that we are not tied to a set of fields, so personal notes and data is easily entered.

I think also a necessity would be a sort of discussion feature, maybe like commenting where we could discuss entries, and maybe that would help catch some of the bad info, as well.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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A major by-product of a gps mapped system would be that it would greatly support bioregional networking & propagating useful species.  This could potentially be an even greater benefit than the companion guild info.

I wouldn't be too worried about incorrect info.  Ability to comment and discuss would be reasonably effective without becoming cumbersome. 

 
Dave Miller
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In the past I have worked on some socio-technical systems whose primary goal was to capture and share knowledge.  We were working with the authors of this book: http://www.amazon.com/Cultivating-Communities-Practice-Etienne-Wenger/dp/1578513308/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0  They were fairly business-oriented when working with us, but the principles apply to any group trying to capture and share knowledge.

It might help to think of this in those terms - which means there should be both a human and a technical aspect to the system.  We have all seen knowlege/information systems that were too heavily focused on the technical system (e.g. database) which withered because people did not use them.  If you "design" both the human/social system and the technical system together, it can be very successful.

For example, the authors above studied many different kinds of "communities" that share knowledge.  Almost all of the really successful communities had a person who acted as a "hub", who was respected in the community and regularly coordinated connections between community members.  You can see such a role right here in this forum, personified by Paul Wheaton.   

Often a large group of people contained many smaller "communities of practice" (COPs).  The strongest communities exhibited the following:


  • [li]Passion - All the members of that community/community of practice shared one or more passions.[/li]
    [li]Connection - The members had fairly strong and regular connections with each other, both between individuals, small groups, and the entire community.  There were also regular events which linked the whole community (community meeting, newsletter, etc.).[/li]
    [li]Contribution - The members regularly made significant contributions to the community, and those contributions were recognized and valued by the community.[/li]
    [li]Belonging - Community members had a sense of "belonging" to the community.  In some communities there was even some sort of rite of passage welcoming new members into the community.[/li]


  • Anyway, I think the role of a "hub" is key to making such an endeavor a success.  The smaller COPs could be based around whatever people's passions are - e.g. apple guilds, grape guilds, etc.   The people in a particular COP would be asked to do the bulk of the work around their passion (which they will probably think is more fun than work).

    Someone wondered about "garbage info" getting into the system.  That is a real concern, so it would be good to somehow indicate how the pertinent community feels about a particular piece of information, maybe a rating scale from 1-5 where 1=unverified, 5=nearly always works, or something like that.
     
    Abe Connally
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    I like the idea of looking at how we share information and using the human and technical aspects together.

    On one hand, however, I don't want to have to create something from scratch.  It would be much easier (and probably more stable) to use something that has already been under development for quite a while.  That was my thought about using a wiki format as a base.

    But that doesn't mean that we have to ignore the humans here, or the groups that will be using the software. And I think there should be room in the system for improvement and additions, like comment systems, rating systems, polls, etc.

    I am actually not as worried about junk info as much as people not contributing.  We can survive junk info through more users.  A system like this won't be very beneficial without users.

    The GPS system is pretty easy to put together.  There are several community mapping sites on the web, and I have built several as well.  Basically, we just need a form to capture point info (content, title, coordinates, icon, etc) and then it gets compiled on the map.  The question is not HOW to do it, but what to actually map.  Do we map user submitted guilds, or user's gardens, or what?  Maybe native zones of species? or Guilds?
     
    Abe Connally
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    Another software idea that I think is interesting is mind mapping, which is more of a system of showing connections between concepts.  That could be a major tools for something like guild development because you can visualize the connections, the web of species.  I am not sure how to make it work, or even if there is a web model, but it is kinda interesting.
     
    Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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    velacreations wrote:There are several community mapping sites on the web, and I have built several as well.  Basically, we just need a form to capture point info (content, title, coordinates, icon, etc) and then it gets compiled on the map.  The question is not HOW to do it, but what to actually map.  Do we map user submitted guilds, or user's gardens, or what?  Maybe native zones of species? or Guilds?


    Could you give a couple of links of more sophisticated mapping sites? 

    Yes, what kind of content to include would seem to be the logical starting point.  If y'all could have your way what info would be included? 

    Me:

    location
    species
    guild
    layers
    functions
    climate
    microclimate
    rainfall/irrigation
    soil type
    photos!
    misc comments

    Ideally, I'd love to start out with a general overview map of all participating sites, just a way to get a broad view of who is where.  Clicking on one pin would popup an overview of the site, including a list of tags.

    Then I would want to be able to search the map by species, combination of species or other tags, and have all the locations growing those pop up. 





     
    Dave Miller
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    velacreations wrote:The GPS system is pretty easy to put together.  There are several community mapping sites on the web, and I have built several as well.  Basically, we just need a form to capture point info (content, title, coordinates, icon, etc) and then it gets compiled on the map.  The question is not HOW to do it, but what to actually map.  Do we map user submitted guilds, or user's gardens, or what?  Maybe native zones of species? or Guilds?
    I was thinking that every observation and photo would have a location - which could be a zip code, GPS coordinates, or a marker on a map (which is in reality GPS coordinates).  I have seen this done before with tools such as ebird (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about).  In fact ebird is already doing what is very close to what we are talking about here.  If I may make a couple of observations about ebird that may be relevant here:
    - It is sponsored by a large educational institution (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and the National Audubon Society.  Is there any large educational institution and/or nonprofit organization whose main focus is plant guilds or permaculture?  If so we should (eventually) work together with them.
    -  Once the "system" achieves a certain amount of momentum, it begins to have a larger and larger influence.  e.g.
    It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. For example, in January 2010, participants reported more than 1.5 million bird observations across North America!

    The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network of eBird users. eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists. In time these data will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere and beyond.
    I think everyone involved with permaculture would like that.

    Note that ebird exhibits many of the strong community characteristics that I described:

  • [li]Passion - the community members all share a passion for birds and bird watching[/li]
    [li]Connection - Not a lot here other than being able to see the observations made by others[/li]
    [li]Contribution - Observations are valued by the community[/li]
    [li]Belonging - I don't see anything specific to "belonging" but I bet many ebirders are Audubon members[/li]


  • So I'd recommend starting small, while at the same time approaching large permaculture educational institutions and/or non-profits (if there are any) about sharing longer-term ideas.
     
    Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
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    I don't see how "mapping" or "connection building" is going to be possible without a well designed database storing the information.  However, I do believe you can effectively use a database without weighting your front-end down. 

    I don't believe a database structure has to very complex.  A few well defined tables bearing common selections ( zone, climate, soil type, plant species, ranking, etc) linking to tables created for customer/user input.  The complexity of the database will come in the creativity and the flexibility of the queries used to "map" or "look" for associations that may or may not be apparent.   

    I think queries should be written in such a way that the user defines the associations he/she is looking for.  The resulting user queries would be easy to capture and the information could be used to locate common queries/patterns that could be optimized.
     
    Dave Miller
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    yukkuri_kame wrote:
    Could you give a couple of links of more sophisticated mapping sites? 

    Yes, what kind of content to include would seem to be the logical starting point.  If y'all could have your way what info would be included? 

    Me:

    location
    species
    guild
    layers
    functions
    climate
    microclimate
    rainfall/irrigation
    soil type
    photos!
    misc comments

    Ideally, I'd love to start out with a general overview map of all participating sites, just a way to get a broad view of who is where.  Clicking on one pin would popup an overview of the site, including a list of tags.

    Then I would want to be able to search the map by species, combination of species or other tags, and have all the locations growing those pop up. 
    Take a look at the maps in ebird.  e.g. here is a map of White-winged Crossbill in Wisconsin: http://ebird.org/ebird/GuideMe?cmd=quickPick&speciesCode=&bMonth=01&bYear=1900&eMonth=12&eYear=2009&getLocations=states&states=US-WI&parentState=US-WI&reportType=species&speciesCodes=whwcro&continue.x=77&continue.y=11&continue=Continue

    Also I would tend to start out with a pretty short list of required fields (or maybe a short list of fields period).  People get scared off by long, unfriendly or time-consuming forms.  The ideal situation is to gather data from them as a side effect of something they are already doing.
     
    Abe Connally
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    "People get scared off by long, unfriendly or time-consuming forms"

    That is why I think we need more "open" than a strict, table-based database.

    I think a free-form data entry would be much better, similar to posts on a forum or a webpage.  The text can always be searchable, and you can give a outline as a template for a starting point to try and get the info that you want.

    "I don't see how "mapping" or "connection building" is going to be possible without a well designed database storing the information"
    All of these systems have a database running them, but I think in this context, people are using database as more of a GUI term, as in database vs wiki.

     
                        
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    Everything in this thread was attempted and mostly completed >4 years ago.  I was the principle developer and left the project after several years of effort and a functional product.  For more insight into the history/etc of the project read the archives of the http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/pcplantdb list.  Since my leaving the project was replaced by a basic wiki in which little has happened.  Our domain was http://www.permaculture.info/ owned by the Permaculture Institute.  Scott Pittman, John Schinnerer, Lawrence London, Richard Morris, and several others were involved.

    I'm posting this because I think I've let go of my irritation/bitterness/frustration and would like to see this project live again.  One important caveat is that I have absolutely no free time for 5-6 months.
     
    Abe Connally
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    Chad,

    Thanks for that info.  Maybe you could give us some insight as to why the project failed or is no longer active?  Maybe we could learn a lot from what you guys have done.
     
                        
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    velacreations wrote:
    Chad,

    Thanks for that info.  Maybe you could give us some insight as to why the project failed or is no longer active?  Maybe we could learn a lot from what you guys have done.


    Sorry, not in concise terms.  Money was a factor, esp. for me.  After another similar project I've realized that programming for money on projects I care about is a bad idea.  I do however still like to program in my free time for fun.

    Also maybe I wasn't clear in my initial post that I would like to help make this project happen.  All I need is about a month of off season free time and hosting (which you already offered - python/MySQL) to update *pcplantdb* and set it alive again.  It currently features a heavily modified completely editable version of the PFAF (Plants for a Future) dataset under a Creative Commons license, powerful search engine (better than PFAF), relevance sorted by poster region/reputation, wiki/forum like data elements, tags, images (although none in the data yet),  and lots I've forgotten.  All the code and data is open source (GPL/CC).
     
    Abe Connally
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    Chad,

    That is an awesome offer to help!  I am proficient in PHP and MySQL, which is what I normally use.  Here is what we can run, software wise:
    PHP 4 & 5 (w/Zend Optimizer)
    Ruby on Rails (Ruby 1.8.7 & Rails 2.3.3)
    Python 2.3, 2.4, 2.6 & 3.0
    Perl 5.8

    What is required to set that project live again?  Could I help you out?

    Are you talking about migrating this system into our new project?  And if so, would you require payment?  And if so, what sort of payment are we talking about?

    I think we really would like to focus on documenting the connections and guilds between plants, not necessarily the individual plants (that has been done elsewhere very well).  But any and all help, especially building the backend is appreciated.

    My original thoughts were to install a CMS or Wiki software package, and start simple, organizing things according to plant guilds, and then letting folks link individual species to other databases (like PFAF).  So, it would be a very simple, basic catalog of guilds that can be searched, sorted, etc (like any decent wiki system)

    Then we started thinking about also mapping the data, like people could place a map point that corresponds to a plant guild (wiki entry). 

    But I think folks don't like how wikis work, so maybe something more straightforward, similar to forum software (I've since reviewed several wiki software packages, and many are a lot better than MediaWiki, Wikipedia's software).

    So, anyway, as you can see, we kinda want to take the basic database idea, and expand on it a bit.

    We would love to have your experience with this project.  Feel free to PM if you want to discuss specifics.
     
                        
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    velacreations wrote:
    Chad,

    That is an awesome offer to help!  I am proficient in PHP and MySQL, which is what I normally use.  Here is what we can run, software wise:
    PHP 4 & 5 (w/Zend Optimizer)
    Ruby on Rails (Ruby 1.8.7 & Rails 2.3.3)
    Python 2.3, 2.4, 2.6 & 3.0
    Perl 5.8

    What is required to set that project live again?  Could I help you out?



    Python 3.0 and MySQL, and almost all of the effort will be in porting to Python 3.0 as I think we were using 2.3/2.4.  I'm assuming that MySQL hasn't made any changes that are not backward compatible.


    Are you talking about migrating this system into our new project?  And if so, would you require payment?  And if so, what sort of payment are we talking about?


    Yes. No. None.  I was trying to convey that working for money is/was one of the problems.  When money is involved it stops being fun, there is pressure, expectations, and a complete lack of gratitude (you're getting paid after all even if it <$2/hr).


    I think we really would like to focus on documenting the connections and guilds between plants, not necessarily the individual plants (that has been done elsewhere very well).  But any and all help, especially building the backend is appreciated.

    My original thoughts were to install a CMS or Wiki software package, and start simple, organizing things according to plant guilds, and then letting folks link individual species to other databases (like PFAF).  So, it would be a very simple, basic catalog of guilds that can be searched, sorted, etc (like any decent wiki system)

    Then we started thinking about also mapping the data, like people could place a map point that corresponds to a plant guild (wiki entry). 

    But I think folks don't like how wikis work, so maybe something more straightforward, similar to forum software (I've since reviewed several wiki software packages, and many are a lot better than MediaWiki, Wikipedia's software).

    So, anyway, as you can see, we kinda want to take the basic database idea, and expand on it a bit.

    We would love to have your experience with this project.  Feel free to PM if you want to discuss specifics.


    Hmmm.... well if you read pcplantdb archives you will see that this idea was also a central design feature and there were some dissenting opinions as to whether this was possible or even a good idea.  I am one of the dissenters more or less.  Plant communities are anything but cookie cutter collections of plants and vary regionally within very short distances.  If what you are talking about is a number of guild examples then that could be done quite easily in a wiki/forum format and could of course link the related plants to reference database.  It was and still is my opinion that a utility to find a plant to fill a given niche in a guild (finding substitutes for native plant communities) is much more helpful.  This is actually how the project got started as I wrote a search engine in perl to look though the PFAF dataset for plants that matched certain criteria (say I wanted a short, N-fixing, edible, shrub, hardy to -20F, tolerates clay soil and wet conditions).  The project when I left it did this exact thing very well even using simple language plain text search like google.  Also PFAF only contains ~7500 plants and they are only being added by Ken Fern and Richard Morris.  Imagine if the entire permaculture community could add new plants, images, comments, etc.  Anyway, I hear your goals and they are somewhat different than what I had in mind.  Please don't take this as meaning that I'm not also interested in automating the guild development/creation process.  Many things have been done to help that including describing relationships between any two plants.  Rather generic tagging is also available.  I'm interested in feedback for further development for guild development but you really need to see what it does currently in order to figure out how to advance it.

    permaculture.info seems to be offline now but it was trying to do pretty much exactly what you are talking about using a wiki.
     
    Abe Connally
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    almost all of the effort will be in porting to Python 3.0 as I think we were using 2.3/2.4

    Well, we are running Python 2.3, 2.4, 2.6 & 3.0, so no need to port to 3.0, if you don't want.

    Yeah, I haven't been able to pull up permaculture.info as well.

    Well, as far as the goals of the project, nothing is set in stone.  We are just trying to figure out what people want, where there is a need, and how to make it happen.

    I have yet to see a comprehensive guild database, and although they are not cookie-cutter solutions, many can be used over wide areas (see Apple guilds, Juniper/Pinyon Pine guilds, Oak guilds)

    But you brought up a point, and that was to have a search for a particular plant, based on what is needed.  That is a very good functionality.

    I do think that anyone should be able to add to the database, and that would be a major item.

    I do wonder, however, because there are many plant DBs on the net (Dave's Garden, PFAF), are we doing something new and different, or just redoing what has been done?

    I do appreciate your input here, as I think it is very valuable.  With your experience, we should be able to make some work that is really beneficial.

    So, I guess our first step is to determine what we need in terms of functionality.  I really think guild documentation and plant connections have to be in there (wiki?).  Maybe also a map of where the guilds have been implemented (map DB, running in php and MySQL).  A plant DB would be good as well (based on your points).

    What are your thoughts?
     
                                    
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    This database/wiki is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for when I found the permaculture forums.

    I would like to contribute to the project. I am new to permaculture but I've been gardening (sporadically) organically since the mid-1970s. I never settled down long enough to really do any landscaping, but I've studied and thought for a long time. On the computer side, I've been explaining computers to people since the mid-70s as author of software manuals and head of technical support for a compiler company. I've done a lot of databases over the years and I have also programmed although not very much lately. Carpal tunnel problems ejected me from the computer industry about 10 years ago. I think the most useful things I could do would be suggestions for database design, user interface design, documentation and debugging.

    As far as bad data getting in, a tiered approach might work best with core plant records being edited by a group of trusted contributors and personal/local experiences being added by anyone. A rating system could be used on personal experiences along with comments.

    Drupal would make implementing this very simple. I have set up one web site using Drupal and am in the middle of setting up another one.

    In the last few months I have been working on my personal plant database (I got tired of flipping back and forth between different books.) Here are the fields that I have for each plant:
    Arbitrary ID
    Common name
    Latin name
    Type (large tree, small tree, large shrub, small shrub, perennial, annual)
    Height
    Width
    Soil (checkboxes dry, moist, wet, poor, rich)
    Sunlight (checkboxes Full sun, Part sun, Light shade, Deep shade)
    Hardiness Zones Min and Max
    Heat Zones Min and Max
    Allergy level (numerical 1 to 10)
    Toxicity (edible, medicinal, can irritate, toxic, deadly)
    Feature (checkboxes Native, N fixing, pollinators, ben insects, repels pests, compost, long roots, grass barrier, bird, hummingbird, butterfly)
    Comment

    I've thought about adding pH max and min.

    Has anyone else done their own database and if so, what fields do you have?

    I haven't done the guilds table yet, but I've been thinking something like this:
    Arbitrary ID
    Guild Name
    Output (plant ID)
    N-fixer (plant ID)
    Pollinator (plant ID)
    Insectary (plant ID)
    Composter (plant ID)
    Pest Repeller (plant ID)
    Long Roots (plant ID)
    Grass Barrier (plant ID)
    Scaffold (plant ID)
    Shader (plant ID)

    In any given guild, only some of the roles would be filled.

    I'd love to get feedback from any of you who are more experienced than I am.
     
    Dave Miller
    Posts: 409
    Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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    FYI here is the table structure that my permie landscape designer used:

    Taxonomy
      Notes
      Genus
      species
      Variety
      Common
      Family
    Architecture
      Form
      Size
      Design Level/Size
      Habit
      Root
      Mature height
      Mature width
      Growth rate
    Tolerances
      Conditions Growing In
        Light
        Water
        Soil
    Habitats
      Native to
      Habitat(s) found in
      Site Indications
    Uses
      Design
      Edible? (parts)
      Medicinal? (parts)
    Functions
      N-fix or Dyn Acc?
      Wildlife?
      Invert. shelter?
      Nectary? flower time
      Flower
      Ground cover?
    Drawbacks
      Nuisance?
      Poison?
    Miscellaneous
      Notes / Useful Relatives:
      Mgt. Strategies & Issues:

    This is just an example, I am not necessarily proposing it.  I can post the data as well if anyone is interested.
     
    Abe Connally
    Posts: 1502
    Location: Chihuahua Desert
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    I think for guilds, we are not going to have hard database fields, more like a general open field where people can add all the plant names and data, cause every guild is different and has different attributes.

    As for individual plants, yes, we can have a set of fields similar to what you guys have.

    As for site software, yeah Drupal is decent, but not exactly what we need here.  I've also used Joomla, and it could be a possibility. 

    TikiWiki is probably better combined with a custom system for the plant database and mapping functions.  But I think we will focus on each function, and then find a simple, open source solution for each one. 
     
                                    
    Posts: 55
    Location: Savannah, GA
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    Wouldn't having a free form field make it more difficult to search for a particular plant? People will put in common names and they will misspell the plant names. So if I want to find all guilds that use elderberry (example) I'd have to search on "elderberry" and "elderberries" and "elder berry", wouldn't I and I would probably still miss some?

    For my own database, I've been thinking that I may want a layer between plant and guild that describes the relationship between two plants. A guild, then would be a collection of plants with all the relationships shown. For example:

    corn  -> scaffold -> pole beans
    squash  -> shade roots -> corn
    pole beans -> N fix -> corn
    squash -> dislikes -> potatoes
    pole beans -> dislike -> onions

    So if I tried to add onions to the traditional 3 sisters guild, it would tell me that pole beans dislike onions. The biggest drawback I can see to this is - that's a lot of relationships, especially since there can be a different relationship each direction (ie corn and pole beans). And beans fix N that can benefit any plant, not just corn, so "N fix" is an attribute of beans, not of the relationship between corn and beans. It would make more sense to say that "likes roots shaded" is an attribute of corn. No, it seems that the only relationships that really hold up in this relationship model is companion planting "likes" and "dislikes". OK, back to the drawing board...
     
    Emil Spoerri
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    Shoot, can't remember the name, but I recall seeing a couple years back a online database something like "Plant Guilds of England" and it was all about wild plants and the groupings they often are concentrated in.
     
    Abe Connally
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    Wouldn't having a free form field make it more difficult to search for a particular plant? People will put in common names and they will misspell the plant names. So if I want to find all guilds that use elderberry (example) I'd have to search on "elderberry" and "elderberries" and "elder berry", wouldn't I and I would probably still miss some?


    How does having a name field change the chance of misspellings?  If people enter elder berry, then your search will have the same issues, though any decent search program should be able to do plural and similar words.

    But the other side of this is that with a wiki (free form field), people can edit your misspellings, and everyone can be an editor, so it keeps things fairly clean.

    Also, the thought is to have a plant DB separate from the Guild Wiki.  The plant DB will have set fields, etc, and then link to Guild entries where it belongs.

    Why do it this way?  Well, because guilds are so different, each one having different members and different member types and functions, the Guilds Wiki can be accounts of personal tests and experience.  It is an example of what worked for me or you or someone at this time and this place.  We then link all the plants in the guild to their respective entries int he plant DB, and also link the guild to a point on the map where it exists (it may have more than one point, if several people have that guild).

    So, people can search for individual plants or search for plants within a guild or also guilds based on the main canopy species (Apple Guild), or by location on a map (near me).

    I think this is the most logical way to organize things, and gives us the benefits of each type of system.  Wikis are free form, so lend themselves better to personal accounts and details, plant DB is good for organizing a set of data that is very similar,  and the map is good for displaying location-based data.

    Of course, everything will have comments, and we'll probably want some sort of basic forum where people can ask "What is this plant" and similar things.


     
                                    
    Posts: 55
    Location: Savannah, GA
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    Sorry, I misunderstood your earlier post - I thought you meant to JUST have the freeform (wiki) type of data without the more structured plant data. The way your latest post describes the architecture makes more sense to me. My point was not that a name field would prevent misspelling but that if people are choosing plants from a pre-existing list (that can be added to) it is faster and less prone to error than having them type stuff in.
     
    Lf London
    Posts: 96
    Location: Chapel Hill, NC
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    Use a Wiki for this instead of a relational database. Finding someone(s) to create and maintain a Guilds database
    using RDB software could be expensive or very tie consuming for a volunteer, that is if you intend this resource
    to be free and open to the public for usage and input.

    A wiki may be an inferior platform to a true database but  it is a reasonable solution to getting information out and receiving
    useful input.

    Also, the Semantic Web may provide the best long term solution, possibly better than a RDB. A combination of Mediawiki and Semantic Mediawiki may be the best and certainly the cheapest and least burdensome way to go for the long haul. I have both these packages installed (courtesy of the staff of ibiblio)  at http://www.ibiblio.org/permaculture. I have not started configuring the wiki yet but am moving in that direction. I intend to integrate Wordpress, BBPress and SMForums with this wiki/smw. Right now there is only a website.

    In any event I would like to develop a robust guilds resource in this wiki as well as an in-depth section on permaculture design (see my next post to Permies). Another interest of mine is gathering knowledge of permaculture design and putting it out for public use as a companion to Bill Mollison's Permaculture Designers' Manual (a truly brilliant work!).

    I would like to see this Guilds resource develop and plan on contributing  to it as often as possible.
    I think the best approach to this proposed project is to keep it free and open to all (no anonymous input from anonymous users, though = SPAM).

    LFLondon
    http://www.ibiblio.org/permaculture
    http://www.ibiblio.org/marketfarming
    http://venaurafarm.blogspot.com
    http://venaurafarm.wordpress.com
    FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/LFLondon
     
                        
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    Hi Lawrence,

    As you can see I've reared my ugly head again.  This time maybe the idea can get a little more flight time.

    LFLondon wrote:
    Use a Wiki for this instead of a relational database. Finding someone(s) to create and maintain a Guilds database
    using RDB software could be expensive or very tie consuming for a volunteer, that is if you intend this resource
    to be free and open to the public for usage and input.


    This is the the only thing I will argue with you about and you do offer the solution.... if the content is publicly submitted then the content cost is nil.  Pcplantdb/permaculture.info was every idea in this thread and more (no one mentioned root profiles and microbes yet right?).  I'm currently trying to reconstruct everything from back then in my free time... it's going well except I have no free time.


    A wiki may be an inferior platform to a true database but  it is a reasonable solution to getting information out and receiving
    useful input.

    Also, the Semantic Web may provide the best long term solution, possibly better than a RDB. A combination of Mediawiki and Semantic Mediawiki may be the best and certainly the cheapest and least burdensome way to go for the long haul. I have both these packages installed (courtesy of the staff of ibiblio)  at http://www.ibiblio.org/permaculture. I have not started configuring the wiki yet but am moving in that direction. I intend to integrate Wordpress, BBPress and SMForums with this wiki/smw. Right now there is only a website.

    In any event I would like to develop a robust guilds resource in this wiki as well as an in-depth section on permaculture design (see my next post to Permies). Another interest of mine is gathering knowledge of permaculture design and putting it out for public use as a companion to Bill Mollison's Permaculture Designers' Manual (a truly brilliant work!).

    I would like to see this Guilds resource develop and plan on contributing  to it as often as possible.
    I think the best approach to this proposed project is to keep it free and open to all (no anonymous input from anonymous users, though = SPAM).

    LFLondon


    Yeah, maybe both can work together.  Although they have differences they can interlink effectively.
     
    Lf London
    Posts: 96
    Location: Chapel Hill, NC
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    Chad wrote:
    Hi Lawrence,

    As you can see I've reared my ugly head again.  This time maybe the idea can get a little more flight time.

    This is the the only thing I will argue with you about and you do offer the solution.... if the content is publicly submitted then the content cost is nil.  Pcplantdb/permaculture.info was every idea in this thread and more (no one mentioned root profiles and microbes yet right?).  I'm currently trying to reconstruct everything from back then in my free time... it's going well except I have no free time.

    Yeah, maybe both can work together.  Although they have differences they can interlink effectively.


    Hello again, Chad!
    Hope you are getting a lot of scything done; for me there seems no end to it.

    I hope for a long and healthy flight this time too. Yes the content cost would be $0.00. Root profiles and microbes need to be included in any system. As for reconstructing past efforts, the two mailing list archives are still there and accessable with full project history. Give me an email ID and I will subscribe you so you can read those archives. I could always make them public if that is worth doing. PCDB  List http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/pcdb and PCPlantDB  http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/pcplantdb
    PCPlantDB & http://www.permaculture.info is indeed everything that has been discussed in this thread so far.

    "Yeah, maybe both can work together.  Although they have differences they can interlink effectively. "
    permaculture.info is Rich Morris' installation of Mediawiki. I think it would be a great idea to keep this as a companion to the database you developed; two heads better than one principle. I talked with Scott tonight and he mentioned your email to him.
    He wants us to transfer permaculture.info from ghandinet to Register.Com, as new and permanent registrar something I will start on as soon as I get critical info from him in email, probably tomorrow. Then namehosting needs to be set up at UNC; I already have info from ibiblio about how to get this done. My suggestion is to reinstall Mediawiki and add to it Semantic Mediawiki then port the old permaculture.info dataset to the new installation. I have my own versions of these apps to play with in my ibiblio webspace.
    Now, I am in agreement with you, we all need to pool our resources and work on a common project, in this case permaculture.info, owned and stewarded by The Permaculture Institute.
    Onward -

    I'll be emailing you about this.

    Lawrence 
     
    Abe Connally
    Posts: 1502
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    Lawrence,

    Thanks for commenting.  I agree with most of what you said.

    Open and free are the necessities here, as well as easy submitting and editing.  That is why the wiki format is appealing.

    I think a bit of both worlds will be the best solutions.  Wikis for personal accounts, relational databases for strict data.
     
    Lf London
    Posts: 96
    Location: Chapel Hill, NC
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    velacreations wrote:
    Lawrence,

    Thanks for commenting.  I agree with most of what you said.

    Open and free are the necessities here, as well as easy submitting and editing.  That is why the wiki format is appealing.

    I think a bit of both worlds will be the best solutions.  Wikis for personal accounts, relational databases for strict data.


    At this point it looks like I will be developing my own wiki using Mediawiki with Semantic Mediawiki, Wordpress and SM Forums,
    all in my webspace at ibiblio. I would be interested in linking to what you and others do with a relational database or other apps
    with an eye to making contributions to your database from the resources I acquire and use to build my wiki, and conversely derive information from your site to use in mine. I have a long way to go with my work but now have some vision for what I ultimately want to end up with.
     
    Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
    Posts: 488
    Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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    Tangentially relevant, but interesting Ted talk:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cognitive_surplus_will_change_the_world.html

    How to embed video?
     
    Aljaz Plankl
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    I have one fig tree which has a stone/sand mulch at the base, diameter around 40 inches. I don't want to green this are to much, but i want to grow some plants. Wild thyme is one, semprevivums, strawberries on edge... Anything else i can add?
     
    Wytze Schouten
    Posts: 26
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    Folks, someone has already done the job. Unfortunately it's in Dutch not English.

    http://plantengildes.saiwala.nl/Default.asp

    It works on a plant family basis, i.e. all brassicas are lumped together.
     
    David Biland
    Posts: 45
    Location: Southeastern USA - Zone 8
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    wytze wrote:
    Folks, someone has already done the job. Unfortunately it's in Dutch not English.

    http://plantengildes.saiwala.nl/Default.asp

    It works on a plant family basis, i.e. all brassicas are lumped together.



    Thanks for this link.  You can use Google Translate to get some helpful info here.

    http://translate.google.com/#nl|en|

     
    rose macaskie
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    i would like to look up a plant and get the guilds i could use with that plant and peoples commentson why they used the guilds they do use. I suppose such a entre coud get very long how many different guild would different people find for each plant. You would have seriouse problemss editing it all.
        If everyone writes in then they will correct each other. I dont think people want to correct eachothers spelling it would be such hard work i sort of hoped tha tpeople would correct mine but i htink it is too much hard work. agri rose macaskie.
     
     
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