Monday, June 23, 2008

Patterns - a Structured Link to the Conept of "Policy"

Reference Previous Post for Context: Patterns as Policies, and Pattern Languages as Policy Frameworks?

So I am seriously beside myself. Yes, I should be preparing for DIAC right now, but I was taking a break and reading over this book again, The Policy Process. The more I delve into it, the more I feel like I'm reading a book about a pattern language dedicated to the policy development process. It is actually frightening. Again, this is only furthering my own assumptions that patterns themselves can be conceptualized as policies themselves.

In fact if one were to "patternize" Clark's framework it is very possible one could decode a pattern language devoted to the process of community problem solving, perhaps even similar to the process designed by the London Knowledge Lab to uncover patterns in practice related to Learning and Teaching.

If this is true then the question then becomes, "what do patterns and pattern languages provide that might be missing from Clark's thesis?" Also, "what might Clark's insights tell us about ways to advance the concepts and theories associated with patterns and pattern languages?"

Now, just from this initial reading I can identify a few possible areas where patterns and pattern thinking might be able to accentuate Clark's description of the Policy Process Framework:

  • 1.) Patterns possess a structure that explicitly requires one to codify a general context in which it is applied.

  • 2.) Patterns are meant to be linked as a system, so they are holistic by design. In this way it’s not only the process that represents a dynamic system as stated by Clark, the system of policies or patterns themselves are dynamic and morphological.

  • 3.) Patterns and Pattern Languages can be transferred across multiple domains, which might also be the case with Clark’s process.

  • 4.) The structure of patterns lend themselves codification in a variety of environments, particularly within online environments where users can search/traverse lists of solutions associated with specific problems within specific contexts.
Now, there may be more ways in which patterns might accentuate Clark's vision, but these are the most obvious. So what things might Clark's discussion provide to the community of pattern adopters? Well, the most obvious is the need to understand the political and social dimensions of the process itself. So if one were to use patterns to construct a set of policies then Clark's assertion to recognize these troubling dimensions becomes critical to the development of any sort of holistic design solution.

Yet, even here patterns seem to address this. Civic Intelligence in particular comes to mind when looking at Clark's socio-political dimensions of complex problem solving. However, Clark's nuanced discussion about context, systemization, guides for conceptualizing issues, and so on speaks volumes to the possibility to merge patterns with current work related to policy development, codification and possible reuse.

In reiterating #2, Clark also emphasizes the dynamic nature of the policy development process. Now as I would assert even the policies themselves are dynamic and subject to feedback as insights emerge. While he hasn't explicitly stated this I would suggest that his overarching principles would be very much in line with such thinking and thereby intrinsically linked.

To give a better representation of Clark’s work I have added some rather long, but revealing excerpt from his book.
The policy process is abstracted in a framework consisting of a logically complete set of mapping categories that can help us understand and resolve any policy problem. It is a practical means of organizing our thinking, our knowledge, and our problem-solving efforts, thus allowing us to define a problem and understand its context.
Hmmm, sounds very familiar… Again, he says,
The framework is primarily an effort to systemize the major variables with which social scientists grapple in all political and policy inquiry. The founders of the policy sciences wanted to devise a theory whose interrelated concepts and categories would be “dependable, appropriately selective, creative and economic,” (Lasswell and McDougal 1992, 4; Brunner 1996a).

The framework does just that, serving as both a theory and a procedure for decision-making, for inquiry into the policy process, for orientating ourselves to problems in context, and for understanding our own roles and standpoints in all of these situations (Moore 1968).
This little block of text again reveals direct similarities in thinking with Alexander’s pattern language and perhaps more directly with Liberating Voices and the Conservation Economy pattern languages. Yet, one thing that is revealed that is somewhat lacking in these pattern languages is the necessity to understand our own roles and standpoints. Yet, this is not completely true, again, the Civic Intelligence model being developed by Doug Schuler attempts to address this shortcoming in the pattern language as it represents the central pattern in the pattern language itself. However, I would suggest that Clark’s synthesis of past work could prove both beneficial to socially oriented pattern languages and vice versa, particularly Schuler’s

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Nice Video on CSAs (What is a CSA?)

Revision to Previous Post - Write-Up

So Yishay made a great observation in the write-up that I previously posted. I responded to his comment, but it so apt that I think it warrants a posting unto itself.

Here is the comment and my response below:

Yishay -
all good, EXCEPT - I would start with f. First, get a system up and running with the minimal set of features you need to do a. Then add the features you need to do b, etc.

If you want to get people to buy into your plan, you need to show them something that moves. Then they'll tell you what's missing, and you can add it. People don't do well in abstract (unless they're mathematicians, computer scientists or theoretical physicists). They need an object to talk with.

Justin -
Thanks Yishay for this reminder as you are exactly correct in my opinion. Unfrotunately, I didn't articulate this point in the write up . But I did initiate the project in this manner.

After our discussion about ning as a platform for this project I went ahead and started site: MyCSA Network.

This served as the showcase piece that I sent to the decision maker on this project. After reviewing the site along with a few ideas driving the site, he told me to go ahead and produce a quick project proposal that addresses the rationale, the approach for building and maintaining the site.

So, going back to your comment, this just shows the need to be more methodical in recognizing the process of practice!

This is certainly important and underscores the need to effectively "enroll" potential users by showcasing something that can serve as a guide or reference for helping people conceptualize the types of things one hopes to accomplish. We all need to see or have something tangible to provide concrete evidence to our abstract ideas.

So here is the revision on Methodology Portion of the write-up to reflect this VERY important insight, informed by a pattern nonetheless!:

Methods for Design and Development:

  • After defining an initial problem (see: rationale), build a base site with general functionality as a showcase.

  • Extend Problem Definition (Interviews, Literature Review, Survey of Potential Stakeholders).

  • Identify Specific Patterns linked to the Problem Definition (use: Liberating Voices, Learning Patterns, Conservation Economy.

  • Adapt identified pattern to address specific program goals.

  • Merge with Web 2.0 principles to guide decisions on final platform choice and subsequent implementation.

  • Identify useful patterns for promoting and building user interactions on the final site, i.e viral marketing, mass mailers/e-mails, print media, word of mouth, blogging, etc...

  • Iterate based upon user feedback to address potential emergent issues.
I would like to annotate my comment regarding the need to provide objects to talk with. Yes, it is critical, but simultaneously, it is just as critical to first understand what problems you are attempting to solve. So in looking at my own process it was the identification of a specific issue that initiated the idea to create a CSA focused social network. However, in the context of building any sort of participatory program the use of the pattern cited by Yishay becomes central as it can be used as a talking point to frame the rationale, purpose and eventuate an enrollment of potential users.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Quick Write-Up for a Pet Project...

Using Community-Change Patterns to Develop a CSA focused Social Network
Project Proposal #1:
Justin Smith
Introduction and Rationale:
No longer is the web solely comprised of basic web pages made up of text based HTML, nowadays we have streaming video, audio and desktop application you can use through your favorite web browser. Along with the proliferation of these uses and software, a second wave has come along labeled Web 2.0. This marks an era defined by an explosion of social interactions and user generated content. People no longer have to be tech wizards to navigate and harness the power of this technology. These days all it takes is a few mouse click and one can have a full featured web site and be connected to old high school friends or publish an academic journal. These days a certain level of articifical intelligence is embedded within this massive brain we call the Internet. This makes it easy to aggregate content from various places that match and link individuals together based upon shared preferences, interests and activities. As a result of all of this, we can see that new ways of thinking and acting within this virtual environment are changing thinking and acting in the "world-of-the-real."
However, despite the opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 and social networking technologies, many are still left out and have not yet harnessed the possibilities. Of particular interest are the range of groups spread out across the US focused on building community through a reorientation of the production and consumption practices associated with the modern agri-food system. Though these groups have been able to foment a movement based upon ideals of sustainability and community interconnectedness, there is little evidence to suggest that their efforts are anywhere close to replacing the current system. And though these communities have begun to recognize the utility of the web, it seems they have not yet grasped the underlying opportunities for building greater connectivity among food producers, consumers and retailers on not only a local scale, but national, and even international scales. All one has to do to recognize the opportunities is to see how far the "Fair Trade Movement" has come by using information technologies that links producers, sellers, retailers and consumers in a global market place. This suggests opportunities for similar actions among locally focused groups that can both link people together to meet food needs, but also link people through the free-flow exhange of ideas, practices, problems and successes.

According to Thomas Lyson in his book Civic Agriculture, "CSAs are an important part of civic agriculture. They strengthen the local food economy and preserve farm land. A web of connected and cooperatively organized CSAs could represent a real and viable alternative to the mass-produced, homogeneous, imported produce found in most supermarkets today." Unfortunately, when one does a simple search on CSAs or CSA networks one finds a relatively small number of connected and cooperatively operated ventures that not only provide alternatives but that work to promote a full fledged food movement. That is not to say that locally-focused global networks do not exist, but rather they appear to be few and far between. Thus it seems that there needs to be a concerted effort on building up the necessary connections between one another to help foment a "true movement."

The question then becomes: How do we build vibrant networks that connect to both local relations, while supporting a global movement towards integrated efforts that enhance the role of local food producers and access to these production systems among local community members? Following developments in the use of systems thinking and the codification of knowledge related to the design, development and strategic use of these social technologies it can be argued that we have potential answers to these questions through the adoption of patterns and pattern languages. Essentially a pattern represents a general solution to a persistent problem and these pattern langauges represent a network of patterns that interact and reinforce one another to construct an effective and sustainable system. Based upon this work it is argued that "Liberating Voices" serve as the model for supporting the advance of the local food movement online.
Overall, "Liberating Voices" represents a pattern language for democratic communication, which proposes a set of social, communicative and design principles specifically geared towards confronting these challenges from both local and global perspectives. Using these sets of patterns it is thought that we as a movement of concerned citizens can effectively define the problems we seek to solve and then map out the technological solutions to address these problems. That is not to say that we will eliminate all problems, but rather it is possible that these efforts can provide a greater support network so that communities can eventually come together to tackle the range of other issues confronting the complex relationships between people and their food.
Using the principles behind Web 2.0 thinking and patterns for communicative engagement articulated by "Liberating Voices" this project will work to develop technologies and practices tools that can be easily used by people with varying degrees of technical competence. Along with creating usable systems these technologies will fill in a gap in capacity and action among locally distributed and previously unconnected groups across the country and beyond. Together with these tools and the orientation towards supporting greater levels of interaction, there will be a special emphasis on Community-Supported Agriculture and the presentation of one soltuion to a range of issues that need to be confronted from within and outside the movement for a "civic agriculture."

Methods for Design and Development:
a.) Outline Problem Definition (Interviews, Literature Review, Survey of Potential Stakeholders)
b.) Identify Specific Patterns linked to the Problem Definition
c.) Adapt identified pattern to address specific program goals
d.) Merge with Web 2.0 princinples to guide deciisions on final platform choice and subsequent implmentation
e.) Identify useful patterns for promoting and building user interactions on the final site, i.e viral marketing, mass mailers/e-mails, print media, word of mouth, blogging, etc...
f.) Support an iterative design process that embraces user feedback and continual revision for an up-to-date system
Despite the methods presented above, it is clear that certain peices will fundamentally need to be in place. Such as a system to generate interest or location based groups, individual user pages, whether consumers, producers or unaffilitated supporters of a general movement. There will also need to be a way for users to locate geographically CSAs, as well as tools to help current CSAs who already have website generate more traffic through integrating these systems without complex programming skills. Likewise, there is a need for tools that can interface with current social networking platforms such as Facebook or MySpace as this will support future marketing, visibility and make navigation to and from a user's most popular websites easy and seemless.

Project Deliverables:

One social networking website and an associated research paper of journal quality that presents rationale, methodology, evaluation and conclusions for continual refinement of the technologies and practices of interactions used both on site and in face-to-face interactions. Provide on-going support to the development and maintance of additional services as suggested by users or emegent tools created out the community of Web 2.0 developers.

For more information on the methods, technologies and thinking behind the project please look at these resources:

What is Web 2.0? Web 2.0 as described on wikipedia (This is actually a great and easy to understand conversation)

What is Liberating Voices? A Pattern Language for Social Change

Patterns as Policies, and Pattern Languages as Policy Frameworks?

I was having a discussion the other day with Ray (the Chair for my PhD committee) about what "patterns" are in the context of Alexander's vision and conception for his pattern language. Now, we have had numerous conversations on this topic as he is still attempting to grasp what it is we are talking about, but he has heard enough to engage with me on this topic.

Anyway, I proposed that in the context of pattern languages that address issues within some sort of social domain, the patterns themselves could be best understood as policies. Now, based upon our previous conversation Ray dismissed this analogy, and yet, as I have pondered this for a while I've begun to wonder if this is not so far from the truth. Adding some validity to this particular conception of what a pattern represents I was hit with a set of definitions that attempts to define a range of meanings associated with the word, policy.

In reading the book, The Policy Process: A Practical Guide for Natural Resource Professionals by Tim W. Clark, I came a across a definition that breaks the term up into 10 distinct units for understanding. According the Hogwood and Gunn (1986, 13-19) the term policy is commonly used to describe:
"(1) a field of study, such as wildlife policy, (2) an expression of general purpose or desired state of affairs, (3) a specific proposal, (4) a decision of government, (5) formal authorization, such as the Endangered Species Act, (6) a program, (7) output of what government delivers, (8) outcome of what is actually achieved, (9) a theory or model, such as "assumptions about cause and effect relationships" about a problem and how it should be solved, and (10) a process, as of complexities unfolding over time."
Following this set of meanings for the term I immediately recognize where the concept of patterns intersects with the term policy, the most obvious of which is #9. Certainly patterns represent a particular model, and as Alexander himself describes, "a patter is a perennial solution to a reoccurring problem." This sounds to me like both a model with a set of assumptions of how best to solve a specific problem. Likewise, #2 as more broad conception of the term policy relates to the overall nature of a pattern language itself, which is essentially a normative vision for solving a system of problems in ways that address underlying structures. And since we are talking about social systems and not architectural design we would think of these underlying structures as persistent problems of social inequity, environmental degradation, economic insecurity and marginalization. One could also assert that #10 represents an inherent principle within a pattern language itself, especially within dynamic social situations. In this way one could perceive patterns and the pattern language itself as an evolving and dynamic model, a process.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and argue that this is the right way to think about patterns, but it does show that my own conception is unclear. And I would invite a conversation into this, because if we can envision patterns as policies and pattern languages as a the framework in which these policies are embedded, then it is possible to perceive Alexander's construct as a highly transferable model to a range of social domains that seek to address policy problems.

This is also important when considering the inherent difficulty in attempting to explain what a pattern or pattern language is. All to often it seems that people have a difficult time in making the leap from past concept of patterns to the one defined by Alexander.

So the question goes can we think of patterns as policies, and if so, can we co-construct useful frameworks (pattern languages) to address systemic problems often encountered within complex social situations?

I would argue yes, and if one looks into the current practice of environmental conflict resolution one would find that the sets of solutions developed among some of these extremely contested processes, it is possible to see them as representative of specific patterns. Now, I know some would immediately jump on this and argue back citing the thinking that these patterns are meant to be perennial solutions, not failures, and so many of these resource management decisions generated out of local level negotiations are anything but solutions.

In response to such a hypothetical argument I would have to counter that the patterns defined in these process are not necessarily the right one for the situation, yet they are models that possess particular assumptions and that intend to solve specific problems. Unfortunately, these patterns are generated out of situations where competing visions and interests collide, and thus potentially more effective policies get pushed aside due to political constraints involved within the process.

Also, according to Tim W. Clark, many of these miscalculations are the result of misunderstandings or complete oversight of the contexts in which these policies are being developed. This is interesting as this shows how patterns depart from traditional notions of policy. For one, patterns have a specific structure that includes: problem statement, description, solution, examples of implementation, and of course, a context in which it can be applied. So right off the bat, patterns assert the need to understand the context or set of forces that are at work when constructing a system of solutions. To me this would suggest that patterns can not only be seen in terms of policy, but the structure that patterns represent fill in gaps left out in traditional problem solving ventures.

Anyway, these are some thoughts and I would really enjoy comments, clarifications based upon other people's conception of what a pattern really is and what a pattern language really is once the model is removed from its original domain.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Final DIAC-2008 Announcement - Berkeley, CA June 26-29

Tools for Participation: Collaboration, Deliberation, and Decision Support

Featuring . . .
Community Networks ~~ Collaboratorium ~~ Deliberative Polling ~~
"Europe in One Room" ~~ America Speaks ~~ Deliberative Polling
~~ Argumentation ~~ Issue Metamaps ~~ Social Change ~~
Democracy ~~ Wicked Problems ~~ e-Government
~~ Web 2.0 // Pattern Languages ~~ and much more !

Sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and UC Berkeley School of Information

University of California Berkeley, California, US
June 26 - 29, 2008

It has been twenty-one years since the DIAC Symposium for exploring
the Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing was first
convened in Seattle.

Now, in the early days of the 21st century humankind faces
challenges of even greater proportions than those perceived in 1987.
The ability of people around the world to discuss, make decisions,
and take action collaboratively is critical to addressing these
challenges. Unfortunately, this fact is rarely acknowledged by

Researchers, scholars, activists, advocates, artists, educators,
technologists, designers, students, policy-makers, entrepreneurs,
journalists and citizens are rising to these challenges in many
ways, including the development of new communication technologies
that build on the opportunities afforded by the Internet and other
new (as well as old) media.

DIAC-2008 combines CPSR's 11th DIAC symposium with the third
Conference on Online Deliberation. The joint conference provides a
platform and a forum for highlighting socio-technological
opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls in the area of community and
civic action.

In addition to the wide range of planned events there will be
extensive opportunities for collegial discussion at the conference.
Register now for an innovative and compelling exploration of the
future of meaningful social participation. We have kept registration
fees low to encourage wide attendance.

Research Papers
Supporting Collaborative Deliberation Using a Large-Scale
Argumentation System: The MIT Collaboratorium

Mark Klein and Luca Iandoli

What Makes a Search Engine Good for Democracy? Public Opinion
Polling and the Evaluation of Software

Jo Ann Sison and Warren Sack

"Liberating Voices" in South Asia: Case Study of Networked
Resistance in Jharkhand

Justin Smith

CoLPE: Communities of Learning Practice Environment

Santi Caballe and Jerome Feldman

A Two-Room E-Deliberation Environment

Fiorella De Cindio, Cristian Peraboni, and Leonardo Sonnante

The KerbabelTM On-Line Deliberation Support Tool

Aurlie Chamaret

On Social Function: New Language for Discussing Technology for
Social Action

Andy Dearden and Ann Light

Privacy Awareness for the Design of Pervasive Home-Based Technology
for Elders

Tonya Thompson

Community Network Analysis: Understanding the Contexts and Content
of Community Communications

Peter Day

Designing a General Architecture to Support eGovernment
Carlos Grima-Izquierdo and David Ros Insua

Networked Publics: Publicity and Privacy on the Internet

Colin Koopman

Exploratory Papers
ACRAW Alliance for Collaborative Research Work in Arab Countries
Lilia Kakaradova

B-Involved -- Extending Electronic Public Participation
Paulo Rosa, Angela Guimares Pereira, and Gonalo Lobo

Exploring the Potential for Open-Source Self-Governance

Mike Mussman

Computer, Neural, and Social Networks
Jerome Feldman, Daniel Lee, and David Thaw

Community, Disability And Response to Disaster Mitigation in

Salma Rahman and Shahid Mallick

Trust for Online Deliberation on Wicked Problems: Implications for
the Design of Internet-based Large Scale Collaborative Platforms

Ali Gurkan and Luca Iandoli

Aspirational Goals and Incremental Tools: Does Forecasting Exclude
Other Frameworks for Strategic Planning?

Gregory Hill, Michael Monticino, Eric T. Jones, Steven Kolmes,
and Rebecca McLain

Integrating Online Deliberation into Transportation Investment
Decision-making: Preliminary Reflections on a Field Experiment

Matthew W. Wilson and Kevin S. Ramsey

Colloki: Rethinking Local Conversations on the Web
Sameer Ahuja, Manuel A. Perez-Quinones, Andrea Kavanaugh,
Candida Tauro, B. Joon Kim

Growing a Global Issue Metamap: An Issue-based Approach to Policy

Jeff Conklin

Representing Community Concerns in Agent-Based Models: A Web 2.0

Catriona Kennedy

Online shopping relationship as collaborative decision process: A
focus on buyer-seller interactions

Thomas Stenger

Tools for Participation as a Citizen-Led Grand Challenge

Douglas Schuler

Patterns, Process and Systems-Thinking: Putting Social Pattern
Languages to Work

Justin Smith

Social Change and Social Justice: Is There a Role for Technology?

Blanca Gordo

Community Media and Community Development: a Disruptive Innovation?
Peter Day

Community networking Strategies
Peter Day

Role Challenges in Technology and Social Action Projects: Bridging
the Gap between Social Software and Social Contexts
Nick Plant

Exploring a Large Scale Online Citizen Engagement Strategy
Susanna Haas Lyons

Social Software's Social Side-Effects
Sean Munson and Paul Resnick

Designing Social Psychological Incentives for Online Collective
Judd Antin

Panel Discussions
Social Change and Social Justice: Is there a Role for Technology?
Organized by Blanca Gordo

What's New In the Bay Area? Deliberative Systems and their Brethren
Organized by Todd Davies

Other presentations and panel discussions are being discussed.
Possibilities include "What type of software does the world need?"
and other topics.

Technology Demonstrations
Brian Sullivan

Knowledge Media Tools for Capturing Deliberation in Participatory
Spatial Planning
Anna De Liddo, and Simon Buckingham-Shum

VizBlog: A Visualization Tool for Blog Discovery
Candida Tauro, Sameer Ahuja, Manuel A. Prez-Quiones, Andrea
Kavanaugh, and Philip Isenhour

Dialogue Mapping Demonstration
Jeff Conklin

Kim Cranston and Jeff Manning

e-Liberate web-based system for online Roberts Rules of Order
Douglas Schuler

Europe in One Room
We have the opportunity to preview the rough cut of "Europe in One
Room." This new documentary tells the story of the first European
Wide Deliberative Poll in which a scientific sample of all of Europe
gathered in the Parliament Building in Brussels in October 2007 to
deliberate for three days about the future of Europe. Each of the 27
countries were represented and the issues were discussed in 22
languages. Told through the eyes of the participants and organizers,
this unprecedented experiment in transnational democracy shows that
dialogue across differences of language and nationality is possible.
This project is based on the work of Stanford professor Jim Fishkin
who will be present at the showing.

Open Space Session
We're planning an Open Space Technology session on "The Future of
Tools for Participation: Visions, Resources and Needs" as a capstone
event on the last day of the conference, June 29. This event will be
free to the public (although donations are strongly encouraged). The
open space approach may be the best way to spend less structured
time as a collective group to formulate research and action plans.

Berkeley, California

It's generally warm (but not hot) in Berkeley in late June.
Berkeley, California, is known for its higher education and
cosmopolitan culture and is the home of social movements, such as
the Free Speech Movement, as well as innovative technology such as
BSD (Berkeley Unix). The conference hotel is located on the water
with a view of the San Francisco skyline.

NOTE: We are still looking for a few dedicated volunteers. If you
are available for volunteer work now (and you live in the Bay Area)
or if you plan to be in the Bay Area in time for the event, let me
know. Douglas ]at[ publicsphereproject ]dot[ org.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Preparing for DIAC - 08

DIAC -08 is coming up quick and I'm working to get all of my things in order for the trip and the two presentations I'm putting together for the conference. Currently I have two papers accepted, one research paper and one exploratory paper. So I'm scrambling to get everything set.

I have uploaded my papers for public view and hopefully we can increase the visibility of the conference. With that in mind, if you are in Berkeley June 26-29 check out the Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing.

Ok, without further ado, here are the papers:
Research Paper - “Liberating Voices” in South Asia: Case Study of Networked Resistance in Jharkhand

In 2006, a study was conducted to analyze the relevance of Liberating Voices, a project emphasizing the use of pattern languages as a method of supporting ‘civic communication.’ The study sought to evaluate whether effective networks exhibit the elements defined within the Liberating Voices database, which claims to have amassed a number of archetypical patterns for effective communication and political transformation. The results of this study revealed that while the Liberating Voices project is not yet complete, various pattern configurations can be observed among effective instances of networked advocacy. This points to both legitimacy of the pattern language while opening up opportunities to further study these patterns as approaches to capacity building for ineffective networks struggling to influence political discourse at local and global spheres of policy making.

Exploratory Paper - Patterns, Process and Systems-Thinking: Putting Social Pattern Languages to Work

Following a 2006 study aimed at evaluating the validity of pattern languages within the context of civic communication and social change, a number of insights emerged connected to the field of system dynamics and the practice of process monitoring. The study revealed that both system dynamics and process monitoring provide a number of opportunities for further grounding pattern thinking, as well as in supporting adaptive approaches to pattern based capacity building among community networks. Based upon these initial findings it would appear that further investigation is necessary to better understand how patterns, systems and process can be integrated for ever more effective planning and capacity building among civil society, community networks and social change advocates.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


So after some wrestling with various approaches to building the GPSI site with SharePoint it was decided that we would go with the Collaboration Site approach. Though the workflow features are much weaker than with the Publishing Site application provided in SharePoint, there seems to be greater flexibility in design. For me, what was perhaps most important for this particular group was the ease for me in abstracting the complexity of SharePoint from the GPSI site users.

In the case of a Publishing Site there seems to be a great deal of power, but with that power comes greater complexity and therefore greater responsibility, which would mean more work for me in fixing screw ups, or in writing extensive how-tos. Ugh!

Anyway, I think we can accomplish what we are attempting to do here without the Publishing Site application. However, it is clear that no matter what, I'm gonna have to role up the sleeves and get into the CLR and start playing around with some IronPyton.

And though the site is not public the url is/will be:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Global Plant Sciences Initiative - Paying the Bills

While many grad students get stuck with crappy jobs of servitude in order to obtain their PhD, I get to have fun. Even though I’m an Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences PhD student my special and apparently much sought after skills in CMS development has afforded me the opportunity to break out of the mold and do something other than push loads of paper work. Instead I will be the lead developer for the new Global Plant Sciences Initiative web site that will serve as the front face for the GPSI and act as a collaborative space for experts in plant sciences, biotech, biofuel, ag sciences and other disciplines from around the world.

What is this, you ask! Well, the GPSI is a project aimed at bringing all of these disciplines together in order to identify socially, economically and environmentally friendly solutions to energy and food production around the world. It will also serve as a space for graduate students to add to existing knowledge and contribute to the research and global conversation regarding this very important issue.

My part in this grand scheme will be to build the site, provide add-on tools to the base SharePoint package, develop the site architecture including the underling ontologies for linking knowledge with people, projects and institutions. Once this is complete I will be maintaining the site, training staff and graduate students on effective means for utilizing the site.

The site shell will be up by Monday afternoon as I’m working on the prototype throughout the weekend. I'll post the new URL once I have something worth showing

Collaborators in this project include:
WSU – (which include the depts….)

  • Molecular Plant Sciences

  • School of Economic Sciences

  • Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Plant Pathology

  • Horticulture

  • Mathematics

  • Crops and Soil Sciences

  • Institute of Biological Chemistry

  • School of Biological Sciences

  • Center for Teaching Learning and Technology

Also, the USDA and the University of Washington

Ummm, Finally (Google Earth API Opens the World to Browsers)

Gotta love it!

Google Earth API Opens the World to Browsers

Google recently announced the new Google Earth Browser Plug-in, which brings the rich mapping and interactivity of the Google Earth application directly into the web browser, “bringing the full power of Google Earth to the web, embeddable within your own we site.” And along with the plug-in comes the new Google Earth API....


Building Networks to Support CSAs

For the past few days I have been reading an interesting book titled, "Civic Agriculture" by Thomas Lyson. It is a plain English overview on the emergence of alternative forms of food production systems. It lays out a quick survey of the mainstream industrial food-system model that permeates most of the US and abroad (among developed nations). This serves as a contrast to what Lyson sees as an alternative paradigm that is taking root here in America.

Yet, just as these alternative forms of food production and distribution take hold and fill the spaces that have been ignored or passed over by the dominant system it seems that the modern, firm based system is actually consolidating power and becoming stronger. So if this assessment is true then what opportunities do communities have to take control of the hegemony (and homogeneity) of food production in America? How can a relatively marginalized movement rise as a truly powerful and viable replacement to the current system?

One of Lyson's answers to these questions came out in regards to the development of networks to support Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). He writes: "
CSAs are an important part of civic agriculture. They strengthen the local food economy and preserve farm land. A web of connected and cooperatively organized CSAs could represent a real and viable alternative to the mass-produced, homogeneous, imported produce found in most supermarkets today.
Unfortunately, when one does a simple search on CSAs or CSA networks one finds a relatively small number of connected and cooperatively operated ventures that not only provide alternatives but that work to promote a full fledged food movement. That is not to say that local networks do not exist, but rather they appear to be few and far between. Thus it seems that there needs to be a concerted effort on building up the necessary connections between one another to help foment a "true movement."

This got me thinking and I have spent a couple of hours each evening for the past few days working on building a few applications geared towards building a quasi-social networking system. I have this free Google App Engine account and needed to do something with it. Plus, this gives me an opportunity to learn how to use the webapp framework. For right now it is just a little fun project, but on a serious note there does in fact appear to be a need here.

My hope is to provide a usable and free web space where CSAs, their supporters and unaffiliated advocates can construct mini-sites and link up with one another. The suite of apps include or will include:
  • CSA Mini-Site CMS

  • CSA Blogs (unless I can get blogger to play nicely)

  • Google Map Integration

  • Survey Tools

  • People Aggregator (this will link users of similar interests/locations/etc)

Now, I'm just building a clunky little prototype, something I can complete in my copious amount of spare time. But I would really like to find some people or group of people that can actually devote the time to this and just take it off of my hands. What would be even more interesting is if WSU Extension sponsored a project like this and actually take this opportunity seriously. My thinking is if you want to be a "world class institution" then promote and fund "world class projects."