Factor e Live Distillations – Part 9 – Open Collaborative Development

It’s been over a year since we started the openfarmtech.org wiki, with Vinay’s assistance. This wiki turned out to be a messy hairball in terms of organization. It’s time to clean it up, and move forward on the collaborative social infrastructure for developing the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS). We’ve got Nathan from effortlesseconomy.com here, and one of his goals is to improve our collaborative effectiveness. Today’s Distillation video aims to start that discussion.

Here is an overview of our virtual collaboration infrastructure. We are beginning with a facelift on the Main Page of the wiki – where we are currently updating it to reflect the overview, status, and ways to collaborate. The wiki is the main technical development tool. We have had a Development Work Template there from the very beginning, but it was never adopted widely for its intended use as a general outline for product development. We are returning to it as the core of technical development, so please revisit that page for a longer explanation of how it is to be applied.

We are updating all the projects in the wiki header, such that there is consistence between openfarmtech.org, factorefarm.org, and Distillations descriptions of all of our projects. The list in Distillations part 2 is the most up-to-date version.

Besides the Development Work Template – we have 3 other main pages that people should visit to provide meaningful new contribution to the wiki. The first is Project Status, to be updated on a weekly basis for active projects. The second is Red Pages – those outstanding questions to be answered that keep us from moving forward on any given technology. And, there is the Collaborators page – where we gather information about people and what information they are willing to share freely towards GVCS success. This could be a very potent tool – as there are technical details and reviews that should be going on actively for each project – which is difficult to do if you don’t have a list of technical experts or reviewers. The Collaborators page is aimed at filling this gap.

Add the Factor e Farm physical facility and experimental collaboratory, plus, the First World Conference on Open Source Ecology (see video below). That’s a start.

Now, here are three things that we ask of you. First, what are all the other existing collaboration platforms suitable for physical product development? We know some, like Science for Humanity, ThinkCycle, Global Swadeshi, etc. Some are technical, some are more social. We are compiling a list of these here, so please add any other resources, and help us formulate a strategy for leveraging these towards GVCS completion.

Second, who can volunteer to be a third-party reporter on the progress of Factor e Farm and the GVCS? We have a great Drupal platform that can serve as a project news outlet, among other things, where people can subscribe to news in various formats. To date, we have neglected this platform because of time constraints. It would be really useful to have ongoing news updates. For example, did you know that the First World Conference on Open Source Ecology has already started? Did you know that Nathan Cravens from effortlesseconomy.com just joined the Factor e Team? Did you know that Joseph Zarr, one of our True Fans, is coming today for a week stay, to work on collaboration with the Global Village Institute at The Farm ecovillage, among others? Did you know that Ted, one of our local friends in Kansas City, is applying for the TED Fellows program on my behalf? Did you know that we’ve refined the 3D design on the torch table, and are getting ready to build solar micro-huts with CEB? These are all nuggets worth sharing – and you see that we can never keep up with communicating all that is going on here – so help us by becoming a Factorefarm.org reporter. The requirement is simply to check in with us – phone would be best – we can give you a quick lowdown on the up-and-up – and you repackage that and publish it at factorefarm.org as a syndicated news feed for anyone who subscribes to these news. This would also allow for syndication at other venues. We’d like to start pointing people to factorefarm.org as the one-stop-shop news source on our work.

Third, we are collating a list of Collaborators on the wiki. If you are reading this, you are probably a collaborator who has useful feedback or technical expertise on one or more of the 40 GVCS technologies. Write your name down at the page – and list your areas of expertise that you are willing to share freely with others working on the GVCS, and give us or list your contact information. We will then organize the page with different topics, such as ‘technical reviewers,’ ‘social technology,’ Fab Lab, etc. We will also list the Collaborators under the different projects categories. See instructions on how to make entries, and how to work with Categories. Feel free to add your biography as well. You can see mine in the biographies category.

At best, the Collaborators category could be a great research tool – where any question in the GVCS development process could be answered readily by tapping experts, and where designs can be reviewed effectively by these people. Just search for the expertise needed, talk to the expert, and get an answer in minutes instead of days of research. This could be an extremely potent rapid learning and development tool. So please sign in, and encourage others to do the same.

As the social infrastructure evolves, we’ll provide updates. For now, see the video on the Open Collaboration Method. The transcript is below. (Addendum: see Vinay’s video comment on some of the wiki content, after the transcript)

Today’s episode focuses on the open source collaboration method. In particular – we’ll describe how we go about the collaborative development of the Global Village Construction Set – the infrastructure for a post industrial village.When we talk of our collaborative development in our case – it boils down to the development of economically significant products, and the techniques used to develop them. We start with a premise that we are working on a tool set of wide applicability, and of great importance to regenerative development. When we talk about physical products, we enter the realm far beyond that of information product or software – as physical objects, realities, and costs enter the picture. For that, a physical laboratory and facility is required.Overall, the problem statement is quite interesting and worthwhile. The question is, how do you collect potential contribution of millions of people worldwide, who are interested in the outcomes of the Global Village Construction Set – to contribute information, time, designs, prototypes, and other resources –very specific products? What makes this challenging is that we are not organizing an encyclopedic throwdown of content like Wikipedia, but focused content towards about 40 main infrastructure items. Our goal is to push the open source method to the point that it becomes a viable way of product development, as we go about building a world-class open source product development capacity.Our approach focuses on a physical facility as the core of the development process – Factor e Farm – our collaboratory. It’s a physical experiment in terms of testing all the products and their utility towards a post-industrial village of relocalization. Part of the design is to live with and test the technologies that we create – in order to gain the deepest insight into utility and relevance to a high quality of life. The other parts are more virual –

  • 1. the blog at blog.opensourceecology.org – which reports on major progress and some day-to-day activity.
  • There’s the openfarmtech.org wiki – which is a general collaboration platform.
  • here is factorefarm.org – the Drupal site – which is now waiting to be populated with content and project news.
  • OSE Social Network – to be set up.

Here is an outline of our strategy, with which we aim to build the entire GVCS within 701 days. We have started the 1000 True Fans campaign – primarily to fund the development of a proposition with high risk – by sharing the risk among many people. These True Fans are the core of the effort. These are people who are either at Factor e Farm, or people who are those who want to put their money where their mouth is in GVCS completion. We found that these people are not typically wealthy benefactors as much as people who don’t have a lot of money but are interested in applying the GVCS to their lives. We presently have 24 such supporters.

So how do we work with the True Fans as the core support group? First, we will set up the social network in the next few days, where we will discuss strategies for approaching the GVCS, as well as do actual work in both project development and marketing. The goal is to gather the support of 1000 True Fans, but I’m committed to gathering 6000 for a monthly budget of $60k, with which we could really put development on the fast track.

So where do we start? Perhaps the Factor e Live Distillations series is the best video overview of our work and goals, and the Appropedia page is the second best site to visit for an overview. Then there are the details on the blog – plus the mess of technical development on the Wiki.

So how do we go about the actual development process? To develop each product, we basically start with:

The diagram is a summary of what we do. For example, with the CEB press, we’ve done up to Prototype 1 fabrication and testing. Now we’re working on prototype 2. Each product goes through these steps, and each main product should be listed on the wiki header.

The above diagram is the technical development part, and further details are covered by the Development Work Template that you can see on the wiki. The template is exhaustive – a lot of technical details needed for the development of each product – and it should be filled in over time. If all the parts are filled in, then one could pick out the relevant details and compose a funding proposal based on the work done.

The collaborative product development procedure is the day-to-day activity, but there needs to be a greater framework – the OSE Product Cycle, which also includes the gathering of a development team, fundraising by publishing proposals for all types of distributed sources, and fabrication facility development and replication. We will be able to discuss this more after we start producing the CEB press, scheduled for May 1 – 1 month delay due to the organizational work surrounding the Distillations series.

So essentially, the collaboration platform is doing the due diligence in the diagram shown above, and filling in supporting details found in the Development Work Template, and organizing this in a coherent fashion. In principle, someone should be able to look at the template, perform research or experiments, submit data to the template, and all the different technologies of the GVCS could magically materialize. That of course does not happen without strong guidance behind a project.

In this collaborative process, there is a large number of pages to keep track of – as all the different fields in the Template do not fit easily on a page. So lots of information is put down, such as the solar generator project under category:Solar Turbine, but that needs to be organized over time to a coherent whole. For example, we are struggling right now just to keep the wiki cleaned up enough so people could even see all the work that has been done. Much indexing and organization needs to be done. We need to be able to show a clear report of Status for each project.

The pages most relevant for people who want to contribute are the Red Pages, where explicit working questions are written – those questions and problems that need to be solved to move on. We are also starting to put up a Collaborators category – basically a directory of people collaborating on the project, and what expertise they are willing to contribute. As such, a novice could come to the project, and be able to identify people who can answer relevant questions.

Our next step is the OSE Social Network of True Fans. We’ll be building our Collaborators directory so we know who to tap for information and who to tap for review or design assistance, and we’re putting up Red Pages with working questions, Status Reports, and actual development work templates. This can be done by everybody. But the real deal – the physical work – is the actual work that happens at Factor e Farm.

As such, review our Distillations presentations. See the general scope, and look as Status Reports for each project – which need to be written still. And then, come to the First World Conference on Open Source Ecology.

What is that? It’s the world’s longest conference in history – where the conference lasts for 2 years. It actually started on January 5 – when we kicked off the 1000 True Fans campaign. What are the goals? The goals are to invite as many people here as possible, especially True Fans, for 1-month working stays – where each part of the GVCS is developed. Prior to coming, people prepare a research proposal, and prepare the plan of action for the stay at Factor e Farm. So consider all of our work carefully, as we may be inviting you for this personally. We will pay for costs with resources from the 1000 Squared campaign, and we may have more earnings from production – such as the CEB press. Open Solar 2, which I mentioned in yesterday’s distillation – is part of this conference. We are optimizing our building infrastructure- so you’ll probably be expected to collaborate in building your CEB/wood accommodations when you arrive, if there’s a housing shortage. It will be a wild party – about 30 or so people that we aim to attract for the summer. Time is running out with 701 to go, and we’re building ourselves the world’s first replicable, post-industrial village.

The rubber hits the road in the actual building of implementations. All the theory has been already by giants before us. We’re just going to put it into practice. We make the road by walking – there are no rules – the process is open source, messy, and negotiable. Just look at our wiki. But the end result is clear – and we hope to see you here working on it with us. And, the open source development method yet needs to be refined. We’ll see where we are in a year on this.


Vinay’s video response – see the first 5 minutes (source):

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  1. […] have previously introduced an open collaborative product development process. Developing an effective open source product pipeline – as a worthy competitor to corporate […]

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