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Proposal for new forum structure and using the "Forum-Wiki bundle" functionality for everything

Topic Type: 

I think we've all been struggling with the question of, "Where do we put this information?" If we have a new Tool we're building, then that's and easy answer, "The Tool section!" but if we are thinking about how to discuss Urban Agriculture vs. Urban Gardening (which has been taking place on an email thread) or we're kind of stumped. So, I'm going to propose a structure that I think both vastly simplifies the issues we're grappling with and also uses existing concepts/functionality that we're using on this new Farm Hack beta site.

Every node in a category has a Wiki and a Forum

I propose that we allow every "node" (ie. Urban Ag, Fido, Farmhack NH, etc.) in a "category" (ie. Topics, Tools, Events, etc.) to have it's own Wiki and a Forum just like Tool nodes do now. I think the idea of having a collaborative wiki and a forum for each node is a model that is proven to work in distributed knowledge building for a wide array of uses. So while every node has an attached Wiki and Forum, the nodes in categories can have their own properties, for example an Event node has a Location and a Tool node has a Stage (prototype, concept, etc.).

Forum structure

The other big change I'm proposing here is distinguishing between Tools and Topics... and another curve ball, Projects. Take a look here at my new proposal for forum structure and then read why I think this would be great below.

  • FarmHack Community -- Website Problems -- Website Features -- Rules -- Propose an event

  • Topics -- Component sourcing -- Urban Ag -- Urban Gardening -- Aerial Mapping -- Soil Preservation

  • Tools -- Fido - Text Message Enabled Garden Monitor -- GXasifier - Gasifier

  • Events -- FarmHack NH 2011 -- Farmhack RISD 2012 -- Farmhack Burlington Intervale 2012

  • Projects -- Greenhouse monitoring @ Somerville Community Garden - Somerville, MA -- Composting @ Intervale - Burlington, VT

Why this structure of categories?

FarmHack Community

Farm hack community nodes will be places to discuss structural aspects of the Farm Hack community.


Tools are for a very specific ends but we often don't JUST want to build knowledge around very specific ends, we often want to start more generalized and then start to tunnel our focus on specific ends. A good example of this I think is Public Labs struggle with their "Balloon & Kite Mapping" Tool page. The tool page is really around the general topic of using kites and balloons to make maps but not about a particular Kite/Balloon mapping kit. An example in our community would be the Fido system for environmental monitoring. Environmental Monitoring is a big topic that I do a lot of research on and I would like to build documentation around environmental monitoring that only references the Fido as opposed to the Fido Tool Wiki being the place where we aggregate information around environmental monitoring.


I think we're all set on this right now :).


In the first beta I built we had Events also using this Forum-Wiki structure but it was dropped as to focus on getting it working really really well for our #1 priority on the site, tools. With the new idea of using teh Forum-Wiki structure in every category, I will be no more work to accomplish this for events than it will all of the other categories.


I see a need for being able to announce projects that people are working on at their own farm. These projects may use a broad cross-section of Tools and Topics documented on farmhack. These projects will have particularly interest to those looking to see projects being done in specific geographic communities.

R.J. Steinert's picture

Emily asked me a few questions about this proposal and I've decided to paraphrase my answers here.

It's worth pointing out that not all collaboration is going to be good fit for Farm Hack if it is going to be run as a Bazaar. Collaboration in the Cathedral mode is more efficient when you need to limit the amount collaboration to a few people while the Bazaar mode is more efficient if you want that collaboration to scale up to a large number of people.

Collaboration will happen in Forum topics and Wiki Pages under each Farm Hack Topic. For now we can just forums under a "Topic" category and down the line those Topic forums will look like a Tool page does now with a Wiki and a Forum.

Lastly, note that users can create wiki pages right now for whatever purpose they want and link to them from Forum Topics or other Wiki pages.

R.J. Steinert's picture

Some considerations moving forward with fitting a lot of things into the Tools entity type

I'm not revving to go on my proposal yet because of the reason I mention in the comment linked to above, "...if decide something is not a Tool, we don't lose the Forum and Wiki page when we delete the Tool," but my proposal is one idea on how we might structure things in the future.