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17 August 2010 @ 05:13 pm
A few days from now, many free Ning.com social network sites will be closing. If you have one and haven't decided on your course of action yet, here are the main options that I see:
  • BuddyPress.org - supported by the good folks at WordPress, this is relatively simple, but you need to install and host the software.
  • Grou.ps looks like a good option, and being a hosted solution, should be far less work than BuddyPress - see this thread on a GlobalSwadeshi discussion for more info and options. Grou.ps and BuddyPress are both open source.
  • Develop your own site in (say) Drupal.  This is probably not a good idea - it's only really worth considering if you have enough money to employ coders, a lot of patience and willingness to debug and actively maintain over coming years, and if you have site needs that can't be satisfied with, say, a tweaked version of BuddyPress. And don't think you'd be saving money by not paying for Ning - that seems unlikely once you add up your costs.
Good luck!

A story in the Australian zine Crikey on allegedly dodgy behavior in the aid business.

Transparency International’s executive director Greg Thompson says that transparency of financial information and ownership is important because developing countries often don’t have resources for strong tax regimes. Transparency International would prefer to see tax havens closed but where they do exist, it favours a mandatory register listing all beneficial owners. If aid companies “are receiving money including for strengthening financial systems then they should lead by example by being transparent and open about their finances”.

via Who profits from our foreign aid? The untold story of GRM International | Crikey.

The article is a little fuzzy - e.g.

GRM International handles hundreds of millions of dollars worth of government contracts each year. Yet, according to its most recent financial statements, GRM International Pty Ltd doesn’t make a profit and hasn’t had any employees since 2005.

Now while this is suspicious, I don't think it's the same as saying that the whole set of companies hasn't made a profit. Have profits been paid out anywhere by the subsidiary companies, and has tax been paid? How much? And definitely the subsidiary companies have had employees.I'd like to see a much more detailed investigation.

(The quote above comes from a series on Crikey called Who profits from our foreign aid? "a joint investigation between theAustralian Centre for Independent Journalism and Crikey".)

09 July 2010 @ 12:13 am
Industrial agriculture can treat animals well - but as I understand it, they often need a regulatory framework.

Once producers are on a level playing field, they can accept their constraints, and do what they do best - make an efficient process for making money within those constraints, and compete in the market place. Eggs from relatively comfortable and healthy birds will no longer be a premium item - and that's good.

The new law requires that shelled (whole) eggs sold in California comply with the modest but important food safety and animal welfare standards of Proposition 2. Passed in a 2008 landslide, Prop 2 phases out production of eggs from hens crammed into cages.

The bill, A.B. 1437, requires that all whole eggs sold in California as of Jan. 1, 2015, come from hens able to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down and spread their wings without touching each other or the sides of their enclosure, thus requiring cage-free conditions for the birds.
For more, see Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Landmark Egg Bill into Law : The Humane Society of the United States.
07 July 2010 @ 05:27 pm
I haven't been blogging here much. We've updated things at the Appropedia blog (feed), so there's now an Announcements tag (feed) in case you just want the main news about the Appropedia project. Here are a few highlights of our activities from the past 12 months:
30 June 2010 @ 06:10 pm
This is not about politics - this is about the people in politics. The recently deposed Australian leader of the opposition wrote today about the even more recently deposed prime minister:

Axed and humiliated: someone should give this poor bastard a hug

Apart from the very Australian language in the title, I liked this for its empathy.
21 June 2010 @ 08:53 am
An application I'd love to see for mobile phones that have GPS: One that detects if I'm currently traveling on a route not marked (or not named) on OpenStreetMap, and beeps to prompt me to fill in the name of the road, rail line, or cycleway....

What about Google Maps and other free commercial offerings which usually do a good job? True, OpenStreetMap and Wikimapia sometimes give more helpful info, especially in the developing world, or when searching for a building or landmark. But why should I particularly care about a community-operated project like OpenStreetMap?

Answer: Because OpenStreetMap is creating open knowledge. There are many restrictions on the commercial maps, and their ultimate aim will always be commercial, but with OpenStreetMap you can use it for any project, whether non-profit, for-profit, or in direct competition with one of the big commercial map providers. And being easy to contribute to, it can be improved at short notice when needed, e.g. at a Crisis Camp.

Own the map with OpenStreetmap – because a free infrastructure matters

On the wiki:
09 June 2010 @ 03:24 am
The BBC's so-called "Ethical Man" Justin Rowlatt writes on the important questions for our planet. While I don't always agree with his analysis, and he could certainly go deeper, this is thought-provoking journalism of a much higher standard than almost any other mainstream writer I've found.

He likes to provoke with counter-intuitive claims, but there's generally a good portion of truth in those claims. For a taste, listen to Are environmentalists bad for the planet?
Fascinating talk, about time, personality, work, life, relationship and social problems.

Watch the video...Collapse )
28 May 2010 @ 10:27 am
I get weary of debating the non-issue, since the logic of conspiracy denies and defies simple facts, lacks any evidence whatsoever, is circular, self-affirming and pursued with infectious paranoia.

Climate conspiracy theories? Actually, that's in reference to theories about who "really" wrote Shakespeare's works: Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Now, I do believe that conspiracies happen, especially in the worlds of business and politics. But when plots require the compliance and/or silence of many disparate people, they become fragile and unlikely.

Some real digging and critical thinking is required to distinguish hidden plots from imagination.
13 May 2010 @ 11:47 pm
@leashless, a.k.a. Vinay Gupta of the Hexayurt Project, dedicates himself to on open source, large scale emergency management. He recently shared these thoughts:

I wish people would understand that I will save as many as I can, but we're nowhere near saving everyone even best case.

Massively scalable ultra low cost life support infrastructure isn't a hobby - it's the airbag for a massive financial/ecological crash

But people confuse being ready to help people survive that _possibility_ with thinking it *must* happen, or even wanting it to.

From Twitter, here, hereand here.

Vinay and I have sometimes debated the likelihood of a complete crash of the US economy (i.e. one
serious enough that food chains will stop working and millions will be homeless). But those are secondary questions - it's enough that this sort of crisis is likely to happen somewhere to require us Be Prepared.

Also see: