25 November 2009

Video: "Franco's permablitz"

Now that we've got Franco's place under control, it's time to put the video up. There was a lot of material there, shot over three afternoons, but I did manage to get the whole thing to fit just under YouTube's 10-minute limit. Enjoy!

YouTube link: "Franco's permablitz - October/November 2009"

19 November 2009

Adelaide Greenies calendar - an update

In the few weeks since I launched the Adelaide Greenies calendar, I've received a large amount of feedback. Thankfully, most of this feedback has been positive. I thought I'd write about it again, just to clear up a few questions that people may have.

How can people read it?

While putting "Adelaide greenies" into Google presents the calendar as the #1 hit, and my original blog entry about it at #3, it doesn't really have a home. I have added links to my blog to the different ways of viewing the calendar (HTML, XML, ICS), as well as a little embedded widget with some of the upcoming events. I think that's good enough for now. Of course, you should feel free to share these links with others and add these links to your own page if you find them handy.

Incidentally, I don't have a problem with people adding the calendar to their own sites. The HTML version of the calendar is the easiest one to link to, and the XML version is the easiest one to embed in WordPress sites (the PEZ site already includes it). Google Calendar does have an application that can help you create widgets for your own web page, like the HTML version or the list version on my blog. However, the application is only available to people who have full access to the calendar, so for now, you have to ask me for help with that. This brings me to my next question.

How can people add or change events?

At the moment, I'm the only person with full access to the calendar, so nobody can change it but me. This hasn't been a problem so far, since people haven't minded just sending me the occasional bit of news, so it hasn't been a huge task to keep the calendar up to date.

(As an aside, I would appreciate it if people gave an approximate finishing time for their events. Sometimes, I will already know, or at least be able to take an educated guess based on the type of event. The starting time is usually the more important, though. If I've taken a guess at an end time and got it hopelessly wrong, let me know!)

In the future, this will likely be a bigger job, and I will ultimately have to let other people in. There are two ways to do this: either give certain people full access to the calendar, or give certain people their own calendars. I think this caused a bit of confusion when I first launched the Adelaide Greenies calendar, so I'll explain in a bit more detail.

When I refer to a "calendar", I simply mean a sequence of events. At the moment, there's only one of these. What I had originally envisioned was that the individual groups around Adelaide might prefer to run their own calendars and manage their own events. For example, The Food Forest could just run a calendar of events hosted there, SCNPSP could list their community group meetings, and PEZ could list their workshops.

In case you were wondering, the HTML widget to display Google Calendar can handle several different sets of events on a single timeline. I've attached a picture to show the HTML widget with two calendars: the Adelaide Greenies calendar in green, and Australian public holidays in red. (I don't manage the latter; Google Calendar suggested it to me.) If you've got a dedicated calendar application on your computer - such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Lightning/Sunbird, or Apple iCal - it can already display multiple calendars simultaneously, as it typically would if you have separate personal and work calendars.

This would make things easier to manage, but it would also make things harder to find. Part of the goal of this exercise - and, indeed, a common theme among Transition Towns people in South Australia - is the coupling of the existing organisations, and splitting things up this way might not be as useful, since we haven't got a central directory of all things eco-friendly (yet) that would bring them all together and let people find them all in one easy trip.

There is another reason why the single calendar might not go away any time soon. As was very insightfully pointed out to me, even if there were separate calendars for separate groups, there might be events that don't fit them. Perhaps an event is organised by a group that doesn't have its own calendar yet, or perhaps the event is organised by several groups and no one of them really owns it. In such an occurrence, a single central calendar would still be useful, even if others exist.

For now, I'm happy to keep the one big calendar in place. That said, if anyone wants to know more of the details, would like to help edit the calendar, or would like to start their own, let me know. I'm still the gatekeeper, but I don't have to be the only one.

Which events should be there? Which shouldn't?

I got a question about whether there are boundaries or criteria to determine if there are certain types of events that shouldn't be included. I haven't thought too much about this, because for every event that I've seen so far, I've always known someone (or known of someone) who'd be interested.

That said, there might be closed events or minor things that people don't want publicised too broadly. Other events might be seen as off-topic; for example, I'm on a mailing list where some participants equate the response to 9/11 to a response to peak oil, but others take no interest. There might also be events or groups that not everyone wants to endorse - just as I've seen reputable journalism sites carry articles by climate change sceptics in the interests of balance but without vouching for their arguments.

Does anyone have any thoughts on what might exclude something from the calendar? What boundaries should be set? Are there certain things we should all be interested in and certain things about which we are neutral? Are certain issues off-topic? Remember, though, that we don't all have to believe in the same things for them to be relevant.

What personal information should be published?

Another issue that I'll bring up at the same time is privacy. People often host events at their own homes, and I've been hesitant to list private addresses in a public forum without permission. This isn't as much of an issue with our existing mailing lists, since they're usually closed-circle.

My policy so far is that you can list an address or you can say it's at someone's home, but not both. Phone numbers are OK, but I've been disguising email addresses in an attempt to stop spammers from harvesting them. What do people think of that policy? Similarly, please contact me if you would like any personal information added or removed.


Couldn't you have come up with a better name?

I've never wanted to spend too long on the name, and this blog entry is no exception. Not everyone appreciates the label "greenies", but in truth, there isn't really a convenient term for everything that's going on that conveys that level of meaning.

There isn't a prize for coming up with a better name, but don't let that stop you having ideas about it. If all else fails, we can just call it Transition like everything else. :)

I hope that's cleared things up. Tell me your thoughts.

01 November 2009

Adelaide Greenies on Google Calendar

Having found it very easy to lose track of all of the different events that Adelaide's environmental movement has organised, I have started a Google Calendar to remind me. It's called the Adelaide Greenies calendar, and it's an agglomeration of an array of different mailing lists that carry events that might interest fellow environmentalists. There's a little gadget (in list form) on the side of my blog that shows you what is there.

At the moment, all of this should be considered a bit of an experiment. There will be information missing because not everyone knows the length of time that their events will last. I'm also making a policy that private addresses won't be included with events without the explicit permission of the people at that address; I realise that such a policy might make it a little more difficult to advertise permablitzes, but I do want to show a bit of respect for people's privacy.

For the moment, I am treating this as a stop-gap solution. It's quite a chore to enter all of this data for everyone, even so far, and not everyone will use this to stay abreast of what's happening around South Australia. However, I'm going to have a go at keeping it up to date for a month or two and see what happens. What I hope for people to do is to start their own calendars for their own groups, so that people can subscribe to what interests them or what is going on in their local area. Besides, any calendar program worth its salt - including the HTML widget on the side of this page - can combine several calendars of events onto a single timeline.

The calendar is available in a number of different formats, so that you should be able to read it from anywhere. At the moment, I'm the only person who can edit anything (I hope). I will list the ways you can subscribe to the calendar below.
  • To view the calendar in your browser, just follow this link to the HTML version, or add it to your Bookmarks or Favourites.
  • To view the calendar as an Atom or RSS feed, add this link to the XML version to your feed subscriptions. In many browsers, you should just be able to click on the link and go from there. Otherwise, look for this logo in your browser:
  • To add the calendar using software such as iCal, Outlook 2007 or Mozilla Sunbird, add this link to the iCal version to your subscriptions or accounts. To add the calendar to Outlook 2003 or earlier, download the file from that link and import it manually. (Note that the older versions won't update iCal files automatically, so every so often, you'll have to delete the calendar and import it again.)
  • If you like the widget I've got in the blog, let me know. Google Calendar does have a tool that lets you customise this widget, but only if you have private access to the calendar - that is, only if you're me. I know WordPress doesn't like the widget I'm using (it doesn't like iframe HTML tags), but you should be able to add the RSS feed above in the meantime; I haven't looked into this yet.
Whether you find this useful or have strong criticisms of it, please let me know. As I said, it's all fairly experimental at this stage.

UPDATE 2009-11-02: You can indeed use the XML version (Atom/RSS) of a calendar in the RSS widget in WordPress, but the formatting isn't ideal. I found this tutorial on Helen's Nerdy Blog for customising RSS feeds, and I've since created a more refined version of the XML feed for WordPress users. To incorporate this into WordPress, add an RSS widget for this link on There's an example of this on the Permaculture Education Zone blog (which I also set up).

Thanks to everyone for their input so far. There may be another update later to address the most important questions.