[sticky entry] Sticky: Welcome to Growstuff

Sep. 7th, 2012 09:09 am
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Growstuff is a community of food gardeners working together to build an open source platform to track, share, and discuss edible gardens and sustainable lifestyles.

This is the Growstuff Dreamwidth community, where you can discuss anything Growstuff-y with other Dreamwidth users.

This community used to be a general/more-or-less official communication channel for the project, but now we have an official Growstuff Blog (aka [syndicated profile] growstuff_blog_feed and are on Twitter as [twitter.com profile] growstufforg so if you want the official scoop, that's what you should be reading.


If you're interested in getting involved in Growstuff as a volunteer, the first place to look is our project wiki (includes more information about software development process, other info on ways to get involved, etc.)
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Originally published at Growstuff Blog. You can comment here or there.

For those who use the Gregorian calendar, happy new year! And for those who celebrate holidays around this time, I hope you had good ones.

After a slow December, we’re back in top form for 2014, and keen to make Growstuff the a fantastic resource for veggie gardeners worldwide.

Join our online gathering, Wednesday 8th January

We’d love you to join us for a chat on Wednesday the 8th of January, to talk about Growstuff’s plans and directions for 2014. We’ll be doing this as part of our weekly gathering, which is held every Wednesday at a different time (to allow for people in different timezones). This week’s gathering is at noon UTC, aka:

  • Noon on Wednesday, UK time
  • 7am on Wednesday, US east coast time
  • 4am (sorry!) on Wednesday, US west cost time
  • 11pm on Wednesday, Australian east coast time
  • Or find your local time anywhere else in the world.

Our gatherings are held on IRC (a free chat system used by many Growstuff people). If you’re already familiar with IRC, we’re #growstuff on irc.freenode.net; if not, join the chat here… all you have to do is choose a nickname (any short name to identify yourself, such as your Twitter handle or similar) and connect to the #growstuff channel.

Looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday!

(And if you can’t make it, there’ll be other gatherings in other timezones in future.)

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Originally published at Growstuff Blog. You can comment here or there.

How much does your garden produce? You can now track your harvests, as well as your plantings, with Growstuff.

We’ve just rolled out the first set of harvest features, including:

As a bonus, we’ve also made CSV downloads available for our entire crops database as well as plantings and seeds.

This is the form for adding harvests:

harvest form

Adding a harvest of beets on Growstuff

As you can see, you can keep track of your harvests in both everyday units that you might use in conversation — individual vegetables, bunches, handfuls, baskets, bushels, and more — as well as by weight, in either metric or US/imperial measurements. We hope that very soon we’ll be able to say “Growstuff members have harvested 500kg of produce this month” right on our homepage. Harvesting is the flip side to the plantings we’ve been tracking since we began, and at least as important — if not more so!

permaculture melbourne logo

This work on harvests is part of our 2013 Roadmap and has been done in collaboration with Permaculture Melbourne, as part of their Harvest Benchmarking project.

There are more harvest features yet to come. If you’d like to help us build them, check out our new Getting Started guide for developers.

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Originally published at Growstuff Blog. You can comment here or there.

Last night I checked my voicemail and heard a message that started with garbled static and ended with “… we’d like to give you one thousand dollars!” Of course I called them straight back. “Hi, I have no idea who I’m talking to, but apparently you’d like to give me a thousand dollars?”

It turns out that Growstuff is the latest recipient of a no-strings-attached Awesome Foundation grant from Awesome Melbourne. They offered to deposit it in Growstuff’s bank account or hand it to me in cold hard cash, but assured me that whichever I choose (spoiler: it’ll be the boring but sensible bank account) there’ll still be an opportunity to get photos of them presenting me with a humorously oversized cheque. I’ll be sure to post the evidence here when that happens.

Thanks to all our volunteers and members who helped get this far, and who continue to be awesome every day!

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Originally published at Growstuff Blog. You can comment here or there.

How much food can you produce in a home garden? How efficient is small-scale food production compared to mainstream farming? Can you live off what you grow in an ordinary suburban block?

permaculture melbourne logo I’m very excited to announce that Growstuff is going to be collaborating with Permaculture Melbourne on a project to study how productive home food gardens can be. It’s called the Harvest Benchmarking Project, and Permaculture Melbourne have received a grant from Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to do it. At first they were asking gardeners to use pencil and paper to track their harvests, but with Growstuff’s help, they’ll be able to gather data online, not just from their members locally, but from Growstuff’s members worldwide.

“We want to find what the best gardeners can produce on their plots of land,” says John McKenzie from Permaculture Melbourne. “This becomes a benchmark for their area. The benchmarking project is hoping to indicate the power of urban gardening. If 20% of households could grow at the benchmark rate, then how much food could an urban community produce? We think it’s a huge amount. We think there’s an urban food production industry waiting to be recognised.”

A teenage boy weighs a basket of greens

Weighing harvested vegetables using a digital luggage scale.

Growstuff’s work on this project will be partly funded from Permaculture Melbourne’s grant, but we’re also fundraising from our wider community to support it. If you’d like to contribute $10 or more, join Growstuff then buy a paid membership quoting the code HARVEST2013 when you checkout. We are hoping to raise $1500 or more, which will help keep Growstuff running and make free, Creative Commons licensed harvest data available long-term.

Growstuff folks might recall that harvests were already listed on our roadmap for 2013. From our point of view, what this project means is that we’ll move harvests to the top of the list, and that we’ll have a real use case to focus on, which will help us understand exactly what to build.

For the next month or so, we’ll be working alongside Permaculture Melbourne to build the following features into Growstuff:

  • The ability to record harvests through a simple web form, much as you can already track what you’ve planted on Growstuff.
  • In addition to tracking your harvest of any of the almost 300 crops in our crop database, you’ll also be able to track “other” crops that aren’t yet available on our systems (this will also be applied tracking what you plant).
  • Harvests will be shown alongside plantings on the site, for instance on our crop pages.
  • Tracking the size of your garden (in square metres or feet) to help calculate productivity.
  • You’ll be able to download a CSV data dump of all harvests across the site (you can open this in Excel or the spreadsheet app of your choice).
  • Harvest data will also be available via our API and RSS feeds.

We expect that you’ll be able to sign in and track your harvests in a matter of weeks. To be notified when it’s ready, sign up for Growstuff or follow us on Twitter.

All our code is open source and of course is available on Github, or if you’d like to see how it’s all proceeding, search for “label:harvest-benchmarks” on our task tracker.

For more information, contact Alex/Growstuff at skud@growstuff.org or John McKenzie/Permaculture Melbourne at research@permaculturemelbourne.org.au.

And remember, to support this project, Buy a Growstuff membership using referral code HARVEST2013.

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Originally published at Growstuff Blog. You can comment here or there.

Meet Andrea, the Goat Lady

Andrea, who goes by GoatLady on Growstuff, took some time out to talk to us about farming, the politics of growing your own food, and some advice for newer growers:

Growing your own food should be joyful. If all you ever want to do is grow some basil in a pot on the window sill, or a boxed mushroom kit in your closet, that’s ok. The important thing is that growing food shouldn’t make you feel anxious, overwhelmed, or inadequate. If it does, then let yourself back off, reassess, and find your joy.

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Goats chowing down on a young spaghetti squash. (c) Andrea Chandler

We also talked about the politics of “homesteading” and of growing your own food:

To take control of your own food to the extent you can is an act of taking back power. To then freely share your surplus is another radical act in a capitalist system. It’s also a profound act of caring for another person; sharing food is one of the oldest, most fundamental ways we have of sharing good will.

Read more (and see more pics of Andrea’s adorable goats) on the Growstuff blog.

Support Growstuff for just $10

Growstuff runs on membership subscriptions. This month, we’ve dropped the price of an annual membership to just $10 — and that’s Australian dollars, so we’re talking about $9 US, 7 EUR, less than 6 GBP, or, well, see for yourself. Peanuts!

We’re working on exclusive features for our paid members, which we’ll be rolling out soon. (The first will be the ability to “share a garden” with co-gardeners, such as your family or the other members of a community garden, giving them access to edit and plant things in the garden you share.) If you want to support this, and all the other work Growstuff does, buy a paid account now.

More crops for our crops database

We’ve added a bunch of new crops, including nectarines; the fragrant perilla aka shiso; Australian native midgen berry; red and white currants; perennial, bi-colored Okinawan spinach; and scallions, including the Welsh onion variety that’s most often found in Western markets.

If you’re growing any of these, tell us about it, or list your seeds to share.

These new crops bring our crop database to 292 distinct varieties of edible crop. Got any we’re missing? Request new crops in our support forum.

What else is new?

We’re always improving Growstuff and adding new features. Some of our recent changes include:

  • Our new places page shows where all our members are. It’s a simple use of our location data, but now we’ve got the infrastructure in place, we’ll be able to do other maps showing things like where a crop is grown, what’s growing near you, and more.
  • We’ve also improved our location-based member search, see eg. members near Roanoke, Virginia. We’ve added a map, and you’ll now see which members are closest to this location in order of distance.
  • The geodata used for our places pages has also been added to our API; see the docs for information on what you can access programmatically.
  • We’ve added “bulb” as a propagation method for new plantings.
  • We added a crop hierarchy page, mostly of use to crop wranglers but potentially of interest to our members at large. We will be adding more varieties of crops in the coming weeks.
  • We’ve added helpful text in various spots around the site, including on the new planting page.
  • You can now sign up for this newsletter when you sign up for Growstuff, or via your member settings page.

You can see what we’re working on now at tracker.growstuff.org, and if you’d like to get involved, join our discussion mailing list.

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Originally published at Growstuff Blog. You can comment here or there.

Last week I had the great good fortune to interview Andrea, who goes by GoatLady on Growstuff and blogs at The Manor of Mixed Blessings. Andrea lives on a small farm in the Virginia Piedmont with 50,000 honeybees, nine goats, five cats, four dogs, two rabbits, two turkeys, and a very understanding husband who does the heavy manual labor.

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Goats chowing down on a young spaghetti squash. Photograph (c) Andrea Chandler

What do you grow at the Manor of Mixed Blessings?

Different things every year! As a little background, because of abuse by a previous owner (he sold the topsoil on the entire 2.5 acres) we have terrible soil. It’s heavy clay with no nitrogen content — as in, when we ran soil tests to see what amendments we might need, the nitrogen test registered nothing.

Because we’re committed to growing our vegetables without synthetic fertilizer or pesticides and trying to build soil simultaneously, every year is an experiment and every year we discover a new variety that does well for us. This year we saved seed from Cherokee Trail black beans and Seneca Red Stalker corn. We also managed a bumper crop of spaghetti squash, a lot of which went to the goats and chickens. It was our first time for a fantastic potato crop, and with the addition of a bee hive our strawberry crop exploded.

We would have had peas except rabbits got through the fence and selectively ate every. single. freakin. pea plant. And then they went for the sweet corn seedlings. And the lettuces.

I’ve just planted a fall crop of lettuces, about 8 different varieties, to see what thrives now that the rabbits are too big to get through the fence. And rabbit season opens in November.

What I’m looking for are the crops that thrive here with little to no intervention from us. Some people like a very high-involvement growing style, but for me personally I want things I can drop in the ground, water in, and then forget about until it’s time for me to eat them.

Ditto with our chickens. I’m less interested in having “purebred” chickens than I am in having a flock that reproduces itself naturally and thrives on free range, including being resistant to parasites and able to evade predators. I want chickens that can put meat and eggs on the table without constantly needing medical attention, and that means carefully selecting individual birds to stay in the flock.

I spend most of my time with the goats, because goats are incredibly charming and lovely to be around. Since my goats are well socialized to people they’re very personable, to the point of demanding hugs and cuddling. Even with them, though, I’m not really interested in maintaining purity of breed. Goats will be happier when they’re healthier, and artificially limiting the gene pool isn’t really conducive to breeding hardy, healthy goats. I keep dairy goats, and because they have shows for conformation like dogs do, you see animals who look pretty but have very poor parasite and disease resistance, and hooves that need constant attention. Meat goat producers have a much healthier attitude, since they want goats they don’t have to fool with. I made the decision this year to use a Baylis line Spanish buck, a meat breed strain that’s incredibly well-adapted to conditions here in the US southeast, because as I go forward with my herd what I want more than show-winning dairy looks are goats that are hardy, adaptable, and easy to care for.

milking a goat

Milking time for Ambrosia. Photograph (c) Andrea Chandler

You say you prefer the term “farmer” to “homesteader”. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I know “homesteader” is the trendy word for agrarian self-sufficiency these days, and it’s also apparent that here in the US the movement is so white it’s painful. Native American friends pointed out to me that “homesteader” means nothing good to them as it carries the weight of the US history of colonialism and genocide.

I also have problems with the way “homesteader” tries to make a very white, affluent, suburban movement out of the skills that poor rural people, including or maybe especially people of color, have been living for a long time now. We rural, working-class Southerners in the US have been derided for some of the very same practices that affluent suburban whites are now repackaging as “homesteading”. My grandfather got pulled out of school when he was seven and the Great Depression hit. He taught me what wild plants are edible, and I’ve added to what he taught me since by talking to older people and studying sources like the Foxfire books. And now that’s “wildcrafting” and the cool thing to do and it drives me up a wall that people are claiming to “rediscover” it as a “lost skill”. It was never lost, but calling it picking greens and learning it from a southern man with a second grade education just isn’t as cool as “rediscovering wildcrafting”. The very word makes me grind my teeth.

Plus the kind of small-plot agriculture that “urban homesteaders” tend to push for is this very specific, clean, pretty, romanticized thing. This is why backyard chicken ordinances often specifically ban slaughter — it’s dirty and messy and bloody and disturbs people’s sensibilities. “Urban homesteading” also ignores the fact that unless you’re being very, very careful and thoughtful, many of the practices will actually raise your carbon footprint rather than lowering it since you’re having to bring everything in.

I prefer “farmer” because it’s a more neutral word that is perfectly descriptive of what I do. I think people have this idea that a farm has to be tens of acres if not hundreds, specialized in one crop, and run like a business. Historically, though, that type of industrial monoculture ag is a recent, aberrant invention. A farm doesn’t have to be a business, and it definitely doesn’t have to be some huge thing specializing in one crop. And being a farmer for me acknowledges that a lot of what I do is dirty, messy, and even gross.

So between the implications the word “homesteader” holds for my Indian friends, who I cherish, and the personal irritation the movement causes me as a descendant of poor rural Southern folks, I want no part of the word.

What makes a “farmer” anyway? How much do you have to grow to cross over from “gardening” to “farming”?

Oh gosh, if we’re talking plant matter I probably don’t qualify! We do better every year on vegetables and fruits but we’re not where I want to be just yet.

We do however have the goats and chickens, so I produce our dairy and eggs and some of our meat here while my husband brings in cash money working outside the home. We let our hens hatch a clutch of eggs when they feel like it, and the extra roosters go into our freezer after they’ve gotten big enough to make the work of processing them worthwhile.

I think if you’re making a major contribution to your own diet, go on and call yourself a farmer. Even if your farm is a set of containers on your apartment’s patio. I’d really like US society to get away from this notion that farming is some mystical romantic thing that happens over there somewhere, because I think it contributes to problems with the food supply.

You often tweet about social justice and political issues. Do you think producing your own food is a political act?

It really, really is. Unless you’re fairly wealthy here in the US, you’re going to be buying produce from God knows where, grown under mysterious conditions, and tended by workers who are exploited and brutalized. If, that is, you can find and afford fresh produce at all. To take control of your own food production is a powerful act of rebellion for people who are relentlessly told that only organic heirloom produce is morally good but can’t afford to buy it. We could never afford to buy goat milk, cheese, or butter (seriously, the butter goes for around US$30/lb, about US$60/kg) at the store, let alone free-range heritage breed eggs and chicken (because they free-range I can’t swear the eggs & meat are organic because I have no idea what all the chickens are eating). Next year, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll have home-grown turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and heritage birds raised free range sell for upwards of $100 as a dressed carcass around here. Nor would we be able to afford to buy organically grown heirloom produce.

I also don’t sell much at all of what we produce, because for me it’s about disengaging from capitalism. I prefer to barter it for things we don’t grow or make. My neighbor on one side has a way better vegetable garden than we do, but no chickens or goats, so a lot of informal trade goes on there, and during the summer when the hens are in full swing I’ve been known to hand out eggs to anyone who expresses even a vague interest. At the height of summer the flock gives us nearly a dozen eggs a day, and there’s only so many quiches, custards, puddings, and fritattas a person can eat.

To take control of your own food to the extent you can is an act of taking back power. To then freely share your surplus is another radical act in a capitalist system. It’s also a profound act of caring for another person; sharing food is one of the oldest, most fundamental ways we have of sharing good will.

In short, I think the current capitalist industrial agriculture is taking us nowhere good. Not everyone has the opportunity to produce their own food, but when you can and do it can be an enormously political act of opting out of a broken system. It can be a powerful act of asserting that you and your community will not sit quietly and take whatever food the system allows you to buy.

What misconceptions do you think people have about producing their own food?

That it has to be this huge complicated commitment and a lot of work! You don’t have to go whole hog, and you don’t have to be an organic growing purist. I would encourage people to be thoughtful about the choices they make and try to understand all the ramifications, but if that means you end up using synthetic fertilizer or pesticides, or using a motorized tiller to break up your soil, I don’t think you deserve derision. A grower’s time and energy are a finite resource, and deserving of conservation if that’s what you need to do.

Growing your own food should be joyful. If all you ever want to do is grow some basil in a pot on the window sill, or a boxed mushroom kit in your closet, that’s ok. The important thing is that growing food shouldn’t make you feel anxious, overwhelmed, or inadequate. If it does, then let yourself back off, reassess, and find your joy.

sunflower, beans, and zucchini

Volunteer sunflower, Cherokee Trail black beans, and grey zucchini all happily sharing a garden bed. Photograph (c) Andrea Chandler.

The misconception that annoys me most personally is a by-product of the urban chicken movement. City people want some chicks to raise, and because sexing chicks is notoriously inaccurate, or because they decided to hatch eggs, they wind up with roosters that are often illegal for them to keep. Then they assume that a rural farmer would just love to give those extra roosters a loving pet home. We really wouldn’t. For assured fertility you need one rooster to ten hens. We do not want to buy your extra rooster and the odds of finding someone who will take a free rooster and not eat him are slim. I recommend that backyard chicken keepers who don’t want to eat their extra roosters themselves buy young hens rather than chicks, which is the only way to be assured you won’t end up with an unwanted rooster.

What’s your favourite weird thing to grow and eat?

Plenty of people think I’m weird for drinking goat milk, but I find that’s because they’ve only tasted pasteurized goat milk from a grocery store, which tastes like you’ve just licked a buck goat. Because I can guarantee my goats are healthy, we drink their milk raw. Without pasteurization to denature the various proteins and without having the cream extracted and added back in low amounts compared to what’s there naturally, it’s sweet and rich.

Day lily buds are another favorite of mine. They are such low effort plants, and give a very tasty return for no effort beyond planting the original roots. I try to leave about half the buds to flower and feed the pollinators, but it’s difficult!

daylily buds

Day lily buds, about to be cooked. Photograph (c) Andrea Chandler.

(Read more about how to cook and eat day lily buds on Andrea’s blog.)

What’s your favourite gardening tool or resource?

My favorite tool is a good knife. It comes in handy for everything, from trimming trees branches back from the fence line to digging up taproots from invasive plants like pokeweed. A good pair of gloves is another must!

There are a lot of great knowledge resources out there. I’ve learned a lot from backyardchickens.com forums, fiascofarm.com for goat care (although I ultimately disagree with their position on herbal treatments), honeybeesuite.com for bees (of course) and the books Mini-Farming and The Thinking Beekeeper. Although I do feel honor-bound to warn people that Mini-Farming is really, really dry and somehow even manages to make compost sound boring, which is difficult.

My favorite material resource is poop! The goats, chickens, and Angora rabbits all contribute. I deep-bed the goat stall, so we end up cleaning it out only about three times a year. What we get is a couple hundred cubic feet of mixed goat poop, pine shavings, and straw. That goes into a big pile where it can get rained on and the trees can drop leaves on it, and the chickens start working it over. They’ll break up any big pieces, keep the straw from forming thatch, and contribute their own poop. Periodically we put it back in a big pile, turning it as we go. After 6-12 months, we have this incredible rich black dirt.

Rabbit poop, meanwhile, is one of the very few kinds you can just toss directly on the garden without composting it first. I dump the rabbit pans into a bucket and take it straight out to the vegetable beds. With our soil as nitrogen-deprived as it is, the rabbits are a huge help!

What advice would you give someone who wanted to get a few acres and farm like you do?

Know what you’re getting into! In some rural areas you can kiss cheap reliable internet and television service good bye, for instance. Ask yourself if you can really do without pizza delivery and other urban conveniences. Rural life is very differently paced from urban life, and there just isn’t the social expectation of privacy that city-dwellers have.

Really think through how much agriculture you want to get into. While plants won’t cramp your style, nor will chickens with a well-designed coop and an adequate supply of feed and water, once you add dairy animals to the mix getting more than a day trip vacation becomes an enormous hassle. Animals in milk have to be milked out on the schedule you’ve established for them or you start risking things like mastitis. If you find someone who will do the milking for a reasonable fee, treasure them like the jewel they are.

You will be out there twice a day to care for dairy animals, every single day, no matter what the weather. I’ve cared for goats in the tail end of a hurricane, in snow storms, on days of record heat and record cold. You pretty much have to have a religious calling to be happy doing dairy animals.

Also livestock is frequently gross. I’ve done fun things like cut a maggot out of a baby goat’s side (he recovered just fine and is now a treasured pet elsewhere), clean a wound on a chicken that exposed the back of her skull (she’s still with us), and perhaps most memorably I’ve been forearm deep in a goat to help reposition a kid while she was giving birth. And my glove split. Everyone survived the experience, happily, but it’s one I could have done without. I buy better gloves now.

Probably the best thing you can do is find someone relatively local who’s doing what you’re interested in and see if they’re willing to talk, or even let you come out for a look at how they do things and a chance to get hands-on experience. Just remember that it’s perfectly fine to make your own way. Take the techniques that are useful to you, that let you grow food joyfully, and let the rest go by the wayside.


Thank you, Andrea, for your time!

If you grow your own food, whether you think of yourself as a farmer or a gardener or anything else, why not join Growstuff to track what you’re growing, share seeds, and connect with other growers?

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[personal profile] skud
It's been a while since we had much posted here (mostly it's happening either on the mailing list or on Growstuff itself) but I just posted this on my own DW and thought it would be good to repost it here:

So, this happened. Yup, Growstuff is open to the general public! It might look pretty much the same as it did a couple of weeks ago, but the difference is that we finished the things that we said needed to be in place before we publicised it more widely. Those were, basically, the ability to add photos to the things you've planted (which subsequently show up on crops), and a shop/payments system so that people can buy memberships to help support the site.

That is a *major* milestone, and we pushed it out on Thursday night my time, so for the past few days I've been a) keeping an eye on the server, and b) taking a breather over the weekend, which means c) this week is my TELL ALL THE PEOPLE week when I really start promoting it.

So, if you have a vegie garden (or would like one) you should come sign up, and also tell your friends.

Yes, it's still a work in progress, and will always be. We have heaps more things to do, but the next run of features are mostly relatively easy and happy-making ones, so that'll be nice :) Also, if you'd like to learn Rails (or just to code, generally, or would like to help us with testing or whatever) most of the discussion happens on the mailing list. Our next "call for coders" (i.e. raise your hand and say you're interested, and we find someone to show you round) should happen next weekend.
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[personal profile] skud
So, we have a launch date... or at least a launch month... for opening Growstuff to the general public. It will be around May, and we'll be having a "seed account" sale similar to the one Dreamwidth had. As part of this, we'll be offering tshirts and other schwag to those who buy seed accounts at a certain level.

We're looking for an artist to help us design these shirts and other items. This is a paid gig.

We have a basic idea of the design we'd like (it involves hand-lettering, swirling branches/vines, fruit and vegetables) and the technical specs for it. We're open to digital art or traditional media, as long as it's printable -- and yes, our printer does full colour and all that. We'd need the final artwork by April 1st, but definitely want to have some time for drafts/revisions before that.

If you're interested, we can send you more detail. Just email info@growstuff.org with a link to your portfolio or where we can find some of your art (fanart is fine! Dreamwidth links are fine!). Bonus points for sending us a link to the single piece of your work that you think best matches what we'd be looking for.

Please feel free to signal boost!

Yay us!

Jan. 16th, 2013 10:18 am
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[personal profile] skud
Just a quick note that Growstuff was selected as one of the winners of Pinboard's startup incubator. The $37 will be mildly useful, but the advice and promotion of the project will, hopefully, be much more so.

Big thanks to everyone who has helped make Growstuff so successful so far :)
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[personal profile] skud
Hey everyone,

As part of my application for a government program that will give me some cash to work on Growstuff, I have to demonstrate that people would want to use it.

If you've got 5 mins, could you please take this very quick survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GZCNK9K

If you have another 5 minutes *and* you're likely to be a paid user of Growstuff, could you drop me an email (to skud@infotrope.net, addressing me as "Alex") telling me, in a paragraph or so, that you'd pay for this service and why? For instance: "Dear Alex, I would definitely pay for this! I've been wanting some kind of journal or tracker for my garden for a long time..." (or whatever is appropriate to your situation).

These emails will be included in my application but won't be published anywhere else without your consent.
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[personal profile] skud
Yipe, it's been a while since I posted an update here. Apologies. I've put it on a todo list so I'll remember to do it more often in future. In the meantime, if you want to keep up with the day-to-day workings of the project, once again I will remind you about our mailing list, which you can subscribe to at http://lists.growstuff.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss. It'll send a confirmation message to make sure you want to subscribe. Some people have found this ends up in a spam folder (especially on GMail) so if you think you subscribed but aren't getting anything, check there.

Anyway, news!

We are now starting iteration 4. We've switched to Pivotal Tracker for our project tracking, and you can see what we're working on at http://tracker.growstuff.org/ We're also recruiting developers for this iteration, so if you want to work on code and stuff (and yes, we'll teach you!) you can find the details here: http://lists.growstuff.org/pipermail/discuss/2012-November/000469.html

If you'd like to see what we've done so far, our dev website is up and running at http://dev.growstuff.org/ You can actually sign up for an account if you are so inclined, but be warned it is very sketchy at present and doesn't do much. That will change soon!

If you want to point people at a site for general information about the project, we've recently changed http://growstuff.org/ to point to our wiki, which has an increasing amount of information about the project. Please spread that link far and wide!

We've also decided to run weekly gatherings on IRC for everyone to get together and talk about the project and generally get to know each other. They're not compulsory or anything, but since IRC presence tends to be a bit intermittent and timezone-dependent, it seemed like a good idea to have one time in the week when more or us will make an effort to be there at the same time. Details here: http://lists.growstuff.org/pipermail/discuss/2012-November/000468.html

Finally, there's been some discussion about the terminology we want to use for people who use the Growstuff website. You can see a mailing list thread about it here: http://lists.growstuff.org/pipermail/discuss/2012-November/000470.html (click "next message" a few times to see the whole thread, or go up to http://lists.growstuff.org/pipermail/discuss/2012-November/thread.html to browse via the thread index). In short, the following terms have been vetoed:

* "users" (has a slightly dismissive/negative feel to it, also technical conflict with underlying software)
* "customers" (too corporate smarmy)
* "people" (doesn't allow for accounts held by groups/orgs/etc)

The current preferred suggestions are:

* "members"
* "growers"
* "gardeners"

This terminology would be used in our URL structure, for instance /whatever/ would point to a page where you can search for people using the site and see who's recently joined or active or whatever, and each account would have a page /whatever/name, eg. /members/Skud or /growers/Skud or /gardeners/Skud.

So, quick poll!

Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 21


What do you think we should call those who use Growstuff?

View Answers

members
8 (38.1%)

growers
7 (33.3%)

gardeners
6 (28.6%)

other (I'll comment below)
0 (0.0%)



I don't think people who are anonymous (i.e. not logged in to Dreamwidth) can vote, so if that's you then you can either sign in with OpenID, or just leave a comment below.
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
Just wanted to let everyone know some good news for iteration 1. You will recall that our stories for this iteration were:

4: Dev website
6: Signup/login
13: Attractively styled
14: Footer links
15: Description on dev website
16: Self-hosted wiki

It's now Wednesday, about 10 days after coding work started, and about 4 days til it ends on the weekend. At this point, we have the following tasks completed and merged into our dev branch:

6: Signup/login
13: Attractively styled
14: Footer links
15: Description on dev website

Thanks to [personal profile] cesy, [personal profile] randomling, and [personal profile] pozorvlak for their work on these.

[personal profile] juliet and I have been working on the dev site deployment story (#4). It has progressed a lot -- a BIG lot -- but we're not quite there yet. However, I'm starting to feel reasonably good about us maybe getting there soon. Fingers crossed.

That leaves the self-hosted wiki, which was a bit of a stretch goal, but we might get lucky there.

In addition to this, we've had some excellent work on infrastructure:

- [personal profile] randomling's helped us get a hosted hack server set up (for those who can't develop rails apps on their own machines, or want an easier way to get started -- more on this next iteration)
- [personal profile] pozorvlak and [personal profile] cesy have got us using use HAML (a preprocessor that makes writing views easier/less verbose)
- [personal profile] pozorvlak has set up continuous integration using spork (which I have yet to test and respond to the pull request, but it's looking good from what I can see.

So, this is all looking like excellent progress so far! I think we're going to get most if not all of our stories done for this iteration, as well as lots of good background work, so get ready to give yourselves a pat on the back for that come the end of the iteration.
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
And here's the list of stories/pairs for iteration 1:

4: Dev website - [personal profile] skud/[personal profile] juliet - medium
6: Signup/login - [personal profile] cesy/[personal profile] skud - large
13: Attractively styled - [personal profile] randomling/[personal profile] skud - medium
14: Footer links - [personal profile] amianym/[personal profile] shadowspar - small
15: Description on dev website - [personal profile] cesy/Miles - small
16: Self-hosted wiki - [personal profile] juliet/[personal profile] skud - medium

You can find more detail on the stories in our issue tracker: https://github.com/Growstuff/project/issues?milestone=3
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
Is there anyone who'd like to work on iteration 1, who I haven't yet spoken to about what you might like to work on? Speak now, and tell me what sort of things you're interested in and what timezone you're in, and we'll see if we can match you with a story and someone to pair with.

(Things you might like to work on: rails development, graphic design, wiki/documentation stuff, sysadmin/devops, database schema/structure, probably other things I've forgotten.)
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
(copied from the mailing list)

OK, I think we can call iteration 0 closed and move on to iteration 1. Your coaches for this iteration are, once again, me([personal profile] skud) and [personal profile] shadowspar. If you've got any questions or need help with stuff, you can contact us directly or, of course, send something to this list.

So to wrap up iteration 0, here's a summary of tasks completed.

2: twitter account icon - small - 1 point
3: placeholder website - medium - 2 points
5: community guidelines - medium - 2 points

Not completed:

4: dev website -- the coding was all completed and merged, but it didn't get deployed in time so sadly it doesn't count.

So, our velocity was 5 points. I suspect we'll do a little better next iteration!

Here are my suggested tasks for iteration 1:

4: dev website (finish deploying! me and the sysadmins on this I think)

6: signup/login (cesy and I were talking about pairing on this)

13: website should be attractively styled (aka the Zurb Foundation story; I've already agreed to work on this with randomling)

14: footer links on website (anyone want an easy rails task? a good easy/beginner level story)

Additionally: move the wiki to Mediawiki on our own server. (Should this actually be a story? Probably.)

I don't think there are any other stories that are easy enough and have few enough pre-reqs to work on this iteration, but if anyone is already experienced with Rails and/or database design, the crops page might be a good one to take on. Or we could wait til the next iteration, but do some prep work/"spikes" (see: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?ArchitecturalSpike) in the meantime, to figure out how best to go about it.
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
(Copied from the mailing list. There are likely to be further comments/discussion in the archives there.)

One of the things Dreamwidth has, that I really like, is a list of "design personas": personifications of different use cases for their website, with some thought about what sort of features those people would want and what they'd definitely *not* want. You can see DW's personas here: http://wiki.dwscoalition.org/wiki/index.php/Design_Personas

I've started thinking a bit about ours, and from conversations I've had with people and comments on various DW posts soliciting your thoughts, I've felt like there is some agreement around these three main uses for Growstuff:

1. Tracking

If you're a tracker, you want to track your garden, your crops, and everything to do with them. Dates, locations, and other records are important to you. You want to remember what you did, and plan for what you want to do next. Data entry doesn't scare you away, as long as it will be there for you afterwards. You might want to be able to import/export your data to other apps or in standard forms. When you're wearing your tracking hat, you don't much care about other people seeing your data -- you may or may not mind, but your primary goal is for it to be there for *you*, not for them.

2. Sharing

Sharers want other people to see what they're growing. If you're a sharer, you want to connect with existing friends (online and offline), make new friends, and show them your garden and what you're doing in it. You post notes and photos with an external audience in mind. You send your updates out via other social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) as well as sharing on Growstuff itself. You are interested in connecting with people who have similar interests to yours, or who live and garden in your area, and you enjoy seeing what they're doing, too.

3. Learning

You may be an experienced food grower, or you might not even have a single plant yet, but you're interested in learning about food gardening and how best to do it. You browse Growstuff for things you might want to grow, tips, and other useful information, and want to bookmark the best stuff for future reference. You might like to ask questions, too, either publicly or of some limited group (friends, people near you) and get specific advice, or participate in discussions on various topics. You may not enter stuff in the "your garden" area of the site, but you learn a lot from others who do.

I suspect that while some users will fall clearly into one of these camps, others will have a bit of each, since they're not mutually incompatible.

What I'd like to know (especially from people who identify as "customers" or "gardeners") is whether this rings true for you, or have I missed out some common use case that should be included in the list? (I have a suspicion I'm missing something like "Promoting", for people who want to spread the idea of sustainability/self-sufficiency/organics/locavorism/whatever or who want to tell people about the particular group/activity/service/product they have. Is this a use case we want to support?)

Licensing

Aug. 19th, 2012 12:35 pm
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
(Copied from the mailing list. There are likely to be further comments/discussion in the archives there.)

So, another thing we should discuss is licensing for this project, since we'll need to add license files to whatever we commit to github.

I'm going to explain this from the ground up because I expect not everyone is completely conversant with open source license (a ha ha, is anyone? ever?) But if you are fairly familiar with this stuff, you can skip the explanations, because the tl;dr version is: GPL/copyleft or BSD-style?

For those who can't parse that, here's an explanation.

Open source/free software licenses all have certain things in common. These are fairly clearly expressed by the Free Software Foundation's list of "four software freedoms" (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html) and/or the Open Source Institute's "open source definition" (http://opensource.org/osd.html/) but to summarise:

- anyone may download and use the software for any purpose
- anyone can view and study the complete source code for the software
- they need to be able to make changes to the code for their own use
- they need to be able to redistribute the software
- and they need to be able to redistribute their changes, as well

(That's more or less a rephrasing of the four software freedoms; the OSI definition adds some other twists as well, but the general idea is the same.)

An open source license is a legal document that is distributed with the software, which states what rights and responsibilities the software user has, in order to maintain the openness/freeness of the software. It's the same as the end-user agreements that most of us click "I Accept" on without reading, though the purpose is a bit different, and (handily) there are a handful of common/standard ones so that if you see that the license is "GPL v3" or "Mozilla license" or whatever, and you already know what that contains, then you don't have to read it through in detail.

Anyway, open source licenses mostly fall into two camps. The first type is the kind that says, in effect:

"You can use this software for any purpose, modify it, redistribute it, etc, but you have to leave a notice saying where it originally came from."

If you're familiar with Creative Commons, this is like the CC-BY (aka "Attribution") license. Basically you can do anything with the software, as long as you attribute it to the original author and don't try and claim it as your own. Open source licenses like this are sometimes known as "BSD style", because the license for the BSD operating system is like this. Under a BSD-style license, it's possible for someone to build commercial (non-open-source) software based on your code. Many parts of commercial software, these days, are based on open source under the hood because of this kind of license, and it's often considered a good choice if you *want* your stuff to be taken up by commercial vendors (eg. if you are writing something you want to become a widely used standard).

The second kind says:

"You can use this software for any purpose, modify it, redistribute it, etc. But if you create a derivative piece of software based on this, you must use *this exact same license* for your software."

In Creative Commons terms, this is like CC-BY-SA (aka "Attribution Share-Alike"). The best known software license of this kind is the GNU Public License (GPL). These kinds of licenses are also sometimes known as "copyleft" or "viral" licenses. They restrict re-use to those who are also using the same free/open source license, meaning that many potential commercial re-users may be unwilling or unable to modify/redistribute your code, unless they jump on the open source bandwagon (which, of course, would be a great result!) So, these licenses can be good if you don't want someone to commercialise what you're doing; on the other hand it can discourage wide uptake of your code, because not everyone wants to use the same license as you.

So, what I'd like us to discuss is, which general direction do we prefer?

Option 1:
BSD-style, or CC-BY for non-code parts of our work.
Pros: anyone can re-use, potentially wider uptake, easy to comply with license
Cons: higher potential for third-party commercial exploitation, can't include other people's GPL'd/copyleft software

Option 2:
GPL/copyleft, or CC-BY-SA for non-code parts of our work
Pros: spreads free software philosophy, less potential for third-party commercial exploitation, can incorporate others' GPL/copyleft code
Cons: may discourage wide uptake of our software

And a quick survey of some relevant or otherwise interesting sites/technologies and what they use:

- Dreamwidth: inherited software from Livejournal, where it was originally dual-licensed under the GPL and the non-copyleft Artistic License used by Perl (this sort of dual licensing, allowing people to choose, is common for Perl software but not often seen elsewhere). Dreamwidth uses CC-BY-SA for non-code parts of their site.

- OTW Archive Of Our Own: GPL

- Ruby on Rails: MIT license (BSD style); Ruby itself is under the Ruby License, which is a copyleft (i.e. GPL-like) license.

- Ravelry: included because otherwise people will ask ;) Ravelry is not open source.

- Wikipedia: content CC-BY-SA, underlying software is GPL

- Diaspora: Affero-GPL which is a version of the GPL specifically for people running network services

So, hopefully that's a fairly balanced and informative view of the two main types of license we might want to use. There are definitely advantages to each, though they vary depending on the sort of software you're building. I happen to think that BSD-style licenses are great if you want to build an underlying technology that people will embed in all kinds of things, whereas GPL is better if you are building a single coherent application, but I'm happy to hear opinions to the contrary. To keep things from getting out of hand (which open source license discussions can sometimes do) I'm going to suggest that we limit this conversation to this week only, and aim to reach consensus and commit license files to github along with the work we're doing this iteration.
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
My main task for this iteration (other than coaching) is to come up with a community guidelines document. I've just posted the draft to the mailing list so I'll just copy what I wrote there:

So, I drafted a proposed set of community guidelines. These aren't a full TOS or anything like that, but a short statement of values and then setting out a few specific interpersonal behaviours that aren't welcome, and what we'll do if they happen. I figure that when we get around to having a TOS, we include it by reference, i.e. the TOS will say something like "you agree to abide by our community guidelines".

I've put the document in github and I figure the TOS and any other policies (eg. privacy policy, copyright policy) can go there too. The good thing about having this stuff in github is that if/when we change any of our policies the change history will be visible, and people can see what's different from one version to the next.

Anyway! My draft is at https://github.com/Growstuff/policy/blob/master/community-guidelines.md and I would appreciate people reading it and letting me know what you think. I'm interested in anything ranging from high level conceptual feedback to smaller wording tweaks.
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
Hi everyone! We've come up with the list of stories we'll be working on for iteration 0. They are:

Placeholder website
Dev website
Community guidelines
Twitter account icon

More detail is available in this mailing list post and in the mailing list archives generally.

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