• Useful Plants

last modified March 31, 2017 by strypey

A Useful Plants of Aotearoa website (ie a Wikipedia for plants) would be really useful. It's pages could include both general information about useful plants that grow in Aotearoa, and bioregion-specific information (eg their natural range and propagation tips). In 2010, a web development company called Beatfjsh launched a wiki (user-editable website) for gathering information on edible plants that can be grown in Aotearoa, at Kai.org.nz. That domain name no longer works, but an archived version of the site can be found using the Wayback Machine at Archive.org.

On 10 August 2015, Strypey contacted Beatfjsh to see if APN can get access to the original site, so we can migrate the information to a new host. Unfortunately, the email bounced back, and the company may have gone out of business. Fortunately, it turned out that permaculture.org.nz  webmaster Richard Grevers had already contacted them some time before, and they had agreed to donate the site, including the domain name and the full database, to Permaculture in NZ (PINZ). At that point, Richard was hoping to get Kai.org.nz  back up and running as a PINZ project in the near future, but he has been very busy with the rebuild of permaculture.org.nz.

So what are the options for re-establishing a database based on Kai.org.nz? I would want to check with permaculture kaumātua before continuing to use Kai as a domain name, so for now I will continue using the working title "Useful Plants".

  • it could be developed as part of the PINZ website at permaculture.org.nz. But that site doesn't currently have wiki capacity, and adding it is not in the current roadmap, so the Kai.org.nz  pages would have to be imported into Drupal pages.
  • It could also be hosted here on the APN wiki on CoActivate.org, but the wiki engine used by CoActivate is very different from the MediaWiki software used for Kai.org.nz, and moving the data in and out is likely to be tricky.
  • It could be hosted by Appropedia.org, perhaps as the Aotearoa section of a global collection of Useful Plants pages? A mirror (verbatim copy) of the current contents of all Aotearoa-relevant could be hosted on permaculture.org.nz. It could by synchronized (any change made on Appropedia would be instantly pushed to the mirror), or updated on a regular schedule, eg weekly, or more often if its being heavily edited. Anyone wanting to edit pages would need an Appropedia login.
  • PINZ could set up a fresh instance of MediaWiki on their webserver for a Useful Plants wiki, ideally using the same user logins as permaculture.org.nz. Appropedia could host a mirror, including both the current contents of pages and their edit histories. Anyone wanting to edit pages would need a PINZ/ Useful Plants login, unless it's possible to use a bridge that allows edits made on Appropedia to be pushed to the Useful Plants wiki and vice-versa.

The text in the Kai.org.nz  wiki was published under a CreativeCommons-Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC-BY-SA), which is also the default license of text and other media on permaculture.org.nz. CC-BY-SA is used by Wikipedia.org, WikiEducator.org, Appropedia.org, the OpenStreetMap, and many other collaboratively-authored knowledge commons. There is also information about NZ plants that could be integrated into a Useful Plants wiki on a number of other websites. Where the information on those websites is under a CC-BY-SA (or CC-BY, CC0, or they are in the Public Domain), they can be freely copied and pasted into another site. Where they are under more restrictive copyright (ARR, or CC licenses using the Non-Commercial or No-Derivatives clauses), the information can still be transferred, either as attributed quotes, or by using the restricted sense as a reference for writing new text. 

Two other collaborative plant information commons that cover plants useful in Aotearoa are PracticalPlants.org, and Plants For A Future. The copyright situation on these sites is currently a little unclear. 

PracticalPlants.org: The bottom of each page stating that "Content is available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike unless otherwise noted", however this statement has a link to a copyright page, indicating that the site is in the process of migrating all its original contents to CC-BY-SA, and that some content may be copied from elsewhere under CC-BY, CC0, or they are in the Public Domain. It isn't clear if this licensing situation also applies to the plant photos and other images on the site. Anyone copying content from PracticalPlants would need to check for specific copyright information on the page they are copying, and make sure they include the appropriate license statement, and attribution to the original source (ideally with a link to that source).

Plants for a Future: The bottom of each page states that "All the information contained in these pages is Copyright (C) Plants For A Future, 1996-2012." and that "This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License". It also has a link to a copyright page, with a section of "body text" and a section on "database images". The body text section describes a set of license conditions that sound like, CC-BY-SA, but the license stated is "Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License", and the licence icon indicates a ShareAlike license with the No Commercial Use clause. While the contents of Plants for a Future could be said to be licensed for re-use under all three of these licenses, anyone copying content from their pages would probably best advised to seek clarification from the organisation that runs the site about what CC license they actually intended to use. The database images section indicates that the photos and other images are from various sources and are in some cases being used under the terms of an open license, while others may be used with permission.

Anyone copying photos and other images from either of these sites would need to check for specific copyright situation of the image they are copying, and make sure they include the appropriate license statement, and attribution to the original source (ideally with a link to that source).