Remember Beauty



It’s easy when discussing all the problems in our world to forget how beautiful and wonderful this world is.

All around us is a natural beauty that’s there, waiting for us to stumble over it at almost every turn.

As you go through your next few days, try to remember this: There is beauty all around you if you look for it. And that beauty is part of the joy of being alive — remember to look for it and find it when you can. The hard part is simply remembering to look for it.

And when your thoughts weigh you down, that beauty will remind you of the better days you’ll have up ahead.

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Should Green Blogs Discuss Politics?


It seems obvious that politics play a role in society’s response to big environmental issues. America’s response to Global Warming, for example, has been dictated by its political leaders to a great extent. Laws and regulations regarding pollution, auto emissions, treaties, carbon taxes — these are all things that are put in place by governments.

But yet, few blogs that are discuss environmental issues discuss politics. Why is that?

Many political blogs discuss environmental issues, but for some reason environmental blogs don’t usually discuss political issues.

I’ve seen some blog posts encouraging people to vote as one of their responses to environmental issues, but I’ve not seen much in terms of telling people how to vote – or who to vote for.

So I’d like to ask our readers — should we discuss political issues here at 21st Century Citizen?

[poll=5]

And while we’re asking, please let us know wht your personal political leanings are (if you’re comfortable telling us). It helps us to know roughly how many people we’ll offend — because no matter what we discuss, we’ll get some people upset.

[poll=6]

Of course, please expand on your answers and share your thoughts in the comments.

A Simple Step You Can Take: Install a Low Flow Shower Head

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If you’re like most Americans, you probably take a shower every day.

Unless you’re already using a low-flow shower head, you have an opportunity to save some money in addition to cutting back on your family’s environmental impact.

Low Flow Shower Heads are designed to restrict water flow while providing a good shower. We found one at the Real Goods store for $12.00 that they claim will save you 50-70% of your water usage (which for a family of 4 could be up to $25/year in savings).

In terms of Carbon savings, according to this analysis by Environmental Defense, a single low-flow shower head could save over 350 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

I installed one of these recently and it took only about 5 minutes. I purchased the shower head and some “plumber’s tape” for under $10 at Walmart, and I used only a pair of pliers to do the installation.

The water pressure is only a little less that my old shower head and it works fine. After using it a few times now, I don’t even notice a difference.

Overall, it was an easy project with a nice payback — and an easy way to cut down the energy my family uses.

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The Outsized Power of Young People to Change The World

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It surprises me how many people believe that their individual actions make no difference to the world.

In a recent poll on this site, 45% felt that their personal actions “make no difference” with respect to Global Warming. (Of course, many of those responses were from Digg readers, who don’t represent the average reader on this site.)

I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I believe exactly the opposite to be true: Individuals can change the world, and for us to change the course that society is on it will be individuals that will have to lead the changes.

Corporations and Governments are going to change the world — that’s something that us individuals are going to have to do. Governments follow the lead of the people who fund elections, and corporations are focussed on making sure they continue to have short term profits. It’s only individual people who have the ability to change the world when it comes to environmental issues.

I also believe that young people have a dramatically outsized ability to change the world. Here are some examples:

1. Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King was only 24 years old when he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Two years later when the black woman Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus, King became spokesperson for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During the boycott he was arrested and his house was bombed, but he refused to quit — even though he had a young wife and child who, along with him, received constant death threats.

King was the youngest man to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize when he received it in 1964. His “I have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., is widely recognized as one of greatest American speeches of the 20th Century.

2. Bill Gates

Bill Gates was only 19 years old when he read in Popular Electronics about a new ‘personal’ computer that had been designed. He decided, along with his friend Paul Allen, to write software for it. They contacted the maker of the new machine and, within a year, he had taken a leave of absence from Harvard Colege and ‘Micro-soft’ had been founded.

The company they founded changed personal computing and the way people used computers forever. Today, Microsoft products are used worldwide and Bill Gates has become one of the richest people in the history of the world.

3. Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was 26 years old in 1905 when, while working in the patent office as an ‘Assistant Examiner’ when he wrote and got published 4 papers on Physics. Among these papers were groundbreaking ideas on “The Photoelectric Effect”, a important discovery in Physics at that time.

In 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work — with special mention of his early work on the photoelectric effect. In 1999 Einstein was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Century“. A poll of prominent physicists named him the greatest physicist of all time.

Einstein also made important contributions in other areas. His early warnings to US President Franklin Roosevelt regarding the potential for Germany to develop a Nuclear Bomb helped to spur the Manhattan Project. He was an ardent supporter of peace and spoke out for it throughout his life — he once was quoted as saying, “I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.

4. Rebecca Hoskings

Rebecca Hoskings was 31 years old when she traveled to Hawaii to film a documentary on its people and wildlife. But when she witnessed thousands of albatross chicks dying as a direct result of discarded plastics, she was both hurt and mad — and made a decision to make a difference.

Plastic grocery bags were a major culprit — the adult albatrosses saw plastic bags in the water and thought they were squid, so they scooped them up and fed them to the chicks. The chicks stomachs would then be filled with undigestible plastic which would eventually kill them.

So she organized a drive to ban plastic grocery bags in her home town of Modbury in the UK. Her efforts were successful and as of May 1, 2007 non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags are officially banned in her town. Moreover, publicity from this effort has made its way around the world and now many other cities are considering similar bans.

5. Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi was just 24 years old when he moved to South Africa for a 1 year job in South Africa. While there, he witnessed first-hand the discrimination and violence against Indians that was occurring in South Africa at that time. At the end of his 1 year job, he decided to stay on and help organize the fight against a law that was being passed to deprive Indians the right to vote.

A year later he founded the Natal Indian Congress to help organize Indians in South Africa as a political force. He continued to work for the rights of Indians in South Africa for 10 more years, during which time he developed his approach for non-violent demonstration. Eventually, Gandhi’s movement was successful and forced authorities to recognize the rights of Indians in that country.

The organizing skills and approaches developed by Gandhi during this time in his life helped him later when he used the same approaches to work for Independence in India itself. Today he is known as Father of the Nation in India and is recognized around the world as one of the great leaders of the 20th century.

6. Marie Curie

Marie Curie was in her late 20s when she and her husband Pierre began their groundbreaking research into radioactivity. When she was 30, they published a paper announcing the existence of Polonium, a new element. Later that year, they announced their discovery of Radium, another new element. In 1903, at the age of 35 she received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the work she had done in her late 20′s and early 30′s on radioactivity.

Marie also had to overcome discrimination against her for being a woman. Despite graduating first in her high school class, she was initially denied entrance to college because she was female. Despite this, she eventually found her way into the University of Paris where she again graduated first in her class (and later became the first female professor at that university). In 1902 she became the first woman in France to earn a Doctorate degree.

Marie Curie later earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, making her the only person to have ever won a Nobel Prize in more than one scientific discipline.

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Black is the New Green: 10 Energy Saving Search Sites

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Black is the New Green.

At least, that’s the message of a movement sometimes referred to as Black Google.

The idea first appeared in a January 20th blog post by Mark Ontkush, where he examines how much energy could potentially be saved if Google’s background was black instead of white.

His findings? If Google, and only Google, were to change their background color to black, the world could save somewhere around 3,000 Megawatt-hours per year!

The post eventually rose to the top of Digg, and was followed up with another, and more complete, article that explains the science and the numbers behind the
idea.

How Does It Work?

Basically, computer monitors, especially the big clunky CRT monitors that take up most of your desk, consume more energy when the screen is white than when the screen is black. This has been shown to be true of CRT’s, LCD’s, and plasma displays, although the different technologies vary in power consumption.

As Ontkush points out, the savings is “a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes.”

So Why Aren’t All Websites Black?

So why don’t web designers just do it and save us all that energy and money? It’s been shown that people will spend more time at a site done up in warm and welcoming colors than they will one that is primarily dark. What it comes down to is changing peoples’ expectations about how their screen should look.

Adjusting peoples’ expectations is always a difficult thing, but what if we began in the office instead of on he web? In the world of corporate and government organizations, where most of us sit at least 40 hours a week, we use the computer on ‘their’ terms. What would happen if these organizations simply started defaulting the screen to black instead of white?

What You Can Do NOW.

So what do we do while we’re waiting for the corporate IT guru’s to make our screens more environmentally friendly? We can begin changing our own expectations. As with anything habit forming, we’re best off starting small. Several alternative Google search pages use Google’s search technology on a dark screen. Personalized search site, Blacklys.com, even offers a Firefox search add-on.

Social Networking sites now offer the ability change your preferences; why not change your color scheme? Sites like Twitter and MySpace, and Facebook actually encourage customization.

These are little things when we compare our impact to that of Google, but little things add up. The only way to save the energy, the money, and the environmental impact, is if we each make the choice.

Alternative Google search sites:

[via ecoIron blog]

  1. Darkoogle, uses a black background with green text.
  2. Earthle
  3. GreenerGle
  4. Greygle, uses a grey background.
  5. Google Black, is a website hosted by the Google-owned blogspot, however the search results are not in black.
  6. Jabago, uses a black background and allows for searching in many languages.
  7. Ninja
  8. Power Google
  9. Searchincolor.com, an older site that supports Google colored searches since its onset. The default color is black.
  10. Trek Black

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This Green Old House: Introductions

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Introducing This Green Old House – An ongoing column by James Turner

Greetings, and welcome to This Green Old House!

My name is James Turner and over the next months (and maybe years), I hope to share with you some of the strategies and challenges that we’ve faced keeping our 200 year old Colonial farmhouse as green as we can.

Our house was built in 1796 in southern New Hampshire, USA and has been expanded and renovated many times since. The house is huge around 3200 square feet with an attached ‘L’ outbuilding and a 6 stall barn with hayloft. We also own 5 acres of land, about half light forest. We purchased the house and land in 1994. I live here with my wife Bonnie and son Daniel, as well as two cats (Esmerelda the Evil Kitty and Sally O’Malley) and a beagle-lab mix named Virginia.

By profession I am a software engineer, and have an active second career as a freelance writer and editor. You can find examples of my writing at http://www.blackbear.biz/writing.html, and my editing at www.onlamp.com, where I’m site editor. But really, there are days when I think that this house is a third profession, because there are times when it seems like I spend all of my time trying to keep it together and us from going broke.

What This Column Will Be About.

I’m going to spend the first few columns giving you the chronology of James and Bonnie’s battle to cut our fuel bill, which started pretty much the day we moved in. For those of you who don’t know, New Hampshire can get quite cold in the winter, -30F (also -30C) is not uncommon for days at a time. As we are at the top of a rise, we also get brisk winds on occasion (alas, not brisk enough to make a wind turbine feasible.)

Our First Challenge: Staying Warm!

Our house was originally heated by fireplaces, we still have 5 plus an empty spot in our basement when a main heating fireplace once lived. At some point, it was converted to a boiler with radiators, and later to a forced hot water system with baseboard. When we first moved in, it was the middle of January, and the first thing we noticed (other than that the house was freezing a lot of the time) was that we were getting snow INSIDE the windows. The windows were vintage 1930s single pane storm windows, and many of them were cracked.

As soon as the spring came, we started pricing out replacement windows. With 22 windows to replace, price was obviously an issue, and we almost fainted when we got the first quote of over $650 per window — which would have worked out to around $13K! Given we had only paid $85K for the house, it was hard to swallow ponying up a sixth of the purchase price just to fix the windows.

We got quotes from some local contractors, and found a huge variation in price. The contractor we ended up with got us “Low E” argon filled triple pane windows for about $250 installed. Still a good piece of change times 22 windows, but we could deal with $5,500 with a lot more grace than $13,000.

Will Efficient Windows Solve Your Energy Problems? No.

It’s worth talking about windows for a sec, because some salespeople will try to convince you that they are a magic bullet that will fix all your energy problems. There’s no question that getting good energy efficient windows will cut down your heat signature, but don’t expect (as we did) that it’s going to cut your fuel bill in half. We eventually did cut our bill in half, but it was years and several projects down the line.

So, we entered winter #2 with new windows, no snow inside the house, and visions of fuel bills dancing in our heads. Unfortunately, the magic K factor on our oil bills didn’t change appreciably. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading a fuel oil bill, the K factor is derived by taking the degree days for a given period and dividing by the amount of fuel you used in the same period. It’s usually measure from delivery to delivery, and the higher the number is, the more efficiently you’re using your oil.

Personally, I think that whoever does the formulas for the fuel companies is smoking something, because when I’ve done the calculations it never comes out the same as their’s. This may explain why their “automatic delivery program” has left us out of oil in a cold house on many occasions.

In any event, I was a bit discouraged after the new windows didn’t take much of a bite out of our bill, and in the next column, we’ll continue the saga with the Quest for Insulation.

James Turner is site editor for O’Reilly’s ONLamp.com, a software engineer and the author of The Watering Hole comic strip. He has written for publications as diverse as the Christian Science Monitor, Processor, Linuxworld Magazine, Developer.com and WIRED Magazine.

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Are Your Attitudes Toward Global Warming Changing?

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A recent Poll by Gallup and Yale University is suggesting that the attitude of Americans toward Global Warming is changing — and changing fast.



For example:

  • 72% are either ‘Completely Convinced’ or ‘Mostly Convinced’ that “global warming is happening”.
  • 69% are convinced that Global Warming is caused either completely or partially by human activities. (57% believe that human activities are directly to blame.)
  • 67% Strongly favor “Requiring automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks, and SUVs to 35 miles per gallon, even if it meant a new car would cost up to $500 more to buy.” An additional 12% “somewhat favor” this step.
  • 82% either ‘strongly favor’ or ‘somewhat favor’ “Requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year.”

What do you think?

[poll=4]

Another interesting thing about this poll was how people believe they personally can impact Global Warming. Only 69% disagreed with the statement: “The actions of a single person won’t make any difference in reducing global warming.”

That is — about 70% of Americans believe that their personal actions can make a difference with regard to global warming.

What do you believe? Can your personal actions make a difference? Yes or no?

[poll=3]

If you answered no — please leave a comment telling us why you feel that way. If you answered Yes, tell us some of the steps your taking — and what you’d like to find more information on.

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Is Organic Too Expensive? How Much is Organic worth?

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Let’s Face it. Organic is Expensive.

When I marketed Organic food to few consumers, they nodded in agreement about the goodness and health benefits. But the one question that I squirmed at was, “I heard its expensive, what’s the difference?”. At the end of the day it all boils down to the economics.

Before I entered the business, people said, that the difference would be 20%. Its only when I got about selling Organic produce that I understood the true value. It shot up to be 50% to almost 100% more expensive than the regular produce.

I could not sell. The mere thought of a consumer, “I get food for half the price in the super store with air conditioner and parking facility”, cannot compete with my humble room that held wooden shelves and bamboo baskets of organic produce. The inquisitive ones never returned and the regulars picked up a packet or two to satisfy their guilt. For weeks I went under loss and could not bear the sight of rotting vegetables and bug infested grains. I closed.

What is the benefit of making something that’s good but will not sell locally? Export is not an option I wish not to take to promote being local.

When I started to look for reasons for the exorbitant prices here are a few causes:

Organic Food is not subsidized food

After World War II countries who took to Green Revolution satisfied hunger and famine with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Governmental policies till date stand in favour of them. So you might pay lesser for a regular veggie in the market but you still pay for the fertilizers through your taxes. There is no such subsidy for organic manure or bio-inputs.

It is labour intensive

Farmers do not use herbicides, so they control weeds by pulling them out. Many organic methods use lesser or no machinery and require great human care during seeding and plucking.

Low yields initially

Those who convert to Organic Farming lose 3 years as conversion period and yields reduce drastically. The soil is dead with chemicals that have killed essential micro-organisms. It takes that long to revive the earth and diminish the residual effect.

Misconception of niche audiences

A middle class man asked me to leave his grocery store and said “Take your organically grown rice and feed the elite, upper class who will agree with your ideologies”. People look at Organic Food as something that is delicate, precious and to be admired at a distance, but impractical for living.

Retailers are out to get your money – wrong!

Most retailers do not keep high margins on their products just because it is “Organic”. Infact those who sell Organic products know that they can never hope to make great profits and do it for the passion and dedication. When they buy it from the farmer, they procure it at the cost that you find on the store shelves of non-organic produce.

Hype on Organic

Right to the farmer level, the hype of Organic Food has also contributed to price increase, but these are proving to settled down with more competition and expansion of the market.

The need for change

Its easy to convert the soil to Organic but not the Human mind. We are conditioned to such sub-standards and mis-conceptions of science for years in the argument of feeding the masses. Organic Fields have proven this wrong with better yields. Governments are no longer dependable as they yield to the giants of agro-chemicals, bio-technology and eat up more cultivable lands for industries.

Consumerist behaviors have to change and its time we bow down to and support the producer who provides us good health.

I invite people to give suggestions to make this change happen.


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Introducing ‘Tech Tuesday’!

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(From Kevin — We are proud to launch a new feature today on 21st Century Citizen: Tech Tuesday! Please welcome Matt Murphy!)

About Me

I ‘discovered’ 21st Century Citizen via Twitter. That, perhaps, is a good indication of where my interests and background lay. My name is Matthew Murphy. I work as a business analyst, blogger, freelance writer, and web design consultant. In other words, I’m a geek. Besides the geek thing, I’m also passionate about environmental issues. I have been ever since I can remember.

I grew up with a strange dichotomy of technology and nature. My mother taught me all about lightning bugs and grasshoppers, and how the night crawlers come out after the rain. My father has always been a technologist. Back in the days when computers didn’t even have hard drives, he took computers to preschools and taught the kids to play educational games. Before most kids knew what a computer was, we had a dozen or so in our basement.

Attitudes & Goals

Many people seem to feel that technology is an enemy of the environment. In fact, I recently listened to a podcast in which a lawyer argued that the only way to save our planet was to devolve our technology. I don’t have the answer to the question of saving our planet. I don’t even think that there is just one answer. But I get angry when I hear things like this. You can’t blame what we’ve done or haven’t done on a thing or a tool. In fact, I’m quite certain that we need our technology if we really want to save the planet.

This column, Tech Tuesday, was really Kevin’s idea. I’m quite honored to be a part of 21st Century Citizen in this way. Kevin is giving me the opportunity to really dig in and focus on what is happening in the tech world that is important to the 21st Century Citizen community. Although my goals for this column will certainly evolve over time, there is one goal that will be in the forefront of my writing here. That is, to dissolve the ‘technology vs. the environment’ mentality.

Possibilities

Technology is a really broad topic. Where do you start? The hinge on your door is technology. Fire is technology. Technology impacts the environment in so many ways. We constantly hear stories of industrial waste being dumped or computers and electronics being shipped to countries like China instead of being recycled. While I worry about these things, I don’t know much more than you do about them. My background is in telecommunications and web applications, so the many of my articles talk about ways in which the internet influences how we approach the environment. I’m constantly amazed by the possibilities created by emerging web technologies. Educators are using Skype to reach far off students. The people in third world countries are using YouTube to show Westerners what life is really like for them. Even the candidates for the upcoming presidential election are leveraging the internet to extend their reach to a new class of voters. And did you know that the entire Live Earth concert was broadcast over the internet?

Once again, I’m honored to be able to reach out to the 21st Century Citizen community like this. I can’t wait to share my excitement with you. I hope that this column grows into a dialogue where we can trade ideas about how we can use technology to bring our world back in balance. I also invite you to visit my own blog, where I share my ideas on web technology, the environment, and, occasionally, my love of fine teas.

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What Every Citizen Needs to Know NOW About Collaborating with Others On-Line.

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One of the primary ways that people are banding together to solve common problems is by using the Internet to collaborate with others. Whether the common problems they faces are around the world or down the block, there are great tools to use to help people get organized and work together to solve problems.

This guide will help you understand what the options are and how to move ahead and get organized!

Here are the 6 main categories of tools used and specific examples each and how to get started sing them.

1. E-Mail ‘mailing lists’, On-Line Groups and Forums

Early Internet users focussed primarily on e-mail listservers and newsgroups to share information and collaborate. Today, these two services are generally provided as combined services — meaning users can share information either by receiving e-mails every time someone posts an idea, or they can read posts left for the group through an on-line web interface similar to old-fashioned news groups.

Currently, the two most popular of these services are Yahoo Groups and Google Groups. They provide all the capabilities you need to:

  • Create groups and manage membership.
  • Send and receive e-mails to/from the group.
  • Browse and search or post new messages through a web-interface (similar to using a news group).

The Freecycle Network is an example of a group that’s been wildly successful in getting people to work together world-wide, yet they’re based primarily on local groups who are each using Yahoo Groups.

One problem with these on-line groups is that all group communications are public and stored in the archives at Yahoo and Google.

If your group does not want all their discussions to be publicly archived, a good option may be to use traditional e-mail list server software such as GNU Mailman or Majordomo. These options allow you to host the communications privately and have better control over the discussion archives, although they require reasonable technical skills to manage and maintain.

Many Internet hosting providers give you tools to create and manage e-mail discussion lists — and these can simplify things a lot if you want to host your own. For example, our hosting provider (Site5) gives you the ability to create and manage e-mail lists using GNU Mailman in their user control panel.

On-Line Forums are many times more random in scope than email lists or groups. But still, there are a powerful tool for collaborating with others. This is especially true for websites that want to help their readers share ideas and engage in general discussion.

Most Internet hosting providers provide free forum software as part of their basic hosting packages. Again, as an example our hosting provider (Site5) provides a couple options including phpBB2 and SMF.

2. Wikis

Wikis are great places to collaborate with other people and share important information. Wikipedia, of course, is the best know wiki on the Internet with literally millions of users world-wide.

Here are some other examples of great wikis:

  • DKosopedia
    A collaborative project focused on political and social change organized by the dailykos community.
  • Seacoast Eat Local
    A wiki put together by local bloggers in Southern New Hampshire, USA for people to share knowledge on local food options in their local area.
  • The FlatPlanetProject
    A wiki used by high school students to demonstrate the capabilities of working with others to organize and share information.

One of the really valuable things about wikis is that they stay around for a while. If you start a wiki then move on to other projects, someone else can come along a year later and build on your work. By getting the wiki started, you’ve organized at least part of the available knowledge and given the others a head start.

As with mail lists and groups, you can host your own wiki or find free ones on the Internet. Two of the examples here are built using the free wiki site Wkispaces. If you want to host your own wiki, we recommend starting here with this comparison of wiki software on Wikipedia.

It’s also important to consider the licensing terms you use for your wiki. To maximize the ability for you to cut/paste/copy other work into your wiki (as well as allow others to re-use your work in their projects) we recommend the GNU Free Documentation License. This license allows you, for example, to freely copy and reuse articles from Wikipedia, dailykos or any number of other sites that use the same license.

3. Blogs

One of the best ways to collaborate with others is to launch a blog with a team of dedicated individuals all posting on a specific topic. Some of the best examples of this are political blogs such as DailyKos, Think Progress and Little Green Footballs. These sites have literally hundreds of thousands (or millions) of readers who come there to share ideas, contribute thoughts and help to organize around ideas.

But many of the most effective blogs when it comes to organizing are much smaller and more focussed in nature. Here are just a couple great examples of groups of individuals blogging together for a common purpose:

Here are some other examples of great local blogs:

  • Seacoast Eat Local
    A group of individuals working to promote local food options in their area.
  • Blue Oregon
    A political blog focussed on local political issues in the state of Oregon
  • SM Baykeeper Blog
    A blog focussed on local environmental issues in Santa Monica, CA, USA. One recent post, for example, helped to Coastal Cleanup Day in and around Santa Monica.

While setting up your own hosted weblog isn’t that complicated if you’ve got the skills, many beginners Choose to just use the simple (and free!) services offered by Blogger.com or WordPress.com — either of these choices make it simple to setup and run your own blog quickly.

4. Skype Chat

Skype is a great communications tool for a number of reasons. First it’s free and allows for free calls around the world — but also because of it’s lesser-know chat capabilities.

Skype allows chats to be bookmarked and returned to at any later time. And the chats, once created, don’t die unless someone specifically kills them.

This allows for the creation of on-line chats where members can stop in any time and review messages they’ve missed. They can also drop in to say a few things, then leave — knowing the other chat members will pick their posts up when they get on-line.

This is especially good because it’s free and available world-wide. I personally work with groups of users on Skype chats that involve people from all over the world. We drop in and out and work together on ideas. It’s a great medium worth checking out.

5. On-line document development and sharing.

There are a number of ways to author and share documents on-line. The one I use most and like best is Google Documents. It’s easy to use, is always available, and makes it easy to share documents with other people.

I use this personally to work with other writers on posts to this weblog — even though those writers live in different states or around the world anywhere.

Another on-line document sharing service I’ve used that I liked a great deal is Backpack, from 37 Signals. Backpack provides another simple way to organize and share information as well as other features such as document storage, to do lists, and ways to organize information.

6. Basecamp

While my exposure to Basecamp (another 37 Signals product) has been minimal, I’ve seen enough to know it’s powerful and easy to use — although it’s not a free option. It’s good for larger groups that need to organize material to be delivered on a schedule.

Here are a couple quotes from individuals I know who are in love with the Basecamp:

Shea Gunther (StumbleGod and co-author of Ecotality Life):

“I’ve been using Basecamp for the past two years plus and frankly wouldn’t want to imagine my internet life without it. It’s an awesome tool for organizing teams of bloggers. It’s clean, it’s simple, and it just works.”

Chris Baskind (Author of LighterFootstep.com):

“We use Basecamp to handle all of our project planning for Vida Verde Media. One of the coolest uses we’ve come up with is coordinating our writer’s cooperative. We can set deadlines, track contributions, and share files — it really holds us together. It’s a great tool for decentralized workgroups.”

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