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About the web project

What is the web project?

The web project is a bit like the canopy layer of a rainforest - a forest dweller looking for information and people related to something they are interested in (but have no immediate knowledge of) could pop their heads above the canopy to find others interested in the same things from around the rainforest, identify them, then drop back into the forest to converse and meet in a local way.

The Transition Network site will provide a wide (global) perspective on Transition activities. Our 'core data' is about initiatives, projects, people and events. These will be categorised by the Transition Themes and location, enabling any user to find information relating to a theme and/or their location.

Thus someone who wants to know more about 'Energy' can go to the energy page and see initiatives, projects, events and people from around the movement who have expressed an interest in, or doing projects in that topic. Said person could then look at these initiatives or projects and then get directly in contact with them.

Many websites want people to spend loads of time on them; it provides advertising revenue or proves something to the bosses who are funding it. We aren't so keen on this view - energy is used to provide every web page, so the more you tinker on the web, the more carbon you are burning. As well as that, the purpose of the web project is to support the goals of Transition Network, one of which is to help people build their local communities - and to be honest, we think that the best way to build local communities is to go out and meet your neighbours, not sit in front of the computer rowing with them in online forums.

So we want the site to be quick, easy and effective at helping users find the knowledge and people they need, and put them in touch, and then encourage them to go offline and do stuff locally!

The purpose of this website is to

  • Inspire, educate and connect people with a view to helping them to:
    • join/start a transition group in their area
    • start up innovative projects with others in their transition group
    • learn to work cooperatively in groups
    • all of the above to help them move towards TAKING ACTION WITH OTHERS
  • Enable transitioners to self organise
  • Encourage people to add their community projects and search what others have done
  • Encourage people to add their community initiatives so that other local people know who to contact if they want to get involved 

The technical structure of the web project

The web project is the over-arching term to cover all of the different services that we will be using on the web to support Transition Network (the charity set up to support the movement) and the Transition Towns Movement (the body of people that make up the initiatives, events, projects, connections and thinking).

The services the project is supporting can roughly be described like this:

  1. Transition Network website: the organisational 'presence'; who we are and what we do, contact, newsletter subscription etc.
  2. Community services: 'groupware' for initiatives, projects and networks, forums for wider discussions
  3. The directories: initiatives, projects, events, users, news (underpinning 1 and 2)
  4. The heavy tech stuff: domain name management: URLs, DNS lookup tables, subdomains, relationships between groupware and drupal configs etc.
  5. The Sharing Engine: aggregating all the news from the movement, indexing it, making it searchable and re-syndicating it out to the movement again

(The Transition Towns community stuff is very important indeed, and a bit of 2, 3, 4, 5)

Web project areas diagram
Web project areas diagram

The human structure of the web project

The web project is a balance of different inputs from different people with different experiences and offers. It answers to the Transition Network board ultimately, but we try to distribute decision-making authority to those who know the most about the decision.

1. Core team:

Ben Brangwyn
Ben Brangwyn
Jon and Gary
(Jon and) Gary Alexander

Core team people:

  • Ben Brangwyn (Transition Network co-founder)
  • Gary Alexander (Voluntary expert, Transition East)
  • Ed Mitchell (Transition Network web co-ordinator)

Purpose of core team:

  • momentum
  • balance
  • guidance
  • approval
  • conflict resolution
  • long term view
  • external view

2. Transition Technologist group:

These are the people who are actually building the website. It is not possible to be too complimentary about the Transition Technologists. They are simply fantastic. We are working to tight deadlines with limited budgets, no project manager, no 'boss', nothing that the normal web development world would provide us with traditionally. The individuals in the team are all 'drupal' friendly with direct experience of Transition. They could all deliver the website as indvidual freelancers in competition with eachother, but chose to work together to forge the beginnings of a technical group to support the movement.

They are the beginning of a widening Transition Technologist group, which ultimately could be a self-governing workers' co-op to provide suitable, reliable and affordable services to the Transition Towns movement, whatever website platform they are using.

In this context, the Transition Technologists have self-organised to collaboratively design the web system, identify and take on the different roles required to build it, negotiated diplomatically through the conflicts arising when doing websites, share a budget (rather than fight over differing day rates), share decisions, ... oh I could go on for days on how excellent this group is. As well as all this, they are considering the processes for the future co-op - how to share money when our current society tells us to horde it? How to resolve conflict in a distributed team? What processes need to be in place before we invite more people to join? etc.

Oh, and they built a fully functioning resilient open source publishing platform which means that anyone suitable can join the group and get coding. Without this, we would be stuck with one supplier, which would mean we wouldn't have the flexibility of being able to share the Transition codebase in the future.

Oh, and they did this on the strength of only one meeting - having never met before - the rest has been all online. Anyone who knows how tough (a) building websites is, and (b) facilitating online groups is, will appreciate what an achievement this is.

Like I say. An astounding group. Setting the path for great things in the future.

 

Transition Technologist group
Transition Technologist group (missing Chris)

People (and some sort of areas of interest):

Purpose of group:

  • Provide reasonable, reliable, knowledge-able technical support to the Network and the Movement as a whole
  • Share design and development work for project in a democratic and open manner
  • Deliver website and related services within budget
  • Maintain website and related services within budget
  • Establish working practices and processes before group opens in 2010

The Technologist group is currently 'closed' so that we can work together as a core initialising team to establish the processes and checks and balances and money and quality and stuff. It will be opened up to a wider group of people mid 2010.

The board:

They who the web project formally reports to. The bridge between the funders and the project. The representatives of the different parts of Transition Network.

Transition Network board
most of (and some guests) the Transition Network board

The funders:

Naturally we are big gratitude to our funders who make this all possibly financially. The Tudor Trust is an independent grant-making trust which supports UK-based organisations addressing social, emotional and financial needs of people at the margins of society, and particularly smaller under-resourced organisations which offer direct services and which involve the people they work with in their planning.

The web host: 

We are working with Web Architects who provide environmental/ecological/ethical/green/transition-friendly web hosting service as a worker's co-op.