• Factor e Farm update 10: taking dirt out of the ground, making bricks, hexayurts

    by  • October 17, 2008 • Hexayurt, The Global Picture • 0 Comments

    They’re financing this on a community supported model – we send them our money and they do the work that the Government should be funding.

    I really want to stress that: this is work that should be government funded, the most natural channel being university research funding. But universities have narrow cultural mandates, do not tend to do this kind of full spectrum innovation, and otherwise just have not been tackling these problems in this kind of extremely involved, hands-on, live in your own gear kind of way. We can’t pool money through paying our taxes and get this sort of work done. We have to pool our money by sending it to Marcin.

    The work they did in putting together and documenting a reasonable approach to making a hexayurt using conventional building materials has really been an enabling step for the Hexayurt project. I was going to take a crack at it in Iceland about three months ago, but the costs were prohibitive. So it was undone, until Marcin and the team got down and dirty and made one. Here’s a picture (and click it for a little of the story.)


    They documented carefully. We have a gig and a half of files, mostly video showing the process of the build and structural details. Unfortunately I’m flat out right now and I don’t have the resources to turn this into a proper video – we all need video editing help because it takes a lot of time to get the good stuff online for people.

    So, bottom line: I’m Vinay Gupta, and I endorse Marcin and the Open Source Ecology team as worthy recipients of your money for four big reasons:

    * They work they are doing is great. It’s important, practical research in vital areas. It’s broad, it’s integrated, and the team doing the work is credible.

    * You can see progress. If you watch the last 10 episodes of the Open Source Ecology Factor e Live updates, you’ll see that tangible goals are set in one episode, and three or four shows later, that built system is being casually used to work on the next task. That’s what Marcin promised, and that’s what Marcin and the team has delivered. Steady, real, documented progress.

    * The work is not being funded by public sources or by conventional NGOs. If we want it done, we have to finance.

    * It’s useful to me, personally, that Marcin and the crew continue to do this. The plywood hexayurt work was great, really enabling for us, and not something I could do from here. That research was done for everybody, including for the Hexayurt Project itself by the Open Source Ecology team. So… you like this, you want it to keep going, you send them money :-)

    Here’s the donation link: FUND MORE OPEN TRACTOR RESEARCH

    We’ve been working on this stuff a while too, and if you’d like to throw us a bone, you can give a few dollars to dreamhost to cover our web hosting bills.

    Right now, in terms of funding ongoing practical research, Marcin’s team is where you send the dollars.

    What I’m doing right now is work like this:

    Our business model is to sell the service of doing this kind of training work to organizations that need it – NGOs, government, business – so the materials are fully open but if you want us to turn up and teach you these things, you pay for our time. That work is happening at The Open Toolbox. As we stabilize more free and open source appropriate technologies into systems that can be deployed at a town, city and county level, we’ll expand and upgrade the service offering. So if you want to support us, find us some clients. We can also handle on the ground implementations of things like conversion of tent cities to hexayurt cities, proactive planning for disaster response, risk assessment and many other services which are useful for larger organizations and government.

    Long term management of funding issues is going to be key to funding engineering research. Here’s the conclusion of a short monograph I wrote on this a few years ago

    So what we need is a new class of entities – not a charity, not a business, not a conventional educational institution. The closest models we have are free/open source software projects where many people throw in a little of their time or money to create something together.

    In free/open source software, the risk is absorbed in two ways. Firstly, the licenses mean that your work is never absolutely wasted because, even in the event of project failure, the code remains available for other uses. The second risk absorber is that people invest spare cycles in free/open source projects most of the time, rather than working on it with the expectation that it will oe day take care of them.

    The big issue is this: for the most part, nobody is dying waiting for their free/open source software to be completed, so spare cycles are enough to get the job done. Plus big companies have the ability to profit from some kinds of free/open source activites, so they are willing to pay and to absorb risk.

    So What Do We Do?

    We need activity directed at building engineering solutions for the developing world, from entities which are not among the current classes of social infrastructure we have (.gov, .mil, .edu, .org) because these bodies have had at least 20 or 30 years since the discovery of appropriate technology, and have done very little to actually roll out the solutions we all know are on the table, hidden somewhere in the laws of nature themselves.

    These new entities provide risk management solutions to engineers who wish to dedicate their lives to working on free/open technology solutions to the pressing and urgent needs of the developing world.

    I want your help defining what such an entity would look like, and then building one.

    Right now, Open Source Ecology is the group closest to the model I proposed in this piece. Let’s fund them to make it a success, and then move forwards together to revolutionize how engineering, charity and aid are done.


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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


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