CD3WD Project

[2013-06-30 Sun] I'm nearly finished reading Annalee Newitz's Scatter, Adapt, and Remember. I will have more to say about her book when I'm finished, but I wanted to mention a the CD3WD project which she wrote about in the book. Newitz described CD3WD as something that could potentially be used as a primer to rebuild civilization after a collapse.

CD3WD stated mission is a little more down to earth. Their website says that CD3WD's purpose is to create "a free but high quality collection of practical How-To Technical Development Information - helping the 3rd world to help itself." But Newitz is correct, in many respects CD3WD could be used as a source for rebuilding after a collapse. The person behind CD3WD is Alex Weir, an expat Microsoft-stack software programmer, based in Botswana. He has obviously been trying to sell the idea project to the NGO community:

The International Community and International and local NGO's for some strange reason have zero or even negative interest in cd3wd - maybe they can see the writing on the wall - a dynamic and self-sufficient 3rd world which has democratically and peacefully shaken off its pro-Western and its anti-Western charlatan dictator-presidents will have little or no need for NGO's. This lack of interest and hostility is however regrettable, since their involvement could hasten their own departure.

I think a case could also be made for encouraging the adoption and use of OSS (Open Source Software) in developing countries, where vendor lock-in is used as a means of keeping whole countries dependent on multi-national corporations like Microsoft and Oracle.

Aside from that, Weir has put together an invaluable collection of material and is making it available for free via the Web, Bit Torrent, as well as on DVD and other physical media.

The danger is, that if he can't get NGO's and governments interested, the project could be lumped in with the people who are most interested in the collection at the moment; doomsday preppers, survivalists and the every man for himself crowd. That would be be a shame because the everything they stand is a complete opposite of what Weir is trying to achieve. Weir wants to build a better world, not give up hide in a bunker while everything falls apart around them.

I believe that part of the disinterest on the part of many NGO's is that many people working for NGO's are from developed countries. They are middle-class latte slurpers, with iPhones and 3G access to the Internet. It's difficult to get them to understand why such a collection was needed, because you can swipe your finger across your phone any time and just Google it.

The second problem, from my perspective, is that the collection is pretty much just a JBOF (just a bunch of files). There is little structure to the collection, and no context. A very large number of the documents only make sense in the context for the audience they were intended for. There are all sorts of files that describe methods for doing things like building with bamboo, but they are worthless in SE Asia because they are written so that people from Western countries can understand Asian building techniques. They are a terrible way of documenting those techniques for people who live there.

And that contexual mismatch will only grow over time. Weir has undertaken a task of heroic proportions, but it is only a first step. Plan CDDR is designed to take collections like this, and capture the context that is needed to make the collection useful irrespective of where it is used, and to remain useful for a very long time into the future.

 This post was imported from the previous blog. Some editing may have been done to fit the new format.

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