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Requests on PlantCatching, a misunderstood feature

Posted on March 22, 2014 • Comments:

On PlantCatching, it’s of course possible to offer any plant (this is even the platform’s main feature), and you will be happy when grabbing what other gardeners give. But there is also a third base feature that is less mentioned: plant requests. It doesn’t mean it’s not known and used since so many red markers flourish on the map, especially during this long winter we endure in Quebec where gardeners rightfully think more about their needs rather than what they will be able to offer. However, this feature is quite misunderstood by many users (or badly explained, hence this article) and I often receive these 2 questions by email:

  1. I saw on the map someone who is looking for something I have but I don’t know how to contact him...
  2. And inversely: I am registering a request but it seems like nobody can contact me. How does it work?

Despite a paragraph on this subject in the FAQ, I have to remind you about what requests exactly are. PlantCatching must not be seen as a classic classifieds web site. Before all, this service is a way to connect gardeners together in order to create a huge communal resource of plants, seeds and materials mainly (and food if you take into account the Incredible Edible geo-referencing and surplus produce sharing). The keyword is “communal”, which means that when something is shared, this is for all PlantCatching visitors. Making a precise request of plants or seeds in this context becomes something far more personal. I don’t say this is bad, far from it. Incidentally I have registered some requests on the site. I’m just trying to explain that asking something is almost a luxury. This feature takes all its meaning when one thinks about it this way:

When creating a specific request (let’s say some seedling trays) on PlantCatching, it’s as if you were shouting to all visitors something like "Is there someone who shares some seedling trays, preferably close to me”? Users with an account see the latest requests in their area on a small dashboard. They can react right away by offering the items that are requested, simply in the usual way. This is up to the enquirer to pay attention to the recent offerings and, here again, a dashboard shows them to him almost instantly. Proceeding like this has several benefits:

  1. Everyone has a chance to get shared items.
  2. This helps to build a balanced and increasing offer and demand on a platform that is, don’t forget it, young and fragile. A publicly shared plant, as opposed to one that is shared over the phone, is an additional marker on the map and another motivation for the visitors to use the service. Think about it when a citizen tries to seed PlantCatching in a new city where there are no markers at all on the map...
  3. This also saves me the painful development of a private messaging feature (time and cost). All this is voluntary, please remember it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, PlantCatching is not a robotic and inhuman system, and it’s totally understandable that someone may wish to offer an item to the person who requested it. Without my intervention, users often find their own solutions. This morning, I was monitoring the activity and saw a listing in Belgium, near Brussels, starting with: "In response to the request of a neighbor nearby [...]" which clearly specifies the aforementioned preference. Myself, I have a listing that reads "[…]. I saw a request at 7km from me on the map, so I’m proposing […]".

I hope you understand this principle and will embrace it. I say it again: Together, let’s build a huge resource of plants, materials and food, for us gardeners.

PlantCatching is now supported by horticultural and urban agricultural professionals

Posted on February 25, 2014 • Comments:

As you know, it's possible since last year to promote an horticultural or (urban) agricultural event , as long as it is free for the visitors and there is no underlying commercial activity. This is a wonderful way to give some visibility to organizations and individuals who wish to reach as much gardeners as possible. This feature has largely been used with no less than 189 events and gatherings published last year in Quebec, France and Belgium.

But the free activities are not the only ones to take place in your city. One can also find conferences, courses and workshops proposed by famous and less famous great people and organizations, all passionate about what they are doing and offering. There are also professionals (in the broad meaning of that term) who offer specialized services and organize open doors or participate to exhibitions. That's why I want to offer them, through PlantCatching, the opportunity to promote their events and activities among gardeners like you and me who use the platform.

These events are highlighted in the geolocalized results by a small orange icon representing bamboos, symbols of the support that the professionals will want to give to this project. I hope that you too will support them by participating to their activities you will discover through your city.

There are multiple benefits for all:

  • Visitors of the PlantCatching platform are gardeners (often the most passionnate ones) and this is exactly the target audience that you, professionals, try to reach. Their number is constantly increasing, therefore, so will be your visibility.
  • Gardeners will gain access to more event offerings. Note that I don't PlantCatching to become a trash can full of agressive and bland campaigns, so I will ensure that only the best will be proposed to you. It is out of the question to find a marker on the map showing a discount for a category of plants in a shop on a given day. However, conferences on subjects that matter to you or quality courses (see later in this post) are examples of what will be accepted and promoted.
  • Professionals will support PlantCatching by helping me pay production and development costs. By doing so, supporters of such an initiative, appreciated by all gardeners, will necessarily be rewarded, thanks to a good image. The cost for them is ridiculously low and I count on the multiplicity. Just imagine one moment an annual membership at 19$ and event tickets at 6$ each (less if purchased in quantities) and compare it with usual advertisements. It's really worth it.

If I chose today to mention this to you, this is because two professionals in the horticultural domain have jumped at the chance. I let you discover their events in Montréal and Québec:

  • Near Montreal, this is Albert Mondor, famous horticulturist, who invites you to visit his "jardin du futur" in Laval during 4 days starting Feb 27. I quote him (in french): "Le Jardin du futur est un aménagement paysager fort original dans lequel les végétaux comestibles et médicinaux côtoient les plantes tropicales. Ainsi, agaves, bettes à carde, choux, palmiers et romarins sont judicieusement mis en valeur par diverses structures faites d’acier et de verre récupérés".
  • In Québec, Lili Michaud, not less famous agronomist, proposes 4 quality workshops, from the seedlings steps to gardening inside containers, at several dates during the season. Knowing well the books written by Lili, I can assure you that you end her courses perfectly equipped to succeed with your vegetable projects.

As usual, all this is a vast experiment, but you easily understand that this new development is of a critical importance for the future of PlantCatching, a service whose costs increase proportionnaly with its renown. I hope to get your feedback and suggestions about the way all this is done and evolves. If needed I will fintetune this feature. And if you were pleased by a "professional" or commercial event, don't hesitate to mention it on the web.

Starting now, I strongly encourage you to spread the word in your network, showing at the same time your support to the PlantCatching adventure and bringing potential event publishers. You may know organizations or companies that will be interested by this new service... If yes, send them this page address or the press release posted on facebook. Together, let's create a forest of bamboos that will ensure a bright future for PlantCatching!!

PlantCatching on Flipboard and other news readers

Posted on February 8, 2014 • Comments:

It makes now a long time that I use news readers to read blogs I like. This is very practical to be able to do it from a single place. It saves time and I get only the blogs that have been updated since my last visit. No need to check the others. At first, I was doing it from my PC with Google Reader. But Google Reader is no more since it has been discontinued. I replaced it with Feedly that was also working in my browser but even more on my tablet. One can get an even enriched experience with Flipboard (and other alternatives) thanks to a magazine effect.

Only today, I wondered how the PlantCatching blog was looking on Flipboard. Here it is:

PlantCatching on Flipboard

I invite you to follow PlantCatching's news in your preferred news reader. Get this feed URL to find it: http://feeds.feedburner.com/plantcatching_blog_en. I also added a small feedly button on this blog.

PlantCatching pays itself a visit to many web sites

Posted on September 10, 2013 • Comments:

As everyone here knows, PlantCatching is a citizen project aimed at all gardeners, and the major challenge of such a project is to make it visible in many areas of the world. As such, I invested myself to spread the word at public events and I offered to freely send flyers to those requesting them. I also sent hundreds of emails and made numerous phone calls. For the rest, I must count on gardeners themselves, those who truly want to see PlantCatching be seeded in their area and consequently get more offer and demand. The Seed you city page gives many ideas to meet this goal. I repeat it loud and clear: your help and commitment are necessary to make things happen.

Despite everything, I continually have to find new ideas to promote PlantCatching and make it known to new gardeners. I found a new way and, you will see it, this is plain logic. SO far, many web site owners kindly wrote about PlantCatching, usually on their blog. Some did it in forums. Others added a link inside a resource page. All these mentions are useful but it makes this information very volatile and made unreachable because of new articles and content posted on top of it.

Let me introduce the new PlantCatching Widget. A widget, for those you don't know, is a little box often found in the left or right column of a web site, beside the main content. It's always visible et shows dynamically some informations coming from the service provider web site. You are used to weather and social networks widgets like those from twitter and facebook. TIme for PlantCatching to do the same by displaying plant donations, requests, events and Incredible Edible containers from a given city. The data is synthetized since the widget must stay simple and should not supplant the main PlantCatching web site. That's why clicking on an item will redirect you to plantcatching.com to read more.

PlantCatching Widget (list mode)PlantCatching Widget (map mode)

Today, I am publishing version 1 which only displays plant donations. I will add all other data as soon as I can find time for developing it further.

If you are a web site owner, mainly talking about gardening and urban agriculture in a particular geographical area (but I won't limit you to these domains since everyone is welcome), I invite you to install this widget so that your readers can know about PlantCatching from the homepage and see at a glanceothe offered and requested plants in their area. Don't be afraid if the widget displays only a message telling that there is nothing offered right now. One has to start somewhere and it's time to invite gardeners to participate.

The widget is already live on these sites (in french):

  • Le potager urbain Michel and Josée, the makers of the now famous vegetable garden in front of their house and authors of the guide du potager urbain (I wrote a chapter), are happy to help PlantCatching in Drummondville and beyond.
  • Jasmine Kabuya Racine, horticulturist, has a very nice blog where she talks about her passion. She links the widget to Montreal to show a maximum of results.
  • Isabel Perin has created Echos Jardins, an association based on shared gardens. She offers plants on PlantCatching and shows it in the widget that was empty without that, in the Montélimar area. She added the map option, a good way to grasp where the action is.

This widget could make a real difference. Please, install it to help the good cause (you will need an account) and let me know on what site. I truly thank you in adavance.

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