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PlantCatching 2 is online

Posted on March 2, 2015 • Comments:

After 3 years of existence and a very nice success, here is what can be called version 2 of this web site since there are so many new features and enhancements. It is also representative of a new direction and of a vision that has evolved since the launch in 2012. There is now more place for users, as well as for professionals who will gain a whole new visibility with them.

I already published 5 articles, which give you all the details about this update. That's why I will be brief by just giving you a checklist of what you should do in priority:

  1. For those who wish to have a user profile, it's time to find a name (it can be your real name or a nickname) and to book the last part of your personal URL (it must be unique throughout PlantCatching).

  2. Under your account, if not already done, set your location. Don't be afraid, your address is confidential. Even better, you can write a non precise address and move a marker to set your more or less exact position on a map. At the minimum, use "city, country". Add a street if you can (no need of the number if you worry about it) since it's easier for me to debug geolocation bugs and issues when they happen.

  3. Check your plants and other items requests. The five fields in the form have been merged into a single free text field. It may happen that your text has been truncated during the operation, or you may wish you write it differently.

  4. Those of you who have the PlantCatching widget with a map on their web site, please generate the widget HTML code again. A "zoom" field has been added to fix the initial scale of the map.

  5. A Pricing field has been added to the Bamboo events. The active events should be edited and saved again after filling this field.

You won't see any or a lot of Bamboo Notes at first. Professionnals will take the time to adopt this concept and then write their first Notes. However, you will see a few of mines.

At last I need to remind that any user is now able to support the PlantCatching project by making a donation or by purchasing a Bamboo Shoot account. If you like this platform, or simply if you think that it merits its place because sharing the biodiversity and solidarity are important, please think about supporting your platform during the season or even now. The future of this site depends on everyone. Thank you.

Professionals and organizations clearly visible on PlantCatching

Posted on February 24, 2015 • Comments:

This article is the 5th of a series of 6:

  1. PlantCatching 2.0, modern and beautiful, available soon
  2. Improvements pretty much everywhere
  3. User profiles show up on PlantCatching
  4. Bamboo divisions to share
  5. Professionnels et organismes bien visibles sur PlantCatching

As I was mentioning in my previous post, so far Bamboo accounts were useful for professionals in horticulture and urbain agriculture to highlight their events. This is a good thing, but the visibility of the professional itself has proved to be too short-lived, since when an event is finished he disappears of the map. That's why the Bamboo account had to evolve toward something far more practical.

With the next major update of the site, a professional Bamboo will get a profile. But as opposed to the Bamboo Shoot account, his profile will be a permanent one on a dedicated page that is indexed by search engines. Here is how it could look in my case:

One can see a mini profile (a bit longer than regular ones) on the left, a more complete text on the right and a list of next planned events. If the Bamboo is willing to share plants, the page will also show a list of his listings as well as requests if any.

There are several ways to access this page and it should be well-liked by Bamboo account owners as well as users.

  1. The main map is given a new tab, which you maybe already noticed if you have been attentive while reading the article in this series containing a screenshot of the tab. Its goal is straightforward since clicking it will display all Bamboos surrounding you. Be curious: go and discover them. It's a good way to thank them for supporting PlantCatching.

  2. Having a profile also means having a custom URL, as for regular accounts. Therefore, a Bamboo can be found with an address such like this one, which could be placed on the web site of the professional:

    http://plantcatching.com/me/fourfarms
  3. Bamboos can be reached through the events they publish on the platform. In the following picture, you can see that the event organizer, Albert Mondor in this case, is clearly visible thanks to his mini profile.

  4. Once again, if a Bamboo is willing to share plants or other items, you could stumble upon a profile just by reading one of his listings. On this matter, how best can a professional appear to visitors eyes if he also gives free plants, seeds, and other stuff?

  5. For the last way to find a Bamboo, I have really been wracking my brain. I am the first user of PlantCatching (and a dedicated one) and this was easy to stand in your shoes. My strong belief is that I don't want to be annoyed by advertisements. We are on a sharing platform and this is a spirit we won't find everywhere on web sites. There is no reason to sacrifice that, even for the honest goal of supportting this project. Being presented with a banner that shows a company offering a 30% discount is not something I want to experience, even if it's sometimes interesting to know such an offer. I let other communication channels deal with this information. That's why I decided to highlight a professional, not by what he sells or the services he offers, but by his true skills, his passions, the valuable information he shares, and so on. Here are Bamboo Notes.

Bamboo notes are little publications of a certain kind that professionals must take the time to write to inform you on a given subject of their own. After reading a note, you may be be curious about this company/organization/person or willing to continue the article by following a supplied link. That way, there is no visual aggression since this note may be useful and informative to you, and anyway, you are not obliged to continue further. Moreover, this is not a nasty popup window. These notes will be displayed under the listings you are consulting. When reading a seeds offer from a gardener nearby, you will maybe be presented with a note about seeds saving written by an heirloom seed specialist. Or on a perennial listing, a note may let you know about the plants that withstand cold temperatures. Notice that I reserve the right to use this place to say a few words in relation with PlantCatching regularly. To inform you is not always obvious because not everyone is on Facebook, want to read the blog or receive my newsletter. This feature is welcome to do so.

Here is the appearance of a Bamboo Note (this one is from me):

Ultimately, everyone is winning. Professionals have to play along, it's sure, and there may be an adaptation period to understand this "new way of creating visibility". But I think that this original concept should please them, as it will please the visitor of the site. They will have to realize that you might be interested if they put the effort and take the time to create pertinent notes. Yes, I say pertinent, and there will be a guide, or charter, to ensure that this is the case. If by chance you find some content that does not follow this guide and is commercially aggressive, you can notify me by using the new "non appropriate content" feedback tool that I already presented.

Not-for-profit organizations will also take advantage of the Bamboo account. First, I'll give them access to it as soon as they acquire a Bamboo Seedling account (the one for supporting PlantCatching) and if they contact me to request it. From there, they will be able to write a ton of notes using their expertise in their domain and gain in visibility.

Profiles, notes and events are usually discovered where the user of the platform lives. But some professionals have a type of activity that let them prefer to be seen more globally. A self-employed worker who writes books for instance, will want to be seen in France and other places even if he lives in Quebec. That's why I added **the Giant Bamboo account". It looks like his little brother, but with distance constraints removed. Albert Mondor, horticulturist, is a Giant Bamboo. He will be keen to write about his new favourite subject, that is Extreme Horticulture, and be discovered outside of Quebec.

Regular users and professionals, I am waiting for your feedback, so that together we can make these features evolve further and guarantee a durable future for PlantCatching.

Bamboo divisions to share

Posted on February 18, 2015 • Comments:

This article is the fourth of a series of 6:

  1. PlantCatching 2.0, modern and beautiful, available soon
  2. Improvements pretty much everywhere
  3. User profiles show up on PlantCatching
  4. Bamboo divisions to share

The title could be the one of a listing published here on PlantCatching. But no, this article is about the evolution of the Bamboo account. This account, as it stands today, is a good way for professionals in horticulture and urban agriculture to announce their events (conferences, courses, workshops, open doors, and more) and therefore to be visible and noticed by visitors of the PlantCatching platform.

For those of you who wonder why this account gets its name from a bamboo, think a moment about stakes (and their origin) that help our plants stand right. As they "support" our beloved plants, this is the same idea for these accounts whose goal is to support the citizen initiative PlantCatching.

Yes, PlantCatching needs to be supported. Remember, I started this web site after a few months of development in 2012. After getting this original idea, this was like an experiment I wanted to try on a whim and see succeed. And the success came, as soon as the first year. Although I had just ornamental horticulture in mind at first, the world of urban agriculture quickly connected to me in various ways. A strong connection has also emerged naturally with the Incredible Edible movement and I got the opportunity to meet great people, some known and unknown. I was touched by all the occasions of sharing plants generated by the site and many people thanked me personally. Far from making my head spin, I realized that I had stop considering PlantCatching as an experiment and that I had to ensure it will last long. Additionally, I have come to like this new domain so much that I want it to be a pivotal point in my carreer and then work for it and for you all.

This calls for making smart choices to generate a viable model. So far, I used my money and my time in an unreasonable way. On this criteria only, I should shutdown the site right now. But be reassured, this is not my intention. I shall therefore explain now the path I wish to follow that is based on the fact that the platform must be kept free forever with the same spirit. This involves developing the Bamboo account further with three different offerings.

Last year, a few people cared to purchase a Bamboo subscription, even if they were not professionals. As a result of that, I decided to create a new type of Bamboo account for citizens. Instead, I could have launched a kickstarter campaign but I'm not very keen to managing this, improvise some rewards and face the fragility of such a process and its result. No, I prefer to spend my time at coding new features that will be really useful to you. This was all it took to start the Bamboo Shoot account. It is here for you if you feel the need to help me assuring a lasting future for PlantCatching. I find this far more concrete than a crowdfunding campaign at a given time with a finite end date.

To thank you, this account comes with exclusive features. They are not necessary but they are very pleasant:

  1. Your profile will be twice longer, compared to a regular one, and you will be able to chose an avatar to represent yourself.
  2. You decide if you want to receive email alerts as soon as an offer is published under a distance you specify. These alerts can be filtered by keywords.
  3. Offers will appear on the map in realtime. Usually, there is a 15 minutes delay between publication and appearance on the web site.

Keep in mind that, before all, this is a very important support from you. I encourage you to do it if you have enjoyed using PlantCatching and/or if you simply think that this is an initiative that merits to live and to improve the way we garden and connect to each other. Your action will help supporting production costs, development and maintenance time, as well as all the promotional efforts. If your reponse is substantial, I also plan to create a mobile version of the web site since this is something that is heavily requested. Imagine yourself in the street in a non familiar area, checking your phone and seeing if some plants are offered nearby... or if you could do some vegetable tourism by searching Incredible Edible containers in the city...

I do want to indicate that the web site well have to push forward this support possibility, in various ways with incentive messages. Please, don't feel obligated or even harassed. This is the only way I have to motivate a set of citizens to be part of the success and the durability of PlantCatching. In advance, I thank you to help me in this direction.

Professionals also are a key solution. There is no way one can keep them outside of this big sharing movement, simply because they have a lot of knowledge and skills to share. This is together that we will aspire to create a huge communal resource of plants, seeds and gardens. But this fourth article becomes a bit lengthy. I will pause this discussion here and let it be continued in my next post. Come read it and you will see that the two other Bamboo accounts have something to do with you too. And it even counts double if you are a not-for-profit organization.

User profiles show up on PlantCatching

Posted on February 14, 2015 • Comments:

This article is the third of a series of 6:

  1. PlantCatching 2.0, modern and beautiful, available soon
  2. Improvements pretty much everywhere
  3. User profiles show up on PlantCatching

The feature I want to talk about today is, in a way, a small revolution. But before, let's go back in time for a minute.

In my initial vision, PlantCatching had to be a tool centered on fast and spontaneous plant sharing, and it did well in this domain so far. This aspect can be seen with the map who is visible on the homepage, letting people know at a glance what is offered in their area, or also by the fact that the sharing form is one click away in the top menu and that one doesn't need an account to do that. All this is very important and must not be changed.

But a few people sent me some comments and brought my attention to the place given to all users on the platform. For example, I was asked this question: "How can I contact again a person with whom I had shared something in the past? I have something to ask him or I would like to offer a plant we were talking about". In its current state, PlantCatching is of no help.

I thought that the number of users has greatly increased also. So far, I was seeing this web site as a tool, not as a movement (as Incredible Edible for instance). But can't we start to see it as a network? Does it have the power to bring together, under a same banner, one where people share, those thousands of gardeners that are either isolated or part of a community or a larger movement? That's why I decided to work on a stronger community. I would like to see every user proud to be part of it and keen to talk about it. It's in this spirit that I want to introduce you to the new user profiles. Note that there is no question of creating a Facebook for gardeners. It would be too complex and too long, and even unwelcome. I have to be pragmatic and create only the features allowing to solve the problems I mentioned above: be able to identify and find someone you already met, and create a nice and strong community. And of course, a profile must be optional since not everybody wants one. For these people, nothing changes.

So, what should you expect? Here is a short list of new features:

To have a profile, obviously you need a page to create a profile. It content must be short since it's not the place to tell your life, so you will write what identifies you in a few words: if you are doing a vegetable garden or ornamental flower beds, if you are part of a community garden or a group of gardeners, and so on. You are free to put what you want, really. If you want to be reachable, some fields let you add your email address and phone number. Then you will chose a name. It can be your real name or a nickname. If someone checks one of your listings or requests on the map, he will see everything in the new sliding panel, like so:

You will also get your personal URL, of the form:

http://plantcatching.com/me/freetheseeeds

Note that you rname and the last part of the URL does not need to be the same (e.g. "Happy seeds supplier" as your name and "freetheseeds" in the URL). Someone visiting your URL will be directed to the homepage with the sliding panel opened and showing your content as above.

Once your profile is set, you will be able to print member cards (on a sheet of 10 cards to save paper). I can identify several contexts to use them:

  1. You will give your card to the gardener with whom you are sharing something. Write what was just given or received or any other information that you find important. It will help remembering who was the person and the context of the sharing. He can do exactly the same. It's like swapping business cards!

  2. Distribute them also to people who don't know PlantCatching. This is a way to say "Give a visit to this site and you will be able to meet me there too". Useful and promotional.

  3. It can also be pinned to a plant you are sharing in public mode, in the street, while you are not there.

  4. And it's possible that you will use it in an original way I didn't expect. In that case, let me know and share it with others.

Obviously, once you are known by a particular name, with member cards already in the wild, it's better not to change your nickname, otherwise you will be lost for all the people who know you.

At last, let me remind you that this was a lot of work. I did my best to make it ready somewhere duing the next weeks. You will maybe see bugs or parts of the site that seem unfinished. I invite you to give me feedback and reports so that I can finetune and fix them. All this is a constant experimentation and has been so since the beginning. Also, tell me your thoughts about the profiles in general. Help me build the site in the right direction.

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