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Partage végétal with PlantCatching, 2015 edition

Posted on May 12, 2015 • Comments:

This year we’re happy to announce PlantCatching’s second plant/seedling exchange. Just like last year at Montreal’s Botanical Gardens, Albert Mondor (horticulturist) will be present to provide information on the plants and will host a raffle of plants generously donated by horticulturist professionals and urban growers. More than a dozen have responded positively to my request (more specifically; this morning, I found out the horticulturists of the Saint-Joseph Oratory were willing to offer something!). As per the location, it won’t be the Botanical Gardens this time around. Our hosts are the Maisonnette des Parents located on Saint-Laurent blvd, a community organization that helps families in need.

Tirage au sort en 2014

At the time this article will be published, there are 12 days left before this grand event, where dozens of passionate gardeners will come together to trade seeds, seedlings, perennials, etc. Forty plants have already been registered on the site, by 13 people (click on the green button at the top of the event page). More to come in the following days which will most likely highlight the prevalence and quantity of plants offered. So now is the best time to go through the following checklist:

  1. Even if you have already, it’s important to relay the information on your social networks, particularly this Facebook post. Make sure you copy/past the text in your profile. Talk about the event in your circles, invite other gardeners.
  2. If you don’t have a PlantCatching account yet, create one now and specify your address in your account. It’s necessary in order to register plants for the event.
  3. Identify the plants you would like to bring and register them on the site. You can do so until the eve of the event. At the top of the form, there is an icon to click on to indicate the plants are for the event.
  4. Create your profile on the site and print out a couple member cards. You will most likely have a chance to share them with other gardeners.

At the end of the plant sharing event, I will be available to discuss topics related to the PlantCatching site with anyone interested. It’s a great moment to bring your feedback and ideas.

Whether it’s sunny or raining, it will no doubt be an exceptional day. I hope to see you all in big numbers.

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.

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