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by pooh

Something is not quite right

2:07 am in Being a good member of this community, Getting Started, our mission, questions, R&D-I-Y, Windowfarms Project News by pooh

Hi there,

I was drawn here by the TED talk, and had a look around. I have a few comments and some questions.

I think the format of the website (blog + comments) is confusing and not the best environment for a collaborative effort.
Changes to the instructions and the official documentation cannot be added freely by the community, like they would be in a wiki, but they are cherry-picked by the “Core Team”, who has privileged write-access to the source.
This is not bad per se. Many big open source projects have a selected team of committers, and new members must prove their worth with valid contributions before being granted write access.
However, open source projects also have a clear procedure that contributors can follow in order to “patch” trunk – or in fact, any branch. According to the Open Source Initiative, if such a mechanism is not in place, then it’s arguably not an Open Source project.
Also, Windowfarms is not a code project, it’s a hardware/design/documentation project. Therefore, there is no risk of breaking the build (because there is no build), and Wikipedia shows us that there is a lot to be gained, at the very least in terms of polish and formatting, if write-access is granted to a wider user base.
I think allowing any registered user to edit the documents, plus having a selected group of super-users with special entitlements in order to manage high-traffic, prominent pages, would be a good balance.
Similar suggestions towards a more open, transparent and functional means of documentation and discussion have been repeatedly proposed in some comments of this website, but I have not seen a response from the “Core Team”.
Are there any plans to improve the situation?

I also notice that users are supposed to register in order to read the allegedly open source documentation. This made no sense to me, so I had a look at the small print, where it says “We require that you agree in order to view the free instructions on how to build windowfarms. This is for legal reasons that would endanger the community if we did not require registration and acknowledgement.” Quite how the community would be “endangered” is not explained, but there are two links, one to a fairly big website ( and one to Windowfarms’ Terms of Service.
In the main page of the Open Source HardWare website (which is interestingly a wiki), there is a section spelling out the OSHW Statement of Principles. It reads, “Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design.”
Yet, in Windowfarm’s Terms of Service, we learn that Windowfarm’s instructions are available under (an old version of) the Creative Commons Attribution+Noncommercial+ShareAlike license.
I believe that the Noncommercial module is unnecessary. In fact, some would argue that adopting a permissive license can benefit a project’s popularity and adoption, which is apparently the overall goal here. Linux is a notable example of how this can happen.
Furthermore, the Noncommercial module seems at odds with the above-mentioned ability to “sell the design or hardware based on that design”, mandated by the OSHW, as well as the Free Redistribution clause of the Open Source Definition by the OSI.

Noncommercial module notwithstanding, however, it still makes no sense to me that users are asked to register in order to just read the instructions. How is that a legal necessity? Aren’t Windowfarms instructions already protected by the license and copyright statements, much like e.g. every Wikipedia article is?
In fact, can’t anyone, well within the rights granted by the current license, freely divulge those instructions (under the same license) on a mirror website to anyone on the Internet, without requiring any registration whatsoever?

Finally, given the use of the noncommercial module, I take it that only non-profit organisations can sell hardware based on Windowfarms’ designs. Does that mean that Windowfarms itself, which does sell the hardware, is a registered non-profit organisation? Apologies if I missed the details, but they do not seem to be widely publicized.

Thank you for any insights.

by britta

Our awesome fundraiser worked! We luv you peeps!

10:08 pm in posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process, Windowfarms Project News by britta

Here’s the post from our December fundraiser that brought in $25K in seed money for the project.
The Kickstarter fundraising campaign will help establish to the IRS, major funders, and philanthropists that the community supports this project becoming a nonprofit. We need to raise $25,000 by January 4, 2010 at 2 pm. Can you help by making a pledge and/or forwarding the Kickstarter campaign ( to everyone you know? Do you know any bloggers? Do you know key folks in one of our target communities: gardeners who want to grow during the winter too, foodies, low income communities with an appreciation for community gardening, NYC schools, retirees?
Don’t forget to direct people who are unfamiliar with the project to:
1) our main website:
2) our youtube videos
3) our flickr stream
4) your posts on the community site
5) and to the kickstarter page where they can pledge their own support.
Thanks for making this happen, Everyone!kickstarter_title

by britta

We’re becoming a non-profit!

9:56 pm in Getting Started, Projects in Process by britta

We’re doing it, folks. We are incorporating as a 501(c)(3). We’re applying for grants to support some of our first year’s work:
to create curricula with schools,
to train community organizers in low income areas,
to translate how-tos into different languages,
to continue to upgrade how-tos as the collective R&D makes progress,
and — what probably comes as the best news for all of you–
to hire programmers who can help us make this site way more intuitive and easy to use!!
I will be the Executive Director. Maya Nayak will be with me on staff as the Chief of Operations. We have three new board members– Rebecca Bray, Jeff Shah, and Josh Klein!

by britta

The Windowfarms Project Wants You!

8:16 pm in Getting Started by britta


- Translate the how-tos for non-English speaking Americans
- “Translate” the materials into workable equivalents available in foreign countries
- Provide feedback on the how-to’s. We know they are a little too complicated in some areas. Can you tell us specifically what gave you trouble?
- Give us a clue about how to fund windowfarms and its larger extension, R&D-I-Y crowdsourced mass collaboration by us ordinary folks to solve the big environmental problems now locally.
- If you live in New York, consider applying to britta [britta at eyebeam dot org] for an eyebeam internship working on the project. We need folks to help with website, graphic design, revising the how-tos, dealing with press, industrial design, sourcing parts for kits, grant research and writing, experimentation with plants, plant care, recycled material collection, helping build commissioned installations that help continue funding for the project.

About Window Farms

2:22 pm in Featured Post, Getting Started by Windowfarms

window farms

window farms

Window Farms are suspended, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield edible food gardens built using low-impact or recycled local materials. This site is the online community of window farmers, where we share our development processes and design innovations.

These vertical gardens, located in windows throughout the cityscape, are intended to inspire others to design and implement their own window farms, creating a network of urban food production. Signs in the windowfarms will challenge people to create their own and direct them to a website where we can all share photos, plans, designs, and information. Together, we can derive viable methods for growing food under the local conditions of our own homes.

To learn more about Window Farms, see

To learn how to build your own, get started with How-To instructions, or start reading posts from other window farmers throughout this site.

Please share your design process with the other farmers by joining the site and sharing your design and development process.

If you would like to join the site, please get started here.

For press inquiries, please check out some of our large downloadable images here and write to for interviews.