Date: 2011 Mar 20 Sun 20:34 -0700
From: chris vansprouts <vansprouts at mac.com>
Subject: terrasante.org website report & work log
dear bruce, rick, victoria, & everyone,
in anticipation of the terrasante village annual board meeting, i've put together this report on the terrasante.org website, along with some serious questions about the intentions and future of terrasante village (work log, below). thanks for your time to read it, and hope you'll find it useful. (and thanks to those who've helped with feedback, suggestions, and encouragement during the writing of this...)
it's been more than a year since my last full report on the terrasante website (2009 nov). in the meantime, we've formed the official Terrasante Website & Public Relations Committee to discuss details and make decisions about the website and more general public relations issues. in my opinion, all web/pr committee meetings should be open to anyone who's interested - this will only be of benefit to terrasante village and the greater terrasante neighborhood.
in october & november 2010, we went through the hugest hassle to recover ownership of the terrasante.org domain name, and we're now moving our busy website & email to a commercial webhosting service after 3 years of free hosting from brahm's friend tim castleman.
i'm also looking forward to expanding technical support services for the greater terrasante neighborhood, including my little computer repair shop, and the online community intercom & events calendar (dgfm or dgfm2, login terra, password sante).
last month, i re-evaluated terrasante.org website traffic data, also including 2007 & 2008 from before i started as webmaster here. i've been using awstats on tim castleman's server for page rank & search engine statistics, and my own counter server for tracking details of client navigation & timing. see web traffic graph above, click thumbnail at right for a summary spreadsheet, and the original server logs are below. (on the graph, grid lines are thousands of visitors or pages per month. real visitors & pages are shown as positive in green & blue, and spammers robots etc are shown as negative in red & magenta)
back as far as i know, the original terrasante.org website (along with harmonyandhealth.org) was started in december 2007 by bob stanton. it was based on joomla (similar to wordpress) with the idea of being a dynamic resource for the community & the world, up to date with the latest news about terrasante and developments in the fields of sustainability.
unfortunately there wasn't much interest or participation from people in terrasante. i'm not sure when bob stanton left, but our mostly-neglected website became a target for spammers who quickly dominated the discussion forums & calendar during 2008, as you can see on the web traffic graph above. it seems that the only appreciated webpage was Building a HybriDome, a detailed documentary of how the earthdome house was built. (click thumbnail at left for a snapshot of the original joomla-based website)
after considering the situation in late december 2008, i became webmaster for terrasante 2009 january 1, and with approval from bruce, my new website design for terrasante went online 2009 january 16, with content copied from the original website. all redirections from the old website and other loose ends were finally under control during february 2009.
for the rest of 2009, development of the new website continued with the addition of more content from bruce & danny, more photos contributed by many visitors & myself, and a copy of the 10-minute video segment about terrasante from the Renovation Nation cable tv show. i also carefully re-edited the webpage Building a HybriDome, since it was getting as much traffic as all the other pages combined. another nice project page is bruce's Harmonic Sauna, added to the website in january 2010. we currently have 30 webpages with about 80mb of media on the public terrasante.org website.
just before the Renovation Nation episode was scheduled to air in early may 2009, i began a quarterly email newsletter from <news at terrasante.org>, and posted it on the Terrasante News Blog webpage. three newsletters were published in 2009, and the terrasante mailing list grew from 30 to 240 email addresses.
during 2009, we got plenty of honest traffic on terrasante.org (average 20 visitors & 65 pages per day), with lots of positive qualitative response to the website, and many follow-up contacts & in-person visits to the community directly attributable to the website. (also see the traffic graph above, and the summary spreadsheet)
the infamous 'wwoofer rebellion' of november 2009 revealed some serious problems in terrasante village management practices, and terrasante's online reputation suffered due to negative reporting in the personal blogs of some visitors and wwoofers.
in december the website was quickly patched to alleviate wwoofer disappointments and complaints of misrepresentation about accommodations and the status of some projects. website traffic then declined slowly and steadily, except for a rise in june 2010, probably due to the summer solstice event newsletter which was emailed to 360 people and subsequently re-posted on some local tucson discussion groups.
to-date, no one has yet done any comprehensive re-editing of website content, which is to be the work of the web/pr committee... also, i've explained at many general meetings & elsewhere about the need for everyone's participation in writing newsletter articles and documentary webpages on terrasante's sustainability projects. (eg, see my website report of 2009 nov, and the beta sitemap showing new pages under construction)
despite ups & downs in web traffic, we have a busy and popular website, and our internet audience is already present. to fulfill our stated mission, we need to improve website content to provide honest & useful information & resources. to do that, we also need to improve the selection and focus of all the projects of terrasante village, and then do those projects for real.
one last but important point - www.terrasante.org is a sustainable website.
the sustainable content of terrasante's website is the responsibility of everyone at terrasante village. the editorial & technical presentation is my responsibility, and how i've done this inherently demonstrates sustainable appropriate technology on the internet.
i have a solid background in computer science & engineering, and can wield the most powerful of bleeding-edge internet technologies, but i've purposely chosen this relatively low-tech no-hype pro-informational approach to website design for my clients and myself.
appreciative internet users have noticed that www.terrasante.org is fast & easy to navigate, and it's fast & lightweight on the server, the internet, and everyone's browsers. it's a great vehicle for education and networking on sustainability, and it runs perfectly well... let's use it!
after more than two years, the 501c3 nonprofit & intentional community status of terrasante village is still not clear, so i've drafted my work log in relation to four hypothetical scenarios, to illustrate some major decision points for terrasante village to consider in planning it's future.
my personal experience here is not unusual. along with many others who have contributed generously to terrasante village, i was also led to believe that Terrasante Village is both an Intentional Community, and a 501(c)3 Nonprofit Educational Organization, by reading the original website and talking with management (see the 2009 Terrasante Community and Mission Statement webpages, with the text from the original 2008 website).
over many months, i gradually learned that there is strong disagreement on both of these points within the board of directors & management of terrasante village, and so far this hasn't changed.
[update 2012 - there never was any disagreement, just pretending, to keep everyone confused... plans W and Y below are the reality.]
the work i've done for terrasante village is worth a serious amount of money, something like $10,000 to $40,000 depending on context. i thought i was donating this work for a good cause, but it's still a big question. another big one is, did i assist terrasante village in publishing truth, or lies, on the terrasante website?
[update 2012 - unfortunately, lies. there is no intention of intentional community, no non-profit organization, no sustainable technology innovation, nor any implementation beyond a superficial minimum to keep up appearances. the work i (and other victims) have "donated" continues to be used for dishonest personal and commercial gain by Bruce Scher and Tom Mendola. please don't be fooled as i was.]
i'd like to be donating this work for a good cause like Plan A or C below, but if terrasante village is not what it says it is, and is not doing what it says it's doing, my work likewise is not a donation, and the spreadsheet for Plan W or Y will serve as a bill for it...
[update 2012 - i was not compensated for my work with any money or even food, nor continuation of the simple living space i had requested (see below). altho i was obviously in financial poverty and very bad health at the time, Bruce Scher, Rick Hubbs, and Tom Mendola subjected me to unrelenting hate, threats to my person and property, and physical violence, from the date i submitted this report until a friend nearby fearfully gave me refuge a few months later. some of this is actually in writing - see my work email archive.]
As a small sustainable appropriate technology research & development laboratory, Terrasante Village could be a much appreciated source of practical information and wisdom for the world.
This scenario would require a pretty high level of technical expertise & creativity, along with honest & kind management, reasonable resources & accommodations, enthusiastic supporters, and open collaborative networking with other sustainability projects & organizations.
This is my personal favorite. I'd be happy in an ongoing association with this organization, and generously contribute my work to its mission. Spreadsheet A shows a total $14,160 donation over 3 years (about $25k for my work, minus $11k for room+board provided by Terrasante Village).
Terrasante Village would be one of many sustainable intentional communities & eco-villages in a world-around network, and another successful demonstration of already-proven methods for sustainable ecology, energy, economics, shelter, agriculture, health and community.
Not an experimental laboratory, nothing too hard, too new, too expensive, or too fancy, just a plain old comfy peaceful friendly happy bunch of people living in harmony with nature and each other...
As a fully respected member of such a community, I'd be happy to contribute my work for the benefit of the whole community. Spreadsheet C shows a total $7,080 donation over 3 years (about $12k for my work valued at minimum wage, minus $5k for a healthy & legal camping site provided by Terrasante Village).
Plans A and C together were pretty much my early understanding of the ideals and long-range goals of terrasante village, and the basis of my website design for terrasante. many visitors to the website have also resonated with this understanding... too bad if it's not true...
In this scenario, 'WWOOF' stands for 'willing workers' (instead of 'world-wide opportunities on organic farms'), and wwoofers are not expected to last long in this Ponzi so-called work-exchange. (see management's proposed Wwoofer Info page of december 2009 in response to the november 'wwoofer rebellion', and a worksheet showing the value of volunteer labor under this plan)
This scenario is what Ben Illas was so up about. Terrasante Village may be 'not for profit', but it's not a legal non-profit organization, certainly not a 501c3. It may be a 'community with intention', but that doesn't make it an intentional community, certainly not a land-trust or an egalitarian community. And it's definitely not an eco-village... i was told by management that the term 'eco-village' would promote the wrong kind of expectations.
In this scenario, the purpose of the website and other publications is only advertising to attract volunteer labor and donations, not to provide real information. It's pretty obvious to anyone who knows a little about permaculture, native arts, earth architecture, solar energy, or intentional community, that the website contains mostly psuedo-information in these fields, not good designs or practical ideas for sustainability. Lots of newbies are fooled, but surprisingly this also attracts experienced volunteers who think Terrasante Village just needs lots of help in their particular field.
Most wwoofers & other visitors arrive at Terrasante very well educated, looking for more experience & collaboration with peers or mentors. Terrasante's psuedo-project managers and 'wise elders' could learn something from them, but new ideas are not wanted, only simple obedience & labor. When the 'willing workers' get tired of it, they're free to move on, and good riddance. Here's a wwoofer exit review from late 2009 which describes typical wwoofing experience at terrasante village, then and now.
Spreadsheet W shows a bill (not a donation) for this crusty old www-wwoofer's obedient labor at a modest commercial rate of $30/hour (to be fair, since that's what bruce makes at his day job). After 3 years of fantasy luxury accommodations in the boneyard for $600/month, Terrasante Work Camp will still owe me $17,920 (about $40k for my work to-date, minus about $22k for an rv space & d-i-y rice+beans).
and finally, if 'Terror Sante' (Plan W) is too high-priced, here's a cheap & simple, last minute, last resort, low-energy bail-out, 'Trailer Sante' (Plan Y)...
In this scenario, Terrasante Village is a very cool 'under the radar' rest-stop & refuge for all kinds of very cool transient artists, gypsies, hippies, shamans, indigos, anarchists, rebels, outlaws, prospectors, scammers, thieves, liars, psychopaths, rapists, murderers, whatever...
All mixed up together, just for fun. Very entertaining, very educational, very temporary, very cheap, sometimes very expensive...
Not healthy, not legal, management not responsible. Not sustainable.
In sympathy for Terrasante's covert missions of Social Service & Living in Poverty, Spreadsheet Y shows a bill to Terrasante Village for my work discounted to minimum wage. After 3 years of squatting in the toxic boneyard at $150/month, TSV will owe me only $4,480 (that's $9,880 for my work to-date, minus $5,400 for an unhealthy & illegal camping site).
best wishes for Plan A or C, but in any case, i simply want a place to live (and work) in peace and grow my little desert garden somewhere nontoxic in the terrasante neighborhood. in all of these scenarios, terrasante village owes me this consideration.
also, i do have my own great ideas for sustainability projects and demonstrations in gardening & food production, geodesic architecture & natural building, lightweight solar electric vehicles, and internet software. terrasante village might benefit by association with my work. (eg, see terrasante permaculture conference - metasofa summer camp - small workshop domes - rebar dome design - victoria's moringa tree greenhouse)
see you at the terrasante village annual board meeting this tuesday.
"Story-tellers want an audience to understand something.
Liars need fools to believe them."
- S Smithson Wildman (from Less Primitive Religions, 1947)
here are all the server logs for the terrasante.org website to-date. the links for each year are statistical summary reports (files ending with -awstats.pdf) and summary data (files ending with -awstats.zip). the links for each month are original compressed apache webserver logs (files ending with -apache.log.gz).
i've also unzipped a typical raw apache webserver log in case anyone wants to take a quick look :) and if you want a printout, go right ahead! this small one, for the month of november 2010, is 1257 pages.
also, here's a log file from my own counter server, much smaller and easier to read than the raw apache logs, and quite informative. these logs are useful for tracking exactly which pages people are reading, including timing and sequence.