"We are Luddites" - Peter George's article in RGQ 70 #1

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Sellars
Sellars's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-29

The advanced search capabilities of Google brings us back nicely to one of the earlier issues on this thread.

Along with many other NARGS members, I believe it would be a significant member benefit to have past issues of the Rock Garden Quarterly on the member-only area of the website. If these were pdf documents and not just image scans then they would not need to be indexed.  Wait a little while and Google will do the indexing for us and provide the search capability.  A powerful tool indeed for NARGS members.  We would then definitely not be considered Luddites. ;D

David Sellars
From the Wet Coast of British Columbia, Canada

Feature your favourite hikes at:
www.mountainflora.ca
MountainFlora videos:
http://www.youtube.com/user/MountainFlora

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

IMYoung wrote:

I must say here that personally I have never liked the listserv system because "conversational" is the last word I'd use to describe them. I have never been able to search the archive effectively, either, I'm afraid.
 

Maggi, you'll have to give Alpine-L Archives a whirl with the google "site:" searching capability that David brought to our attention, and see if that works for you. :)

In the Google search field, the syntax is:

site:mailman.science.uu.nl  keyword1  keyword2  keyword3 etc...

Example, to find all of your very own posts on Alpine-L, enter the following:

site:mailman.science.uu.nl  youngs

:D

@Helen, glad you jumped right in and tried it out!

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

The "site" option in Google searching can be useful to narrow google searches within a specific location, let's say even for NARGS Forum.  Now, NARGS Forum has full search capability, and the contents of the forum is fully searchable both in the forum and from Google, but of course Google searches will look elsewhere and may include too much. To do a google search that only searches a particular site, use narrowed syntax like googling the following... it looks within NARGS and find anything on Allium cernuum... cool.  The results might refer to a text-only archived versions of the message exchange, so I think it is still best to search from within the Forum.

site:nargs.org/smf Allium cernuum

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

In Peter George's article, technology initiiative #3 sounds fascinating, maybe Peter can tell us more about this idea. 

In short, the suggestion is to build a database of plant photographs, then, using software that can "recognize" similar items (plants in this case), members seeking the identify of a plant they photographed could upload their photo for possible automatic identification.  It's a cool idea if it works.

I would have thought this to be a pipe dream, had I not seen Picasa 3.5 software on my daughter's laptop.  The software is quite miraculous (moreso to someone of my generation than my college-age daughter).  With about 1200 photos of family and friends on her laptop, this software uses facial recognition to automatically scan and find any particular person (it will even find a face in a large group photo), and presents it zoomed in to the specific face being searched.  Playing around with this, it would find and group each person selected, within seconds, almost scary technology when you think about the possibilities. 

Here's a YouTube that shows how the Picasa software works.

I imagine that it would be more difficult with plants; could the software really tell a Townsendia daisy-like flower from an Erigeron daisy-like flower from an Aster daisy-like flower?  Facial features have a more limited set of characteristics to analyze than plants, where flower, foliage, habit, and many other characteristics is what determines a plant identification.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03

When you add in the GPS capability of the software, the location can often be the 'tiebreaker.' Bloom time, location, image and geology will, together, give you the capability of identifying almost any plant with a very high degree of certainty. We're not there yet, but it's only another year or so before we'll have the totality available at a reasonable cost.

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

I am happy to announce that our Minnesota Chapter now offers free membership to students.  I had picked up on the idea from a mention of same on the SRGC forum's counterpart to this thread.  When the idea was presented to our board, it was an easy sell.  Really, it's not like they could break the bank.  Most will want their newsletters sent through email, so there is no postage or printing.  That even a small percentage would become active members would be well worth it, in our opinion. 

Now we just have to find them...  We're working on that, too.  :)

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

RickR wrote:

I am happy to announce that our Minnesota Chapter now offers free membership to students.  I had picked up on the idea from a mention of same on the SRGC forum's counterpart to this thread.  When the idea was presented to our board, it was an easy sell.  Really, it's not like they could break the bank.  Most will want their newsletters sent through email, so there is no postage or printing.  That even a small percentage would become active members would be well worth it, in our opinion. 

Now we just have to find them...  We're working on that, too.  :)

That's awesome Rick, keep us posted if you get some traction with this new initiative.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

I've been thinking about this more, and the ability to use the web to find information is truly awesome. There has always been that debate about how this might influence the writing of books, but the way information is presented in these is so much more 'complete' that I could never see this happening. And books slow you down where the internet speeds you up! A place for both. But as ways of introducing new gardeners to the great pleasures and skills of alpine gardening neither can hold a candle against films that really tell stories of these plants in wild places (some of us might have quite 'wild' gardens too!). I think this has to be the way of introducing a new generation to the ideas of studying these plants and gardening with them, because it would impress much more effectively than any other.

The next step then is is to work out how those who have highly creative film-making talents can be convinced to collaborate with equally creative plantspeople and botanists to make such films. The important thing is to believe that high quality films of this sort would have an audience, and one in addition to the relatively small memberships of the specialist plant societies. There seem very many ways that this could happen, most particularly the immense drama of the places where these plants grow, the sense of exploration and discovery, and the great skills and artistic talents of many who grow them. There are the stories of remarkable individuals like Claude Barr, and in Britain Jim Archibald, which show the wide connections between travelling, studying plants in the wild, collecting seed, growing them in the garden, distributing them and writing about them. The more I have read about such people the more I realise that they hark back to all those famous gardeners of the past and have a much greater importance in our understanding of the world than many others because of the personal connections they make with so many other like minds.

So this is a sort of attempt to use the internet to see if there are film-makers out there who could see possibilities in looking more to natural landscapes and their flora (perhaps with a bit of fauna thrown in!) for inspiration and subject matter. In Britain we do have a very strong tradition of Natural History film-making but even so plants rarely become the focus of attention, which seems an extraordinary oversight!

Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.
 

Gene Mirro
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-02-25

I believe the seed distribution is both a big draw and a big turnoff for members.  On the plus side, growers like me tend to join plant societies that have big seed lists with lots of rare plants.  I don't join to socialize.  I guess that makes me a plant geek, right?  On the minus side, let's say I am trying to build up a stand of a certain rare species.  First, it is almost never offered.  Second, when it is offered, there may be four seeds in the packet, or the seeds may be dead or wrongly identified.  A lot of work goes into sowing these seeds before the problems are revealed.  Given those circumstances, can you see why it has taken me decades to get certain plants established?  Often, I have had to make an end run around the seed lists and find other sources.

I believe the solution is obvious.  If I were running NARGS, SRGC, NALS, etc., I would split off a small group of professional-level growers, and have them propagate rare and difficult plants from seed.  I would then sell the resulting seed at a premium in the distribution.  Advantages:
1.  Very rare seed would not be wasted, and would likely result in plants and more seeds;
2.  Very rare seed would become much more available to the membership;
3.  Rare plants would be preserved;
4.  Seeds from this program would be much more viable and true-to-type than seeds from the general membership, and you could put more seeds per packet, so growers like me would gladly pay a premium price;
5.  The growers involved would have a sense of ownership and personal pride that would very likely strengthen their commitment to the club;
6.  The general membership will be much happier when they can actually germinate the seeds from the seedlist, especially when they find that the plants are correctly identified. 

This plan could also be extended to not-so-rare plants which are in high demand.  Just get a good grower to make a commitment to grow some specimens in a place where they won't cross with closely related species.  And give the grower credit for his "product".  Advantage list is the same.

I am becoming more and more convinced that preservation should be a serious goal of plant societies, and not just lip service.  You can't distribute rare seed to the general membership and expect to succeed.  Let the experts build up the stock.  The alternative is to watch these plants disappear.

SW Washington state, 600 ft. altitude

Gene Mirro
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-02-25

I believe the seed distribution is both a big draw and a big turnoff for members.  On the plus side, growers like me tend to join plant societies that have big seed lists with lots of rare plants.  I don't join to socialize.  I guess that makes me a plant geek, right?  On the minus side, let's say I am trying to build up a stand of a certain rare species.  First, it is almost never offered.  Second, when it is offered, there may be four seeds in the packet, or the seeds may be dead or wrongly identified.  A lot of work goes into sowing these seeds before the problems are revealed.  Given those circumstances, can you see why it has taken me decades to get certain plants established?  Often, I have had to make an end run around the seed lists and find other sources.

I believe the solution is obvious.  If I were running NARGS, SRGC, NALS, etc., I would split off a small group of professional-level growers, and have them propagate rare and difficult plants from seed.  I would then sell the resulting seed at a premium in the distribution.  Advantages:
1.  Very rare seed would not be wasted, and would likely result in plants and more seeds;
2.  Very rare seed would become much more available to the membership;
3.  Rare plants would be preserved;
4.  Seeds from this program would be much more viable and true-to-type than seeds from the general membership, and you could put more seeds per packet, so growers like me would gladly pay a premium price;
5.  The growers involved would have a sense of ownership and personal pride that would very likely strengthen their commitment to the club;
6.  The general membership will be much happier when they can actually germinate the seeds from the seedlist, especially when they find that the plants are correctly identified.  

This plan could also be extended to not-so-rare plants which are in high demand.  Just get a good grower to make a commitment to grow some specimens in a place where they won't cross with closely related species.  And give the grower credit for his "product".  Advantage list is the same.

I am becoming more and more convinced that preservation should be a serious goal of plant societies, and not just lip service.  You can't distribute rare seed to the general membership and expect to succeed.  Let the experts build up the stock.  The alternative is to watch these plants disappear.  Also, preservation and environmentalism are highly saleable among the millenial generation.

SW Washington state, 600 ft. altitude

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