The plan for Farm-PEP is for the content to be user generated by the community. We see 'Projects' as being the initial core to this, as telling people about what you are doing, or what you want to do, will be a key motivation for people to post. Users will want to know about the 'People' and 'Organisations' involved. And there will be 'News' and 'Events' associated with Projects, People & Organisations.
There are also 'Resources' that might come out of projects as publications, or are relevant to multiple projects. This could include videos, podcast and webinar recordings, as well as visual content. It might also be useful to share informal information on 'Farm Experience' via photos, short posts or linking to twitter or TFF threads etc.
Each of these items can be commented on in 'Discussions', and 'Questions' posed.
Ultimately we see distilled knowledge emerging from the projects, resources, discussions on PEP connected by tags being presented as agreed messages in 'Themes'. However, collation and review will require time and consultation.
Projects form the core of Farm-PEP, at least initially. We need to provide incentive to all those engaged in projects in agriculture to post them on PEP, so we need to balance between requesting sufficient information with sufficient structure to make the info useful, with being easy and quick for users to post, with the flexibility they may want.
Our initial idea was to provide defined headings of Aims, Objectives & Background with section for updates of activities, events, results and resources. The Innovative Farmers Field Labs website provide a good framework that we could adopt both for individual projects and for searching/filtering projects. However, we recognise that for projects that already have their own primary pages online (like IF Field Labs) for which we just need to connect with basic details and a weblink, we could end up with many projects pages looking empty.
Our concept of 'project' is broad, embracing 'Ideas' through proposals to active & completed projects & ultimately including the final outcome that a successful outcome leads to - whether thats new 'Best Practice', or a 'Product' or even a new network or organisation. Ideally PEP would track projects through these stages.
We are therefore favouring a more flexible approach to structuring projects in PRP, where the compulsory structure for projects is minimal but activities, news, events, results, resources, farm experience and discussions can be associated to a project by tags.
Projects will have owners who could assign other users to the project team. Users could follow projects, and perhaps 'like' or rate them. There is a question whether projects could or should have a closed area with content restricted to the project team.
Tags will be critical to connecting projects, content, people, organisations and themes in PEP. We envisage three classes of tags:
- Thematic tags to bring together content around particular themes or issues
- Projects to distinguish and link together content from individual projects
- Content type to distinguish whether posts are projects, activities, results,news, events, resources, farm experience or discussion
Managing tags will be an important job for PEP moderators. The extent to which users have control of assigning and creating tags will need careful consideration. There will need to be some structure, hierarchy and ontology to tags, so that singular/plural versions of a word and any synonyms are joined, and to recognise the groupings of terms - for example 'winter wheat' being a class of 'wheat' being a class of 'cereal' being a class of 'crop' being associated with 'arable'. Several initiatives have put considerable effort in to defining ontologies (eg Ask Valerie) that we should seek to exploit.
We should also consider using auto tags.
PEP should enable users to upload or connect to resources that are relevant to projects, posts and themes. Ideally PEP would connect with a curated knowledge library that already exists, and resources posted on Farm-PEP would be properly catalogued in a repository. We are exploring partnership with Food & Farming Futures' - National Library for Agri-Food to form the knowledge bank for Farm-PEP.
Consideration needs to be given to the reliability and relevance of resources, so that the really useful resources aren't drowned out, but that valuable farm experience can be captured and collated. Agricology currently does a good job of collating and creating resources for sustainable agriculture, grouped across themes.
The Farming Forum is also adding Resources as a content type, providing another place for the collation of resources from the community, and the sharing of resources with the community.
What is really needed is the distillation of the evidence by systematic reviews or similar, in themes or issues of interest.
The information on PEP that will be of real value to farmers and advisors is distilling the available evidence into practical messages within themes, that represent some consensus of 'Best Practice'. This task will require substantial time and resource - this job is really the aim of the planned 'What Works Centre for Agriculture' or 'Evidence for Farming Initiative' being developed by AHDB and recently advocated in the National Food Strategy. We are aiming for PEP to become the bottom-up component of What Works - giving a voice and feedback route from farmers and practitioners to experts engaged in evidence assessments. PEP should adopt the proposed What Works approach to rating evidence around practices for Effectiveness and 'Strength of Evidence'.
Our aim should be to get to the simplest 'nuggets' of knowledge that are easily digestible and can be shared widely via the full range of communication channels (eg farming press, social media, TFF, education).
Given the importance to practitioners of the state of knowledge on particular issues or themes we are keen to develop this in Farm-PEP as soon as we can. Moderators could distill information in themes into agreed messages. We could begin with a couple of examples (eg Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle; biostimulants, cover crops, mob grazing). Ideally we then have a route for the community to prioritise the areas that should be targeted next.
The extent to which we expect discussion to happen on PEP is unclear. It is important that posts can be commented on, developed and challenged, and we want to foster a sense of community. However we don't need to recreate the very broad farming community of The Farming Forum, or the recently developed community of Land Management 2.0
Organisations / Companies
Farm-PEP should give a space for organisations to be presented, and for users to be connected to them. Commercial vs non-commercial organisations and users will need to be distinguished. The hosting of organisation pages provides a potential opportunity to derive revenues.
Over the past few weeks I have learnt about a large number of organisations, initiatives and websites that I didn't know existed - to me this highlights the need for Farm-PEP - to provide a space to find out and connect with organisations in agriculture, and as an organisation to have a place to tell people you exist. There is nowhere else online to do this: KTN built a useful Agrifood Landscape tool though unfortunately this hasn't been updated recently, and it doesn't have an easy route for new organisations to join. Ring Link Scotland has successfully connected agri-businesses in Scotland, and has now grown beyond the agrifood sector with over 2900 organisations as members, demonstrating that a successful business model can be found. The opportunity is to provide a space for exhibitors like in an agricultural show - we should perhaps be making this our initial focus for Farm-PEP?
Users can publish their profiles and link to twitter, TFF, LinkedIn etc accounts, but we don't need to recreate full LinkedIn type profiles
The landing page for Farm-PEP should allow users to get to information relevant to them as soon as possible. This may mean displaying posts under Themes with the content being quickly and easily filtered or searched. Conservation Evidence provides a nice example of what is possible.
Ratings & Reporting
There has been strong feedback that users want help in cutting through the volume of information out there, and knowing what can be trusted. We can provide this in two ways in PEP - through ratings or classifications that Moderators provide to posts (& possibly organisations & people?) and through 'likes', 'follows' and ratings that users provide on content.
Any Moderator ratings systems used should be consistent with those being adopted in EFI.
Ratings provided by users should affect the ranking of projects and posts, and ideally also inform the prioritisation of themes
It will also be important for users to be able to report content if they feel it breaks PEP rules in being illlegal, offensive or factually incorrect. This can then be flagged to Moderators to take remedial action.
(Avoiding duplication of content)
One possible solution to Farm-PEP duplicating content published on other sites is to adopt the concepts set out by Murmurations, where a fully open schema is used that can be shared by multiple sites.
It might also make sense to use incoming and outgoing RSS feeds.
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