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Open thread: Improving REDD-Monitor

Open thread: Improving REDD-Monitor

Last month, REDD-Monitor celebrated its fourth birthday. Also sometime last month, the site received its millionth view. It seems a good time to look at how REDD-Monitor could be improved. Here’s a question I’ve been asking people recently: “What would you change on REDD-Monitor in order to improve it?”

The suggestions can relate to any aspect of the website, from the appearance, ease of use, how often posts appear to the content of the posts themselves. I’d prefer suggestions that offer ways of improving things, but if you have a problem with REDD-Monitor and don’t have a solution, it would be good to hear about that too.

I also have some ideas for changes to REDD-Monitor over the coming months, listed below in no particular order:

  • Design: The website is overdue for a re-design. I’d like to simplify the design, hopefully making it easier to read and easier to find what you’re looking for. I’m going to delete the banner photos. I think they distract from the information in the posts. If, for example, you’re reading an interview with a REDD proponent, such as Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, it doesn’t make much sense to have a banner of a series of No REDD protest photos above the interview.
  • Comments: REDD-Monitor welcomes discussion about REDD. But as Andrew Revkin puts it, promoting “constructive online discourse, … is never easy given the tendency of the Web to amplify and polarize”. Sometimes the discussion on REDD-Monitor degenerates into personal attacks. Any suggestions for improving REDD-Monitor’s comments policy (or how it is implemented) would be welcome, as would suggestions for improving the discussions on REDD-Monitor. For example, should there be a ban on sock puppets – one person using several different names to comment? Sock puppets took over the comments after REDD-Monitor’s most recent post about David Nilsson’s operations in Peru.
  • Interviews and debate: REDD-Monitor will continue doing interviews with REDD actors. I’ve made a couple of attempts at setting up “Debate” posts, similar to the format that New Internationalist uses. Two people with different opinions could debate a topic such as: “Should REDD be financed by carbon trading?” So far, it’s proved difficult to get both parties to agree to a debate. Any suggestions? Or if anyone wants to take part in a debate, please let me know.
  • Research trips: I’ll be doing my first REDD-Monitor research trip later this year, looking at a REDD project on the ground. The work will include a series of interviews, with project proponents and with villagers in the project area. The result will be a short report (to be available in English, Bahasa Indonesia, French, Spanish and Portuguese). Hopefully this will be the first of many research trips and reports.
  • Social media: You can follow REDD-Monitor on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Any suggestion for how REDD-Monitor could improve the use of these social media? (I’ve just noticed that the REDD-Monitor Google+ account hasn’t been updated since April 2012, so that’s an obvious improvement to be made…) Are there other social media that REDD-Monitor should be using?

  • UNFCCC: I’ve not been to a COP since Poznan, in 2008. I won’t be going to Doha. This is partly to reduce the amount of flying I do and partly because many NGOs follow these meetings and pass on information about what’s happening. However, going to the COPs increases the amount I write about them. I wrote 32 posts from Poznan, compared to 14 each about Copenhagen and Cancun and 11 about Durban. Should REDD-Monitor take part in the UNFCCC discussions more frequently?
  • Open threads: In August last year I started a series of “Open threads” and then quietly shelved the idea a month later. This post re-starts the open threads. Suggestions for topics are welcome.
  • Funding: Long term core funding, as well as funding for specific projects like research trips, debates and interviews would be nice. Any suggestions?

Suggestions I’ve received so far include the following:

  • Search always brings up “REDD in the news” posts, which may not have much detail on the term searched.
  • REDD-Monitor focussed on REDD – sometimes the posts have nothing to do with REDD.
  • REDD-Monitor is responding to the REDD agenda – and looking at the problem through a REDD framework. Having focussed on the problems maybe it’s time to start looking at solutions, outside the REDD framework.
  • Set up an Indonesian version of REDD-Monitor, along the lines of mongabay.com’s Indonesia site. Hire someone to work on this.
  • Hire at least one other person to work with you on REDD-Monitor. When you’re on holiday the website won’t close down.

Please leave any more suggestions in the comments below. Thanks!


UPDATE – 11 November 2012: I changed the title. The previous one (“Making REDD-Monitor better”) made it sound like REDD-Monitor was ill.

Leave a Reply

  1. Chris –

    My suggestion is to move towards a more broadly based network seeking practical concensus on resolving the contentious issues you identify, perhaps using a more representative steering group to manage the project and achieve greater buy-in. This may give you a route into core funding also.

    More positive dialogue on the prospects for REDD and exemplars of sustainable forestry wood be good – I think this is possible without losing the value you bring as a watch-dog on bad practice and carbon cowboys. I think it’s right to recognise the polarisation risk and asscociated with this is the potential to alienate policy makers which might otherwise be positive advocates.

    You seem to be putting in a huge personal effort which is appreciated and the world according to Chris Lang is fascinating. However, in my opinion a million hits gives you a huge reponsibility to be as constructive as possible and personally I don’t think REDD-Monitor is currently achieving the right balance nor maximising its impact.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    Regards

    Jeff Kersey

  2. @Jeff Kersey (#1) – Thanks for these suggestions. I do want to do more interviews with REDD proponents – these are an opportunity for people to explain the potential benefits of REDD (and to answer questions about why they believe carbon trading to be a suitable way of financing REDD). Similarly, debate posts could give equal space to pro-REDD and no-REDD points of view. Or two different opinions from the pro-REDD camp. There are many different points of view out there about REDD.

    I’m not sure that the fact million hits necessarily gives me a responsibility to be as “constructive as possible”, and certainly not if this involves turning away from the problems associated with REDD.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to discussing your ideas further.

  3. The suggestions can relate more Spanish articles, links to academic articles…
    Thanks Chris and congratulations!
    Ivonne

  4. Hi Chris,

    I totally agree with your comment:

    “I’m not sure that the fact million hits necessarily gives me a responsibility to be as “constructive as possible”, and certainly not if this involves turning away from the problems associated with REDD.“

    Constructive can be used as a misnomer or time waster – simply intellectualisng the debate on carbon trading while forgetting the very real problems REDD in all it shades causes on the ground, in the forests.

    RE suggestions for social media had you thought about people being able to upload their own short videos to remind us of the ugly reality of REDD?

    http://www.youtube.com/nonprofits

    Thank you for the valuable and brave information that REDD monitor provides.

    Michelle

  5. @Ivonne (#3) – Thanks! I agree that more translation to Spanish would be good and that more academic articles would be good. Guess what? The problem in both cases is getting the funding for translation and to pay for academic articles (which are often around US$30 each – and even then they are copyright and cannot be posted on REDD-Monitor). It would be good to have some sort of check of the translation by a Spanish speaker who is also fluent in REDD. I’m not quite sure how to set this up. But funding is the first problem (which of course is not an insurmountable problem!).

    The second problem is finding the time to read more academic articles. Which brings us back to the suggestion at the end of the post: “Hire at least one other person to work with you on REDD-Monitor”.

  6. I would say it’s fine to take a view, there are plenty of views out there after all. It’s also okay that the comments section is a bit rambunctious, if it wasn’t then it would be less successful.

    I would recommend that the message goes beyond the website. Content is king and you wanna get the content out there whether people like it or not. So the question should not be how to make REDD-MONITOR better; but how to broaden a debate that is often too one sided.

    I like reading your site and have learnt a lot. I value your opinion all the more for as it is opinionated. There is no need to provide balance and it will not actually make you more media friendly.

    All you have to do to be more media friendly is … well … be more media friendly …

    Instead of asking; “How do I improve REDD-MONITOR?
    Why not ask – “How to further change and challenge perspectives?”

    Recommendation: Recognise REDD-MONITOR is a great source of information and opinion and focus on speaking to more people in journalism, publishing, politics, etc to further debate.

  7. I deeply appreciate REDD-Monitor.

    I suggest installing a “Google Translator” WordPress plug-in on the sidebar that would make it easy for non-English speakers to quickly translate all the text into their language. It’s not a perfect translation, but I think the general idea could come across.

    Also, every time I want to give a donation to support the work, it forces me to donate through Flattr, which would involve me setting up an account and dividing up my donation amongst other sites, which for some reason always stops me. I’d appreciate a way to donate a straight-up donation, like Paypal or something.

    Thanks again for all your amazing work on this site. It’s truly a rich and educational resource for people around the world. I’m based in Portland, OR, but my research focuses on Vietnam, and this site has been one of the few places where I can find critical perspectives on REDD policies.

  8. Chris, REDD-Monitor is an indispensable source for those wanting to understand this ugly and developing aspect of the commodification of nature that so obscures alternative attempts make nature central to human life again. Many thanks for your work!!!!

    With hesitation, I suggest that REDD-Monitor could broaden its focus to highlight the other ways that that ecosystem- so-called by the neo-libs ‘services’ are being commodified in the new putsch integrate Nature into the ‘green economy’. REDDs and CDMs and other carbon ‘offset ‘markets are well covered. The insidious creep of payment for ecosystem services (PES) pushed by the World Bank , the TEEB project , the British Treasury for instance also need monitoring. Under the wings of an innocuous scheme to rehabilitate indigenous flora in Australia there are funds to promote Indigenous carbon ‘farming’ …Who knows how many other micro and meso level PES schemes are afoot? REDD-Monitor would be my first site to search and I hope you can , somehow, pick up more about the PES trend , of which REDDS are, one albeit massive part.

  9. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for doing this open thread and for having removed the banners. It is true that they were distracting and sometimes out of context. I have been very pleased with that.

    I have a suggestion: hire someone who has access to a university library, that way the person could find the articles and make a summary or the abstract can always be published, or a summary with the link to the abstract. I think (but I might be wrong) that people interested in scientific papers usually has access to a library, being able to read the full papers.

    Thanks.