In “The Library of Babel,” Borges talks about the infinite nature of information and knowledge, because of its endless combinations.
The founders of a microfinance website I came across a few months ago are giving an interesting, benevolent twist to social networking. At least, that’s one way of looking at Wokai.org, a non-profit organization benefiting entrepreneurs in rural China.
Wokai has been dubbed by some as a “Facebook for farmers,” yet it may be more comparable to well-known microfinance sites like Kiva, which allow people with an Internet connection to give loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Wokai, however, focuses solely on impoverished people living in rural China.
About a month ago, I came across Changemakers.com (via Change.org’s Social Entrepreneurship blog), a neat website for people to connect and collaborate with others working – on all levels – to solve social problems. The website is an initiative of Ashoka, a nonprofit organization that works to support social entrepreneurship. Changemakers seems to act as a social network of sorts – through competitions, discussion forums and storytelling – for people who want to make a difference. Two aspects of the site quickly appealed to me.
Jobs aren't easy to come by these days, no matter where you live. The ongoing global downturn is making finding employment even more of a challenge, and in the middle of a job hunt, any advice is usually welcome. Which makes this recent post by political science professor Chris Blattman timely. He highlights development blogger Alanna Shaikh's five tips for finding an international development job – and adds a few of his own (see the tips after the jump).
I was never too great with numbers or math. I guess you could call me a visual learner. Which is why I was intrigued after exploring Gapminder.org. The non-profit organization behind the website says it's dedicated to "unveiling the beauty of statistics." They attempt to do this with impressively interactive and animated graphs.
We've already written about sites that let you help others while going about the mundane tasks you already do. And there's the FreeRice.com game, which lets you donate food by playing an Internet word game. Combining both concepts, there's now Hoongle.org: a modified Google search engine that donates 20 grains of rice for every web search done through the site.
Since searches are routed through Google, it's the same search results most people are already getting. The difference is this site takes revenue from referrals to Google and donates the income to the United Nations World Food Program's "Fill the Cup" campaign. The New York Times' Bits blog interviewed the site's creators, university students in Virginia who say they have already raised enough money to donate 4,000 meals, or 8.5 million grains of rice. The Hoongle FAQ page suggests you add them as your homepage or use their web browser plug-in. All in all, an easy way to make a small, yet perhaps meaningful difference.
It's also worth noting that the site seems to be currently down with "technical difficulties". Searches still work, since they are run through Google, but the rice donations have stopped for now.
(Hat tip: Poverty News Blog)
UPDATE: It seems the Hoongle project was short-lived. Shortly after we posted this, the people behind Hoongle.org put up the following message on their homepage: "Unfortunately, we have run into unexpected issues that will prevent the site from functioning as intended. Because of this, the site has grown beyond our means as college students. As a result, we have decided to go offline." No word on what happened or whether they will ever try to start up the site again, but you can enter your email address into a field on their homepage for future updates.
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It's nearly 35 years since I first flew over Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. Looking out of the plane window, the dark green forests stretched to the horizon. Even if there weren't any Truffula trees, there were many herds of elephants, families of tigers, groups of monkeys and many thousands of lone orangutans calling and moving around the forest, hardly ever crossing paths with humans. Then came the organized loggers, the transmigration settlements, and the plantations – rubber, oil palm and industrial timber.
About half Sumatra's forests have been lost since 1985. Last year, a WWF report (pdf) found that forest cover in Riau province, central Sumatra, has fallen from 78% to 25% in 25 years.
An interesting new wiki tool called Climate Lab takes this concept one step further. The people behind the site, which was beta-launched last week, hope that it will serve as both a clearinghouse source of information for the general public, as well as a collaborative and knowledge-sharing tool for experts of issues related to climate change.