Massive Small Change

Forgive the obvious joke

The Engineers Without Borders UK Professional Network (EWB-UK PN) held their first conference on Saturday 22nd June. And what a conference it was. It was titled “Massive Small Change“, here is the hash tag for the live tweets #massivesmallchange. (Ignore Ianrosmarin’s individualised V3 promotions, it gets good afterwards.) If I had to summarise it I would say it was about non-linear effects of intervention and how with changes of approach we can enact real, self-sustaining progress.

The idea of moving beyond community involvement to community investment remained strong throughout the day. The victim image limits the options we are willing to entertain. Despite perceptions there is a lot of money available in these communities, often tied up in other necessities. If we can provide the opportunity to invest in catalytic improvements, the same revenue stream can be re-fed into other investments and free up ever greater shares of ever growing income.

The talks were brilliant, particularly the ones I attended in the main hall. The topics broad yet on the whole focused, building upon and complementing one another without ever repeating themselves. Continue reading

Clear words

Wordless instructions. This suggestion comes up almost immediately as the best way to deliver instructions to the developing world. Whether it be an answer to tackling the behemoth that is multi-lingual translation or addressing mass illiteracy, this is the answer that keeps coming up. It is easy to see why, it sidesteps the issues of translation and illiteracy.

This approach was undertaken by two Swedish students in a remarkable a project the called Made in Kenya that tries to engage with the informal manufacturing industry and uses IKEA inspired styling Continue reading

Terminology and renaming

I will write up about the talk at OSHUG later on but this has been the first rest period for a while so I thought it would be best to update the project status first. Short form – back to the foundation and in need of a rename

The last month has been rather quiet on both of my blogs. Why is an interesting question. It started with Richard Stallman comeing to give a lecture at Hub Westminster. Another three high profile events followed and a freelance contract.

Stallman took a great interest in the Hexayurt Project and seemed interested in the idea of free hardware. His talk about free software sparked in me a need to delve deeper into the heart of the documentation issue. Continue reading

Scalable Documentation by Paul Polak is perhaps one of the most important blog posts I have read related to affordable poverty alleviating technologies. Read it before continuing this post

Read it?

I hope to write a bit more about the delivery chain but for today I will focus on scalability. This paragraph covers the important aspects.

“In many instances, the design of a scaling strategy is not very complicated. What development practitioners usually miss is the importance of building design for scale into a project from the very beginning of the design process. For example, if you need to sharpen ten pencils, the way to do it is simple. If you need to sharpen a thousand pencils, you need to use a different strategy, but it can be done. If you need to sharpen 100,000 pencils, you need a still different strategy. Continue reading

The Hexayurt and Documentation

So you want to build a hexayurt? There is no shortage of information online. But which website do you go to? What do you find there? The information is all there but it is a bit messy. Numerous diagrams and building guides. Many videos. Some with the latest developments, some out of date. The mailing lists are full of questions and answers.

All of this mess in only one piece of open source appropriate technology, in one material.

Continue reading


Here is an attempt to map out how information flows in an idealised documentation and creation cycle of a piece of technology and how this can be seen at different resolutions. Currently the situation is that the polished documentation and documentors stages are bypassed. They fall broadly into three categories, the passing on of information, feed back on the use of the product (be it the instructions of technology) and creation/improvement.

At the base level it follows the cycle below. It can be seen the steps that all information has/should pass through are the documentors, the feedback and the polished documents

A major improvement on the design has the potential to create a new variant. Each variant has its own cycle. A variant can spawn other variants. Lessons and improvement from one variant can be applied across the range. Variants typically have a reason to exist separately from the original model. If the new variant is superior in every way it renders the old one obsolete. Continue reading

Scope and Modular Videos

Often when I try to describe the project to people they get focused on a single aspect. This project is about documentation, instructions, open source ideals, and appropriate technology. During this starting up phase I will try to offer a glimpse at what the project hopes to cover.

Today I took a first look at the video format. How to make video instructions collaborative friendly and open source. As said this is a first run we will return to once the project starts in earnest.The same sort of analysis will be done to every aspect and every medium.


Re-filming videos is an expensive process. Especially when it becomes necessary to remake the videos to fill a different need. Applying Open Source and Modular principles to video might hold some answers Continue reading

Quick Update

A quick update over what has been happening with the documentation project and why I’ve been quiet.

I’ve added some of my work to . Images to be added as I make ones I am happy with.

I’ve started migrating the work onto opensource platforms. I’m learning how to use Scribus and Inkscape. Not sure if I’ll also learn freeCAD, at this moment I think the accessibility of SketchUp and the 3Dwarehouse to be more useful. Continue reading