Greenpeace goes open source in collaboration push

The environmental campaign group wants developers to help combat climate change by using a Web platform launched in beta this week
Written by Miya Knights, Contributor

Greenpeace is developing an online collaboration platform to mobilise climate change, based entirely on open-source technologies.

The international, not-for-profit campaign group has published a beta version of the platform, codenamed ‘Project Melt’, to encourage IT developers to create innovative tools to help campaigners fight climate change.

"We already have a Web presence, but wanted to do something different with the Web 2.0 technologies that are out there, using tagging and links," Rolf Kleef, Greenpeace International head of climate, energy and people projects, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

The platform was developed using Django — a framework for developing online Web applications using the increasingly popular Python open-source programming language.

The organisation has published the platform code through links found on its Melt weblog, and will also make APIs available to other applications, for email or word processing for example, so developers can create time-saving tools.

"We are definitely hoping for a mix of collaboration," said Kleef. "Developers can contribute things like mash-ups, for mass mailings for example, wikis and new kinds of opportunities for helping the campaigners be more effective."

Although the campaign group will be organising the platform, it hopes the open-source nature of the platform will encourage wider, collaborative take-up by other campaign groups or individuals and IT developers.

Quocirca analyst Bob Tarzey said there might be those who think open source and green issues go together, but: "All an organisation can do is elect the best technology for doing the job".

Greenpeace worked with open-source consultancy Thoughtworks, using Agile development methodologies, which it claims let it build a prototype of Melt within two weeks.

"We wanted results pretty quickly," said Kleef. "And the basic idea was always to develop this using open source, so we could get more people to contribute to it."

Tarzey said the use of Thoughtworks mitigated the difficulty in staffing the project with sufficient open-source skilled people.

Tarzey added: "Microsoft and Lotus dominate the collaboration market; open source happens to be a long way behind in this particular area."

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