Gatnet: Gearing up for 2016

Dear Gatnet Friends and Colleagues,
zetabyte-image-largeWhen Priyanthi Fernando decided to invite us to an month-long peer dialogue on Gender Mainstreaming in Rural Transport, I was fascinated by . . .  First, the topic itself and was very curious to see what the 150 or so people from various corners of the world signed into Gatnet would have share and create together on this subject. And second I was intrigued to see how our somewhat sagging original Dgroups website package was going to be able to support these exchanges. So I decided to jump in with both feet and as the exchanges moved along, I was struck by two things in turn.

First, how much we have to learn from each other. And second, what a barely adequate platform we had to work with dear old Dgroups.  So at the same time following what Pri, Hans, Salma, Gina, Prakash, Batel, Jun, Randy, Protasio, Andrea, Serge, Robert, Paul, Gifty, Nite, Peter, Maria, Lucy, Vero, Holy, Barney, Solomon, Tim, Jeff, and I am sure I have forgotten one or two of us — I quickly came to the conclusion that we were not all that well served by the original decade old Dgroups technology. Yes, it functions decently as a listserv, but it is basically a closed system, difficult to sort through and for quite some time the Search function has not worked at all.  And it is media poor.  Your work deserves more and better.

Combined Search Engine

So I decided to give it a try and start by seeing if I could work up for our group some kind of useful search capability. So rather than wait for the Dgroups team to complete the promised work updating their search engine, I created one that works today and that you can try out at  It needs more work but I think it gives us a good start. I’d ask you to give it a try, perhaps starting with seeing what it can dig up for you on your country, on a given concept, problem, place, tool. person, etc. Let me know what you think.

Supporting website and toolset

It is part of a larger tool set  that I am trying to get on line in serviceable form by the end of this month m order to support the January Dialogue topic, which I guess we are still trying to sort out. To get a first idea of what I have in mind to support our communications and team work, you can check out Dgroups or It’s still a bit of a mess, but you will see this gives us a much more extensive and useful set of communications and research tools. (Note most of these work at least serviceably with dialup or 2G links though I am still trying to sort this out, and I count on your merciless feedback so that we can try to fine tune.)

The mental image I have in doing this is to think (a) of the fact that most of us are physical dispersed, working hard in distant places and are pretty happy when we find someone working in our area  with whom we can swap ideas, questions and leads. And thus to propose (b) the technology and our operational style a kind of virtual one room school house in which the “students” (that’s us) can share and learn from each other.   No bureaucracy, nobody asking for money, and nobody telling us what to do  To my best thoughts in this case, we are the reason.  And we are the means.

And finally, what I like about Gatnet over all these years is that it is a real self-organized system.  And just to be sure that I have this quite right, I attach at the end of this note the WP definition which I am quite comfortable with. A real 21st century democratic system.

I hope you find it useful. We will see how it works in the January Dialogue. I am very curious to see how we put it to work.

Kind regards,

Eric Britton

Self-organization is a process where some form of overall order or coordination arises out of the local interactions between smaller component parts of an initially disordered system. The process of self-organization can be spontaneous, and it is not necessarily controlled by any auxiliary agent outside of the system. It is often triggered by random fluctuations that are amplified by positive feedback. The resulting organization is wholly decentralized or distributed over all the components of the system. As such, the organization is typically robust and able to survive and, even, self-repair substantial damage or perturbations. Chaos theory discusses self-organization in terms of islands of predictability in a sea of chaotic unpredictability. Self-organization occurs in a variety of physical, chemical, biological, robotic, social, and cognitive systems. Examples of its realization can be found in crystallization, thermal convection of fluids, chemical oscillation, animal swarming, and neural networks. (WP)

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