Template Letters

The reader getting to this point in the documentation probably understood that this Ghini project is above all a very open and collaborative project.

Here in this page you find some template letters, please use them as you think best. Adapt them to welcome new users, translate into your language print it in a nice format, and go with it to the garden next door, or on your way from A to B.

Discuss them with a group of your local friends, and if you can use them to spread the use of Ghini, to make the Ghini users community grow, but also to create a (voluntary, or paid) part-time job for you, then they have reached their ideal purpose.

Open letter to the garden of your choice

Dear conservator or scientist,

You are reading Ghini’s presentation letter. Ghini is a libre software project on GitHub for botany. Brought to you by a small community of coders, botanists, translators, and supported by botanical institutions around the world, for all their collection management needs.

As a complete software solution of standalone programs, data servers and handheld clients, Ghini is dedicated to helping gardens manage and publish their collection:

  • ghini.desktop, is the core of Ghini, and it allows entering and correcting data, navigating links, producing reports, import and or exporting several standard or ad-hoc formats, reviewing your taxonomy using online sources. All according to best practices suggested by top gardens and formalized in standard formats, like ABCD or ITF2, but also as elaborated by our developers, based on the feedback by Ghini users. Developed and continously tested on GNU/Linux, but runs equally well on Windows, or macOS. [1]
  • ghini.pocket is your garden companion within Ghini. An Android app you can install from F-Droid or the Play Store, it assists you in collecting or correcting data while in the field, associating pictures to your plants, and verifying taxonomic info. Back to office, you just import your collected data into the desktop client. ghini.pocket reduces the time spent in front of your desktop PC to a true minimum.
  • ghini.web is a web server and a courtesy data hub service, offering you world wide visibility: Export a selection of your data from your desktop database, and offer it for publication to the Ghini project, for inclusion on http://gardens.ghini.me/. ghini.web serves a world map with participating gardens, georeferenced plants and info panels.
  • ghini.tour, a geographic tour Android app aimed at visitors, using OpenStreetMap as a base map, retrieving its data, gardens and virtual panels, from the web data aggregator ghini.web.


  • The remainder is even more a template than the above, please cut and reduce, but make sure that you convey the below message, which is about feedom, sharing, community forming.
  • You also want to add a few lines about yourself, or you can keep it to the talk you hope to have with the conservator, scientific director, or garden manager once you get invited.

All software within the Ghini family is licensed according to the GNU Public License v2+, v3+. The GPL is one of the strongest copyleft licenses. In short, the GPL translates the ethical scientific need to share knowledge, into legal terms. If you want to read more about it, please refer to https://www.gnu.org/licenses/copyleft.html

Ghini’s idea about knowledge and software ownership is that software is procedural knowledge and as such, should be made a “commons”: With software as a commons, “libre software” and more specifically “Copylefted software”, you not only get the source code, you receive the right to adapt it, and the invitation to study and learn from it, and to share it, both share forward to colleagues, and share back to the source. With proprietary software, you are buying your own ignorance, and with that, your dependency.

This fancy term “copyleft” instead of just “libre software”, means the software you received is libre software with one extra freedom, guaranteeing every right you were granted upon receiving the software is never lost.

In short: you can consider any GPL licensed software as your own, but not your exclusive own.

With copylefted software you are free —actually welcome— to employ local software developers in your neighbourhood to alter the software according to your needs, please do this on GitHub, fork the code, develop just as openly as the common practice within Ghini, and whenever you want, open a pull request so your edits can be considered for inclusion in the main branch. Ghini is mostly continuously unit tested, so before your code is added to the main branch, it should follow our quality guidelines for contributions. With libre software you acquire freedom and contribute to it, something that earns you visibility: Your additions stays yours, you share them back to the community, and will see them completed and made better by others. Having your code added to the main branch simplifies your upgrade procedure.

You can also contribute to the software by helping translate it into your native language. [5]

Some videos are published on YouTube, highlighting some of the software capabilities. [6]

Share back with the community. Several developers have spent cumulatively many thousand hours developing this software, and we’re sharing with the community. We hope by this to stimulate a community sentiment in whoever starts using what we have produced.

In case you’re interested in publishing your tree collection on the net, I would be happy to include your plants, species, coordinates to http://gardens.ghini.me. Georeferenced textual information panels are also very welcome, all offered as a courtesy: We’re still defining the offer. The idea behind this is allowing visitors to explore aggregated garden collections, and the current focus is on trees.

A small example: http://gardens.ghini.me/#garden=Jardín%20el%20Cuchubo

free botanic data management systems

Many institutions still consider software an investment, an asset that is not to be shared with others, as if it was some economic good that can’t be duplicated, like gold, or cryptocurrencies.

As of right now, very few copylefted programs exist for botanic data management:

  • ghini.desktop, born as bauble.classic and made a commons by the Belize Botanical Garden. Next to the bauble-derived desktop program, Ghini offers three more components: a pocket data collecting Android app, a Node.js web server, aggregating data from different gardens and presenting it geographically, finally a geographic tour app aimed at visitors using the web data aggregator as its data source. You can find every Ghini component on GitHub: http://github.com/Ghini
  • Specify 6 and 7, made a Commons by the Kansas University. A bit complex to set up, very difficult to configure and tricky to update. The institutions I’ve met who tried it, only the bigger ones, with in-house software management capabilities manage to successfully use it. They use it for very large collections (millions of elements). Specify targets naturaly history rather than living collections, but in this it is extremely generic: it adapts to herbaria, seed collections, but also to collections of eggs, organic material, fossils, preserved dead animals, possibly even viruses, I’m not sure. It is this extreme flexibility that makes its configuration a bit of a complex task. Specify is also on GitHub: https://github.com/specify and is licensed as GPLv2+. Support is provided to US institutions.
  • Botalista, a French/Swiss cooperation, is GPL as far as rumours go. Its development has yet to go public. It was most active in early 2016, by end 2018 it seems to have faded away.
  • bauble.web is an experimental web server by the author of bauble.classic. bauble.classic has been included into Ghini, to become ghini.desktop. Bauble uses a very permissive license, making it libre, but not copylefted. As much as 50% of bauble.web and possibly 30% of ghini.desktop is shared between the two projects. Bauble seems to be stagnating, and has not yet reached a production-ready stage.
  • Taxasoft-BG, by Eric Gouda, a Dutch botanist, specialist in Bromeliaceae, collection manager at the Utrecht botanical garden. Taxasoft-BG is a typical LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySql-Php) program. It was Mario Frasca who convinced Eric to publish what he is doing, to license it under the AGPL, and to publish as far as possible the most current version of the program. Not yet “production ready”, you find it on github: https://github.com/Taxasoft/Taxasoft-BG and https://github.com/Ejgouda/Taxasoft-BG
  • BG-Recorder, by the BGCI, runs on Windows, and requires Access. Developed mostly between 1997 and 2003, it has not been maintained ever since and isn’t actively distributed by the BGCI. I’ve not managed to find a download link nor its license statement. It is still mentioned as the free option for botanic database management.

Of the above, only ghini.desktop satisfies these conditions: Copylefted, available, documented, maintained, easy to install and configure. Moreover: Cross platform and internationalized.

Welcome to Ghini/Bauble

Dear new user,

Welcome to Ghini/Bauble.

As the maintainer, I have received your registration for bauble.classic/ghini.desktop, many thanks for taking your time to fill in the form.

I see you are using bauble.classic-1.0.55, whereas 1.0.55 is the last released version of bauble.classic, however, bauble.classic is now unmaintained and superseded by the fully compatible, but slightly aesthetically different ghini.desktop. Install it following the instructions found at http://ghini.rtfd.io

The registration service says you’re not yet using the newest Python2 version available. As of 2018-05-01, that is 2.7.15. Using any older version does not necessitate problems, but in case anything strange happens, please update your Python (and PyGTK) before reporting any errors.

Also thank you for enabling the “sentry” errors and warnings handler. With that enabled, Ghini/Bauble will send any error or warning you might encounter to a central server, where a developer will be able to examine it. If the warning was caused by an error in the software, its solution will be present in a subsequent release of the software

If you haven’t already, to enable the sentry and warnings handler, open the “:config” page in Ghini and double click on the row “bauble.use_sentry_client”.

I hope Ghini already matches your expectations, if this is not the case, the whole Ghini community would be very thankful if you took the time to report your experience with it.

The above is one way to contribute to Ghini’s development. Others are: - contribute ideas, writing on the bauble google forum (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/bauble), - contribute documentation, or translations (https://hosted.weblate.org/projects/ghini/), - give private feedback, writing to ghini@anche.no, - rate and discuss Ghini openly, and promote its adoption by other institutions, - open an issue on GitHub (https://github.com/Ghini/ghini.desktop/issues/), - contribute code on GitHub (fork the project on (https://github.com/Ghini/ghini.desktop/), - hire a developer and have a set of GitHub issues solved, per-haps your own - let me include your garden on the still experimental worldmap (http://gardens.ghini.me)

I sincerely hope you will enjoy using this copylefted, libre software

Best regards, Mario Frasca

https://ghini.github.io https://github.com/Ghini/ghini.desktop/issues/

Do you want to join Ghini?


I generally send a note similar to the following, to GitHub members who “star” the project, or to WebLate contributors doing more than one line, and at different occasions. If it’s from GitHub, and if they stated their geographic location in their profile, I alter the letter by first looking on institutos botánicos if there’s any relevant garden in their neighbourhood.

Dear GitHub member, student, colleague, translator, botanist,

Thank you warmly for your interest in the Ghini project!

From your on-line profile on github, I see you’re located in Xxxx, is that correct?

If you are indeed in Xxxx, you live very close to gardens Yyyy and Zzzz. Maybe you would consider the following proposition? All would start by contacting the botanical garden there, and get to know what software they use (what it offers, and at which price) and if they’re interested in switching to ghini.desktop+pocket+tour+web.

The business model within Ghini is that the software is free and you get it for free, but time is precious and if a garden needs help, they should be ready to contribute. Maybe you already have a full-time job and don’t need more things to do, but in case you’re interested, or you have friends who would be, I’m sure we can work something out.

Let me know where you stand.

best regards, and again thanks for all your contributed translations.

Mario Frasca

Letter to garden network

good morning,

I wish to establish contact with people within the (eg: council of botanic gardens), who could be open for examining a proposal. I am the current maintainer of the free software Ghini, for the management of botanic collections. Could you introduce me to one of the gardens in your area, that are looking for a strong data management system, even ones with more time than money? My advantage is increased feedback (and a Russian translation). This evaluation of the software can be expanded to further help develop it, for your and our use.

The Ghini software is software made into a commons, meaning you can freely copy it, learn from it, and you may enhance it, but you can’t appropriate it. This is different from closed software, where copying is not just discouraged but strictly prohibited.

Letter to botanic institution developing proprietary software

Dear Peter, John, James, good morning. (names of your contact people)

this is (you), of the Ghini Organization (maybe you want to get in touch with me before you say this), (introduce how you know each other, you possibly visited them, whatever). I’m not a botanist (or are you), (myself: a mathematician specializing in information science), and as Peter already knows I endorse the view of software as a commons, rather than just an economic asset. I am trying to establish a communication line with your institution, and get in touch with the licensing devision makers of the software you develop. It would be a big advantage to all, if it was copylefted, and published. I would be happy to contribute to its development.

Unfortunately most institutions consider software an investment, not to be shared with others, as if it was an economic good that can’t be duplicated, like gold. As of now, I am aware of the existence of very few copylefted programs for botanic data management:

  • ghini.desktop, born as bauble.classic and made a Commons by the Belize Botanical Garden. (more recently Bauble regressed to 2008, chose for a different license, which makes it free but not copylefted, and it is again stagnating). ghini.desktop has three more components, a pocket data collecting Android app, a nodeJS web server, aggregating data from different gardens, and presenting it geographically, again a geographic tour app aimed at visitors and using the web data aggregator as its data source. Every Ghini component is on GitHub: http://github.com/Ghini
  • specify 6 and 7, made a Commons by the Kansas University. A bit complex to set up, and very difficult to configure, tricky to update. the institutions I’ve met who tried it, only the bigger ones, with in-house software management capabilities manage to successfully use it. Specify is also on GitHub: https://github.com/specify
  • botalista, a French/Swiss cooperation, is GPL as far as I know, but it wasn’t yet released for public download. very active around 2016, now stagnating.
  • Taxasoft-BG, from Eric Gouda, a Dutch botanist, specialist in Bromeliaceae, collection manager at the Utrecht botanical garden. it was me who convinced him to publish what he was doing, and to publish it under the GPL, but I’m afraid he never posted any update of what he’s been doing after 2016, April 13th and I’m also afraid he forgot to clearly specify the license. I know that he actively works at it and at its distribution. You can find it on GitHub: https://github.com/Ejgouda/Taxasoft-BG

Of the above, only ghini.desktop satisfies the conditions: Copylefted, available, documented, maintained, easy to install and configure. moreover: Cross platform, internationalized.

Maybe you can add yourself to the list? Or your decision makers could even add your own system? Peter, what’s your opinion in this?

Friendly regards,

Mario Frasca