Population to Hit 7 Billion in 2012

Population to Hit 7 Billion in 2012

The world’s population will reach 7 billion in 2012, even as the global
community already struggles to satisfy its appetite for natural
resources. The world’s population surpassed 6 billion in 1999, meaning
it will have taken only 13 years to add a billion people. By
comparison, the world’s population didn’t reach 1 billion until 1800.
The reason for this rapid and perilous growth is simple: medical and
nutritional advances in developing countries led to a population
explosion following World War II. And although cultural changes are
starting to slow the growth rate, it remains high in many countries and
continues to place unsustainable demand on scarce resources.


How to add stuff to wikipedia

1) For legal reasons, we have to be very proactive on
copyright violations.
2) You can’t license the use of copyrighted
material on Wikipedia; only the copyright owners can do that.
3) This
article would probably have been deleted anyway, as being about an non-notable organization; see WP:GROUP.
4) Since you have a relationship with this organization, you probably
shouldn’t be editing any articles about them anyway, under our restrictions on edits by persons with conflicts of interest. —Orange Mike | Talk 14:03, 7 May 2008 (UTC)
  1. Information on copyright releases can be found here.
  2. As to the conflict-of-interest issue, the thing to do is first to
    request that some impartial third party create an article, a thing done
  3. If an editor agrees that the organization passes muster under WP:GROUP, and an article is
    created, then COI persons would make suggestions on the talk page of
    the article, and other editors would take up the suggestions they found
    most useful.
  4. (I’d advise you to clarify the relationship between OPA,
    the WWF, etc., because I was having trouble figuring it out from the


So You Want to Be a Manager—Seriously?

By Jim Nieters

Published: April 22, 2008

A great leader
can direct a team to produce the best work of their careers and tune
their teams to perform at their peak—and this is important. But
it’s not more important than having great designers who can
produce market-changing ideas.

This is my first column on the management of UX. In my column,
I’ll articulate what I’ve learned from my experience as a
senior leader and several years in intensive senior leadership
development programs.

Have you ever known a manager you felt shouldn’t
manage people? Maybe you’ve worked for one. Most of us have at
one point or another. On the other hand, most of us have also had great
managers. What sets great managers apart from bad ones? That’s
one of the questions I’ll explore in this article.

Almost weekly, I talk with a UX designer or researcher
who wants to become a manager of a UX team. For some people, this is a
good choice. Both they and their teams thrive. But for many, it’s
honestly not the right goal, and the end result is that neither they
nor their teams are happy. The book Now, Discover Your Strengths
[1] suggests that we tend to be good at the things we love doing, and
we love activities at which we excel. I find that we do our best work
when we’re in a playground. (I’ll explore this idea more in
my next column.) Isn’t life too short to pursue a path we
don’t enjoy?

I believe that being a manager of people is no better
or worse than being in an individual contributor role. For the most
part, managers don’t produce the actual artifacts that drive
results. In a fundamental way, it’s the researchers and designers
who produce the great work in our industry. Don’t get me wrong: A
great leader can direct a team to produce the best work of their
careers and tune their teams to perform at their peak—and this is
important. But it’s not more important than having great
designers who can produce market-changing ideas. On a sports team, you
need a great team and a great manager to win. The challenge I see is that a large number of researchers and designers want the word manager
in their title—either because they feel it shows career
progression or for the respect they think such a title would afford
them. Taking the sports analogy further, a baseball player
doesn’t want to be the team manager—he wants to play great
ball. So, why isn’t it this way in the world of UX—and high
tech in general?

An important question then is how we as an industry
can give equal weight to great individual contributors and great
managers alike, because a great company needs both. At Yahoo!, we have
some truly world-class designers who make a huge impact on everything
they touch. While I would be happy to see them mentor other designers,
I feel it would be a waste to make them people managers. It would be
like taking Michael Jordan in his heyday and turning him into a
non-playing coach.

“Because we promote people into management roles who are not great leaders, we diminish the level of expertise in leadership across our industry.”

Perhaps more importantly, because we promote people into management roles who are not
great leaders, we diminish the level of expertise in leadership across
our industry. Many people with whom I speak believe design
managers—for instance—should just be better designers and
leadership characteristics aren’t important. Let’s take
that issue straight on: Should a company make a UX practitioner a
manager simply because she is a really great researcher or designer?
When asked in this way, the typical reaction is: “Well, of course
not!” And yet, I see senior leaders promoting good researchers
and designers to people management roles, just because they were good
at their individual contributor roles—even when they
haven’t proven they have any capacity to lead effectively. The
path from a particular domain such as user research or design into
management is not a natural progression. The skills you gain
in your role as a researcher or designer are not the skills
you’ll use as a manager and leader. Of course, a good leader of a
research or design organization needs to understand and be good at
research or design. They must be able to provide guidance for their
researchers and designers. My premise is that being a good UX
practitioner is necessary, but not sufficient to someone’s
becoming a good UX leader.

We, as a functional domain, need to focus on what it
takes to grow our next generation of great leaders. While we must
always produce great designs, we also need to value the quality of
leadership itself. We need great leaders who can facilitate their
teams’ working together at higher levels than anybody thought
possible. Who can take an average team and make it very good. On the
other hand, an average leader can take a great team and make it
average. I’ve seen both happen. So, isn’t our first step
defining what makes a great manager great?

Manager Competencies and Values

Just as we know the competencies and strengths that are required of
great researchers and designers, we need to understand and define
essential manager competencies if we are going to produce great leaders.

Recently, I worked with a management team—other than
Yahoo!—to define this set of six management competencies.
Successful managers are:

  • accountable—Take
    responsibility for results and hold themselves, peers, and direct
    reports accountable for achieving established goals and objectives.
  • customer focused—Clearly
    communicate what a team can do to achieve stakeholder or customer
    expectations, without over promising, and understand the cost/benefit
    ramifications of their recommendations to stakeholders and customers.
  • results driven—Willingly
    establish and apply performance measurements, set high performance
    standards for themselves and direct reports as necessary to achieve
    customer expectations, and implement significant
    consequences—positive and negative—for achieving or not
    meeting performance expectations.
  • open and effective communicators—Create
    an atmosphere in which high-quality information flows smoothly through
    an organization and to stakeholders, in a timely manner, and encourage
    the open expression of ideas and opinions. Creating such an atmosphere
    means you must wait for another person to finish his or her intended
    message before responding, disseminate more than the minimal amount of
    information people need, and respond positively when stakeholders or
    direct reports voice negative issues.
  • effective managers of talent—Hire
    individual contributors who are as smart as or smarter than they are;
    surround themselves with the greatest talent; strive to bring out the
    best in others, regardless of their current performance levels;
    delegate authority and responsibility to others, allowing them to use
    their abilities and talents effectively; give feedback, coach, and
    appraise employees at every opportunity possible—every week, if
    not every day; not just at review time; and respects and tolerates
    differing opinions.
  • team builders—Promote
    and generate cooperation and teamwork while working to achieve
    collective outcomes, give credit for success and recognition to the
    team rather than seeking credit for themselves, and encourage
    individuals to contribute to the organizational strategy. As Jack Welch
    says, they “get every mind in the game.”

These competencies embody a few key points. There is
an overwhelming amount of research [2] and expert opinion [3] showing
that, in addition to the six competencies I’ve listed above,
great managers and leaders are:

  • respectful—Treat
    individuals on their teams as professionals and address them with
    appropriate respect. They are not out to make themselves look good, but
    to help their employees execute their responsibilities well,
    and—yes—to build employee confidence.
  • natural mentors—Are great coaches and find deep joy in helping their employees grow their careers and execute at a very high level.
  • emotionally intelligent—Are direct, yet compassionate and tactful. [4]
  • able to see the big picture—Look out not only for their teams, but for the larger organization and company.
  • decisive—Make hard choices quickly and recognize they may need to make frequent course-corrections.
  • life-long learners—Seek feedback regularly from peers, direct reports, and their managers and have a passion for improving themselves.
“It is also critical to define the
necessary competencies and essential values that are specific to
management within your own organization, because every environment is

There are eight to ten discrete characteristics for
each of these management competencies. It is also critical to define
the necessary competencies and essential values that are specific to
management within your own organization, because every environment is
different. In addition to defining management competencies, I also
recommend you define a competency model for individual contributors.

If you are a senior leader and believe that defining
such competencies is useful, you might find it useful to start with
these competencies. However, if you want help defining a competency
model for your own organization, contact me, and I’ll put you in
touch with experts who can help you. I’d love to get your
feedback on the competencies and values I’ve defined here. What
other professional competencies do you think managers of UX
organizations need to have?

I find that the truly great managers and leaders care
very much about their employees. Some of my peers have pointed out to
me that this sounds rather bleeding-heart. In response, I’ve told
them it’s as selfish as giving away stock options. Companies give
their employees stock options, because they believe it makes employees
more dedicated to the success of the company. Likewise, when I care
about my employees, I work hard to help them succeed and grow. The
result? My employees are more loyal and more effective. Devin Jones is
one leader who embodies these characteristics, and articulates this
message better than I can. Check out his blog:

Organizational Challenges

“In most organizations today, if an employee wants to advance in his or her career, management is the only choice.”

The problem is that, in most organizations today, if an employee
wants to advance in his or her career, management is the only choice.
In such organizations, leaders make more money, garner more respect,
and often make the strategic decisions that impact career
opportunities—or the lack thereof—for individual
contributors. So, if a highly successful engineer wants to make more
money, she has to become a Manager, then a Director, even if she does
not want to. In such companies, rising to the level of a Director as an
individual contributor is prohibitively difficult. If this is the case
in your company, either try to change that mindset or find another
company! I’d love to hear from you: Does your company permit
individual contributors to grow in parallel with people managers up to
and beyond the Director level—say as a UX Architect or Principal
Designer? I’d love to talk about what we can do as an industry to
change and provide appropriate growth, compensation, and recognition
for highly skilled individual contributors.

If you are a senior leader, my suggestion is this: Do
not promote an individual contributor to a manager role unless he or
she has the required competencies—particularly the ability to
manage talent in a way that brings out their best performance and build
an atmosphere of teamwork. This is easier said than done in practice
though. Many senior leaders are tempted to—and do—promote
great individual contributors to manager roles even though they have no
strengths in leadership. They do so even though this erodes
organizational effectiveness and undermines corporate culture. Truth be
told, I learned this lesson the hard way. Please do me a favor:
Don’t repeat this mistake—don’t promote the wrong
person under any circumstances!

To illustrate one example, I know one senior leader
who is highly competent, yet deliberately promoted
“assholes”—as defined in the book The No Asshole Rule [5] —into management roles. Why? His top two individual contributors both threatened to leave the company if they were not promoted to manager. The result? He promoted both of them, after which all
of the other top performers on the team quit. These managers did more
harm than good, negatively impacting the entire organization.

We should not pursue a path because it is the only path that apparently permits us to grow. The book Now, Discover Your Strengths
[1] can help you understand what competencies you possess. I had one
employee awhile back—we’ll call him Roy—who is a
great designer and wanted to become a manager both to gain respect and
for career growth. Because I had already worked with Roy for several
months, I’d noticed three key factors that together told me he
should continue growing as a designer, not as a manager:

  • In my experience, Roy has the ability to solve any design
    problem you might throw at him, and he is very good at facilitating
    product teams’ accepting his designs.
  • He does a fine job of reviewing the designs of the people he mentors.
  • He
    does not possess any interest in or competencies for performing the
    tasks that help employees grow along multiple dimensions. He really did
    not care about managing employees at all. He just wanted to be a
    manager for the respect.

Roy would be a horrible manager. He simply wanted the
role for the perceived credibility it would afford him. It’s
important to note that he’s now happy as a principal designer. He
does not want to be a manager and is happy with his choice. Even though
learning this was a difficult—and, at times,
painful—process, it was worth it to me: Roy is happier, my other
employees are happier, and the whole organization is more productive
and runs more smoothly. Everyone plays the positions at which
they’re best.

“If employees want to change
direction and are highly motivated to move out of their current roles
and into management, we should absolutely help them.”

The problem is that most people who want to become
managers do not want to hear that they should consider a different
path. It’s often an emotional issue. This was the case with Roy
as well. It took literally months to help Roy see, first, that he could
become the equivalent of a Director, but as a designer, not as a
manager. Good leaders help their employees find the right path and feel
good seeing them grow—even if the employee outgrows the
leader’s organization. Poor leaders don’t spend the time to
help their employees grow and find their direction. Instead, they
control or subtly belittle. (In a later column, I’ll talk
specifically about how to coach employees to perform at their best.)

If employees want to change direction and are highly
motivated to move out of their current roles and into management, we
should absolutely help them. But, we need a set of criteria for
evaluating whether they will be good leaders and help them as they
experiment to see whether they can develop leadership skills. But such
skills are not a given, any more than becoming a great researcher or
designer is a given.

Looking at Precedents

The book Now, Discover Your Strengths [1] suggests that the
legal system has gotten it right: When an attorney enters a firm, he is
given cases that reflect his training and skill. As he progresses, he
may become a partner. But as a partner, he is not required to manage
people, unless he possesses people management skills. Each partner is
given a task that fits with his or her inherent skills. Some will
become managing partners, because that’s what they’re good
at. However, the majority of partners will continue to work in their
areas of expertise. They will mentor junior attorneys to increase their
firm’s expertise in their areas of specialization, but they will not
manage them. Management is a specialized skill. Just like any sport,
some people are good at it and others are not. All of the great
management and leadership books point out that we should pursue our
passions. That is, if we have a passion for an area, we are probably
good at it—or at least have the ability to improve rapidly in it.
Take any sport or other recreational activity in which you just love
engaging. If you truly love it, it’s play, and you practice it as
often as you can. When you do, you improve. You become competent, and
if you work at it long enough, you become highly skilled.

Is this how you feel about management? It’s no
different. If you are drawn to management, because you want to help
employees grow, because you want to devise strategy and enjoy what to
others would be maddening administrivia, then jump in! If you feel like
you can give the people who report to you credit for success rather
than seeking accolades for yourself, become a manager. The book Good to Great [6] suggests this is one quality that defines the best leaders.

Why Do We Have Bad Managers?

If we have the ability to define the necessary competencies of
successful managers, and there is so much valuable literature about how
to be a great manager and leader, why do we continue to have managers
in place who are not good coaches or have had no management training?
I’d like to hear from you about that. In actuality, bad managers
sometimes get lucky, and their teams do well despite them. I’ve
seen many such teams. However, in every case, such success is only
temporary. Bad managers eventually get found out. I’ve got some
great stories. Perhaps I’ll tell some of them in upcoming columns.

Just as some bad managers succeed, the opposite is
also true: Sometimes, good managers and leaders get into difficult
situations and are not successful. I really appreciated it when Jared
Spool pointed out on stage at CHI 2007 that he’d been let go a
couple of times. (For more about Jared’s remarks, see
Pabini’s review of CHI 2007 on UXmatters.)
It happens to the best of us—Jared fitting that category. Such
situations present opportunities for a leader to learn and grow.
Negative experiences often provide valuable lessons—perhaps even
more so than positive ones.

Pursue Your Passion

“Don’t become a manager because
it seems to be the only open avenue to advancement. In the end, your
decision is about consistently producing top results and about your

Are you a manager? Do you want to be? If the answer to either of these questions is yes,
ask yourself whether you embrace the competencies and attributes of
great leaders. It’s okay if you don’t—really. But if
you don’t, find a company that is willing to give you credit for
the skills you do have and promote you as an individual contributor.

Be careful with your self-analysis: A majority of
people have a hard time accurately evaluating their own skills. I
recommend you try 360-degree feedback with a coach who can help you put
feedback in perspective. Then, make your decision about whether you
want to be a manager. Don’t become a manager because it seems to
be the only open avenue to advancement. In the end, your decision is
about consistently producing top results and about your career.

But just as I’d ask about any career choice, my
question for anyone who wants to become a manager is “Why?”
If the answer is “because being a manager and all it entails
energizes me,” do it. Pursue your passion. You’ll make a
positive contribution to your company, and you can help your employees
be more productive and happier. What is it that you love and are good
at? Whatever it is, do that!


CAPTCHA is Dead, Long Live CAPTCHA!

In November 2007 I called these three CAPTCHA implementations “unbreakable”:


2008 is shaping up to be a very bad year indeed for CAPTCHAs:

Which means I am now 0 for 3. Understand that I am no fan of CAPTCHA. I view them as a necessary and important evil, one of precious few things separating average internet users from a torrential deluge of email, comment, and forum spam.

So reading that the three best CAPTCHA implementations have been
defeated sort of breaks my heart. Even what I consider to be the
strongest, Google’s implementation, fell hard:

On average, only 1 in every 5 CAPTCHA breaking requests are
successfully including both algorithms used by the bot, approximating a
success rate of 20%.

A twenty percent success rate doesn’t sound like much, but these
spammers are harnessing networks of compromised PCs to send out
thousands upon thousands of simultaenous sign-up requests to GMail,
Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail from computers all over the world. Even a five percent
success rate against a particular email service CAPTCHA would be cause
for serious concern; with twenty percent success rate you might as well
put a fork in that thing– it’s done.

In the meantime, CAPTCHA still serves a useful purpose– speed
bumps that prevent evil bots and the nefarious people who run them from
completely overrunning the internet, as Gunter Ollman notes:

CAPTCHAs were a good idea, but frankly, in today’s profit-motivated
attack environment they have largely become irrelevant as a protection
technology. Yes, the CAPTCHAs can be made stronger, but they are
already too advanced for a large percentage of Internet users.
Personally, I don’t think it’s really worth strengthening the
algorithms used to create more complex CAPTCHAs – instead, just
deploy them as a small “speed-bump” to stop the script-kiddies and
their unsophisticated automated attack tools. CAPTCHAs aren’t the right
tool for stopping today’s commercially minded attackers.

There’s simply too much money to be made in email spam for the
commercial CAPTCHA algorithms, regardless of how good they may be, to
survive forever. How old is Google’s CAPTCHA now? Two to three years
old? In the short term, perhaps proliferation and evolution of many different CAPTCHA techniques is the most effective prevention. You should emulate
the techniques from the most effective and human-readable industrial
grade commercial CAPTCHA, but avoid copying them outright. Otherwise,
when they’re inevitably broken, you’re broken too. CAPTCHA defeating
tools are tailored to very specific inputs; if there’s little to no
monetary incentive, odds are nobody will bother to customize one for
yours. My ridiculously simple “orange” comment form protection is ample
evidence of that.

Beyond diversification, the deeper question remains: how do we tell automated bots from people– without alienating our users in the process? How can we build a next generation CAPTCHA that’s less vulnerable to attack?

Here’s some food for thought:

At some point, unfortunately, CAPTCHA devolves from a simple human
reading test into an intelligence test or an acuity test. Depending on
how invasive you want to be, you’ll eventually be forced to move to two-factor authentication, like sending a text message to someone’s cell phone with a temporary key.

I don’t have the all answers, but one thing is for sure: I hate
spammers. As fellow spam-hating internet users we all have a vested
interest in seeing CAPTCHA techniques evolve to defeat spammers.


Creating climate change communications

Make climate change a local issue

suggests that most people in the UK think climate change is a global
issue, not a local one. We need to show people how climate change will
affect them at home – and what they need to change to tackle the

Positive associations

climate change with people your audience admires or respects, or with
things they care about, like home improvement or local green spaces.
Often you can make these associations indirectly – for example
using a photo of a celebrity who happens to be using public transport.

Changing attitudes, then actions

people’s attitudes to climate change don’t match their actions –
and you show them – they’re more likely to change their attitudes
to justify their behaviour than change their behaviour to match their
attitude. So don’t confront your audience like this unless you make
sure you show them how they can take positive action to achieve change.

Don’t rely on people’s concern for their children’s future

suggests that people with children are no more likely to be concerned
about the effects of climate change on the lives of future generations
than people without children. Arguably, parents have more pressing
short-term concerns than non-parents with fewer commitments and higher
levels of leisure time and disposable income.

Don’t even rely on people’s concern for their own future

human instinct for survival is strong. But evidence suggests that it
only really works in the immediate term, and rarely works collectively.
Think about how many people smoke, even when they know the harm they
are doing themselves in the long term – and how much harm they do
to others.

Scaring people doesn’t work – show them how they can change

we need people to see climate change as an important issue, we can’t
scare people into doing something about climate change if they don’t
know that their actions can make a difference. On its own, fear just
creates apathy and people avoid the issue.

Don’t get personal

need to maintain a balanced approach when we identify who is
responsible for tackling climate change – government, industry,
communities and individuals need to feel they are acting together.

often unhelpful to put all the blame on the individual and to criticise
behaviour that people consider normal in their home or family. Instead,
make it clear everyone has a role to play in acting together. We also
need to make behaviour that reduces the threat of climate change seem
positive or desirable.

People aren’t always rational

rarely carefully weigh up the outcomes of the decisions they make, and
then make the choice that’s clearly in their own interest. Rational
arguments alone aren’t enough to persuade people to change.

More than information

information is very useful when you want to show people how important
climate change is. But lots of scientific or technical information
alone is not enough and can be confusing. We also need to show how
climate change is linked to people’s day-to-day lives.

More than money

are motivated by opportunities to make – or save – money.
But often when these opportunities are linked to tackling climate
change, they are not seen as socially desirable. Economic incentives
alone are not enough.


10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World

There are probably hundreds of majestic and magnificent trees in the world – of these, some are particularly special:

10. Lone Cypress in Monterey

The Lone Cypress
(Image credit: bdinphoenix [flickr])

Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach
(Image credit: mikemac29 [flickr])

Buffeted by the cold Pacific Ocean wind, the scraggly Lone Cypress [wiki] (Cupressus macrocarpa)
in Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula, California, isn’t a particularly
large tree. It makes up for its small size, however, with its iconic
status as a stunningly beautiful tree in splendid isolation, framed by
an even more beautiful background of the Pacific Ocean.

9. Circus Trees

As a hobby, bean farmer Axel Erlandson [wiki] shaped trees – he pruned, bent, and grafted trees into fantastic shapes and called them “Circus Trees.”
For example, to make this “Basket Tree” arborsculpture, Erlandson
planted six sycamore trees in a circle and then grafted them together
to form the diamond patterns.

Basket Circus Tree
Basket Tree (Image credit: jpeepz [flickr])

Circus Tree with Two Legs
The two-legged tree (Image credit: Vladi22, Wikipedia)

Ladder Tree
Ladder tree (Image credit: Arborsmith)

Axel Erlandson underneath a Circus Tree
Axel Erlandson underneath one of his arborsculpture (Image credit: Wilma Erlandson, Cabinet Magazine)

Erlandson was very secretive and refused to reveal his methods on
how to grow the Circus Trees (he even carried out his graftings behind
screens to protect against spies!) and carried the secrets to his grave.

The trees were later bought by millionaire Michael Bonfante, who transplanted them to his amusement park Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy in 1985.

8. Giant Sequoias: General Sherman

General Sherman Tree
(Image credit: Humpalumpa [flickr])

Giant Sequoias [wiki] (Sequoiadendron giganteum), which only grow in Sierra Nevada, California, are the world’s biggest trees (in terms of volume). The biggest is General Sherman
[wiki] in the Sequoia National Park – one behemoth of a tree at 275
feet (83.8 m), over 52,500 cubic feet of volume (1,486 m³), and over
6000 tons in weight.

General Sherman is approximately 2,200 years old – and
each year, the tree adds enough wood to make a regular 60-foot tall
tree. It’s no wonder that naturalist John Muir said “The Big Tree is
Nature’s forest masterpiece, and so far as I know, the greatest of
living things.”

For over a century there was a fierce competition for the title of the largest tree: besides General Sherman, there is General Grant [wiki] at King’s Canyon National Park, which actually has a
larger circumference (107.5 feet / 32.77 m vs. Sherman’s 102.6 feet / 31.27 m).

In 1921, a team of surveyors carefully measured the two
giants – with their data, and according to the complex American Forestry Association system
of judging a tree, General Grant should have been award the title of
largest tree – however, to simplify the matter, it was later determined
that in this case, volume, not point system, should be the determining

7. Coast Redwood: Hyperion and Drive-Thru Trees

Stratosphere GiantThere is another sequoia species (not to be confused with Giant Sequoia) that is quite remarkable: the Coast Redwood [wiki] (Sequoia sempervirens), the tallest trees in the world.

The reigning champion is a tree called Hyperion
in the Redwood National Park, identified by researcher Chris Atkins and
amateur naturalist Michael Taylor in 2006. Measuring over 379 feet (155.6 115 m) tall, Hyperion beat out the previous record holder Stratosphere Giant [wiki] in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park (at 370 feet / 112.8 m).

The scientists aren’t talking about the exact location of Hyperion:
the terrain is difficult, and they don’t want a rush of visitors to
come and trample the tree’s root system.

[Image: The Stratosphere Giant – still an impressive specimen, previously the world’s tallest tree until dethroned by Hyperion in 2006.]

That’s not all that’s amazing about the Coast Redwood: there are
four giant California redwoods big enough that you can drive your car
through them!

The most famous of the drive-through trees is the Chandelier Tree
[wiki] in Leggett, California. It’s a 315 foot tall redwood tree, with
a 6 foot wide by 9 foot tall hole cut through its base in the 1930s.

Chandelier Tree
Chandelier Tree. (Image credit: hlh-abg [flickr])

6. Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse

Chapel Oak Tree
Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse (Image credit: Old trees in Netherlands & Europe)

Chapel Oak Tree
(Image credit: dm1795 [flickr])

Chapel Oak Tree
(Image credit: Luc Doudet)

The Chêne-Chapelle (Chapel-Oak) of Allouville-Bellefosse is the most famous tree in France – actually, it’s more than just a tree: it’s a building and a religious monument all in one.

In 1669, l’Abbe du Detroit and du Cerceau decided to build a chapel in (at that time) a 500 years old or so oak (Quercus robur)
tree made hollow by a lightning bolt. The priests built a small altar
to the Virgin Mary. Later on, a second chapel and a staircase were

Now, parts of the tree are dead, the crown keeps becoming smaller
and smaller every year, and parts of the tree’s bark, which fell off
due to old age, are covered by protective oak shingles. Poles and
cables support the aging tree, which in fact, may not live much longer.
As a symbol, however, it seems that the Chapel-Oak of
Allouville-Bellefosse may live on forever.

5. Quaking Aspen: Pando (The Trembling Giant)

Quaking Aspen Grove
Quaking Aspen (Image: Wikipedia)

Aspen Grove
Aspen grove (Image credit: scottks1 [flickr])

Aspen in winter and snow
Quaking Aspen in winter (Image credit: darkmatter [flickr])

Pando [wiki] or the Trembling Giant in Utah is actually a colony of a single Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
tree. All of the trees (technically, “stems”) in this colony are
genetically identical (meaning, they’re exact clones of one another).
In fact, they are all a part of a single living organism with an
enormous underground root system.

Pando, which is Latin for “I Spread,” is composed of
about 47,000 stems spread throughout 107 acres of land. It estimated to
weigh 6,600 tons, making it the heaviest known organism. Although the
average age of the individual stems are 130 years, the entire organism
is estimated to be about 80,000 years old!

4. Montezuma Cypress: The Tule Tree

Tule Tree next to a church
The Tule Tree Towers over a church next to it (Image credit: jubilohaku [flickr])

Girth of the Tule Tree
Full width of the Tule Tree (Image credit: Gengiskanhg, Wikipedia)

Detail of knotted burl of the Tule Tree
of the tree’s gnarled trunk. Local legends say that you can make out
animals like jaguars and elephants in the trunk, giving the tree the
nickname of “the Tree of Life” (Image credit: jvcluis [flickr])

El Árbol del Tule [wiki] (“The Tule Tree”) is an especially large Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum)
near the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. This tree has the largest trunk girth
at 190 feet (58 m) and trunk diameter at 37 feet (11.3 m). The Tule
tree is so thick that people say you don’t hug this tree, it hugs you

For a while, detractors argued that it was actually three trees
masquerading as one – however, careful DNA analysis confirmed that it
is indeed one magnificent tree.

In 1994, the tree (and Mexican pride) were in jeopardy: the leaves
were sickly yellow and there were dead branches everywhere- the tree
appeared to be dying. When tree “doctors” were called in, they
diagnosed the problem as dying of thirst. The prescription? Give it
water. Sure enough, the tree soon recovered after a careful watering
program was followed.

3. Banyan Tree: Sri Maha Bodhi Tree

The Banyan tree is named after “banians” or Hindu traders who carry
out their business under the tree. Even if you have never heard of a
Banyan tree (it was the tree used by Robinson Crusoe for his
treehouse), you’d still recognize it. The shape of the giant tree is
unmistakable: it has a majestic canopy with aerial roots running from
the branches to the ground.

Banyan tree
Banyan tree (Image credit: Diorama Sky [flickr])

Banyan tree's aerial root system
Closer view of the Banyan aerial root structure (Image credit: BillyCrafton [flickr])

If you were thinking that the Banyan tree looks like the trees whose
roots snake through the ruins of the Ta Prohm temple like tentacles of
the jungle (Lara Croft, anyone?) at Ankor, Cambodia , you’d be right!

Banyan tree at Ta Prohm temple
Banyan tree (or is it silk-cotton tree?) in the ruins of Ta Prohm, Ankor, Cambodia
(Image Credit: Casual Chin [flickr])

One of the most famous species of Banyan, called the Sacred Fig [wiki] or Bo tree, is the Sri Maha Bodhi
[wiki] tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is said that the tree was
grown from a cutting from the original tree under which Buddha became
enlightened in the 6th century BC.

Planted in 288 BC, it is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world, with a definitive planting date!

Banyan Tree which Buddha sat under
(Image credit: Images of Ceylon)

Sri Maha Bodhi
(Image credit: Wikipedia)

2. Bristlecone Pine: Methuselah and Prometheus, the Oldest Trees in the World.

Methuselah Grove (Image Credit: NOVA Online)

Prometheus bristlecone pine grove
Bristlecone pine grove in which Prometheus grew (Image credit: James R. Bouldin, Wikipedia)

The oldest living tree in the world is a White Mountains, California, bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) named Methuselah
[wiki], after the Biblical figure who lived to 969 years old. The
Methuselah tree, found at 11,000 feet above sea level, is 4,838 years
old – it is not only the oldest tree but also the oldest living
non-clonal organism in the world.

Before Methuselah was identified as the world’s oldest tree by
Edmund Schulman in 1957, people thought that the Giant Sequoias were
the world’s oldest trees at about 2,000 years old. Schulman used a
borer to obtain a core sample to count the growth rings of various
bristlecone pines, and found over a dozen trees over 4,000 years old.

The story of Prometheus [wiki] is even more interesting: in 1964, Donald R. Currey
[wiki], then a graduate student, was taking core samples from a tree
named Prometheus. His boring tool broke inside the tree, so he asked
for permission from the US Forest Service to cut it down and examine
the full cross section of the wood. Surprisingly the Forest Service
agreed! When they examined the tree, Prometheus turned out to be about
5,000 years old, which would have made it the world’s oldest tree when
the scientist unwittingly killed it!

Stump of Prometheus
Stump of the Prometheus Tree. (Image Credit: James R. Bouldin, Wikipedia)

Today, to protect the trees from the inquisitive
traveler, the authorities are keeping their location secret (indeed,
there are no photos identifying Methuselah for fear of vandalism).

1. Baobab

The amazing baobab [wiki] (Adansonia)
or monkey bread tree can grow up to nearly 100 feet (30 m) tall and 35
feet (11 m) wide. Their defining characteristic: their swollen trunk
are actually water storage – the baobab tree can store as much as
31,700 gallon (120,000 l) of water to endure harsh drought conditions.

Baobab trees are native to Madagascar (it’s the country’s national
tree!), mainland Africa, and Australia. A cluster of “the grandest of
all” baobab trees (Adansonia grandidieri) can be found in the Baobab Avenue, near Morondava, in Madagascar:

Baobab Avenue
(Image credit: Fox-Talbot, Wikipedia)

(Image credit: plizzba [flickr])

Baobab at sunset
(Image credit: Daniel Montesino [flickr])

In Ifaty, southwestern Madagascar, other baobabs take the form of bottles, skulls, and even teapots:

Teapot baobab
Teapot baobab (Image credit: Gilles Croissant)

The baobab trees in Africa are amazing as well:

Baobab in Tanzania
Baobab in Tanzania (Image credit: telethon [flickr])

Another baobab in Africa
Baobab near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (Image credit: ironmanix [flickr])

There are many practical uses of baobab trees, like for a toilet:

Toilet inside a baobab tree
A toilet built inside a baobab tree in the Kayila Lodge, Zambia
(Image credit: Steve Makin [flickr])

… and even for a prison:

Prison boab
A “Prison Baob” tree in Western Australia (Image credit: yewenyi [flickr])

Bonus: Tree That Owns Itself

Tree that Owns Itself
Son of the Tree That Owns Itself (Image Credit: Bloodofox, Wikipedia)

Legend has it that the Tree That Owns Itself
[wiki], a white oak in Athens, Georgia was given ownership of itself
and the surrounding land by Dr. William Henry Jackson in 1820! The
original tree had died long ago, but a new tree (Son of The Tree That
Owns Itself) was planted at the same location from one of its acorns.

Bonus 2: The Lonely Tree of Ténéré

Tree of Tenere
The Tree of Ténéré in the 1970s, before a truck crashed into it (Image credit: Peter Krohn)

The Tree of Ténéré
or L’Abre du Ténéré was the world’s most isolated tree – the solitary
acacia, which grew in the Sahara desert in Niger, Africa, was the only
tree within more than 250 miles (400 km) around.

The tree was the last surviving member of a group of
acacias that grew when the desert wasn’t as dry. When scientists dug a
hole near the tree, they found its roots went down as deep as 120 feet
(36 m) below to the water table!

Apparently, being the only tree in that part of the
wide-open desert (remember: there wasn’t another tree for 250 miles
around), wasn’t enough to stop a drunk Libyan truck driver from driving
his truck into it, knocking it down and killing it!

Now, a metal sculpture was placed in its spot to commemorate the Lonely Tree of Ténéré:

Metal sculpture of Tenere tree
(Image credit: Nomad’s Land, main website)

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Job Description: Web Developer/Programmer


We are searching for outstanding web developers to be responsible
for developing innovative, reusable Web-based tools for progressive
online activism and community building. Our web developers work closely
with our project managers, strategists and design team members to
develop specifications and make recommendations on the use of new and
emerging technologies. Programming, graphic design and database
administration are all elements of this position.


  • Work closely with Project Managers and other members of the
    Development Team to both develop detailed specification documents with
    clear project deliverables and timelines, and to ensure timely
    completion of deliverables.
  • Produce project estimates during sales process, including expertise
    required, total number of people required, total number of development
    hours required, etc.
  • Attend client meetings during the sales process and during development.
  • Work with clients and Project Managers to build and refine graphic
    designs for websites. Must have strong skills in Photoshop, Fireworks,
    or equivalent application(s).
  • Convert raw images and layouts from a graphic designer into CSS/XHTML themes.
  • Determine appropriate architecture, and other technical solutions, and make relevant recommendations to clients.
  • Communicate to the Project Manager with efficiency and accuracy any progress and/or delays.
  • Engage in outside-the-box thinking to provide high value-of-service to clients.
  • Alert colleagues to emerging technologies or applications and the
    opportunities to integrate them into operations and activities.
  • Be actively involved in and contribute regularly to the development community of the CMS of your choice.
  • Develop innovative, reusable Web-based tools for activism and community building.

Required Skills

  • BS in computer science or a related field, or significant equivalent experience
  • 3 years minimum experience with HTML/XHTML and CSS
  • 2 years minimum Web programming experience, including PHP, ASP or JSP
  • 1 year minimum experience working with relational database systems
    such as MySQL, MSSQL or Oracle and a good working knowledge of SQL
  • Development experience using extensible web authoring tools
  • Experience developing and implementing open source software projects
  • Self-starter with strong self-management skills
  • Ability to organize and manage multiple priorities

Job Description: Creative Director


The creative director is charged with determining the best ways for
us to visually represent our company’s identity online. It’s very
much a people-oriented job, involving development of high-level
concepts for design projects. It also involves working with internal
and external clients, pitching designs, and understanding client needs.
At times, we require you to develop visual designs, and at other times,
the Creative Director will be responsible for recruiting and managing
third party design firms as well as internal design resources.


  • Lead creative sessions for project kick-offs
  • Manage multiple projects from concept through completion
  • Develop creative programs and design concepts that meet the
    business objectives of the organization and that advance our brand
  • Establish creative direction for the entire line of online services and programs
  • Supervise and inspire the creative team of vendor partners; generate multiple concepts for a campaign or project
  • Work with the account team, strategy team, and copywriters to develop concepts and present to management
  • Work with internal teams to generate ideas for pitching and proposals
  • Manage team members
  • Provide quality control over concepts and projects

Required Skills

  • Undergraduate degree in Fine Arts or related field or equivalent
    visual design and management experience required; graduate degree
  • At least 4 years management experience working with large-scale web sites, e-marketing, and advertising
  • Must possess a thorough understanding of interactive communications
    and delivery systems, processes, and user interface design as well as
    industry best practices
  • Knowledge of layouts, graphic fundamentals, typography &
    limitations of the web; must understand Flash and have the ability to
    storyboard or translate ideas to designers and develop innovative
    motion graphics solutions
  • A strong working knowledge of experience design, brand development, interactive commerce and creative process
  • Print and web design capabilities: must know how to work in both media for integrated campaigns
  • Ability to lead projects from concept to completion. Apply best
    practices in user interface and interactive design, including image
    optimization and site mapping
  • Experience with software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign & Flash
  • Experience with Adobe AfterEffects & video editing (a plus) needed for this position
  • Knowledge of HTML, DHTML CSS, Actionscript & Drupal
  • Ability to make evaluative judgments
  • Ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing
  • Ability to supervise and train employees, to include organizing, prioritizing, and scheduling work assignments
  • Passion, Integrity, and Energy!

Job Description: Online Organizer


We are looking for a talented Online Organizer, responsible for
online strategy development, email campaign creation, project
management, and online community and grassroots outreach efforts. Your
responsibilities will also include managing our organization’s
relationship with other online community influencers, including
reaching out to external blogs and online communities to promote our


  • Oversee and implement grassroots organizing activities over the internet by using new technologies
  • Manage timely presentation and completion of engagement deliverables, including after-project reviews and regular status updates
  • Work with the cross-departmental communications team to develop a
    plan and the tactics for a consistent and concerted online
    mobilization, outreach, fundraising and membership development
  • Develop an email strategy and lead implementation of email
    campaigns. Oversee creative production and distribution of regular
    outbound emails and newsletter programs
  • Create and manage online initiatives including viral campaigns, online advertising, online/offline strategies
  • Adapt existing direct marketing and other materials for online outreach communications
  • Implement and monitor test plans, metrics and analysis of online fundraising and constituent mobilization campaigns
  • Write and edit emails and web content, including calls to action and fundraising appeals
  • Moderate blog posts and comments
  • Develop and analyze email and web metrics
  • Work with organizational partners, including political campaigns and non-profits

Required Skills

  • Functional understanding of Internet technology and communication.
    Experience with blogs, social networking sites, and email list
  • Experience understanding of online campaigns, especially grassroots organizing
  • Solid project management experience
  • Ability to organize and manage multiple priorities and perform
    problem analysis and resolution at strategic and functional levels
  • Exceptional interpersonal and communication skills, especially writing and content creation
  • Ability and willingness to work in a fast-paced, demanding, and unstructured environment
  • Must thrive on change, innovation, and teamwork
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or 3+ years experience
  • Passion, Integrity, and Energy!