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What is LETS for Orchard?

It's a LETS system directory and accounting module for the excellent Orchard CMS.  Being a CMS module means that the LETS system has a website out of the box, with the accounting & membership functions integrated seamlessly.  This application is used by the Swan Hills LETS System in Western Australia.

What is a LETS System?

Essentially it's a local complementary currency, and is intended to stimulate a local economy.  Members of a local (geographically local) community join up, post offers & requests, and trade with eachother, recording transactions in the local currency.  Members each have a trading account which starts at zero.  Currency is created when someone records a sale, resulting in a credit and a corresponding debit in the buyers account.  Balances & turnover are visible to all members.

The term "Local Exchange Trading System" was originated by Michael Linton in 1983, who wrote the "LETS System Design manual". 

More information:

  1. Complementary currencies on Wikipedia
  2. LETS System on Wikipedia
  3. The LETS System Design Manual (original Michael Linton publication)

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Screenshots

Menu bar

Menu bar

 


 

Member signup

Member signup

 


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List of offers (public view, not logged in)

 

Offers list

 


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Trading account

Trading account


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Member profile

Member profile


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Member notices

Member notices


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Member list

Member list


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Demurrage forecast

Demurrage forecast


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Categories

Categories


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Add a notice

Add a notice


System requirements

You will need hosting space on a .NET4 server, with a SQL Server 2012 database. 

Recommended hoster: Studiocoast in Brisbane Australia, the economy package is enough.  Other good possibilities:

  1. Gearhost
  2. Softsys

You will probably also want to register a domain name for your website unless you already have one.

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How to install

1. Easiest method

Prepare your hosting space by creating a blank SQL2012 database, ensuring that the default ASP.NET user has write access to the Orchard directory, and that Full Trust is permitted.  Also make sure that .NET4 is enabled.

Download the release & FTP into your prepared hosting space.  Then load up the home page in your browser, which should launch the installer.  You will need on hand the connection string for your SQL2012 database.  You should then see the Orchard recipe "cooking" before being presented with your new website, which you will then need to configure by following the guides on the home page and here.

2. Experienced Orchard developers

Those familiar with Orchard may wish to enlist in the source code & install as a module into an existing Orchard website.  Warning! This is only recommended for experienced users and of course the module should never be copied into a live website without thorough testing on a development copy.  There are quite a few dependencies on other modules, some of which are not included in the standard Orchard release.

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How to configure

For easiest setup, the first 4 steps below should preferrably be done in order.  The last 3 steps are optional.

  1. Email settings.  (Dashboard, Settings, Email) LETS relies on email to keep in touch with members, so this is essential.  Set your from email address and Host name.
  2. Localities.  These are essential and were not added during setup.  Please create one locality for each of the suburbs or towns in your LETS system.  You can do this by clicking "New - Locality" in the dashboard.
  3. The admin user must have an email address.  This was not set at the time of setup, so you need to set it now by clicking edit on the admin user that you specified during setup. (Dashboard, Users) Please also set here:
    1. The username should be the same as the email address.  The LETS module has been setup so that user login is simplified, by eliminating usernames & using email addresses instead.  Some minor functions of the module will not work properly for admin if you don't do this.
    2. Set a telephone, street address & Locality so members can contact you.
  4. User settings (Dashboard, Settings, Users)
    1. Provide the website public name and contact us email address.
    2. Add the email address for the admin user to "Moderators" so that you receive an email when a new member needs to be approved.
  5. LETS Settings.  (Dashboard, Settings, LETS) Specify the name of your unit of currency.  Optionally activate demurrage & configure. Optionally add your mailchimp list id.
  6. Widgets. As well as the latest offers, requests & announcements widgets which have been installed onto the sidebar on the home page, there is a Map of members provided.  See "LETS Widgets provided" for details on how to display the map.
  7. Theme settings.  (Dashboard, Themes, LETS Bootstrap, Settings) Here you can change the background color and add a logo if you wish.
  8. Mail chimp.  We strongly recommend signing up for an account at Mailchimp and using the RSS to email campaign to send a daily email of latest notices, members & comments to your members.  Without this it may be difficult to keep members engaged.  An RSS feed is provided which combines new members, notices and comments on anything at http://yourdomainname.com/rss?lets=all

How to use

Once you've succesfully set up your website and configured it, added some introductory or "about" pages to describe your LETS system, you should test the member signup process.  Do this by logging out or using a different browser to "become a member", verify your email address, and then receive an email as a moderator and log in as admin to moderate the new member. The moderation process will be necessary to ensure that only genuine local people get to join your system. 

Subs: Most LETS systems will charge a small annual fee in the "federal currency" to cover real costs such as web hosting, any postage or photocopying costs etc.  In our experience, the fee should be as low as possible while still covering costs.  We have also found that annual collection of subs is a good way to (a) ensure only honest people sign up, and (b) weed out inactive members who haven't bothered to tell you they no longer wish to be part of the system.

The easiest way to get your new members onto the system is to ask them to sign up, then encourage them to add their notices and start trading.  If you have data to import from an existing LETS system, this is a much bigger job, but we have done it before, so ask us & we should be able to help you import it.

What distinguishes this from other LETS software

As far as we know, there are 2 features that aren't available in other software (correct us if we're wrong).  We believe these two features help to keep the system active and members trading frequently:

  1. Notices have an expiry date.  Members cannot add offers that will still be displaying years later & have probably been forgotten.  When notices expire, the member is sent an email asking them to either re-publish their notice or add another.  We have found this works very well.
  2. Use it or lose it - credits earned must be spent within a certain timespan.  If they are not spent, they are "demurred" - a deduction is made and credited to the admin account.  Some time later, if the remainder still hasn't been spent, the remaining value is deducted.  It's like negative interest, and it encourages trading rather than hoarding of credits.  It also replaces the need for unpopular administration fees, or transaction fees, which discourage trading.  This is an optional setting and can be ignored.  To be honest, it is still in beta testing at Swan Hills LETS, but the signs are very positive so far.  For a detailed explanation see here

Default Data & Settings

All of the following can be configured.

Notice types:  Offer (1), Request (0), Announcement (0).  You may change these if you wish or add others.  the figure in brackets is the number of notices of each type that a member is required to have.  If they don't have any offers, the system will remind them to offer something.

Payment terms:  free, negotiable and "plus $costs"

Per: each, per hour, per head

Maximum notice age: 180 days

Oldest recordable transaction: 365 days

Default turnover in days: 365 days (displayed as a stat on each member)

User settings: Users can register, must validate email, and must be approved before logging in

Demurrage: If demurrage is enabled, credits must be spent within 365 days before incurring a 40% charge, after another 365 days the remaining 60% are deducted if unspent.

Categories: A good selection of categories are set up under 4 main headings: Buy & Sell, Services & Skills, For Hire and Events & Announcements

LETS Widgets provided

Latest offers, requests and announcements are installed onto the home page as part of the setup recipe.  If for some reason you need to re-configure these, they are projection widgets on 3 queries that should have been installed with the recipe.  You can find out more information about projections here.

Auth Navigation widget - this is a second navigation menu that lists links to the main member only functions: "Add a notice", "Transactions" etc.

Stats Widget - simply shows the total trading turnover for the default period (the default turnover period is set in the LETS settings)

Members Map Widget - As this is dependent on your location, it's not displayed by default.  It's a live google map of your database of members.  For this reason it's best to display it on a "member only" page.  If you display it on a public page, you may end up violating google's volume restrictions.  To set this up, follow these steps:

  1. Get a Google Maps API V3 key by following the instructions here.
  2. Create & publish a new "Members Only Page" for the members map.  No need to add any content unless you want to.  Copy the Permalink into your clipboard, this is shown near the bottom of the screen.
  3. Create a new widget layer for the map ("Widgets", "Add a new layer").  Name the widget layer "Members map" and give it this layer rule: url("~/permalink") where "permalink" is the permalink you copied into your clipboard.  Click Save.
  4. Click "Add" in the "Content Zone", and select "Members Map Widget".  Fill out the required fields and click Save.  You should now see your map on the page you created.

What the recipe does

The recipe installs Orchard, enabling the modules below, and creates default data and settings.

  1. Blogs - installed & enabled, but creating a new blog is up to you
  2. Comments - configured for members only to comment on other members' notices
  3. Projections - very useful module for easily presenting dynamic queries of notices & other data.  See more info about recommended widgets.
  4. Profile - allows us to give each member their own profile - installed are standard contact details, links to social networks and an "about me" section.  This can be added to through the dashboard.
  5. Taxonomies - this module runs our notice categories.  Some standard categories are set up by the recipe - you can edit them if needed.
  6. Email - Email communication is an essential part of an active LETS system, so this is enabled, ready for you to configure with your mail server & email address
  7. Archive Later - all notices are given an expiry date (default maximum of 180 days) & automatically archived.  The member is advised by email & encourage to reconsider their notices. This is one of the distinguishing features of this LETS module
  8. Agile Uploader Field - this allows members to easily add photos to their notices, without having to access the dashboard, or resize photos first.
  9. Search - full search of all website content & notices are available from the front & back end
  10. Roles - a new "Member" role is created in addition to the standard Orchard roles.
  11. Mailchimp - Members are automatically signed up to your Mailchimp list if given.  You can then use Mailchimp's RSS to email feature to send members a daily email of latest notices & new members & comments.  An RSS feed is provided for this purpose.
  12. The "LETS Bootstrap" theme - a standard Bootstrap theme - you can configure the background colour & add a logo without having to touch the source code. 

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Last edited Mar 16, 2013 at 4:14 AM by planetClaire, version 28