Weeknotes: art, ads, CAPTCHAs, climate, governance

Last week I started a new job as CTO at OPEN (the online progressive engagement network). I'll be full time from early October. I'm really excited about this role, working with an international team to support our member organisations with technology and learning, in a very collaborative way:
Every day, OPEN groups enable millions of citizens take action online and offline. As progressive organisers and activists, they face multi-national challenges like climate change, bad trade deals, and eroding access to democracy. Yet the most effective means for citizens to meet these challenges are almost always at the national level, changing public policy, media narratives, and their communities.

Each OPEN member organisation is an independent group working within its national context. But we problem-solve and innovate together. We share research, tools, and tactics that build our collective power. And we form bonds of trust and respect that allow our disparate organisations to become s…

Software, maintenance and me

A shorter form of this post was previously published on the SSI Fellowship Blog.

I’m a slightly left-field Software Sustainability Institute fellow. I’m in the 2019 cohort, and my Fellowship is structured around the Festival of Maintenance, a celebration of those who maintain different parts of our world, and how they do it, recognising the often hidden work done in repair, custodianship, stewardship, tending and caring for the things that matter.

So what has this got to do with software?

From the start, the Festival has been about ideas of maintenance across different fields, and seeing what they have to say to each other. As I wrote back in 2018:

Maintainers can be found in many contexts, including nature, software, infrastructure, communities, industry, information, arts and heritage. The Festival will bring together traditional disciplines of maintenance, repair and stewardship, with new forms such as supporting digital products, sustaining open source software, and moderating online…

Weeknotes: sustainable manufacturing, vintage AI

Love this:
Made Here Now has some depressing news - Britain has abandoned a £75m plan to make vital items of reusable protective clothing to guard against a second wave of Covid-19, denting hopes of concerted government action to promote sustainable manufacturing.

The millions of protective gowns for health workers would have come from UK factories and could have been reused up 100 times each.

Most protective garments are imported from low-cost nations and discarded after one wearing, conflicting with environmental goals.

But three months of talks between industry representatives and the Cabinet Office – responsible for key government policies – have ground to a halt after officials failed to agree the details of the scheme.

Adam Mansell, chief executive of the UK Fashion & Textile Association, representing manufacturers, designers and suppliers, said: “There had been a fantastic opportunity for the government to tap into Britain's technical expertise on textiles to set up a sustai…

Weeknotes: resistance, microCOVIDs, tinkerers, agrivoltaics

This week saw the launch of "exit to community" - congratulations to everyone involved for making this  strong case for a new way for startups to, well, exit, but in a decent way that supports users and workers and makes more sustainable businesses.  I also love that it's showcased in a zine. Nathan Schneider writes in Noema (and moots on Twitter that maybe users should seek to buy out TikTok, now :) and even Techcrunch has a nice article about it.  At the launch event, there was a great comment about B Corps which I'll be using, because so many people see them as the ultimate solution to less than ethical businesses today: B Corps allow mission to exist, but they don't protect it. Alternative ownership structures do that.  The tale of the FT's investigations into Wirecard[paywall?] is astonishing. Thank goodness we have investigative journalists backed by the funds for the lawyers needed to push through this sort of thing.
I also attended (most of) the 4th a…

Graeber highlights

David Graeber, whose work I came to rather late, died this week. Some highlights of his work which people have shared:

These aren't the best bits, just some bits. There's a lot of good stuff in his work and I still have whole books to read.
2014 in the Guardian:

Feminists have long since pointed out that those on the bottom of any unequal social arrangement tend to think about, and therefore care about, those on top more than those on top think about, or care about, them. Women everywhere tend to think and know more about men's lives than men do about women, just as black people know more about white people's, employees about employers', and the poor about the rich.

And humans being the empathetic creatures that they are, knowledge leads to compassion. The rich and powerful, meanwhile, can remain oblivious and uncaring, because they can afford to. ...After all, this is what being "powerful" is largely about: not having to pay a lot of attention to …

Weeknotes: stakeholders (or not), connective labour, following the money, chairs, emoji

Another week, another interesting Zebra community event. This one was about industry level accountability, and I was particularly struck by some comments from Amelia Evans of MSI Integrity. She talked about how we should move away from the term 'stakeholder' - for several reasons. Mostly, it's been ambigious, leaving us with unhelpful ideas like "investors are always stakeholders", or that stakeholders might be acceptably involved by showing up to a committee meeting. Also, the etymology is grim - either from mining and extractive industries, or from gambling. Ouch. Anyway, Amelia proposed we should think about who is affected by the business? Lean into the complexity there, and just think about who is affected. Do they have power? Airbnb has set up a "stakeholder council" but we should note that voice does not equal power. You need decision-making power, otherwise there's a big risk that the effort ends up as tokenism. The discussion also touched o…