Environment Variables
Community Publishing and Greening Software
May 2, 2024
In this episode of Environment Variables, host Chris Adams explores the theme of Community Publishing and Greening Software, by talking to Branch Magazine’s Hannah Smith and Marketa Benisek. They discuss community publishing and the lessons learned from producing Branch Magazine, which supports sustainable digital practices and includes diverse voices from the Green Software Foundation. The discussion covers the complexities of adopting digital sustainability and how Branch Magazine, through its innovative, carbon-aware design, has been a platform for expressing these nuanced themes in sustainability and how finding beauty in the imperfect might just be the answer to all your problems!
In this episode of Environment Variables, host Chris Adams explores the theme of Community Publishing and Greening Software, by talking to Branch Magazine’s Hannah Smith and Marketa Benisek. They discuss community publishing and the lessons learned from producing Branch Magazine, which supports sustainable digital practices and includes diverse voices from the Green Software Foundation. The discussion covers the complexities of adopting digital sustainability and how Branch Magazine, through its innovative, carbon-aware design, has been a platform for expressing these nuanced themes in sustainability and how finding beauty in the imperfect might just be the answer to all your problems! 

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Marketa Benisek:
Perfection is essentially the enemy of progress. So it doesn't really matter if something is imperfect, but we can build on it. That's when Hannah came up with the idea that actually we could collaborate on the next issue of Branch Magazine, and this could be the theme.

Chris Adams: Hello, and welcome to Environment Variables, brought to you by the Green Software Foundation. In each episode, we discuss the latest news and events surrounding green software. On our show, you can expect candid conversations with top experts in their field who have a passion for how to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of software.

I'm your host, Chris Adams.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Environment Variables, where we bring you the latest news and updates from the world of sustainable software development. I'm your host, Chris Adams. The world of green software and digital sustainability has come a long way since the Green Software Foundation was created three years ago.

The Software Carbon Intensity Specification is now an international standard. All of the large hyperscale cloud providers in North American Europe now publish guidance about incorporating sustainability principles into building on their platforms, and we're also seeing unprecedented policy interest in both understanding and managing the emissions associated with digital services in general.

There's more to sustainability than just making our software greener, though. If we want a truly sustainable industry, we also need new visions of how we relate to technology and the role it might play in a more positive, regenerative future. One such vision. Is that laid out by digital magazine Branch, a publication featuring writing from many of the active feature figures in the Green Software Foundation and one of the first ever websites to pioneer a carbon aware design that changed in response to the carbon intensity of the underlying electricity grid that its servers ran on.

Originally from climateaction.tech and published by the Green Web Foundation, Branch is a twice yearly publication, and at the time of this podcast being recorded. It's now into its eighth issue. Now, in the interest of disclosure, I should probably share that I've written for Branch a few times and that I worked on the grid intensity library, the JavaScript library, that the site relies on for its carbon aware design features.

I'll try my best to keep my bias out of this episode, but it's worth acknowledging that before the GSF, The Green Software Foundation was as prominent as it is now, is one of the better known non commercial places to read about the intersection of software and sustainability and see how folks are doing it.

I'm joined today by two of the contributing editors, Hannah Smith and Maketa Benesek, to talk about community publishing as a tool for change and the lessons learned publishing a magazine that tries to walk the walk as well as talk the talk on sustainability in the digital realm. So, Han, Marketa, thanks so much for joining me today.

Can I give you the floor to introduce yourself and what you do?

Hannah Smith: Great. Well, thanks, Chris. Thanks for the introduction. And yes, you are definitely a little biased in talking about Branch. I think that's fair to say, but anyway, I'll introduce myself. So hi, my name is Hannah Smith. I am director of operations at Green Web Foundation, where some of you might know, I work alongside Chris and I'm very excited to be here.

I was a WordPress developer for a long time. I also run a meetup community called Green Tech Southwest. And quite recently, sort of over last summer, I was very involved in a project looking at grid aware computing as a, as an alternative or an improvement on carbon aware computing. So, Marketa, I guess over to you.

Marketa Benisek: Thank you. Thanks for the intro, Chris. So, my name is Marketa Benisek. I work as Digital Sustainability Lead at Wholegrain Digital, the authors and kind of creators of WebsiteCarbon.com, the online kind of first and original online carbon calculator. And I'm really, really excited to be here. And I'm super excited about this project. I also did a climate reality training with Al Gore, uh, during the pandemic and I'm a carbon literate professional. So that means that I essentially, I'm just really passionate about explaining people kind of the essentials and the basics of the climate science so that they understand the urgency of why we need to take action.

Chris Adams: Thank you for that, Marketa. Now, before we dive into the world of Branch and community publishing and all that, we normally ask where our guests are calling from to get a bit of background color, really. Han, can you just tell me a little bit about where you're joining me from? And then if I hand over to Marketa after that.

Hannah Smith: Yeah, so thanks Chris. I am dialing in from the temperate rainforest in Exmoor National Park, which is over in the southwest of England in the county of Somerset. And today, as I look out the window, all the trees are coming into leaf and it is a truly, truly glorious view.

Chris Adams: Wow, I spent 30 UK and I'd never realized there were rainforests. So you said temperate rainforest as opposed to a tropical rainforest. Is that how it works?

Hannah Smith: Absolutely. Yeah. I didn't know that temperate rainforest was a thing until I moved here either, but there is this growing movement to reestablish these, these ecosystems or, or just make people aware of them. It's basically a forest, which is on the coast and pretty wet, and that's how you end up with a temperate rainforest.

It sounds, it sounds exciting, but you know, you need good wellies and a good Mac and not to be afraid to get a bit muddy if you live here. Yeah.

Chris Adams: Marketa, over to you as well.

Marketa Benisek: I am joining this call from Prague in Czech Republic. That's where I'm based currently. I relocated here a couple of years ago from very busy London after having a kid. So yeah, it's just, it was a beautiful spring weather just about a week ago. And now we're back to snowy weather. So we got all of those like winter jumpers. And yeah, we'll see what happens.

Chris Adams: Wow. Okay. I did not know that you were in Prague actually, Marketa. I thought you were still in London. Okay. I should probably go myself and also introduce myself because I realize I've just done this massive introduction without saying who I am, what I'm here for. So folks, if you are listening to this podcast for the first time, my name is Chris Adams.

I am the executive director of the Green Web Foundation. I'm also one of the organizers of Climate Action Tech, which is a online community full of essentially climate aware techies, I suppose. I also worked as one of the policy chairs in the Green Software Foundation, and that's partly how I know Han.

As Han mentioned, I did work on the Branch Magazine, a few years ago, basically. So I have some kind of background there. I'm calling from Berlin where today it's been sunny and hailing at the same time. So that's my kind of contribution to the meteorological diversity, I suppose. All right. Okay. So I think we're all sitting comfortably and we've got a good idea of where we're all kind of calling from today.

Maybe we should talk a little bit about Branch. So I understand there was a new theme for this that the two of you wanted to kind of talk about because it's, we've had different themes for publishing different issues, but the theme this time was I think finding beauty in the imperfect. And I believe this was on, this is a kind of reference to some of the struggles we see when people start trying to adopt digital sustainability principles or kind of working around that.

Would either of you maybe just explain a little bit about how this came about or maybe what drove you to kind of come to it from this point of view, actually?

Marketa Benisek: Yeah, absolutely. So I should probably start by saying that Hannah was one of the first to I met a lot of female voices that I came across shortly after I met Vinita Greenwood, the co founder of Wholegrain Digital. And she was one of the first female voices that I've heard talking about digital sustainability and digital carbon emissions and all that. And I introduced myself, this is it must be about six years ago, seven years ago, something like that. And then we kind of stayed in touch ever since, you know, we collaborated over several projects and we just stayed in touch and connected about once a month over a call just to catch up and talk about what's new in the digital sustainability world, so to speak. And about six months ago, we got together on a call. We were both pretty upset about some recent articles and mentions of the different tools and, and projects that people criticize for their imperfections. And it felt, it wasn't really the criticism itself that was so upsetting, it was mostly the fact that they made it sound as if there's just no point in trying

if it's not perfect in the first place. And so we got to talk over this and, and about this, and we just realized that this is something that we feel really, really strongly and passionately about, and we wanted to address it and kind of just voice out that, you know, perfection is essentially the enemy of progress. So it doesn't really matter if something is imperfect, but we can build on it. That's when Hannah came up with the idea that actually we could collaborate on the next issue of Branch Magazine. And this could be the theme that would kind of give the platform to lots of different voices in this field and to people from CAT community on like, what can actually be done and what is already happening in this space that is imperfect, but it's still very much meaningful.

Chris Adams: Okay. So thank you for that, Marketa. That does provide some of the context that makes it a bit easier to understand this theme. Han, maybe I could maybe hand this over to you to talk a little bit about why you chose to explore this theme using a magazine like Branch, for example, rather than trying to get a white paper written or something like that, perhaps.

Hannah Smith: Thanks, Chris. Yeah. So, so as Marketa has said, we kind of had these conversations and we kind of realized that we felt that this narrative, which can be quite dominant in the tech industry of, you know, of always having perfection in your data or, you know, always striving for everything to be a hundred percent accurate.

We kind of felt that we had a lot to say on it, and we also thought that there'd be a lot of members within the climateaction.tech community that would have a lot to say on it too. Perhaps they were in a place of work where they were having to overcome some of these, you know, some of this pushback from their own team, or perhaps they're in, you know.

Developer communities that were maybe not embracing these ideas again, for these reasons. So we kind of realized that Branch would make an absolutely amazing place to bring loads of different voices. From across the whole tech industry together into one place. And, you know, Branch is very much founded on this idea of bringing together different voices and perspectives from even different industries, not necessarily just the tech sector.

You know, we know that there's people working in research or people who work with tech. You have an awful lot to say here too. So Marketa and I were like, yeah, okay. Let's get the CAT community involved in this. Let's see if people want to tell stories from their places of work, or maybe there are founders of companies that want to talk about how they're embracing things in different ways.

Maybe there are some people who are, you know, uh, practitioners, maybe freelancers, maybe independents. Maybe people from research organizations. Let's get all of these voices together, let's get all of these perspectives together, and let's kind of create, we've been talking about it as a bit of a tapestry, a kind of tapestry of views that start to answer these questions or start to explore what it actually means in practice when you're working in digital sustainability to find beauty in the imperfect.

So what is beautiful, and what is imperfect? So yeah, we've kind of thought Branch just lent itself to be the perfect place for people to do that. And again, the awesome thing about Branch is it's a non profit magazine, as you well know, Chris. So that awesome, we thought made it easier for people that were perhaps within organizations that maybe don't have a platform to speak within their own organization.

They could come and use Branch. And be able to talk about things in an open way that perhaps their organization might not be so cool with them publishing on their own blog. So it feels like a great opportunity to bring a really diverse, in the biggest possible way, set of voices together, I think.

Chris Adams: Okay. I see. So you've got this idea of diversity. And one of the key things is that it's not just one person, you know, the internet isn't just for like developers, for example, there's other, there's users and there's other people who are affected by it that it's worth hearing some of their voices involved in it as well.

Okay. Thank you, Hannah. That does make it a little bit clearer, actually, since you spoke a little bit about Branch and actually the design part of it, maybe we could just switch gears for a second and talk a little bit about some of the realities of trying to make some of this, because one thing we mentioned before is that Branch was one of the early magazines that essentially changed this design based on how green the grid is, basically.

And I figured maybe we could just provide, have a bit of kind of catnip for the nerds talking about how that was actually done. So maybe you could talk a little bit about, okay, yeah, that's a cool idea, but. There's all these considerations from a production point of view. So maybe are there any kind of particular challenges you found or things we would have bear in mind if they're going to take their first steps into designing, say, kind of a grid aware or carbon aware design like this?

Hannah Smith: Yeah. Well, thanks, Chris. So Marketa, I might pick that question up if that's okay with you. Cause I

Marketa Benisek: Yeah, please do.

Hannah Smith: yeah, so, I mean, Chris, I know you were sort of involved in building the first issue of Branch. I came on board to help out on the second issue and beyond. And so I think it's worth saying that first of all, the way that Branch responds to the grid is that it provides a different experience based on what's going on, on the grid on a certain day.

So if you've got loads of fossil fuels on the grid, on a particular day, you don't see the images by default. So you have to actually opt in to see the images. If you've got a nice windy, sunny day, maybe then the intensity will be low. And so you will see the images. And then you've got this middle, middle scenario there, where the images are converted into a really fuzzy kind of web format so that you can see the images, but there's a clear and obvious degradation.

The thing I really, really like about Branch and the way it does that is that it's, it's giving you a different, um, experience based on the renewables that day and in that place. So it's, it's more responding to demand or, or supply really of what's on the grid. And I think that's quite clever. So rather than sort of doing stuff like shifting around location or time based. I find that that is actually a very, very visceral way that people can understand what's going on in terms of the supply coming on to the, onto the grid. Actually, I find it throughout Marketa and I putting all the articles up for issue eight, I found it brilliant. I've now know exactly what's going on on the given day as to what the renewables are, because the background color of Branch tells me, which is super, super handy.

But actually we did notice just last week as we were kind of finalizing some of the images that well I don't know if it's a new level of carbon intensity or if it's a just a level of carbon intensity we don't get very often in the UK. But I, to my absolute shock and horror, went on Branch and it was grey and I was like, oh, That's not a color Branch.

Chris Adams: What's going on here?

Hannah Smith: That's not supposed to happen. What's going on here? And we looked into it and realized that actually the grid was running at very low carbon intensity that day, which kind of made sense because when I looked out the window, it was super windy, yeah, super sunny day and we were like, all right, cool. So I guess like, that's quite a fun bug in a way, or a fun thing is that, you know, I guess our expectations over different carbon intensity levels can change a little bit, or, uh, you know, if you're connecting through to an API, something, something suddenly shifts and, and you get a bit of a surprise.

So that's definitely a bit of fun to be aware of on the production side of things.

Chris Adams: I remember you, I remember you talking about some of this actually, like, like, you thought, oh, the grid's never going to get that green, right? And then you see it changing, like, oh, Christ, you need to update the design because of this. Yeah. This idea of like having different thresholds was, you know, Yeah, that was, that was a new thing because I remember you asking me and like, it took scratching my head a little while because it doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the code.

And then you realize, oh, the API that tells us the carbon intensity must then have started to introduce some new levels that we need to design for. So yeah, that's, uh, that, that, that was, that was actually kind of a fun thing from this. Okay, cool,

Hannah Smith: Happy days though. I mean, I'm happy that we were running on very, very low intensity on those days of, you know, Hey, that's what we're here for, right?

Chris Adams: Yeah, that was, I guess, the technology being somewhat more enthusiastic than the design five years ago, or four years ago, perhaps. So that's like one of the examples that we need to take into account. And maybe one thing that I'm glad you mentioned the idea that when you first visit this, you don't see the images.

One of the things that I think is There was some fair amount of focus, which is often overlooked is the accessibility of this, like deliberately trying to make sure that if someone can't see an image, you at least have some way to make it perceivable to people, for example, maybe we could talk a little bit about some of that thing, because people tend not to, this may be a thing that is overlooked in publishing, that's actually, I guess, part of the web, maybe, and maybe you could expand a little bit on the accessibility aspects before we talk about some of the actual content of Branch, perhaps, Han.

Hannah Smith: Yeah, sure. So I mean, something, when you're uploading content to Branch, you realize just how important alt text is on your images. Because that's one of the key features of Branch is that if you have a very carbon intensive day, so e. g. there's lots of fossil fuels, bad, that's not what we want, you don't see the images.

And what you see instead is the alt text and a caption, which describes it to you. You do see kind of, you see a grayed out placeholder of the image. So you're very aware that there is an image there, but you can click show image and you can see the image and opt for that to get downloaded to your machine and opt for for that, that additional action to happen. So accessibility is a really interesting aspect here as well.

Chris Adams: Yeah. Cause I guess on one level you're, that's kind of like forcing how other people might perceive the web, if it might be, might be partially cited or something. It's kind of some of the decisions there to kind of foreground the fact that the way that you experience a digital service may not be the only way it can be experienced, for example.

Hannah Smith: Yeah, it's, it's interesting. I love the way that Branch does that. It plays with almost messing with your perception of what a website is and can be, and I, I mean, that was always one of the key ideas of it was to imagine different ways that a website could be, it doesn't always have to be the same, exactly the same.

It should be responding to different things. And also remind you that people interact with these things in different ways as well. As you rightly said there, Chris, you know, not everybody will see the images all the time.

Marketa Benisek: It's a great preview into someone else's world and how they see the world, how they see the digital world as well. I think this, this often doesn't really get enough attention. That not everybody sees the images in perfect high res, you know, some people might see it blurry, some people might see it, I don't know, pixelated, whatever, you know, so paying attention to these alt texts and, and just a different setting for people who might have different needs and different kind of health conditions is really important and the entire web. should be built that way. I mean, that's why we have this technology in the first place. So the fact that Branch has that is really important, I think. And I'm just, that's just one more reason why I love it so much.

Chris Adams: So, Marketa, you're right, actually, there is this notion about, I guess, the web being something that should be accessible for everyone, because, like, the internet is for everyone like this. Maybe we could talk a little bit about, actually, some of the high level themes in the content for this issue. Like, are there any trends that you felt really deserved attention or could do with more people writing more openly about, for example?

Marketa Benisek: Yeah, absolutely. I think that, first of all, you know, the, the theme, we were pretty set on, on the theme, Hannah and I, you know, since. The very early days, finding beauty in the imperfect. I guess as two women working in tech, you know, it may come across, it may have come across slightly more poetic or feminine to some. And I think that some people, there was a need to kind of explain what we really mean by this. So we spent quite a bit of time on this explanation, you know, through the open call page, just to really clarify what this means. And obviously it was an invitation for everyone, not just for women in tech. I just wanted to make that really clear, but yeah, I, I mean, after we set the open call page on Branch, we received a really great number of submissions that we carefully read through and selected the best ones that really spoke to the theme and then we narrowed it down to I think seven or even eight categories and we got super excited and obviously we wanted to involve everything and you know, we wanted to give a platform to everyone who even reached out and things like that. But then we got a bit more realistic and we realized that actually, you know, we really do need to narrow it down. So we narrowed it down to four key categories that kind of spoke really strongly to just new ways of building just and sustainable web that is also a humane web. And so now we have four categories that, that they are meaningful connection, kind of solar punk and imagining different future, new ways of looking at the design philosophy and how we might be able to build the web.

You know, that is not perfect or not in that kind of usual perfect way, seamlessly perfect. And then finally, obviously the perfection itself and just not letting it be the enemy of progress. So those are kind of the four key categories that were really, really, important for the theme, I think. And yeah, I just really can't wait to share that with the world.

Chris Adams: Okay, and that's presumably the logical grouping inside the content. So someone, when they go to the magazine, they'll see it grouped like that. So they might look at dive into one, for example, and then the other, right?

Marketa Benisek: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, obviously this wasn't a straightforward process. You know, we spent a long time kind of going through all of those images, grouping them together. But shortly after we received all of the submissions, we could see patterns in some of these, you know, submissions and we obviously group them together and kind of organically these four key themes.

Chris Adams: Ended up being the logical group for this.

Marketa Benisek: And yes, ended up being the four categories, yeah.

Hannah Smith: And I think I might just add a little bit onto that as well, because the, the whole idea of this theme was that we wanted to explore the subjective ways that people Think about finding beauty in the imperfect in digital sustainability, whatever lens they're looking through, be that developing carbon calculation methodologies, be that designing things, being that the way that people use the internet, being that even questioning, should the internet even be a thing in the first place?

So we did throw it very, very wide and then as Marketa explained, you know, we, we grouped things. And then what we kind of discovered, the thing that makes me very happy because I'm quite nerdy and I do like everything to be neat and tidy, is that those four categories then yes, you're laughing because you know this is true because we then noticed that those four categories almost become a journey in themselves.

So, as Marketa said, that the first category we saw was around meaningful connection. And I guess the first thing that you ask yourself when you're Looking for beauty in the perfection when you're designing something is, why? What are we designing this for? And we realized that actually, at the very, very heart of it, what the internet should be about is creating meaningful connection.

Not just connection for connection's sake, but meaningful connection that's humane, that is just, and that is sustainable. And we kind of really noticed that theme. And then we kind of thought, alright, so you know what you want, So the next thing that happens is, well, in an ideal world, what does that success look like?

And that's where that imagination piece comes in, these ideas of Solarpunk. And if anyone's listening and hasn't heard of Solarpunk before, you're in for such a treat because it's just such a cool movement. It's all this idea of kind of imagining regenerative, renewable futures. So you kind of, once you know what you mean, you know what you want, EG, a meaningful connection, you start to imagine what it looks like.

And we had so much fun with all the pieces that imagined the future, like there's some absolutely amazing, beautiful, yet imperfect stuff in there. And then once you're imagining things, what we realized is the next step on your journey is the logical question is, well, how are we going to make it? And we realized then that we had this grouping all around design philosophy of people talking about all these different ways that they want to make this stuff, that they want to make things on the internet, that they want to design things on the internet.

And then we came to this fourth category and I wouldn't say it's the last one because the other thing we realized is that everything is just so deeply interconnected. And I think you realize that when you're doing anything in sustainability is that connections that are everywhere. It's never finished and it's never linear.

But we noticed this last question was around, well, let's talk about some of the things that get in the way of us designing our things or building our things. And we realized, well, perfectionism is this key thing that seems to come up and up again and is so often used as a kind of defensive measure for why we shouldn't bother.

We kind of realised that that was almost the last stop on the journey,in a way, probably before you go around again. So the categories do stand in isolation from one another, but can also be read and taken on a journey as well for kind of completing a whole process here as well. So when, when that kind of made itself obvious, I was very happy cause that, that felt very neat, very neat and tidy, so-

Marketa Benisek: Yeah that was a beautiful day that one

Hannah Smith: It was a beautiful day, but obviously there's imperfections there too, even in that.

Chris Adams: I see. Okay. Thanks. Maybe I'll just bring, hand over to Marketa. So we've spoken a little bit about themes and like the kind of, the motivation for this. Maybe we could just move to like some of the concrete pieces, for example, if we would have like a preview of some of the things you'd like to draw attention to, or kind of give a sneak peek, sneak preview of this.

Are there any articles you particularly enjoyed or you found a lot of, that you, would like to draw people's attention to, for example, if I hand over to you, Marketa, first, and then Han, I'll give you a chance to kind of name some of your favorite children, as it were, or favorite babies, or whatever, whatever phrase you want to use for this, then we can see what we've got there.

So, Marketa, you first, if I can.

Marketa Benisek: Yeah sure so I guess throughout this process, what I enjoyed the most was seeing these kind of similar patterns occurring in different places around the world. That was really just fascinating to, to witness and to be a part of, because, you know, all of these authors are from different parts of the world. They are talking about different problems, different solutions. And yet they were using very similar language. So for example, we mentioned perfectionism as kind of one of the obstacles to building a more just and sustainable and humane web. And interestingly, several people, at least my authors, you know, the authors from my group, they kept mentioning friction and the need of friction.

Somehow it seems like friction and imperfection is what makes any experience more human. And the web and trying to make it kind of perfect and frictionless and seamless and everything like that, that goes against that human experience, that humanness in the first place, which was really interesting, kind of realization out of this whole process, this project. Some of the articles that I really love, obviously, there is Tom Greenwood's article, the co founder of Wholegrain, who talks about the Wabi Sabi Web. And I just really love how Tom thinks and how he articulates his, his thoughts. It's just, it's kind of like a beautiful journey through his mind. And so Tom picked a Japanese philosophy called wabi sabi, and he used several examples of how we might use it to build a more humane web.

So wabi sabi is a concept where you kind of accept the imperfection and kind of the fact that all things All of these are beautiful because they reflect the time and the experiences that they have been through, but we don't necessarily see that on the web. And maybe that's the problem. Maybe, you know, all of the data are kind of like set in stone and we don't see how the users behind the data changed and evolved over time.

So this is just a really interesting and very fascinating exploration of how we might. Imagine a different kind of web called the Wabi Sabi Web, so to

Chris Adams: S W S W, instead of dub dub dub, right? So, W W W, W S W, perhaps.

Marketa Benisek: Yeah. Yeah,

Good point. Then also just going back to friction, I actually, Hannah pointed me to a really fascinating project called Designing Friction by two artists based in the Netherlands. And I did an interview with them and they really very much go against this whole concept of what the web is becoming. You know, it's becoming this unhuman frictionless space that doesn't really allow for playfulness. And they are against it, not only as artists, but as parents, as human beings. And so it was really interesting to read through their principles of how we should kind of make friction part of the digital culture.

It should be something that is celebrated and even sought for. You know, it shouldn't be something that we should avoid. And they give a whole bunch of examples of how we might be able to do that. And just to clarify, this is not to say that friction should make the internet slow or, you know, it's not about making the user experience awful. It's just about making the whole user experience more human. It shouldn't be about users, but it should be about people. So to speak, and then we've got a whole bunch of real examples. Uh, from authors who are actively trying to understand what the internet is like for people in different parts of the world. And yeah, for example, there's a really lovely article from Barbara and Olivia from the Engine Room who talk about their research on the information ecosystem in Latin America. And another one about e waste in India and another one from Hemanuel on the importance of the internet connection for the peoples of Amazon. In order to help them kind of defend not only their own rights, but also the nature around them that they are living in harmony with. So these real examples of what the internet is like in different parts of the world, not just in our kind of privileged, rich, you know, Europe or our part of the world, has been just really so eye opening and I really, really strongly recommend people to, to go and have a look.

Chris Adams: So you spoke a little bit about say, you know, friction, making things a bit more kind of legible or possibly understanding where it's not just kind of totally seamless, fast thing where there's no agency for people at the end use, but you've also spoken, and there's maybe some content about essentially this intersection of climate and technology, how it manifests in different parts of the world, like you just mentioned, those, those writers from various places.

Thank you for that. Okay, Hannah, can I hand over to you perhaps to talk about some of the things that have been catching your eyes, that you direct people's attention to now that you've been working on this magazine for the last, like, couple of months, for example,

Hannah Smith: Yeah. Thanks, Chris. I think there is a piece written by Melissa, who's one of the organizers at climateaction.tech. And she has talked about a concept using a four winged butterfly. And the idea of the four winged butterfly is it represents a social transformation. And I think if we're going to transform the internet to be a more healthy place, to be a more humane place, to be a more just place, to be a more sustainable place, I think this is something everybody should read.

She talks about the, it's not her concept. It's, it's a concept from somebody else. But she's put it into a digital sustainability context. And the basic idea is that you need these four different elements of change. So each element of change is a wing of the butterfly and a butterfly needs all four wings or all four parts in order to be able to fly.

So it's this idea of, yeah, it's a lovely idea. I think it's a really, really good one. And the way she talks about it is, you know, she says, well, look, if you're looking at something that somebody's trying to do, if you're looking at a project and you think, ah, this is rubbish, this is no good, this isn't, you know, perfect, what about X, Y, Z, she said, well, you know, you can look at these other wings of the butterfly or these other aspects and actually maybe understand that, you know, this particular change or this particular initiative you're looking at is only one part of the butterfly.

But if it's connected with other parts of the butterfly together, it actually makes a movement, you know, a social change that can move, that can fly. And I loved that practical toolkit that she was giving there to say, hey, you know, if you think something's imperfect, perhaps You're only narrowing in on a really tiny part of it and, and if you zoom out, there's yeah, look at the bigger picture, you might realize that this is an absolutely essential part of making other things move or, or of giving other areas flight.

So I loved Melissa's piece and I, I really recommend that for anybody who's, who's interested in, in creating change and, and making progress. And I'll say two other quick things. One that just, it was a bit of a late addition to Branch, but it's just absolutely captured me, floored me, is there, it's a piece by Rob Hopkins.

And he's just published something called the Ministry for Imagination, which is the work coming from a hundred podcast episodes where he invites people onto the podcast. To talk about the world. Yeah, it's pretty cool. So you've got a long way to go, Chris, a hundred episodes. So he has sort of through working with these different people, they're interviewing on the podcast, come up with this manifesto for what it means to imagine a better world.

And it's not really just tech related. It's far broader than that. It's across all of society, but it is an absolutely incredible example of why imagination is important. And how sometimes it can lack a little bit in the digital space. I think we, we can get a little bit narrow minded about things perhaps, or see things in a bit too black and white and maybe not, not be playful enough.

So here's Ministry of Imagination. I can't recommend strongly enough that everybody takes some time to have a look at that for like an absolute definition of the power of imagination and solarpunk. And then the last thing I'll, I'll mention super quickly. Is when Marketa and I were looking at all of the articles, we had a hope at the beginning that we would not just have loads of writing, but that we would have art and we would have poetry and music.

And we noticed that poetry and music was a little bit lacking in the edition. So we've set off and created a Branch issue eight playlist. Where we have asked a whole bunch of people from across the community to suggest songs that motivate them to take action. But then also pick out lyrics that really speak to them.

And actually I had a chance to listen to the playlist before launch. It is so eclectic. We've got rock, we've got classical, we've got trance, we've got acoustic, we've got reggae, we've got funk. We've got like, hardcore dance music. We've got all this stuff. And I think what that speaks to me is that there is no perfect music choice to get motivated by.

Everything is different. It's, it takes a diversity of perspectives and a diversity of, of vibes, energies to make change. And I think the playlist really, really embodies that. And I think it also speaks to. The wider movement as well around needing a diversity of viewpoints and a diversity of cultures.

Songs are all in different languages as well, but actually you bring all of that together and you get a real tapestry. And I loved listening to the songs and I loved reading the lyrics that people highlighted and their reasons for including these songs. So it's, I know it's not that much to do with tech, but we are all humans at the end of the day.

And I think music is, can be a really, really big motivator and something that really brings people together as well. So I'm a big fan for the playlist as well that came about and you can find that on Spotify too.

Chris Adams: Okay. All right. So it sounds like there's, okay. Let's say that we have prose, poetry and music and references and links to other forms of music as well. All right. This is, this is sounding quite rich actually. Okay. We're, we're just coming up to the end of time. So this is basically a kind of project. If there's something of a passion project, but there is still a focus very much on like digital culture and things like that.

I understand that you do more than just make magazines. So Marketa, we should probably tell people where to go to look for this. I mean, maybe is there a domain name or a search search term they should be looking for if they want to learn about some of the things we've been talking about?

Marketa Benisek: Yeah, absolutely. So if anyone is interested in reading any of these articles and much more, they can go to branch.climateaction.tech. They can find all the information there and all the articles, the playlist and everything else that we've been working on over the past four or five months, something like that. Yeah. So that's,

Chris Adams: so Branch. climateaction.tech is the way to look up, and that'll give you the most recent issue. So we're recording this on the 22nd of April, but I believe it's going to coming out in the next week or so, maybe the 25th, I think it was the date that I've heard. And presumably that'll be the big day.

Okay. So when this comes out. If you're listening to this, it's probably out already, so you can check it out yourself along with the other previous seven issues worth of content that you have there. All right, and if I understand it, this isn't all that you do, so maybe I could actually just, while you're here, give you a bit of space to kind of talk about some of the other things you're doing.

So, Marketa, for example, where else should people be looking if they want to learn a little bit about digital sustainability or some of the ideas or some of the kinds of things that we've discussed, for example.

Marketa Benisek: Sure. So we frequently publish new articles on our blog. So people can go to wholegraindigital.com and then go to our blog and they can find lots of stuff related to digital sustainability, humane web thinking, that sort of thing over there. And I'm also very happy and proud to be on the team that creates a monthly newsletter called Curiously Green. And that's all about. All the things, digital sustainability. So yeah,

they can just go to,

Chris Adams: I really like that as well, actually. I'm glad

Marketa Benisek: thank you

Chris Adams: And Han, if people are curious about where you've been coming from, I suppose, is, are there any projects or things you'd like to draw people's attention to in the last few minutes that we have for this?

Hannah Smith: Yeah, thanks Chris. So I guess my day job is at the Green Web Foundation. So you can head over to thegreenwebfoundation.org and you'll see a lot of my work represented there. You'll see a lot of blog posts coming out from me, where we talk about the Green Web Dataset. We talk about our open source co2.js package, and also there'll be some really nice work coming out soon.

With some really nerdy deep dive work into the practicalities of carbon emission estimates for digital. So Chris, obviously you and I are working on that together. Yeah, head on over there and I think you'll get a good insight as to what my day job involves on that website.

Chris Adams: Okay. And just before I go, I believe outside of life, you also have run, you mentioned Green Tech Southwest, that's another community that you're involved with.

Hannah Smith: Yeah, that's right. So Green Tech Southwest, it's, it's kind of location based. The community at its heart is in the southwest of the UK. Anybody is welcome to come. All of our events are online. We've got another event coming up in May the 2nd, where we'll be looking at a methodology for measuring CO2 emissions.

And we'll also be looking at some really cool visualizations of renewable energy projects in the UK. So if you can't make it in person, if you're not based in Bristol or near to Bristol, you're very welcome to join online. And that is applicable to anybody, wherever you are in the world. You're super welcome to come and be a part of that community.

Chris Adams: Cool. Thank you for that. All right. I think that takes us to time actually. So folks, thank you so much for giving me your time and talking to, and giving this sneak peek of a project that's kind of close to all of our hearts, I suppose. And hopefully some of the listeners who get exposed to this, I guess all we have left is to say, thank you very much.

Have a lovely week and yeah, best of luck with the launch.

Marketa Benisek: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Hannah Smith: Thank you, Chris. Thanks for having us along.

Chris Adams: All right. Take care, folks.

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