I think modeling the behavior I want to see in the world is a good way to spread the open ethos. But when other people don’t start modeling this behavior quickly, it can become frustrating.
I’ve been working openly as much as I can at Greenpeace for a few months now. I write about my thoughts, try to reach over the fence, try to put things in places where anyone can find them. I’ve run into a kind of technical problem, and I want to talk about it. In the open. With you. I’m hopeful that pulling my open source allies into this conversation will help me clarify what I should DO about it.
Greenpeace staff members are *not allowed* to use anything hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS). A great many of the tools people use for personal as well as collaborative workflows are hosted on AWS. Just off the top of my head – Evernote, Mailchimp, Prezi, Slack, Trello and Zoom are all using Amazon cloud services. While I was at Mozilla, we used AWS for Webmaker. There are many, many more everyday services using software running on Amazon servers.
I’ll be the first to admit that Amazon is a scary corporation. Its sheer size is intimidating. Reports from employees are damaging. Amazon’s record with trade unions and the slow death of an entire publishing industry are reasons for pause. Furthermore, Greenpeace has a renewable energy purchasing policy. Greenpeace, as much as possible, sources its global electricity needs from renewable sources. Amazon said they are committed to 100% renewable, but they haven’t put their money where their mouth is.
This isn’t the only argument for avoiding these services. Another is
“IT cannot support people when everyone is using different tools and services.”
Yep. I agree. However, there’s something about blanket forbidding services like these that makes me uncomfortable. I believe that the user should have choice.
That Amazon is evil isn’t up for debate. They are. The technology industry needs to step up and think about their environmental footprint. There are greener alternatives to Amazon, make the switch. In the meantime, I feel like we have a responsibility to the greater good, and forbidding everything built on this infrastructure is making it hard for people to do the work.
There are about 4000 staff members at Greenpeace. Based on my experience, I would say that the average degree of web literacy among the staff mirrors that of the general public. UX is insanely important. More so than in open source communities, where people tend to have greater degrees of technical competency. In short, the Greenpeace staff needs to use tools that they understand.
All 7 of the Greenpeace newsletters I’ve seen use Mailchimp instead of Engaging Networks. There are certain groups using Slack. I’ve seen a Trello board or two, and almost every person I’ve met uses Evernote for some reason. All of this is wildly discouraged (to the point of shaming people in emails), but I can’t understand why. Collaboration isn’t suffering. Most are choosing freely available services, so cost isn’t a factor. People are using technology that suits them.
There’s a disconnect here. I understand the IT Department’s need for command and control around technology. For people who aren’t as techie as I am, it kind of makes sense. The IT Department needs standards and limited software that they support. The thing is I’m not asking for support, I’m asking for choice.
Why should IT departments forbid users from using web services? Why shouldn’t they? How can IT Departments allow for agility and freedom among users while maintaining quality and control? Should we allow people to dictate our tech choices? Why?
I’d really love some thoughts, this one is frustrating me.