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80: Ethical, Responsible, and Sustainable Tech with Tim Frick of Mightybytes

Published June 1, 2021
Run time: 00:45:31
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Stakeholders over shareholders is the B Corp motto changing the world for the better. The growing B Corp movement is touching every industry, and Tim Frick of Mightybytes joins the show to talk about how companies around the world are coming together to make the Internet more sustainable.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • What the growing B Corp movement is and how COVID has pushed more companies this direction
  • How leaving a blog post open on your Internet browser can use more energy than printing the article
  • Use cases for making digital products more efficient
  • How climate change and climate justice work cohesively
  • Tools for learning about and taking action around your company’s digital carbon footprint
  • How the due diligence of digital sustainability is like flossing or going to the gym
  • What the digital divide is and its impact on access and skill sets
  • Why the United States doesn’t have the infrastructure to require transparent energy policies or privacy guidelines

This episode is brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group, where we make sense of mobile app development with our non-technical approach to building custom mobile software solutions. Learn more at https://jmg.mn.

Recorded May 24, 2021 | Edited by Jordan Daoust | Produced by Jenny Karkowski

Show Links

Mightybytes website | https://www.mightybytes.com/

Sustainable Web Design website | https://SustainableWebDesign.org

EcoGrader tool | https://ecograder.com/

Wholegrain Digital website | https://wholegraindigital.com

Constant Variables Episode with Tom Greenwood of Wholegrain Digital | https://constantvariables.co/episodes/74

We’re hiring! Check out the JMG Careers Page | https://jmg.mn/careers

Email careers@jmg.mn

Connect with Tim Bornholdt on LinkedIn | https://www.linkedin.com/in/timbornholdt/

Chat with The Jed Mahonis Group about your app dev needs | https://jmg.mn

Episode Transcript:

Tim Bornholdt 0:00
Welcome to Constant Variables, a podcast where we take a non-technical look at what it takes to build and grow digital products. I'm Tim Bornholdt. Let's get nerdy.

A quick note before we get into this week's episode. We at The Jed Mahonis Group have a lot of fun projects coming in the door. And as a result, we need to expand our team, so we're bringing on some iOS and Android developers. We place an emphasis on hiring for fit as opposed to skills. So skills can absolutely be taught and fostered through mentorship and experience, where fit, on the other hand, it's harder to define. But we've outlined some of the traits we're looking for on our careers page, which you can find at JMG.mn/careers. So whether you have a year of experience or 20 years of experience, if you're interested in talking with us, please reach out at careers@jmg.mn. We'll put that email address and a link to our careers page in the show notes as well.

Today, we are chatting with Tim Frick, founder and CEO of Mightybytes, an agency that creates digital solutions that are better for both people and the planet. Tim is no stranger to the internet's impact on the environment. He's authored a book on it, created a tool that grades websites on their environmental impact, given a TEDx talk on the subject, and founded an impact-focused agency with a 23-year track record helping conscious companies and social enterprises. We unpack a lot in this episode. So without further ado, here is my interview with Tim Frick.

All right, Tim, welcome to the show.

Tim Frick 1:51
Thanks very much for having me.

Tim Bornholdt 1:53
I'm really excited to have you on the show today. I'd love for you to tell our audience a little bit about yourself and a little bit about Mightybytes.

Tim Frick 1:59
Sure. So Mightybytes was started in 1998. And our purpose is to help social enterprises, conscious companies, you know, large nonprofits, cetera, mission driven organizations find success using the internet. And we do that a number of different ways through digital marketing campaigns, as well as through digital products and services. And yeah, we've been doing that since 1998 is when we started the company. Since 2011, we have been a certified B Corp, which means we use business as a force for good in the world. And we go through a rigorous assessment to make sure that all of the decisions within the company are aligning with, you know, the highest verified standards of accountability, transparency, social and environmental performance, etc, and so it's a really mission driven work. It's really a core part of who we are.

I've written a few books on problem solving in the digital economy, the most recent of which was Designing for Sustainability in 2016. And it was the first book of its kind to apply sustainability principles to the process of designing digital products and services. So part of our becoming a B Corp in 2011 was really about, you know, embracing ethical, responsible, sustainable digital practices. And so that's been a real big part of our company mojo for the last 10 years or so.

Tim Bornholdt 3:23
I love it. And I'm really glad that you brought up the B Corp, because I've been seeing that more and more around and I'm curious to hear from your standpoint. Can you explain what the growing global B Corp movement is?

Tim Frick 3:37
Sure, yeah. So B Corps are, there's two flavors of B Corps. There's a public benefit corporation, which is a legal designation similar to an S corp or or LLC. And that essentially allows a company to claim the pursuit of mission alongside the pursuit of profit. It's the law in the United States, at least, to maximize shareholder value for public companies. And so, B Corp certification, as well as the public benefit legislation, allows companies to pursue stakeholder governance and keep other stakeholders such as employees, communities, the environment in mind while they're making decisions, as opposed to solely trying to maximize profits. And so there's, like I said, there's the Benefit Corporation, which is a legal designation. And then there's a third party certification that's done by the nonprofit B lLb. And that is a really rigorous kind of process which helps companies adhere all of their governing business practices to these principles.

Tim Bornholdt 4:42
Awesome. Thank you for explaining that. I've seen that around. Like I said, I've been seeing it all around and seeing a lot of companies go after that. Do you see like a good mix of companies that have been jumping into that? Are there a lot of companies that you see that started out with that like for profit mission kind of move to more of a mission driven type of business?

Tim Frick 5:03
Yes, definitely. There's definitely been a shift in this direction that has been really pushed or helped by COVID, as maybe the kind of silver lining to such a horrible, awful global pandemic has been that people are really more conscientious of the choices that they make, as well as you know, kind of their digital solutions as well. And that has definitely, B Crops have been having a moment over the last year and a half especially. I think people want to buy for, work from, invest in companies that share their values, and B Corps are often, you know, those kinds of companies.

There's about 4000 certified B Corps worldwide. And less than 50% of those are in the United States. And they are in 70 different industries. So it really ranges from, you know, single person, you know, consultancies and startups to, you know, large organizations like Laureat Education and Kahee and Danone, the makers of Danone North America, the makers of yogurt. So it's really across the board. Any kind of business can take the assessment and you don't have to certify. You don't have to become a B Corp, if you don't want to. If you just want to measure your impact and find out where you stand, you can use the B impact assessment to do that. And I want to say that 50 plus 1000 companies have already done that. I don't know the exact number. But it's a lot.

Tim Bornholdt 6:30
Awesome. Yeah, I hope if you are building a company right now and listening to this, that you give that some consideration, because we've been looking into it ourselves. And it's not an easy thing to get certified from what I've seen. There's a lot of rigorous stuff that goes into it. But I think, at the outset of it, at the end of the day, then you are left with that kind of certification that shows you're trying to make an impact on the world in a positive way, not just trying to, like you said, maximize profit.

Tim Frick 6:58
Right, right. Yeah, and I think the companies that are most successful with that are the ones that kind of fold the idea of mission and purpose into the entire DNA of the company. So every decision that they make is kind of driven by these values, and that they've really kind of put that at the core, the heart of how they operate. And that seems to, you know, people want to stay there longer. They want to, you know, commit to these kinds of companies. And these companies tend to perform better over time.

Tim Bornholdt 7:26
I agree. So, we've been talking a little bit about sustainability already. But let's just jump right in and really start talking about sustainability. So the web, obviously, is more sustainable than some other mediums like print, you know. Clearly it's not emission free. How would you say the internet is not sustainable?

Tim Frick 7:45
Sure. Actually, there was a test done, right around the time we became a B Corp, I think. I don't remember exactly who did it. But basically, a report that found that if you left, you know, a post open on the New York Times for a certain period of time, it actually has a larger carbon impact than a printed page. So in some cases, depending on how long you leave, you know, a blog post or an article or something like that open, it can use more electricity than, you know, an actual printed book or something like that. And that's, you know, because the entire internet requires electricity to run from the servers to the data transmission to the end user devices. Everything on the internet is powered by electricity. And right now, the majority of that electricity still comes from fossil fuels. So you know, we need to transition as a society over to renewable energy as quickly as possible. However, we also need to think really seriously about, you know, the impact that our digital work is having. And so reducing in kind of standards to sustainability fashion, by making things more efficient, is definitely a core part of, you know, a sustainable strategy when it comes to digital products and services.

Tim Bornholdt 8:59
I know you've talked a lot about principles that can lead to that and help make, you know, websites, especially, more sustainable. And I think some of those apply to mobile apps, too, and other digital products. Why don't we talk about some of those actions that people can take that, you know, maybe have an existing mobile app or a website and find a way to make it more sustainable?

Tim Frick 9:18
Sure. Yeah, I think, you know, web sustainability is all about efficiency, performance and efficiency. So the faster, you know, users can accomplish tasks, the faster users can find what they need, the faster page assets download. So if you're sitting and waiting for an image to load or something like that, there's a lot of things that you can do to improve that. And the reality is, while that's better for the environment when you, you know, reduce things, like for instance, optimizing an image, it's also better for users. I mean, it's just a better practice overall. There is really no loss, you know, no losing thing when it comes to sustainable web design. It's really a win-win kind of scenario.

Some of the specific things would be like, you know, for instance, if you're applying, doing a task, if your a user doing a task and that task is done, you know. Say you've got a series of steps that you need to complete. If that task can be done in, you know, three steps as opposed to six or seven, that's a lot more efficient. And likewise, I mentioned images earlier, but page assets overall, like scripts, and videos, and audio, and all kinds of things. If those things can be reduced in file size and optimized, it's a much more, it's a much more friendly user experience, as well as it's much more environmentally friendly, as well.

Tim Bornholdt 10:38
Definitely, yeah, it goes back to what you were saying with the New York Times website being less sustainable than the print edition. It's probably because if you were to inspect and look at all of the tracking and advertising and scripts that these websites throw on to their pages, it's just constantly making network requests and doing things that, you know, all you want to do as the user is read the text and maybe see a couple pictures associated with the article. But what it's actually doing in the background is sending so much data back and forth, that it just becomes, you know, untenable and it slows down the site. It does everything, like you just said of, you know, making things less performant and less stable, it just adds more just noise to the world.

Tim Frick 11:20
That is absolutely true. When GDPR came out, the privacy legislation in Europe, a few years back, USA Today, to make their site compliant, took all of their tracking ad tracking scripts, and all of the things that could potentially violate GDPR, they removed them from the site and the site was 95% smaller, which means it loaded faster in rural areas, it loaded faster across all kinds of different devices, and such. So you know, there is definitely a use case there for, my heart goes out to the news industry, because it's really, you know, kind of suffering and has been consistently for many years. However, I also feel like that they're, you know, they have done the least amount of work on actually figuring out how to make, you know, their sites more sustainable. Usually news sites are the ones that are the biggest problem when it comes to sustainable web design.

Tim Bornholdt 12:19
Well, yeah, that it'd be news sites and social networks because just going through Facebook or LinkedIn, they have been getting better about it, I would suspect over time, but there was a point where you would scroll down a site, and, you know, endless scroll was probably one of the worst inventions for that, because you just get sucked in and scroll endlessly. So you're constantly loading stuff, but then they would start doing things like autoplaying videos and things like that, just to get your attention. And the more things like that load, the more energy you're using, and the more, you know, damage you're doing in the long run to the environment.

Tim Frick 12:51
That's, yeah, that's absolutely true. And also, you know, to say nothing of the whole breach of privacy and kind of surveillance capitalism motivations there to actually, you know, track all of your private user behavior, which is just something I can't get behind at all

Tim Bornholdt 13:06
Right. I read something a couple of months ago. It was from John Gruber, who writes Daring Fireball. And he was talking about how all of these advertising networks over the years have just kind of made this assumption that none of us voted on that they get the ability to track us pervasively, and in with like, impunity, basically, just like tracking and surveilling people as they go from site to site to site. As soon as like, you know, with iOS 14.5, where it had the Ask Me To Not Track thing on, you know, everybody was like, No. And now Facebook's saying, you know, Boo to Apple for destroying the little man. And it's like, what you people are talking about, like, none of you have the unilateral right to steal all of our personal information and do all this tracking and behind the scenes stuff that people don't realize is going on.

Tim Frick 13:58
Yes. And I think that's a perfect entry point to talk about the fact that, you know, when we're talking about sustainability, we really need to take a much more holistic approach to it. You know, for instance, you can't have, you know, climate change solved without addressing climate justice. You have to think, you know, in terms of both the social and the environmental impacts of what it is that you're doing in the digital space, and those things need to be kind of hand in hand. You know, it's absolutely critical to reduce the emissions of, you know, digital products and services. And also, it's absolutely critical in order to maintain a healthy society in which we live to do things like fight misinformation, and respect, privacy and respect, data ownership and that kind of stuff. So, you know, these things are becoming, you know, much larger and much bigger problems than anyone ever really anticipated. You know, because, as you said, you know, much of the big tech companies just kind of slid it in under the rug and nobody noticed. And all of a sudden, you know, there's your own privacy out there for all the world to see and exploit.

Tim Bornholdt 15:09
And yeah, I think it'd be one thing if, talking about all these things looking holistically, I think it'd be one thing if you were to look at all of these things in isolation and ask like, Am I losing anything? Us Americans particularly are spoiled, and, you know, we've got the reputation of demanding a life of luxury that maybe we can't possibly afford. But I think the things that we're talking about changing and doing, I think it's like a net positive for the environment. And the only people that seem to be upset about any of these changes are people that are, like, currently making a great living exploiting people's privacy or, you know, mining for Bitcoin, using all of Argentina's electricity, effectively, and that kind of stuff. I don't think that the stuff that most normal people would think of as these radical changes that we're asking for, it's not like we're asking you to give up driving, or we're asking you to stop using the internet. It's like, can we find a way to, you know, have, like, you know, news networks need to make money, obviously. If you want to have good quality journalism, they need to make money, but can we find ways to support these stories being told in a way that would limit, like, back down to like 5% of the required energy needed to actually get you the information that you need?

Tim Frick 16:22
Right. Well, and that comes right back down to it's the business model, you know. I mean that's it really, and that's why B Corps exist, you know. B Corps exists to help companies understand, you know, the impacts of their actions on stakeholders, you know, and instead of just shareholders. And so I think, you know, all of this comes back full circle, and that, you know, thinking holistically about this stuff requires that you think about the business model, and, you know, take a step back and say, All right, is this, you know, the best way to go about doing whatever it is that we're doing as a company?

Tim Bornholdt 16:53
Yeah, it makes sense that we would finally make a shift in our society to be valuing the planet or valuing each other over, you know, a few minority stakeholders and making an outsized amount of money off of, you know, at the expense of everybody else. Being able to have a nice, you know, clean air and drinkable water and everything like that.

Tim Frick 17:16
Right. Well, and I think also on the digital side, access to information, as we've seen, especially with COVID-19, has become really critical. And, you know, there have been people left out, you know, out that are outside the kind of margins of this kind of stuff, and without access to information, you know, people, some people with disabilities, can't, you know, get critical, crucial health care information that they need, as one example. The digital divide, you know, people who have access and people who don't, is big, and the gap is wide, and, you know, addressing that is something that needs to happen. Now, you know, you could argue that that needs to happen on the legislation side, and it does, I think, you know, for all of this stuff to really happen in a way that is going to benefit society for the long term. You know, for profits, nonprofits, and the Civic sector, all need to be working together to be solving some of these problems and addressing some of these issues. And that's one of the things that I like about the B Corp movement is that they really are focused on creating collective impact. So there's, you know, there are task forces to work on legislation, there are task forces to work specifically on racial justice and task forces, or collective impact groups, to work specifically on climate change. And that's been a really inspiring thing to me to be a part of this community that is attacking some of these big, wicked society problems head on.

Tim Bornholdt 18:44
We've been talking about sustainability. And we've been talking about taking some action against, you know, just taking some action to help sustainability and you've built some tools and some sites around that. And you built sustainablewebdesign.org, alongside Tom Greenwood, and we've had him on the show before. We'll definitely link that in the show notes. How did you get connected with Tom to build this site together and maybe talk about what the goal is behind that site?

Tim Frick 19:07
The answer, again, is the B Corp community, as much as I hate to sound like a broken record. We became aware of Wholegrain Digital through the B Corp community, you know, it's global, and they're essentially doing the same thing that Mightybytes is trying to do only over in London and in the UK. And so, you know, we, as having written a book on digital sustainability, you know, we become kind of aware and cognizant of others around the world who are doing that and writing books about it, like Jerry McGovern, and you know, some other folks. And so, you know, we just learned through of Wholegrain through the B Corp community and reached out to them and said, Hey, sounds like we've got a lot of similar values, and, you know, we should figure out, you know, maybe opportunities to collaborate. There are a lot of like Slack groups like ClimateAction.tech and climate designers, and a lot of burgeoning communities popping up around this kind of stuff, mostly comprised of designers and developers, but also product managers and business leaders and nonprofit leaders and such. And, you know, it was easy to connect with Tom through those communities, because everybody is, you know, in there to create collective impact and do things for the greater good. And so that's how we met him.

And then, when I learned that he was working on the book about sustainable web design, I suggested that perhaps we could take sustainablewebdesign.org, which we've owned since 2013, and prior was just a single page kind of outlining what sustainable web design was, I suggested that we retool it, you know, revamp it from the ground up to adhere to sustainable web design principles, but also, you know, provide a more comprehensive educational resource, grounded in the concepts in his book and my book. And so we did that. And we launched it in January, right before his book came out.

Tim Bornholdt 21:00
That's awesome. And at the same time, you've built eco grader as well, to kind of score a website and save, you know, how you can improve on the way that your site is sustainable. Did you build eco grader for a similar reason, like just working together and and decided that you wanted to have this tool out there to help other people? And maybe also, it'd be helpful if you maybe explained how it worked for the audience.

Tim Frick 21:24
Sure. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, so when we first, you know, when we became a B Corp in 2011, I hate to bring it back to the B Corp thing again, but it's just the fact. You know, we started thinking, well, we're a digital agency, what are the things that we can do to have positive environmental and social impact. And so, you know, figuring out our digital footprint, you know, was a big part of that, and figuring out what we could do to make more environmentally friendly products and services as part of that. What we realized very quickly, as we started talking to our clients about this, was that they had no idea what we were talking about. So again, this is 2012, 2013. We're having these conversations with clients, and they just don't, they don't know that environmental digital sustainability is a thing. And so we're like, well, what can we do to help them understand quickly, you know, what they could potentially do with their own websites or with their own digital products to improve their environmental impact.

And so eco grader is kind of modeled after Hubspot's website grader, and the idea being that you put a single URL in, it will crawl that URL, and it will spit back a report, giving you some suggestions on things that you can do to improve the performance and efficiency as well as the use of renewable energy on that site. And so we use a number of different API's to crawl the site looking for different kinds of criteria. And the report breaks the criteria down into performance optimization, usability, findability, and then use of renewable energy. And for that, we use the Green Web Foundation's hosting database, so basically it, you know, tries to see what your hosting provider is, it cross references that with a link in the Green Web Foundation's database, and it says, Oh, you are or are not using a hosting provider that uses renewable energy. So the idea was that it was just something to quickly help people understand the concepts around sustainable web design. And to that end, I think it's accomplished its goals. We launched it eight years ago in 2013, on Earth Day, and so we've crawled 10s of millions of URLs and produced many, many, many reports on on those and such, and hopefully people are using those to improve their sites. And we're in the process currently of redesigning it. So the idea being that it's eight years old, and that's really an ancient age in software years. So we're redesigning it to be more useful, to be more actionable, and to directly equate carbon impact, similar to how Wholegrain's website carbon does. So essentially, you know, if you reduced this page's images, you could potentially impact your carbon footprint by this much, uou know, that kind of stuff

Tim Bornholdt 24:16
Within the site, because I've used the tool several times as I've been building websites and getting, you know, feedback on it, seeing my score go up and not. Have you done any analysis, since you've had it up for so long, have you looked at kind of past performance of certain sites, like kind of done a search to see if someone typed in their site in 2013, in 2014, 2015, and kind of done, like, an over the years, how it's performed? Or even like, anecdotally, have you seen a lot of people like come back time and time again to check their sites and see if they've improved against the score?

Tim Frick 24:48
Yeah, there's absolutely a ton of repeat visitors, which is great. We don't, currently it's a freely available single URL tool. We do track kind of general like, for instance, I think as of the last time we did this was 2018, the average eco grader score was like 54, I think, out of 100, at that time, of the whatever it was, several million new sites that we crawled at the time. So you know, while we track the aggregated information, our goal with the new version of eco grader is to make it exactly what you're talking about, a more useful benchmarking tool so that organizations can, you know, create an account, go in and set a baseline, and then improve upon that baseline over time.

Tim Bornholdt 25:34
That's so cool, because yeah, I've been using that as we've been redesigning our site and getting into this. I've just looked through our own agency's website, and we've been trying to present a more sustainable front. And to that end, the site has been super helpful with just random tips of things you can do, and it's all kind of, I always like to equate it back to flossing, right? It's all things like, as web developers, you know, you're supposed to do, but sometimes, especially when it's your own project, things kind of fall by the wayside, or you just kind of, you know, you make a bad choice here or there. So I can attest that it's been a really helpful tool for me as a web designer. And I would assume too, as time has gone on, you guys have taken that, like, you said you're working on a new version of the site, but I'm sure you've taken some of the approaches and techniques that have come out over time to improve the tool so that people can constantly improve, because it's just like you said, you really have to take a holistic approach with all of this. And it's never just Well, I typed it in back in 2014 and it was perfect, so I never have to look at it again. Things change.

Tim Frick 26:40
You're absolutely right. I think flossing, or maybe going to the gym is a good analogy for something like eco grader, or just, you know, sustainable digital products in general, that that they do require, you know, kind of ongoing maintenance and the idea of thinking of them as a product versus a project. I think that companies that, you know, redesign their website, and then don't touch it, or maybe they add blog posts to it, and that's it, are really doing themselves as well as the world a disservice. It really does require kind of ongoing due diligence to maintain the health and well being of any digital product. And you know, sustainability should just be hand in hand with that, as should accessibility, making sure that their website can be used by people regardless of device or technology or whatever. There's definitely a few baseline things that every website should have. And personally, you know, I'm a full believer in the fact that that should be sustainability, accessibility and privacy. Those three things are pretty major to me.

Tim Bornholdt 27:44
I couldn't agree more. And I remember what I was going to ask you before, because that just reminded me what I want to talk about, which was the digital divide. You mentioned that term. And that's something that I've been really interested in, really, ever since college, was the, maybe I'll let you since you're the expert. What is the digital divide?

Tim Frick 28:07
Sure, yeah, I think, I mean, for me, personally, I look at it in kind of two ways. One is access to, I mean, it's about access to information at the end of the day, but you know, who has broadband access and who doesn't? I think that's one thing, that a lot of times when you think about education, and that kind of stuff, a lot of the digital divide, kind of educational materials out there, are really focusing on, you know, access to information. But I think also, there's a kind of digital divide in skill sets. I mean, there's, you know, where everybody's talking about how automation is going to change the world and how it's going to, you know, completely destroy so many jobs, yet, that's not really actually going to happen, you know. The reality is, there's always going to be problem solving required, there's always going to be, you know, kind of creative problem solving as a necessity. And giving people those skills in the kind of digital realm is going to be something that is going to be always needed. And so it's access to information, but it's also access to skills and services and understanding, you know, what you can do to, you know, make the world a better place and have access to tools and that kind of stuff. And it's great to see a lot of organizations like the World Wide Web Foundation, for example, you know, focusing solely on this to make sure that they can get internet access to people and get the tools in people's hands that could use them.

Tim Bornholdt 29:34
Yeah, I think the part of the digital divide that's interested me has been like that the broadband side of it, the access to the tech, the information and learning, but I think also, you just touched on having that skill set and increasing people's awareness of how to use technology. I mean, that's one of the reasons I created this podcast in the first place was because I don't like seeing people intimidated or scared or unsure of how to use technology. And it's something that, for me, technology is very intuitive and something that came very naturally to me and embracing. You know, I grew up, I'm a millennial and I grew up right in that time, like, I remember the time before we had a computer in our house, all the way through now, like, where we have several computers in our houses, and in our pockets and everything. And being able to embrace those changes as they come has been easy for me. But there's so many people out there that just either choose to be Luddites and choose to just shun technology, which is fine. There's some that choose to figure out a way how to embrace it. But I think just things are changing so fast and so rapidly at a pace that our species has never really seen before. And it's interesting to kind of think through how do we cope with that rapid change and make sure that we're not just again, creating another gap between the people that understand technology and the people that don't. I think we really need to find a way to help bring people into the fold, and maybe that sounds kind of, you know, I don't know what the right word is, a little Orwellian, in a sense, I guess. But it's more of just trying to bring people in and understand how they can use technology to make their lives better.

Tim Frick 31:15
Right. And access is everything. And you can't have that conversation without also talking about racial justice, gender equity, you know, people with disabilities. It has to be equitable solution across the board. It can't just be white tech bros, to be frank, and you know, I'm a white dude, I understand that. And, you know, I acknowledge where I'm coming from, and my understanding of that, but you just can't, you know, moving forward, we've just got to open up the playing field so that more people have access to more tools and more information. And the reality is that the research has been done out there that, you know, like more stakeholders involved and more diverse stakeholders with diverse opinions and diverse ideas and backgrounds create better digital products. So like, if you're working in a digital agency, and you're building digital products, you know, having people who have different perspectives than yours will make better products and services for sure. And the examples of when that's gone awry, because of the fact that, you know, the people building something didn't consider, you know, skin color or gender or something like that, you know, the idea. Examples of that are numerous, unfortunately.

Tim Bornholdt 32:30
It's true. And I mean, even like you said, just even the access thing to itself, living in rural areas, my in-laws live in eastern Wisconsin, and it's not like they don't have, you know, high speed internet or things like that. But it's like, you don't have to drive very far in our country to get poor internet service and connection. And those of us that live in major metropolitan areas have been spoiled with over the last 10, 15, 20 years, because that's where all of the money has gone into infrastructure build out, because it makes sense. Like, that's where the money is, that's where the people are, that's how they can recoup the cost of laying these cables. But at the same time, it's just hard to understand and hard to fathom, like how there's still people out in the world that have to use dial up because there's no investment being made in those areas. And people wonder why, you know, there's so many boogeymen for why, like, rural small town America is dying. And it's like, well, if you could have like a high speed internet connection at your house and be able to work in this new tech environment, you know, that might be something that helps move the needle on restoring, like, small town, instead of having to have everybody congregate in a big area, like a major metropolitan area.

Tim Frick 33:43
Oh, for sure. Yeah. And, you know, this is without, you know, devolving into a political discussion here, you need infrastructure. You just have to have it. And so, you know, there's one side of our political aisle that really supports that, and one that doesn't, and, and the reality is if you want equality and equal access to information, there has to be the infrastructure in both urban and rural areas to support that. And that's just a reality.

Tim Bornholdt 34:12
Right. I definitely agree. Well, last topic I wanted to touch on was, so, legally companies have to have privacy policies, right? Do you think companies should also be required to have transparent energy policies and how might something like that work in the digital space?

Tim Frick 34:30
So there's two things there. Companies don't really legally have to have privacy policies, you know, there's a bunch of, you know, legislation out there that kind of makes it wishy washy and gray and, you know, the California Consumer Privacy Act means that anybody who does business with people or has users in California, for instance, needs to pay attention to that when those people are on their internet service or on their web site or whatever. But there is not currently in the US, you know, sweeping federal legislation that prioritizes data privacy, data ownership, and that kind of stuff. So, which is unfortunate, because then that also makes it really easy for companies to slip under the radar, or not know what to do, you know, so there's one issue there.

And then, you know, the second is related, I think. Companies absolutely should have transparent energy policies, but there's also not the infrastructure there, or the kind of legislation there to support that, you know. We don't have a carbon tax, we don't require any kind of transparency in energy stuff. And usually, it's, you know, so far today, it's been put on, you know, nonprofit organizations like Greenpeace and others to call that out of companies, you know, and then that's a lose lose situation. It's great that Greenpeace's doing that kind of work. However, many companies can be caught off guard and never understood that this was a thing. And so there really needs to be kind of clear guidelines for both privacy and sustainability and renewable energy when it comes to not only just digital products, but just, you know, a company's use of that energy.

There aren't even standards at this point to scope three emissions. So like, you know, scope one and two are kind of internal to your company's emissions, like your power and electricity and that kind of stuff. Scope three are those kind of that are in your supply chain. And there have been, you know, there's like, 15 guidelines on those scope three emissions. But to date, it's still really early on, and there's not any tried and true, like, these are the standards, this is what you got to do, you know. There's just so much kind of gray area there that I think we need to get a lot more clear on that and make some major challenges. So people understand what is expected of them.

Tim Bornholdt 36:56
I remember back when, like, GDPR was first being introduced, and even though we're all American based companies, you know, here, and all of our clients were American based, with maybe a couple exceptions, still, even then, like even the European companies were all freaking out, because there was such a change to how things were done, and, very scary penalties as well for for screwing that up. But there wasn't really any clear answers as to, you know, does this apply to me? How does this apply to me? What do I have to do? And I remember reading through almost every single thought piece, blog post, legal analysis of GDPR when it came out, and everyone kind of did that like shrugging shoulders meme with it, of like, just, I don't really know what to do with this. So everyone kind of just put their best foot forward, and we kind of started moving in the right direction.

But I agree with you with when it comes to like privacy policies, specifically, it's really hard to know what to do. And I guess part of that kind of comes back to like dogging on social networks again, a little bit. If you don't do shady things in the first place, that helps immensely. That can cut down on a lot of the stress that you have with enforcing a privacy policy. But even if you are, like, even if you're a certified B Corp, and you are mandated to do the right thing, there's still a lot of uncertainty of how you go about constructing the right privacy policy. And I would assume that also directly applies to energy policies, where like you said, with the scope three emissions, I just started trying to understand what that was like a couple of months back. And I've had several different people try to explain to me how this works. And everyone again, it goes back to that kind of shrugging shoulders emoji, and everyone's kind of trying to figure this out together. But I think it wouldn't be a huge leap to say that if we at least get like some plan in place and start moving towards a plan, then we can course correct and make a lot of micro adjustments as we start to figure out where things are wrong. But I think where we're at with, again, not to get super political, but where we're at in this country is it's just like, there's problems that we have. There's very clear and obvious problems across, that touch all sides of the political spectrum. But nobody wants to even like try to put a plan in place for it. It's like one party wants to try to put a plan in place that's not perfect. And the other party is just like, Nah, we're not going to do any of that. And not propose alternatives to it. And it's very frustrating.

Tim Frick 37:59
It is. And I think that you don't have to look any further than the disability community and the Americans with Disabilities Act, you know, which is now over 31 years old to see how much of a problem that causes, you know. I mean, granted, when the Americans with Disabilities Act came out, you know, it was a year before the first website went online. And so, you know, it makes sense that there wasn't any legislation included in that for digit products and services. However, it's 2021. And there still isn't really, you know. There are clear guidelines and recommendations, but they're not part of that legislation. So when you think about something like privacy and sustainability, which are emergent and happening, you know, kind of, you know, only within the last few years, or at least being prioritized and understood, you can look at that community and say, Okay, well, what can we do, or what have they spent the last 30 years doing, that we can, you know, apply to the work that we're doing. I applaud the folks at organizations like Access Living and, you know, other disability focused organizations on getting access to information and promoting digital standards around accessibility, and stuff, because there's a much broader community there. And we could have the same thing in privacy and in sustainability, if we work toward it.

Tim Bornholdt 40:59
And I think that a lot of times, people will see legislation and, like rules as in, you know, again, if your goal is maximizing profit, then obviously, any legislation that prevents you from any kind of profit maximization is bad, right. But when you look at like the ADA, and just take something about that with like, having sidewalk curb cutouts. That was something that was not standard for many, many years, and it was made to help people with wheelchairs, but how many people use those these days as cyclists, or if you're pushing a baby stroller. There's so many ways that like, if we find a way to look at a problem from not just our own internal way of looking at it, but we look at it from other people's perspectives, it just makes life better for everybody. Even if it makes it a little bit more, you know, onerous on the outset to think through other people's things, we ultimately end up with a better solution in the long run.

Tim Frick 41:55
Absolutely, yeah, couldn't agree more. I mean, I think, you know, every design solution has guardrails, and every design solution, as user experience designers, you know, we've been trained to focus, you know, 100% on the user. However, I think that, you know, there's kind of a trend moving towards, you know, understanding stakeholder needs, as opposed to just user needs, and I couldn't, you know, support that more. I think that's a really, really important part of the design process to be able to take a step back and understand, you know, which stakeholders are being impacted by the decisions that we make, and can we put a kind of remedial or mitigation, you know, policy in place, so that, you know, we can head off unintended consequences at the past before they even occur, because that's often, you know, where we're at in things in terms like AI and racist AI algorithms and, you know, privacy legislation. These unintended consequences happen, and then everybody has to struggle to figure out how to solve them when, you know, it might be a better solution to try to figure out what those things are in the first place and mitigate the risk involved with those ahead of time. You're not going to get everything right all the time, but you will definitely have a better chance of creating more harmonious digital solutions than then the not.

Tim Bornholdt 43:19
This has been an awesome conversation. Tim, I really appreciate you taking time to chat through this and maybe share a collective therapy session around some of these awful things that are going on, and how we can maybe make things a little bit better. Why don't you tell us how we can get in touch with you if anyone has any questions or wants to learn more about the work you're doing with Mightybytes.

Tim Frick 43:37
Sure. So much of this is on our website at mightybytes.com. Our blog is where we focus on helping people make ethical, responsible and sustainable decisions around technology and design and marketing and such. And so I would say, you know, going to our blog is a great place to start understanding everything from digital sustainability to corporate digital responsibility and accessibility and such. That's probably the first and foremost place I would recommend that people go to just get a flavor of what we're all about. We're at Mightybytes on Twitter. We're on all of the, you know, major platforms and stuff like that. So we're pretty easy to get in touch with.

Tim Bornholdt 44:20
Right on. Thank you so much again for joining me today, Tim. This was a blast.

Tim Frick 44:24
Yeah, you're welcome. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Tim Bornholdt 44:27
Thanks to Tim Frick for joining me on the podcast today. You can learn more about his digital agency at Mightybytes.com.

Show notes for this episode can be found at constantvariables.co. You can get in touch with us by emailing Hello@constant variables.co. I'm @TimBornholdt on Twitter, and the show is @CV_podcast. Today's episode was produced by Jenny Karkowski and edited by the adroit Jordan Daoust.

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