Sustainability. Technological sustainability.

Society at large benefits from open source ventures…

the more knowledge we have access to, the richer we are!

 

To begin with, I’d like to describe you my vision of what sustainability is. It could be defined as an ability or capacity of something to be maintained or to sustain itself. It’s about taking what we need to live now, without jeopardising the potential for people in the future to meet their needs. If an activity is said to be sustainable, it should be able to continue forever. But of course, this definition is quite general. And you should always define more details looking into every particular case. To achieve this, we may define main pathways to sustainability. They are: Social, Technological and Economical and Philosophical Pathways to Sustainability. One can define others also, or group them differently, but for me this division seems the best one.

pathways

 

In this article I’m going to talk about technologically sustainable web.

At the firs glance, it may sound strange that Internet has something to do with the sustainability. But it really does. Nowadays, a growing number of industries are trying to reduce or at least curtail carbon footprints and energy use. Emissions standards have been set for most of them. Yet the internet’s carbon footprint is growing out of control: a whopping 830 million tons of CO2 annually, which is bigger than that of the entire aviation industry. And it keeps growing.

About 40% of that amount is dependent on Web Developers. Mostly, because of features like rotating carousels, high-res images, and more, we have been designing increasingly energy-demanding websites for years, creating monstrous HUMVEE sites.

The good news are that we have several methods for improving the situation. To make it easier, you can always start by evaluating your website with automatic tool, EcoGrader, for example. Its rating is based on website speed, performance, fundability and green hosting usage.

Though it is quite hard to calculate website’s carbon footprint, here is rough overview of possible way to do that:

  • A 2008 paper from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests it takes 13kWh to transmit 1GB.
  • According to EPA figures, the average U.S. power plant emits 1.2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent (called CO2e) per kWh produced (other countries have higher or lower averages depending on their energy policy).
  • If we multiply 13kWh by 1.2 pounds, we get 15.6 pounds of CO2e—and that’s just to transfer 1GB of data.
  • Typical page now averages 2.21 Mb (It was 1.29 Mb just 3 years ago).
  • At 15.6 pounds per gigabyte, that’s more than 10 tons of CO2e.
  • Mobile data, with its reliance on 3G/4G, is up to five times more polluting—77 pounds CO2 per gigabyte.
  • If a million mobile users on 3G download a 1.4MB page, that’s 1,367GB times 77 pounds, which totals 52 tons of CO2.

Of course, last year situation changed greatly. Now connection is a way faster. But with getting more fast internet, we keep inventing features which require more and more speed / place / productivity.  And we shouldn’t forget about important factors like how much of the data center’s electricity comes from renewable or fossil fuels or end-user electricity usage. That is where ‘green hosting‘ comes from. Many of them are powered by renewable energy—particularly in Iceland, where data centers have opened to take advantage of cheap geothermal power. Green hosting might not be for everyone yet (it can be more expensive, and Iceland might be far from your customers), but more local green hosts are starting to appear. Some cloud-based services are getting greener, too: Google, Apple, and Rackspace get some of their power from renewables.

So what can every Web Developer do? I’d define three main aspects:

1. Make your web application efficient.

Start with using less big images and scripts.  The lighter the page, the faster it will load. Optimist your content and code. For a quick testing, use Google Page Speed at your site, and it will identify which techniques could be applied to help speed it up.

Use dark colours. It is estimated that if Google were a black page, rather than white, it would save 750 Megawatt hours of energy a year.  There is interesting initiative around this, the black alternative to Google, Blackle. It shows that it has so far saved 5,313,697.703 Watt hours (compared to Google).

This will help you not only to make your site more sustainable, but also to follow up with modern trends to 2015 year, as more and more of them are following the same guidelines, as sustainable websites do.

Make your web application easy to find, use annotation, tags, proper SEO. Nowadays is a must to have optimized versions for all types of devices, which is not only increasing speed of your page load, but is also improving UI / UX of it.

2. Designing for good. 

This thesis makes nice connection to social and philosophical pathways.  It is of the same importance to create websites that are sustainable in their end goal – that promote good causes. This is where connection to my Thesis is the most clear. Yet I’m going to develop my game with best coding practices and make it optimized for different devices, the main purpose of it is a good one.

I’ll speak more on it in my next article, where I’m going to cover social and philosophical aspects.

 

 

Game-changing Sustainability

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/gaming-gamification-save-the-planet

Introduction

What is the cultural image of our society nowadays?

What powers are main in influencing the vector of history?

The power of Freedom. The power of Ideas. The power of Independence. And everybody should take the responsibility.

 


 

Nowadays quite a big part of every person life is going online. We spend a lot of time with our devices, surfing the web, doing work or just killing the time. And I, being an Engineer, a Web Developer, find an important task for myself to turn this into a benefit. We can make use of peoples everyday actions.

For my Master thesis, I’ve chosen topic about creation a game for receiving annotations.

To explain it in more details, I’d like to introduce you 3 important approaches: Games with a Purpose, CrowdSourcing Science and Annotations themselves. And of course, I’d like to discover what pathways to sustainability they cover, as I find it incredibly important – to shift to sustainable way of living.

In this, introductory article I’m going to speak about general things and ask tricky questions, just to make you, my reader, interested in this topic. And in the next articles I’ll talk more about the sustainability itself, its pillars and connection to my researches.

GWPMost online games promise players only entertainment and distraction. But Games with a Purpose (GWP) are offering more – to influence modern science, to help make your computers smarter and web surfing – faster. Such games usually are designed to be fun and perform tasks that are easy for humans but beyond the capability of today’s computers.

You can find a lot of interesting GWP here.

But when speaking about GWP it is important to take into consideration possibility of unfair results. Can you be sure that all gamer are really trying to help? How can you evaluate their answers? Wouldn’t it be subjective opinion of somebody who may be not familiar with the topic at all? All these questions are increasing difficulty of such games development.

GWP are the part of bigger definition, CrowdSourcing science. I’m, sure that nowadays everybody heard about crowdsourcing or crowdfunding. But what does crowdsourcing science mean?

crowdsourcing-blog_310x225

 

Official definition of crowdsourcing says it is a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. These tasks could be online or offline, paid or for free, and they are outsourced to an undefined public, in opposition to traditional outsourcing. So, speaking general, the idea behind crowdsourcing is: the more people working on your project, the better or faster or more varied results you will get.

For scientific experiments it is incredibly important to have big variety of results from different source, as it ay help to be more precise. One can face quite a lot of crowdsourcing science projects in everyday life, sometimes even not paying attention that he is involved into them.

Examples of crowdsourcing projects may be found in really different spheres. For example, Starbucks is using My Starbucks Idea to collect ideas from their customers about products, shops, and company values. Another way is to publish a question or a problem on a web, and open a discussion for a general public.  A classic example of this approach is Tim Gowers, who posted in his blog a mathematical question and in a matter of days the commenters had solved it. From this case, Polymath Project, an online effort to solve some mathematics problems, started.

But of course, Crowdsourcing science is not just public problem solving or decision making. What is more interesting for my research is a way for high performance computing. Nowadays, distributed computing may be found in the following projects:  Marsenne Prime Numbers (GIMPS), process radio signals to detect alien trasmissions (SETI@home), or calculate protein foldings (Folding@home). The idea is that users are installing screensaver, which are running calculations while they don’t need their computers. In this way of research, thousands of computers where involved.

And of course, GWP is a clear example of crowdsourcing science. Lots of people are doing useful tasks just for free.

First benefit of this approach is of course money saving. Even small payment per task may result in huge amounts if you need a lot of experiments. And now, thousands of people / computers are participating in researches for free!

And the second one is more benefit for the end user – you can fill yourself a part of something bigger, of something important. You can contribute to making world a better place to live! And moreover, you can do this without some big efforts!

Another important economical aspect is growing popularity of crowdfunding science projects. That is sometimes hard to get some finances form government or funds. Crowdfunding is being used not only for startups, it is increasingly considered as an alternative funding source for research projects. One of the examples may be sciflies.org. It is raising not huge amounts yet, but still enough to get finances for small research.

crowdfunding

Few more website with the similar purpose are: Europe-wide Public LabScience Starter in Germany, Walacea in the UK and Experiment in the USA.

This approach may be called Science 2.0. But this raises the question of what traditional government-financed funders will do in response to the growth in crowdfunders. Will this end up with instant competition between two sides? Or probably they may exist together, helping each other to improve and find out better practices and ways of improving science?

And the last thing you need to be familiar with to understand my research are annotations. What are they for?

video_annotation_detail

This is a process when computer captures main keywords or metadata from an image. And nowadays computer systems are ‘clever’ enough to recognize objects or colors. But the main question is how to teach computer understand what do people feel, when looking at the sea, for example?

This is the task where GWP may be useful. By allowing people to annotate data, huge work may be done.

If you don’t believe that this is gonna work, I recommend watching nice TED talk from re-Capture creator. People are recognizing scanned books, helping to digitalize them, by doing their daily stuff in the internet. And results are impressive.

I hope, that till now those of you who are familiar with Sustainability definitions can already find some connections and pathways from what I’ve just described. In my next articles I’m going to talk about my vision of them.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

THE THEORY OF FREEDOM