We’ve been developing a survey to identify wasteful digital behavior. About 180 people completed a test version. Here are the highlights of the most interesting results.

Sixty percent of respondents said that it was not easy to find content and other information on their organization’s intranet or other internal systems. When we asked if they felt that the information that they did find was “usually short, concise, clear,” 73% said no. When asked whether they would describe the culture of their organization as one of “continuous improvement” or “launch and leave,” 45% described it as launch and leave.

It’s a good job information doesn’t rot. Imagine what most intranets would smell like? You’d log in and you’d have to open several windows. Waste everywhere. That’s the digital landscape: mountains of data waste and mountains of device waste. We’re dumping the equivalent of 1,000 laptops every second. Manufacturing just one laptop can result in the emission of 300 kg of CO2. Running a typical laptop for a year could create from 25 to 50 kg of CO2.

The cloud is on the ground. Yet we behave as if digital is immaterial. Digital is probably the single greatest hidden driver of global warming. It’s a giant accelerator of consumption, and yet we have so believed the PR spin that we think that digital will solve the climate crisis.

It’s not electric cars we need. It’s more walking and cycling. It’s not AI-driven search we need. It’s humans sitting down and deciding that 90% of what gets created shouldn’t be created because it’s rubbish. It’s about making sure that the 10% of good information we do create is well-written, organized and maintained, so that it can be easily found, read and understood. The challenge in front of us is not technological. It is social. Over the last 50 years we have tremendously neglected basic human skills such as:

  1. Learning to think about quality.
  2. Deciding not to create most of the time.
  3. Organizing what we create.
  4. Sharing widely what we create.
  5. Reusing as much as we possibly can.
  6. Maintaining and repairing.

Most of us live in a launch and leave culture and it is a toxic culture that is destroying the conditions for life on this planet. The next 10 years are crucial. Can we rise to the challenge or will we be remembered throughout history as the generation that blew it, that created so much rubbish we bequeathed a desolate planet to future generations?

Learning Opportunities

Digital is a bad-habit former. In 25 years of working with hundreds (if not thousands) of organizations, I can’t remember a single situation where a public website or intranet of a large organization had too little content. Nearly always, 80% to 90% of the website or intranet could be deleted, and things would work much better. Think of the enormous waste in creating millions of useless websites and webpages. (It’s estimated there are some 1.7 billion websites and that 91% of web content is not even indexed by Google.)

To say yes to the planet, we must say no to code, no to content, no to the stuff that is not necessary. Remove waste, whether you find it in the unoptimized image, the bloated text, the bloated CSS or JavaScript.

Editors are good for the climate.

Related Article: Publish the Website You Can Maintain