Notes from THM 2011 breakout group on changing technology
The Future of Free Geek in a World of Changing Technology
Report to the Free Geek Board of Directors
1st Annual Town Hall Meeting, Sunday, October 2, 2011
Upcoming Challenges Identified by the Tech Discussion Group
- End-user experience/desires may branch out or transform, and/or may have already done so
- Technology releases are becoming more closed-source, with proprietary software more integrated with hardware
- Newer devices on the market (tablets, smartphones etc.) - can we keep up with production? (Challenge to both income stream and volunteer programs)
- How to adapt volunteer giveaways to newer production areas (will desktops, or even laptops, still be relevant to our volunteers when they're producing primarily rebuilt smartphones?)
- Competitors in hardware resale
- Staying competitive with for-profit e-cyclers
- Data security concerns with new devices
Opportunities: Adapting to Meet Change
- Focus on the facts of the markets we serve. Don't believe the hype! (that all users want laptops and not desktops, for example.) Pay attention to the end user (experience-based v. business-based computer use.) Direct volunteer energy and staff time/$ to production that's wanted and will earn revenue.
- Create a plan for the tech future we want (open-source, reusable) and fight for it! Speak publicly against closed-source tech development. Support and educate hacker culture. (People are now hacking machines that we will see on the market in three years.)
- Find alternative forms of reuse that still support our mission (giving phones to shelters, repurposing old cpu's to build thin-client terminals and give them to nonprofits for business use, etc.)
- Again, Don't believe the hype! There will be a market for desktops for a long time. There is much more discussion and planning to be done about this.
- Continue to participate actively in BAN/R2 standards conversations/developments. Separate into 2 branches: 1 nonprofit and 1 for-profit company.
Back-up Options: Adapting Away from Change
- Refocus revenue pursuit toward sources other than the Thrift Store (Recycling, other programs)
- Re-examine mission in concert with all other stakeholders
- Make sure the Board has prepared an end-of-life plan in case the organization cannot adapt to these changes quickly enough.
Potential for Mission/Principles Conflicts
- The mission to dispose of e-waste properly conflicts with mission to self-support and reuse when rapid technological change and marketing of handheld devices as “fashion accessories” drives both rapid turnover of devices and production of restricted proprietary tech (e.g. iPhone.)
- Any dimension of buying into closed technologies such as iOS or Windows would be a huge departure from/conflict with our founding values/ethics and democracy.
Other Suggestions from Volunteers
- Collaborate with Portland Community Media Coalition for Metro Community Round-Up Partnership – PCM holds “Tech Rummage Sale” and we pick up from a central donation site.
- Free Geek's business model is flexible – no need for long-term planning for technology changes.