During this past retreat in Palm Springs, a group of us wondered about several questions regarding free software. A particularly enlightening moment was when Matthew Tift. shared that some of the members in the admin team were horrified to learn about the unethical practices that a certain software company was executing. The admin team is actively using software developed by this company because they didn’t know. Had they known, they might have gone with the ethical choice, even if that meant some hypothetical degradation of features.
This led to an arch of the conversation around the following facts:
- Lullabot does not introduce new software/services often.
- People making decisions about introducing new software to use are not always aware of the ethical nuances of each choice. They just have a problem that a tool can assist them in solving.
- Our core values include Collaborate Openly. Open collaboration is one of the strongest pillars of the Free Software movement.
With these facts, we wondered if there is room for the creation of an Ethical Software Council at Lullabot. The function of this group would be to express recommendations and/or endorsements whenever a new software or service is being introduced. It could also serve as a consulting group for our developers looking for the best license on their non-client-specific project. The actual decision will still lay on the same people and processes that make it now, but hopefully, the council will add additional valuable information.
At the time of this writing, we are focusing on finding the answers to these questions:
- Who can seek for advice?
- What is the expected deliverable in each case?
- What are the values on which to base the recommendations?
- Who are the initial members of the council?
We realize Lullabot may not be the only company pondering about these questions. We are curious about how other organizations are tackling these problems. If you know of an existing framework, you have comments about this, or questions on this, please leave a comment on this post.
We will be sharing our learning journey in this regard so others can benefit from it.