Digital Sobriety for developers

At the Forum PHP 2022 conference held in Paris in mid-October, there was this very interesting talk -in French- on digital sobriety. The summary I took away is:

  • Most of the pollution comes from manufacturing the terminals (do we need to change our smartphone every 2-3 years? can we build software that don't incite our users to upgrade their terminals?)
  • We need to build software that are performant (not just fast, but also efficient). I then learnt that there is an ISO standard that covers that:
  • They mentioned a best practices guide for software eco-design. It is only in French for now but there is a Github issue as a task for English translation. Also, I found it convenient that most of those practices seem to align well with regular good software engineering practices
  • The bulk of the software environmental impact comes from the level of product design/feature bloat, so we should strive to always ask why a feature is requested, involve multiple parties to increase perspective during product development (including developers), use UX people to refine a requested user journey and trim feature requested by tiny fraction and could be done out of band may be, ensure users don't spend more time than necessary to get things done, don't hoard unecessary data.

Regarding the last point, since as developers we are used to the process of planning poker and associating complexity points to user stories for planned features, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to also start giving those stories an environmental impact score as part of the same process.

Sometimes complexity point may correlate to bloat, but it's not reliable way to assess environmental impact I reckon. There can be real complexity, or real unknowns to a story that says nothing about the energy use, bloat or wasted user time.

We probably need to come up with a more appropriate scale.
Probably not numerical carbon footprint, as it sounds hard to reason at the level of a user story during a planning poker.

The speakers mentioned a list of eco-benchmarks in their talk (apparently they seem to be very much work in progress). I haven't looked into them yet, but maybe a beginning of an answer can be found there.
Here are the list they shared:

I think EcoIndex and Carbonalyser also come as Firefox/Chrome extensions.

now, I'm off to test my websites against these auditing tools...