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Editors’ letter
Hannah Smith and Marketa Benisek

10 people share what finding beauty in the imperfect means to them

Issue 8 community-assembled playlist
Hannah Smith and Lima Dastgeer

Meaningful connection

Talking it out: Restoring information ecosystems through authentic human connections
Bárbara Paes and Olivia Johnson

One Movement, Four Wings: Connecting climate strategies
Melissa Hsiung

Connectivity, infrastructure and the defence of the Amazon’s socio-biodiverse ecosystems
Hemanuel Veras

What can digital sustainability learn from accessibility?
Mike Masey

Solarpunk and speculative features

Jo Lindsay Walton

Care for life, care for the chips: the future is re-used, recycled and permacomputing
Alistair Alexander

Toward a Pragmatic Future: Accepting Imperfect Systems whilst Striving for Regeneration
Oliver Cronk

Solarpunk Meets Better Business: Reimagining a Sustainable Digital Future
Simon Blackler

Ministry of Imagination Manifesto
Rob Hopkins

Octavia’s Future is Here, Now What
Mica Le John

Design philosophy

Designing Friction
Marketa Benisek, Luna Maurer, Roel Wouters

The Wabi Sabi Web
Tom Greenwood

Echoes of electronic waste
Joanna Murzyn

Imperfect design for a better future
Thorsten Jonas

Alternative networks: Consciously designing from within earthly dynamics
Jesse Thompson

Perfection is the enemy of progress

The perfect site doesn’t exist
Michelle Barker

Rabbit holes of perfection
Mary Pitt

From bytes to carbon savings: Immediate’s sustainable transformation of Good Food
Tommy Ferry, Marketa Benisek, Michelle Whitehead, Linzi Ricketts, Filippa Furniss, Graham Martin

Small steps, big goals: Building sustainable change
Kim Lea Rothe

The perfect data paradox
Rory Brown

This issue is a collaboration between Wholegrain Digital and Green Web Foundation.

About Branch

Unknown grid intensity

Editors’ letter

This issue of Branch originates from our shared place of frustration. A frustration that we’re all holding ourselves back from making the internet a better place for everyone – because the illusion of perfectionism can loom too large. It can catch us, like a rabbit in the headlights, rooting us firmly to the spot whilst danger hurtles towards us in the form of runaway climate change. Leaving us unsure which decisions will be the best ones. Thinking surely someone else will do it better than we ever could. Wondering if our efforts are likely to make any useful impact at all. 

But one thing we can have certainty about, is that thoughts like this deserve to be challenged.

Well ahead of working on Branch together, we often found ourselves talking about how we were overcoming thoughts like these. We share a context of seeking to build improved digital emission measurement methodologies and the frequent pushback against them in our day jobs. Marketa at Wholegrain Digital and Hannah at Green Web Foundation

So we’ve been counselling ourselves to keep at it. To keep finding ways to progress amongst the imperfections and setbacks of what we were working on, especially on the hard days. To keep striving to create something meaningful. Something we could regard as a type of beauty, even if not everyone sees it that way. 

It wasn’t long before we’d end calls with each other using the shorthand of “remember to find some beauty in that imperfect today!”.

Somewhere along the way, we realised something else – we’re not alone in these struggles. 

Anyone working to create meaningful change is also likely to feel frustrated like this. Perhaps it could be helpful to see how others in this field tackle things, and find the will to keep at it? What could we learn from the wider tech community and wider sustainability community? What other practices are out there that might inspire and guide us? Most importantly, where do we look for hope in the face of increasingly severe climate change?

And so the concept of openly examining how you might “find beauty in the imperfect”, especially in the context of creating a just, sustainable, and more humane internet emerged.

Issue 8 is above all an expression of the thoughts that linger in the minds of many, but that are spoken aloud by only a few. Here we can highlight the importance of going back to basics, especially in today’s world overrun by screens and speed, to envision what the internet should actually bring to humanity. Accepting that these subjective answers will be imperfectly beautiful in themselves.

This issue is an ode to this exploration, and the many fascinating perspectives found along the way. Our hope is that this issue’s theme will resonate with you, like it did for us. Perhaps not perfectly. But maybe through connecting you to some of the 35 or so authors that shared their thoughts with us, and by extension, you.

We hope you feel the beauty of the human connection through this online magazine. 


Hannah and Marketa
Issue 8 Guest Editors

Photo of Hannah Smith
Hannah Smith – Director of Operations at Green Web Foundation
Green Web Foundation logo
Photo of Marketa Benisek
Marketa Benisek Digital Sustainability Lead at Wholegrain Digital
Wholegrain Digital logo

What’s in issue 8?

As we put the individual articles of this issue together and stepped back, we realised that the theme of “finding beauty in the imperfect” can be viewed not only as a mindset, but also as a loose journey guiding us on how to build a just, sustainable and more humane web. The grouping of these articles reflects that.

Before we jump into the journey, we start with a welcome and orientation to the space. This editors’ letter gives you the origin story and thinking behind this issue’s theme “finding beauty in the imperfect”. 

Alongside this, we share the quick reflections of ten members of the ClimateAction.tech community who reflected on our prompt: “what is imperfectly beautiful in climate tech to you?”. This is a great way to ease yourself into the topics and viewpoints that come up and are discussed in more detail throughout.

You might also consider taking a look at our Branch issue 8 playlist to get you in the mood. 40 songs have been suggested by the readers of Branch that help them to keep being motivated to be catalysts for change. Afterall, music is a great way to create a sense of connection and motivation for the body and mind to take action. 

We then come to our first step: the topic of meaningful connection.

Step 1: Meaningful connection

Meaningful connection is important for everyone and a basic social foundation. Experiencing connections with others that are authentic, human and beautiful has profound impacts on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. You might say it’s what makes life worth living. The internet has the potential to give us more of this, and often does. But it can also be too much. Perfect digital connectivity, access to the internet in all ways and places, can overwhelm our capacity for finding true connection instead of enhancing it.

The four pieces in this category set out to explore what all this is for through different perspectives of how we can create meaningful connections in context of using digital technologies or solving sustainability challenges.

Talking it out: Restoring information ecosystems through authentic human connections by Bárbara Paes and Olivia Johnson, explores if we should we prioritise human-driven processes over tech fixes to build stronger information ecosystems based on trust and meaningful connections.

One Movement, Four Wings: Connecting climate strategies by Melissa Hsiung, shares a tool for adopting a more constructive approach to climate action: the butterfly metaphor for transformative social change.

Connectivity, infrastructure and the defence of the Amazon’s socio-biodiverse ecosystems by Hemanuel Veras explores how the lack of network infrastructure in the Amazon limits digital access for indigenous and traditional communities while supporting environmentally harmful enterprises.

What can digital sustainability learn from accessibility? by Mike Masey, considers how we can apply lessons and patterns from the accessibility movement to the emerging digital sustainability movement.

Step 2: Solarpunk and speculative futures

If we can imagine it, we can build it. Throughout history, the most significant scientific and technological advancements have been fueled by imaginative thinking. As the world’s resources become more limited, imagining how we can create beautiful, meaningful connections within imperfect constraints will become more necessary. Understanding that the world’s resources are finite underscores the importance of using our imagination to innovate responsibly. It is that imagination that gives us hope about a better state of things and propels us towards taking action.

The six pieces in this section explore imaginings of a better, more meaningfully connected tech future, and what a more just and sustainable internet could be.

Octavia’s Future is Here, Now What by Mica Le John, examines the parallels and divergences between Butler’s fictional world and our current reality, offering a call to imagine the future you want.

Care for life, care for the chips: the future is re-used, recycled and permacomputing by Alistair Alexander, explores the imperfect answers arising from asking what we can do to radically cut down on our spiralling CPU habit.

Toward a Pragmatic Future: Accepting Imperfect Systems whilst Striving for Regeneration by Oliver Cronk, shares ideas on how the internet can support a future of regeneration and symbiosis over extraction.

Solarpunk Meets Better Business: Reimagining a Sustainable Digital Future by Simon Blackler shares a solarpunk inspired vision for how we, and his company Krystal, can create a world where business, technology, and nature are in harmony

Pause by Jo Lindsay Walton’s essay explores the imperfect questions that can still spark important conversations, including when to ask for pause.

Ministry of Imagination Manifesto by Rob Hopkins describes a manifesto that’s based on a positive vision of the future and is appropriately ambitious to the scale of the challenges the world is facing.

Step 3: Design philosophy

If imagination is thinking of what’s possible, design is the process of turning imagination into reality. A design philosophy is the blueprint of your values, reflecting what you consider to be good design and why.

These five pieces in this step delve into various design values that embrace imperfection within the realm of fostering meaningful digital connections.

Designing Friction where Marketa Benisek interviewed Luna Maurer, Roel Wouters, creators of the ‘Designing Friction’ project where they challenge the digital culture’s obsession with seamless experiences and advocate for intentional friction in design to create deeper human connections.

The Wabi Sabi Web by Tom Greenwood, asks if the flawless digital world could take inspiration from the Wabi Sabi philosophy to incorporate imperfection and impermanence into digital designs?

Echoes of electronic waste by Joanna Murzyn investigates the real impact of e-waste, through this immersive documentation of a community in India, surrounded by the e-waste we design into our world.

Imperfect design for a better future by Thorsten Jonas, explores the concept of perfection, arguing that seeking it creates injustice and imbalance, and advocating for a paradigm shift towards imperfection and balance in design processes.

Alternative networks: Consciously designing from within earthly dynamics by Jesse Thompson explores how recognising our connection to nature can guide us in designing a more sustainable and fair internet.

Step 4: Perfection is the enemy of progress

Perfectionism gets in the way of us building our designs. For most people, it’s the mindset of striving for flawlessness, setting excessively high standards and being overly concerned with mistakes or imperfections. This can create blockers that prevent any achievement at all, and in its worst guises can be deliberately used to hold others back. In the context of addressing climate change, we need to unlock every achievement we can, as quickly as we can.

This set of five pieces sets out to explore the downsides of perfectionism in the context of software development and data analysis, particularly when applied to solving sustainability-related problems, and how such drawbacks can be overcome.

The perfect site doesn’t exist by Michelle Barker explains what building a humane web means to her and how notions of perfectionism can stand in the way of developers building it.

Rabbit holes of perfection by Mary Pitt examines how Western medicine and Tech are both chasing the holy grail of perfect data, why this risks trashing the planet, and what can be done about it.

From bytes to carbon savings: Immediate’s sustainable transformation of Good Food by Tommy Ferry, Marketa Benisek, Michelle Whitehead, Linzi Ricketts, Filippa Furniss, Graham Martin is an interview between Wholegrain Digital and the team at Immediate that discusses the sustainable transformation of Good Food website.

Small steps, big goals: Building sustainable change by Kim Lea Rothe considers when we work towards a sustainable world, how taking small steps often might be more helpful than trying to change everything all at once.

The perfect data paradox by Rory Brown explains a few simple principles that can liberate data from the perfection paradox, which can work for everyone.

Thank yous

This issue of Branch could not have been brought to you without the guidance and support of the managing editors, Michelle Thorne and Chris Adams. A million thank yous for letting us loose on this experiment.

Chris Lewis and Georgie Monaghan, at Wholegrain Digital, also took a massive leap of faith in this project by agreeing to collaborate. Thank you!

A huge thank you is owed to Brett Duboff, who helped us and our authors find imagery that brought their pieces to life. Brett, you’ve been so patient throughout, thank you!

We also owe a huge debt of gratitute to Clarote, who illustrated us a beautiful front cover and gave us much joy with her interpretation of the theme.

And of course, we must also thank our 36 contributors who we worked with to craft and share their perspectives. We are enormously grateful and have learned so much from you all.

Alana Jade, Alistair Alexander, Bárbara Paes, Eric Zie, Filippa Furniss, Graham Martin, Hemanuel Veras, Jesse Thompson, Jo Lindsay Walton, Joanna Murzyn, Kim Lea Rothe, Lima Dastgeer, Linzi Ricketts, Luna Maurer, Mary Pitt, Melissa Hsiung, Mica Le John, Michelle Barker, Michelle Whitehead, Mike Masey, Min, Nat Darke, Nick Lewis, Oliver Cronk, Olivia Johnson, Rob Hopkins, Roel Wouters, Rory Brown, Samantha Ndiwalana, Sammy Harper, Sandra Pallier, Simon Blackler, Teresa A. Zeck, Thorsten Jonas, Tom Greenwood, Tommy Ferry.

Hannah Smith is Director of Operations for Green Web Foundation, and puts a strong emphasis on fostering a joyful and effective delivery culture. She provides technical and operational leadership on the GWF’s open source tool suite including the Green Web Directory, Branch magazine, and commercial services. Outside GWF, she’s co-founder of the Green Tech South West community and a long-term volunteer with ClimateAction.tech. She lives in the temperate rainforest in Exmoor National Park, UK.

Marketa Benisek is the Digital Sustainability Lead at Wholegrain Digital, a London-based agency specialising in low-carbon, accessible, and high-performant websites. Marketa has a deep interest in harnessing the power of storytelling for positive change and is passionate about climate activism, having trained with Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader. Additionally, Marketa volunteers with the ClimateAction.tech community, where she co-organised a TEDx event as part of the global TEDxCountdown initiative.