developer Digest, Vol 11, Issue 21

Wolfgang Spraul wolfgang at
Thu May 13 20:28:33 EDT 2010


> its a bit offtopic, but what did local people told you about their work  
> and life in a industrial area like this ?

I don't think it's off-topic at all, I always understood copyleft hardware
as also trying to document the social aspects behind hardware production,
drag all this stuff out from behind layers of secrecy, no matter whether
what we find is good or bad.

For example we have this plan for years already to bring forward the
people 'behind' the product (all voluntarily of course).
For example by recording small video clips of workers from various vendors,
then the first time you take the device out of the box and boot it, it is
presented to you by someone who made it. Showing a little clip about that
person, or a short personal message to the buyer, or something like that.

So we have like 50 or 100 such 'worker personalizations', and each device
is flashed with another one. Something like that. Of course we could also
include our own people in this, since there are tons of contributors on
the software, distributor side as well, and they as much as the workers
make all of this possible.

It's just so much work to actually pull it off. We get there... :-)

Back to your question, there is nothing much I can report to you.
This factory is located in a very nice region west of Shanghai, many
lakes and waterways around it
Google Maps:,120.85274&ll=31.020281,120.852356&z=13

(BTW, depressing how much better Google Maps is for this area than OSM -
need to make contributing easier, another project :-))

The two guys we spoke with work for that keyboard factory for 2 and 6 years.
They feel under pressure, but they like this factory because it allows
them to learn quickly.
The regular workers live in dormitories, we were told it used to be 10 in
one room, and no air-con, but thanks to pressure from their customers this
has now improved down to only 6 workers per room, every room has air-con,
food options in the cafeteria improved, paid days off (vacation) was
introduced, etc.
As much as I would criticize Apple from a copyleft perspective, I have to
say I have heard several times (also at this factory) that Apple makes sure,
to the last worker of the last vendor, that people are treated well.
Apple pushes through, all the way through their supply chain, increases of
worker salaries around 30% above non-Apple customers. They push through
improvements in dormitory standards, food choices, overtime protection,
underage protection, paid days off, and so on. Unfortunately at the
factories I have seen so far, these improvements only apply to the workers
working on Apple stuff.

In fact the truth is, right now, the people who manufactured Ben NanoNote
parts were not treated as well as the ones making Apple stuff. That bothers
me and we will change it :-) Just need to work a bit more to have a better
product, better software quality, higher volume. But as soon as there is
any chance to do that, rest assured we will exercise the same kind of
pressure into the system to treat people well. Free software is built on
principles of treating people respectfully, and copyleft hardware needs to
do the same in the hardware world.

Apple is doing a lot of good things in this area, also in secrecy as always
with Apple, but in this case really they should talk more about it cause
it's just plain the right thing to do.

Pressure from customers works! I can tell you first hand because I hear
the effects of it on the ground. And it cannot come from the workers, they
have no chance. It has to come from the end customer, asking nasty questions
to the companies where they buy goods from, so that those companies ask
those same nasty questions into their supply chain, until it reaches the
weakest and last endpoint, who is still a real human being as we all are,
and improves that person's life in a factory somewhere in China or elsewhere.

Hope this helps, we will keep this stuff coming, products are made by
real people and they matter. Technology is to serve us (all), not the other
way round.

On Thu, May 13, 2010 at 11:24:00AM +0200, Christoph Pulster wrote:
> > One answer would be that it's all exploitation and slave labor
> > and they spent the whole afternoon and evening with us, inside and
> > outside the factory.
> its a bit offtopic, but what did local people told you about their work  
> and life in a industrial area like this ?
> thanks for your great travel reports, first-hand-experiences, what a  
> rare opportunity and very interesting read !
> Christoph
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