A code has to work on both sides. Too often codes of conduct assume that the accused is always the abuser and the accusee always the abused. Legal systems have a strong assumption of innocent until proven guilty (and also a right to representation, a right to cross-examine witnesses and so on) for good reason.
A code of conduct is no legal system, but better compared to house rules. They are for good reasons no legal system, because many things I forbid in my house are fine in other houses.
(my favourite example being cuddle meetups [yes, they exist] and the RubySauna meetups in Finland, where certain behavior that would be out of line at other meeting grounds is just plain normal, so the rules are different and address other things)
Too often codes of conduct assume that the accused is always the abuser and the accusee always the abused.
Most major CoCs (ConfCoC, Berlin CoC, PyCon CoC) do not even define or assume that, the path to resolution is a handling procedure. The CoC states which behaviour is not allowed.
See for example Pycon:
Also note that conference handling is an attempt to find an amicable solution, if there can be one found. I find the idea that the conf has any say on how you should speak about the incident (like the CoP does) off-putting and overreaching.
A thing to understand when reading things like the PyCon CoC or the eurucamp CoC (which I co-maintained) is to understand that the vast majority of incidents are handled with understanding from both sides. We only hear about the ones blowing up sky-high.
A lot of the CoC handling work is mediating both parties, for example helping the accused to find the proper words for excusing themselves and before that making sure that an excuse is accepted.
I ran more then 100 community events under CoCs, incidents are regular, but usually mild and often to be attributed to thoughtlessness. Before that, I maintained board rules on bulletin boards for 10 years. It’s rare that things are really inexcusable. Most of our work is making sure people speak to us before they solve things themselves in the open. I would never stand in the way of people not going through that process, though, it’s always an offer. The CoC and the handling procedures are a way of telling people - out in the open - of what to expect from me.
So how does “you can attend our conference, but we expect that the only person you speak to about what happens here is us?” fare there? Pretty badly.
A Code of Conduct is like a disaster preparation document: the best way to use them is to think long and hard about them and be ready to be held by the standards you put out. But as any document: they are only words until the sh*t hits the fan. Trust needs to be built.
Also, I’d like to say that CoCs are an interesting document to work from. For example, the eurucamp CoC stats that we don’t discriminate for disability. That means, for example, that we take great care when we book venues, make sure we have retreat rooms and similar. A CoC binds us as organisers as much as attendees.
I don’t really want to rehash many discussions here on the platform, feel free to search my user history, I’ve written a lot of things about CoCs before.
Proponents seem to find it convenient to equivocate between the two - “introducing a CoC” is used as a way to propose introducing a “handling procedure”, and if you have issues with the “handling procedure” that’s framed as opposition to the CoC (and what kind of monster would oppose a code against harrassment and so on?)
(This is not a theoretical concern for me - my main encounter with CoCs was the effort to introduce one to ScalaZ, which at this point I’m convinced was disingenous and malicious)
I find the idea that the conf has any say on how you should speak about the incident (like the CoP does) off-putting and overreaching.
In principle I would agree. But the present-day reality, unfortunate as it is, is that e.g. being called a racist on twitter probably carries bigger long-term consequences (at least in the worst case) than e.g. being punched in the face. So a code that’s about stopping conference participants from harming each other in relation to the conference probably does need to address such things.
This is true as far as it goes, but those are precisely the cases where the details of the CoC are important. The vast majority of incidents can be resolved with understanding and mediation - but that would be true under any CoC or CoP, or even in the complete absence of one.
I don’t think this is a reasonable way to engage on a discussion site. Indeed, it seems like a cheap tactic for getting the last word.
I put the last in the beginning. First of all, thanks for the considered reply.
Point taken and you are right.
I’m sorry about that, but I am just out of energy to rehash the same points over and over again. I’ve written all of the above before, just to see the same 2-line statements over and over again. The discussion about CoCs is in the same state as in 2012 and I have come to the conclusion that no one gives a f*ck about actual experiences from people that use them - for half decade now.
But that’s what you get for platforms that shun debate about community and politics. At eurucamp, we documented all of the stuff above and more on our blog: guess someone cares? Like, we have 5 years of trying that out and measuring effects, just to be constantly in debate with people that know all of that better then you do.
That’s by the way a huge issue we face. People draw their conclusions out of their own political worldview instead of asking: “So, that eurucamp CoC thing, has it had effect?” (yes, it had, fundamentally) Next day, they complain about politicians not researching their statements :D.
I love community management and trying many approaches, but I now understand why community managers keep to their channels and pass around knowledge through their actual brick-and-mortar work: no one is interested in that part of FOSS if they are not part of it. Sadly, that’s at the danger of people engaging in new communities, as those learn old stuff the hard way.
I’m fine with you having the last word and I invested much more time then I wanted into the post above, so I wanted to make clear that I’m just not really up to a back and forth. Although I will break that :). Warning, lots of rambling ahead.
I’m not sure. My question is usually: If you project does not accept racism on their issue tracker, bulletin boards, etc., what’s the problem in writing it down? :)
There’s an interesting thing happening when you do: people notice that it might have actual consequences.
But yeah, I would agree that setting up some handling within a project should come first. “We have no one that could foster a debate on project policies” is an interesting piece of homework that would come up for many projects.
There, I definitely would be out of line to comment on specifics, but I’ll try to say a few general words as someone who’s been part of such discussions. Take them or leave them, they might not fit your case.
Interestingly, I have had a similar thing experience reverse: a conference approaching me for helping them write a CoC with the deliberate goal of it being unenforceable.
You also have to understand that a lot of opposition to CoC approches is immediate downright aggression and denial. It’s effing hard to stay levelheaded in such discussions. Yep, the discussions get hot, but they also often show up huge problems inside a community. Often, interestingly, no one in the community is able to steer discussions. Also, I’d prefer more projects to be better at taking criticism. Even if all stuff went haywire, do go back at some point and ask: “how would the discussion have turned if we said: this makes sense, but your proposal is not what convinces us?”. Or just “we need some time to discuss, let’s please revisit that in 2 weeks”.
I do understand many aggravations and I’m often not happy with some of the approaches taken. It’s my firm belief that an unaccepted CoC is worse then none. Still, it makes sense to write down rules, make them clear and iterate. But best start of with a standard CoC, get a feel and iterate. Ask people with experience for guidance.
Also, as with any push, there’s zealots, sadly. I’m honestly confused about some of them, but that would go on for too long. You should not forget, though, that it’s a discussed issue in the community management community. But where no one has interest to engage with these groups, these subtleties get lost. Also, honest mistakes happen: the approach you take to convince a project that worked with project A,B suddenly leads to a huge shitstorm on project C. And once things cross what I call the 4chan threshold, all hope is lost as everything will be drowned in a wave of people just in for the fistfight.
I also hate the “public first” approach many take nowadays, as it leads to a lot of people participating with no skin in the game, and they can easily go haywire if - for example - the person best qualified to take that topic on is spending their weekend somewhere. (That lead to the whole Opal incident: 900 people fighting and their throat, just for the maintainer coming in on Sunday and saying: “oh hell, that’s terrible, thanks for notifying me and you are right”). But I can yell at social networks as long as I want, that’s the thing we need to deal with currently and to prepare for as a project. (Hint here: make “Project lead is on weekend/holidays/etc, thanks for notifying us, we will make sure that we come back to you at $exact_date” your default response)
Also, a thing that I see painfully in the Ruby community (where I’m rooted) is that many people forget what mode of communication is. US people are very used to what I call “gunboat politics”. Find enough support and then pressure. Take bases.
This absolutely doesn’t work, for example, when approaching Japanese projects.
I’m also fundamentally opposed to the notion of “the Ruby community” for example, there’s at least 20 sub communities. That’s great, because people can evade each other or try different approaches.
I think that effect is overstated. Accuses always carry a risk for the accuser (pretty often, they are fired). No one does that for fun. Lots of Twitter outrage blows over and by and large, I am hard pressed to see the widespread damage. But this is a different debate, on another level. It’s not fixable in the context of a conf.
Also, your conf won’t fix social media, or a community at large. You offer a very confined space that is your model of how you want things to be. That’s already a lot, some people might take that away. You should have an eye if attendees harass each other on on twitter, but that’s a different story. Your job as a conf is to make those 3 days go over well, pre- and post-preparation and make sure everyone feels well and safe. Mind: That does not absolve you of outside criticism.
Once we conflate all those things into one, we’ve got an infinite pool of bad and good, which makes things - well - unmanageable.
Also, as an aside, social media has the effect of drowning out a lot of the signals about things that went well, by taking over your worldview. A tweet that says “$x was an ass, but apologised and the world turns” just isn’t share-worthy. It leads to the weird situation where things are both unbearably horrible or polished perfect, but rarely in between. Social media is cool for a lot of things, especially spread, but hard for getting a bearing.
The problem with not having moderation covered and somehow written down is that you make yourself elusive as the person that is expected to do the moderation. I don’t agree that the complete absence is fine.
a) If you have no explicit rules written down, implicit rules are in effect.
b) this leads to in-fighting in the org team for any larger group of people. It’s shitty for people that want mediation to first find out who mediates, what and under which rules. If you don’t have that, people prefer to leave aggravated. You haven’t been helpful.
Usually, if you’d sit in a room for a day and talk about what you want at your conf and what definitely crosses the line and then turn that into a good text, you got a CoC.
Don’t talk about how people should behave in general, that’s a common error. Asking for friendlyiness, kindness or any such is not useful. Not everyone is friendly or kind, and that’s fine. As long as they don’t cross boundaries.
The problem with the CoP is that it is extremely open to rules-lawyering and that’s an abusers standard-play (that’s know since the first days of online bulletin boards). Also, the name itself is a subtle stab at everyone else ‘we are professional, not like the other people’.
I’ll give you another example: I recently read a CoC that flat-out state that anything that is just verbal would be explicitly fair game, as long as people don’t touch each other. They just gave out a carte blanche to someone following someone on the conference and harassing them verbally for having deaf parents even if they were told to stop (this is an actual incident that happened at one of my confs).
Also, I helped with reporting incidents at some conferences and most of them turn out to be shitshows, for example by the front desk not even knowing what to do in such cases and not even knowing what a “violation” is.
Basically, I wrote a lot about politics here. I’d prefer people working on large projects (and globally spanning projects) to be better politicians. Or at least have someone around.
Finally, we should move away from the idea of perfection. I like PyCons open and anonymised incident reporting each year. Every year, something happens and they handle it. But when 500+ people meet, that’s normal! It makes me feel much safer that people have incident handling set up.
I’d also prefer people that run events to get better informed to what they may have to deal with before, which is a reason of the existence of the Rust community team. We coach and pass down experience. Does you project have that?
Thanks for the response.
The problem with the CoP is that it is extremely open to rules-lawyering and that’s an abusers standard-play (that’s know since the first days of online bulletin boards).
Isn’t rules-lawyering the same risk for any code? Or are you saying this specific code has rules-lawyering problems that other CoCs don’t?
Also, the name itself is a subtle stab at everyone else ‘we are professional, not like the other people’.
I have enough baggage from my experience around the concept of a “Code of Conduct” that I’ll instinctively respond more positively to a code called literally anything else, even if it’s the same content. Appreciate this might be reversed for others.
There’s no large project I’d consider “my project” any more. I was unhappy with both factions in the ScalaZ schism (I thought the individual the CoC folk were targeting was toxic and needed to be removed but had not violated the CoC (to the extent that the CoC meant anything at all), and have absolutely no faith in the process around it; I also have one specific quibble with the typelevel CoC) and don’t support or contribute to either (other than in the line of my job).
I have a couple of projects of my own where I’m sole developer - at that point I’m inherently the sole point of responsibility for any conduct issues, and I don’t think I have enough experience to codify any firm rules, and don’t trust any external sources enough to use theirs.
You’re right that politics is what drives people’s decisions. I can feel it happening to me now. I’d like to talk about some of my projects at a conference, and LambdaConf might be where I’d go - not because of what’s explicitly in the codes but because of the lines that have been taken on previous incidents and the way the political sides have wound up. Fundamentally I’d feel more comfortable at a conference where Yarvin was allowed to speak than one he was banned from (and that’s not because I agree with him or respect him; I don’t), and after the Intel/Kotaku thing I mistrust Garrett enough that his disapproval isn’t really a negative. (And maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if I was higher-class or better-spoken, or if I couldn’t pass for white and male, but that thought doesn’t override those feelings).
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He was not invited. He applied and his talk was accepted:
The gender- and person-anonymized talk was endorsed by the review committee, and made it all the way onto the schedule board before a volunteer brought the issue to our attention.
Being invited to speak at a conference means skipping the application process (in this case, an uncommonly rigorous one).
Has he been invited again?
Hmm. So I thought I’d skip the intermediate interpretation and look at the source…
I’m from The Old South Africa.
Yup, the one that was so horribly wrong.
But I will tell you one thing about it.
It was Civil. Very very very Civil.
Strong insistence on Civil.
It Stomped on many peoples rights…..
..but very civilly.
All legal, in full conformance with the Law of The Land. Openly and above board too.
So yes, the requirement to “Be Civil” raises my hackles slightly.
I sort of start tensing for the “but” part.
So often in the Bad Old Days “Being Civil” was codeword for “Don’t Disagree with Us while we be utter assholes.”.
So that’s just my own scar tissue… Let me read on.
Don’t Moralize. Do not impose your moral system onto others.
Hmm. The mathematician in me raises his hand and says, “But….”
Define moralize: Dictionary says “to express beliefs about what is good behavior and what is bad behavior ”.
What!? The whole document is moralizing!
I think we a tad more precision here.
It smells like “Don’t display or express morals we don’t agree with, it makes us uncomfortable”.
The whole thing about “Inactive Particpation” is outright creepy and cultish.
“Consequences. Violators may be asked to apologize or to undergo training, counseling, or mediation as a condition of continued participation. ”
Wow! What’s this? Scientology?
Sigh. I guess writing a CoC is hard…
As I keep saying,
Culture is the Wallpaper of Human Interaction.
Unless you have just walked into the room…. you can’t even see it.
Reading through the code of conduct doesn’t give me the impression that it’s discouraging or preventing the reporting of criminal offenses. One thing that makes me nervous is the discouragement of shaming, because it so specifically frowns on public reporting of things that happen during active participation.
While I don’t think the CoC actually prohibits those things, I can definitely see how it could be taken that way and would reword it. The author of the article seems to be cherry-picking parts of the CoC that look bad in light of what happened with the conference speaker instead of analyzing it for what it is. Basically, “You did something bad, so how does this other thing you’ve done also look bad in light of that?”