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    This should certainly have the culture tag.

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      Direct link to the code: https://www.freebsd.org/internal/code-of-conduct.html

      ok, so I generally think having a code of conduct is bullshit (oops, sorry, language). You’ve already lost if this is something you need. Attempting to enumerate the badness leads to absurdity, and this crosses the line.

      I’m on the fringe of the FreeBSD community, but it’s clear now that I can’t join. Sooner or later somebody is going to harass somebody else, and I’m going to ignore it, but then that makes me guilty of “condoning” harassment.

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        Oh, one more thing I forgot:

        Attempting to enumerate the badness leads to absurdity,

        You have two options here: try to enumerate behaviors, or leave it up to interpretation. The first falls under the kind of criticism you’re offering here, and the second leads to an argument about how the rules aren’t written down, and therefore, can’t be applied fairly.

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          an argument about how the rules aren’t written down, and therefore, can’t be applied fairly.

          For a company, yeah, this matters. Otherwise, “you’re out because we say you’re out” seems to get the job done pretty well.

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            Oh, it’s not about the effectiveness, I’ve just seen countless concern trolls play the “but how will I know if I’ve crossed a line unless it’s explicitly spelled out because social norms are totally arbitrary and I just say it like it is” in response to a community attempting to enact a code of conduct before.

            (I personally am in favor of enumerating broad categories of behavior and leaving it at that.)

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              Open-source projects often don’t have the strong leadership that would make that happen. E.g. Tony Morris is still upsetting people on #scala (or was when I gave up on it a few weeks ago) where any decent organization or leader would long since have kicked him out, and I think the bungled, unclear code of conduct had a lot to do with that.

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            I don’t think, for example, that Python has “lost” by having a code of conduct. Pycon has 1/3 female attendance and speakers, in large part due to its code of conduct and many other outreach programmes. What other tech conference has lineups for the women’s bathroom?

            Being more inclusive is good for everyone, both the people doing the including and the ones being included. You can’t achieve this without actively doing outreach. Just sitting there and waiting for it to happen doesn’t make it happen.

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              Was it Pycon that had a very public incident that started with one person complaining about a sexist joke (and very explicitly claiming the code-of-conduct supported their complaint) and ended with multiple people losing their jobs? It’s conceivable that in the absence of a code that incident would have been less confrontational and ended less badly.

              Inclusiveness does benefit everyone, but nothing is completely free. I think codes like this are on balance a good thing (and this is one of the better-written examples IMO: it’s relatively explicit and objective), but let’s not oversell them. Any such thing imposes overhead (especially for people who already have trouble expressing themselves, or who are anxious about participating in a community), and runs the risk of becoming a weapon for the popular or politically astute to attack the weak with.

              I do support this code. But caution is warranted.

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                with multiple people losing their jobs?

                It ended with one of the offenders losing their job and finding a new one within a week or two, and the reporter losing their job by having their employer be DDOSed, then not being able to find a new job for over a year due to the stigma, almost putting them on the street. And getting graphic death threats almost continually, still to this day.

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                  Ummm, given that Adria was the attacker, I don’t see that as being particularly unreasonable (other than the death threat part). We’re never going to grow as a society if we don’t hold men and women to the same standards.

                  Additionally, it looks like Adria spent the better part of that year justifying to herself that her actions were right:

                  “Somebody getting fired is pretty bad,” I said. “I know you didn’t call for him to be fired, but you must have felt pretty bad.”

                  “Not too bad,” she said. She thought more and shook her head decisively. “He’s a white male. I’m a black Jewish female.


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                    given that Adria was the attacker,

                    I don’t agree with this characterization. She reported an event that happened, after that, it was up to the conference to decide what to do here. She didn’t even inaccurately report it, the actual circumstances were never in question.

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                      She reported an event that happened

                      It was a while ago, so my memory may not be the clearest, but as I recall she took a picture of the guy (initially people thought some other guy in the picture was the culprit!), and tweeted it to the whole world along with commentary. The pycon conference staff actually contacted her via twitter after seeing the posting. Seemed like an odd way to report something overheard at a conference to staff.

                      Making a dongle/dick joke at a conference is very inappropriate. No disagreement there. The “let’s make an example out of this guy” response seemed rather outsized.

                      In addition, maybe instead of just firing him, his employer could have sent the guy to some type of sensitivity training so he actually learned something other than the likelihood that he just picked up some new prejudice like “it is not safe to have women in your team – you might get fired” or “don’t ever go to conferences”. I consider companies generally pretty heartless though, so it wasn’t surprising that he was simply fired – arguably the fastest way to distance themselves from the issue entirely.

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                        The exact text of the tweet:

                        Not cool. Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and “big” dongles. Right behind me #pycon

                        Yes, one could argue that she could have reported it in private instead of in public, but especially tagging it with #pycon, to me, is reporting. The entirety of the ‘commentary’ is “Not cool.”

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                          Thanks for finding the tweet text!

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                        Seriously, “the attacker”? And earlier “a very public incident that started with one person complaining about a sexist joke”? The complaint about the issue is undoubtedly the problem. Nah, it started with the snickering innuendo. Too often this site feels like browsing HN Jr.

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                    Yeah, donglegate. Not sure I would say that this would have never happened if there wasn’t a code of conduct. In fact, it may not have happened in a vacuous way: without a code conduct, there would not have been 20% female participation which would have made it much less likely for any women to overhear. Without any women, there are no women who will voice complaints. :-)

                    I really don’t think there is an overt benefit to not having a code of conduct. The only one I can see is if you want to keep your community insular and unwelcoming. Like everything else in human society, as long as there’s more than a few of us, we need rules to guide us.

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                  You’ve already lost if this is something you need.

                  This is why Rust is a moribund language tended to by a community of lifeless, gray dullards devoid of insight or imagination, plodding along the same worn paths trodden by the endless parade of sightless generations before them. All this misery could have been avoided had they but known the risk their code of conduct posed to their ability to say fuckwords in public lo those many years ago.

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                    Python, too, succumbed to this same problem and lo their language was lost to the howling winds of time. We can also expect Go to burst into flames or something RSN.

                    waves hands and makes ghost noises

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                      I done been snarked!

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                        I code in C. I’m expected to curse… profusely, at that.

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                        (oops, sorry, language)

                        Most codes of conduct don’t include curse words, as being puritans is not the aim of a code of conduct.

                        You’ve already lost if this is something you need.

                        Codes of conduct are largely written plans to set expectations and make the process clear for when something doesn’t go according to plan. “you’ve already lost” is beside the point.

                        Any reasonable ops team has a plan for what to do in the case of system failure. Codes of conduct are no different.

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                          Most codes of conduct don’t include curse words, as being puritans is not the aim of a code of conduct.

                          The problem with this is that, as written, the code of conduct kinda does:

                          • Avoid foul or abusive language: remember that cultural standards differ, and that what may seem to you to be a very mild statement can be deeply shocking to another.

                          The core issue is that, I think, as developers and engineers we tend to read things rather literally, and any code of conduct read in such a way seems rather harsh and draconian.

                          And the natural response is “Well, that’s what it says, sure, but that’s just level-setting and a general zeitgeist…we’re not going to go after you for cursing/whatever”, and that basically illustrates to the person raising the concern the arbitrariness built into the enforcement of these things.

                          It’s not that they’re bad (hell, they’re arguably better than nothing)–it’s just totally unsurprising that many don’t sing their praises.

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                            Yeah, it’s true that this one does. I was responding more generally. Rust’s actually does too, with an explicit caveat:

                            (Cursing is allowed, but never targeting another user, and never in a hateful manner.)


                            that basically illustrates to the person raising the concern the arbitrariness built into the enforcement of these things

                            Software developers do tend to see many social boundaries as ‘arbitrary’, but that doesn’t mean they actually are.

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                              What are some examples of non-arbitrary social boundaries?

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                                Basically all of them. Social boundaries come out of some kind of need for a community, you can call them ‘arbitrary’ in response to some sort of platonic ideal, what-if-society-was-totally-different, but that’s more thought experiment and not something that’s actually useful when interfacing with other humans or understanding the real world.

                                That doesn’t mean they’re immutable, or are all good boundaries, but with that definition of arbitrary, basically everything is arbitrary.

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                          I really shouldn’t fan the flames (these are always incendiary topics) but you can’t make everyone happy. All of the words used there (harassment, hate speech etc) are relative, regardless of what people believe.

                          To give an example, suppose a person comes on and during the course of a conversation expresses the view that homosexuality is an aberration and is illegal. The person is banned. The person then in turn claims harassment + discrimination because in their nation/culture/religion this is the commonly held view.

                          Now, I’ll shut up, because I came here to learn about computation.

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                            In “almost all” cases, general good will, cultural norms, and good manners covers relations between people in a group.

                            Obviously, there are special cases where arbitration is needed and this is the purpose of a code of conduct - to formalize what happens when normal (polite) interactions break down.

                            Often, the formation of a code of conduct is challenging because it gives rise to unspoken and unaired differences between members of the group. For example: what if one leading member supports an aggressive, hardball management style that involves profanity, public call-outs, and insults, while another leading member supports a gentle management style that focuses on one-on-one interactions and words of encouragement? (In the first case, I’m thinking of some of the famous public arguments about the Linux kernel.) Making one or the other style “formal” in a code of conduct means that one leader “wins” the debate over group culture, while the other one “loses”.

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                              So, most of that scans pretty decently–a little “no fun allowed” in terms of speech, sure, but if we can’t not sweat and curse and whatnot during a project, we lack creativity in expressing our displeasure.

                              The only part I disagree with:

                              • Discrimination based on gender, race, nationality, sexuality, religion, age or physical disability.
                              • Bullying or systematic harrassment.
                              • Incitement to or condoning of any of these.

                              …which is totally, reasonable on the face off it, especially the latter two. However, that links with:

                              “We will not tolerate any member of the community, either publically or privately giving aid or encouragement to any third party to behave in such a way towards any members of the FreeBSD community.”

                              If it’s truly a meritocracy, it shouldn’t matter if a contributor is a bigoted shithead on their own time. This linkage, for example, is technically what would’ve been used to censure, say, Eich.

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                                If it’s truly a meritocracy, it shouldn’t matter if a contributor is a bigoted shithead on their own time.

                                Only if you don’t include ‘works well with others’ as merit. I know I personally do.

                                One might say this brings up the ‘arbitrariness’ of the concept of meritocracy in the first place…

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                                  “works well with others” is an interesting wagon to hitch to.

                                  It opens the unfortunate can of worms of whether or not minority members who constantly fight the status quo and make noise are “working well with others”. Especially when they, say, derail Github issues with agendas orthogonal to code problems.

                                  I’m not sure that bandying about fitting in is what we want to do here.

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                                    You seem to be conflating “works well with others” for “has a boundless appetite for bullshit”. Can we add that to the list of things we don’t want to do here?

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                                      You may think of it as derailing (and it’s not an entirely false or unreasonable opinion), but for every communication channel there should be a place to discuss issues with communication, and in cases of social issues it often makes sense to use the very same channel for that (just because all the participants are already present). E.g., if some aspect of your team’s weekly meetings renders these meetings ineffetive or intolerable, by all means bring it up during one of these meetings.

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                                        To put it explicitly (and odiously, mind you):

                                        If the argument is “works well with others is something of merit”, then any minority who fails to shut up and fall in line with the others is, by definition, not worthy of merit. This means putting up with homophobic remarks, because that’s what the majority of the workplace does. This means putting up with sexism, because that’s what the majority of the workplace does. This means not commenting/arguing/fighting-back against all of the microaggressions, because doing so puts you at odds with all the others.

                                        That is the full ramification of “gets along well with others”.

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                                          Likewise, every majority (is this the right word?) that issues racist/homophobic/misogynistic remarks is, by definition, not worthy of merit, because such remarks alienate current and potential employees and clients. Not only minorities, mind you — I feel uneasy interacting with chauvinists no matter where their hate is directed. And we haven’t mentioned wide-scale long-term effects of such attitudes being popular.

                                          I really fail to imagine what kind of merit would override the fault of being a complete asshole.

                                          This means putting up with homophobic remarks, because that’s what the majority of the workplace does. This means putting up with sexism, because that’s what the majority of the workplace does.

                                          I’m sorry you had such a bad workplace experience. I hope it’s not typical where you live; where I live it’s surely unusual.

                                          This means not commenting/arguing/fighting-back against all of the microaggressions, because doing so puts you at odds with all the others.

                                          Oh, I’m not saying one should complain about every little annoyance, but there’s a not-so-fine line between calling your colleague an idiot once in anger, and doing it constantly due to lack of respect towards (a subset of) others.

                                          Look… I find that people who like to use words such as “rationality” and “meritocracy” tend to ignore human feelings, which makes them less rational and meritocratic than they think they are, because feelings exist and have consequences in the real world. Working with sexists and homophobes is not nice. Even working in white-male-only environment is not as nice as in mixed one, I find. Not being able to hire minorities (and people like me, who don’t hate minorities but do hate nazis) matters, because you lose a percentage of potential employees, and perhaps clients as well. Do you really think banning sexism and racism would do more harm than alienating the aforementioned minorities?

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                                    If it’s truly a meritocracy

                                    Being a meritocracy is not in itself a good thing. I know how we nerds want to pretend that we humans are all beings of pure intellect and all that matters is your code. While well-intentioned, this attitude can end up causing harm by deliberately ignoring all of the extenuating non-intellectual factors that people have to contend with (try to read that link, despite its length).

                                    Sure, we’re all beings of pure intellect, but some of us are female, which is a very rare trait in this tribe but common elsewhere, so this tribe ends up treating us differently or we perceive ourselves as being different from this tribe, despite its claims of equality.

                                    The meritocracy attitude is a bit like “separate but equal” was in the southern USA of the 1950’s. While apparently well-intentioned and seeking to give everyone equal treatment, it attempts to silence a lot of other important cultural factors, which results in non-equality.

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                                      Meritocracy is like a platonic ideal - it’s a point that most people want to get to; however, since people have different starting points, it’s impossible to realize in reality. The “merit” being measured is on one axis or a small number of axes, which generally need to be the ones that are most aligned with successful outcomes in projects.

                                      The bigger picture of meritocracy, society-wide, is a fundamentally different question, and one that most open-source projects (and most for-profit companies, for that matter) are generally unequipped to handle. Most projects just want skilled and dedicated contributors (i.e. contributors with particular “merits”) and beggars can’t be choosers.

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                                        By the way, did you know that the word was coined in the 1950’s in a satirical essay where a meritocratic society was a dystopia? :-)

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                                          I think I heard that somewhere. Funny that it was considered something bad back then.

                                          The sense I get from the usage of the word nowadays, is that it’s broadly considered a good thing among idealistic engineers and technical people: of course we should judge people only on their merit (e.g. the performance of their code), not on political considerations, or nepotism, or who went to school with whom.

                                          Of course, since it’s people we’re talking about, things rarely get implemented as purely as the idealistic engineer believes or hopes.

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                                    Sooner or later somebody is going to harass somebody else, and I’m going to ignore it, but then that makes me guilty of “condoning” harassment.

                                    this is pure slippery-slope-fallacy. do you seriously think that someone is going to come after you for simply passively ignoring something?

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                                      I think it should be possible for me to comply with not just the spirit, but also the letter, of a well written code of conduct. I’m not comfortable with the idea that the written rule says something is prohibited, but then there’s an unwritten rule that says minor infractions will probably go unnoticed.

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                                        why, though? given that a code of conduct is run by people, rather than by computers, do you honestly feel that being subscribed to a mailing list in which someone is being harassed, and doing nothing either way, is going to be interpreted as against the letter of the code? it’s fine to apply a common-sense approach to these things, rather than going the heavyhanded legal-jargon, dot-every-i route.

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                                          Surely that’s the whole point of the code. If we’re just relying on people to follow sensible judgement, why have a written code at all?

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                                            there are two different things here:

                                            1. the specifics of the code of conduct. sure, it usually boils down to “don’t be a dick”, but what is considered dickish behaviour varies from community to community, and a good set of guidelines can help establish a culture by indicating what is and isn’t considered acceptable

                                            2. the interpretation of the written form of the code. this is where some people really want to quibble about words and phrasing and how they can be interpreted and how close you can skate to the line without crossing it. but really, it comes down to common sense; a CoC is not a game that you’re trying to play, where it’s crucially important to drag out the rulebook and argue each point and whether the exact language supports you or the other person. most of these things are pretty easy to apply a reasonable interpretation to, and the people trying to game it are usually the people you don’t want around anyway, because they don’t really care about not being dicks.

                                            to take the example tedu cited, he focused on the word “condoning”, and wondered whether simply sitting silently on a mailing list where harassment was taking place would technically be condoning said harassment, and whether he’d be expelled from the community for doing so. but a more reasonable interpretation would be that it applies to people managing spaces or events, and who would be expected to make sure their spaces are harassment free by taking note of and stopping it when it starts. if you simply assume that the CoC writers are trying to foster a good community rather than playing legal games, it’s pretty easy to follow it.

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                                      I think ethics are really important. Codes of Conduct are one way of expressing your ethics.

                                      Attempting to enumerate the badness leads to absurdity

                                      Which is currently demonstrated by the British Governments approach to Encryption - “it is allowing the baddies to communicate securely” - this badness must be banned!

                                      Condoning behaviour by ignoring it is not necessarily true - ask any parent who has had to negotiate with a two year old, sometimes ignoring a behaviour is the correct approach - but not when you are an officer in a military prison and your soldiers are abusing your prisoners.

                                      Ethics are never black or white, but they might be right or wrong :~)

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                                        Sooner or later somebody is going to harass somebody else, and I’m going to ignore it, but then that makes me guilty of “condoning” harassment.

                                        This is interestingly put. Why the quotes? Isn’t that exactly what condoning means?

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                                          Quoted to point out its taken directly from the code.

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                                        The comments by the lobsters community on this post are truly fucking dissapointing

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                                          Explain? It’s basically me and everyone else. I happen to disagree but I’m not disappointed by their comments. And as for me, well, I don’t think I qualify as the community.

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                                            I don’t know how a code of conduct can be seen as anything but a positive step for a community

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                                              This discussion has been tedu against pretty much everyone else, and while tedu is, shall we say, a weighty member of the lobste.rs community, he is hardly all or even an appreciable majority of it. I actually think this discussion has gone really well given how poorly discussions of codes of conduct have gone elsewhere on the Internet.

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                                                I would say most of the lobsters community agrees with you.

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