Re: code of conduct question for Board candidates

On Sat, May 23, 2015 at 5:41 PM, Marina Zhurakhinskaya
<marinaz redhat com> wrote:


Many free software organizations have adopted codes of conduct for their events [1] and some for their 
communities [2]. Detailed codes of conduct with specific enforcement guidelines signal to newcomers that 
the community has high standards of behavior. They give participants who observe or are subject to 
inappropriate behavior something to point to that shows that such behavior is outside of what is expected 
and guidelines on how to proceed in getting it addressed.

What do you think about adopting a detailed code of conduct, similar to the one used for GUADEC 2014 [3], 
for all GNOME events and creating a similarly detailed code of conduct for the GNOME community?

First of all, it is important for people participating in the
community activities, be them online (mailing list discussions, IRC,
bugzilla…) or offline (GUADEC, hackfests…), to be aware that they have
someone they can talk to if they need to. They should also know that
suffering from attacks, or feeling like it is the case, is nothing to
be ashamed of, and that they can trust the listed contacts to have a
listening hear and provide an appropriate response.

It is however also very important for them to feel welcome and I know
that a code such as the one used for GUADEC 2014 fails to achieve
that. As the organizer, I was approached by people, seasoned
contributors as well as newcomers, who told me they felt uneasy
because the code conveyed the message that there was a constant threat
and that they should be on their guard. I share their concerns and I
would feel the same way if I had to attend another event with the same
code. I want to emphasize that I'm not saying there is no threat at
all, and I'm taking this very seriously. What I'm saying here is that
we want a positive environment.

Long texts also suffer from the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) effect,
and I'm convinced many people who sign up for events with a checkbox
saying "I have read the code of conduct and I agree to this terms"
actually think "yada yada yada whatever, I just want to participate
and I don't care/have time to read this". Some people have argued to
me that it's ok since all we should care about is people signing off
the code so that it can be enforced on them. This is a pretty
shortsighted way of thinking and I'd say I'd rather have people read
and take into account a short message without having to sign anything
than them signing something they don't acknowledge and us having to
take action afterwards.

Another issue I have with strong codes of conduct is that often they
try to substitute themselves to the appropriate authorities. There are
laws and bodies whose job is to enforce them. The people in charge of
a gathering should not have to list illegal activities as
unacceptable. Most of us are not lawyers and have limited knowledge of
the legality of such texts, even more so in an international context
such as ours. We should strive to act as interfaces with the local
authorities, not try to supersede them. That is of course not to say
that we should call the police when the appropriate response is to
call someone out on their bad behaviour, but threatening with
sanctions is most of the time inappropriate too.

The last point I want to cover is codes of conduct vs. their actual
implementation. In many cases, organizers decide on a code of conduct
but then they don't properly train the staff or take actions. If you
have a look at the timeline of incidents on the geek feminist wiki,
you'll find examples of such cases. I consider more important to have
people willing to help and prepared than having the code itself. In
fact, while I disagree with the GUADEC 2014 code of conduct and they
way it was handled, I was happy to give a hand to solve issues at
previous events which I helped organize.

Alexandre Franke

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