Thoughts on Code of Conducts
I’ve just read this statement from the PSF about requiring a Code of Conduct, and I felt somehow a little down.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that a CoC is something bad, and everything it says (at least the referenced PyCon US one and the example in geekfeminism.com) makes sense. It’s just that needing a CoC feels a little … formal.
I don’t like very much formality, as I like to think that PyCon conferences are more a bunch of somehow friends getting together and sharing knowledge. I’ve always felt very welcomed in the Python community here in Ireland, and the atmosphere in PyCon IE (and other meetings) is absolutely fantastic. I haven’t seen anything that I will consider remotely discriminatory (like I saw back on my college years, for example). I’ve always imagined that the rest of the Python conferences and communities have the same “magic”.
Of course, I am seeing this from my particular, mainstream european-male point of view. I am a foreigner here in Ireland, but less say on “close, european orbit”. I’m not sure if some of the problems that the CoC tries to avoid are present and I am just not noticing. I’d like to think that’s not the case.
I don’t know, makes me think about what is the general perception and behaviour of the development community. I know there is discussion out there about wether the geek population is welcoming to diversity or just a bunch of jerks that just can’t behave (and all the spectrum in between). I guess it just makes me sad to think that we may need “an adult” telling us not to say things that we already know that we shouldn’t. It’s 2012, we have no excuse.
As I say, I just feel a little… disappointed. Like thinking that there is something wrong in all that, that we are grow up and that things are not on the same level of friendly informality. That we need rules to ensure everyone feels safe. I guess that a small number of spoiled brats that can’t behave like adults and are just ruining the party to everyone else. 😦
I see codes of conduct slightly differently: it’s not about “an adult telling us not to say things.” Instead, it’s a signal that the organizers of the con care about making the conference a safe space for everyone. They say that the organizers care about welcoming everyone. They say that if something should happen, the organizers won’t just shrug and say “So? What do you want me to do about it?”
I think the discomfort you’re feeling is totally legit and valid – codes of conduct are kinda patronizing to the vast majority of people who know better. The fact that you don’t need a CoC to tell you how to behave is a good sign: it means you’re a Normal Person who understands how to make other people feel comfortable in your presence. But you have to understand that the CoC isn’t about you. It’s about making other people comfortable in settings that have traditionally been quite hostile to them.
(I’ve written more about this here: http://jacobian.org/writing/codes-of-conduct/)
Great comment (and great article). Thanks!
“Of course, I am seeing this from my particular, mainstream european-male point of view. I am a foreigner here in Ireland, but less say on “close, european orbit”. I’m not sure if some of the problems that the CoC tries to avoid are present and I am just not noticing. I’d like to think that’s not the case.”
Just wishing something were the case doesn’t make it so. The fact that you haven’t seen any problems is the very definition of privilege.
“I guess that a small number of spoiler brats are just ruining the party to everyone else.”
This makes me wonder what kind of parties you were having that the PyCon CoC somehow prevents.
Oh, I’ve seen bad cases of discrimination, in particular against women. As I said above, for example during my college years. I know what that is. It’s just that I haven’t saw any of that on my interaction with the Python community. Reading that the PSF enforces a CoC (which, again, it has common sense stuff, thing that we all should be doing no matter someone else is telling us or not) just makes me feel a little bad about that I may not have a more idealistic view over the Python community than reality.
I don’t think that this will affect the formality of the conference. Consider that a conference like PyCon already has quite a bit of formality behind it. There’s a contract with the hotel, for example, and a rather high debt obligation should not enough people come and stay at the hotel. There’s the bookkeeping, accounting, and tax work related to handling the O($1 million) of transactions for each conference. There’s the volunteer organization, including the talk selection and scheduling. This is all formal. The goal is to keep the conference informal while maintaining the formality where it’s needed.
If a conference is getting money, doesn’t that already mean it has more formality than, say, a group of 20 people getting together at a pub?
How do you think that a CoC requirement, in exchange for funding (and any tax obligations that might imply), would affect the formality or informality of a conference like PyCon IE?
Yes, probably is just me being naïve about what those conferences are.
This is a good introductory read to learn more about the systemic issues that such codes of conduct are trying to fight against: http://www.netmagazine.com/features/primer-sexism-tech-industry
A blog post with thoughts about the effects of CoCs: http://blog.ziade.org/2012/11/27/diversity-in-open-source/
I think its silly and invasive. Next, they’ll be mandating thudguards for everyone. http://www.thudguard.com/
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