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Announcing the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines (gnu.org)
596 points by stargrave on Oct 22, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 396 comments

> The way we do this, rather than ordering people to be kind or else, is try to help people learn to make their communication more kind.

This is excellent; using love and persuasion to help someone improve is so much better than by force, compulsion, and fear. How many children rebel against restrictive and domineering parents? but a child who is loved and taught, but allowed to make choices and pursue independence usually ends up much healthier and happier.

>I disagree with making "diversity" a goal. If the developers in a specific free software project do not include demographic D, I don't think that the lack of them as a problem that requires action; there is no need to scramble desperately to recruit some Ds. >Rather, the problem is that if we make demographic D feel unwelcome, we lose out on possible contributors. And very likely also others that are not in demographic D.

This dovetails in so nicely as well. You get more bees with honey than vinegar, and it is better to make a project open, kind, mentor-friendly, and productive-- which furthers the industriousness and quality of a product. Let all come who desire to come and treat them in the spirit of kindness and co-operation, but giving no preference or overt recruitment campaigns, which in themselves could end up sidelining or diverting attention from the true aims of the project.

I don't always agree with Stallman, but I think this is a magnificent and well-thought out plan and response.


I'm fan of Nonviolent Communication a.k.a Collaborative Communication.

NVC acknowledges that moralistic judgments and demands make communication harder, not easier. Still it's important that people should be able to communicate the feelings, needs and make requests.


NVC is great and has improved my speaking and listening skills. However, I have to take issue with the name. Co-opting the word violence, is great marketing but dishonest.

I haven't read much about NVC, so I can't speak to how the term is used there.

But if it's anything like Crucial Conversations, they define/analyze conversational violence in a lot of detail. I thought it was a really interesting read. CC defines conversational violence as things like labeling, misrepresentation, accusations, defensiveness, getting angry, etc. I'd assume that NVC probably has a similar definition.

I thought that the use of the word 'violence' was kind of weird in that context at first, but my perception really changed as I thought about it more. The intent is to damage the other person, and to win by beating them - not really so different than physical violence.

I like those insights. The danger with labeling words as violence though is that it leads many to the conclusion that words should be policed in the way physical violence is. A critical difference between words and physical violence is that words can cause harm to a listener based on the listener's interpretation and reaction to those words. If a fist hits my jaw I can't control whether it breaks it. But I have control over how I interpret people's words, and the effect they have on me. A person's words can hurt others even when that is not the speaker's intent, and indeed, sometimes there is no way to express a certain idea that won't hurt certain people. But that should never be pretense to treat words like physical violence in the way we police the latter.

(I'm not meaning to suggest that you were advocating for that. Just that it's a risk of not clearly distinguishing between words and physical violence.)

Agreed - conversational violence and physical violence are two very different things.

If I heard somebody say 'violence', I definitely wouldn't jump to conversational violence in my head. But as far as descriptive nouns go, it's not a terrible one. Just as long as everybody understands the context.

Your note about being able to control interpretations is interesting - I haven't had great success with that myself. Like if some rando came up to me and shouted bad stuff in my face, my day would be pretty ruined. I could try to rationalize it away later, but I definitely wouldn't be unhurt in the moment. And probably the memory would affect me whether I wanted that or not. Sticks-and-stones might be one of those "in theory, theory and practice are the same" kinds of situations.

While I agree that violence in context of language is different from physical violence in that the harm can result from an interpretation of the listener's part, I also suggest that certain forms of language are equivalent to physical violence in that there is no non-harmful way to express something. For an extreme example, I do not know of a non-harmful rhetoric to advocate the genocide of an oppressed group.

It's sort of ridiculous to use the word violence in that context. Unless someone shouts into the ears of other person to induce hearing damage, it's clearly redefining the language to suit ones agenda and should be condemned. You can not be violent with words, you can use them for verbal abuse, incite violence, etc but the words themselves can't be violent.

>Unless someone shouts into the ears of other person to induce hearing damage, it's clearly redefining the language to suit ones agenda and should be condemned.

I believe you are misunderstanding the parent's comment. The authors do not equate conversational violence with physical violence. Nor are they suggesting dictionaries amend their definition of violence. They are merely categorizing types of verbal communication, and providing names for them. It's no worse than calling someone's language as "soft" or "hard" - both are ridiculous if you go with the literal definitions. I could easily go and look up theorems/terminologies in science and engineering and make the same arguments about overloading common English terms. I'd rather not attribute negative intentions to the people who coined those terms for industry use.

>it's clearly redefining the language to suit ones agenda and should be condemned.

You are attributing intention to someone else, and this is a common way conversations go downhill. The books teach you how not to do that. They also suggest that using words like "should" in an unqualified manner is likely to derail the conversation.

>You can not be violent with words, you can use them for verbal abuse, incite violence, etc but the words themselves can't be violent.

I find it amusing you insist that you cannot be violent with words, but you are OK with using the word "abuse" for words.

(Apologies for not practicing NVC skills in this post).

>Co-opting the word violence, is great marketing but dishonest.

I disagree that it is dishonest, and I doubt Marshall Rosenberg (founder of NVC) was the one to coin it. I recently read another book on communications (not associated with NVC), and it categorizes poor communications into two categories:

- Silence (withholding your information from the "pool")

- Violence (forcing your information into the "pool")

Neither is literal. Silence in this context doesn't mean not talking. One can be categorized as silent while still talking in great length. In fact, I think they categorize someone who is continually throwing insults as "silent". The person is trying hard not to talk about something and is attempting to deflect. It's more about whether his words and actions are focusing on adding or withholding. Likewise violence is more about suppressing others' perspectives so that you're sure the other side hears yours. Or talking too much, essentially trying to dump as much as possible into the pool.

Just an example that the notion of "violent" communications is not unique to NVC. It seems to be a term used often.

Personally, I do wish it wasn't called NVC - too many people think it is about serious conflict resolution, or about pacifism. It's merely a recipe for speaking.

Before you claim 'dishonesty', you might want to spend 30 seconds on reading about the origins of the term.

NVC was firmly rooted in mediating between rioting students and college administrators. The explicit goal of it was to foster non-violent desegregation. (And if you look at e.g. Kent State, that was a very necessary goal)

I agree; I've also seen the term "aggression" co-opted in a similar manner.

Both violence and aggression require intent, and a big reason such communication skills need to be taught is that so many people don't understand how they sound.

This is important because the best corrective action for unintentional harm may be different than the best corrective action for intentional harm.

I love to promote this whenever I can. This method has a fantastic reward given the time it takes to learn and practice it and has made my in-person communication a lot better whenever I use it.

I have heard about it, but always sorta wrote it of because while I can learn it, most other people wouldn't. I do wonder though, how does it work when only one side practice it? Do the user get the suckers payout?

No, I think it works pretty well if practiced uni-laterally. There are two sides to NVC: speaking and listening. Even if the other side in a conversation lacks motivation or skills to talk non-violently, NVC gives you a perspective to interpret the other's message in a NVC way, thereby making the conversation much less stressful and (in my experience) steering it into a more productive and less heated direction.

[edited to add:] With "interpreting the other's message a NVC way" I refer to e.g. seeing the anger of somebody disagreeing with you as something caused by violated expectations and needs that can be talked about, without immedeately feeling the urge to defend oneself and feeling guilty about the situation.

Not really, at least for me because even if someone else "doesn't use it," you still have the satisfaction of knowing you're following your well defined value system to the letter, and there's nothing you could have done anyway without acting outside your value system.

Dale Carnegie was writing about this stuff decades ago, so another way to look at it, if you really need a reason other than "feels good," is it gives you a tremendous advantage in social situations of all kinds. You're more likely to "get what you want" in the end, though that kind of thinking is not really the point imo.

I've used it unilaterally several times and it made things better than not using it.

>I do wonder though, how does it work when only one side practice it?

Take an extreme example: Ever witnessed someone calmly deescalate a very emotionally angry person? The person who deescalated knows tactics that work even when the other side doesn't practice it. Let's go to the other extreme: If I'm a bully, I can use verbal communication styles that work even if the other person doesn't practice it.

I've read a few communications books, including NVC. The overlap amongst them is large. I would also recommend negotiation books like Getting Past No - they are essentially books on communication with difficult people applied in a negotiation context.

All of them are about two things:

1. Making yourself a better communicator in expressing your perspective.

2. Drawing out others to express what they are thinking.

The second addresses your concern. There are approaches that make the other person feel safe (as opposed to defensive) in sharing his concerns. Once a person feels secure that you will not judge them, nor will you fight them, they will talk to you in a calmer manner. And therefore it helps to know what judgmental language sounds like and eliminate it from your rhetoric.

I once attended an NVC seminar series. It was not really worth it compared to the book, but one thing the instructor hammered into our heads was very useful: "Everything a person says or does is in service of his own needs". When you start observing the world with this in mind, it becomes fairly obvious. NVC puts heavy emphasis on this: Everything someone is saying (or not saying) is to serve some need of his. Your mission is to identify that need. If you've read negotiations books, you'll see the parallels.

So even if the other person is a horrible communicator - say he shouts and throws tantrum whenever unhappy - you'll realize that his behavior is not about you, but about him. It makes it much easier not to be put off by that behavior. If he is your boss and is muttering stuff about your incompetence, you'll know not to have identity issues about it. You'll learn to ignore all the insults, but not ignore the message. You'll learn how to engage with him to discover his need, and it usually pays off (nothing is 100% perfect).

The above paragraph is the ideal. I'm certainly not even near there. The instructor said it took about 5-7 years of trying to practice NVC before he reached that level. It's hard to change your own way of thinking and your own style of communication that you've developed over several decades. Don't expect quick results - changing your communication style is a long term plan.

I can, say, though that whenever I'm calm enough to use NVC skills, it usually works quite well. The conversational "templates" feel awkward an unnatural, but people will not notice them. What's more: It's very easy to recognize when others use such templates. And you'll notice that they've always spoken that way and you never noticed it - so it's not that unnatural. And you'll also notice others' successes in using them.

The NVC book is very prescriptive, and is light on, say, rigor (e.g. no studies cited, etc). But as I mentioned above, other books (some of which are from academics) usually have the same advice. In my experience the NVC book and Crucial Conversations book are the simplest to pick up and practice.

Now there is a whole NVC movement, which may be a little off-putting. It's become similar to Agile. Lots of chapters all over the world. Lots of focus on becoming a certified instructor. Lots of other baggage (spiritualism, socialism, activist movement). If you ignore all that and stick to it as a communication style, you'll be fine.

I'm having a real time Baader-Meinhof phenomenon here...

Had never heard about it before late last week when reading https://www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-satya-nadella-nonv....

On the relationship between persuasion and force from a psychoanalytical perspective, Zizek has a nice example showing in what ways persuasion can actually be more subversive:

>The psychoanalytic concept that designates the short-circuit between the repression and what it represses is the superego. As Lacan emphasised again and again, the essential content of the superego’s injunction is ‘Enjoy!’ A father works hard to organise a Sunday excursion, which has to be postponed again and again. When it finally takes place, he is fed up with the whole idea and shouts at his children: ‘Now you’d better enjoy it!’ The superego works in a different way from the symbolic law. The parental figure who is simply ‘repressive’ in the mode of symbolic authority tells a child: ‘You must go to grandma’s birthday party and behave nicely, even if you are bored to death – I don’t care whether you want to, just do it!’ The superego figure, in contrast, says to the child: ‘Although you know how much grandma would like to see you, you should go to her party only if you really want to – if you don’t, you should stay at home.’ The trick performed by the superego is to seem to offer the child a free choice, when, as every child knows, he is not being given any choice at all. Worse than that, he is being given an order and told to smile at the same time. Not only: ‘You must visit your grandma, whatever you feel,’ but: ‘You must visit your grandma, and you must be glad to do it!’ The superego orders you to enjoy doing what you have to do. What happens, after all, if the child takes it that he has a genuinely free choice and says ‘no’? The parent will make him feel terrible. ‘How can you say that!’ his mother will say: ‘How can you be so cruel! What did your poor grandma do to make you not want to see her?’

That's assuming the child really doesn't have a choice. First of all, if I give a child a choice then I will accept the answer they give. I will try to persuade them of why it is good to go before giving them the choice, and I would express disappointment in a mature and reasonable way if they choose something that I think is counter-productive, but I wouldn't lie to a child about their choice. Children are much smarter about that than a lot of people realize.

But in some things, they don't have a choice. They may _really_ want to run into the road; I'm not going to allow it. They probably don't really understand, and I've got a responsibility to protect as a parent or guardian. Where is the line? Not sure; I think that's part of the art form called parenting.

Your first paragraph reinforces Zizeck's point, at least the portion quoted.

Zizek is good at uttering profound-sounding things, but there's no substance. Anyone who has raised young children knows there's a high chance they'll call your bluff.

He's using an analogy to drive home a point about authority, persuasion and command. The principle might have been better applied elsewhere, but that doesn't mean there's no substance; ironically you haven't seen the substance (essence) because you became hung-up on appearance. The essence may be less profound than he lets on, if we divorce it from the psychoanalytical justification, which is the point that when someone is kind to you (or gives the appearance of being so), you will feel less inclined to disobey, but it is merely the use of the techniques of someone experienced in convincing.

Is there a Zizek-bot, like the Chompskybot? I feel like there could be...

Chompskybot -- http://rubberducky.org/cgi-bin/chomsky.pl (generates random Chompky-sounding nonsense)

It's a little silly that people seem to find Chomsky hard to understand, when he himself accuses 'theory' of being hard to understand. But it should come of no surprise that people unfamiliar with the problems and terminology of a field think it's all nonsense.

So here is a counter-question: I wonder if there's an Einstein bot that generates random Einstein-sounding nonsense.

> The parent will make him feel terrible. ‘How can you say that!’ his mother will say: ‘How can you be so cruel! What did your poor grandma do to make you not want to see her?’

Because I don't love her and don't enjoy spending time with her. Yeah, it takes some toll to say it out loud and to defend it emotionally, but excercizing freedom is never free - so I don't see how it limits your freedom in any way.

>>I disagree with making "diversity" a goal. If the developers in a specific free software project do not include demographic D, I don't think that the lack of them as a problem that requires action; there is no need to scramble desperately to recruit some Ds. >Rather, the problem is that if we make demographic D feel unwelcome, we lose out on possible contributors. And very likely also others that are not in demographic D.

Just as long as we're clear that demographic D being underrepresented relative to the general population is not evidence that we make demographic D feel unwelcome. Representation relative to the population of graduated CS majors or working programmers is better, but still not necessarily the right comparison. Representation relative to, say, the population of programmers who are experts in your implementation language, or who are users of the project, or the intersection of the above, might be better. Even then, that's not direct evidence that making D "unwelcome" is the specific reason.

Direct evidence would probably be something like, take some online exchanges and show them to a bunch of {working programmers or some other decent approximation to the population your volunteers might come from}, and ask them a few questions about how they would react to these exchanges, how much it would discourage them from volunteering, whether things like it have discouraged them from volunteering in the past, etc., and then show that demographic D has a much worse response.

By the way, has anyone done studies that showed that women respond much more negatively to harsh online exchanges than men? I have a feeling they would be called sexist if they were published, but... The closest one I can think of is Pew's online harassment study[1], which said, among other things, "Women were more likely than men to find their most recent experience with online harassment extremely or very upsetting—38% of harassed women said so of their most recent experience, compared with 17% of harassed men."


I wonder if the skew towards men in software starting in the 80’s corresponded with the rise of the “meritocratic” software community because that movement made people on the autism spectrum (including aspies) more comfortable in software development (judged based on their contributions alone) —- which may have helped to create the impression/generalization that people in software are “geeks” and socially challenged—-and thus others (including women, among whom autism occurs less frequently) felt less inclined toward that community.

Sorry - quickly tapped out. Hope that makes sense.

Even in the 70s when computer time was hard to come by, there was a weirdness about the enthusiasts I find very familiar: http://www.wheels.org/spacewar/stone/rolling_stone.html

Such a study would be extremely difficult to interpret, given societal pressure on men to "close off" their emotions, and societal pressure on women teaching them that they are "emotional creatures."

I guess if it was treated like an anthropological analysis of Western culture, sure, but as a psychological or physiological one dealing with actual brain chemistry, no way.

Well, at least for purposes of determining whether e.g. a culture of harsh criticism in a particular open-source project is turning away more women than men, it only matters whether it affects women more strongly than men, not why. The questions can be investigated separately.

For the latter question, cross-cultural studies would help, as would experimenting with sex hormones, looking at people of one sex with conditions that give them a hormonal balance more matching the other sex, possibly studying transgender people, etc.

> By the way, has anyone done studies that showed that women respond much more negatively to harsh online exchanges than men? I have a feeling they would be called sexist if they were published, but...

On an unrelated note, this is one of the main problems resulting from too politically-correct culture: we can't even study differences to learn about them and see how we can help each other, as even the notion that such differences may exist is unwelcome (practically speaking, in a very concrete way - in terms of grants, academic career development etc.) As if admitting that we differ in some ways was a kind of sin rather than something to acknowledge, learn from and use.

So, here's the thing. Statements like this?

Rather, the problem is that if we make demographic D feel unwelcome, we lose out on possible contributors. And very likely also others that are not in demographic D.

This is not a new statement. This is what people pushing diversity have been saying for years and years. The only ways for this to be a new and refreshing thing to you are:

1. You were not paying attention, or

2. You were getting all your information from people who were doing their best to misinform you.

It's everything surrounding this statement that is refreshing. Hearing, "Diversity is not our goal; creating an environment that welcomes diversity is," runs counter to the incessant assumptions that going out of our way to collect diversity tokens is the end all and be all to facilitating diversity.


You must now present, to me,

First off, thanks for that. To think that any random stranger on the internet "must" do something for you... well, that's quality humor right there.

and separately and individually to any other person who asks it of you, a minimum of five credible primary sources of people who advocate diversity and who have used exactly this phrasing

My guess is that he's capable of original thought, and this might be one of his original thoughts. Not everyone builds a facade of intelligence by regurgitating quotations from other people. Because someone else hasn't posted something on the internet doesn't mean it's not a valid thought.

It's depressingly common in threads about diversity issues that people assert a right to force their interlocutors to re-litigate the entire history of discrimination from first principles, impeccably sourced, on demand.

Ironically, the same sorts of people also throw out unsourced assertion after unsourced assertion (see the person who replied to me stating that the BBC has jobs for black people only, and who I suspect honestly and truly believes that, despite the reply to them explaining that that would be very illegal).

If it's fair for them to do that, it should be fair for me to do it, too, and for me to explicitly state that.

He won't be able to because anyone employing such a technique generally wouldn't be stupid enough to use those exact terms.

There are plenty of examples in the UK, specifically with the BBC, putting out recruitment campaigns that specifically state they only take in Black/Minority candidates. There is no reason for it other than to boost 'diversity'. The jobs are just as capable of being done by black people as any other colour.

This is highly unlikely, if only because such hiring practices would be unlawful in Britain in almost all cases.

You can use diversity as a tie-breaker, and you can actively try to persuade people from various under-represented groups to apply, but you can't specifically state that you only take Black candidates (source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...)

The BBC is a large centralised organisation with a hefty HR team and a lot of people who like to beat on it. They're the last people I would expect to be advertising illegal hiring practices.

>2. You were getting all your information from people who were doing their best to misinform you.

When there is moral panic, sensible people who advocated the issues long time are pushed aside and polarization happens.

The fact that companies have programs targeting recruitment specifically to minorities says otherwise.

The point of recruiting from non-traditional sources (and remember, here, in tech "non-traditional" almost means "anywhere other than exclusively the campuses of Stanford and a couple other presumed-elite universities") is to cast a wider net and try to find people who are qualified but who've been excluded due to biases in the current/historic system.

This is a perfectly fair and valid thing to do, yet it's always portrayed by opponents as "tokenism", "gotta catch 'em all", etc., and then asserted to be "diversity for diversity's sake". As I originally said, such people either have not been paying attention, or have been misinformed (and are now actively spreading misinformation).

This is why I challenged someone's "collect diversity tokens" assertion by telling them to source the phrase in actual claims made by companies. I know they won't be able to, but I know they also deeply and likely unshakably believe -- because they're been bombarded with the message in HN threads, and on other social media -- that that's the real goal.

But for you, let's just flip the script: the unspoken principle behind your comment:

The fact that companies have programs targeting recruitment specifically to minorities says otherwise.

is that companies explicitly choose their recruiting pipelines and should be held responsible for the demographics which come out of those pipelines. I would agree with that principle, but I suspect you would find extreme distaste for it if it were actually to be neutrally applied. Current recruiting pipelines produce dismal demographics precisely because of who they target, and if companies were held responsible for that they'd have to make large-scale changes.

The irony of unkind communication in a thread discussing new guidelines around kind communication is just painful.

Please don't accuse others of not paying attention. It's not nice, and it does a bad job of communicating your message.


> a factual statement -- people either are not paying attention, or are being misinformed -- is unkind.

That is bluntly unkind. You've taken an opinion and phrased it as "a factual statement." The "fact" you're positing is that there are two camps, those that don't understand because they are purely ignorant, and those that don't understand because they are intentionally fed false information. (How charitable!)

What was the original "factual statement" again? I don't even know, because you've told "me" that whatever my opinion is, if it disagrees with yours, then I'm in one of two camps and they're both wrong.

(NB: you didn't tell me anything, I'm just trying to engage you in this thought exercise that you seem to want to have.)

> my retort to this would be that you are obviously attempting to censor my free speech

Do you not realise that free speech doesn't apply to whatever random online forum you decided to sign up too?

The idea that "free speech" == "only protection from state censorship" is an americanism, and not some universally accepted dictum.

Historically it wasn't even always the state that suppressed free speech - it was often some church, mobs of "concerned citizens", the private interests owning the press, the profits of cinema studios concerned with citizens boycotting lewd movies and thus self-submitting to things like the Hays code (which was self-imposed by the "motion picture industry", and so on.

If "free speech" is good, there's nothing wrong for asking for less or no censorship in the media, in social media, in the workplace, in arts, and other places...

It’s impossible to come up with a doctrine of free speech that allows for person A to say what they want, but does not allow person B to express outrage or opprobrium about what person A just said. It’s also well within person B’s rights of free association to not interact with person A because of what person A said.

Of course a literal mob threatening violence is absolutely suppression of speech, very very few people want that. But people saying that they view you negatively because of what you’ve said is not a mob, and is in fact free speech in its own right.

>It’s impossible to come up with a doctrine of free speech that allows for person A to say what they want, but does not allow person B to express outrage or opprobrium about what person A just said.

Nobody asked for that. B should be able to complain about what A said all they want. They just shouldn't be able to censor A.

>It’s also well within person B’s rights of free association to not interact with person A because of what person A said.

It is, though it can be a way to create extremist groups that don't interact and exchange ideas between them, and thus an echo bubble.

>Of course a literal mob threatening violence is absolutely suppression of speech, very very few people want that. But people saying that they view you negatively because of what you’ve said is not a mob, and is in fact free speech in its own right.

People saying you should "kill yourself" or "be fired" from your unrelated job because of what you said on your personal social media account, and managing to do it is ok?

Or maybe it's just OK today, where it's just "bigots" that get this treatment?

Because one can easily imagine a past America with social media (or a future America if the conservative tides change), where someone saying they're pro this or that progressive cause gets you mob-fired. In fact it's not hard to imagine, as it happened, even without social media: word of mouth in smaller communities, print media, etc were enough.

Is that the precedence people doing that want to set, or are they just enjoy their temporary power are a lynch mob, like those that used to haze them back in the day?

It’s not about precedence or what’s “OK”, it’s about how free speech works in general. You still cannot possibly create a system where person A can say something that’s against the prevailing norms, and persons B through Z can’t say “you should be fired” and consider it to be “free speech”. Regulating speech based on content or the number of people saying it is not free speech.

(The few exceptions, such as directly encouraging a crime are very narrow. For example, expressing bigoted opinions is legal, saying “there’s a <X>, get them!” Is not, because it’s a direct and specific incitement to commit a crime).

Those that bully others and encourage suicide should receive social opprobrium for being toxic. They are typically well within their right to say such odious things, but we are also within our right to call them out and shun them from polite society. Freedom of speech doesn’t just apply to nice speech.

You can suggest that such pressures are mercurial, and that businesses shouldn’t cave to the crowd demands. In many cases you would be right, but in general if your attitude is that humans should ignore social pressure when you don’t like it, you will be continuously disappointed. If you attempt to regulate that, then you no longer have freedom of speech, period.

I find your comparison of social disapproval via opt-in social media to a lynch mob that killed minorities in cold blood to be completely gross. Comparing the two overstates the former and trivializes the latter in a way that I don’t think people should find comfortable.

There’s no need to run counter factuals about social media powered past, plenty of people were actually killed for expressing progressive sentiments long before the era of social media or even mass media. A couple hundred people having it out over 280 characters is fine, and comparing that to lynch mobs is both historically illiterate and sensationalist.

I realize it perfectly well, but you chose to quote only half of what I said and then try to push an interpretation based on that. By the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines, this is an unkind thing to do!

We don't need this kind of accusatory commentary on HN, I don't think.

On the contrary, I think more often than not, people here need reminders like this. Nothing they said was wrong.

What reminder? The OP threw out an awful no true Scotsman argument.

Pro diversity programs in all of the big tech companies that specifically target diversity quotas are a blatant example.

Pro diversity programs in all of the big tech companies that specifically target diversity quotas are a blatant example.

Quote primary sources from "all of the big tech companies" to back this assertion. Real sources, which really say it, too, not "well I interpret this as quotas" or anything of that sort.

I agree. Check out the voting patterns in this thread, or the way this thread has not been flagged the every other similar thread has.

What I like about this kind communication guideline is that it really makes you need to restricted your last two bullets.

There are certainly other ways and the two you point out are pretty harsh on stallman saying either he’s uninformed through stupidity or through biased sources.

So it makes for an awkward and,likely, nonproductive conversation because it has a basic tenant that stallman is stupid because pet doesn’t believe how you do.

It’s logically not sound and emotionally charged up for a battle.

> You get more bees with honey than vinegar

What does this mean? Don't bees make honey? Why would you try attracting bees with honey or vinegar in the first place?

It's usually said with "flies" rather than "bees".

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar is a well-known English proverb. The literal meaning being that you have flies in your home, you will have better success catching them with honey than with vinegar. The broader meaning is that in life, you will have more success if you go about things with sweetness than with acidity. (Though I've heard that--despite the proverb--vinegar actually does work better than honey at catching fruit flies.)

Not sure why I was downvoted, but thank you.

> Please assume other participants are posting in good faith, even if you disagree with what they say. When people present code or text as their own work, please accept it as their work. Please do not criticize people for wrongs that you only speculate they may have done; stick to what they actually say and actually do.

That's a breath of fresh air. There's always someone who tries to read between the lines and strawman people for what they did not say/express. Keeping the benefit of the doubt is always a more charitable (and peaceful) way for conversations to take place.

> There's always someone who tries to read between the lines and strawman people for what they did not say/express.

The claim that there is always someone creating strawmen is itself the creation of a strawman. If you assume good faith of participants then it might be useful to assume good faith of those who criticise even if they misunderstand or misread or assume unwarranted implications.

I think this would be covered under assuming people are acting in good faith but I absolutely agree this is something that should be stated explicitly.

Don't treat someone who says they felt hurt or excluded as someone overly sensitive. Because even when someone gets the wrong impression you may find it valuable to reflect on why that impression was received in the first place.

And please don't treat people who try to point out exclusionary or hurtful language like they're your adversary or trying to control you -- it can be incredibly hard for people of disprivileged demographics to speak up for themselves. I have to rely on the defense of others constantly because when I speak for myself I'm not taken seriously.

Well, in the case of volunteer software projects, I think people who make significant contributions should be cut a great deal of slack, whereas those who criticize contributors without contributing themselves aren't entitled to any slack at all.

I think there's a huge difference between cutting slack and assuming positive intent, in the same way that there's a huge difference between criticism and constructive feedback.

Cutting slack is essentially turning the other cheek to otherwise unwelcome behaviour, for whatever reason that might be.

I don't believe it's healthy at all to cut slack for some people and not others. On the contrary, it's incredibly healthy to give everyone the exact same assumption of positive intent up until it's proven otherwise.

Those making significant contributions should be doing their best to set the example, to show what the high standard is, and if you let them off the hook you're not holding them to account. You're putting them above the guidelines and essentially enabling them.

This doesn't mean that everyone should be criticised equally, but nobody should be above receiving constructive feedback on their communication just because they've contributed a lot of work.

And on that level, it also stands to reason that feedback has to be delivered compassionately and appropriately, and it works a lot better if that's done in the context of a trusting relationship or through people who are skilled in engaging in such conversations.

A newcomer to the community who criticises everybody else is not communicating kindly or compassionately. The assumption of positive intent may suggest that they're not familiar with the guidelines, so the constructive feedback would be to present those guidelines and point out where the newcomer may have fallen short.

Hard work, but communities are hard work.

I mean that's pretty much how it works in practice, I don't think there's really a need to codify "you can get away with being insufferable so long as you're valuable enough." It's not exactly a goal to strive for and more something that is tolerated until another options presents.

I'll assume good faith before we overflow the stack.

I was going to make a comment like this but yours is much better.

"There's always one" is a common rhetorical device whose meaning is closer to "There's often one, and I easily forget the times there's not." I don't think the parent's intention was to make such a claim.

Whether GP meant to make a strawman or not, i found the comment to be a good reminder to apply the strategy GP espoused. Hopefully that’s how it’s perceived- and not as an indictment of hypocrisy.

This is similar to what I consider to be one of the most important parts of the HN Guidelines:

>Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.

I think it nicely and concisely encapsulates a few critical parts of online conversation: that it's a two-way street and to be productive requires responders to also really think about what is being said, and that we should all take a certain level of humility as a baseline because we lack a lot of the non-verbal cues that face to face discussion has. A big one (and a definitional part of the whole "global community" thing) is that it can be hard to tell on the Internet if someone is a native speaker or not. Particularly for English, since that gets a significant level of formal education through much of the world and is also a significant focus of machine translation with probably one of the larger learning sets due to being an early target. IRL people can quickly tell if there is some sort of language barrier and adjust accordingly, but in online discussions it can be a lot harder to not project too many expectations onto people on the other side of the screen. And of course even native speakers can just plain be tired, or have had a bad day, things which again non-verbal cues could suggest but takes conscious effort with just words. Finally, people outside of a specialization can have valuable ideas to convey but lack the terminology to express it the way someone specialized would. One could say they're not "native speakers" of that sub-dialect of English even if they're native English speakers.

So it really helps as a baseline to try to figure out what people are really aiming for even if they lack the precise words to convey it. I've found it's a suggestion that has made me contemplate and rewrite responses even if I still forget sometimes.

One fair corollary however: this is all as long as there is reason to assume good faith. That's the default assumption, but it's not a right either, it is in fact possible for someone to demonstrate bad faith. In that case suppression or expulsion should be swift despite any cries of "censorship", because resource exhaustion attacks are also a major threat in online discussion. Less so in more specialized areas like mailing lists then general forums, but even there it can happen via rules lawyering and the like.

> That's a breath of fresh air. There's always someone who tries to read between the lines and strawman people for what they did not say/express.

Lately strawman arguments seem to have become much more common under the guise of "virtue signalling" or "dog whistling".

This is interesting, but I have to say I'm skeptical that it'll do any better than the Linux kernel community's attempt to apply Wheaton's Law back in 2015.

The geek community was largely formed by people who had been unfairly targeted by those who enforce social norms: picking inappropriate targets, taking things to inappropriate extremes, and the like. Our response was to create a community that didn't enforce social norms at all -Geek Social Fallacy #1, essentially- and a lot of beautiful things came from that. We changed the world for the better in a lot of ways, precisely because we refused to reject people just because they acted in ways that went against the social norm.

But there was a problem: some behaviors really shouldn't be accepted, and some people really won't change without the application of force. Unlike the people who first formed the geek communities -people we should all aspire to be like- this second group was fairly ostracized: appropriate targets, appropriate measures. They came to our community, not precisely for support, but for enablers; having been rejected from everywhere else, they fled to a group that refused to reject anybody. And that's exactly what we did, if not always enthusiastically. It's hard to find a geek circle without at least one of Those Geeks: the kind who drag things down and ruin things for everyone, but people feel a duty to put up with their crap because that's what it means to be a geek. They continue to abuse us and play us, for exactly this reason. And they aren't going to change unless they are forced to. Some of them won't change even then, but you do what you have to do.

And that's the problem with the kernel's old code of conduct, and with these "Kind Communication Guidelines". They're a step in the right direction, because they spell out unacceptable behaviors. But because they don't spell out clear and consistent consequences for those behaviors, creepers gonna creep. You might catch a few mild cases, and that's not insignificant, but the mild cases aren't at the core of the problem, so the needle isn't going to move much.

I know only too well how hard it is to lay down the law against someone who is abusing your goodwill, especially when they're valued for other reasons, and most of all when it feels so much like they're "just a little more extreme" than most. It's a horribly painful thing to have to do -if you haven't had to do it before, it hurts just as much as you might imagine, if not even worse- and I can't blame people for being reluctant to do that. But this is how you induce change in the hardcore. Guidelines like this can serve as decent warning that real change is coming, but they don't bring about that change themselves.

Still, this is a step in the right direction. It's at least an acknowledgment that there are norms, and they are to be observed. But it's not going to be the magic pill. There simply is none.

I agree almost completely with your comment, with the exception of the second paragraph.

We created a community with a different set of social norms, norms that are enforced as aggressively and often as inappropriately as any others.

It's not hard to argue that this is basically what happened in practice. Certainly it feels the same for those targeted. But I'd argue that the mechanism is different in ways that affect how it needs to be treated.

If there were norms that were actually being enforced, then existing enforcement could be brought to bear against the creepers. The problem is that there is no enforcement in the usual sense, allowing the creepers free rein to enforce, not any norms actually relating to the wider society, but their own emotional whims. In essence, rather than being proper enforcement of social norms, it is nothing but common bullying perpetrated by a vocal minority, which they get away with because there is no mechanism to bring any force to bear against the bullies. Their presence continues to be tolerated in the same way that any abusive person in a friend group is tolerated: it keeps the peace. Meanwhile, the targets leave because that's the closest thing they have to recourse.

The creeps don't mind Wheaton's Law or "Kind Communication Guidelines" much, because they know that no one with any clout will come after them for breaking the rules. Same goes for SQLite's adoption of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which they have already stated cannot be enforced for "minor" transactions. Only when the rules come with enforcement mechanisms do they actually complain, because that's the point when their targets gain a way to fight back against the bullying.

As co-maintainer of GNU Guix, I want to point out that the views expressed in Richard Stallman's message are his and not those of the Guix maintainers.

In particular, by writing that codes of conduct are "punitive spirit", RMS shows a misunderstanding of how these texts came into existence.

More importantly, by writing that he disagrees with "making diversity a goal", RMS seems to deny the role we free software people play in the demographics of our communities.

Many of us in Guix (and I think I can speak for my fellow Guix co-maintainer here) believe that free software should empower everyone. As such, correcting the biases, conscious or not, that have led to the poor diversity of our communities, must be part of our mission.

> by writing that codes of conduct are "punitive spirit", RMS shows a misunderstanding of how these texts came into existence

Why? It seems like he's just recognising that these codes are heavily focused on identifying and punishing "bad actors" rather than correcting the undesirable behaviour, or developing practices that reduce the chance of undesirable exchanges from occurring.

If Linus really is as socially incapable of recognising the effects of his tone, then punishing him for something he doesn't understand serves no purpose, and you'll lose a good contributor as well.

> correcting the biases, conscious or not, that have led to the poor diversity of our communities, must be part of our mission

Aren't you assuming the conclusion here? Uneven demographics are not necessarily indicative of any kind of bias. If you just focus on good encouraging good communication practices that aren't exclusionary, anything beyond that is unnecessary to officially codify. Certainly you can make that a personal goal, but you're talking about taking it far beyond that.

> correcting the biases, conscious or not

This insipid attitude was destructive when it first appeared during the academic "culture wars" of the 1980s.

It's also extremely authoritarian--everyone is already guilty, not merely of incorrect conscious thoughts, but also unconscious thoughts!

I think it's important to understand that while everyone has conscious and unconscious biases, it's not true that recognizing that fact is the same as assigning blame. The idea is to better know one's self, to try and understand one's own bias (to the best of one's ability, that is) in order to try and apply correctives when making decisions involving people who are different than we are.

It's when we actively press into these biases that we hold and steadfastly cling to them in the face of contrary evidence that we become guilty.

Now I'm not claiming that having bias is a good thing, it's quite the opposite. I am saying, however, that having bias does not imply culpability.

This is fine as an ethics or description of good manners.

The problem is that it is often turned into a politics.

The logic of this kind of identitarian social critique, insofar as it becomes political, is decidedly illiberal.

It is authoritarian.

But all of this is nothing new! In fact it's about 30+ years old.

It originates in the aftermath of the failed revolution of the 1960s--in other words, it appeared as a phenomenon of the dissolution of the New Left in the 1970s-1980s.

Some see its origins in the Maoist practice of self-critique. I think it's better understood as the response to the realization that the New Left's politics was no longer viable--that its historical potential was completely exhausted.

"The problem is that it is often turned into a politics."

Everything is politics. Politics is part of everyone's life, and affects everyone's life. Some more than others, and some have the good fortune to not have to face that fact every day.

No, this attitude is harmful. First, because it dilutes the meaning of the word "politics", which describes something much more specific than "everything". And second, because as you point out in your last sentence, politics is something that can and should be kept separate from many aspects of life.

Inviting politics where it does not belong particularly harms vulnerable populations, because politics is about the use of power and force. We agree to leave our politics at home in many realms of life, and this allows us to band together regardless of our political differences to prevent greedy and powerful people from exploiting those realms.

You are still wrong, and the parent comment is correct.

The political axis may be invisible to //you// because you are privileged. A bathroom is political. Food is political. Education is political.

"politics is something that can and should be kept separate from many aspects of life."

The Trump administration had plans leaked this weekend that stated their intent to change the definition of "gender" so that trans people would not exist to the Federal Government. I'm sorry, but being able to keep politics separate is a privilege.

Listing the outrage du jour is not a good counterargument. The principle of "keep politics where it belongs" is a critical part of your ability to effect political change on issues like yours.

If you abandon it, then it gets much easier to silence unpopular voices -- the cab driver won't take you to the protest march, your ISP shuts down your advocacy domain, facebook bans your support group, all because your politics conflicts with theirs. Total political war is bad for everyone, especially those who are already unpopular.

Cabs are political, see Uber. ISPs are political, see net neutrality and state providing. Facebook is political because it is a corporate entity defined in law.

But do go on...

"X is political because it is a corporate entity defined in law." is a fully general argument that every company ever "is political", which is the dilution into meaningless I mentioned earlier.

And for all the things you mention, I support making them less political rather than more, and so should you. Finding an example of a politicized aspect of a thing is not an argument that it should become more politicized.

Or optionally, a corporation under capitalism is a political entity with political implications?

Your pick, though, it sure seems meaningless...

Please do not take a harsh tone towards other participants, and especially don't make personal attacks against them. Go out of your way to show that you are criticizing a statement, not a person.

Please avoid statements about the presumed typical desires, capabilities or actions of some demographic group. They can offend people in that group, and they are always off-topic in GNU Project discussions.

No personal attacks were made; the posting individual was not even mentioned. Arguing against an opposing idea is permitted.

No demographic groups were mentioned. Academics are not a demographic group, save possibly in the most academic possible interpretation of the word, and are certainly not a protected demographic group.

Absolutely! The "insipid attitude" was never attributed to any person at all and no one supports "authoritarian" behavior.

Sarcasm only works when it has a valid point to make.

The "insipid attitude" and "authoritarian behavior" was attributed to a (non-protected) group. Now, it might be that the individual that the poster was replying to is an exemplar of that group but is the beliefs and behavior of the group as a whole that is being challenged, not the individual.

A person wasn't even mentioned ...

They quoted the parent, and referred to what they said as being an "insipid attitude". To me, that's close enough as makes no difference.

indirectly implied via the reference to the poster's attitude.

Stallman’s guidelines fully support correcting biases. Making diversity a goal is identity politics, which is a very different thing than correcting biases.

>Making diversity a goal is identity politics

I think you may be being too absolutist here? This would only be true if literally every demographic thought identically about every aspect of a project or product and brought the same point of view. Then everyone would be interchangeable beyond pure technical competence. However I don't think that's always true, and when it's not that means that diversity can have some value purely in and of itself since it will bring a better reflection of global usage goals and UX considerations.

I want to emphasize that this doesn't mean it's a more important value then anything else, which might be where some of the reflexive opposition comes from. It shouldn't be a zero-sum game, where gaining diversity means necessarily losing on other important values. But neither is diversity never of any inherent positive value, it can be, and that in turn is worth some positive effort to pursue isn't it? Not merely correcting biases, but actively seeking a wider array of PoVs from intelligent people could help avoid mental boxes and unpleasant surprises when something goes out into the general world.

So maybe a better version of what you said would be "making diversity the only goal" or even "the goal above all else" or "diversity a goal but never taking into account whether any cost/benefit tradeoffs to existing culture makes for a net win" or something along those lines?

What you're saying makes sense, and I don't think anybody would disagree that having a diverse PoV on a project would be beneficial. In practice though, organizations saying that they strive for diversity normally don't bother to look any deeper than skin color and gender. That's one of the common criticisms of big tech companies; they claim to value diversity, but they still mainly hire people from a handful of top schools, creating a largely homogenous culture that share a similar PoV, but they say that they're diverse just because a lot of their employees have different skin colors.

As an example, I'm a white male without college experience, raised in a single parent, lower income household. Most people hiring for "diversity" would overlook me just because I'm a white male, but would welcome my wife's vietnamese friend, even though she comes from a wealthy background and went to a prominent school that makes her much less diverse culturally than their existing employees.

To add to this, the benefits of “diversity” are vastly overstated and unproven. I believe that the benefits could plausibly exist in certain narrow cases, mainly things like UX design, marketing, etc. I don’t believe these benefits generally exist in any meaningful way for things like low level code or backend services.

I very much want to weed out bad experiences from turning otherwise interested contributors away, and strongly support that. But when it crosses a line to superficial tokenism, we all lose, including those who are underrepresented.

> This would only be true if literally every demographic thought identically about every aspect of a project or product and brought the same point of view

Assuming that someone's demographic means that they think differently about a topic to another demographic strikes me as very uncomfortable. Basing an argument for diversity on the assumption that e.g a black female programmer is unable to think about a problem in the same way as a white male programmer doesn't feel like a step forward.

Okay, let's revise the claim slightly for clarity: Making "diversity" a goal is identity politics.

The opposition to "identity politics" is a form of identity politics in itself. The reaction to so-called identity politics is merely a defense of the current status quo where the demographic of software developers is predominantly male, as the most obvious example. You could try to argue that this is somehow natural, although the evidence suggests that actually computer science and software was a lot more popular with women until the artificial intervention of certain technology magazines pitching software development as a hobby for men.

For instance see how the rate of women in computer science began to attenuate around 1985: https://jaxenter.com/women-in-computer-science-majors-133646...

Men acting in a misogynistic way defends and reinforces this trend, which is what codes of conduct attempt to alleviate. Calling the opposition to this is a staple of what has been labelled "identity politics", although again it is merely a form of defensive identity politics itself to maintain it as maintaining these behaviours will maintain the downward trend of women participating in computer science.

That is absurd.

Anyone who thinks that “the privileged” respond the way that they do out of fear is seriously delusional. Activists who think that way will never accomplish their goals, because they fundamentally misunderstand the problem.

It's only fear for a minority of far-right activists. For everyone else it's just gate keeping.

> Making diversity a goal is identity politics, which is a very different thing than correcting biases.

I don't understand this assertion. Is there a subtlety of terminology I'm missing here? Should I read "diversity" only as a goal to produce a group that is composed of x% from group A, y% from group B, etc., rather than the more generous reading that the goal is to ensure that members of various groups feel welcome to participate?

What you state about percentages is exactly what has been pushed under the guise of diversity in many cases. Meritocracy has been specifically targeted by the more recent "code of conduct" silliness going around.

Yes, you should read it that way, even though your latter description is what makes the most sense.

I'm not sure diversity is a measurable goal (you can never be too diverse, and there are so many ways to be diverse beyond sexuality, gender, skin colour, etc.) but diversity in and of itself has nothing to do with identity politics.

Similarly so, what sense does it make to 'correct' a bias? More often than not that means trading one bias for another, not becoming purely unbiased.

RMS seems to deny the role we free software people play in the demographics of our communities.

You're making a major assumption that any such role is played. There's no reason to think that is the case. The free software community is in many ways highly diverse, as measured by things like the countries they come from, their ages, their life experiences. It is dominated by men because women generally don't volunteer to write any kind of software at all. If there was really a widespread problem with GNU maintainers excluding legions of open source devoted women, we'd see open source projects crop up that consist entirely of women and a general separation of the community. That doesn't happen because women simply don't turn up to start with. That's not the fault of men anymore than the dominance of women in primary school teaching is the fault of women.

>As such, correcting the biases, conscious or not, that have led to the poor diversity of our communities, must be part of our mission.

Free software can easily empower people that aren't part of the development community. There is no reason to think that you need a black developer to have a mail client that works for black people.

If your software has actual different implication for certain demographics (e.g. languages or skin color for image recognition) then it helps to have representatives, but that's not the case for most software (beyond providing UI translation files).

Your effort to "correct biases" creates a hostile environment both for those who want to help but are overrepresented and those who are underrepresented. The former because there is no enthusiasm when they say they are interested in helping and the latter because people end up assuming "diversity candidates" were brought on to fill a diversity quota, not because they were the most qualified.

> In particular, by writing that codes of conduct are "punitive spirit", RMS shows a misunderstanding of how these texts came into existence.

I'll not argue over why they came into existence as the idea seems good enough (and if you'd asked me a few years ago I'd even said it was a good idea), but now I'll ask:

Over the years I've heard a number of times where a CoC has been used to make a lot of trouble in projects that where originally more or less healthy.

I read my it and open source news from Ars Technica, HN and from time to time Slashdot though, so I might be heavily biased.

Can anyone point me to one ore more projects where CoCs have actually improved open source/free software projects or communities?

As I already mentioned I guess originally I would have thought it was a good idea, but over the last few years I've heard either nothing or problems from projects that adopted a CoC.

> Can anyone point me to one ore more projects where CoCs have actually improved open source/free software projects or communities

For the record, the purpose of a project adopting a CoC isn't always to improve something, but can be to codify existing (but unwritten) community guidelines.

The LLVM project talked a lot about this when discussing adopting a CoC. They weren't necessarily doing it to change anything – but they wanted to have a written set of the community guidelines that they were already following.

There is a benefit in having such policies available in a form where people can reference it, and not have that institutional knowledge of community policies exist only in lots of people's heads.

Over the years I've heard a number of times where a CoC has been used to make a lot of trouble in projects that where originally more or less healthy.


Offhand, I can think of maybe a handful of instances where trouble was made by applying the CoC to someone's behavior, either rightly or wrongly. To me, it's seemed that the "trouble" that comes is when a project decides to adopt a CoC, and several members protest agains the idea of having one.

>In particular, by writing that codes of conduct are "punitive spirit", RMS shows a misunderstanding of how these texts came into existence.

But they are written in a punitive spirit. Someone did something, or behave in a way that someone dislike, rightly so in most cases. There's just some weird assumption that we can punish our way out of having certain types of people in or around a project. That never going to work, it doesn't work in real life and it's certainly not going to work online.

I have yet to see a single code of conduct, besides what Stallmann just posted, that's actually trying to address the underlying issues, and not just ban people. Kicking someone of a project isn't going to make them go away, nor is it going to positively influence they personality.

In one of his videos Brian Lunduke rightly pointed out that many of the people behind the FreeBSD code of conduct could be kicked on the FreeBSD project, if you where to follow their new code of conduct strictly. That it issue with most codes of conduct, they are written extremely aggressively, but enforce very very selectively.

Also, one question that has me puzzled, let's say that a person with autism behaves badly, not because he or she is a bad person, but rather have extremely poor social skills, due to a handicap. In many cases you can't kick that person of the project, because that would be targeting a person with a mental handicap. You can't really allow that person to stay either, because someone else got their feelings hurt, or feel attacked. Stallmans solution is better, because you instead aim to correct the behaviour.

Let's face it, in the end the vast majority of us know who to behave professionally, and the small group of people that we're targetting with a code of conduct isn't the type of people that will change due to the words of a well intended document. If you could write a text that would make people realise that they've behaved inappropriately the world would already be a much better place.

A bit OT, but perception of discrimination is itself subject to bias, for example discrimination of women and minorities is taken seriously while discrimination of whites and men is laughed off. Bias in perception of discrimination would prevent you from even recognizing existing biases, not to mention weighting them correctly, and possibly lead you to aggravate existing discrimination.

Usually that's because when claims about discrimination against whites and men are made, there's no evidence that they are actively being discriminated against. Rather, the case is usually that they're not being favored as they were. Which, if you are in the previously favored class, may feel like discrimination, but in reality it's simply giving everyone else a chance as well.

This is an example of a bias in perception of discrimination. You dismiss the idea of discrimination of whites and men upfront. You probably believe whites and men are not discriminated against in any substantial way. You are even willing to paint discrimination of whites and men as a "loss of previous favors".

Consider this example: Difference in pay between men and women is a small discomfort (single women can afford 5% smaller homes) while divorce and child custody courts ruin lives (of men in 90% of cases) and cause unbearable pain (due to loss of contact with children). Yet pay equality is talked about and politically pushed through much more than joint child custody. This is what I call bias in perception of discrimination.

This is all a bit OT, but I think it is understood that misjudging discrimination and taking disproportionate action can damage opensource projects.

"You dismiss the idea of discrimination of whites and men upfront."

I'm saying I'm not seeing evidence of any.

"This is what I call bias in perception of discrimination."

You're exhibiting just as much bias as you're accusing others of having. You're picking and choosing what you're considering important to worry about, and dismissing other items.

You're not the only GNU maintainer who is unsatisfied with Stallman's response. GNU Octave also stands with Guix here, and I think I speak on behalf of at least of a few other co-maintainers. Maybe we should be drafting our own CoC.

> Maybe we should be drafting our own CoC.

As an octave fan, please don't; at least publicly. Do you really need to push this? Do you have actual harassment cases among your developers that such a "punitive" CoC would help to solve?

If you object to a CoC (which is really the same damn thing as the GKCC, what kind of "punitive" measures can we take, really), then I really don't want you around the Octave community.

And yes, we've had our share of unpleasantness.

My objection to the GKCC is that rms is failing to address the actual problems such as the disadvantage of certain groups. I think CoC detractors think that the CoC is going to be used to unfairly punish them in ways they don't understand but, (1) there really isn't much punishing that could be done even if we tried and (2) every community already has an implicit CoC. Writing one only makes it explicit.

Wouldn't you rather know what the rules are instead of having to guess? Right now the rules already exist, but you might not know about them.

Good to hear; I know of other GNU maintainers who feel the same, I don't think we're isolated. FWIW, Guix adopted the Contributor Covenant and it's worked great for us—our reaction to incidents is firm but it has never been "punitive" contrary to what RMS suggests.

>correcting the biases, conscious or not, that have led to the poor diversity of our communities

What you're missing is a proof that the only reason a community is not 'diverse' is due to 'biases' within the community. You will find this is a very hard thing to prove as a general concept. Reminds me of the following paragraph:

>For the record, here is a small sample of other communities where black people are strongly underrepresented:

>Runners (3%). Bikers (6%). Furries (2%). Wall Street senior management (2%). Occupy Wall Street protesters (unknown but low, one source says 1.6% but likely an underestimate). BDSM (unknown but low) Tea Party members (1%). American Buddhists (~2%). Bird watchers (4%). Environmentalists (various but universally low). Wikipedia contributors (unknown but low). Atheists (2%). Vegetarian activists (maybe 1-5%). Yoga enthusiasts (unknown but low). College baseball players (5%). Swimmers (2%). Fanfiction readers (2%). Unitarian Universalists (1%).

>Can you see what all of these groups have in common?

>No. No you can’t. source: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/02/11/black-people-less-like...

> Swimmers (2%)

The low rate of black swimmers isn't just an interesting quirk, but the consequence of historical actions to keep blacks out. For instance, public pools in New York City used to be kept deliberately cold on the theory that this discouraged black participants (source: The Power Broker).

Lack of swimming skills has deadly consequences; black children drown in swimming pools at 5.5 times the rate of white children. Source: CDC https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6319a2.htm

Thanks for this one.

The history of black people being excluded from pools has an UGLY history. The grandparents positioning this as some innocent thing is... well.... Check this out: https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/motel-manager-pouring-acid-...

> What you're missing is a proof that the only reason a community is not 'diverse' is due to 'biases' within the community.

There's an enormous amount of research and evidence showing that biases, conscious and unconscious, cause a lack of diversity. It's like saying we are missing proof that smoking leads to cancer.

But here's a simple way to look at it: For a long time in the West, white males enacted in law, in custom, and extralegally (lynchings, for example), explicit biases that excluded others. In 2018, we know that some white males today explicitly endorse the same biases, and many more do so quietly. In areas where we say there is a lack of diversity, the same group, the white males, has the power and the resources (jobs or whatever), and the same groups are excluded.

What is the hypothesis that explains these facts? Is it that it's really a meritocracy now and that the same outcomes as the non-meritocracy are coincidence? In my judgement, that is very unlikely and very irresponsible to believe, and letting other people suffer because we don't want to deal with the problem is the corruption that comes with power.

What you've written here sounds like the preaching of a religious person.

We must correct our "biases, conscious or not"? What evidence do you have that all of us are laboring under the weight of some kind of original sin of "bias"?

Can any one of us investigate these claims scientifically, or must we appeal to an authority in your belief system to get answers?

Your virtue signaling is unimpressive. Please take it elsewhere. What RMS is doing here is clearly a step in the right direction.

This comment breaks several of HN's guidelines, including the one against calling names in arguments, as well as this one:

"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize."

Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow them when posting here.

I disagree strongly with your interpretation of my comment, which I made in good faith. I apologize for sounding rude or aggressive, but I'm confident that I haven't broken any guidelines.

I've asserted that the OP is preaching what is essentially religious ideology, and that he or she is engaging in virtue signaling. I think it's a very uncharitable interpretation of what I've written to label it as "name calling".

I have responded to the strongest possible interpretation of OP's comment, a reasonable summary of which is: "We are all laboring under biases, conscious or unconscious, which have directly caused a certain demographic constitution in our community". Again it's very uncharitable to suggest that this is a straw man.

In my view, OP is advertising very bad ideas that deserve to be challenged passionately. Am I not allowed to do so here on HN?

I'm not sure what the difference is between sounding rude or aggressive and being rude or aggressive, which certainly the site guidelines are asking you not to do.

Swipey phrases like "preaching of a religious person" count as name-calling in HN's sense.

Your comment was clearly written in the flamewar style. ("Your virtue signaling is unimpressive. Please take it elsewhere.") That's very much what we're trying to avoid here, so please don't do it on HN.

Fair enough. I appreciate your feedback and will take it to heart.

Wait, do you not think you have any biases?

No, but I am challenging the rather spectacular claim that we're all suffering from a kind of bias which has directly caused the demographic makeup of our (very large) community.

I'd just like to know how you come to the conclusion that evening out the demographics in the free software community could in any way improve the quality of projects. I guess you're looking for better harmony in the community? Still, please explain how setting quotas would improve anything, rather than stirring up more strife.

This is a good example of bad faith arguing. The original poster never mentioned "quotas" but this comment presumes and assumes that is what is happening.

The use of words like 'please' doesn't make things better.

Speaking counter to not only RMS but also the tide of popular opinion not only on HN but the internet at large I'm sure takes a lot of courage -- and I just want to say thank you.

This isn't Reddit and downvotes, if any, don't come with jail time. Can we maybe dispense with making it sound like the above poster is reporting on free speech in Saudi Arabia? It's kind of inappropriate.

...something, something, ..., could have a negative effect on the career,... something...

People who avoid saying what they think because they are afraid of losing internet points are retarded to begin with.

We've banned this account. Please don't create accounts to break the site guidelines with.


Please do not take a harsh tone towards other participants, and especially don't make personal attacks against them. Go out of your way to show that you are criticizing a statement, not a person.

I rolled my eyes as soon as I saw the subject line in my inbox this morning. This is the culmination of an extremely frustrating internal GNU discussion. RMS has not handled this situation appropriately at all.

That's intriguing... Could you tell us more?

No, I can't. All I will say is that I've been involved with GNU in several ways over the past 5 years, even working at the FSF for awhile, and I've become increasingly disappointed in RMS' leadership abilities. He simply doesn't have the social awareness to foster a healthy community.

> Rather than trying to have the last word, look for the times when there is no need to reply, perhaps because you already made the relevant point clear enough. If you know something about the game of Go, this analogy might clarify that: when the opponent's move is not strong enough to require a direct response, it is advantageous to give it none and instead move elsewhere.

I love this analogy of why not responding might be your best option.

I was very influenced when I read Paul Graham’s assertion that comment quality tends to be inversely proportional to reply depth.

I can’t find the reference but I really took that to heart, and try as hard as I can to avoid replying to a reply to one of my comments, here and elsewhere. The exception would be if I was very unclear originally, or if someone asks something specific that only I can answer.

What’s interesting is how effective this seems to be. If my original statement is worth defending usually someone else will chime in.

Otherwise it’s a great mental exercise to just let the criticism stand, and try to think how to be more airtight in the future.

That's a good pointer maybe for debate threads but it's not a good way to have a real conversation.

Perhaps the most overlooked part of the document.

This is something I struggle with, a mentality of "everything must be logically evaluated and upvoted or downvoted". Sometimes, there doesn't need to be a response.

While it sounds very reasonable, friendly, and non-authoritarian, a big problem with an approach like this, without real teeth or rigidity, is that it is very easy to harass people out of a community while staying within its constraints, and provides very little recourse for those being harassed (who often are not in a position of power) to put on pressure for getting something done about it.

The approach taken largely ignores the discussion that's been going on about this topic, and sounds pretty naive, if not willfully passive.

The whole point of this is to not have teeth. It's not supposed to be used as a weapon.

Personally, I haven't contributed to (or not held my nose at) any open source project where contributors have enough free time to spend harassing other contributors rather than commit more code. Who has the time to be bothered, on either end of it? Maybe they're spending too much time in the politics of it rather than the work of it to begin with.

The current push for codes of conduct in software projects isn't about harassment per se. Realistically anyone can be harassed out of a community regardless of rules. The point of the rules is to change the norms such that behavior that would otherwise have been exclusionary or just off-putting is specifically called out and recognized as "wrong".

"This code is fucking garbage and you should be ashamed" may or may not be "harassement" according to the intent of the writer or interpretation of the reader. But it's still wrong and we don't want that.

What if the code was indeed garbage, and it cost a lot of time (super precious asset) and brain power (a precious asset) to evaluate and reject? Such a reaction would be understandable even if hurtful. No wonder people leaning towards the Asperger/autistic spectrum of brutal honesty would state that; such is their nature.

What would you propose for addressing it? Ghosting? Silent blacklisting? English-style "there is a minor hiccup with the code"? A compiled list of what is wrong with the code (taking another few hours to prepare)? Any realistic ideas?

> No wonder people leaning towards the Asperger/autistic spectrum of brutal honesty would state that; such is their nature.

Actually, it is not "their nature". The nature of people on the spectrum is to have difficulty understanding social conventions. Having a system whereby social conventions are explicitly spelled out in detail is likely to help people on the spectrum adhere to them, because they no longer have to be inferred.

People on the spectrum deserve understanding (like everyone else) when they break social norms or say hurtful things due to not understanding that they're doing anything wrong. When they know that what they're doing is not acceptable, they are as responsible as anyone else who knowingly acts like a jerk.

I'm also highly skeptical of the idea anyone outside of a tiny minority would be unaware that "garbage" is an intentionally insulting term, especially given that it is a metaphor. Even "completely fails to meet standards" is vastly better and more descriptive (outside of the emotional content of "garbage").

> I'm also highly skeptical of the idea anyone outside of a tiny minority would be unaware that "garbage" is an intentionally insulting term, especially given that it is a metaphor. Even "completely fails to meet standards" is vastly better and more descriptive (outside of the emotional content of "garbage").

For many on the spectrum (though certainly not all; it’s called a “spectrum” for a reason), this notion of “emotional content of <word>” is simply an alien concept! I know this is quite hard for a “neurotypical” person to truly accept (let alone empathize with), but it’s true: Which words are emotionally charged, and which aren’t, must be learned by rote memorization, and this can take a great deal of effort.

In this “neurotypical” world we live in, those of us on the spectrum must put a lot of effort into “acting neurotypical”, since “being yourself” just doesn’t fly when it means you can accidentally hurt others feelings (and we certainly don’t want that either).

Nobody is perfect though, and mistakes do happen. What’s unfortunate is that the kind of mistakes often made by people on the spectrum aren’t naturally tolerated or forgiven by most people, because the behavior is often seen as so far beyond the norm that “surely malice must be the only explanation”. Therefore, forgiveness and tolerance is often bypassed entirely.

Of course, I’m not trying to make excuses arguing that hurtful behavior should be tolerated; rather, I’m agreeing with the original point that we should help teach people how to behave well first, rather than dropping some kind of “ban hammer” on the first offense. Responding with the maximum penalty at the first offense is not only unfair, but creates a culture of fear and terror and anxiety, at least among those who aren’t the best at predicting what may or may not be seen as an offensive statement.

“Actually, it is not "their nature". The nature of people on the spectrum is to have difficulty understanding social conventions.”

Holy moly, please don’t tell me what I do and don’t have difficulty understanding. Even if you were a clinical psychologist, it’s a spectrum and throwing out what entire populations do or do not understand is so weird, I’m not sure what point it serves.

Even if I was the elected spokesperson of this population in the world, I’m not sure I’d have the authority to issue such a nebulous statement.

I apologise for the generalisation. That was too broadly and absolutely worded. But I would stand by the idea that "people on the spectrum are more likely to have difficulty intuitively learning social conventions".

Is that still a nebulous statement?

I honestly have long agreed with your premise, but I have to say I can't bring myself to agree with your whole statement. I see it more often each passing year, that someone who behaves a certain way is "charitably" accused of having some disorder, or "being on the spectrum." I do not accept this.

And you can do better than "this code is fucking garbage." Even "this code is poorly done, try harder" is much better. It is more polite, and the more times I see this discussion, the more I like the idea that you should just treat your colleagues like ladies and gentlemen, or whatever.

At a given point in my TDD learnings, I thought I invented a new term for a really powerful idea – "Shame-Driven Development" – turns out I was not the first person who named this idea.

My idea of "SDD" is basically that noticing a failing test will motivate you to fix your code, so it's imperative that we set up CI early in development and shine a light on those failing tests at every opportunity. My idea is not important, if you google the term, you'll see that it really is a bigger idea than that, and all of the top links are perhaps obviously not presenting it in a positive light.

You don't want "shame-driven development." Embarrassment is only a powerful motivator for the people you haven't used it on yet. Other people will seek to avoid being embarrassed, but the person you embarrass will only be left feeling bad.

I don't believe SDD would work for these reasons:

1) people that start a serious open source product must be self-assured and innately isolated from any external community/pressure in order to avoid distractions from their goal. Shame has likely 0 effect, or negative (i.e. the person/group doing the shaming would get banned from any future interaction). It takes a certain type of person that is likely "very thorny" to the outside world unless persuaded by desired qualities in other people that want to interact.

2) those projects often start as angry reactions to what is happening in the outside "meatspace" (corruption, vendor lock-in, "voluntary" censorship, you-can-buy-everyone, selling underwhelming/dangerous stuff for a lot of money etc.); doing things differently when they start working inevitably invokes feelings of superiority over people that "just don't get it"/"noobs" and it's difficult to resist temptation of showing off. Or external people are viewed as "conformists to old ways" that would prevent better things from happening in order not to disrupt current status quo they benefit from, hence interacting with them is not desirable (and arguably dangerous until project really makes it)

3) having to wade through a lot of new issues daily and cherry pick the ones that are worth examining is time consuming and tiring. After doing this for a while it likely leads to anger and telling off someone is a way to vent

4) popular free/open source projects that made it are often targeted by people trying to subvert them for their hidden agendas; any original developer intelligent enough can be at least disturbed if not outraged by that; harsh reactions following. "How would you punish those subverters?" is a better question than to penalize a developer that was easily provoked to an angry outburst by those poking at their weak areas (and that's often trivial with honest technical folks)

5) priority of creators is often getting things done as fast as they could; "unnecessary social talk" is often viewed as a waste of effort/time, and honestly it often is, unfortunately. If they decide that at some point "talking nice" is leading to being more efficient, they would do work on it, but not before they perceive it that way.

6) Many junior developers think that they are entitled to some coding celebrity's special attention instead of taking the hard way, improving themselves and then contributing when they are finally able to.

I may not have made myself clear, I'm already convinced that either vision of Shame-Driven Development was a bad idea. That being said, thanks for your thoughtful reply!

So just say will take too long and too much effort to evaluate. Or even more bluntly, that it doesn’t seem useful.

How does calling it garbage help anyway, except perhaps to give yourself an adrenaline kick?

"What if the code was indeed garbage, and it cost a lot of time (super precious asset) and brain power (a precious asset) to evaluate and reject?"

Then do so. If you cannot articulate why it's bad, and suggest ways to improve it, then you do not have any business reviewing the code. Review is just as important as writing the code itself, and if you are unable to give that task the attention it deserves, then delegate it to someone who can.

Do you really need a CoC to know someone who says "This code is fucking garbage and you should be ashamed" is an idiot? Do you really need a CoC to kick out someone who says that?

Well, Linus has been doing that for years and widely praised for it. And because kicking him out was inconceivable, people did nothing and concluded nothing could be done.

Just the opposite: you need the CoC to make sure they do get kicked out. Because for example if the writer of that comment is friends with the moderators of the forum, they might get a slap on the wrist and allowed to continue. Having a written CoC lets people know that the mods can be held accountable to the document. Another example making the same point, this time of actual harassment being ignored: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxLENeCf3OA

>Just the opposite: you need the CoC to make sure they do get kicked out.

No, you don't. You don't need a CoC for sensible moderation.

Good moderation is a combination of clear, actionable rules, good intentions and wisdom. Documents like Contributor's Covenant do not help with any of that. They're vague, their intentions are debatable, above all they're the exact opposite of "wise".

Instead of punishing the other party, you have a choice to ignore that person by setting a filter for that person's email.

This way, if enough people filter-out, the person will be silenced. Others, who are more forgiving, would continue to receive that person's contributions.

My rule is, I make decisions for myself and only myself.

At that point the abusers who move in will realize you can't see them and will harass your members with impunity. That doesn't seem like good community management. Actually it seems like throwing new members into the deep end (exposing them to every bad actor you already knew about) and at some point I suspect the only people who join your site will be malicious.

You can't be harassed if you don't listen.

That is flat out not true. Someone constantly attacking your character to others is going to have an effect. Those other people may be influenced by what that person says, and that will affect how they perceive you, which will in turn affect your involvement in the project.

No, it is true. If a community doesn't listen to that sort of behavior, then it has no effect.

That is a mountain sized "if".

That's part of community building. A good community will reject noise and move on.

That kind of behavior is endemic in our community. So... yes, I guess we do.

I would like to say no, but the world has proven me wrong in numerous projects that I’ve seen.

I'm inclined to believe that the normative case for these kinds of documents is not intentional harassment, but simple miscommunication. Starting with encouraging introspection and moving through mediation before getting to outright banning makes sense. Moving straight to ejection for comments that could easily not be intentionally abusive, is just giving ultimate authority to anyone who takes offence. Better to put both sides of a dispute on neutral ground, and allow community leaders (or the community at large) to sort out the disagreement. But a key step before that should be to encourage people to consider how their words and actions could be interpreted to hopefully avoid offending in the first place.

I don't think any one action is going to completely fix what's wrong with society. But I do think these guidelines are likely make society _better_ and and unlikely to make them worse. This definitely should not be the last action taken to make society better, and I look forward to more actions along these same lines.

Do you have evidence that people will harass others out of a community under guidelines like these? Or is that just an assumption designed to justify weaponized guidelines / authoritarian responses?

Being politically correct vs getting the job done, I'll always choose getting the job done. There is plenty or role playing projects where your feeling matter more than your skills. In last couple of jobs I am always asking about company policy, if they start piling about diversity and getting everybody heard and how everybody's feelings are most important thing, I don't want to work there.

Earn your place with your quality and your skills, not with the help of inventing newer and newer rules until nobody can say how crappy, sub average and difficult to work with you are.

(Talking to a random programmer with no skills but huge area of possible butt-hurt).

Edit: btw can't agree more with Stallman if that's not clear from my post. Love that guy.

> Being politically correct vs getting the job done, I'll always choose getting the job done.

I am absolutely baffled at the idea that there is ever a situation where getting the job done requires a choice to be politically incorrect as implied here. Do you have an example of the phenomenon you're discussing?

Yeah, like mirko said, being pressured by project leader to merge absolute crap (I was in charge of merging), "because it works and we don't want to suppress less skilled colleagues". "Try to explain nicely how to do it better" while that other guy a) doesn't want to learn and b) has feelings that are more important that making better software / learning.

Edit: to clarify, that other guy couldn't understand the project or how to do proper code so all the PC dance afterwards is the perfect shield and role playing. I just walked away after few weeks.

Hey, I don’t know your situation so this may be nonsense, but what you describe doesn’t sound so PC.

The guy’s code worked? Doesn’t sound unreasonable that the project leader would want it merged. Put the technical debt on the backlog, get on with writing other code that works.

The project leader presumably had a team to manage. Seems perfectly understandable that they would want all their team contributing, even if some team members were vastly more productive than others. The alternative is over-reliance on key personnel, or back to the recruitment treadmill (both of these are risks and uncertainties - which it’s the PM’s job to manage down).

The project leader should want his less skilled employees to grow their skills so that he may one day have a greater breadth and depth of talent at his disposal. It might even be reasonable for the leader to want his most talented developers to do nothing but coach junior colleagues - particularly on a typical project that isn’t rocket science, where 5 average developers will be more useful than one rockstar.

Like I said, I don’t know your situation. My point is that the behaviour you describe seems like it could be quite normal and rational and not motivated by PCness at all.

A low-quality codebase slows down everybody on the team and causes tasks that ought to be routine to hit unexpected roadblocks. Every software team has some set of practices for maintaining and improving the quality of their codebase; a few teams, like ØMQ, merge any old crap and then fix the crap (_but not in the backlog_, dear God! _Right away_, before it costs somebody else debugging time) while most teams require that patches meet some kind of quality standards in order to be merged.

By far the fastest I've leveled up my programming skills has been when better programmers looked at my code and told me what was bad about it and what could be improved. You're commenting on the story of someone who offered such commentary and had it rejected.

Word by word this is exactly my experience. Code I was forced to merge was working only on that day in a very limited set of tests. That's not 'working' in my definition. First next feature we needed to add and code would break all over the place. First I was politely telling it can't work because of this and that, then I was fixing the code silently so we don't all hit the roadblock the next day, then I was trying to discuss that we can't really work that way, then I walked away. All in a span of 30 days.

A shaky patch that “just works” but doesn’t have good tests is a time bomb waiting to happen. When a change six months later breaks the shaky patch, who fixes it?

Piling on lots of little bad changes is only possible if you have a good cleanup process (that I’ve never seen, who likes cleaning up bad code that isn’t breaking yet).

I think this may just be different management / development philosophies.

I have to agree. We tread a fine line here between being honest and being assholes. Let’s try to stay on the right side of that line.

that's not political correctness, that's just good old fashioned office politics.

For example not calling a problem in the code “a problem” but “possible place for improvement” as to do so might lead people to think their code is “problematic”... then i resigned...

I’m unsure if this is the sort of politics that’s the context of the article in question. For clarity, the article in question spawned off of an email thread regarding calling women by nicknames in a condescending manner without their consent.

I am absolutely baffled at the idea that there is ever a situation where...


I’m unsure if this is the sort of politics that’s the context of the article...

I think it's fair to assume they were replying to you, not the article.

Yes, within context of the article, and the ambiguous language of the poster, I'm questioning an example in which politics in context of the article applies to the experiences of the claim in question. The claim in question then refers to an example which does not apply to the context of the article. I remain fairly confused.

Let me explain further then. It is all tied in, across the spectrum, along with linux code of conduct and sqlite topic today. In 'normal' company I can either respect the rules or walk away, there is usually little room for changing them. In open source project, small number of vocal butt hurts or political opponents that can use and channel 'hurt ones' can do much harm to the project, because they 'can' enforce different rules by being very noisy.

In this particular case, same with Linux CoC, reasons to try to apply or change rules can have much more sinister motives than what it seems on the surface.

Case in point.

1. Initial linux CoC is introduced by Greg KH, after one sensitive 'programmer' got hurt by Linus general behavior. Oh also she was working closely with Greg if I am not mistaken. https://lkml.org/lkml/2013/7/15/374

2. Next Linux leaves the project (temporarily? fingers crossed) and Greg KH remains to be the top decision maker for what goes in into kernel. Same guy who wanted to push d-bus like his life depends on it, which doesn't show good judgment for the project well being.

3. Then one of the first things to do is to introduce even more rules, even if Linus returns soon: https://lkml.org/lkml/2018/10/22/188

So underhand politics that has nothing to do with small tiny sensitive souls continues and quickly.

When I see Stallman not buying CoC crap I respect that.

Did I explain better?

This isn't a very good explanation. More like

1. Initial CoC is introduced by Greg KH

2. 5 years pass

3. Greg KH suggests updating the CoC. It is signed off by Chris Mason, Dan Williams, Greg KH, Jon Corbet, Olof Johansson, and Steven Rostedt, not to mention Linus himself. Rik van Riel, Tim Bird and Ted Ts'o make endorsing comments on the LKML in ensuing discussion. That is, the change is supported by Linus and at least 9/10 TAB members. HPA made no comments

4. Linus goes on leave

5. Greg KH and Olof and another guy make some minor wording changes to the CoC, and adds a new page describing how the kernel maintainers interpret the CoC, most of this would best be described as watering down some of the more objectionable parts of the unedited CoC. It is reviewed by Steve Rostdet and Ack'd by Linus, Ted Ts'o, Rik, Corbet, and approximately 50 other people.

Then of course, Ted Ts'o (the same Ts'o mind you, who people bring up as the person Sarah Sharp supposedly weaponized the old CoC against, so if anyone, he'd have a bone to pick against CoCs) clarified[1] that the addition of a CoC was a directive from linus, not something Greg snuck in, and while shepherded by Greg, was done with 'a huge amount of consultation with the top contributors to the kernel'.

So basically, if one actually looks at what really happened, instead of what what one wants to believe(?) happened, all of the sinister motives disappear.

[1]: https://lkml.org/lkml/2018/10/22/106

I have a lot of examples :)

I once felt the same way, that there’s always a good way to give criticism. The shit sandwich really works well in even the mist dire situations (“this is great,” “this is garbage,” “but this is great too”).

But I once had a co-worker who had an opposing development philosophy. It was in a bit of a weird, anarchic environment where there was little supervision, but steady budgets.

There was an algorithm made and after reviewing it, it was just really, really bad. It was for improving health, but it used the wrong population, it inferred from data inappropriately, it made broad recommendations, and it did so I consistently. It was garbage, but it’s not helpful to say that as that never really helps and is not constructive and not accurate. Basically what you’re saying.

I got the merge request and sent it back with a thoughtful commentary, adding in another peer for input, asking for test cases, asking for user story requests, etc. Pretty polite.

They resubmitted it unchanged saying “no, I know it’s right. Just take it and we’ll fix it later.” (There’s no we, it’s just this one person).

I spent more time and sent more detail, showing similar, valid changes.

Same thing back. I spent probably a few hours between the two responses and they were resubmitted within seconds.

I figured I’d chat with the person so based on work schedules sent an invite for two days away.

Person said they couldn’t wait, had to go now. I tagged the other two maintainers, one was on the initial reply, and asked for a review. They pointed to response #1 and said “no, refer to reasons.”

Submitted then went to boss land and asked boss to approve the merge. Boss can’t do that, etc etc.

Boss and I meet with submitter. Submitter asks us to read original submission and gives nothing further.

Boss asks me to reconsider, I point out comments for improvements, submitter says they won’t change them. So request stays at no.

Lots of HR madness takes place over the next few weeks. Merge request never made it.

I probably spent 40 hours, plus peers and submitter added on.

Obviously, I’m not skilled enough to communicate why the merge request wasn’t sufficient. I’d love to learn, and am always trying. But I sometimes wonder that I could have saved a lot of time by just saying “this request is a garbage fire and a waste of time to discuss further. You are unworthy.”

It wouldn’t have worked to make the submission good, but would have cut directly to HR and skilled all the well intentioned attempts that ate up time. If this were OSS, it might be good for the community to prevent future stupid stuff.

I’m not sure what the solution is as you have folks who are good in one thing (algorithm design), but bad in another thing (conflict resolution / mentoring randos). Hopefully you’re lucky and have leads with both skills.

All of this stuff is in service of getting the job done. If people can't usefully collaborate with other people because they literally never developed adult social skills (not uncommon in the tech world), then they're not going to be good contributors or collaborators. They won't know how to constructively criticize others, or take constructive criticism, they won't learn from their mistakes, and they might not even learn the right lessons from others' mistakes. The organization as a whole suffers, which is a lot worse than any individual not getting what they want.

One "adult social skill" that comes to mind is the ability to deal with people who haven't developed adult social skills. The vast majority of people in my own professional environment seem to do this even instinctively.

I totally agree. But at the same time, immaturity doesn't let anyone off the hook for being shitty to other people. It's not just on the Internet- it doesn't let them off the hook in real life either. The post I responded to was from someone who said they were so pissed off that people were telling them not to be shitty to other people, that they left the job a couple weeks later.

The Internet's a different beast- it's often an ignorance-not-malice situation when ugly things happen in places like open source project mailing lists. Electronic communication is notorious for not conveying nuance or irony or sarcasm. A CoC (in principle) seems like nothing more than an explicit statement intended to curtail ignorance that could be misinterpreted as malice, which in turn could derail a project.

What are the priorities? Is 'collaborating' supreme goal on its own?

a) Quality b) Feelings c) Having as many as possible people 'collaborating' d) Getting job done

Pick two. They are not excluding others but I wonder what the priorities are.

I pick A and D, C is welcome but not priority, B only if it doesn't clash with any of other goals.

I agree with that list of priorities, but I don't know what you mean by "feelings"- I wouldn't use that word in my own division of goals. I would just call it "effective communication", not "feelings". You're phrasing it as if the the scenario people are trying to avoid is some brutally honest truthteller vs. some hypersensitive weenie who can't handle the truth, and that people are claiming that it's more important, in that situation, to preserve the weenie's feelings than it is for truth to be expressed. That's not the intention of CoC's or workplace etiquette or professionalism.

Think of that truthteller vs. weenie scenario: in cases where one person is potentially hurting someone else's feefees over professional criticism, there is for sure some subset of those cases where that's exactly what's happening. One person is 100% correct, and is being brutally honest with someone else who is both incompetent and hypersensitive, and deserves that brutally honest criticism because that's the only way to get through to them.

That's a subset of those situations. I don't know how much of a subset- 25%? 50%? My gut says more like 1-5%, but my gut is naturally biased (like everyone's). But in 100% of those situations, I guarantee that the brutally honest truthteller THINKS that's what the situation is. In my experience, the brutally honest truthteller is expressing their own confidence in themselves far more often than they're expressing an objective measure of cold hard truth. Some subset of them are expressing cold hard truth that can't be ignored, but all of them think they are. If they had really truly done their homework and knew what they were talking about, they would have eventually learned humility and skepticism, and would be much less likely to jump into the brutally honest truthteller role in the first place.

Simple example of productive etiquette: when criticizing someone's work, it's generally much more effective to phrase it in such a way that it doesn't come off like a personal attack. Meaning, some variant of "this code is bad" works better than some variant of "your code is bad". In the latter case, natural and common cognitive biases (i.e., human nature) are such that people will almost always feel at least a little bit defensive, and are more likely to reject the rational aspects of the criticism because they sense that the other person is criticizing their work for personal rather than rational reasons. I'm totally aware of these biases in myself and I'm still almost as susceptible to them as anyone. It makes it easy to brush off the criticism as coming from an irrational place, on a subconscious level that never even rises into the conscious mind. Making it personal diminishes the credibility of the criticizer in the eyes of the criticized.

So, as a rule, I have found that it's much more effective to make an effort to phrase things as objective criticisms rather than personal attacks. This isn't tiptoeing around someone's feefees, it's literally just making an effort to communicate in a way that is most likely to produce a positive outcome (in terms of production, not feefees- the preserved feefees are just a pleasant side effect). In my experience, that's all that most CoC's or calls for workplace civility or whatever are advocating. Some people are used to working in large organizations full of big egos and unbalanced people from all over the world. Other people have spent their professional lives in much smaller bubbles, and never had cause to think about any of this stuff. But successful open source projects resemble the former much more than the latter, and can require similar social awareness to keep things running smoothly. Things like CoC's, ideally, just make sure that everyone's on the same page in as harmless and nonintrusive way as possible. I'm sure they've been misused or poorly implemented in specific situations, but in principle it all seems eminently reasonable to me.

I’m not OP, but I don’t think you need to convince anyone of your position.

This is not a problem that requires resolution in order to succeed. Different people have different ideas and philosophies. Build software with a group that’s compatible.

Done. Problem solved. There’s enough cool projects that if you disagree over something that one side of the argument thinks is trivial then you don’t have to stay married for the kids. (Or even get married in the first place)

It seems like a Jainist marrying a Baptist and then trying to really convince the Baptist to go veggie. It’s a big deal to the Jainist, part of their core beliefs, really important. The Baptist doesn’t care. Only cares because they’re married.

Now imagine it’s a stranger on the street that the Jainist is attracted to and goes into “quit meat so we can date.” The stranger is likely going to not respond. Eating meat is not an issue for the stranger, even though the Jainist thinks it’s really important (and millions of other Jainists do as well).

PS- Jainists are cool, and while I don’t know all Jains, I’m pretty familiar and never met one with such an unreasonable approach.

We agree completely assuming that the other less skilled programmer doesn't twist any code criticism into personal attack and that project leader cares more about project quality than about feelings.

When I review or comment the code I couldn't care less if you have three hands and a hump, in fact I am least gentle about my own code. When every dialog goes like Me:"This code is bad" -> Other guy:"Why are you attacking me" there is little room for staying completely politically correct.

I was actually suggested never to use 'this code is bad' in any form in the last place I worked, because that can scare away less skilled colleagues.

“then they're not going to be good contributors or collaborators.”

Maybe you mean aren’t optimal contributors or collaborators. There are obviously good contributors who lack what some think are adult social skills. I mean, you can look at Linux and see commits with “poor social skills” that do quite well.

"Being politically correct vs getting the job done, I'll always choose getting the job done."

False choice; there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that one would ever need to choose between being polite to others and getting the job done.

Oh there is third option too. See my other post, I walked away while precious little programmer that has no skills but has feelings remained working at that company.

> False choice; there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that one would ever need to choose between being polite to others and getting the job done.

Sounds great but in reality not always possible.

On the one hand, I'm glad that he's at least acknowledging that this is a problem. It's disappointing to me that he talks about the problem as if people first noticed it in August, when I've heard it discussed for a decade or more. But still, baby steps.

There's also a crashing lack of self-awareness here. This bit sounds great: "The only political positions that the GNU Project endorses are (1) that users should have control of their own computing (for instance, through free software) and (2) supporting basic human rights in computing."

But a) that's a very political position, b) many people in the diversity and inclusion world see it as a direct consequence of basic human rights, and c) I don't think it's consistent with Stallman's behavior. E.g., it was only in May he declared it important to keep a stale joke about American politics in the code: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/05/09/gnu_glic_abort_stal...

Yes, but under the circumstances, I'm unconvinced that hypocrisy is a bad thing. Consistency is overrated. It's good when people change their minds. Rigidly sticking with the same bad position seems like a bigger problem?

Sure, if I have to choose between hypocrisy and improvement, I'll take improvement. But I'd rather have both. And given the extent to which this is written as highfalutin moral principle, I don't think it's unreasonable to deal with it on its own terms. He could have just announced this as an improvement without taking slaps at political views he disagrees with.

Fair enough. But I don't think avoiding politics is possible when making a clear distinction between his and other approaches is important to the author.

It's a tricky communications problem to say "I think my approach is better" about a hot topic, explain why, and convince people it really is different, while not implying other ways are worse. I'm inclined to be forgiving, as long as there's an attempt at politeness.

He didn't have to say his approach is better. He could have thanked people for pointing out the problem and announced this as an important step forward for GNU. The announcement could have been half the length, which is always better from a communications perspective, while also removing a lot of the weakest parts and avoiding an unnecessarily confrontational approach.

Put differently, the adage "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt" definitely applies here. For anybody who has been working on codes of conduct, Stallman's thinking here is at best preaching to the choir. It won't convince anyone he disagrees with that he even understands their perspective, let alone has taken it seriously in formulating this policy.

There's a patch removing this joke now.


I find c) to be correct, I observe the same thing. But, given that I perceive Stallman as even less self-aware in that aspect than Linus, baby steps it is indeed.

This is not an argument.

You've merely listed things you don't like, punctuated by little insults ("crashing lack of self-awareness", "baby steps").

Yes, you have correctly detected that I wasn't making an argument. Into the "add comment" box, I put my comment.

I think that's fine given that I'm in the target audience for his post. I'm somebody who has been making occasional open-source contributions since the early 90s but who has mainly stayed out of it given that it tolerates a high level of jackassery up to and including outright abuse. This is a good step forward, but a small step done at a point I'd call very late in the game.

Is there some specific thing I'm supposed to have an argument on? As far as I can tell, Stallman has had a very "it's my bat and ball" attitude and has for decades, so even if I had some sort of argument, I don't have any impression he'd listen to it. I'm content to let him continue being very Stallmanesque until he retires. I'm much more interested what the younger generation is up to, as I think they're much more plausibly the future of open source than he is.


I assume you realize what you're doing, but quoting the text of the CoC to people defending the CoC when they respond to a criticism of any kind and in any fashion of response is exceptionally passive-aggressive to the point of being inappropriate. You've done the same thing in response to multiple commenters on this thread. Perhaps you should try also practicing what you preach?

> E.g., it was only in May he declared it important to keep a stale joke about American politics in the code

Given Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court and the ever more massive fight of "pro lifers" and other religious hardcore bigots to ban abortions and thus invade the right of womens' bodily autonomy, that joke is everything but stale, and not even restricted to the USA!

As a matter of fact, in Germany a doctor (Kristina Hänel) right now is being prosecuted by the state for simply stating on her website that she offers abortion services. Therefore, the "joke" is actually reminding people of basic human rights, and is perfectly legit to keep in the code.

I don't think the topic is particularly stale. The joke is very stale. It was an adequate joke at the time, but if one were to make a joke today with similar intent, it would be written much differently.

And just to be clear, I agree with your politics here, and probably Stallman's to the extent I understand it. My issue is with him planting a firm flag for "neutrality", when "neutrality" actually means something more like "agreeing with my conveniently unstated political views".

Please remain civil when discussing certain groups of people who identify with certain beliefs.

The covenant of civility was already broken by those who hold those religious beliefs. They have attempted, repeatedly, to remove a woman's right to control her own body, and to use the force of government to interfere with attempts to exercise that bodily autonomy. That, to me, is the infinitely more uncivil act. That is the incivility that society should be seeking to correct, not the microscopic incivility of calling someone a mean name.

Please stop using HN primarily for ideological battle. We've discussed this before, but you've reverted with a vengeance. If that doesn't change, we're going to end up having to ban you again.

That was not ideological battle. That was responding to someone that their concern over civility was misplaced.

Obviously that comment was ideological rhetoric, regardless of that else was in there. But the point isn't one specific comment—it's your overall pattern of using HN overwhelmingly for ideological battle. That is an abuse of the site that we're constantly asking people not to do, regardless of which ideology they're battling for.

Since we've asked you many times over a long period, cut you all kinds of slack, and still you seem to have no intention of fixing this, I've banned this account.


This is a remarkably sane and cogent approach.

His point about CoCs failing to encourage behavior “above and beyond” the rules is well made, and i hadn’t thought about that side of Goodheart’s Law in this setting before.

>Goodheart’s Law

Didn't know this one yet. Thank you for pointing it out. I'll bring it up on my next discussion on targeting 100% code coverage vs seeing it just as an indicator of insufficient tests.

What seems to be lacking is a viral clause so that when you 'be excellent to each other' the others are also required to abide by the same code of conduct.

That is an excellent observation! In a sense, copyleft is the most inclusive code of conduct ever devised.

> The idea of the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines is to start guiding people towards kinder communication at a point well before one would even think of saying, "You are breaking the rules."

I really like this. I think it'll help the community become a more welcoming place overall without needing to view politeness as a rule set. I see this as an overall benefit to the GNU project, as well as to OSS as a whole.

When people are arguing for "diversity" what they are meaning, generally, is "there is already an enormous thumb on the scales, this can be shown empirically by outcomes". So to the extent Stallman's intent is to take the thumb off the scales and make everyone welcome, it is very reasonable.

That said, I think he's wrong to devalue quota type approaches, because in some circumstances, particularly institutional ones in business and government, those are a very effective way to force a noncompliant culture to take its thumb off the scales.

>those are a very effective way to force a noncompliant culture to take its thumb off the scales.

I think some would argue that quota approaches aren't quite this, but rather that they're a thumb on the other end of the scale. The first thumb is still there because non-compliant cultures that aren't fundamentally converted to becoming compliant at the cultural level will generally continue to be non-compliant cultures and only comply insofar as the quotas require (to take a rather contrived example, you can hire 50% women, but what about when 30% of them are harassed, feel unwelcome, and leave?).

I'm personally of the mind that the only way to really take the first thumb off the scales is to persuade the non-compliant culture that complying is in their best interest. Which seems to be the gist of these guidelines: "We all agree contributors are a good thing. Let's be welcoming to all demographics so we optimize the number of contributors."

Well said! Moreover, the popular “thumb on the opposite side of the scale” approach risks accidentally encouraging a “thumb war” of sorts: I think people’s attention is naturally drawn to the thumb on the opposite end of the scale, and thinking this to be unfair, will respond in kind with more thumb pressure on their end. This could escalate more and more, until you eventually end up with extreme unfairness vs extreme fairness.

The “thumb on scale” approach does work in some cases, I think, but it’s important that there be a “de-escalation” (or “de-thumbing”?) endgame strategy. What you don’t want is a situation where there are thumbs on each side of the scale, and each side is telling the other to remove pressure but neither side wants to because it’ll benefit the other.

>That said, I think he's wrong to devalue quota type approaches, because in some circumstances, particularly institutional ones in business and government, those are a very effective way to force a noncompliant culture to take its thumb off the scales.

Only for those groups who have a quota to ensure their fair representation. How often has there been a quota to fix well documented discrimination like that against those who are high functioning autistic?

Actively recruiting a group of people that are underrepresented in a community seems like a good way to solve the problem. If there really aren't people pushing people away, then the ratios will quickly correct and you can rest assured it was a recruiting problem. If people start to drop out you can follow up and discover the problems. It may not even be the communication of existing contributors. It could just be friction in the contribution process that is preventing the community from growing.

> force a noncompliant culture

The problem, as many see it, is that force ought not be used as a persuasion.

Side note: This is the first E-Mail I've seen from Stallman in over 4 years that hasn't started with his usual boilerplate:

    [[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
    [[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
    [[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]
See e.g. https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/emacs-devel/2018-10/msg00... (just picked his latest on emacs-devel) for an example.

Stallman without boilerplate, Linus without rants, what has the world become? Maybe, when everybody is loud and screaming in rage, the escapist role is the quiet, humble and introspect one.

Likely because its an official announcement rather than a "personal" email. eg when libreboot left GNU he didn't include it there either: http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2017-01/msg00001....

Maybe he wants the NSA and FBI to take note as well.

I think this is a good approach, since these guidelines seem to arise out of compassion and wanting to make both the disrespectful contributors and the people they disrespect better communicators, and make the community better as a whole. In contrast I get the sense that most CoCs I read are motivated by a desire to punish people who make you feel bad.

So, I read through the list of guidelines, and while I have some minor quibbles with them, overall they seem fine and reasonable.

But what happens if someone refuses to be kind? What happens if that person is a major contributor? What would happen if, in some strange alternate reality, Linux was a GNU project, and Linus-of-2012 said he'd really rather not care about all this politeness nonsense, and would prefer to continue on the way he was?

The problem I see with your bees/honey comment is that there is no commitment here from the maintainers and leaders of the project. This is just a more verbose "Be kind to each other", but without any commitment from the leadership of the project to actually maintain a kind, welcoming environment.

A non-committal claim to be kind may be honey, but its on a flytrap, and many people recognize this.

This is just a more verbose "Be kind to each other", but without any commitment from the leadership of the project to actually maintain a kind, welcoming environment.

"Be kind, generous, and accepting, or there will be consequences!" is just a few steps removed from, "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

The conundrum with linux, was that it was organized in a self-contradicting way. It's fine to have a meritocratic leader who is exacting and demanding, even harsh. You just don't mix that up with an ethos of accepting all contributors in public. Instead, there needs to be a public tier which is concerned more with outreach, and only once people are ready for the next level, should they be given access to the level where they have to stand and deliver.

See my longer comment[1]. At some point, with some hopefully small fraction of members, the maintainer will need to make a call between keeping the member and letting other people suffer, or kicking someone out of the project. Stallman even mentions this:

>the appointed maintainer(s) of a GNU package can, if necessary, tell a contributor to go away; but we do not want to need to have recourse to that.

in his email, although leaves that out of the guidelines themselves. Why on earth is being forthright about the fact that abuse will lead to exclusion worse than being cagey about that fact? If the end result, you can be kicked out, is the same, why would you prefer that the circumstances be entirely up to each individual maintainer's discretion instead of a somewhat objective (and importantly, public and available!) set of criteria?

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18275994

> why would you prefer that the circumstances be entirely up to each individual maintainer's discretion

Exactly so that the same judgement isn’t applied everywhere. Different maintainers will end up having different audiences. I see that as acceptable, maybe even preferable.

This makes sense for technical judgement, but what about kindness, respect, or good intent changes when I tab over from gcc to gnome?

Why should it be any different? If people have different sensibilities does it not make sense for them to have separate communities? Sure there should be some baseline, but as said elsewhere what one person may take as abuse another may take as a joke. Maybe these people just shouldn’t play together.

>But what happens if someone refuses to be kind?

Then you work as a group of not-socially-incompetent people to find a compromise solution that hits the local maxima of what can be done with the situation, or make a considered decision to move down from the local maxima in the short term to find a higher maxima in the long term.

Maybe discuss with that person the possibility of continuing their work but having a small group of other people between them and the general public as an interface layer that handles the less important work.

If you think that setting up such a compromise might either be too expensive, might risk burning out the interface people or has some other downside, maybe have a frank discussion with them about the benefits and costs of their contributions to the process.

Talking to people always works better than talking at people.

>Maybe discuss with that person the possibility of continuing their work but having a small group of other people between them and the general public as an interface layer that handles the less important work.

So you mean you want to unseat me from leading the project I'm in charge of? What kind of punishment is this for violating some silly guidelines? [1]

>If you think that setting up such a compromise might either be too expensive, might risk burning out the interface people or has some other downside, maybe have a frank discussion with them about the benefits and costs of their contributions to the process.

Wait, but I thought that this was a guideline. Are you saying that there's actually an implicit threat within this guideline that I might be removed from the project against my will? Why wasn't that stated explicitly? How am I, a valued contributor, able to make informed decisions if rules are arbitrary and decided on behind closed doors without any ability for public input, comment, or even knowledge?

In case my point isn't obvious here, an explicit CoC has a number of advantages over a document like this one when it comes to actually resolving conflict, instead of trying to prevent it. It makes value judgements, but only because at some point in the conflict resolution process, leadership will be forced to make value judgements.

Making those value judgements explicit, and public, is a commitment from project leadership to not favor the in-group over the outgroup either explicitly or implicitly, when resolving conflict. It allows people to cite a prior commitment from the leadership to act in a certain manner. You still must trust the leadership to resolve conflict in the manner they stated they would, but you can verify that their resolution was in-line with the process and commitments they provided.

This doesn't mean that a CoC prevents leadership from attempting to mediate conflict when it comes up, and come to mutually agreeable solutions in cases when that is possible. But it does mean that in those rare cases when it is no longer possible to assume good intent that everyone is aware of the values that leadership and the decision-makers opted in to, and can hold them accountable to making decision in line with those values.

With this, Stallman hasn't made a commitment. He's written some nice platitudes, but when it comes down to it, how am I supposed to know if (again, hypothetically speaking) I'd had bad interactions with GNU or its members previously, Stallman would really value my experience strongly enough to take action instead of just letting me suffer to maintain the status quo? How can I try to hold him accountable when I don't know his values, and it would be completely possible for him to write off my complaint as simply not assuming good intent on the part of other contributors?

I can't. That's the problem.

[1]: Note that in this little hypothetical, you're my "boss", so the suggesting to put someone between me and the people I lead can be reasonably interpreted as a demotion or attack on my authority.

>In case my point isn't obvious here, an explicit CoC has a number of advantages over a document like this one when it comes to actually resolving conflict, instead of trying to prevent it. It makes value judgements, but only because at some point in the conflict resolution process, leadership will be forced to make value judgements.

I disagree. Sociopaths weaponise hard and fast rules. It's better to not make rules that aren't required and stick to communicating as people rather than attempting to rule like computers. Don't choose to be a bureaucrat, choose to be a leader.

Put another way, there's no substitute for not being a horrible human being. Projects that have good people on them have no need for CoC's. Horrible people will not stop being horrible because there is a CoC there, nor will a CoC drive them away.

I don't really feel like getting into a roleplay with you about your specific Angry Project Lead scenario on hacker news, it's a bad forum for that since such discussions tend to be long and nuanced, but you should remember that when you have to tell someone their behavior is a net loss for their organization, it's never going to be a fun conversation. Obviously the person will protest, and depending on their personality that might range from pleading to outright physical aggression.

Everyone coming away from such discussions feeling unhappy is normal, what matters is that there is some form of resolution in the process. Yeah, the outcome might be a forked project, or it might be someone being asked to leave. Those are not comfortable outcomes but they are hopefully necessary, otherwise why bother to have the conversation? As long as you can bring the project to a state where you've moved past the obstacle and it's no longer at the forefront of peoples minds, you've succeeded. If people are still discussing your ruling and what it means for contributors months or years later, you've failed.

If resolution can be achieved without verbal, societal, technological or physical violence, that's the best that can be asked.

>I don't really feel like getting into a roleplay with you about your specific Angry Project Lead scenario on hacker news

FWIW, I don't really either, I mostly just wanted to illustrate that not having guidelines or policies about how issues will be handled can lead to problems (like arbitrary enforcement, or accusations of arbitrary enforcement or choosing favorites, etc.). Guidelines for enforcement help protect leadership from accusations of such from contributors, and help protect contributors from actual inconsistent enforcement of the expectations.

>Projects that have good people on them have no need for CoC's. Horrible people will not stop being horrible because there is a CoC there, nor will a CoC drive them away.

But being "good" or "bad" isn't a binary. Its difficult, if not impossible to classify people as good or bad. Actions can be good or bad, generally speaking, but people rarely ever fit nearly into one box or the other. Is Linus a good person or a bad person? Maintaining Linux is a good thing, but abusing contributors is probably bad.

A code of conduct may not itself magically drive toxic people away (although in some cases I think it will). But it does hopefully empower people who are not in positions of relative power in a project to call out bad behavior by those who would previously be protected, with an assurance that the maintainers will take it seriously (or the ability to call out the maintainers for inconsistently enforcing the guidelines).

Conflict resolution is difficult, but that means that the conflict resolution policy, which is in many was what a CoC is, should directly address what happens when there is conflict. "Be kind to each other" doesn't do that, nor does a list of suggestions to communicate kindly.

I think the best comparison is something like incident management policies. Sure, you expect that the systems you rely on will fail only very rarely, but you still have playbooks and systems in place to manage what happens when they do break. The Kind communications define an SLA for interpersonal communication, but don't describe policies to investigate or remediate when the SLA may be violated.

>I disagree. Sociopaths weaponise hard and fast rules. It's better to not make rules that aren't required and stick to communicating as people rather than attempting to rule like computers. Don't choose to be a bureaucrat, choose to be a leader.

Before anything else, I'll note that while abuse thrives on hard and fast rules, it also thrives on ambiguity. One must strike a balance when writing a guideline like this to both explicitly empower the agent of conflict resolution with the ability to resolve conflicts, and to not be so overly regimented as to allow abusive behavior to continue by claiming that it wasn't explicitly banned or whatever.

Transparency and consistency is an important part of leadership. If the people you lead can't trust you or hold you accountable, it becomes problematic. In work environments this results in all kinds of things, but in OSS it results in people silently leaving, or just not joining in the first place.

>If people are still discussing your ruling and what it means for contributors months or years later, you've failed.

That depends. Which people? Someone can kick out anyone who disagrees with them about anything and be left with an effective, if small if perhaps somewhat sycophantic group of consistent contributors. Such a project would likely pass this bar of ruling well, but the project is also likely toxic.

I don't know that I have a better solution, but I might suggest "In general people who don't get their preferred outcome are content to continue working on the project".

All of those are true and reasonable points. Mostly what I take away from this is that no solution suits all situations.

I'm in total agreement. Its not an easy problem to solve, and abusers will try to take advantage of the framework no matter what. My expectation though, is that this won't have the intended effect and won't be any better (and likely worse in a number of ways) that "conventional" CoCs which, despite the hate they get, appear to be one of the best solutions we have to this problem.

> "the appointed maintainer(s) of a GNU package can, if necessary, tell a contributor to go away; but we do not want to need to have recourse to that."

How much damage have Linus's snippy emails really caused, in light of how they have benefited us? I and many other people like reading them because they are fun, so you have to take that in to account. Different people like different things, and that principle extends to writing styles and personalities. Indeed, if you really want to have diversity you should have some emails that I like to read in addition to having emails that you like to read, which by necessity implies that every email thread needs at least a few glib comments. I have heard that Matz and by extension the Ruby community is nice, maybe that project needs to recruit a Linus to fill out their personality lineup.

It's not about whether you "like" to read them or not, it's about whether the people they're directed at (and the audience) read them and decide to withdraw from the project (or never join it).

good software engineering requires some minimal level of mental strength, and if a one cant take a snippy (in the one's opinion as in my opinion Linus' emails are very reasonable, precise and thorough explanatorial) email i'd question whether that one would be a valuable member at all.

Like the "you should be retroactively aborted" one?

yep. I think it gets the point - irreconcilable differences in the foundations and applications of intelligence - more efficiently across than the alternative of an attempt at long winded logical based explanation of that irreconcilable difference to somebody who just doesn't understand/share your logical apparatus because of that difference.

Wow, I didn't think anyone would try to defend that and double down on the dehumanisation.

recognizing and accepting the difference between people isn't dehumanization. Not recognizing and denying people the option to be different is dehumanization.

I think that whole issue was, while it may be amusing to watch the drama unfold, that valuable contributors were being disaffected. No, its not about how entertaining the email chain reads. Its about getting work done?

And it's disingenuous to describe the vicious attacks as 'snippy' and 'glib'.

Different people saw those emails in different ways. In fact, some people are invigorated by strong words as opposed to being cowed and driven away by them. I'm not saying that you didn't perceive them as vicious attacks, I'm saying that the spectrum of human behavior includes people who think being harsh is fine, and give and take it freely. You can't just throw out everyone that behaves in a way that makes you uncomfortable, that's just xenophobia sneaking in through the back way.

What's really wrong is when someone consciously goes out of their way to target another person's emotions, but that has little to do with the average niceness of their writing (which is mostly set by their natural personality baseline).

Yes, in a public environment, we do censure and object to 'strong words' (i.e. vicious vitriol). Public places demand a sense of decorum, lest the devolve into vicious places where only the mean survive.

Its not xenophobia; its civilization. You can talk as you please to your mates. But people you don't know? Its a whole different topic. And conflating the two is dishonest.

I think you realize that at some point a line has to be drawn, given you called "targeting another person's emotions" wrong; and also that everyone's line is in a slightly different place and what's reasonable to some will be uncomfortable or hurtful to others.

Given that, why is it wrong for people to try and influence their community in such a way that it minimizes people's discomfort? Shouldn't every community have the right to self-determine what conduct they're okay with?

I've always believed that you should be liberal in what you accept but conservative in what you generate. It's fine to strategize your own behavior to come across well to as many people as possible (for example not eating meat in front of a conscience-driven vegan) but when it comes to other people's behavior you have to be very judicious about the difference between uncomfortable (but natural) signals and malicious actions.

In this case, I'm highlighting intent when I say "targeting." I shouldn't become upset when someone that always comes across as abrasive comes across as abrasive to me, but if someone goes out of their way to consciously be more abrasive than usual then that's a signal I should pay attention to. If someone who is usually very meek says something slightly harsh, then I should multiply it by a large factor to get back to their internal mental state (which is what I really care about). Likewise if it's a case where I should take what they say and divide it.

But the spectrum of harshness is like the spectrum of spicy food. While I may be content with spicier food than my mother is, if I forced her to eat some of the food I find palatable, she would cry.

So if I want to have a pleasant, welcoming, and accessible meal, I should probably cook it to her spice level instead of mine.

You’re both right. In any other situation we’d say “ok, these are the limits between which 2 SD of the population falls, outliers will just have to deal with it”. And that would work. Here however we can’t measure anything, so we have no idea where to place the limits, or even what the distribution looks like.

"In fact, some people are invigorated by strong words as opposed to being cowed and driven away by them."

Maybe. But I'm going to guess that those that are "invigorated" by seeing someone be told that they should be "retroactively aborted" are not demotivated by not seeing that, and that more people are demotivated by seeing that.

>How much damage have Linus's snippy emails really caused

Don't downplay how he acted by using words like "snippy." There are contributors who have either left the project or actively avoid directly talking with him. There is a reason why Linus admitted he had a problem. It wasn't productive or useful.


>But more importantly, I'd actually put some blame on a certain circle of folks that play a major role in kernel development, and first and foremost Linus Torvalds himself. By many he is a considered a role model, but he is quite a bad one. If he posts words like "[specific folks] ...should be retroactively aborted. Who the f*ck does idiotic things like that? How did they not die as babies, considering that they were likely too stupid to find a tit to suck on?" (google for it), than that's certainly bad. But what I find particularly appalling is the fact that he regularly defends this, and advertises this as an efficient way to run a community. (But it is not just Linus, it's a certain group of people around him who use the exact same style, some of which semi-publically even phantasize about the best ways to, ... well, kill me).

systemd is not a good advertisement for prioritizing social pacification over software quality.

>for prioritizing social pacification over software quality.

Well quite literally it's doing the opposite. Social derisiveness does nothing for the community. That's just one example of many. And of course you had to nitpick about systemd instead of understanding what's being discussed. Missing The Point (TM) 2018. Linux itself isn't really a good example of sane kernel development and architecture. It's popular and it works.

If in a discussion someone brings up a tangent to the topic at hand, please keep the discussion on track by focusing on the current topic rather than the tangent. This is not to say that the tangent is bad, or not interesting to discuss—only that it shouldn't interfere with discussion of the issue at hand. In most cases, it is also off-topic, so those interested ought to discuss it somewhere else.

Systemd, invented by the guy you are quoting, is, however, objectively crap.

I am about to start a separate, new service and have wide leeway in how it will run. I am moving away from Linux towards a mix of BSD and Solaris/Illumos. And Systemd played a part in this technical decision.

Please let's not have all the flamewars here.

Feels like you might not know the meaning of the word "objectively".

systemd violates https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_concerns to an extent that ought to be measurable in syscalls and in number of packages that in practice depend on systemd.

None of this makes it "objectively crap". You're arguing design concerns, and your preferred design is not objectively better than systemd's.

"Objectively crap" is inflammatory to begin with.

Systemd breaks fundamental Unix principles. Those principles have been around since the 1990s at the latest. So yes the use of objectively does fit...

Systemd objectively breaks Unix principles. That makes it subjectively "crap", because in your eyes (not in everybody's, and not in a demonstrated superior or inferior way) that's a bad thing. I'm not too sure what's complicated.

And as I was saying to the other poster, calling something "objectively crap" isn't just most of the time wrong, it's almost always inflammatory. "Don't do it" feels like a good rule of thumb here.

Please don't argue unceasingly for your preferred course of action when a decision for some other course has already been made. That tends to block the activity's progress.

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