I can imagine something like this or worse happening on social media groups, but an ostentatious “committee” that listens only to one side and never gives the other side the chance to get details on how things were perceived or why it’s a violation? And the chuckling in the call when someone has already said they’re not in a proper emotional state is just bullying.
I personally don’t think CoC or any other set of laws can be written to be precise and comprehensive. There will always be edge cases that need many hearings and re-hearings, with some discretion based on past precedence, nuances, etc., in the interpretation of written words in the code in an effort to make the code clearer for the future (this is how we improve laws, don’t we?).
This committee has, IMNSHO, been the opposite of kind and doesn’t deserve to hold the responsibility of handling CoC enforcement or violations. I’m sure this committee is not even capable of explaining clearly to a potential speaker what the CoC really means as per the written words and what’s expected.
This CoC needs to be torn apart and rebuilt, and the people in this particular committee must be sent to other areas where their expertise can be best used. Their proper place is certainly not in a CoC committee, for sure.
Do you read the code of conduct when you attend a conference? Personally, I haven't even read the code of conduct for my job, and certainly wouldn't read one if I was speaking at or attending a conference.
The CoCs are completely unnecessary and, as shown in this example, arbitrarily enforced. In the blog post I read that their CoC prohibits threats and assaults. Consider how silly that is. If someone's threatening you or sexually assaulting you you're going to go the police, not report them for a code of conduct violation.
Likewise, for more mundane stuff, it's all common sense. Don't be obnoxious, rude, make people uncomfortable, etc. If you are doing that, they'll ask you to leave and ban you from future attendance if it's severe. You shouldn't need a CoC to know that and they don't need one to do it.
Consider something that's not covered by their CoC. Maybe I bring my pet skunk with me and they don't have a provision about skunks in their CoC. Are they now powerless? No, they're going to do what's sensible and ask me to not have the skunk, and if I say "Your code of conduct doesn't prohibit skunks" they're going to ask me to leave.
Codes of conduct are silly. They create these dumb regulations and committees for no real reason and create the apparatus for mistakes like these.
I'm actually shocked that Jeremy supported and still supports codes of conduct. He seems like a smart guy and they're obviously a bad idea.
Why NOT formalize rules to some extent? Having a hidden set of implicit mores is far worse. In fact, you can easily read this post as a pro-COC argument.
After all, the author is able to make a really strong case that he didn't really infringe on any part of the COC, and that the COC was poorly constructed to begin with. With no COC, he'd have to just be saying "I think Numfocus exercised bad judgement," which is a much harder argument to make since it's so subjective.
We're professionals. Rules shouldn't be implicit in professional environments. Explicit rules are easier to use, and they make it easier to hold the authorities accountable for misusing them.
Because, at least in the case of CoCs in open source, the sorts of people most vocally pushing to implement and enforce them are almost invariably of the sort most likely to use them as political weapons and enforce them lopsidedly.
"Boot this developer from your project because they made a remark on social media I was offended by."
The problem here is not the CoC, it's that the organisation doesn't enforce the CoC, violates it, and punishes people who didn't violate it. They might as well not have a CoC in that case.
It just gives power to the accuser to say "Please refer to article 3 section 2 for compliant behavior. BANNED". But unlike a proper ruleset, the defense cannot do the same, because there's no actual definition of rude specified that I could say "In fact, I did none of those things, your honor"... and the accuser must iteratively prove his case. Instead I have to say "Im not being rude", and then it becomes a he said, she said, but with the accuser weilding "formal rules".
These are rules in the form of "don't be someone I don't like", and at best follows the fashion "the accused is presumed guilty until shown otherwise"
Besides the reams of examples of CoC's being abused and arbitrarily enforced like the one in the attached article you mean? I've never even heard of a CoC being applied in any way except a petty, bureaucratic way.
You don't hear about the system working right because it's inherently non-controversial.
The main difference I see is that the CoC also spells out enforcement actions and processes, while the enforcement process for the guidelines is whatever dang feels like it is. In other words from my perspective the CoC is less arbitrary.
An CoC on the other hand is exclusively about removal of members to achieve additional goals set by the CoC. It identify who is an "other" and gives power to a small group to opaquely remove the individual without constraints or liability. It also usually supersede any existing rules, goals and processes already existing in the community.
The distinction is thus in purpose, methods and results. If we imagine that we replaced the articles CoC with the HN guideline, we can read this: "When disagreeing, please reply to the argument". The Code of Conduct Enforcement Team could have talked to both Jeremy Howard and Joel Grus and steered the discussing on the factually arguments in favor or against the use of a Jupyter Notebook. They could have reminded both speakers to assume good faith, respond to the strongest plausible interpretation, and avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents. It could remind them to focus on the purpose of the community, such as having a curious conversations with thoughtful and substantive comments.
Instead they exercised the power granted by the CoC.
Source? It seems like your assigning motives to others rather than listening to what they have to say.
> Instead they exercised the power granted by the CoC.
If you actually read the parent you'd know they explicitly did not follow the CoC. The CoC sets out a process very much like the one you described in which the enforcement team is actually supposed to have a discussion with everyone involved and get all accounts of what happened. The fact they ignored the CoC isn't a problem with the CoC, it's a problem with the human beings not following the process.
Dang could start banning people at random, that wouldn't mean the HN guidelines are bad, it would mean dang decided not to follow the rules and has the power to do so.
The goal of conflict resolution is not about determining who is guilty and measuring out punishment, but rather to deescalate situation and fixing problems before there is a need for someone to be punished. The best moderation are those that are not seen because intervention occurred early and without escalating something small into something big.
The primary evidence for this exist in the names and words used in the CoC. A Enforcement Team is distinctly different than a Conflict Resolution team. A group full of mediators is different from a group full of enforcers. Enforcement is a different word from moderation.
If a CoC were focused on conflict resolution and had teams full of mediators, and where enforcement only came afterward when the mediators has failed and there exist documented proof of failed deescalation, only then would we have a situation where a CoC and a guideline would be much more similar in purpose, method and result. In which case the CoC enforcement would likely be called under a different name.
Whether the guidelines are used to punish people who act a certain way or just as a way to document how to act so as to avoid punishment is a fairly fine distinction IMO and maybe a distinction without a difference.
Sounds like a classic case of selection bias.
Or just get rid of them
 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24928833
 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24927974
Governance is the evergreen crisis. Was part of an org that had a constitutional crisis over conduct not covered by existing bylaws. HUGE drama. HUGE effort to resolve. Basically a mock trial.
Other orgs need more accessible, more lightweight ways to resolve their own slap fights.
I think they're right on point with this. Law is incredibly complex and you're likely to end up with a very shitty sub-implementation of the law when building a code of conduct, be it in itself or the application & litigation procedure.
"Be nice to each other & follow the local official regulations" should probably be a valid c&c.
20 years professional work, first time Ive ever seen that.
Noped out of there as fast I could.
Now, As a white male, I’ve seen it going the other way much more lately.
Walk into a place where it’s all about diversity and tolerance, but failing, because hiring for diversity means passing on experience. Or frankly interest in doing the job.
So spent months cleaning up messes. The entire time everyone is bashing white males, unless non-binary.
Good formalized set of rules and rule enforcement focus on conflict resolution and deescalation, assumes good faith and give benefit of the doubt. Most legal system does this, but also community rules like Wikipedia.
From the article I don't see any attempt of conflict resolution between Joel Grus and Jeremy Howard. I don't see any process by NumFOCUS towards deescalation and refocusing towards a common goal. The process seem to have been opaque, the accusation hidden, purpose unclear. The authorities (the Code of Conduct committee) not held accountable. As a result it seems that their explicit rules did not serve a purpose of creating a professional environment.
FTA: “I think Joel is great, and I know for a fact that he doesn’t mind being called “wrong” (since the call I checked with him).”
> Let the attorneys do their job
The foundation of labor law in this country was built thanks to out-of-touch culture “warriors” and their lawyers going back to the early 1900s.
In every arena I've operated this is always the case. Military, Big Company and on the streets. Not saying it's right, but it's extremely common (in my experience)
> Rules shouldn't be implicit in professional environments.
Totally agree. But again, everywhere I've been there are at least 2 sets of rules.
Maybe I am jaded by conforming to the 'It is what it is' mentality. In practice though, that has been my experience.
That's why it is more favorable in today's environment to have explicit rules like CoC. At least it brings people to the same understanding quicker.
It does carry risk though. When living in a world with more explicit rules, people tend to treat anything not in the rule to be OK, and ignore most implicit rules. That will rush more rules to be explicit, also, written poorly without broader debates and discussions during these rushes.
At least up to a point where some people clearly, but mostly not openly acted as if these unwritten rules don't apply to them. And these transgressions were not dealt with from management even when they became aware of it.
Was a shitty situation if one was trapped in such a bubble within the organisation.
Fast forward being acquired by a global corporation with an endless amount of rules and regulations. Nobody reads them. Everybody knows the important ones. Nonetheless nobody really cares in the global corp.
Exactly what I see happening in our part of this global org now starting. A sad situation.
Because they will be used to lawyerize innocent people out
of the organization by entryist grifters. That's what they're for, that's what they're used for.
Because code of conducts makes it easier to harass people. If there are formal rules then all a harasser has to do is to find something out of context and then start harassing the person by starting a CoC breakage investigation. Doing stuff like that without a CoC would get you kicked out.
If OP had just been informally ostracized for whatever they actually did that made them not liked, they likely wouldn't be writing this blog post. They might find a different community, they might learn the unwritten social rules, or they might never learn. But they wouldn't need to write a blog post attempting to exonerate themselves from the black mark of a "COC violation" and rationalizing how the system attacked them.
Or quickly get you fired by shaming you employer. No one want to jeopardize their jobs.
I think the meta is we have to understand we are all *-ist at some level. This is the world we were born and raised in and it is incredibly silly for me to suggest that I am somehow above my nurture.
Of course, I will deny everything if you find my real name and attach it to this post because we can't really say this out loud but just between us I think the key is to understand that we all have inherent biases and actively try to fight ones that we consider not helpful.
Since it’s fairly unlikely for similar resistance to have any effect on my career, I kind of feel inclined to always respond according to what I think, instead of what people like to hear.
In this case it actually garnered downvotes, which I found fairly surprising, given, like you said, that we all have inherent biases.
If there are multiple organisers of a conference then it makes sense for them to talk amongst themselves, decide what they disagree on, and document it.
Say I believe no swearing and no pink shirts and my co-organiser thinks no swearing and no blue shirts. It makes sense for us to sit down before the conference and document our official stance on those issues. Then when I see someone wearing a pink (or blue) shirt I know how to respond without starting a fight on the day with my co-organiser. That sort of CoC makes sense - one that the organisers use to settle their own disputes.
CoC implemented as part of some sort of rules-lawyering process are a waste of time. The as-written CoC is meaningless compared to what people organising the conference agree on.
The problem is that you'll never be able to write things down in a sufficient level of detail in a CoC to avoid this situation. Sure, your CoC details what to do when someone wears a pink shirt or a blue shirt. But what happens when someone comes in wearing a purple shirt, and you co-organizer kicks them out because "that shade of purple is too close to blue"?
I agree that conference and event organizers and moderators ought to sit down together and figure out how they resolve disputes among themselves. I disagree that a Code of Conduct is helpful in facilitating that.
I've never organised a conference, but people who have told me that there's a level of craziness that most attendees or speakers aren't exposed to. I don't know if a code of conduct makes their job easier or not, but your glib dismissal fails to take into account that conference organisers don't enjoy judicial immunity and enforcement of anything -- be it written in a code of conduct or just common sense -- can make them liable for damages. One way to protect yourself is with a system of due process, and some lawyers think that a written code is helpful in establishing due process while others disagree.
The law is complicated and expensive and painful. You need lawyers and judges and juries. People are, as you observe, severely hurt by the law.
These are reasons why we don't need some pseudo sub-law drafted quickly by amateurs. The real law still applies and the fake law is arbitrarily enforced.
Usually one or more deaths behind each of those rules.
Stupid rules come about because someone somewhere got screwed over.
The whole point of CoCs is to avoid this arbitrary enforcement. The problem in this particular case seems to be that they ignored their own CoC and picked on someone who didn't violate their CoC, while the committee did violate the CoC.
That situation is indistinguishable from not having a CoC at all. If you've got a CoC, it needs to be clear, and you need to be consistent about how you enforce it.
It has been shown plenty of times that if you don't have a CoC, there will be some people who think that racist or sexist jokes, sexual harassment, etc., are okay. They are not, and a CoC can help to make that clear. But you have to take your own CoC seriously and follow it, and not use it as an arbitrary excuse to harass people, like what seems to have happened here.
No resilient human system expects everything to be completely encoded in a written statement - it's entirely unreasonable, akin to asking one prove that unicorns don't exist.
The devil is in the implementation details and how the CoC is wielded.
But yeah, except in extreme cases, I would expect an organisation of such an event to indeed mildly tap the offender on the wrist and maybe help to prevent it in the future. Or tell the complainer that it's not actually a violation of the CoC when it isn't.
Not everything needs to be punished. Just informing people is often enough.
He's exhibiting Stockholm Syndrome. Being smart, in this case, just makes him very good at rationalizing it to himself.
But that was always the point of them. Sure they have some nice words about equality and so on, but the purpose was always to give those who produce nothing themselves power over those that do. Look at the way long standing projects have had CoC’s forced on them by recently-arrived outsiders who have barely contributed a single line of code. Look at who the first targets of the CoC committee are. It’s just bullying.
If you're interested in making spaces more welcoming and existing legal structures aren't doing the job, codes of conduct are extremely valuable.
The whole point is that the legal system is very slow, very hard to report to, and in some cases actively discourages assault / rape claims. CoCs can do better because they don't require as involved of a process
I'm not too worried about someone being banned from an event on hearsay, but I am very concerned about serial harassers
The former, while unfortunate, is not career ending. It just means they can't go back to that event. The latter scars many people and will likely cause some of them to leave tech. Also none of them will ever come back to that event.
In another comment I elaborate on what the point of a CoC is: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24930887
It makes sense to require something like 'beyond all doubt' to put someone behind bars for a few years.
It may make sense to have even stricter criteria (e.g. unanimous votes) to execute someone.
It makes sense to have lower criteria (e.g. 'preponderance of evidence') to impose a civil liability that takes all their money but does not put them in jail - there are cases of crime accusations where the level of evidence is so that were acquitted in the criminal court as the evidence was not sufficient for that, but the same evidence resulted in them being found responsible in civil court.
So it does also make sense to have a different (lower) standard of evidence and process to resolve CoC disputes, without bringing in all the heavyweight legal machinery designed for the high-stakes evaluation of whether someone's guilty of a felony. If the worst penalty that can be imposed is "our organization will consider you a baddy and won't deal with you ever again", then the accused does not need as much protection as if their life or liberty was at stake.
However, there still has to be some standard of evidence and at least some reasonable due process - in this particular case it seems that the bar has been set too low and this might need to be changed.
What does anyone think happens when an organizer breaks the code of conduct? I can write the list of actions here:
Overall it's the same kind of people, authoritarian/social dominants; see https://theauthoritarians.org/
You can in the UK: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23128956
Where do you think they come from? The issues that people have to deal with at conferences aren't new  - and when the offender is a friend of the organizer, or works on their team, having a predefined process is good.
It also means that people can't say "I didn't know it wasn't ok to ____" or "XXX punishment is too harsh" - a common issue with poor actors. A CoC means you can take action with less effort and drama when someone is being a jerk.
As far as friends of the organizers, I assume that's not settled with CoCs either. I bet if Jeremy were good friends with the right people this wouldn't have happened at all. Maybe it's not solved either in the CoC-free case, but I don't think it's worse and I think it's a relatively rare thing anyway.
It's not just correct to say that "people can't say..." Of course they can. People don't read the codes of conduct and don't know that they say. Even if they did know, the language is bound to contain ambiguity. Jeremy, for example, didn't know he wasn't allowed to disagree with people.
Genuine question for you: do you read the code of conduct at conferences you go to?
I can’t speak to who this person was or why they did this, but I did just want to mention that there is at least one good faith explanation that isn’t straight up bullying.
When I am in uncomfortable situations, I have a nervous chuckle. If I were in this call, giving this feedback to this person, I probably would have done that at least once. Thanks to some great feedback I once received, I learned that people were interpreting my nervous laughter as me thinking that what they were saying was dumb or wrong, even though this was not the case—I was just feeling anxious. It’s possible that this person really was chuckling at the OP to bully them, but it’s also equally possible that they were just feeling super nervous in an emotionally charged situation and laughed because of that.
For me, I think it's unlikely the generous interpretation is correct, for only one reason: a group of 4 of them needed to call him, rather than a 1-1 conversation. This is a group dynamic that is well understood and they knew what they were doing, using the safety and strength of a group to ensure he couldn't push back. In such a scenario, one of the participants in said group is unlikely to be nervous in that way, although it's certainly possible (especially if they know, deep down, they're being unfair and are battling heavily with that feeling -- even the group strength won't help them).
(You find zero tolerance in schools too. It's heartbreaking to see children doing innocuous things and responsible adults completely vacating any kind of responsibility or accountability.)
If you get a group of people together, everyone's going to have to put in at least a little effort to get along. If the code of conduct doesn't enshrine this then it's almost inevitably going to cause issues.
You may be able to argue that it's not a case of bullying in this narrow instance, but if the policies lead to a one-sided situation with no recourse, then it's bullying at a structural level.
In the case of both the imaginary school and the imaginary code-of-conduct committee, the task is to square the unsquarable circle of human diversity. That takes nuance, emotional intelligence and flexibility. You can never get that 100% right, and the mistake is thinking you can. That's where flexibility is important. Zero-tolerance is proudly anti-flexibility.
Either you put in the effort to construct a humane environment or you decide that it's OK to throw the out-group under a bus (easier when you can dehumanize them). The latter takes a lot less work.
The OP is not alone in that, I also chuckle/grin when under huge stress (it sometimes also happened when I heard about the very bad health condition of people really close to me), and saying that "one should get this habit under control" is like saying to depressed people just to smile so that they won't be depressed anymore (and it's also like calling depression just a "habit", but I digress).
NumFOCUS should think about this. Someone in Jeremy's position could decide to sue them. They should think carefully about how these decisions are to be communicated to the putative violator and who should do it.
If you freeze up when you see fire, you can't be a fire fighter. If you faint when you see blood, don't be a surgeon. If you can't handle the stress of ganging up on someone, don't sign up for a CoC committee.
My aunt was visiting and I wanted to show off, lost control and hit the asphalt with quite some speed. Hands and knee were all scratched up and hurt like hell and there she was, standing, laughing out loud. I recall thinking how mean that was.
While cleaning my wounds my mom explained the situation, and I've tried to keep this in mind whenever facing "inexplicable" reactions.
Especially when the CoC requires vague things like 'be kind'
Not saying "This is how it is," but rather "It's possible." Also keep in mind that we're only getting (ironically) one side of it/one person's experience with this blog post, and will likely never know what was in the mind of the one who chuckled.
If this upsets you, definitely do not research Title IX tribunals.
There's a dangerous trend where an accusation alone is enough to have people lose their jobs.
And any improper employment termination suit would be against the employer, not a conference organizer, because in a very direct sense, it's your employer that chooses whether to fire you or not.
Might be a stretch, but would likely survive summary judgment.
Ask a lawyer for a legal answer.
More often than not, these responsibilities emerge after onerous legal discourse, legal judgement, and promise of punishment.
I'm not sure what the constitution have to do with it? Inevitably, all it takes is a few court rulings in favor of defendants claiming that CoC enforcements have caused harm.
The thing HN likes to do best with any story is to generalize it and find sweeping conclusions. Here, I think the story is pretty much just: people screw up, and if your project has a code of conduct (I think most professional ones should!), there are some easy pitfalls to avoid captured here.
That doesn't mean everything needs to go through the courts; it means that if your process allows something that Anglo common law does not allow, you should have a good answer for why that is. Does it allow anonymous accusations? Is the accused allowed to know the charges against them, before a finding of guilt is rendered? Is there a presumption of innocence? Is the accused allowed to have a trusted third party - one who knows the rules of the game - to advocate on their behalf? Who, exactly, is responsible for deciding matters of fact vs matters of "law"? Is there an appeals process to fix possibly incorrect decisions?
Going by the linked document by Valerie Aurora, a good Code of Conduct allows anonymous accusations, the accused does not get to know the charges against them before a finding is rendered, there is no presumption of innocence, the accused does not get a third party advocate, matters of fact are necessarily decided by the same committee that makes the rules, and there is no appeal process.
This doesn't mean that such a committee will always do wrong. But I think it's worth thinking about how people operating in bad faith (either on the committee, or reporters to it) can abuse those features to achieve goals that are not actually aligned with what the Code of Conduct is trying to do. Yes, it's true that people can't be put in jail for these sorts of things, but a poorly-run adjudication process can have significant negative personal and financial effects on people.
We've gone out of our way to encode into law the exceptions to that rule. We can talk all we want about "anglo-derived common law" in those cases.
We can all agree that everyone has the right to be arbitrary and capricious. Codes of conduct are a formalization of expectations and rules for behavior. The are often tied (explicitly or implicitly) to an adjudication and enforcement process much more complicated than the person in charge just saying "get the fuck out".
However when someone brings up the idea of improving that bureaucratic process by comparing and contrasting Codes of Conduct language and enforcement to our society's hard-fought experience in creating fair justice systems, you retreated right back to the right to be arbitrary and capricious.
This is why people can't help but wonder: what the fuck are we trying to accomplish here? All I know is I need to publish a specific flavor of bureaucratic boilerplate so I don't get my reputation attacked for not publicly promising to kick out people I would have kicked out anyway. And that I can use that document to dole out punishments with a larger air of legitimacy and seriousness than just telling someone not to come around my place anymore.
It's not a piece of legalese with which you can bludgeon people to get your way (I mean it can be, but that is not and should not be the point)
When an organization has a code of conduct, it makes clear how I can complain about actions or events that occur under their jurisdiction. This is important because if you have high friction to reporting issues, issues don't get reported. 
What happens then? People who have legitimate grievances are the ones who stop coming around and you're left surrounded by the assholes who chased them off
The code of conduct should be cheerfully received by everyone:
1. I know that my actions are above board, because I can read what is allowed
2. I know that any actions that aren't will be reported and processed not in public (eg on Twitter) but in some sort of well-defined process
3. I know what the range of penalties can be
4. If I experience a violation caused by someone else I know how to report it
Four is arguably the most important point. Otherwise you end up with would-be coc violations adjudicated on Twitter.
 I'll add that it should also describe how people who receive reports respond and how the issue will be mediated. All of these steps are important. It's important for conference volunteers to know what to do when they receive a report. It's important that you know how to make a report.
>The code of conduct should be cheerfully received by everyone
I never cheerfully receive process. Process is valuable, process is important to have, but god-oh-god is it ever a massive pain in the ass.
Designing, drafting, implementing and refining process is HARD. I professionally maintain what I'll brazenly call "actually important" process so I don't get why everyone is so squeamish around the idea of maintaining the CoC process. (Well, I suspect that they're worried it will be corrupted by those nogoodnicks that they inartfully adopted this process to get rid of instead of growing some spine and just tossing them out on their ass in the first place.)
>legalese with which you can bludgeon people to get your way (I mean it can be, but that is not and should not be the point)
Understanding that this _will_ happen is just another part of designing process.
I think I agree with 99% of it.
I'll take the rest of this comment to note that elsewhere I'm lauding codes of conduct because they are lighter-weight than certain legal processes.
defen points out that when these constitutions tread into topics of justice, they would do well to consider how to set up a fair system and what common mistakes to avoid.
This is a reasonable point and should not be at all controversial. Do you want fair treatment?
I want to attend events with rules I like - I might like them because they're fair, I might like them because they ban symbols I find offensive.
Ultimately, it's up to the organization to define the rules, and it's up to me to decide if I want to attend an event with those rules.
If you punish anyone who has a report filed against them without evaluating those reports or requesting any proof, then you will quickly be left with a small pool of very manipulative people looking to game the system.
I posit that those who write CoCs are _precisely_ the type of people who lie. The average person DOES NOT lie as a matter of course. Small lies, bigger lies occasionally when embarassed. People who write CoCs want to control others. People who want to control others are narcissists/social dominants. Narcissists lie ALL THE TIME.
 This gets nastier when "you" is something like a corporation, a university, or the well-funded host committee of a generally public event. Legally and ethically, your latitude to exclude people from a private party is much greater than is your latitude to exclude people from a public-ish gathering that any person could show up to.
More importantly, I take the parent's point to be, not that such an organization "owes" anything to anyone, but simply that anyone formalizing a Code of Conduct and a committee to enforce it would do well to understand why the protections of due process exist. If their intention is truly to create a safe space for interaction, setting up a process that can be easily abused is not going to help with that.
I feel like this is a very important classification: Inviting someone to an event with Byzantine rules and punishments should be frowned upon.
You could argue that, if someone tells me to install a CoC or else (they will complain to my employer, and spread the message that I am a bad person), they are just exercising their right to free association and/or helping my employer and anyone who may see that messaging exercise theirs, but I think that this is very close to being a free association counterpart of the "free speech" defense of blatant slanderous misinformation, or people using a public list of businesses operated by members of a minority to inform their non-patronage.
Unless your decision involves a protected group, in which case this is a little more nuanced.
> I can throw a party
Professional organizations putting together conferences do not get the same liberties as individuals organizing family events.
Any organization without democratic checks to redistribute power to its constituents is generally seeking to hold hierarchical power over those constituents and others, and should be distrusted.
Nonetheless, if you invited a bunch of people to your party, then you and three others inexplicably ganged up on one of them, told them they were a bad person for claiming someone else was wrong, bullied them, made them cry and then banned them from future parties, then that sort of behaviour probably would get around and you'd soon develop a reputation for being an asshole.
Before today's post I had no views on JupyterCon, after today's post my view is that it seems to be run by assholes; that will certainly impact my future decisions around Jupyter and its community if I end up in a position to need to make them. That outcome could have been avoided by the advice to follow best practices from the legal system. This unfortunate blog post could have been avoided, and JupyterCon would have its reputation intact.
If you "start a project and not allow [me] to contribute" then you're by definition starting a much more traditional, hierarchical, authoritarian community, with the forms of dispute resolution you would expect there. Now that's okay, but it means that you should probably be upfront about it from the onset. And it also means you should expect pushback and accusations (probably accurate ones) of bait and switch if you change directions midway. They will say "that doesn't sound very egalitarian to me" and they will probably be correct. It shouldn't be a problem if you don't want to court that segment, or power your community through their contributions. But if you do want to court that segment, then I think they will want you to play by their rules.
I also think this is why the idea of Anglo common law was brought up. It is a form of dispute resolution which is pretty amenable to egalitarian, decentralized dispute resolution. What I like about Anglo common law is that it minimizes the need for a fair authority figure in favor of a fair autonomous process operable by a majority of equal peers:
> Does it allow anonymous accusations?
> Is the accused allowed to know the charges against them, before a finding of guilt is rendered?
> Is there a presumption of innocence?
> Is the accused allowed to have a trusted third party - one who knows the rules of the game - to advocate on their behalf?
> Who, exactly, is responsible for deciding matters of fact vs matters of "law"?
> Is there an appeals process to fix possibly incorrect decisions?
All of these concerns must be addressed to create such a system. And I think that a lot of prospective contributors (such as myself) do not want to be part of a community unless it is run by such a system. I also think that such contributors will be particularly incensed about contributing to such communities that say they are run by such systems but which are actually oligarchies. In that case, I would feel like I had originally contributed to the community as an equal, but I am instead now just a cog helping build someone else's dream. This will not just discourage me from contributing to the community, but it will make me regret ever doing so in the first place, and resent the community's leaders for lying to me.
So going back to your original example, I think you are well within your rights to start a project and not allow me to contribute. But if you do that, I think you have to be honest about what kind of community you are really building. It is one thing to say you wish to build a community through benevolent dictatorship. It is another to say you wish to build a community through distributed consensus. It's not really a two-way door. Switching directions midway can cause collateral damage with an extremely high blast radius.
They very well might. When you exercise your judgment in any way, you are liable for damages. Due process might protect you from that.
The piece is not balanced of thoughtful. The piece is crafted to present the case in a way that's immune or resilient to typical and expectable attacks. It underlined the core failings of the concept behind a CoC, and it provides a concrete example of how people use CoCs as an oppression tool that's leveraged to manipulate and condition groups to follow the leader's bidding.
> Here, I think the story is pretty much just: people screw up
It really isn't. This isn't a mere "whoopsie". This is a CoC working exactly as it's supposed to work. By design. This is exactly what they were created to achieve. A community member said something, some people didn't approved based on their personal tastes, and thus they proceeded to leverage their CoC to persecute and punish that individual to keep the community in line.
There is absolutely no other use for a CoC. This is precisely what they were created for. This is no accident or mistake.
Not sure if it's too soon to joke about this, but I find it funny that "I like Jupyter notebooks" was such a controversial opinion at JupyterCon.
(Yeah I know it was actually the mask advocacy and not the talk itself.)
I recommend watching Stephen Colbert's or Trevor Noah's talk show skits to gain an idea of why a pro-mask position is controversial in the states.
Is that what actually caused the complaints?
Given that the complainers were anonymous (thanks to the CoC process), we'll never know. But it seems like a reasonable guess.
The question was: can we find out if hidden political vendettas against OP were the cause of complaints? You're implying that, yes, we can find out, because the complainers provided a bullet point list. If the complainers had hidden political vendettas against OP, do you actually think they would have listed them in the bullet points?
That's understandable, but to me it also seems to illustrate the reason we're having this. He felt persecuted by their words. They were unkind to him, and it left him "shattered".
CoCs calling for "kindness" are put into place precisely because words have such power to harm. That vagueness makes them prone to abuse as well, but the sentiment on this thread seems to be, "Because this has the potential to harm me it must be stopped, but the kinds of harms that I could inflict on other people the same way are unimportant and do not need to be addressed."
I'm sorry he was treated this way; this doesn't seem to have been handled well. It's hard to deal with situations where multiple people are experiencing the "low emotional resilience" he cites (both himself and the apparent fragility of the person who reported him). But I think it's important to recognize that there are many "oppression tools", so it's worth reconsidering who has them even without a CoC, and how they can be countered.
Would you accept (or would one even send) an ad-hoc post-conference invite to 'talk about something you did wrong and how you should be punished' from a committee member?
Let's put it differently: without it's oppressive and persecutory function, what's the point of a CoC? To make it even simpler to you, what do you expect if someone in a community is deemed in direct violation of a CoC?
Acknowledging that people come from different backgrounds or belief systems where norms and customs are different, a good code of conduct offers a concise and easy-to-understand set of core expectations that the participants in a community agree to follow, along with a mechanism for reporting and curing violations when they occur. Curing violations should typically involve helping members learn and adopt better ways to communicate their ideas and interact with others, rather than shaming or punishing them for lacking these skills or for having a bad day.
As a gross example, a functioning code of conduct should make the difference between someone saying “I don’t understand why anyone would believe X”, which is an open statement that invites thoughtful discussion, versus “X is stupid and anyone who believes it is an idiot”, which is a closed statement that triggers fighting instead. Or, it should make the difference between someone making sexual advances at a professional conference because they think it’s what the other person wants, versus someone not engaging in that behaviour—even if they still think that—because it’s outside of the norms listed in the code of conduct.
It is certainly the case that codes of conduct are sometimes abused to create cultural echo chambers. This isn’t because the concept of a code of conduct is flawed; rather, it is often (in my experience) because people adopt CoCs without having the knowledge and skill necessary to administer them. When this happens, the CoC can become a mechanism for suppressing disagreement instead of a mechanism for creating a healthy environment where ideas and relationships can thrive despite disagreement.
I think the challenge is in enforcement. A code of conduct should be a measure of last resort. In your example:
> a functioning code of conduct should make the difference between someone saying “I don’t understand why anyone would believe X”, which is an open statement that invites thoughtful discussion, versus “X is stupid and anyone who believes it is an idiot”, which is a closed statement that triggers fighting instead.
I don't think that the code of conduct should be invoked the first time someone steps a bit onto the side of expressing something in a hostile way. When collages are in the process of solving real problems, and getting real work done, it can be the case that disagreements occasionally get heated. If someone steps a bit over the line in terms of how they express themselves in such a disagreement, the first response should be for a colleague to put the metaphorical hand on the shoulder and invite the offender to reign it in a bit, equal-to-equal, rather than invoking the authority of the CoC right away. If someone repeatedly demonstrates abusive behavior, then it makes sense to escalate this to a matter of community governance.
It's certainly not ideal if people express themselves in a hurtful or inflammatory way, but if everyone is self-censoring for fear of punishment, it can negatively affect the quality of work that gets done.
Declaring that “X is stupid and anyone who believes it is an idiot” without any discriminatory intent is definitely in bad taste, but should _absolutely not_ be grounds for a CoC violation or any kind of punishment, other than "your talks are obnoxious and we're not going to be inviting you or accepting your papers anymore".
My take is that the problem with this code of conduct was that it was dumb. I want to recommend to you the degree to which it is easy and relaxing to just acknowledge that and move on, maybe with a note or two about what not to do in any code of conduct you write. It seems --- I could be wrong, I started today confidently wrong about bay leaves --- like the alternative is an exhausting vigilance about conspiracies to control and persecute. Even if you're right, nobody is going to believe you, so what's the point in letting your pulse quicken?
Is this a widespread problem in software-related communities? I'm genuinely asking, because if it is maybe I am just not aware of it, but for example in the open-source projects I have been involved with the conversations tend to be extremely focused on the subject matter, and I'm not even aware of the race or gender of the people I'm conversing with.
20 years back (in Debian) there was some banter on the mailing lists, but never of that nature. It was mainly jokes about women. The community was primarily of young males, and that did stop as more women got involved. However, I should state for completeness that none of it was anything that anyone should have been banned over; sometimes a joke was just a joke, before humour was effectively outlawed lest anyone get even slightly offended.
The laziest of Google searches quickly found people being racist on GitHub (... to a GitHub employee! With their own, non anonymous accounts!): https://www.tinykat.cafe/on-all-that-fuckery
(This incident also made it to hn iirc, but maybe you didn't read it that day)
Seems like a very generous reading of what the person I'm specifically responding to said
If you are a woman or black or ... you will very likely experience sexism or racism. You will probably also see more, because you are used to identifying it.
If you say "a third  of the people in this group experience a bad thing" I would say that's pretty wide-spread.
The OP was specifically saying "it's not widespread, I've never seen it" 
I'm not trying to claim there's a nefarious subtext. I'm not saying the op is sexist or racist. I'm just trying to point out that a lot of people experience this, and one of the stated goals of CoCs in open source or at conferences is to help combat it. I think that's a good thing, and while you or perhaps others have pointed out that a community could combat such negative behavior without a CoC, the CoC does give some indication of how such behavior will be dealt with (before I join the community/attend the conference), which can increase my confidence recommending a conference or increase someone else's confidence attending (or participating in an open source community etc)
 not a real quote so please correct me if it's way off, I'm being lazy
Also, I know they were referring to open source - maybe they've seen workplace sexism etc and were specifically excluding that. In that case I'm definitely misquoting and apologize
It's just hard to imagine how racism or sexism would enter into to a community like this because the race and sex of the participants is not known, and you're not even discussing races or genders at all, heck you're generally not discussing people at all.
It happens. People leave tech communities because of it. I don't know what else to tell you. I've provided citations to this effect in a bunch of other comments.
It's important to note, though, that people can do or say racist or sexist things without targeting it at someone. That would still impact someone's decision to stay in the community, even if the person who said it didn't mean to offend them.
However, they aren't. They require moderation because people are rude even when not anonymous.
Here's a quote from the vscode repo moderators:
> We deleted a handful of comments which we deemed too offensive to leave as-is (foul language, racist remarks, etc.). We also deleted a few issues that were overwhelmingly offensive. Unfortunately, that resulted in some non-offensive comments within those issues being deleted as well.
Surely you can't continue to claim that open source communities do not suffer from such issues, now, right?
> a way to assure newcomers that your project wasn't going to allow racist trolling on the mailing list
This is what seems a bit funny to me, because I would take it for granted that racist remarks would not be tolerated as a matter of course. It doesn't seem to me that you need a CoC to enforce this.
And I would repeat that in my personal experience, having been involved with OSS discussions for over 10 years, I have never personally encountered this.
What it does is sets expectations. It sets expectations for everyone involved in any interactions. In general, this should give you confidence that there will be some moderation or recourse if you experience rude behavior. That may allow some people who have been burned by ruder communities to be willing to give yours a try.
 if you think this is "just a c++ problem" you're going to be very disappointed
The boost community has managed to lose a large number of very technically proficient people who were tired of dealing with racism/sexism
JeanHeyd came to prominence a few years ago with some stellar open source libraries and gave some pretty good conference talks & joined the c++ committee.
Throughout his continued work in the c++ community, he ran into a lot of... unnecessary, non-technical feedback.
At some point, he got fed up with it all and created this.
Within the c++ community there are people who are known to be particularly toxic, fwiw, and some of this is calling them out specifically.
I think everyone who has attended a committee meeting knows who/what he is talking about.
There's also an additional bit, where he managed a discord server for one of his open source projects. When discussing Black Is Tech, he got racist pushback.
Hopefully this helps add a little bit of context.
I don't think it's too important to understand the details. The tl;dr is that an extraordinary developer, speaker, committee member left the community because he found it to be hostile
That's a fact, and it's one engineers should be reckoning with. Your actions matter.
The implication being that every project without an established code of conduct is awash with racism?
Exhausting vigilance about conspiracies indeed.
Problems such as a plague of racist jokes aren't omnipresent, but they show up often enough in the world that a little signpost at the front door about expectations can help with first impressions and understanding the community.
The problem is the weaponization against random people for obscure reasons. The blog poster here didn't make a presentation full of racist jokes, it's not even clear what they did.
Lawful evil anti-social people exist in the world, we shouldn't let them bully people just because they're waving a rainbow flag while doing so.
Fun straw man though
Bay leaves work their magic in stews, especially beans. Not much else. (I absolute hate licorice btw).
On the other hand, I had seen americans before to mistake bay leaves and cherry laurel. Specially when trying to harvest leaves in gardens. Don't do that. They look similar but cherry laurel contains cyanide.
Certainly it is interesting to consider the set of circumstances that give victimhood and fragility such power to those who claim it.
That's quite the inversion. It is interesting that the people who focus so much on the analysis of hierarchies to the point where they see them everywhere and assert the unjustness of hierarchy qua hierarchy end up just inverting these hierarchies and using their power to tyrannize other people.
What does that say about the people that allow them to do that?
> There is absolutely no other use for a CoC. This is precisely what they were created for.
> There is absolutely no other use for a CoC. This is precisely what they were created for. This is no accident or mistake.
I run groups that use a CoC and I assure you that they aren't supposed to work like this, weren't created for this and it is a mistake if they are.
> There is absolutely no other use for a CoC.
Sure there is. It's a good way to keep racist and sexist trolling and harrassment out of talks.
This sounds terrible and I guess I'll have to modify our CoC to deal with it when it occurs.
OTOH, we've had frequent cases of sexual harassment (primarily men hitting on women at events) and a CoC has been extremely useful in dealing with those situations.
This seems like a pretty reasonable use for a CoC in my view--flirting isn't ubiquitously taboo (unlike racism, trolling, or overt sexual harassment) nor should it be, but it's understandable that a community would prefer to just prohibit it outright and set that expectation clearly up front.
CoCs should focus narrowly on this kind of thing (of course, without giving the impression that these are the only offenses that a person might be kicked out for), and proponents of CoCs should talk about this. Instead, much of this thread is talking about racist trolling, as though CoCs are necessary or sufficient for dissuading a racist troll (everyone understands racism is unacceptable; if you're motivated to cross that line anyway, a CoC isn't going to deter you).
Heck, I once shared such a story and got labeled, with zero evidence, as someone “who like to casually throw around homophobic slurs”: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21173970 Thankfully the community flagged that attack.
This is what intelligent people do. They recognize patterns and extrapolate. At this point the vast majority of people have experienced variations of what this guy has gone through.
In my own experience I have seen the exact same pattern of behavior in a slack community set up for my town.
> This is one of those posts where the title is going to trigger a lot of unproductive subthreads,
They seem quite productive to me. This sort of pathological behavior is increasingly common and finally people are willing and able to talk about it in public.
Any level of intelligence does this. How well one extrapolates varies, and extrapolation is always eventually wrong.
As far as HN goes, I use the term "intelligent" quite loosely but one of the hallmarks of intelligence is pattern recognition.
Christ I wish.
This is the kind of rhetoric I'm referring to when I say Kafkaesque. These people derive power from being victims so if they are given this benefit of the doubt you are granting them where the onus is on some person to walk on eggshells lest that person upset the perpetually upset these perpetual victims will of course announce they are upset and victimized no matter what is said, thus fending off any attack.
Kafka would be proud.
The article explicitly argues CoC's should be done better, but it's also a story of collateral damage. The author might believe these issues are infrequent and a non-issue but not all the readers share this belief and I don't think there is anything wrong with that reaction.
I wouldn't call that an "invalid" opinion or critique, and again I would think it's an expected reaction. But it would be overly broad, based solely on that incident. Of course we don't exist in a vacuum, so I'd expect that other information would be brought in to support such an argument. Fair enough.
However, an argument that draws an isomorphic relationship between the ability to target a document and the ability to target a bomb is probably attempting to draw outside the lines.
(Particularly since in this case, it's equivalent to the victim of the bombing being the one who is reporting on the incident and quite clearly stating despite what they've been through "I support the thoughtful bombing of terrorists, but that is not what happened in this case.")
> It's more like if the U.S. accidentally bombs a civilian caravan and the response is "this shows why we should not have foreign policy.”
I don't know where I stand on CoCs in general, but saying "See this is why CoCs are bad" is like saying "See this is why we shouldn't punish someone for murder" when someone gets thrown in jail for murder and all parties agree that that the person did not kill anyone (though one side claims that what they did was still "murder").
Lately I've been actively avoiding giving my time to open source projects that have CoC's like the Contributor Covenant, mainly because - if my experience is anything to go by - they are a strong signal that the kind of people I wish to avoid will be involved. I want to contribute things that (hopefully) improve the world in objective ways, not be involved in the wrangling and petty politics of a fiefdom just so I can get something like a bug report considered.
If I had to choose one CoC to implement, it would be NCoc.
Is this demand driven by good intentions? By a genuine desire to improve diversity? To attract those who might otherwise feel less safe?
Is this demand driven by a "fear of being left out" because big names in tech are setting an example?
Is this demand entirely artificial, driven by power hungry people wallowing in self importance?
I don't have any answers here. I'm just curious. I can certainly agree with wanting to help rid the world of sexism and racism. I'm not sure whether a tech conference or open source project is the best forum for that change.
As to their intentions, I'm not sure they're that relevant (I'm sure they'd believe they were good intentions anyway), but I think our intentions are. They say "we want to increase diversity" and "we want to end sexism and racism", so in comes a "kind" CoC, and because the majority do have good intentions and share these laudable goals there is agreement, forgetting that famous old adage "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions" and before you know it the definitions of racism and sexism have been changed to a point that vilifies the majority and a small group are wielding outsized power via terms and conditions that we all signed.
I've a feeling it mirrors the culture wars on social media, and even contains some of the same members of the 12% minority cited there.
If you can accept that a small portion of adults have judgement poor enough to cause big problems, then it doesn't seem like a big leap to accept that another larger portion of adults have judgement at a level which lacks confidence to trust assumptions in uncomfortable, high risk situations. Perhaps this is the group served by CoC?
And then you start listing some of the issues that arise with these and defenders quickly respond that the problems are edge cases and usually the conversationd devolves from there.
It's coming from SJW's and similar far leftists who virtue signal. Yet people keep pandering to them, and now they're paying the price.
The actual CoC is fine, but the FAQ breaks things down.
Not to get all relativist, but "improve" and "objective" in the same sentence is quite the oxymoron. Ask any two randomly picked people in the world how to improve said world and you'll find they have very different, subjective, ideas of what that means.
I don't like notebooks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jiPeIFXb6U) by Joel Grus
I like notebooks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q6sLbz37gk) by Jeremy Howard
notebooks are a very interesting medium and they have both shortcomings as well as things they are great at and neither were totally obvious to me.
Having watched Howard's talk, clearly he's right and the conference was wrong. This was respectful and appropriate, period. Someone clearly had an axe to grind about a separate topic.
That said, some of the comments here are just off the wall paranoia, and really distasteful. I mean, look: while it was enforced badly it's certainly not innapropriate for a conference to demand, y'know, that it's speakers not be assholes. There was a real and pretty awful culture in the open source world about this stuff for a long time, and it's a good thing that we're cleaning that up.
Even in cases where someone was violating their CoC, they should have lived up to their own states process and held themselves to a much much higher standard.
Yes, trying to weed out “assholes” is a good objective, but that doesn’t mean you can go about it any which way without yourself being a monumental asshole. CoC’s very point is to be consistent and open about your process. If you throw out the outlines process the second someone sends a report and only use it for its waist ace so you can say “you violated CoC” without any mention to which parts, then it’s not worth 2 cents.
To me, that seems like a massive over-reaction or massively uncharitable interpretation of the talk focused on a single point of disagreement, which was done quite respectfully from what I watched.
Some people are power hungry and use words to get power. They are exposing themselves in the silliest ways. Pure vanity.
But that's their only usecase, isn't it?
CoCs are just a convenient document aimed at helping out Cardinal Richelieus finding ways to hang you under the guise of breaking acceptable conduct.
I mean, CoCs aren't aimed at changing people and make everyone nice. CoCs are aimed at providing a basis to persecute those who arguably don't comply with a given notion of acceptable conduct, punish them for their sins, and turn them into examples to enforce a chilling effect on the community.
This example shows a CoC working exactly as it was intended to work.
People have turned a blind eye to the oppressive and abusive nature of the CoC concept because they tend to believe that it can only ever oppress those we deem undesirable. But unless you're the one doing the oppression, nothing ensures that the rules only apply to those you don't like.
I thought they were used to codify acceptable and unacceptable conduct.
I think part of the problem is that most CoCs are copy-paste jobs. They're put in place as a matter of fashion. What they really need to be is a statement on the commitments of the leadership. And they are meaningless if the leadership is not trained on those commitments.
They really have, because that's the sole reason they exist.
It's like arguing that a oppressive totalitarian regime doesn't have to oppress their citizens.
> (...) they can be tools to communicate to good-faith actors that they will be welcome and safe.
CoCs aren't welcoming letters. CoCs are designed with the express purpose of letting you know that you will be punished if you do or say anything that the leader's deem unacceptable, and to be used as the basis for persecuting and punishing you if you still fail to fall in line and comply with the leadership's will.
Hell, you don't need to communicate to anyone that they can and will be safe. Either that's already implied, or means nothing if you don't plan to act on it. In fact, it's patently wrong that the goal is safety. It is not. The goal is compliance and submissiveness.
A very large group of people have stated many times that that is not the case. They do not feel safe. It's continued assertions that bludgeoning people is the sole reason CoCs exist that make those people feel like they are being completely ignored.
> or means nothing if you don't plan to act on it
That is literally what I said. "And they are meaningless if the leadership is not trained on those commitments."
But what does that even mean in the context of an open source project? How is anyone actually “unsafe” from someone who may be on another continent and have no idea where they live? The word “unsafe” doesn’t mean anything any more, it’s just used to silence debate. “I feel unsafe so you should merge my PR without doing any code review” is what they mean.
An alternate possibility is that you don't understand what people mean when they say they feel unsafe. Do you feel you have invested effort into empathizing with these concerns, or would you say your are more dismissive?
That is a possibility, but it’s unreasonable to expect that a person can redefine a common word in their own mind and expect everyone else to telepathically know what they “mean”. Especially in a primarily text based medium.
I mean, the word is used a lot. You even referenced it being commonly used. Have you tried to understand it?
It is enough now.
And this is coming from someone who wasn't allowed to play in the schoolyard as a child, someone who was knocked in the head by an older classmate, got beaten etc while teachers looked the other way. This went on until I learned to fight back and I got a teacher who didn't care that I was outgroup and stood up for me.
My mind and body knows a bit about this and I'm confident that what we are seing here isn't a solution rather than extremists making things worse.
One aspect of this newfangled definition of safe is that women can feel confident existing in a space without fear of being sexually harassed. Is that worth considering? Is that a political game?
That the current approach is playing right into the hands of the bullies.
Or do you think it is the awkward ones who are sitting on the CoC tribunal?
As far as I can see this is yet another place for the socially and politically strong ones to get their way.
> One aspect of this newfangled definition of safe is that women can feel confident existing in a space without fear of being sexually harassed. Is that worth considering? Is that a political game?
I'm absolutely fine with women feeling safe. In fact there are at least a couple of women around who are thankful because I have fixed them a job or something. (To be clear, I help everyone, not only women.)
It is absolutely worth considering such things, which is why we (at least were I live) have laws against such things, and also why I am in favour of those laws.
What I am not in favour of is independent kangaroo courts popping up everywhere, making up rules as they go, combining the role of judge, jury and executioner etc.
Kangaroo courts are for war, and even then only when there's no other option.
Would it be fair to say that you believe the majority of CoC reports are due to a misunderstanding of a well-intentioned behavior on the part of an awkward individual? If so, where does this idea come from?
> It is absolutely worth considering such things, which is why we (at least were I live) have laws against such things, and also why I am in favour of those laws.
To pursue something legally requires a formal legal process, evidence, lawyers, etc., and has strict penal consequences. Would you consider there is a need for a more informal process where the consequences is being kicked out of an event?
> I'm absolutely fine with women feeling safe.
But you aren't fine with an organization creating rules to help women feel safe. Why is it an abuse of power, acting as "judge, jury and executioner," to remove someone from an event or organization who causes women to feel uncomfortable?
It wasn't until PyCon that I considered anyone could be for for a joke(?) told to a friend next to you, overheard by someone who was supposed to be a developer advocate!.
But not a developer themselves. The industry is overrun with these “tech-adjacent” roles that add only marginal value, if any. Members of this group seem to be the driving force behind CoCs.
If you don't understand why it's necessary at times to clearly state what bigotry is, and why it's unacceptable, than you need to learn a bit more about diversity topics.
They (CoC)s shouldn't be used to play power games. It's totally appropriate to call out situations where a CoC is used incorrectly.
Oh really? This discussion is about someone that was persecuted and punished for violating a CoC. Do you see any bigotry involved in this story?
Maybe it's worth looking at this comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24945750
According to Wikipedia, No true Scotsman, or appeal to purity, is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition in an ad hoc fashion to exclude the counterexample. Rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any new specific objective rule or criterion: "no true Scotsman would do such a thing"; i.e., those who perform that action are not part of our group and thus criticism of that action is not criticism of the group.
Now, with this definition in mind, let's review the context of this discussion:
> Using CoC's to backstab people is not going to end well.
> But that's their only usecase, isn't it?
> No, CoCs are meant to clearly state that bigotry is unacceptable.
> Oh really? This discussion is about someone that was persecuted and punished for violating a CoC. Do you see any bigotry involved in this story?
> This discussion is about someone being punished by a committee for something that wasn’t in the CoC, as you can read in the article.
So there was a debate about whether CoCs can be used as a weapon. gwbas1c rejected the idea that CoCs could be used as a weapon. barumi referenced OP article as a counter-example, to demonstrate an instance where a CoC was used as a weapon. pindab0ter then resorted to a "no true scotsman" fallacy to reject this counter-example. According to pindab0ter, this was not a "true" example of someone utilizing a CoC for attacking people, because the victim feels like they did not violate the CoC to an extent where such an attack was justified. This line of reasoning can be used to exclude all examples of people using a CoC as a weapon. After all, if someone feels like they violated a CoC and deserved their punishment, then they wouldn't characterize the situation as an "attack" in the first place.
barumi referenced OP article as an example of CoC as a weapon.
pindab0ter argues this not a fault in the CoC itself per se, but in how it was enforced.
That's a rather charitable interpretation.
The context here was weaponization of CoCs, and OP article was referenced as an example of this weaponization. It seems very clear to me that spindab0ter was arguing that this is not an example of weaponizing the CoC.
Your alternative interpretation doesn't really resonate for me, because it sounds like a "no no, guys, there was nothing at fault in the CoC itself" to a subthread where nobody claimed there was anything wrong with the contents of the CoC in the first place.
Edit: I'm not sure what is even meant by "weaponize." Is the implication that somebody at the conference had vendetta against OP? It's clear that CoCs give people more power, which is a weapon, in a sense. Would reporting someone for CoC violation for sexual misconduct at a conference be an example of weaponization?
I don't think pindab0ter would agree with this interpretation. @pindab0ter, if you are still following the thread, can you clarify this with a yes/no answer: do you count the OP article as an example of CoC weaponization?
> I'm not sure what is even meant by "weaponize." Is the implication that somebody at the conference had vendetta against OP?
> It's clear that CoCs give people more power, which is a weapon, in a sense. Would reporting someone for CoC violation for sexual misconduct at a conference be an example of weaponization?
Well, if you dislike someone's political views, and then you hatch a plan to make up fraudulent sexual misconduct allegations with the hope of "canceling" someone, I would describe that as "weaponizing" the CoC. But if the allegations are genuine and without ulterior motives, then I would not use that terminology.
Really? I thought it was more people being overly sensitive, and the enforcement team not using their brains. I think pindab0ter would agree that it was improper enforcement of the CoC. I'm not sure anybody can speak to the intentions of the people that reported it with certainty.
> Well, if you dislike someone's political views, and then you hatch a plan to make up fraudulent sexual misconduct allegations with the hope of "canceling" someone, I would describe that as "weaponizing" the CoC
Is that consistent with the thread? Are you arguing that the majority of CoC reports are outright lies? I thought this thread was about the use of CoC to enforce a code of behavior, and if stringent enforcement counts as misuse.
Let's stop the speculation on what pindab0ter would or would not agree with. Clearly you and I interpret their message in completely different ways, so unless they want to come back to clarify their statement, let's just stop with the speculation.
> Is that consistent with the thread? Are you arguing that the majority of CoC reports are outright lies? I thought this thread was about the use of CoC to enforce a code of behavior, and if stringent enforcement counts as misuse.
Look, you asked me to define "weaponize" within a specific context. So I gave you 2 examples: one where I thought use of the term would be appropriate, and one where I thought the term would not be appropriate. I was trying to answer your question about the definition of a word, that's all. I have no idea what proportion of CoC reports are outright lies or half-truth motivated by hidden agendas.
Also, I don't like that you're trying to reframe OP's experience as "stringent enforcement". The case described in OP is clearly selective enforcement, which is pretty much the opposite of stringent.
> I think pindab0ter would agree that it was improper enforcement of the CoC
Does that seem like speculation? This thread is getting a little disjointed. We can't seem to agree on anything.
We already went over this; you interpret pindab0ter's message in an entirely different way than I do. When pindab0ter says "punished by a committee for something that wasn’t in the CoC", you somehow interpret that as "improper enforcement of the CoC", whereas I interpret that as enforcement action unrelated to the CoC.
Anyway, there's no point continuing this. I think it's pretty clear what pindab0ter was trying to say, but you have a completely different interpretation. Unless pindab0ter wants to come back and clarify, let's just stop this here.
That's not what I said.
You seem to be focused on detailed differences in meaning but missing the thrust of these arguments. You claimed Scotsman fallacy to a perceived specific meaning of the sentence, but it didn't fit in context. In general you seem to be not aware of the contextual meaning of what anybody has said here.
> That's not what I said.
Yes it is, you literally just said "I think pindab0ter would agree that it was improper enforcement of the CoC". See, you said "enforcement of the CoC". As in, CoC was the thing that was being enforced. Now you're trying to claim that "enforcement" was not related to "the CoC" in that sentence? Wow.
If you took a random person off the street, showed them that sentence, and then asked "what was being enforced", any English speaking person would be able to identify "CoC" as the thing that was being enforced (albeit it was enforced improperly). So clearly, in that sentence, the enforcement action was in some way related to the CoC. I don't know what kind of mental gymnastics you're trying to pull by claiming that the sentence means something else.
> You seem to be focused on detailed differences in meaning but missing the thrust of these arguments. You claimed Scotsman fallacy to a perceived specific meaning of the sentence, but it didn't fit in context. In general you seem to be not aware of the contextual meaning of what anybody has said here.
Look, I was trying to be nice earlier when I said that you and I interpret pindab0ter's words in a different way, and that we should leave it at that. I don't actually think your interpretation is plausible. I think it's obvious to anyone who read the original comments in context, that pindab0ter didn't consider OP to be an example of "weaponizing a CoC". You can play word games all day long and talk down in a condescending tone, but I don't know what you're hoping to achieve with that.
I said "improper enforcement of the CoC". As an example, "improper enforcement of the law" might suggest that something was enforced which wasn't the law. Is there a reason you're set on this interpretation of my words?
In this, and the Scotsman case, you seem to have chosen an interpretation fits your argument. I'm not sure this is a good way to carry on a conversation, though. This whole discussion was about whether pindab0ter made a valid point. It's not clear to me you are interested in understanding the point made. Maybe it's easier for you to label it as a fallacy. I know that's something I do frequently when I don't understand something -- assume it's incorrect.
No, you can't keep making up new meanings for words. "Enforcement of the law" means that law was being enforced. When you add "improper" in the front of it, it means that law was being enforced improperly. For example, when a police officer harasses a person on the pretext of enforcing the law, that would be improper law enforcement.
> This whole discussion was about whether pindab0ter made a valid point. It's not clear to me you are interested in understanding the point made. Maybe it's easier for you to label it as a fallacy.
If pindab0ter wants to come here to clarify that they actually meant that OP is a valid example of enforcing a CoC, I will take their word for it. Otherwise, I'm not going to entertain "hidden meanings" for the words that they already spoke, I'm going to assume that they meant what they said.
To be clear, in this example, the officer is enforcing a law that doesn’t exist.
> Otherwise, I'm not going to entertain "hidden meanings" for the words that they already spoke, I'm going to assume that they meant what they said.
Be honest with yourself.
Ordinary people still get in trouble because others enjoy being judge, jury and executioner.
Both are opinions, and I honestly don't see why one would be bigotry, but not the other. Hence the only thing I conclude is that CoCs are actually about politics, but framed in a very nice way, pretending to be based on empathy and inclusion, making them very hard to object to.
To use an extreme example for the sake of discussion, would you similarly feel that excluding a skinhead with Swastika face tattoos from a scientific conference constitutes an unacceptable example of political oppression? If not, is it because they cause minoritized people to feel unsafe and unwelcome? Where do you believe the line should be drawn?
Can you expand on this, explain the connection? In particular, why the former (belief) would influence the latter (behavior)?
I firmly believe, based on overwhelming evidence, that genetics makes most people perform terribly in technical roles. Fortunately, there are a few bright, above-average exceptions that perform amazingly. If someone proves they're competent, I'll treat them competently, but at the same time it doesn't make sense to assume that the average person could be anywhere near competent.
Edit: answer to your second question: I try to be inclusive, I don't believe in drawing lines, at least not when it comes to belief (only behavior).
It's not universally the case, to be sure. If you voice your belief that women are intellectually inferior, you will likely make them feel excluded. In general, there is a relationship between a person's beliefs and behaviors which I regard as self-evident.
> Edit: answer to your second question: I try to be inclusive, I don't believe in drawing lines, at least not when it comes to belief (only behavior).
People tend to act in accordance with their beliefs. I don't think I track your perspective. Do you really believe that, say, a person with white supremecist beliefs, again, as an extreme example, will generally act welcoming toward minorities? You seem to believe, well, as long as they don't explicitly disrespect someone, it's fine. But social behavior is a lot more subtle. People can tell if you hate them.
Professionals tend to act professionally. Just because most people are horny & sexual doesn't mean that they need to hump each other at work or at conferences. I expect professional behavior regardless of your personal beliefs. Now, personally I'd prefer people to also look professional (fully clothed, no religious symbols, ...) so I wouldn't necessarily disagree with such rules, but they're usually (as evidenced by this very OP) applied inconsistently, politically.
> but they're usually (as evidenced by this very OP) applied inconsistently, politically
Do you have the impression OP was a political disagreement?
> Professionals tend to act professionally.
Yes, but people aren't robots. These are still human interactions between people. You develop personal relationships at conferences, or fail to. People with a hostile attitude toward minoritized groups, whether explicitly expressed or not, are going to make these people feel less welcome, and as a result, they will have a worse outcome at the conference.
In the US, we've usually had reasonable parties in power, so it really didn't matter what your politics were.
Now... Not so much; and it goes both ways, too. There are loonies on both sides of the aisle.
I've always seen CoCs as needed for situations where a conference has a transgender person and a "poorly socialized conservative." Or a Christian proudly wearing a cross and a "poorly socialized liberal." Situations are even simpler; it could be a conference with a female speaker and a man who still believes in strict gender roles.
Unfortunately, the above situations come down to "political belief."
In general CoCs enforce a very American world view, one where I as a non-American do not feel welcome.
The big theme in all the most exasperating cases, whether to do with HOAs, CoC enforcement, or even the police seems to involve:
1. wide difference between rules as written and agreed to versus how they are applied
2. unchecked power for enforcers, who can flout punishment/scrutiny, as above, for reasons below
3. insufficient interest from parties not directly impacted
On the other hand, the whole CoC thing feels like it was created by people on a power trip, and/or as a virtue signalling instrument to appear "inclusive", and/or a convenient character assassination tool that can be selectively enforced. Keep in mind that "violation of the code of conduct" sounds much worse than "this person offended me/made me uncomfortable" even though in most cases they are used to refer to the same thing.
People for the most part know how to behave themselves, disagreements can be resolved in private between the involved parties and if someone keeps being a dick you just don't engage with them (note that a CoC will not change anything if the person intends to keep harassing their victim). We've been working fine like that, both online and in the real world without any CoC (the law is enough to deal with actually serious cases).
A CoC doesn't add anything to people already acting in good faith (other than being a thing they can be "cancelled" about), but does nothing against a dedicated malicious actor who couldn't care less about it anyway.
Someone wanting to instigate drama and intentionally get offended must've said something about "inclusivity", everyone jumped on it as a virtue-signalling tool and now here we are.
> We've been working fine like that, both online and in the real world without any CoC
I'm not sure what you consider "fine". Misogyny has been par for the course for a long time. Not to mention verbal degradation of e.g. ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. We have not suddenly removed these formerly accepted behaviors, even though things have gotten better.
It is possible that there really isn't a problem in communities you engage with, and that consequently their CoCs make little positive impact. But do you really know what kinds of inappropriate remarks e.g. women around you face? It is easy to dismiss anyone who had such negative experiences as a professional victim, but surely the world doesn't just consist of "perfectly reasonable and encompassing people that know better than to offend", "harassers that purposely ignore any community guidelines"?
In short: Yes, CoC creation and enforcement will naturally appeal to certain groups of people that have more personal motives than those of the community. The same is true of HOA, police, unions, workers' councils and so on. But please be careful to dismiss their usefulness due to this.
While I don't think this point is necessarily wrong, surely we can agree that in recent years there has been expansion of what is considered abuse. As with any push to change ideas, not everyone is on-board.
Is being subjected to a micro-aggression abuse? 20 years ago you'd only get a "yes" from a few activists / academics. Today you'll find a vocal (and growing) minority claiming it is a form of violence.
We don't all agree on the new rules, and CoCs are a method of making everyone follow them.
Indeed! See "Misogyny was par for the course". I understand that's not what you are getting at specifically, but the whole point is that just because it's been acceptable before doesn't mean that it's right.
> We don't all agree on the new rules, and CoCs are a method of making everyone follow them.
Exactly! The intent is to cause a change in behavior, and that's not going to happen if everybody has to sign off on it. Most people don't like having to change their behavior.
Again, CoC enforcement is not without its flaws, and policing interpersonal interaction is never going to be a hard and fast thing. But CoCs give everyone tools to nudge behavior away from what is objectively causing (subjective) distress.
Rebelled against? By whom? If you want to speak at this conference, you have to play by their rules or you won't get invited. Even if you do get invited, and you're not nice, you'll get humiliated and driven to tears. If there's going to be a rebellion, it's by would-be speakers at the conference, but that would be against their own interest: they like to speak at conferences, so they won't. So anyone who wants to speak at this conference will be turning a blind eye to this. Would-be attendees also won't be making a fuss, conferences with interesting speakers tend to attract large crowds. A handful of would-be rebels won't make any difference.