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> but the piece itself seems pretty balanced and thoughtful

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.




> 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.

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.)


Can someone give me the tl;dr of what the author's "mask advocacy" was and why it's so controversial? He only alludes to it in passing in the piece.


The author was one of the primary drivers of widespread mask adoption for Covid transmission suppression, by popularizing epidemiological and public health evidence.

See: https://masks4all.co/about-us/


I don't understand. Why would mask advocacy mean the CoC people have a vendetta against him? Is the conference run by Trump acolytes?


Wearing masks for covid prevention it seems like


> why it's so controversial?

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.


> (Yeah I know it was actually the mask advocacy and not the talk itself.)

Is that what actually caused the complaints?


> 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.


Why would we never know? Quoting from the blog post: "The specific reasons given were that [...]" followed by a bullet list. Your guess is unwarranted speculation.


> Why would we never know? Quoting from the blog post: "The specific reasons given were that [...]" followed by a bullet list. Your guess is unwarranted speculation.

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?


Exactly what punishment was given here? I've read the piece several times, and couldn't figure it out. The most negative thing that was done to him was that they found him to have violated the Code. If there was a punishment, he seems to have found it less doleful than the finding itself and the process by which it came about.

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.


From what i can tell there was no punishment, he opted out of the process before the "next steps" phase. Or in other words, the process itself was the punishment-- being called in front of a tribunal and scolded by strangers.


You realise conference organisers can do the very same thing without a code of conduct, right? That a code of conduct can be used as an "oppression tool" doesn't mean that its absence doesn't lead to even more "oppression". If you want to compare the relative merit of two things, like having a code or not, you need to consider both sides rather than just point out the perceived downsides of one.


I'm curious how you think they would achieve the same without a Code of Conduct, the acquired public support and the pseudo-court-system that comes with it.

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?


Exertion of power does not require a pseudo-court-system and it can be exerted in the furtherance of fairness just as much as in its hindrance (people are also punished because there's no enforcement of some behaviour). Again, to discuss whether something is worth doing or not, you have to consider all the upsides and all the downsides of doing it as well as those of not doing it.


If they do it without, they have to own the decision. The CoC provides plausible deniability that it was personal.


It also makes it less likely to actually be personal. I don't think anyone claims that due process is always free of bias and error, but that doesn't make it more likely to be more biased.


Well, that is a take. It feels like it must be exhausting to have that take, and I certainly don't share it, but I acknowledge that it is one.


It is not a take. It's an objective description of what a CoC is and how it is designed to be used. There is no way around it. At all. I'm surprised you feel the need to turn a blind eye to this fact.

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?


Like any other system of laws, a code of conduct necessarily restricts the boundaries of what one individual is allowed to do in order to ensure there is a safe space for others. When used correctly, instead of inhibiting the free exchange of ideas, a CoC helps keep participants in an open and receptive mindset instead of a closed and defensive one.

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[0]. 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.

[0] https://waitbutwhy.com/2019/10/idea-labs-echo-chambers.html


In general I agree with your point that communities often need some sort of guard rails to ensure that they can stay productive, especially as a community grows.

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.


You inadvertently proved a point here on misuse of code of conducts.

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".


Hm, and me I thought most of them were just a way to assure newcomers that your project wasn't going to allow racist trolling on the mailing list.

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?


> racist trolling on the mailing list

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.


I have never encountered this in 23 years of participating in open source projects of all kinds.

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.


I don't think so. I have never seen it happen in my 10 years in open source.


If you've never seen racist trolling on GitHub, maybe it's because you're not looking rather than that it doesn't happen

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)


I don't think anyone was suggesting that it literally has never happened, so much as that it's very, very rare. Moreover, that kind of behavior would get you banned irrespective of any CoC, so the question remains: what does a CoC add here?


> I have never seen it happen in my 10 years in open source

Seems like a very generous reading of what the person I'm specifically responding to said


I don’t see how you can possibly think that. Saying that you’ve never experienced something is not a claim that no one has ever experienced that thing. Mine is not a generous interpretation, but rather I’m not going out of my way to infer some nefarious subtext.


I think the problem is essentially this: if you're a white male, you may essentially never experience or see racism / sexism in tech.

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 [1] 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" [2]

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)

[1] https://psmag.com/news/sexism-in-the-tech-industry

[2] 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


I'm just speaking for myself, but in terms of the open-source projects I have been a part of, communication either happens over a mailing list, or a discourse forum. A lot of the time you only know the people you're interacting with as a screen name, so you don't even know their race or gender. And 100% of the content of the discussion is either purely technical in nature (e.g. how do I use this API feature, what JSON structure is expected etc) or is something operational like the timelines and priorities of the project.

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.


That fact that it's hard for you to imagine just means your imagination isn't very good

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.


To be fair, the article in question is not about a software project, it's about an individual who is using github as a food blog being trolled using the github collaboration features. It's an example of horrible online behavior, but I don't think it's relevant to OSS communities.


I can understand how you might think that code repos are different from other social media sites.

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.

https://github.com/microsoft/vscode/issues/87440

Surely you can't continue to claim that open source communities do not suffer from such issues, now, right?


I'm not saying that open source communities are not in need of moderation. Of course they are, like any online community. Basically every open online forum is vulnerable to vulgar, hateful and abusive content being posted. The point this sub-thread is referring to, is that CoC's are there as:

> 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.


Of course you don't need a CoC to enforce anything! You can moderate aggressively without one.

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.


In the c++ community[1] someone did just publicly announce that they were tired of the hostility so... yes

https://thephd.github.io/the-community#

[1] if you think this is "just a c++ problem" you're going to be very disappointed


What are the author's actual complaints about the C++ community? Maybe I am lacking context, but it's extremely difficult for me to understand it by reading this blog post.


It's super inside baseball, sorry

Background:

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.


> [CoC are] a way to assure newcomers that your project wasn't going to allow racist trolling on the mailing list.

The implication being that every project without an established code of conduct is awash with racism?

Exhausting vigilance about conspiracies indeed.


Did you skip over the word 'assure'? The implication is that other projects aren't performing that particular assurance.

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.


If this were a signpost along the lines of "employees must wash hands", then there would be no problem. Of course employees should wash their hands.

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.


Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but is the idea that--apart from a CoC--people might venture into a community thinking racist jokes are okay?


A lot of people will venture in thinking that maybe they're okay here, and they'll find out later.


The implication being that the coc gives clear guidance on what to do if it does happen

Fun straw man though


Apropos of nothing related, I want to know: What, exactly, were you confident yet wrong about in regards to bay leaves?


Someone asked on Twitter what, if any, flavor bay leaves had. I repeated advice I'd heard: supermarket bay leaves are bad, so just add a lot of them. Then I acted on another piece of advice: if you want to know what bay leaves taste like, steep them in water and taste the water. I did. Bay leaves are disgusting. Nobody should add more of them to anything.


It's a funny take. Have you tried oregano|paprika|basil|salt|pepper flavored tea? You'll end up not seasoning your food at all :)

Bay leaves work their magic in stews, especially beans. Not much else. (I absolute hate licorice btw).


What you're saying is true, but consider this also: America's Test Kitchen made identical versions of a bunch of recipes with identical ingredients on identical equipment simultaneously, and with no exceptions, the tasting panel preferred the ones containing bay leaves, but interestingly, they couldn't state exactly why.


This here is more interesting than everything else in the thread. IIRC ATK is a TV show so I presume the experiment wasnt particularly rigorous, but it's still neat to learn.


I wouldn't recommend making tea out of most herbs, including uncontroversial staples like basil and oregano. Doesn't mean they don't add useful flavors in the right dishes.


Wrong twice in one day, amazing. Many spices and sauces are not good if you do this, I submit Fish Sauce for your consideration.


Using more than one entire bay leaf is often too much. Is a strong spice. Is poisonous in big amounts but half a leaf here and there adds a nice flavor.

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.


i should object to this strenuously as someone with mediterranean heritage, but this is absolutely not the bay leaf take i was expecting and i have to admit that astrigency you hate is like the whole point and i would never eat one by itself so i am torn here.


Ha. I saw the saw the start of that conversation on Twitter. I didn’t know you went ahead and ran an experiment. Hilarious. Good work. They definitely add bitter/dark tones.


It’s not a objective description. It’s a subjective one. You’re describing the intent of other people, which is really your interpretation of their intent.


Yes in some cases there are bad things in this world that are promulgated and promoted under the guise of being good. Learning to recognize those bad things for what they are instead of naively accepting their self-serving sanguine explanations is part of being a developed adult.


You write this as if it's insight, as if maybe it's the first time it's occurred to the reader that "good" things can be bad. We all know that. It's the sentences that come after that thought that have meaning.


I don't think it's particularly insightful. I'm just stating it since it doesn't seem to occur to most adults these days.

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?


> This is a CoC working exactly as it's supposed to work. By design.

> 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.


Frankly, and you should be careful of not becoming too cynical about it, I think there are people that want to build their ego with fighting sexism and racism through penalizing others. And if there isn't anything obvious to be found, smaller and smaller infractions are used as an excuse to exclude other people. They want to play cop on the internet.


> And if there isn't anything obvious to be found, smaller and smaller infractions are used as an excuse to exclude other people. They want to play cop on the internet.

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.


> 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).




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