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Event code of conduct - thoughts appreciated
2 points by arranrp on Apr 5, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 5 comments
We are dedicated to producing the best events. To make the experience enjoyable for everyone – regardless of age, gender, sexuality, religious or ethnic identity – we expect our speakers and attendees to remember about these simple rules:

– offensive behaviour (verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment etc.) will not be tolerated

– offensive slide decks will not be tolerated

– anyone acting like a jerk will be asked to leave (that includes speakers)

– please report all incidents and we will do our best to make sure they never happen again

Any feedback and suggestions how we can make our events more enjoyable and inclusive are welcome, so don't be shy.

My initial worry is the subjectiveness of "offence".

As a speaker I like to think I'm putting on a show, I try to make my talks entertaining by throwing in a few jokes. If jokes were discouraged at a conference, I'd neither want to speak or attend. Unfortunately, I don't think it's possible to crack a joke without potentially causing someone offence. Maybe my favourite chicken got run over trying to get to the other side.

An example I trot out when talking about "offence" happened at uni. We were watching a comedian, he was making jokes about pedophilia and rape much to the delight of the audience and specifically one of my flatmates. I thought the comedian was terrible, not because of his subject matter (I don't believe any subject is out-of-bounds for comedy), I just felt his jokes were lazy. He then made a joke about bulimia, my flatmate slammed his drink down in anger. I asked what was up, he replied "My girlfriend suffered from bulimia, I've seen what it does, I don't think you should joke about it". I was astounded by the hypocrisy, and replied "I agree, people who think they can joke about bulimia make me sick".

My point is, it's impossible to predict what may offend a given audience, and I don't think people should try not to offend anyone. My own humour is pretty childish and has offended people, in one talk I refer to this image http://wtfhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/comic-captain-a... and later describe the action of a particular browser as "wanking us in the face", making it clear that I'm using "wank" in the comic onomatopoeic sense rather than referring to a sexual act. This joke has offended a small number of people, causing one to walk out. I don't know if they didn't get the joke, or simply find the sound of the word offensive, but I have no intention of removing the joke when I give the talk again because the vast majority of the audience enjoyed it. This isn't a male/female thing either, and I worry about the suggestion that anything vaguely sexual is offensive totally and exclusively to women.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic. I think my point is we need to quantify what "offensive" means before it becomes a solid rule. Or make the rule as subjective as the word itself, eg "If you find something offensive, let us know and we'll investigate it".

I completely agree. I've seen such things been blown out of proportion before and was aiming to keep the rules subjective while at the same time showing a serious commitment. But it's clear I didn't do a great job in articulating that so will go back to the drawing board and keep trying.

I like the general direction this is heading. But, like Jaffa the cake, have trouble with "offensive slide decks will not be tolerated". (I'm thinking here of my slidedeck "You too can be a bedwetting antfucker" the title of which was suggested by the organisers of a conference).

What you mean is no slides that a normal, sane, liberal person could find seriously offensive.

Just a side-thought - so maybe nonsense - do you want to say " please report all incidents" and make it a bit classroom? How about "If you hear incidents of racism/ sexism/ being a dick, please call out the person, either personally or social media". Make it a self-policing community ?

As much as I like the idea of self police, I find with social media it's a fine line between community watch and an angry mob. Also many people would not feel comfortable doing so, but would have an expectation of organisers to manage it.

" it's a fine line between community watch and an angry mob"

yup, true (unfortunately). GPWM.

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