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Python Software Foundation will require code of conduct at all sponsored events (adainitiative.org)
50 points by lelf on Dec 9, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments

Fwiw, I'm not the chairman of the PSF, just one of a handful of directors. Van Lindberg is chairman. I am however chair for PyCon and I am responsible for pushing this through.

I teach high school math and science, and I throw in as much programming-related content as I can, such as teaching intro to python units whenever I get the chance. None of my students fit the model of a traditional young programmer. No one in my small town is a professional programmer, so none of my students ever see or hear of anyone doing high-level technical work. But many of them love programming once they get a feel for it.

The culture of pycon is entirely welcoming to my students. I won't be able to take students this year, because the travel costs from southeast Alaska are pretty steep. But I have shared with my students the specific ways that the python community supports different groups of non-traditional programmers: pycon policies, pyladies, the Boston Python Workshop initiatives, etc.

Knowing there are specific efforts to support non-traditional programmers makes my students much more open to considering a career in a technical field. The work that Jesse and others are doing is having a significant impact on a large number of people. It's an iceberg, as well; whatever visible impact you see, there are 10 times as many people benefiting from this work.

Please join https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/operation... if you'd like to chat more with Python developers and teachers doing the same types of things. I'm working with K12 teachers to find ways to connect with Python developers for curriculum development, networking and just getting more computer science taught in schools. :)

Thank you - an an Alaska (Wasilla/Palmer) expat, the work you're doing sounds great. And thank you for the support. let me know what else we can do.

Your students can see the Pycon talks online.

As someone who more and more is giving up on the "promise of less bullshit" in the software community I think this is a step in the right direction. Good job.

Thank you for doing so!

The veteran cynic in me asks who benefits from this action. After all, the behavior that the code of conduct seeks to get on top of is unacceptable in any environment anyway. Yon don't change bad organizational culture with paperwork, you do it with enforcement of standards.

The first step is to establish a shared understanding of what is acceptable (i.e. code of conduct). Without that code of conduct, there's nothing to enforce.

Actually, I'm not even sure that "enforcement" is all that relevant. It's more about articulating the norms of behavior so that people can learn from them and grow.

Correct. And due to having things like this in place, our sponsorship for PyCon has grown, as has the number of female speakers and attendees. It's a net win for everyone.

The first step is to establish a shared understanding of what is acceptable (i.e. code of conduct). Without that code of conduct, there's nothing to enforce.

Bingo. Furthermore, any of the stuff in the CoC seems pretty reasonable - don't express prejudice, don't harass people. It's really "Social Graces 101" level stuff, not some bid to constrain free speech.

Articulating the norms of behavior? The norms in this code are the basic skills of interacting in society, anyone past the age of 17 should have internalized them. More: one expects anyone past that age of live by them, and consequently one can (and should!) deal with any violator in the appropiate manner.

Yes I agree, but it's not like this has come apropos of nothing.

Unfortunately a small minority apparently don't know how to behave appropriately around others, and need this shit to be spelled out.

"People should" is a dangerous assumption to make in large groups.

Obviously, 99% of people are not going to make prejudiced jokes or comments in their presentation or in groups at a conference.

A code of conduct simply sets out the expectations at this level, and creates a standardized procedure for what to expect when these expectations are violated.

This is one way of enforcing these standards. Think of them as "interfaces" that everyone is exposed to and encourage to implement. It's up to you to go along with them or not, but for the benefit, sake, and sanity of your team members, it is recommended that you stick to them. If one doesn't and things start to get buggy or not compatible, then other would ask you why you didn't follow the implementation.

It is unfortunately that something like this has to be implemented because it is common sense, but if PyCon or any other organization has to be policing their attendees like children until the learn, then so be it.

I don't think we're policing anyone like children. At least I hope not, I don't have time for that. But the reality is that we live in a time where explicit trumps implicit social norms, for example:


True, that was an exaggeration. As adults, we should know, are least have enough common sense, about what is acceptable behavior, at least, but hopefully exclusively, in a professional setting.

This feels like a "Caution this beverage is hot" label on a coffee cup.

Shouldn't it be obvious to not act like a jerk at a Python event?

Quoting myself http://jessenoller.com/blog/2012/12/7/the-code-of-conduct (recursion depth exceeded):

BUT EVERYONE IS NICE, WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN COOL I know. Honestly, I do. Except for minor incident that I recall, PyCon US has largely been free of issues such as this. Every meetup, conference, etc I have been to has been filled with nice, kind people and largely jerk-free. This is a testament to the community as a whole.

So, you ask: if we're all chill cool people, and nothing bad has happened, why have one?

Because it won't always be that way.

If we continue to expand and grow (and we will), and if we continue to grow even more diverse - in sex, race, creed and geography - the chances of "an incident" will grow. In fact, I know incidents have happened and been dealt with.

So no, the unspoken rule of "don't be a jerk" doesn't scale very well. And that's what we're talking about - a scalability problem. The social norms and rules of a group of five people, or one hundred people may float. What about 200? 500? 800? How about 2300 people (the attendance of PyCon 2012)? No. "Don't be a Jerk" may be our unspoken, unwritten community motto; but its not enough for those on the outside looking in.

Those outside of these circles want clear lines on behavioral expectations. They want to know that not only are there unwritten rules about not being a jerk - they want to know what will happen if a Jerk Occurs. This sets their expectations, and it gives them comfort. It makes them feel more welcome, more safe. Especially when they're part of a group who has been put under constant objectification and harassment for decades in our industry.

I completely understand the spot you are in and can see how you are rationalizing it. The policy approach just doesn't fit for me (nor does it need to). I only commented because I do care about the Python community and hope to attend this event.

When I read the article I can't help substituting "label on cup" and reading incident as a coffee burn.]

Seeing "we now have an anti-harassment policy!" followed up by "and women are specifically encouraged to attend and apply." makes me cringe.

It doesn't feel like the way to encourage my wife (engineer) or any of the numerous women I have developed software with that the conference is an awesome event.

The numbers disagree with you assertion(s) - we have increased sponsorship due to the actions taken, we have increased the number of female presenters/speakers, and we have an astounding number of thank you's from women within the community with regards to the actions taken and statements made.

I am not "in a spot" or "rationalizing it" - I have concrete proof that changes like this in combination with a massive amount of outreach has had an extremely positive effect for the community and conference.

There is no problem but people are not to be trusted so we need a Rule.

What could go wrong?

From the article:

  Part of this effort is the social realization of one of the Zen of Python rules:
    Explicit is better than implicit.
  What I mean is this: no more unwritten rules or expectations.

Living in a free, democratic and gender-equal country, I have a hard time understanding how programming languages (their organizations, such as PSF) should play an active role in political issues. If sexual harassment are not covered by local laws, maybe residents in this country should invest some time pushing that through.

PSF isn't enforcing laws.

It's just setting a basic standard of behavior - be nice, don't be a jerk, don't harass people based on their personal characteristics.

And on the flip side, it's saying to people who otherwise might be reluctant to participate, thinking they would face prejudice, "hey, we got your back, prejudice against you is not allowed here".

Seems pretty innocuous.

I explained why the foundation should take an active role here: http://jessenoller.com/blog/2012/12/7/the-code-of-conduct - read the whole thing, especially the points about sponsorship and branding.

I did read the whole thing before writing my original reply. I see why you need to do it for PyCon, but I can't see why you need to demand it for the things you sponsor in PSF.

We need it for conferences we sponsor just as other sponsors require it from PyCon. Requiring it from conferences taking our money, our logo and our name (nee: endorsement) means that protections are in place for our investment and community

> Living in a [...] gender-equal country [...]

Which country is that?


The Law of Equality: https://www.retsinformation.dk/forms/r0710.aspx?id=20929 (could not get google translate to work)

Women in Denmark make about 10% less than men for the same work [1]. Granted, that's better than the US, where it's more like 75¢ on the dollar, but I'd hardly call that equality.

I don't know enough about Denmark to know whether gender discrimination persists in technical fields, but my guess is that women make up far less than half of the technical workforce (that's the case for most of Europe [2]).

[1] http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/the-gender-wage... [2] http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=543812.543839

And unless you will find a way for a male become pregnant that will never change. For better or worse there are differences between males and females and from a pure economical point of view that results in different risks in regards to employers.

How exactly does that however play into sexual harassment on conferences?

There's no inherent reason that pregnancy should result in women spending less time at work than men, and Danish parental leave laws mean that it's possible for a father to spend more time on 100% paid leave than a mother. The risk to employers is a consequence of local laws and social norms, not an absolute.

The relevance? There's this horrible idea that sexism doesn't exist in enlightened liberal societies with aggressive equality laws, and so any attempts to fix harassment should be done by just passing laws. In reality it's a social issue, and just like any social issue it doesn't get fixed through laws alone. Social attitudes need to change, and part of that is making it clear what the acceptable social attitudes at community events are.

> There's no inherent reason that pregnancy should result in women spending less time at work than men, and Danish parental leave laws mean that it's possible for a father to spend more time on 100% paid leave than a mother. The risk to employers is a consequence of local laws and social norms, not an absolute.

It's not the time that matters, it's the timing. You can't legally (and you should not) force a pregnant woman to come to work.

> There's this horrible idea that sexism doesn't exist in enlightened liberal societies

Not all gender inequality is sexism. There are physical and psychological differences between our genders. Case in point: possibility of dichromacy among males versus potential tetrachromacy among females.

And in Denmark, you have no control over when a father might take paternity leave. This basic economic truth you're asserting is a product of society, not a product of biology.

>Not all gender inequality is sexism.

True, just the vast majority of it. But next time women complain that they're being underpaid, do remind them of the lucrative opportunities that await them in the growing field of "People better able to tell the difference between shades of green". I'm sure that'll make them feel better.

> And in Denmark, you have no control over when a father might take paternity leave. This basic economic truth you're asserting is a product of society, not a product of biology.

And even in Denmark there are days where the mother is not allowed to work for the benefit of the child. And that is a product of biology.

How does that matter to an employer? The father can take exactly the same time off. Employing a man with a pregnant partner could be exactly as inconvenient as employing a pregnant woman.

>Women in Denmark make about 10% less than men for the same work [1]. Granted, that's better than the US, where it's more like 75¢ on the dollar, but I'd hardly call that equality.

And whole ranges of employees make less than other ranges of employees. There are lots of women in business that make 20 and 100 times what I make, for example.

Equal pay for men and women does not necessarily translate to equality at the workplace (it's based on a non verified premise that men and women's output and negotiating skills are equal). Have you researched if those women that make 10% less than men:

1) put 10% less to their work (e.g because they prefer investing more in their children than in the whole career rat-race)

2) Are less cut-throat salary negotiators? As an employee myself, I know that employees get what they are able to negotiate, not what they deserve and surely not equal pay.

Equality is equal pay for equal work -- regardless of gender race or creed.

Murder's also illegal in Denmark. Does that mean no murders occur?

No, but I assume it doesn't have to be in the code of conduct, that there should be a staff meeting when a murder occurs, to decide if the local law enforcement should be involved?

Laws aren't enough to prevent things from happening. The fact that Denmark has equality laws doesn't mean that it's gender-equal, and it certainly doesn't mean that there's no sexual harassment. There are strong social mores against murder. There aren't strong social mores against sexual harassment. Having a code of conduct helps indicate to attendees that whatever their personal beliefs about sexual harassment are, and regardless of what local laws there may be about it, it won't be tolerated.

Event terms and conditions would become nicer if they didn't list the (already illegal) things that will get you expelled from the event but just said "Any criminal act, and especially the removal by police for these acts, will result in immediate expulsion except in the sole judgement of the event staff".

Even if the event wants to say something about it above and beyond that, it frees them up to say "We all know the law on this, but to encourage our ideal atmosphere (which is X) the voluntary by attendance code of conduct will also be ...." without repeating all the mundane bits of the law.

tl;dr, don't remind me something is illegal, remind me certain attitudes are unwelcome and leave it there.

Theory and practice often look different. Even in Denmark, including when it comes to tech conferences:


Harassment is not a political issue.

Certainly not in the culture I identify myself with, but I'm sure there are plenty of countries where sexual harassment is accepted to some degree (if there was not, why would we even talk about implementing this code of conduct?)

This was stated elsewhere; but the PSF is taking a stance wherein it does not condone harassment and discrimination for events it provides money and support to even if the local standard is to allow for those social norms.

This stuff happens in all countries, okay? It's a real problem. It's not just "some countries."

Well, there are also some countries that consider the pre-occupation with things such as "sexual harassment" that some Americans have obsessive and indicative of a society that relegates even basic human relations to the courtroom and to arcane prudish codes of conduct.

You took something valid (like being against sexual harassment when it's a bloody actual harassment) and you overblown it out of proportion.

Italians or French, e.g., have no problem with things such as office romance.

For example, the French did not give a flying duck if their President had a known ex-marital affair and even a child (like Miterrand), whereas Americans had this whole BS "moral outrage" when Clinton had an affair. Heck, Italians even voted multiple times into office a Prime Minister that is known to have wild parties with models and prostitutes (Berlusconi).

Not everybody in the world is as uptight as white Americans.

When people travel from around the country and world for conferences, the legal route is a nightmare. Moreso than normal.

Sure, but keep in mind that people paid to attend this conference, they need proper legal protection against claims. Let's say I go to a conference and someone claims that I did harass them sexually, it would be up to a few local programmers to decide what is the truth and not. That is not OK.

Sheesh, there's just so much that's wrong, disingenuous, and outright hilariously silly about these couple of sentences that I hardly know where to begin. Let's see...

* You don't have a right to attend a private event. The organizers of any event - a conference, a concert, whatever - have the right to ask you to leave at any point for any reason. You are, in fact, more protected with a code of conduct in place because it articulates the process instead of leaving it up to the whims of the organizers.

* You don't have any right to due process or "legal protection"; the conference organizers aren't the police! They're not deciding what's "truth" or not; they're deciding whather to allow you to stay at an event they're responsible for.

* If you're talking about PyCon, it's hardly "a few local programmers". PyCon is a conference with a large staff, a budget of over a million dollars, and an established NPO (the PSF) behind it.

* If you can't trust the organizers of an event, then why the heck are you attending?

* People don't just randomly make up harassment. In reality, harassment is vastly underreported because of the way victims of harassment are routinely ignored, shamed, and blamed.

* Wanna know a really good way to not be accused of harassment? Don't harass anyone! If you find not being a harasser so hard, then yeah you probably shouldn't go to the event.

I did not claim to have a right to attend a conference.

If someone, man or woman, would report sexual harassment in Denmark, it would be done to the police, who would take proper actions. Actually, I explicitly do not want the conference staff to act like a conference police. Keep in mind that if they throw someone out of a conference because of harassment which proves wrong later - this persons image will be forever destroyed in the community.

I'm not talking about PyCon, it was mentioned that this applies to anything sponsored by PSF (correct me, if I'm wrong).

I don't personally know who organizes every event I attend, I attend events because I think the subject is interesting or because people I find interesting attends or speaks.

I agree harassment is underreported but there have been issues with fake reports in the media as well.

It's rather telling that you relate to and sympathize more with the perpetrators than the victims of sexual harassment. Something to consider.

I think you just won the tasteless comment on hackernews award.

Explain, please.

You may have skipping reading all the details. Some of which include that local law enforcement may become involved at any point. This can be requested by the accuser, the conference staff - or even the accused should evidence be in dispute[1].

The actions of conference staff are a route for dispute resolution for things that may not warrant law enforcement involvement, and if law enforcement should be involved, it will be and will obviously supersede any decisions by staff. More importantly however, is that law enforcement involvement is painful, potentially ruinous, and does not take into account the actual conference nor its other attendees.

Hypothetical: corroborated harassment incident; law enforcement is called in at the request of the accused/accuser. Action is taken. This does not remove the harasser from the site, nor does it trigger further sanctions against him or her within the community or conference unless such a set of explicit rules is codified.

[1] https://us.pycon.org/2013/about/code-of-conduct/harassment-i...

You have exactly the same legal protection you had in the past. Conferences are private events, and conference organisers have always asserted the right to exclude attendees for any reason.

Another strike against free speech for the PC police.

I was surprised that the code of conduct was all about what you shouldn't do, instead of what was expected of the attendees.

Telling adults, "Be careful in the words that you choose." does give the code the Code a patina of Political Correctness. I was half expecting the next paragraph to warn me to look both ways before crossing the street.

The Code has a very broad definition of harassment that makes no distinction between a one time comment and a pattern of repetitive behaviour intended to intimidate or cause harm.

I see that "following" is one of the actions that defines harassment. How does that differ from stalking? I assume they are not referring to Twitter.

From what I understand, the code was approved by the Board of Directors of the PSF, and not the PSF as a whole. Please, correct me if I am wrong. This is ironic since one of the Board members was walking around the conference last year with a damaged stuffed python toy asking, "Would you like to see my one eyed snake?"

This was said to one of my female colleagues. I asked her if she would like me to say something and she replied, "No, it is just creepy, but I'm an adult."

The Board's aspiration to create a welcoming environment is laudable and this spirit is very much a part of the Python community. I don't think that the Code, as worded, helps accomplish this. It is overly broad and loosely defined. The result is that it sounds like an attempt to infantilize the attendees and proscribe behaviour that may be part of vigorous exchanges of points of view.

I am sure that this is not what the Board intended, but you would wish for a more articulate expression from a group of engineers who would not tolerate this sense of generality in their code.

As the female colleague, I'm going to throw my 2 cents in, here.

I don't need anyone to speak up for me about anything. I'm outspoken enough that if I was actually offended by something I would say something myself. The ridiculous one-eyed snake joke was not ill-intended, nor did I feel harassed, and I'm going to remove myself as an example, here.

Let's not derail the conversation that needs to be had about CoCs. It's a little ridiculous to discount the attempts that are being made to make the community better because one of the directors that helped write it told an off-color joke at a conference that one time.

I disliked the wording of the code of conduct and have tried a few times writing up what I wanted to say and haven't been able to. This is the perfect response for why I don't like the current wording of the CoC.

In spirit it is good idea but they rushed into it and didn't do enough discussion about it before approving the current one.

I was also witness to the one eyed snake board member and to me I thought it was funny and didn't think he was doing any harm but now that the PSF is taking a stance against these types of actions, will the rules hold up against their own?

The O'Reilly Conference Code of Conduct seems to be reasonable. http://oreilly.com/conferences/code-of-conduct.html

The first sentence really sets the tone: "At O'Reilly, we assume that most people are intelligent and well-intended, and we're not inclined to tell people what to do"

And how is offering guidelines for inappropriate behavior including explicit guidelines for conflict resolution trampling on your rights to free speech at a private event?

I guess harassment falls under free speech. My bad dog.

>trampling on your rights to free speech at a private event?

Speech should be free in public AND in private events.

Else you get societies giving lip service to the idea of "free speech" in public, and then destroying the public spaces of discourse.

(How about Google censoring your email or blog? It's their private infrastructure after all).

>I guess harassment falls under free speech.

No, it's just that white Americans have no idea what harassment means. Some guy showing a slide with a bikini model at a Ruby conference was enough to cause a "moral outrage" a couple of years ago.

(And, no, it's not about the relevance of the slide, which meant as a joke: if he had shown something equally non relavant, like a Star Wars joke or a LoTR joke, everybody would have been fine with it).

You have every right to speak like a knuckle-dragging troglodyte. The PyCon folks also have every right to say for you to do it somewhere other than their private convention space.

Well, if George Carlin was a python developer, I for one, would have loved to see him speak.

And I have no problem with how Linus talks, without concern for self-censorship.

Funny how we owe a large of the success of open source (and most of Linux) to a "knuckle-dragging troglodyte"...

Linus may be known for his usage of four-letter words, but the code of conduct isn't (primarily) about profanity. It's about sexism and harassment, and I haven't known Linus to participate in or condone either.

(Another tangential point about Linus and language: he is very good at targeting his profanity. He doesn't drop f-bombs every third sentence, he saves them for when they are most effective. I don't think "knuckle-dragging troglodyte" quite applies.)

This isn't about getting rid of the George Carlins of the python scene, this is about getting rid of the Morton Downey Jrs of the tech scene. Being a bit blue is a lot different than using degrading, insulting, and irrelevant images in your talks. Codes of conduct like these aren't about stripping away all four letter words, they're about getting rid of presentations like "perform like a porn star," which only serve to detract from the larger scene and message.

Free speech is granted to ensure that oppression can be beaten by language, not to permit people to use language to systemically oppress.

I don't know that free speech is granted to insure that oppression can be defeated or overcome by language, but that is a different discussion.

Free speech, as defined by numerous Supreme Court decisions, protects speech that expresses ideas, however distasteful, but does not tolerate advocating of action that will cause harm, nor statements whose sole purpose is to invoke an altercation--"fighting words".

The clear distinction from Oliver Wendell Holmes is that you can yell, "Fire!", but not in a crowded theatre. Free speech is not without limits.

So you can legally say that someone is ugly, but you cannot advocate assaults on people that you perceive as ugly.

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