Shouldn't it be obvious to not act like a jerk at a Python event?
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.
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.
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.
What could go wrong?
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.