thoughtlessness in open source

I think professionalism is usually bullshit, and I like it when people have a thick skin. Making people uncomfortable can even be useful if it helps shock people into looking at problems in a new way. I’ve been fairly consistently against behavior codes in open source projects, and I know I’ve on occasion even been the one making people uncomfortable (though I hope that is rare.)

But some lines should absolutely never be crossed, like making 50% of the population uncomfortable about who they are – physical characteristics that they can’t change – rather than what they believe.

STOP sexism

STOP sexism by Casey West. License:

If you’re not clear why I’m drawing that line today, go read this post on a recent rails conference. Fun all the way around.

Some people don’t get it; I think I’m with this comment on why’s post in addressing that problem:

Unless you’ve walked into a professional meeting and had conversation stop while everyone looked at you like “what you you doing here?” it’s probably hard to imagine the impact.

When an entire community has background assumptions about you based on your physical characteristics, even if they aren’t overtly racist or sexist, bad things can happen. This isn’t particular to code; it happens elsewhere too– anywhere where even very well-intentioned people don’t stop to think about what impact their words and actions are having on other people. Those small, unintentional things can easily add up to an uncomfortable or even hostile environment.

Not that the communities I’m involved with tend to have this problem in a particularly bad way, but it does happen, I think this is the right overall response, and I’m on board:

I want the […] open source […] communities [I participate in] to be a dignified, respectful, inclusive, and welcoming place. … We’ve all been witnesses to off-color jokes, misogynistic back channel chatter, questionable imagery and unnecessary, trolling comments. I pledge to do better to stand up and call this behavior out when I see it in conferences, online and other public settings. I don’t expect it to go away but I’m not going to tacitly condone it any longer.

Well said. I will help stop thoughtlessness and make people more conscious of what they’re doing and how it is being perceived by others.

16 thoughts on “thoughtlessness in open source”

  1. It floors me that it would be anything else; thank-you for stepping up.

  2. It floors me that it would be anything else;

    It is too easy for even good people to look the other way; I’ve certainly been guilty of it in the past and I know others in GNOME have been too, even if (generally) we’ve been pretty good about it.

  3. Agreed, and I know I have been guilty of it as well despite how enlightened I’d like to believe I am.

    I do find hope for the Internet though when I read such mature and considered reactions to such situations. I felt humbled by the quality of many of the reactions.

  4. Yeah. The lesson is, as usual, that if you pay attention people are actually generally pretty decent to one another, and getting more so as we get more sophisticated about how we relate to one another. You just have to look past all the surface douchebaggery (of which there is, admittedly, still quite a bit.)

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