The original words of Phanes, tirelessly carved into a slab of "No'".

Musings on a Code of Conduct

I don’t even like the concept of a Code of Conduct in any technical project.

But, people are jerks. I acknowledge that you need one these days to provide a groundwork of acceptable behaviour because not everyone can just be a decent adult on their own, but may have good technical contributions to provide.

That said, every implementation of a Code of Conduct that I have ever seen has been so permeated with overreach that it should be set on fire and abandoned before routing out everyone who created that overreach and removing any control they have over that community.

I personally view most major F/OSS projects’ CoC to be created for the sole purpose of preparing a community and its culture for hijacking by corporate sponsors.

It ends up being a device they can use to bump out the people that won’t meet their sponsor’s goals while creating gaps to fill by the people they have selected to steer the project towards those corporate interests.

This practice is, in my opinion, so pervasive that in aggregate, I see it could eventually create an insincere and purely aesthetic dystopia where people will eventually have to resort to whispering in soundproof rooms to express themselves to avoid being targeted unless they abandon their entire personalities– their careers, their families, project positions at jeopardy– all depending on the scale of money behind the project and who the sponsors are. People will comply with the narrative or they will “become bad people”.

I would rather have nothing in its place than contribute to that. It is unethical, toxic and harmful to anyone who participates in it.

I’ve also seen a strange reoccurence of identity politics being worked into the CoC. I’m actually a little confused why the LGBTQ+ community is not largely comprised of people offended by the blatant attempt of these corporate-backed projects to introduce identity politics and dog whistles to open source communties as blatant disruption devices to serve those corporate interests, and the CoC is a great place for that to happen. It is a blatant exploitation of a vulnerable community taking place out of financial interests.

Perhaps my thinking on this may change in the future, but if I were to ever build a community of contributors for, say, SURRO Linux (or what it will actually be called on release), that I might have a CoC that mostly just aimed to prevent political hijacking and offtopic yammer, or interpersonal shit getting mixed with project discussion.

I mean, be gay, trans, bi, straight, whatever you want, but push code and create development roadmaps instead of using this as a platform to validate yourself. That’s not what it’s there for and it’s oppressive to other demographics.

In lieu of identity politics and facilitating project hijacking, a CoC that I would want to use would be designed in such a way as to develop, encourage, and reward emotional resilience in members of its community while providing a framework that inclines discussions to be related the project.

That can’t happen in a safe space or an ideological echo chamber. Decay can, and does in all cases.

Safe spaces are toxic and harmful. They are well intended but ultimately detrimental to host and participant as, for the sake of comfort, they stifle the expression of conflicting ideas that drive conceptual evolution in cultural development, which, unless you have a community that has reached an ideological apex– an Atlantean society of the most perfect expression of viewpoints humanity can ever have with no more room for improvement, then conflicts of ideas have to be permissable for growth of that community (and the broader society it exists in) to take place.

Competing concepts drive cultural evolution, and you can’t have competing concepts if you forbid or suppress conflict. This is the nature of people. This is the nature of ideas. This is the nature of growth. Communities that suppress conflict and consequently free expression cannot grow. Communities that value emotional resilience and a productive manner of conflict can and do– exclusively.

And then there’s the out-of-band behaviour. Too many times I’ve seen people engaged in conflict who are so emotionally fragile or toxic that they feel they need to go to other platforms to crowdsource a lynching to target people who have a different perception of reality than they do — they make up lies about them, and try to use crowds of collaborators to “shame” their ideological counterpart which inevitably devolves into extraordinarily toxic harassment by many people, even stalking and offline violence directed at those people who disagree with them (or are triggered by a lie about their target that they believe), or they go after their families, or their careers and reputations. Anyone who particpates in something like that shouldn’t be on any project and are a threat to anyone they work with. The world needs protected from people who do things like that. I don’t just mean the people who rally the crowd either, I mean the people who choose to be in the crowd doing the harassment as well. They are timeless filth.

So, I propose the “Nobody Cares” golden principle: Nobody cares about your poltiical beliefs beyond that you should be allowed to have them. Nobody cares about your spiritual beliefs beyond that you should be allowed to have them. Nobody cares about your sexuality or gender identity beyond that you should be allowed to have them. The same for race, country of origin.

People would make mistakes occasionally and accidentally care. They’re human. They all have beliefs of their own. If someone gets a pronoun wrong, or has a belief system that affects which pronouns they use for either themselves or others, then we need to rely on the emotional resilience of everyone participating. Nobody is forced to alter their speech or beliefs for anyone else. That also means pejoratives and slurs should not be used. People who do should be sanctioned. Personal attacks violate the rule. And trying to force people to comply with your belief system should count as a personal attack that isn’t centered on the “nobody cares” philosophy: “Is the statement about the project or is the statement about someone on the project?”.

The caring should be about the project being discussed, not the discussers. If someone goes on a rampage to try to force everyone’s beliefs they can go away and practice their emotional fragility in any of the already existing echo chambers more than willing to cater to them at the expense of meaningful progress. I’ve seen enough. Nobody cares about the discussers. They should care about the project and contributions to the project, not whether someone who submitted a pull request donated to the Trump campaign or something stupid they did or said (though I certainly would not be excited to hear about that).

The only exception to not caring is when someone with a bunch of followers on twitter gets mad because they weren’t given enough political kowtowing to their identity politics, or are mad about something unrelated that they proceed to shame and lynch, defame, harass, or otherwise harm other contributors on the project. This also goes for those that take to other platforms for the purpose of stirring up others to do those things. People that engage in this should be decisively and rapidly ejected.

I also think relying purely on the CoC is a bad call. It’s not a framework to push people out, it’s a framework to help people focus on what they gathered to do. So, instead of treating it like a legal doctrine, I think right now I would treat it more like a guideline and use my own discretion when handling interpersonal issues or conduct reports to hopefully prevent it from being misused in the way I see other CoC’s be misused, or sabotaged by trolls.

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The Personal Blog of Chris Punches