Who made the law?

Mark Fowler mark at twoshortplanks.com
Fri Aug 31 11:54:12 BST 2012

On Thursday, 30 August 2012 at 16:28, Mark Fowler wrote:
> Here's my longer drawn out version,

I'm going to attempt to answer a whole bunch of questions on this in one go rather than spreading them out.

Q. Regarding the incident that Dave Hodgkinson mentioned? 

This isn't a reaction to any incident, including this one, and should not be taken as such.  I have not commented on that matter.  This is a reaction to Dave's question "Where is the usage policy?"  I think we should have one, so I have proposed one.

Q. Does London.pm really have a problem with harassment?


London.pm and the Perl community, compared to the vast majority of Programming and technology communities, is very progressive and a non-offensive place to be.  The Perl community and the Perl programming language has and continues to have significant contributions from statistically more diverse range of individuals than the norm in the community industry and London.pm has.  I am proud to be part of London.pm and would, without hesitation, recommend it to anyone regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation because I believe that giving us a chance they'll find that it's a welcoming place for everyone.

Q. Won't publishing a code of conduct indicate that there's a problem?  That London.pm is the kind of place where such a conduct occurs?

I'm afraid, through no fault of its own, London.pm _already_ has that image to _outsiders_ that do not have experience of the community directly. This, sadly, is because IT communities at large have gained this reputation.  No matter what London.pm is actually like, unless someone external can tell what the social conduct of the group is - which is what a code of conduct is a formal form of - they will assume, or at the very least fear, we are like any other IT community.

To be blunt: In my opinion if you're not seen actively as part of the solution then people will assume (rightly or wrongly) that you're complicit with the problem.  While self-policing without a code of conduct may in fact work well, it cannot be observed external to the community.  A published code of conduct can.

Q. If this is a set of _rules_ won't it simply encourage people to game the rules?  Wouldn't we be better off with what we have now (i.e. a pretty self policing community with a benevolent dictator that won't put up with bad behaviour)

Firstly, I've not stated a set of rules, I've stated a code of conduct.  While some people may quibble the semantic differences between the two I'll hope you'll agree that the latter is a lot closer to simply codifying the social expectations that we already have in place.

Secondly, I'm not suggesting dismantling or replacing anything that we have already.  There's nothing in this code of conduct that seeks to limit or restrict the absolute authority of the London.pm leader to deal with anyone who, in their opinion, who is acting detrimentally to rest of the group in any way he or she feels fit.  It's just writing down _some_ of what already happens.

Thirdly, it's been suggested that the long version invites people to argue that _their_ particular behaviour isn't boorish.  Those people are going to argue anyway, be it the short version, long version, or just the current social conventions, because that's the kind of people they are.

Q. Do people really need to be told this?

The vast majority of people don't.  However, the two groups of people that do are:

a) People who are worried that they might be victims of harassment.  They need to be reassured - especially when they've only just joined the community and haven't had time to completely integrate and have full knowledge of it - that harassment won't be tolerated and they need to know the procedure to follow if they do have any problem.

b) People who have missed the social context (especially new people to the community.)  We all know that we modify our behaviour depending on the social context we're in (we might act differently in the office than we do in the pub.)  New members of the community can often mistake one social context for another and this can cause accidental offence to other members of the community.  The code of conduct can help provide the social context to avoid this mistake (especially the one line version, "Don't be creepy.  You know that guy, don't be that guy.".)

Q. Isn't the policy too long? Is anyone going to read that?

Probably not the majority of people, no (that's why I included the one line summary after all.) But people _will_ care we have one, and some people will want to have explicitly spelled out what kind of thing is a problem and what they can do if there is a problem.

So, any further questions?

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