[Linux-aus] Linux Australia Code of Conduct - revised draft

Russell Stuart russell-linuxaus at stuart.id.au
Sun Nov 27 13:44:22 EST 2011

On Sun, 2011-11-27 at 09:29 +1100, Donna Benjamin wrote: 
> Drupal Downunder aims to be a fun, welcoming and professional event for
> the Drupal community to get together to learn from each other and be
> inspired. The organisers are committed to the ideals expressed in the
> Drupal code of conduct (http://drupal.org/dcoc), and ask all our
> speakers, volunteers, attendees and guests to adopt these principles.
> This is a diverse community. Sometimes this means we need to work harder
> to ensure we're creating an environment of trust and respect where all
> who come to participate feel comfortable and included.
> We value your attendance and appreciate your help in realising this
> goal.
> Be respectful.
> --------------
> Respect yourself, and respect others. If someone indicates they don't
> wish to be photographed, respect that wish. If someone indicates they
> would like to be left alone, let them be. Our event venues may be shared
> with members of the public; please be respectful to all patrons of these
> locations.
> Be considerate.
> ---------------
> Be considerate and tolerant of others. Help us by doing your best to
> make this event as welcoming, friendly, fun and informative for others
> as possible. 
> Be careful.
> -----------
> Please keep an eye out for dangerous activities or situations. Alert the
> conference team if you become aware of any safety hazards.
> Be aware.
> ---------
> Unfortunately there have been unpleasant incidents (link to timeline) at
> technical conferences in the past. Therefore we ask everyone to be aware
> that we will not tolerate intimidation, harassment, or any abusive,
> discriminatory or derogatory behaviour by anyone at the event. 
> Complaints can be made to the organisers by contacting the Registration
> Desk. All complaints made to the DDU2012 organisers will remain
> confidential and be taken seriously. An investigation will be
> undertaken. Should DDU2012 organisers consider it appropriate, they may
> take any or all of the following measures. 
> Alleged offenders may be:
>  - told to apologise
>  - told to stop or modify their behaviour appropriately
>  - warned that enforcement action may be taken if the behaviour
> continues
>  - asked to immediately leave the venue and/or prohibited from
> continuing to attend DDU2012 (without reimbursement)
> In addition the incident may be reported to the Victorian Police.
> Be understanding.
> -----------------
> For some excellent coverage to the standard questions a CoC like this
> might raise please see the <a
> href="http://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Conference_Code_of_Conduct#FAQ">
> FAQ for the openSUSE Code of Conduct</a>.

I expressed my opinion of the geek feminism anti harassment policy on
the LCA2011 list fairly strong terms.  I think if is fair to say from
that discussion a significant cross section of the community shared
similar opinions and if anything expressed them in even stronger terms.
So seeing Linux Australia then propose every conference in Australia be
forced to adopt that very same anti harassment was a disappointment.
The LA version was in my opinion actually worse, but since the
criticisms of the original had been ignored repeating them and adding a
few bits on the end didn't seem like it would positive contribution.

However, I can say something positive about Donna's post above.  It is
the best Code of Conduct I've seen.  It's amazing how the proposals zig
zag from one extreme to the other.

And now I am here, I will say a few other things.

It seems LA has found itself a very useful role in the Open Source
movement in Australia.  It has become the banker, promoter and
repository of expertise of Open Source conferences.  As a consequence we
are getting more of them, and they are well run.  If was I was forced to
pick the single one thing I particularly like about LA approaches this
task, it is that they don't show a great deal of favouritism to any
particular conference - even their baby, LCA.  The attitude seems to be
if it promotes the ideals of Open Source and looks like it has a good
chance of breaking even, then go for it.  If your goal is to create a
rich, varied and vibrant Open Source community in Australia I can't
think of a better way of going about it.

Part of the secret that makes this work so well is the experimentation
it allows.  One group might want a highly focused conference with very
strict rules - for example might imagine a Church open source group
wanting a very strict T&C's indeed, and it would probably work well for
them.  At the other extreme, BarCamp is very successful with almost no
rules at all.  We can and do have groups like the Ada initiative
promoting things that clearly favour one gender.  So, if they want to
have T&C's that are designed to appeal to women but probably aren't so
appealing to males, and in doing so manage to broaden the open source
church then so be it.

That is the other reason for my dismay when I saw LA trying to impose a
single set of rules on all conferences they will sponsor.  It wasn't
just that they had to choose a very poorly written set of rules, it was
that trying to enforce a "sameness" on all open sources conferences is a
bad idea.

There are some standards LA should enforce on conferences of course.
The obvious one is the conference must promote ideals of open source.  A
less obvious one is the conference organisers must give themselves the
power in their T&C's to take what they deem appropriate action when
things do go wrong, so they don't end up in legal hot water.  (When you
mix hundreds of people and alcohol, and late nights, things will go
wrong.  Anybody suggesting that words in a T&C or anywhere else will
prevent this, or I suspect even effect the quantum is kidding
themselves.  As has been pointed out repeatedly, there must be few
documents less read on the internet than a T&C document linked from a
check box.  And if you think the subset of people who take the time to
carefully read and internalise the T&C's has any significant overlap
with the subset of people whose mindset allows them to impulsively do
stupid things during the conference, than you live in a different world
to me.)

Thus while there is a set of things LA must impose on every conference,
it is all our interests to keep that set as small and as flexible as
possible.  When it comes to handling money, insisting strict set of
procedures is probably unavoidable.  But when it comes to T&C's, an
example along with asking the T&C's will be using be submitted with the
conference proposal is probably is IMHO a much better way to go.

The remainder is more of a personal observation on LCA, having being
involved in running one.  We (LCA2011) pushed the same requirements on
speaker talks as we did attendees.  I think this was a mistake.  When it
comes to the unwashed masses insisting whatever they do is G rated seems
like a pretty good idea to me.  However the same doesn't apply to
speakers.  We want our speakers to make a splash.  I know people had
varying opinions of Mark Pesce's talk at LCA2011.  Some loved it, some
hated it.  Personally, as an attendee I was indifferent to it.  But as a
LCA organiser, I think it was great presentation.  I would strive to
have one just as contentious at every LCA.  Why?  Because as a LCA
organiser, my goals are to promote open source, and have people want to
attend next years LCA.  There is no better way to achieve than to get
people around the planet all talking about LCA, and that is Mark did -
admittedly with some help from one of our sponsors.

Unlike the unwashed masses, we do have some control over the speakers.
They are vetted by the papers committee, and if they stuff it up they
won't be invited back.  That for me is more than enough.  If we want
strong, memorable speeches we must be prepared to let the speaker take
some risks.  It is a public performance.  They are on display.  If they
really stuff it up, it won't be just the papers committee that makes
their disapproval known.  There are lines that can't be crossed of
course, there are always such lines, and if they are cross we will have
to shut down the talk.  But I would put them at the legal boundaries, at
roughly what can be said on broadcast television to adults.

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