On Codes of Conducts and “Protection”

Related: In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization

I’ve seen elsewhere (thankfully, not my project, and no, I won’t link to it) that people want the code of conduct to “protect contributors from 3rd parties as well as 3rd parties from contributors. I would like to first suggest the idea that this is…I don’t even know. The US government has literal nuclear bombs, as well as aircraft carriers, and it cannot enforce its law everywhere. The idea that an underfunded OSS project can do literally anything to 3rd parties is ludicrous. The only enforcement mechanism any project can have is “you can’t contribute here” (which, by necessity, only applies to those who wanted to contribute in the first place.)

So why would a bunch of people take on a code of conduct that will only limit them?

Because, to quote the related article above, “the death cry of liberalism is not ‘death to the unbelievers’, it is ‘if you’re nice, you can join our cuddle pile.” Perhaps describing open source projects as “cuddle piles” is somewhat of an exaggeration, but the point remains. A code of conduct defines what “nice enough is”. The cuddle piles? Those conquer the world. WebKit is powering both Android and iPhone browsers, for example, making open source be, literally, the way people see the online world.

Adopting a code of conduct that says that we do not harass, we do not retaliate and we accept all people is a powerful statement. This is how we keep our own garden clear of the pests of prejudice, of hatred. Untended gardens end up wilderness. Well-tended gardens grow until we need to keep a fence around the wild and call it a “preserve”.

When I first saw the Rust code of conduct I thought “cool, but why does an open source project need a code of conduct”? Now I wonder how any open source project will survive without one. It will have to survive without me — in three years, I commit to not contribute to any project without a code of conduct, and I hope others will follow. Any project that does not have a CoC, in the interim, better behave as though it has one.

Twisted is working hard on adopting a code of conduct, and I will check one into NColony soon (a simpler one, appropriate to what is, so far, a one-person show).

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