On evolving communities and changing social practices

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 10/08/2015 - 18:25

I will join Lars and Tincho in stating this, and presenting a version contrary to what Norbert portraits.

I am very glad and very proud that the community I am most involved in, the Debian project, has kept its core identity over the years, at least for the slightly-over-a-decade I have been involved in it. And I am very glad and very proud that being less aggressive, more welcoming and in general more respectful to each other does not counter this.

When I joined Debian, part of the mantra chants we had is that in order to join a Free Software project you had to grow a thick skin, as sooner or later we'd all be exposed to flamefests. But, yes, the median age of the DD was way lower back then — I don't have the data at hand, but IIRC I have always been close to our median. Which means we are all growing old and grumpy. But old and wiser.

A very successful, important and dear subproject to many of us is the Debian Women Project. Its original aim was, as the name shows, to try to reduce the imbalance between men and women participants in Debian — IIRC back in 2004 we had 3 female DDs, and >950 male DDs. Soon, the project started morphing into pushing all of Debian to be less hostile, more open to contributions from any- and everyone (as today our diversity statement reads).

And yes, we are still a long, long, long way from reaching equality. But we have done great steps. And not just WRT women, but all of the different minorities, as well as to diverging opinions within our community. Many people don't enjoy us abiding by a code of conduct; I also find it irritating sometimes to have to abide by certain codes if we mostly know each other and know we won't be offended by a given comment... Or will we?

So, being more open and more welcoming also means being more civil. I cannot get myself to agree with Linus' quote, when he says that respect is not just given to everybody but must be earned. We should always start, and I enjoy feeling that in Debian this is becoming the norm, by granting respect to everybody — And not losing it, even if things get out of hand. Thick skins are not good for communication.

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Anonymous's picture

All you accomplish with this

All you accomplish with this is to build a community of lies and pretending.
Somebody else already wrote that it is a cultural trait.
In some cultures to lie and pretend is the norm and people get upset when you don't lie and pretend, in some other cultures instead it is perceived as a behavior of weakness or aggression.

gwolf's picture

On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog

In real life, I try to work with groups of people where we can be frank and use non-approved words and ways of speaking, but where we respect each other. I see no reason for it to be different in online projects.

I have pushed my colleagues for better, more civil behaviors on different topics, with various amounts of success. And I'm happy to join and support those that try to do the same in Debian.

We are (mostly) not teenagers anymore, and our hormones don't need to establish who is the Alpha monkey.

Ocravio Alvarez's picture

Interest in opinions by Debian Women participants

Do you know if any Debian Women participants have expressed any opinions on the matter?

gwolf's picture

Dunno...

Not (yet?) in planet.d.o nor in the mailing list; don't know by other channels

Emerson 's picture

Definitely a must do to keep

Definitely a must do to keep evolving the communities, respect to each other's, embrace new points of view, but for some way people take Linus words as God's opinion as a role model. Let's see in some years what are the results

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