[python-committers] Making the PSF CoC apply to core developers

Brett Cannon brett at python.org
Tue Mar 1 14:00:21 EST 2016

On Tue, 1 Mar 2016 at 09:36 R. David Murray <rdmurray at bitdance.com> wrote:

> On Tue, 01 Mar 2016 04:10:08 +0000, Brett Cannon <brett at python.org> wrote:
> > On Mon, 29 Feb 2016 at 18:01 Steven D'Aprano <steve at pearwood.info>
> wrote:
> > > So let me make it clear: Brett, and the other list maintainers, you're
> > > not listening. Even if I'm a minority of one out of the whole
> community,
> > > your words say "of course we care what you think" but your actions say
> > > "actually no, we couldn't care less". You might not have intended it
> > > that way, but nevertheless that's the way it is.
> > >
> >
> > I see where the issue came in: I simply considered the discussion on the
> > CoC already settled. As you pointed out in your second paragraph, the
> Just so Steven doesn't think he's a minority of one, let me say that I
> too find CoCs problematic.  I have a code of conduct, and it applies to my
> *life*.  For shorthand, you could call it "being a gentleman", but a more
> modern term might be "being civil".  Do I fail to live up to my personal
> code occasionally?  Yes, and I hope people call me on it when I do fail.
> Do I care what code of conduct the organization has promulgated?  No.
> It has no affect on my behavior, nor will it.  At most, it might drive
> me from the community if it is ever used against me.
> Referencing a CoC will only work at all with those who are self-governed
> by a personal code of civility.  Yet all such people need is to have it
> pointed out to them that they have been uncivil, with reference to the
> universal code of civility and/or a civil discussion about civility in
> the immediate context.

I don't want this discussion to drag on forever as CoC discussions tend to,
but I do want to point out that the CoC serves two purposes: putting in
writing that people are expected to behave appropriately instead of purely
by unspoken social contract and thus have something to point to when
dealing with bad actors, and to make people who feel like a minority to
know that someone who is in the majority cannot bully or out-shout them
without consequences.

It's that last point I really care about with this group (in the case of
python-ideas it was the former). If you look at our makeup, we are all men
and of the dominant ethnic group in our home country (if I'm wrong, please
let me know). I suspect the vast majority of us have never experienced
systemic discrimination for extended periods of time (I'm talking for
months, not while on vacation for a week or two). And if you didn't know
coming into python-dev, the issue tracker, or GitHub that bad behaviour
won't be tolerated, it can be quite a barrier to entry as it's very easy to
want to avoid participation if you don't have a spirit for fighting when
you think you may have to fight to participate.

For instance, I actually did experience discrimination in high school in
the US while on a sports team. I happened to be one of two white kids on
the team and it was made abundantly clear by our teammates that we were the
ethnic minority. It sucked and it very quickly makes you try and avoid
confrontations because you know you may be outnumbered if you ask people to
stop verbally abusing you and the majority choose not to comply. And this
extends to going to greater powers when you don't know if they will take
your side on verbal abuse since if they don't you will be outnumbered by
the majority and thus have little in the way or protection against
potential retaliation over trying to get help (luckily when we did go to
our coach, while he didn't believe us in terms of severity, people
basically got the point and things improved, but there was always an
undercurrent of being different to the point the other kid quit the team,
making me a minority of one). Being a minority really sucks when you don't
know if the majority will support you when you have to fight to be treated
fairly and with kindness.

And that's what I want for us. I want people to know that they can
participate here and know we will do it in a civil manner and that even if
you are technically a minority compared to the group in the real world, you
will be treated as an equal. Whether the CoC really ever has to be used or
how much teeth it may have is not entirely the point: it's about how
outsiders feel and if they feel protected and comfortable. It's letting
others know that if they come here and happen to be treated badly -- even
if I doubt that will truly ever happen from a core dev -- that they won't
have to fight to continue to participate or simply walk away because of how
they were treated by someone. The simple act of writing it down can mean a
lot to know that we at least strive for that. In this instance (written)
words speak louder than actions when you don't know what the dynamic of a
group is ahead of time. The participation of women at PyCon US thanks to a
combination of a CoC and outreach is proof this stuff can make a difference
in participation.

Now obviously I could be totally wrong and this isn't an actual barrier for
getting women or ethnic minorities to participate in Python's development.
But from my perspective, the chances that the lack of CoC is causing
someone to not participate seems greater than the chances that the CoC will
somehow be abused to silence someone who has a valid point that was
delivered in a reasonable tone. And this is why I'm working to get
everything we do as core devs under the PSF CoC (which I have said
previously is python-dev, bugs.python.org, and GitHub at this point).
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