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Re: Code of Conduct complaint about Linus's comments at DC14 :: Respect

On Tue, Sep 09, 2014 at 08:19:22PM -0700, Russ Allbery wrote:
> Generalizing about this stuff is rather dubious.  To generalize, you
> usually have to simplify, and I don't think this is an area of discussion
> that takes to simplification all that well.  That's really been a large
> problem with this whole discussion, including some of my ill-conceived
> ways of phrasing my position earlier.  Many of us, myself included, have
> been trying to simplify to be clearer, or are trying to understand other
> people's perspectives by simplifying and generalizing, and I think that
> was probably a mistake from the start.

I would definitely agree with this.  The problem I have with this
discussion is that one of the ways that people simplify and generalize
is by using words like "zero tolerance" associated with very vague
words about making "people feel welcome", and the clear implications
that anything that might people feel less welcome will be met with
potentially very harsh sanctions.

It's made worse by the fact that the CoC and associated documents,
such as the diversity statement, are meant to achieve a number of very
different, although related things.  

* Personal safety at Debian physical meet-ups and other events

* Assuring that people belonging to various protected classes (to use
  terminology from the US Equal Opportunity Employment laws) do not have
  a hostile environment

* Making sure that a certain basic level of decorum is maintained on
  Debian mailing lists.

etc.  (The above is not meant to be an exhaustive list; just things
that are covered by these custer of documents, and which are all
subtly different.)

They are also all good things.  However, to the extent that all of
these things are conflated when discussing things in the abstract,
especially with respect to policy, does not make for constructive
dialog.  *Especially* when words about zero tolerance and other forms
of absolutism are added into this mix.

There was a story recently about a school district in Virginia where a
child was not allowed to use Chapstick[1], because according to school
district policy, Chapstick was a medication[2], and thus was only
allowed on school property when accompanied by a doctor's letter, and
stored at the school nurses's office, and administer by the school nurse.

[1] http://reason.com/blog/2014/09/08/chapstick-is-a-gateway-drug-says-school
[2] http://www.drugs.com/mtm/chap-stick.html

This is what can happen when a rule that no doubt was drafted with
good intentions, but which got taken too literally without any kind of
common sense getting applied.  Compound this with areas where there
are strong religious feelings, such as say, GPLv2 versus GPLv3 (which
makes it much harder for common sense to apply, because emotions are
running high), and the results are centithreads like this one.


						- Ted

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