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

On 19 September 2014 09:42, Matt Taggart <taggart@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> If your definition of tolerance means accepting of abusive assholes, then
> yes we should be intolerant.

So earlier Russ and Steve talked about it being okay to criticise
behaviour, but not people. Calling someone an abusive asshole is
surely crossing the line, no? [0]

(And if we can't call someone an abusive asshole, then surely we can't
use that as the criteria to be intolerant of them -- "why have you
banned me?" "it would violate the code of conduct to explain it")

> Accepting assholes may create a welcoming environment for assholes

Accepting isn't the same as welcoming. For instance, Debian is
accepting of people who live far away from other DD's, but if we only
accept them when they have signatures from multiple other DDs on their
key, and don't do anything to help make that easier, that wouldn't be
an entirely /welcoming/ environment. Likewise, I'm sure you could
imagine a project that accepts women as members, yet offers an
environment they find hostile, and isn't willing to do anything about
changing it -- I wouldn't call that welcoming either.

Which is to say I think Debian could accept some assholes without
necessarily creating a welcoming environment for assholes. More
particularly, I think Debian could accept people who act obnoxiously
outside of Debian without tolerating "poisonous" behavour within the
project. For most trolls, I think that'd end up being a very
unwelcoming environment.

> but 1)
> IMO those aren't the type of people we want to welcome and 2) it creates an
> unwelcoming environment for people who don't like assholes.

It's really easy to call the people you don't like assholes and decide
it's okay to be intolerant of them. Maybe you do that by making
insulting gifs that ridicule them, maybe you do it by ignoring their
requests to be more polite, maybe you do it by saying they'll got to
hell, maybe you do it via the law of the land, maybe you do it by just
getting all the nice clubs and restaurants and stores you frequent to
refuse to do business with your preferred pariahs, maybe you go all
out and try to maim and kill them.

I don't want to go so far as to say that picking a bunch of people and
deciding they're "bad" by some metric and acting on that isn't ever
okay, I just think that it's not something Debian needs to do. Sure,
have standards you expect people to meet like technical policy and the
code of conduct, and dismiss people's contributions if they don't
measure up to them (whether that be uploads, patches, bug reports,
mailing list posts, comments on irc or whatever). And if that means we
never see or hear from some people because they don't have anything to
contribute that meets our standards, then fine, and likewise if we can
only effectively filter on the person because filtering the content is
too hard. I just think it's going a step too far to make things about
banning/shunning/whatever "bad" people when just preventing bad
behaviour is an option.

(I kind of find it hard to interpret Russ and Ian's "paradox of
tolerance" as something other than a justification for that style of
thinking: okay, anyone who wants to promote tolerance has to be
intolerant of some things, so everyone's intolerant to some degree or
another, but if you then say it's okay to be intolerant of anyone
who's intolerant, that covers everyone, so voila, you have permission
to be intolerant of anyone you like, and that only proves how tolerant
you are? I'll note in passing that at least per the wikipedia article
on the concept, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance the
concept is only supposed to provide a really limited degree of
opposition to the intolerant)

> (btw those people are welcome to go and create their own project where that
> kind of behavior is normal)

I'm not a fan of that approach, either -- you could just as easily say
"women can go setup their own project if they don't like Debian" or
"people who want a code of conduct should go make their own distro,
Debian's about free speech and free software", or "people who don't
like non-free should go make their own project". I think you get a
better result if you can find a way of tolerating the conflicting
ideas, and working together. Maybe that means people who enjoy
swearing or a good flame should request a new list for it with a
different code of conduct, much like debian-women or debian-curiosa
exist to provide different environments/rules compared to what's
generally par for the course. I'm not sure anyone actually wants that,
just that if they do, I think that should be okay. At least from how
I'm understanding your (and other's) emails, I think you and others

> I have witnessed an interesting trend of tolerating extreme behavior in
> Debian over many years and I think I might have figured out why that is...
> To some extent all of us are "nerds", "geeks", etc and different than
> mainstream culture, and probably all of us have endured teasing and being
> treated differently (especially in younger school years) because of that.
> So I think that may make us predisposed to tolerating people who are
> "weird" because we can relate and can easily imagine ourselves being
> singled out for similar reasons. But I would argue this often results in us
> tolerating really bad behavior for far too long (I can think of a few
> examples).

Sure, that's completely plausible. If anyone really wanted to argue
it, I could totally come up with a preponderance of supporting
evidence even.

I guess it just concerns me that I can easily see this being used as a
different way of being hostile to groups of people. That hasn't
happened yet (IMHO, etc), but it bothers me that the folks advocating
for the code of conduct don't seem to be doing much in the way of
acknowledging and trying to address the concerns of those who are
bothered by it. For instance, I don't think it's unfair to say that
there are at least a few developers who feel threatened by Debian
adopting a code of conduct; take for instance some of the concern
expressed in threads at some of the posting bans made by listmaster.
Per the code of conduct, "a community in which people feel threatened
is not a healthy community", so how do you address that? I think one
reasonable way is to not just draw a line in the sand saying "this
sort of behaviour won't be tolerated", but to say "you know, some of
us mightn't like ____, but we'll tolerate it fine". I thought I was
getting somewhere figuring out a line like that which Russ would
consider okay, but failed miserably, for instance.

Maybe I'm being unreasonable wanting to see that come as a result of
building consensus in a thread like this, rather than set directly by
the delegates of the day, I don't know.

> We can be tolerant of "weird" and still have standards of acceptable
> behavior.

Completely agreed. However, I think some of the arguments I've seen
here in favour of this go too far though; even if hopefully not quite



Don't get me wrong -- I think where Debian's at now is a massive
improvement on where it was a decade ago, and beyond that, I think the
powers that be are actually doing a pretty great job in an absolute
sense too (IMO, YMMV etc). That's a successful enough change that
honestly I'm not much worried about the threat of folks using the
moral authority of free speech or personal technical prowess to create
a hostile and unwelcoming environment in Debian anymore -- it's not
non-existant, but folks are completely capable of addressing it, and
are doing so. Instead it seems to me like the cloak of moral authority
within Debian is currently held by the folks fighting for civility,
respect and tolerance -- which is great, but also gives them the
biggest chance of tripping up and creating the hostile (to some)
environment they're trying to avoid. I guess my utopian ideal scenario
would be to see the folks on the currently winning side of the
argument showing a bit more consideration to those on the losing side
(as opposed to how things went when the roles were reversed, for

aj, not really sorry for adding to the thread... this is what
discussion lists are for, isn't it?

[0] Just to be clear; by "crossing the line" I mean getting to the
point where you might followup saying "yeah, maybe you're right, that
was harsh", not "should be banned from the list" or "should be kicked
from the project". AIUI, making an on-list reply saying something
like, "that crosses the line, doesn't it?" is the sort of thing the
code of conduct suggests you should do in case of problems that aren't
persistent or terribly serious...

Anthony Towns <aj@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

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