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

On 03/09/14 at 12:29 +0100, Ian Jackson wrote:
> I sent the mail below on Saturday evening (Portland time).  I'm told
> that others also sent complaints, perhaps to different address(es).
> I think there is room for disagreement about: the extent to which his
> comments were a CoC violation; the nature and severity of the
> violation; and the appropriate response.
> However, I think a basic requirement is that CoC complaints are:
>   - dealt with promptly;
>   - without fear of favour;
>   - and that the outcome is communicated to the complainants.
> It seems to me that, unfortunately, we have failed in those respects.
> During my informal conversations with various people it was evident
> that this issue was seen as a political hot potato, and that it wasn't
> clear to everyone who had ultimate responsibility for making a
> decision.
> It seems to me that we have failed to act (or to do so promptly, at
> least) essentially because of the identity and status of the alleged
> violator.  This is not acceptable.
> I can see that it's a difficult situation for the teams responsible,
> and I'm sorry for putting those people on the spot.  And I regret the
> need to follow this up.  But a Code of Conduct is only any use if it
> is enforced, and it is only fair if it is enforced equally on
> everyone.


Given Ian decided to make his complaint public to -private@, let's make
the way it was handled public as well. All times in PDT.

Friday, 22:06 - Ian mails antiharassment@d.o.
Saturday, 08:45 - Patty Langasek forwarded his complaint to me.
Saturday, 09:20 - I reply, and add the Debian press team to the mail

Here is my reply:
Hi Patty,

I'm adding the press team to Cc, as they are likely to have good insight
about how to deal with the unavoidable publicity that any action would
likely have.

In terms of actions, we need to be careful here. I highly value the fact
that we are able to invite people with whom we disagree with, because
hearing such differences of opinions are also a way to better understand
where we stand. Being a large community, there's the risk that Debian
kind-of isolates from the rest of the world and self-entertain its
positions without being challenged.

At DC13, we invited Lennart Poettering to talk about systemd, and even
if this went well, there was a possibility that it wouldn't have gone
this way. I wouldn't want us to set a rule that such people are not
welcome at DebConf due to the potential of CoC violations.

I'm not convinced that we should issue a public statement due to the
potential for Streisand effect, but if we do so, it could be along the
lines of (sorry, the wording is clearly suboptimal, I need coffee!):
- DebConf is a conference where we welcome talks from respectable members
  of the Free Software community, even if the opinions of those speakers
  do not match Debian's core values.
- However, the Debian project aims at preserving an environment where
  disagreement can be expressed in a respectable way. As Ian Jackson
  puts it: "<insert what Ian said yesterday>"
- In that regard, Linus was totally out of the line yesterday.
- In the future, we will make ensure that our CoC and our expectations
  in that regard are better communicated to people invited to speak at

(Note: I did not imply to suggest to write "Linus was totally out of the line
yesterday" in a press release, but to polish the idea into something that could
go in a press release).

On Saturday, 11:32 a press team member replied and agreed with me that a public
statement would not be productive.

For me, that closed the discussion on this issue. Also, I saw that Ian had a
discussion with members of the DebConf team near frontdesk later that day,
so I wrongly assumed that the outcome of the discussion was communicated to him
at this point.

It seems to me that we were able to handle this promptly. However a number of
mistakes were made in the process:
- We did not communicate the outcome to Ian. As Tollef pointed out,
  that's not something we said we would do, but it's probably something
  that we should have done in that case.
- We failed to stress the importance of the CoC to Linus. I'd like to point out
  that Debian used to be perceived as a community where flamewars and harsh
  language are common. The cultural switch that happened inside the project
  might not have transpired much outside yet, and it's very well possible that
  Linus was not aware of it.
- Given Steve's and Ana's description, it seems that the chain of events that
  led to this Q&A session was suffering from our usual DebConf-related
  decision-making problems. (the "DebConf organization" sessions at DebConf
  sound like a very promising path to fixing this for the future).

After reading all comments in that thread, I am still of the opinion that the
disadvantages of a public statement from the Debian project would outweight
its advantages.

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