Saturday, November 6, 2010

Listening to Our Better Angels

I've been most distressed tonight, to hear of my friend Noirin being assaulted at an ApacheCon party, here: Worse, there are people calling her out for naming the attacker! Seriously, people? (I hear the comments are even worse over at Hacker News. I refuse to get even more disturbed and upset, so I'm not going to be reading them.)

In two separate discussions about this, with people who know and love Noirin, women said that the story makes them reluctant to attend cons and other FLOSS events, since assaults seem to be common. Yes, if you haven't been keeping up with the news, this happens OFTEN.

This doesn't make me fearful, it makes me ANGRY. Of course I'm angry at the perpetrators, but I'm also angry at those who protect them, and those who say 'we want more women to participate,' while not setting the standards of NO ASSAULT, and enforcing those standards. That seems like a very low expectation, don't you think? No ASSAULT!?

I can't help but contrast this assault with my experiences at last week's UDS in Orlando Florida. Ubuntu has a Code of Conduct, and not only enforces it, but has an even higher standard for community leaders. And there is discussion about having the Leadership CoC be formally signed also. I applaud this initiative, and hope that more communities create enforceable standards, and that conventions and other large gatherings will do likewise. There is no reason for any person to fear for their safety at these gatherings! I felt completely safe in Orlando, and I credit the high standards for that feeling of safety. Of course my favorite Kubuntu is covered by the same codes of conduct.

I call on the LinuxFest Northwest to set up and announce No Assault or Harrassment standards, and enforce them. I guarantee that a reputation as a safe space *will* result in more women attending. See the Con Anti-Harassment Project for specifics.

However, I think we need to go beyond a negative, and move toward positive expectations. I love the LinuxChix famous two rules: 1. Be polite, and 2. Be helpful. Indeed! And many projects have a standards. Among them, KDE Community Code of Conduct, GNOME Code Of Conduct, Gentoo Linux's Code of Conduct, the Mandriva Linux Code of Conduct, to name those I could easily find.

In addition, Freenode has an inspiring description of the "catalyst" role and how important it is to the continued use and usefulness of Freenode IRC: And today, Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community Leader for Canonical, has posted The OpenRespect Declaration: I think we all owe it to one another as free humans, to respect one another.

PS: In case another reminded is needed: Thanks for posting this link just when I needed it, Hypatia.

PPS: Also see The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project


  1. "I guarantee that a reputation as a safe space *will* result in more women attending. "
    A hostile environment, or one that is tolerant of "assault" does not only hinder women IMO. It hurts the project/community as a whole.

    Nice post.

  2. This is depressing to read. I knew that the relationship between male computer nerds and women, culturally speaking, is not perfect -- sometimes understandably, if very unfortunately, so -- but not that it was _this_ bad. As you imply, part of the solution to it is cultural. This kind of behaviour, and toleration of this kind of behaviour, simply should not be tolerated. Even if, say, your romantic life is frustrating and painful -- I have no idea about the specific case here, but I imagine in a lot of cases that's a contributing factor -- it's not an excuse for being a caveman and an orc. (It's also counterproductive, but that's merely incidental. It would be wrong even if it weren't.)

    Did any/all of the people who this happened to report it to the police? That could be another part of the solution.

  3. This is unacceptable and very disheartening to hear. I agree with what you said completely, and I can't comprehend anyone defending this sort of behavior, or criticizing its exposure.

  4. I follow Hacker News pretty closely, but somehow I'd missed the headline that linked to this. I've been using FOSS software for over a decade, but apart from going to several UDSes for work, I've attended almost no events.

    I would have, apparently naively, assumed that any kind of assault would as a matter of course be completely unacceptable, so I'm stunned and hugely disappointed that people would actually need this to be spelled out for events. It shouldn't matter where one is, a conference, a party, anywhere - there's no excuse for such behaviour!

  5. Thank you for raising this issue, Valorie, and for your commitment to LinuxFest Northwest. A message has been sent to the Fest organizers to get something started. I am committed to creating a code of conduct based on the resources you've indicated.

    Carl Symons
    LFNW organizer

  6. Very heartening comments. For more discussions, cross-project, use, an excellent resource I forgot when making my post.

    We can make things better!

  7. Oh, and yes, the police were notified, and Noirin interviewed. What legal action is happening, I do not know.

  8. Aargh!!! This is infuriating to hear and read about. There is no excuse, no place for this kind of behavior. None. I waited a few days before commenting in the hopes that the fire would leave my belly but it hasn't.

    Much respect and love for highlighting the issue and acting positively in response.


  9. doing what I can...

  10. This has nothing to do with FLOSS but society in general.

    I am sure that your average Linux geek is like anyone else. There are wife beaters, those who cheat on their spouses, pedophiles, rapists and murderers like Reiser.
    Does that make all Linux users rapist and murderers?
    No. Just because hockey has a lot of coach touching yonug boys stories doesnt mean I feel that standards should be created for this. Its a crime. Period.
    Code of conducts to denounce a criminal act are supposed to focus on the CRIMINAL part not on the hippy brainwashing that goes with most PC campaigns.

    Priests are supposed to be held to a higher standard yet the ones that are unmarried seems to be unable to get their hands off the penises of you boys.
    You dont need campaigns to uphold a law.
    A good beating or caning though is a great detterent.

    I worked as a doorman at a strip club to pay for college and even in the sex industry, it was no touch.
    Everyone knew that. Those that didnt were physically removed and never needed to be reminded again.
    While not everyone agrees with violence, coercion through the law is a great way. A fine or even jail time (ironic that we punish by sending prisoners to rape camps where new inmates in places like Nevada get pamphlets telling them not to fight through the upcoming rape so as to suffer less damage. we have the highest amount of prisoners in the world, you do the math) or getting labelled as a sex offender is THE ONLY way to combat this.
    Feel good posts are like farting in the wind. Its disturbing for a few seconds and then evaporates.
    Get this guy arrested and THEN write about it and it will be worth more than any new site.

    This should be treated as a criminal act and not for pontificating which the FLOSS community is very good at.

  11. Well, V, I completely disagree with you. I ask you to read again what I said, what Noirin said, what other women say, such as Selena Marie Deckelmann, with It's Not Just Noirin: and Valerie Aurora, It's Not Just Noirin:

    Do we want our projects to be better? Then we'll have to be better people. Do we want more diversity, which means more creativity, more help, more PEOPLE? Then we must raise our standards. Relying on the law, and *rape of rapists* isn't the answer. I completely reject that view.

    We can do better, we can be better. Shall we?

  12. I was happy to see an email from Jono Bacon, recently, noting that "the work on the Anti-Harassment policy is now available on and linked in the footer of" He gives his thanks to "Charles Profitt and Valerie Aurora for their contributions here."

    Thanks to all three of you, along with everyone else who helped make this happen. Of course, enforcement is the important bit, but getting the policy out front of the event is the first step.

  13. Add to this today's post by MDZ (Matt Zimmerman, no relation that we know of) on his blog:

    I like this statement, and the fact that it puts in *positive terms* what we want for our community.

    I like the Code of Conduct, and think it makes Ubuntu a better community. I would like to get the Leadership Code of Conduct signed as a matter of course for all people taking leadership roles in the community also, which is not now the case. These positively-stated ideals are part of what makes Ubuntu a good place to "live."