One of my recent CWG (KDE Community Working Group) emails said, in part:
...the confrontation seems to have clarified some issues...
Of course! That is what confrontation is about. It isn't necessarily a power struggle, although it's usually seen that way. Confrontation, argument, fights are all about issues. Of course sometimes the issue is power, and access to resources, but more often the issue is about how to get to a shared goal or value. Confrontation is best and most productive when it clarifies: How can we best collaborate?
Arguments aren't bad! They bring issues out in the open. And if people learn to 'fight fair' - focus on resolving issues, not people, not positions, then stuff gets done. Even if you aren't directly involved in an argument, sometimes your part is to remind the 'opponents' of that, and support them as they 'get to yes.' If there is anger involved, it's good to be able to blow off steam without injecting that heat into the argument itself. Often a friendly ear is invaluable there.
I think confrontation is scary to people because most of us are taught as children NOT to confront, but to obey authority. This is understandable from the parents' point of view, but over the long term, people need to learn confrontation, negotiation, and fighting fair. As a parent I tried to teach my kids how to fight fair --even with me. Because mama is not always right.
I've only been in the community for a few years, so I can't compare 'the old days' to now. The KDE, Kubuntu and Ubuntu communities are spread all over the world, with people from a lot of different cultures; it would be amazing if we had no misunderstandings, spats, fights, disagreements. It is my hope that we all learn to do this better, and remember to be respectful during the struggle.
The Codes of Conduct are our support here. A CoC is often seen as a club, or a codification of law, which I think is wrong. Re-read your CoC, and I think you'll find that it is a description of the community we want, and the way we want to work. I hope to see fewer mentions of "CoC violation" and more examples of living up to our shared ideals. Read 'em again:
KDE Code of Conduct: http://www.kde.org/code-of-conduct/
Ubuntu Code of Conduct: http://www.ubuntu.com/about/about-ubuntu/conduct
Linuxchix boils it down the best, I think. Two rules: Be polite, and be helpful.