On being excellent to each other

There has been a lot of discussion recently where there is strong disagreement, even about how to discuss the disagreement. Here’s a few thoughts on the matter.

The thing I personally find the most annoying is when someone thinks what someone else says is inappropriate and says so, it seems like the inevitable response is to scream censorship. When people do that, I’m pretty sure they don’t know what the word censorship actually means. Debian/Ubuntu/Insert Project Name Here resources are not public spaces and no government is telling people what they can and can’t say.

When you engage in speech and people respond to that speech, even if you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy after reading the response, it’s not censorship. It’s called discussion.

When someone calls out speech that they think is inappropriate, the proper response is not to blame a Code of Conduct or some other set of rules. Projects that have a code, also have a process for dealing with claims the code has been violated. Unless someone invokes that process (which almost never happens), the code is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that someone is having a problem with what or how you are saying something and are in some way hurt by it.

Let’s focus on that. The rules are irrelevant, what matters is working together in a collegial way. I really don’t think project members actively want other project members to feel bad/unsafe, but it’s hard to get outside ones own defensive reaction to being called out. So please pay less attention to how you’re feeling about things and try to see things from the other side. If we can all do a bit more of that, then things can be better for all of us.

Final note: If you’ve gotten this far and thought “Oh, that other person is doing this to me”, I have news for you – it’s not just them.

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2 Responses to “On being excellent to each other”


  1. 1 Ned Flanders December 1, 2014 at 20:17

    > I’m pretty sure they don’t know what the word censorship actually means

    You know, until you find a word to better describe that, it is EXACTLY how people will use it since it best expresses their feelings and censorship can relate to governments, private organizations and individuals.

    And Ive stumbled upon a few blogs where someone says something with a touch, a smidgen of know it all arrogance and right away Ubuntu Code is invoked.
    I think its gets into some of these comments faster than the traditional Hitler-Nazi one that americans have been programmed to jump to.

    Thought and opinion police on blogs and forums is not the same as banning swearing and personal attacks.

    • 2 skitterman December 1, 2014 at 21:08

      It’s not my job to figure out a new word to describe the thing some people want to whine about. The problem is that rolling all this butt-hurt over someone said something mean about what I said into the word censorship is that it devalues the word. New flash: there are places in the world where censorship is a real thing and people go to jail/get killed by their government for saying the wrong thing. Trying to compare things like mailing list bans with that is beyond ridiculous.

      I find it’s far more common for people engaged in unpleasant speech who get called on it to whine about codes of conduct than it is for people who don’t like the speech to actually invoke it.

      I chose to publish your comment, even though I didn’t have to. If I hadn’t, you might whine about censorship from your nice warm residence in Montreal, but it wouldn’t be. I have no obligation to publish your words. My blog. Up to me.

      If I had to coin a phrase for it, it’d be something like “Refusing to allow me to behave badly in their private space”, but that probably doesn’t have the effect you’re going for.


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