The (Overdue) Need for Community Conduct Standards at Mozilla

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Christie Koehler

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Mar 9, 2012, 12:50:41 PM3/9/12
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
(This is a cross-post from my blog: http://subfictional.com/2012/03/09/the-overdue-need-for-community-conduct-standards-at-mozilla/)

Next week marks my sixth-month anniversary as a Mozilla employee. I have been planning to write a post to mark the occasion and to share with everyone what an awesome (albeit challenging) experience it is working at such an innovative, mission-driven organization.

However, recent events on Plant Mozilla (see Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech and Concerns with Planet Content for context) compel me to speak to another issue first: The urgent need for the Mozilla community to work together to develop, implement and be held accountable to standards for participation.

The syndication on Planet Mozilla of discriminatory content and ensuing discussion is just one symptom of a larger, systemic problem. The greater issue is that we have failed to set forth guidelines about what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior within our community. We have operated far too long under the false assumption that individuals can do this entirely on their own.

Frequently, this failure to put forth standards manifests as slightly less than civil interactions. I’ve also seen it displayed in the offhand dismissal of other’s ideas or needs. Most recently, on Planet Mozilla, I’ve seen it threaten and alienate those contributors who are queer.

As Mozilla grows in scope and size and we facilitate more and more in-person events, the harm incurred due to the absence of community standards will increase. No one should have to endure an assault or harassment at an event we host before we take action on this matter. Already, there are a number of us who question whether or not we are safe at Mozilla and if our contributions are valued.

Setting and enforcing norms is a usual and necessary function of community. Our community managers and long-time contributors have abdicated their responsibility to us by not ensuring such norms are set, and in some cases by actively blocking progress on this matter. It’s time for that to change.

Will it be easy? No, of course not. Some will be unhappy at any implied restrictions on speech or behavior. The point is not to make everyone happy. The point is to provide clear guidelines so that everyone can operate within a common context and to provide a support structure to those who need it.

To be absolutely clear: the heart of this recent issue is not what type of content should be syndicated on Planet Mozilla, and it is not about differences of opinion. Focusing our discussion solely on Planet Mozilla is a distraction.

The issue is that Mozilla resources (the server and bandwidth that provides Planet) were utilized to attack a vulnerable group. This group includes Mozilla employees and contributors and it made it harder for them to do their jobs. That they were attacked using Mozilla resources is what is unacceptable and needs to be addressed directly through the implementation of community standards. Indeed, part of the process of developing these standards will be to make it clear that attacking vulnerable groups is unacceptable.

Community standards are not about limiting anybody’s free speech, but about limiting people’s ability to make their coworkers feel unsafe and unwelcome without consequence or accountability.

Fortunately, we have a lot of resources to draw upon in developing our community standards. Several groups not unlike our own have already done so: Ubuntu Code of Conduct [1], Citizen Code of Conduct [2], Drupal Code of Conduct [3], Wikimedia Foundation Friendly Space Policy [4].

Let’s get to work.

[1] http://www.ubuntu.com/project/about-ubuntu/conduct
[2] http://citizencodeofconduct.org/
[3] http://drupal.org/dcoc
[4] http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Friendly_space_policy

Lukas Blakk

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Mar 9, 2012, 1:18:43 PM3/9/12
to Christie Koehler, mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
Thank you for helping you steer the discussion away from what Planet Mozilla should and shouldn't be and instead bringing up the deeper issue that needs to be address by this group.

Cheers,
Lukas

Benoit Jacob

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Mar 9, 2012, 1:25:23 PM3/9/12
to Lukas Blakk, mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org, Christie Koehler
Well, aren't these two different discussions that need to happen anyway, regardless of each other?

I personally still hope that Planet Mozilla will be restricted very far beyond just what is banned by the Community Conduct Standards.

I don't mean to distract from the present discussion, but conversely, I don't think that it should plain replace the Planet Mozilla discussion.

Benoit
> _______________________________________________
> governance mailing list
> gover...@lists.mozilla.org
> https://lists.mozilla.org/listinfo/governance
>

Toni Hermoso Pulido

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Mar 9, 2012, 1:27:00 PM3/9/12
to Christie Koehler, mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
Al 09/03/12 18:50, En/na Christie Koehler ha escrit:
Dear Christie,

I support your proposal.
As a reference, in a far less complex community where I also
participate, Softcatalà (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Softcatal%C3%A0),
we have recently assumed a code of conduct* and we have linked it from
our websites and mailing lists.
This was based and extended from GNOME's one:
http://live.gnome.org/CodeOfConduct

Of course, even if it exists, people can forget about this after a while
(despite being prominently visible), but I think it's worth the effort
because it may help to model a more welcoming environment for new
contributors.

My 2 cents,

* http://www.softcatala.org/wiki/Codi_de_conducta (sorry, in Catalan)
--
Toni Hermoso Pulido
http://www.cau.cat

Lukas Blakk

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Mar 9, 2012, 1:32:02 PM3/9/12
to Benoit Jacob, mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org, Christie Koehler
I believe it does supplant the need to overrotate on planet policy since having a standard of participation in the Mozilla community becomes an overarching agreement that can be in the fabric of all mozilla projects and interactions. That would include planet and thus, can allow us all to move together on the larger standard instead of trying to create one-offs every time there's an issue brought up in a specific corner of mozilla.
Also, whether planet decides to revamp their UI or the types of feeds it requires is not actually governance, where a code of conduct is.

Cheers,
Lukas
-Sent from a mobile device, please excuse any typos.

Yvan Boily

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Mar 9, 2012, 2:08:35 PM3/9/12
to gover...@lists.mozilla.org
Adopting a code of conduct standard would go a long way to addressing
many of the concerns raised in the Planet threads. If Mozilla keeps
growing at the pace it has since I joined at the beginning of 2011, it
will be increasingly important.

I will freely admit that I don't clearly understand the feelings that
Christie expresses in her post (in terms of feeling unsafe), but I
suspect that is because as a married, straight, white, male, athiest,
the spectrum of discrimination I have felt here in Canada is extremely
narrow (but not non-existent). It is important that members of the
community feel safe, and welcome regardless of who they are, their
lifestyle, or their beliefs, especially if we don't fully understand why
they might feel unsafe.

I hope that everyone agrees that it is important to develop such a
standard that focuses on allowing collaboration on the mission while
being respectful of the fact that different community members may have
radically different views or perspectives.

Thanks for writing this CK!

On 12-03-09 9:50 AM, Christie Koehler wrote:
> (This is a cross-post from my blog: http://subfictional.com/2012/03/09/the-overdue-need-for-community-conduct-standards-at-mozilla/)
>
> Next week marks my sixth-month anniversary as a Mozilla employee. I have been planning to write a post to mark the occasion and to share with everyone what an awesome (albeit challenging) experience it is working at such an innovative, mission-driven organization.
>
> However, recent events on Plant Mozilla (see Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech and Concerns with Planet Content for context) compel me to speak to another issue first: The urgent need for the Mozilla community to work together to develop, implement and be held accountable to standards for participation.
>
> The syndication on Planet Mozilla of discriminatory content and ensuing discussion is just one symptom of a larger, systemic problem. The greater issue is that we have failed to set forth guidelines about what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior within our community. We have operated far too long under the false assumption that individuals can do this entirely on their own.
>
> Frequently, this failure to put forth standards manifests as slightly less than civil interactions. I’ve also seen it displayed in the offhand dismissal of other’s ideas or needs. Most recently, on Planet Mozilla, I’ve seen it threaten and alienate those contributors who are queer.
>
> As Mozilla grows in scope and size and we facilitate more and more in-person events, the harm incurred due to the absence of community standards will increase. No one should have to endure an assault or harassment at an event we host before we take action on this matter. Already, there are a number of us who question whether or not we are safe at Mozilla and if our contributions are valued.
>
> Setting and enforcing norms is a usual and necessary function of community. Our community managers and long-time contributors have abdicated their responsibility to us by not ensuring such norms are set, and in some cases by actively blocking progress on this matter. It’s time for that to change.
>
> Will it be easy? No, of course not. Some will be unhappy at any implied restrictions on speech or behavior. The point is not to make everyone happy. The point is to provide clear guidelines so that everyone can operate within a common context and to provide a support structure to those who need it.
>
> To be absolutely clear: the heart of this recent issue is not what type of content should be syndicated on Planet Mozilla, and it is not about differences of opinion. Focusing our discussion solely on Planet Mozilla is a distraction.
>
> The issue is that Mozilla resources (the server and bandwidth that provides Planet) were utilized to attack a vulnerable group. This group includes Mozilla employees and contributors and it made it harder for them to do their jobs. That they were attacked using Mozilla resources is what is unacceptable and needs to be addressed directly through the implementation of community standards. Indeed, part of the process of developing these standards will be to make it clear that attacking vulnerable groups is unacceptable.
>
> Community standards are not about limiting anybody’s free speech, but about limiting people’s ability to make their coworkers feel unsafe and unwelcome without consequence or accountability.
>
> Fortunately, we have a lot of resources to draw upon in developing our community standards. Several groups not unlike our own have already done so: Ubuntu Code of Conduct [1], Citizen Code of Conduct [2], Drupal Code of Conduct [3], Wikimedia Foundation Friendly Space Policy [4].
>
> Let’s get to work.
>
> [1] http://www.ubuntu.com/project/about-ubuntu/conduct
> [2] http://citizencodeofconduct.org/
> [3] http://drupal.org/dcoc
> [4] http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Friendly_space_policy
>

Graydon Hoare

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Mar 9, 2012, 4:53:12 PM3/9/12
to gover...@lists.mozilla.org
> Our community managers and long-time contributors have abdicated
their responsibility to us by not ensuring such norms are set, and in
some cases by actively blocking progress on this matter. It’s time for
that to change.

I concur entirely.

"Mozilla" may denote a "community" or "project", but it also denotes an
organization. A formal organization: a nonprofit and company, and some
affiliates we grant the use of our name and resources. The organization
already makes a wide variety of specific, concrete decisions on
resources it owns and operates. Hiring and firing, funding and granting,
name and trademark use, access and accounts, moderation, syndication,
inviting, hosting, etc. etc.

The most disappointing aspect of this week has been the repeated
abdication of responsibility for those decisions, the suggestion that
"no policy" is ever actually how we decide things. People in
decision-making roles speaking as though the formal organization has no
existing policies guiding choices of what is ok or not-ok to do with our
resources, in our spaces. That's not true. The organization _obviously_
has policy. And it must. It's necessary to function as an organization.
It makes decisions that way all the time.

All anyone's asking for is for those policies to be made explicit,
articulated as norms for the community facilities we own and operate,
and refined to ensure they contain anti-discrimination policy for
oppressed groups. It appears -- abstractly and from the distance of such
abdication -- that we do no more than the legal minimum[1] to protect
oppressed groups from discrimination. If so, we should say in writing
that we're not willing to do more than the legal minimum. But I hope
that's not true. Because if so that's an embarrassment. Many of our
competitors and other open source projects do much better than the legal
minimum. They have positive codes of conduct that make it clear that
oppressed groups are welcome and discrimination against them will not be
tolerated. We can too. It's not hard.

-Graydon

[1] http://soberbuildengineer.com/blog/2012/03/a-mozilla-lgbtq-postscript/

Myk Melez

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Mar 9, 2012, 5:35:14 PM3/9/12
to Christie Koehler, mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
On 2012-03-09 09:50 , Christie Koehler wrote:
> The greater issue is that we have failed to set forth guidelines about what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior within our community. We have operated far too long under the false assumption that individuals can do this entirely on their own.
We have set forth (and enforced!) such guidelines for our discussion
forums <http://www.mozilla.org/about/forums/etiquette.html> and bug
tracker <https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/page.cgi?id=etiquette.html> for
many years.

And folks have previously proposed generalizing these guidelines to a
community-wide Code of Conduct, although I don't recall what came of
those proposals. In any case, it's a great idea; let's do it!

-myk

Mitchell Baker

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Mar 9, 2012, 6:36:41 PM3/9/12
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
Lukas

a side point to the main issue, but I'm not sure I agree with your
assertion re the scope of "governance."

mitchell

Lukas Blakk

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Mar 9, 2012, 6:39:43 PM3/9/12
to Mitchell Baker, mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org

Apologies if I have misunderstood what the meaning of governance is here, I have only just joined this group after Monday's events led to discussion moving here. I'd be happy to get clarity on the meaning of governance in this context, as well as a sense of what we can actually accomplish from discussing in this group.
Cheers,
Lukas

Mitchell Baker

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Mar 9, 2012, 6:49:19 PM3/9/12
to Lukas Blakk, mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
Happy to when I am back near a good keyboard

Connected by DROID on Verizon Wireless

Asa Dotzler

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Mar 9, 2012, 7:38:51 PM3/9/12
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
On 3/9/2012 3:36 PM, Mitchell Baker wrote:
> Lukas
>
> a side point to the main issue, but I'm not sure I agree with your
> assertion re the scope of "governance."
>
> mitchell

Mitchell, I hope you would agree that under "normal operational
circumstances" that the Planet Module is absolutely allowed to revamp
their UI or types of feeds without that being a project governance
issue. The GFX team did not have to vet changing our entire GFX
infrastructure several times with m.governance. Those changes were a
part of the authority and responsibility of the GFX Module.

These circumstances are clearly not normal operational circumstances and
I understand the escalation to Governance. But if I'm wrong, and the
Planet Module Owner does not have authority to make changes to that
module without vetting them with project governance, then I
fundamentally mis-understand what it is to be an official Mozilla Module
and would not have, under those circumstances, agreed to create the
Module and own it in the first place.

- A

Majken Connor

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Mar 9, 2012, 8:50:47 PM3/9/12
to Myk Melez, mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org, Christie Koehler
I agree, I think informally in many places members of the community do try
and be respectful and understanding of each other, and this goes both ways.
I think people are gracious when a mistake is made, and that people usually
make a lot of effort to think about what they're saying where. I think
these are good things that we want to make sure keep happening.

On Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 5:35 PM, Myk Melez <m...@mozilla.org> wrote:

> On 2012-03-09 09:50 , Christie Koehler wrote:
>
>> The greater issue is that we have failed to set forth guidelines about
>> what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior within our community.
>> We have operated far too long under the false assumption that individuals
>> can do this entirely on their own.
>>
> We have set forth (and enforced!) such guidelines for our discussion
> forums <http://www.mozilla.org/about/**forums/etiquette.html<http://www.mozilla.org/about/forums/etiquette.html>>
> and bug tracker <https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/**page.cgi?id=etiquette.html<https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/page.cgi?id=etiquette.html>>
> for many years.
>
> And folks have previously proposed generalizing these guidelines to a
> community-wide Code of Conduct, although I don't recall what came of those
> proposals. In any case, it's a great idea; let's do it!
>
> -myk
>
>
> ______________________________**_________________
> governance mailing list
> gover...@lists.mozilla.org
> https://lists.mozilla.org/**listinfo/governance<https://lists.mozilla.org/listinfo/governance>
>

L. David Baron

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Mar 10, 2012, 12:11:24 AM3/10/12
to Graydon Hoare, gover...@lists.mozilla.org
On Friday 2012-03-09 13:53 -0800, Graydon Hoare wrote:
> The most disappointing aspect of this week has been the repeated
> abdication of responsibility for those decisions, the suggestion
> that "no policy" is ever actually how we decide things. People in
> decision-making roles speaking as though the formal organization has
> no existing policies guiding choices of what is ok or not-ok to do
> with our resources, in our spaces. That's not true. The organization
> _obviously_ has policy. And it must. It's necessary to function as
> an organization. It makes decisions that way all the time.

I agree with you that "no policy" (in the sense that I think I
recall you writing elsewhere, of "allow anything") is a bad idea.

> All anyone's asking for is for those policies to be made explicit,
> articulated as norms for the community facilities we own and
> operate,

"Have a policy" and "have an explicit policy" are two different
things. In many cases Mozilla has quite succesfully used informal
policy: writing things down formally only when events show they
need to be written down. In many cases it's been sufficient to have
non-normative descriptions of the way things work rather than a
normative text. I think, for example, we may have been more
welcoming to new contributors if we hadn't left untouched the
normative text of our code review policy that hadn't actually been
followed as written for quite a few years (roughly 2004-2009,
perhaps?).

I this case, though, I agree that writing some amount of policy down
formally may be useful.

> and refined to ensure they contain anti-discrimination
> policy for oppressed groups. It appears -- abstractly and from the
> distance of such abdication -- that we do no more than the legal
> minimum[1] to protect oppressed groups from discrimination. If so,
> we should say in writing that we're not willing to do more than the
> legal minimum. But I hope that's not true. Because if so that's an
> embarrassment. Many of our competitors and other open source
> projects do much better than the legal minimum. They have positive
> codes of conduct that make it clear that oppressed groups are
> welcome and discrimination against them will not be tolerated. We
> can too. It's not hard.

On the contrary, I think writing policy well is extremely hard.
It's easy to write policies that seem like they're going to do the
right thing. But a formal written policy needs to produce the right
result for a broad range of cases. Whatever the policy is, there
are going to be hard cases near the boundary, many of which the
policy's authors didn't forsee. Building consensus around a written
policy requires building consensus that that boundary is in the
right place.

In many cases this can be alleviated somewhat by making the policy
more vague. Which in turn returns to a continuum back from "have an
explicit policy" towards "have a policy".

(For example, comparing two of the policies cited in
http://subfictional.com/2012/03/09/the-overdue-need-for-community-conduct-standards-at-mozilla/
, http://www.ubuntu.com/project/about-ubuntu/conduct is mostly quite
vague about what conduct is unacceptable, whereas
http://citizencodeofconduct.org/ is much more precise about what
types of conduct are forbidden. I think working out which I think
is better would take me some time.)

-David

--
𝄞 L. David Baron http://dbaron.org/ 𝄂
𝄢 Mozilla http://www.mozilla.org/ 𝄂

Justin Dolske

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Mar 10, 2012, 3:16:21 AM3/10/12
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
On 3/9/12 9:11 PM, L. David Baron wrote:

> "Have a policy" and "have an explicit policy" are two different
> things. In many cases Mozilla has quite succesfully used informal
> policy: writing things down formally only when events show they
> need to be written down. In many cases it's been sufficient to have
> non-normative descriptions of the way things work rather than a
> normative text.

Yes. This. +1. Etc.

> [...]Whatever the policy is, there
> are going to be hard cases near the boundary, many of which the
> policy's authors didn't forsee. Building consensus around a written
> policy requires building consensus that that boundary is in the
> right place.
>
> In many cases this can be alleviated somewhat by making the policy
> more vague. Which in turn returns to a continuum back from "have an
> explicit policy" towards "have a policy".

Again with the +1/this/RT!

We should have something general enough that it's not trying to
micromanage behavior. But also something specific enough that it's not a
wishy-washy, watered-down policy. (Although even the latter might be a
better starting point than "no policy".)

Justin

Ben Bucksch

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Mar 10, 2012, 4:12:36 AM3/10/12
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
On 09.03.2012 22:53, Graydon Hoare wrote:
> "Mozilla" may denote a "community" or "project", but it also denotes
> an organization. A formal organization: a nonprofit and company

I disagree. The name of the company and nonprofit are "Mozilla
Corporation" and "Mozilla Foundation". They merely happen to have the
name "Mozilla" in them, because they are there for the good of the
Mozilla project. These formal organizations to have have a stake on
their own in the name. Their mere and *only* purpose is to support the
Mozilla project. This was made very explicit when they were created.

Don't let the tail wag the dog, please.

Ben Bucksch

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Mar 10, 2012, 4:14:40 AM3/10/12
to mozilla-g...@lists.mozilla.org
On 10.03.2012 10:12, Ben Bucksch wrote:
> These formal organizations to have have a stake on their own in the name.

Correction (sorry):
.... do not ...
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