Why it matters – part 2
Deanna left a comment, and my response to it was getting so long I thought it should be its own post. I stole the title from Dorothea. See her post for part 1.
Though I feel, a little, for your hurt feelings, I must say it seems like you’ve taken this in the wrong direction. Why punish yourself because of a few idiots? You must know that even though the internet seems like a Wild West full of scary gun-toting macho men, in reality the most ridiculously hostile ones are just children, using the relative anonymity as an excuse to misbehave. They’re trying to get a reaction wherever they can; if this were not the case we’d never have had a goatse.
In contrast, I’ll relate a similar experience I had with the OpenBSD community in 2001. Someone posted a link to the usual (tired, boring, cliched) pictures of softcore porn models with airbrushed geek logos on them. I made a drive-by comment that was aggressive in nature, and received a couple of seemingly hostile private email responses. However, I let them sit a while and gave it some thought, and after re-reading them I realized they were meant to be.. humorous. And they were! I wish I still had copies. One of my favorites was: “What makes you think we _want_ more female users?”
My point here is that I, personally, would never want any specially gentle responses from a DoOcracy that is known for its sharp wit and sharp people. It’s not a tea party, and no one is out to get you. The people who are geniunely hostile about non-technical issues are almost always children and have no relationship to the project at all. Don’t let them keep you from doing what you love.
As an aside, I can’t stand these “women developers wanted!” feel-good articles. The main draw of the open source culture has always been peer-respect and review. Don’t cheapen my now-valid chances at receiving this reward for years of hard work by setting up a special short bus.
Hi, Deanna. Thanks for commenting. I hear what you’re saying about having punished myself by removing myself from the group, when it was a project I wanted to be a part of. That’s true to some extent, and if it happened today I might have fought it out. I do, however, feel that this is a deeper issue than one of hurt feelings.
In cases of discriminatory harassment there is the concept of creating a hostile environment. That means that the workplace has discriminated against a group of people not by barring them from working there outright, but instead by creating an environment where they would not want to or be able to work. I hope that we can all agree that discriminatory harassment is wrong. When I go to work at the library, I expect to be able to do my job without having my co-workers comment on my body, or pin up pictures of naked women in the office, or make lewd comments to me. As a manager, I have a further duty to protect my people from hostile environments. If I don’t then not only will they not be effective, I could get the university sued.
So, what is the open source community? Is it a private club, where everyone gets to do and say whatever they like, including making sexist jokes or posting porn? I would never question someone’s right to do those things in the privacy of their home, or in a nightclub that they owned.
However, I would argue that no, the open source community is not a private club. It is my workplace. And most people in the open source community claim that they want it to be my workplace. The stated goal of openbsd-advocacy, the list you mention, is “Promoting the use of OpenBSD.” They want, or at least say they want, people to use OpenBSD. They want it to have a certain reputation as a reliable piece of software, something that people won’t get fired for if they install it on their university server. They want, and I want, open source to be considered a responsible choice for responsible department heads who are making IT decisions.
You can’t have it both ways. Either it’s a professional community that can be part of a professional workplace, or else it’s a private club, in which case they shouldn’t have non-profit status, they shouldn’t be soliciting donations, and I don’t want them on my servers.
I also do not want any “specially gentle responses.” What I do want, and what I do expect of any project that claims to be of sufficient caliber that I’m going to be trusting my data, my network and my professional reputation to it, is a certain level of professional conduct.