[Discussion]: This is the Way - the Ubuntu Code of Conduct

While we’re gearing up to introduce our new, easier way to sign the Code of Conduct, maybe it’s not a bad idea to chat about the code itself - at least the first section of it, which gives a high-level overview of the code’s finer parts. Feel free to respond to the conversation starter questions, and feel even freer to ask your own!

Ubuntu is about showing humanity to one another: the word itself captures the spirit of being human.

As a bit of a philosophy nerd, I admit the project name helped draw me into the community. Defining what it means to be human by our shared connections to each other (I am because we are), not just individual thought processes (I am because I think) just felt right. For the project, it means without a community, we don’t exist - and working better means working together, no matter how challenging that can sometimes be.

How do you show humanity to one another? How would you want someone to show humanity to you in our community?

We want a productive, happy and agile community that can welcome new ideas in a complex field, improve every process every year, and foster collaboration between groups with very different needs, interests and skills.

Wow, the last two parts of this paragraph have been at the core of our work for the past few months. The membership process is improving thanks to a proposal from new member Mark Johnson back in February 2021, and in a matter of days (days!) we’ll have an easier way to sign the Code of Conduct for contributors. But we know this process isn’t the only one that needs improving coughthewikicough, and Rhys and I want to make those improvements more efficient in the future.

Fostering collaboration inside and outside our community is also near and dear to us both - and it’s part of the spirit of open source. To quote a recent show, “when one of us shines, we all shine,” and I think we see a big part of our jobs as helping to turn those sparks of joint effort into steady and collaborative flames. But we all come from so many different places and backgrounds, and contribute for so many different reasons, and so doing this well can be tricky.

How have you collaborated with people or groups who have had different needs, interests, or skills? Is there something you think that could make that collaboration easier? What can we try to eliminate (or at least minimize) that makes that collaboration harder?

We gain strength from diversity, and actively seek participation from those who enhance it. This code of conduct exists to ensure that diverse groups collaborate to mutual advantage and enjoyment. We will challenge prejudice that could jeopardise the participation of any person in the project.

This section might seem like the most controversial of the Code of Conduct, but in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. Ubuntu is all about defining humanity through our relationships with each other, and if we’re only welcoming people who look a certain way, are from a certain background, or have similar experiences, then our humanity isn’t complete. For various and complicated reasons, open source communities like ours have often been pretty homogenous places. We have had some pretty great global diversity from the start, and we have contributors in pretty much every time zone! That is something we should be rightfully proud of. But just think how much more our community could do if it explicitly sought participation from some of those diverse groups that haven’t been reflected in our community - yet.

In what ways do you think our project shows diversity? How do you think we could improve our diversity? Are there any prejudices we need to be aware of and wrestle with together?

The Code of Conduct governs how we behave in public or in private whenever the project will be judged by our actions. We expect it to be honoured by everyone who represents the project officially or informally, claims affiliation with the project, or participates directly.

This one can be hard. I mean, I live on Twitter a LOT more thanks to this position, and there are times (so many times) I want to fire off a snarky comment or reply with a particularly brutal gif or a well-chosen hand gesture emoji. But I always realize I’m a public face of not only Canonical but the Ubuntu project, and so I take a deep breath and move on. Moreover, I want to use my behavior, whether in public or private, for good - whether it’s representing our community during an office hours or a conference, or just having a conversation on Telegram/Discord/Reddit.

Yes, being nice on Reddit IS possible. :joy:

But I don’t think this section means being a doormat, and there are times where we’ll need to correct misconceptions, etc. But we can disagree and challenge things without being jerks. As one of our former community managers put it, our candle doesn’t shine any brighter by blowing others’ out. There’s just more darkness, and that’s the last thing the world in its present state needs. Hence why part of our new membership application process will not only be signing the CoC, but answering questions about it during the interview.

What situations have you faced that have made living up to our Code of Conduct hard? How did you handle it? What advice would you give to others dealing with similar situations?

What’s next?

Codes of Conduct sometimes get a bad reputation, and sometimes they get used more as a hammer than a guide. But I’d encourage everyone reading this to think about how we can keep improving our code of conduct and making it as useful and as meaningful as possible. Do we have more conversations, like this one? Do we have mentorship and other learning opportunities? Do we make a catchy song about it?

I’m looking forward to your thoughts, and to keeping this conversation going!

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Hi, I have signed the code of conduct 6 years ago. I have signed it, because there was nothing obviously wrong with it. Nevertheless, I thought and still think it is too long.

If there will be a new version of the code of conduct, it should be, in my opinion, shorter and certainly not longer. A good and healthy community does not need a code of conduct. Maybe the Ubuntu community is too big and therefore needs a code of conduct. But I am convinced, that the community is healthy enough to have a short code of conduct. The longer a code of conduct is, the more problems the community seems to have.

Indeed, I found a whole paragraph in the code of conduct that could be deleted:

Beside the buzzword “diversity” the paragraph does not introduce anything new, which is not covered by the previous paragraph:

Beside that:
I propose to add a link to the official Ubuntu code of conduct in the opening post. Because I signed the code of conduct, I found it on launchpad.net. But people who don’t have signed it, might find it convenient to click on a link right here in this thread.

And what happens to people who signed the code of conduct 2.0, but do not want to sign a newer version? Will they be excluded after years of collaboration?
I was indirectly an Ubuntu member for two years, but I let the membership expire. I do not need to be a member to do whatever I do for Ubuntu.
But I guess, a signed code of conduct is needed to be able to get sponsored a newer .deb package?
This discussion is about the content of the code of conduct. But I think it is worth to shortly explain, why the code of conduct is needed and for what it is used.

Just for reference, the official page is:

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Thanks! I thought I’d included it but I evidently didn’t :grimacing:

The CoC is indeed long…but not too long.

To me, the CoC tries to do two things:

  1. It’s a Vision Statement of the Ubuntu Community (not the Ubuntu Project).
  2. It’s an actual Code of Conduct (list of expected behaviors).

I don’t mind that it does two things. I think it expresses both rather well.

  • I think the “diversity” paragraph is one of the most important. It exposes just how far we have NOT come by any reasonable metric that I can think of.

  • Moving to the how we behave in public paragraph:

    Quite right. To me, it means behaving professionally and responsibly, even when others are not.

    To me, this paragraph is important because it’s a constant challenge to me: I will frankly admit that I want to be better at this than I truly am. Slow improvement.

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Ian did a great job of answering, and I honestly can’t do better that his short and sweet summary here:

I think the diversity paragraph acknowledges the challenges of living up to the paragraph before it, because there’s a lot of things that can make a community a place where people are all similar in not-great ways. It’s our own unconscious biases, it’s bigger structural issues in society, etc. Having a community that reflects more viewpoints and experiences and backgrounds only makes us better, because a diverse community will have more ideas, more innovation, and have more sustainability. Guiding our community to that has been and is hard, but to me, this paragraph says it is worth doing.

Oh, you and me both. I mean, I am pretty sarcastic by nature, so I’ve had to learn to temper my reactions - usually by stepping away, sometimes by venting to my very trustworthy husband, and trying not to put anything too angry out there permanently. But I have to say, I’ve always thought you’ve had pretty great behavior here, even when disagreeing with someone!

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That is a wonderful example of a woolly statement. Who is we? What do you mean with “reasonable metric”?

In other words, it is not necessary/mandatory to sign the code of conduct to be able to contribute to Ubuntu (e.g. packaging)?

Why does a community need a paragraph about diversity in the code of conduct to have more viewpoints and experiences? Do you think without the paragraph, the community will have less viewpoints, less innovation, less “sustainability”? If yes, why?

I am contributing to Ubuntu because I can and want to contribute. I do not contribute to make the world “better”. Ubuntu is open source and free of charge. I like the idea that Ubuntu can be used by everyone (yes, everyone, not only the “good people”). And I also like the idea that everyone can contribute, if the contribution is made in a respectful manner.

It’s fair to guess that Ian is referring to the community when he says ‘we’, and by metrics, anything that organizations like the CHAOSS Project would measure. So while this might seem woolly to you, to Ian and others it is clear - so even phrasing this as ‘To me, this seems like a woolly statement’ can make for a better dialogue.

It is necessary to sign the code to contribute to things like packaging. I don’t think Ian was implying otherwise.

I think any discussion about changing the CoC should really be moved to its own topic, since this topic is more focused on following the current code of conduct. And the code is very much created by the community - the most current version was written and passed many years ago by the Community Council, so it reflects what the community thinks is important enough to put in it.

Moderator hat on

This has gotten off-topic @madhens and @apt-ghetto let’s refocus on the questions asked in bold in the OP and talk about the current code of conduct. Monica is right, changing or editing the CoC isn’t for this thread, changing the CoC is possible, and anyone is, of course, welcome to open a separate topic about it but let’s keep this thread on topic about things we can do to embody or better represent the existing CoC.

Moderator hat off

I’m just going to quickly ignore what I just said because I want to address this since it came as an offshoot ‘shortly explain’ question in your reply @apt-ghetto

Interesting question, someone like @teward or @jose would have a broader understanding of exactly what you can’t do in terms of contribution without signing or agreeing to the CoC in some way. That should be documented somewhere if not. But similarly to what I said before, if you want to start a new topic as to ‘why we have a CoC at all?’ please do.

Back on topic

I’m a firm believer in the importance of an on-ramp. I think we could improve the state/conduct of the community to follow the CoC more closely if we had a clear community person guide. Somewhere we can emphasise and unapologetically state values of the Coc, where collaboration could be fostered and encouraged, where we again emphasise and state our desire and commitment to improve diversity.

I typically point new people here, to discourse, if they’re looking for somewhere to start. But I also think of discourse as the ;town hall’ of the Ubuntu community, with lots of different rooms (categories) with different amount of conversations happening in them. What I’d LOVE to see, is a reception desk for the town hall, somewhere newcomers (or oldies) could stop and chat about what’s inside. And above the desk I’d have bright rainbow coloured signs encouraging CoC reading and diverse, inclusive collaboration.

One day I’ll write a reply that’s not a small essay.

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Sorry, I completely misunderstood the intention of this thread.
I am fine with the current version.

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Nit: Personally, I’d prefer “Timely Decisions” over “decisiveness”. For some reason the word decisiveness feels negative. The word decisive is 1600s from latin roots “to cut off”. To keep contributors engaged, it is less about cutting off alternatives forever and more about Timely Decisions and Agreeing to Disagree in the interest of progress. Why decisive sounds divisive to me I don’t really know. I would rather value discourse and timely decisions than value decisiveness.

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Thank you for commenting! I think emphasizing the positive nature of the term, and how leaders should make decisions not to cut things off, but to keep things moving forward, is a good point, and we could consider updating the wording during the next iteration of the code.