Monday, 20 May 2013

Opinion: Respect in Community


Having just read Respect in Community Discussion and Debate by Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon (May 20, 2013), I couldn't let it lie. Expect Jono to run for office sometime soon. I won't be voting, however.

Recently there was yet another storm in a teacup (several storms in the bay, actually) that distracted us from creating and sharing Ubuntu and our flavors with others... at the heart of this case was a concern around the conduct in which some folks engaged around something they disagreed with.

'With which they disagreed', JB! And no, the heart of several coinciding issues is Canonical's behaviour which, rightly, has annoyed a lot of people)


This is not the first time we have seen disappointing conduct in a debate, and I wanted to share some thoughts on this too.

(If that was disappointing to you, then get used to disappointment because Canonical has triggered a whole wave of it.)

In every community I have worked in I have tried to build an environment in which all view points that challenge decisions or decision makers are welcome with the requirement that they are built on a platform of respectful discourse; this is the essence of our Code Of Conduct. 

Irrespective of the voracity or content of an opinion we must never forget to be respectful and polite in the way we express and engage with others, irrespective of whether you are a volunteer, Canonical employee, or otherwise. Respect must always be present in our discourse, irrespective of the content of our opinions; without it we become a barbaric people and lose the magic that brought this wonderful set of minds together in the first place. There is simply no excuse for rudeness, and inflammatory FUD that has no evidence to back it up other than presumed ill-intent serves nothing but to demotive folks and ratchet up the flames, as opposed to resolve the issue and make things better.

Did anyone remind Mark about this?

Trust needs to be earned, but trust should always be built within the wider context of a set of contributions and conduct. Unfortunately some folks consider decisions they disagree with to be a basis for (a) entering into a paranoid debate about the “real reason” the individual or company made that decision (and typically not believing the rationale provided by said decision-maker) and (b) seemingly forgetting about all the other positive contributions that the person or company has contributed. I can assure you there is no nefarious scheme at place at Canonical; our goals are well known in the community. If I felt Canonical was fundamentally trying to demote and shut the community out, I wouldn’t work here; I have no interest in working for a company that doesn’t understand the value of community, and I am not worried about finding suitable employment elsewhere. I work at Canonical because I believe our goals with Ubuntu are just and the company’s commitment to our community is sincere.

Just? See China deal. Oh, sorry, you have. Just going where the money is? Great.

Glad to hear you're sanguine about your employment prospects.

Can we just mention expectation management? You can't blame the community for kicking off after Canonical telling everyone for the last eight years this is a Community Distro, that everyone counts, the Circle of Friends is your emblem, Ubuntu belongs to everyone: until this year we found it doesn't.

Ubuntu is not a consensus-based community. Consensus communities rarely work, and I am not aware of any Open Source project that bases their work on wider consensus in the community. It would be impossible and impractical to notify our community of every decision we make, let alone try to base a decision on a majority view, but we do try to ensure that major changes are communicated to our leaders first (this is something we have been driving improvements in recently). We always need to find the right balance between transparency and JFDI, and sometimes the balance isnt’t quite there, but that does not mean there is some kind of illuminati-ish scheme going on behind the scenes.

Denying any Illuminati-ish schemes is all very well until you take the covers off your own secretly developed graphics engine (MIR) and cut a deal with the Chinese state to deploy Ubuntu. The former inflames the developers and the second just doesn't reconcile with the Circle of Friends with which we began in 2006.

Community for Canonical just ain't what it used to be. RC

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At least try to be nice, it won't kill you...