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Re: [jsmn] JSMN Code of Conduct

From: Kevin W.
Sent on: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 7:34 PM
tl:dr - thankfully, we've never had a harassment problem, and it's quite possible we never will.  I don't think we should turn JSMN into a political group either. But gender (and other forms of) harassment/discrimination do happen with some regularity, in tech communities here and elsewhere.  That's why I think it's important to assert that will not be tolerated in the group, and explicitly encourage positive measures.


Okay, now the longer version (apologies in advance).  I share Marc's general disdain for process and formality, but I am compelled to make an exception in this case.  Here's why I think a Code of Conduct is important, and why I brought it up now.

As a "developer evangelist", I've been to probably hundreds of conferences, meetups, hackathons, and parties over the last four plus years, and the overwhelming majority of them have been informative and fun.  Only once do I recall personally observing overtly harassing behavior by an attendee, and it was promptly dealt with by the event organizers. A few times I can remember sexist comments being made in private conversations about attendees and speakers (not unlike what you would hear in society at large).  In these instances I wrote it off to a few bad apples, as I would imagine most people do.

Recently, I read Sarah's post, which James linked to earlier (side note - Sarah does good work and presents well, I've seen her a couple times. Very deserving of the frequent speaking slots she gets).  That post led me to other posts and comments, from other women in the industry.  As I was going through and reading these, I realized I had been at events with a large number of the people who have been harassed in small or large ways.  How many times had I been at an event where harassment had happened, and had no idea?  Quite a few, it turns out.  

I had a sense that harassment in tech circles was a bigger problem than I knew, but now I had evidence.  As a father of a daughter with nerdy tendencies herself, I felt compelled to stop and think about how I could help make this situation better.  That's why I brought this up now.  The way you combat these kinds of social problems is (historically) by raising awareness and taking small, local actions to affect positive change.

Having a Code of Conduct is unlikely to solve the problem of gender and other forms of discrimination and harassment in tech.  However, it does help with awareness, and does the following:

- Acknowledge that there is a problem with harassment and discrimination in our wider software development community (!important;)
- Assert a desire to eliminate this problem within our own small subset of the community
- Explicitly communicate a desire to make this problem better

Personally, my gut feeling is that JSMN is already doing a pretty decent job of being respectful and welcoming.  And we probably would have putted along just fine without stirring this subject up.  But ideally we can move the needle a tiny bit on this wider social problem by asserting that this will always be a respectful and welcoming group.

On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 6:16 PM, Marc Grabanski <[address removed]> wrote:
Also, my wife has been to a lot of meetings including JS MN and has had, in general, good experiences. I think women should be respected and encouraged to come, so I think a note of encouragement and embrace..focusing on outreach..would go further than making rules / code of conduct.

On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 5:30 PM, Marc Grabanski <[address removed]> wrote:
On Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 3:13 PM, James Greene <[address removed]> wrote:
To be clear: there haven't been any known incidents of harassment at JSMN.  Kevin is referring to other folks' experiences (especially women's) like this:

Why are we being proactive about something that isn't effecting this group that we are aware of? 
IMO, we are all a kind and tolerant people. And while we like to take up offenses for other people, it isn't necessary.

I just want to continue learning and teaching JS and other things rather than getting derailed into "code of conduct" discussions for problems that don't exist that I or anyone here is aware of...but, if you guys want to start a campaign and have ideas to get more women involved in JS meetups and other local tech groups...that's something I could support! 

<3 you all,


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