[FOSDEM] It's time for a Code of Conduct

Emanuil Tolev emanuil.tolev at gmail.com
Fri Oct 30 12:58:08 CET 2015

On 30 October 2015 at 10:38, Imifos <imifos at gmail.com> wrote:

> I'm a bit shocked by the pattern here… All resistance against the idea of
> a Code of Conduct is formulated by mockery, disrespect and/or sarcasm.

FOSDEM is a unique conference in its efficiency and the amount of
conversations that it enables with only 40-70 people (incl. volunteers).
This is only possible because it's pretty self-organising, and I think
people are grossly overestimating the tiny amount of control that staff /
volunteers have. If you see something bad, call out the person doing it. If
you see something criminal, call the police and tell staff. There is
nothing more than that that staff and volunteers can do (we can't ban
anyone!), so you have the same powers!

However... I find the statement in
http://skade.me/blog/2015/fosdem-2015.html that "FOSDEM Is an Unsafe Space"
disturbing. I had written a longer email for a -1 as it would IMO create
false expectations (that volunteers and staff have power to deal with these
incidents where they don't). I still think that's true, but I also think we
should try to do something about it, I do want us to be able to deal with

If some volunteers or staff members have had a lot of experience organising
conferences and has ideally dealt with such an issue first-hand, their
experience should be distilled into some very brief and clear guidance. If
we want to call this Code of Conduct, why not? This can then be
disseminated to staff, volunteers, speakers, devroom organisers and
attendees (via the site and brochures). I understand it's going to be
ineffective in the last group, but that's no excuse not to do it for the
first 4. I think it will have a positive effect there by preparing people
to *deal* with such situations.

We're all focussing on using a Code for preventing bad behaviour in this
email thread and reacting to the perceived slight of freedom. What about
how to deal with such behaviour? I'd find talking, discussing, keeping this
at the front of your mind as you volunteer, to be a lot more valuable than
"rules not to break", and that stuff is also part of typical good Code. You
may say "*I* know what to do" but others may well find it useful.

We've got to think carefully about how such a situation would play out in
practice with the busy staff and volunteers though. If we tell people "this
is how you report a problem" and then drop the ball completely when it
happens because we're overloaded, that's almost worse than not having a
Code in the first place. I can say that I would personally be happy to stop
serving people at the Infodesk or drop out of the 2-3 strong moderating
team in a room for a bit if somebody reports excessive behaviour to me.


> On 30 October 2015 at 11:25, Christophe Vandeplas <
> christophe at vandeplas.com> wrote:
>> It's funny how some subjects become a repeatable story a few months
>> before FOSDEM  .
>> I've spend many years into organising FOSDEM, and I must say that
>> during this time, I've have learned very interesting things about
>> human behavior.
>> In the end from what I learned, (but then again I'm not organiser
>> anymore), the best thing will probably be to print the whole Belgian
>> legislation into the FOSDEM Brochure.  Fortunately we can exclude the
>> European one, as all EU laws need to be transcribed into local law as
>> I understood.
>> This Code is definitely more complete than an ad-hoc Code of Conduct
>> written by geeks that are far away from the reality and don't have the
>> experience.
>> Kind regards
>> Christophe
>> PS: if the irony is unclear: Let's also publish a FOSDEM driving-rules
>> for the conference ground. I guess that this will definitely clear
>> things out in addition to the Belgian driving rules....
>> On 29 October 2015 at 23:03, Tom Marble <tmarble at info9.net> wrote:
>> >
>> > FOSDEM Organizers:
>> >
>> > FOSDEM is a fantastic conference and the only thing I can
>> > think of that would make it better is publishing a Code of Conduct:
>> >
>> > http://www.sarahmei.com/blog/2015/02/01/the-fosdem-conundrum/
>> >
>> > https://twitter.com/fosdem/status/561885201383821312
>> >
>> > Will the FOSDEM 2016 edition have a CoC?
>> >
>> > --Tom
>> >
>> > _______________________________________________
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>> > FOSDEM at lists.fosdem.org
>> > https://lists.fosdem.org/listinfo/fosdem
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