Don't Be Rude (and welcome to meta)

meta is the “meta” blog for blogs.perl.org. It deals with issues surrounding this blog and not about Perl itself.

Recently we’ve seen some strong comments from a few people and we (Dave Cross, Aaron Crane, Aristotle and Ovid) have discussed what to do about it. We’re pretty much in firm agreement that the right answer is to do nothing. For now. All of us agree that censorship is not something we care for but there have been some comments that are teetering over the line and are making blogs.perl.org a less pleasant place to be. So we refer you to the Blogger’s Code of Conduct

  • Responsibility for our own words
  • Nothing we wouldn’t say in person
  • Connect privately first
  • Take action against attacks
  • a) No anonymous comments OR b) No pseudonymous comments
  • Ignore the trolls
  • Encourage enforcement of terms of service
  • Keep our sources private
  • Discretion to delete comments
  • Do no harm
  • Think twice — post once

The idea behind it is to try to create a an atmosphere where people can exchange ideas and not personal attacks. We do not plan to enforce this, but to suggest that you might want consider why the above points are sometimes helpful. Most people don’t have to told to be adults, but some do. Those that do sometimes have to have it patiently explained to them.

In particular, some of you may remember the threats against Kathy Sierra that let to Tim O’Reilly calling for such a code of conduct. Sometimes things get out of hand on the Web.

On a personal note, I have no problem with profanity, but if it’s used in anger, or if you cannot express yourself without it, maybe it’s a time to step away from the conversation.

12 Comments

"a) No anonymous comments OR b) No pseudonymous comments"

that closes off a lot of useful discussions because many people must self-censor even more when using their public identities for fear that their company will notice their comments. speaking publicly is taboo in many places, regardless of the content or intent.

Is the "no anonymous" why OpenID is now gone? That's frustrating to me who has been posting from petdance.com/openid for a while now.

OpenID hasn't intentionally gone anywhere. If it's missing then that's a bug that should be fixed.

Please raise it as an issue so it doesn't get forgotten.

As Ovid emphasises, none of this is policy, nor even a request to conform to. Dissent is important. We would just like to ask people to deliberate on their behaviour, however they choose to act.

You keep saying "censor". Just because you don't publish something doesn't mean that you are preventing someone from publishing anywhere. If it's your blog service, it's your rules. If people don't like it, there's plenty of other ways they can get their message out.

That may be right, brian, but as an attitude rather than a mere statement of fact, that is indistinguishable from exclusion. If people can have a voice somewhere they should conveniently stay out of sight and out of mind of the… sensible people – right?

“When good taste becomes mandatory, then it’s not really good taste any more – it’s just manners. In the 20th century we came out of the 19th century that was very mannered, and there are many novels about how you can have all these good manners on the top, you know, culturally smooth, but underneath there is this ferment that doesn’t get answered if it can’t come out.” —Larry Wall

Obviously if blogs.perl.org becomes more mannered (and maybe it will need to in the future) then Perl people will still have other platforms to be heard amongst each other – but I speak here on principle. Sweeping the difficult issues under the rug and assuming that someone else will attend to the deeper causes they are symptoms of is shirking responsibility.

Where do you see "never talk about important/difficult things" in that list, Aristotle? As far as I can see, "be civil" does not preclude serious discussions.

It is not on the list, but the absence of its opposite is conspicuous. Civility is important, but honesty and respect are more so. Civility results from them, as a by-product, most of the time, so it makes a good proxy rule. But it is a barometer, not an end in itself.

Sometimes conflict is required for honesty and respect to ensue – and in that case it is important not to stifle it merely on grounds of form. That is not to say conflict is not usually gratuitous – and gratuitously aggressive. But it is not inherently so.

Obviously carrying out even necessary conflict may as easily deepen it as lead to a resolution, and that is why it is difficult to handle well.

Equally obviously, allowing for necessary conflict invites its gratuitous use as well.

There are no short cuts there. Putting on a halo of civility is no more so than anything else – is ultimately only self-deception.

That is why I am leery when it is propagated above all else.

And I emphasise all this because the handful of somewhat heated threads on blogs.perl.org that have happened recently have all had deeper causes rather than mere differences of personality or just pure social aggression. They could have been less aggressive in tone, which is why I said above that I would like people to behave themselves with deliberation, even if they do choose aggression. But on the question of whether we should have allowed them or forbidden them, I am firmly on the side of allowing them.

Honesty and respect are also good! Fortunately, we don't have to choose between disagreeing honestly and treating each other with respect.

I believe it's possible to say, for example, that opting CPAN authors in to new services on their behalf, without their permission or notification, is problematic without attacking anyone personally. It's even possible to fix these things without being cruel, or rude, or sarcastic.

(It worked for CPAN Testers emails.)

I don’t want to continue that thread over here on this one, so I can’t speak of the specifics explicitly. In that incident the conflict was basically sad and unnecessary… for other more complex reasons than the ones you gave. And the gripe was bigger than you gave credit for. The vocabulary was just a sideshow.

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