Ubuntu Code of Conduct: omissions and suggestions

Michael Hall mhall119 at ubuntu.com
Wed Apr 6 01:48:35 UTC 2016

Thanks for bringing this up Matthew, you make some very good points. I'd
really like to see some wider community discussion on this topic, so I'm
not going to chime in on the specifics of most of them just yet. But I
do want to address #5 because I think it's the only one that has a
technical solution.

First, you are correct that anybody who participates in the Ubuntu
community is expected to follow the Code of Conduct, and the
consequences of not doing so are the same whether or not you've signed
it. Signing it is simply a way of telling the rest of the community that
you agree to act according to it, and can then be granted permissions
and resources that require that additional level of trust in your behavior.

Using GPG to sign it has mostly worked for Ubuntu in the past, but I
recognize that the makeup of our community is changing and it may not be
the best way of going about it anymore. The process could easily be
changed to a simple web form backed by an Ubuntu One login. The only
exception to that would be Launchpad, which uses the GPG signing process
to grant access to features like PPAs, and which would require more work
to change simply because it's been built in there for so long.

So, I don't consider #5 to be governance problem as stated, that it is
one of needless bureaucracy, but it is a technical one that can be
address through technical means.

Michael Hall
mhall119 at ubuntu.com

On 04/05/2016 11:16 AM, Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:
> Hi folks
> When Ubuntu’s Code of Conduct
> <http://www.ubuntu.com/about/about-ubuntu/conduct> was published in
> 2005, it was groundbreaking. Few other open-source projects had one.
> It was far from perfect, but it had real benefits — most of all in
> establishing expectations, and rarely also in providing the authority
> to remove counterproductive project members.
> The Code had a minor update in 2009,
> <https://mako.cc/copyrighteous/updating-the-ubuntu-code-of-conduct>
> and a major revision in 2012. Since then, tens of thousands of other
> open-source projects have discussed and adopted their own codes of
> conduct. So it’s no surprise that the state of the art has advanced.
> By today’s standards, Ubuntu’s code of conduct falls short in four
> notable areas, as identified on the Geek Feminism wiki:
> <http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Code_of_conduct_evaluations>
> 1.  No descriptions of common but unacceptable behavior. This means,
>     for example, that the Ubuntu IRC Council has had to provide their
>     own descriptions, even of things that don’t apply just to IRC.
>     <https://wiki.ubuntu.com/IRC/Guidelines>
> 2.  No reporting instructions with contact information. This is perhaps
>     the most glaring omission (and what motivated me to write today).
> 3.  No information about enforcement. Version 1.0 said “the Ubuntu
>     Community Council will arbitrate in any dispute”, with 1.1 adding
>     “Ubuntu governance bodies”, but 2.0 removed both of these.
>     <https://launchpad.net/codeofconduct> Matthew Garrett made a start
>     on defining the enforcement process in 2007, but it didn’t go
>     anywhere. <https://wiki.ubuntu.com/CodeOfConductDisputeResolution>
>     The current process may be precise and well-known to the Community
>     team, but defining it in the Code itself would be much more
>     reassuring to potential reporters.
> 4.  No clear demarcation between an anti-harassment policy and more
>     general community guidelines. And more pertinently, no clear
>     anti-harassment policy at all.
> I would add a fifth issue:
> 5.  Needless bureaucracy of “signing” the Code. Firstly, this is
>     difficult to do: for example, step 1 is “Register an OpenPGP key”.
>     Secondly, it introduces weird questions about what happens if a
>     miscreant never signed the Code, or signed only an old version. And
>     thirdly, it’s unnecessary: Ubuntu governing bodies should be able
>     to sanction anyone using Ubuntu project forums or infrastructure
>     whether they have signed a document or not. For example, I have
>     never signed the Code (I tried once, but Launchpad lost my GPG
>     keys), but I would expect to be held to it regardless, merely
>     because I communicate on project channels and mailing lists.
> Personally, I think the Ubuntu project would benefit from a revision
> that addressed these five issues.
> Good reading on modern codes of conduct:
> *   “Codes of conduct and the trade-offs of copyleft” by Sumana
>     Harihareswara
> <http://crookedtimber.org/2015/04/10/codes-of-conduct-and-the-trade-offs-of-copyleft/>
> *   The “Codes of Conduct” section from Karl Fogel’s “Producing open
>     source software”
> <http://producingoss.com/en/producingoss.html#code-of-conduct>
> *   “HOWTO design a code of conduct for your community” by the Ada
>     Initiative
> <http://adainitiative.org/2014/02/18/howto-design-a-code-of-conduct-for-your-community/>
> *   “The complex reality of adopting a meaningful code of conduct” by
>     Christie Koehler
> <https://subfictional.com/2016/01/25/the-complex-reality-of-adopting-a-meaningful-code-of-conduct/>

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