[UbuntuWomen] Online social behaviour - Draft

Vid Ayer svaksha at gmail.com
Wed Apr 18 13:23:31 BST 2007

Hello All,

Furthering the discussions about "issues women face while
volunteering" in Foss communities online, we are aware that harassment
does occur in different ways online.  It is annoying (to say the
least) but many women don't feel empowered to articulate it. Even
worse are the reactions from others (both men and women) when they do
choose to speak up.  This hinders the process of getting women
volunteers to be open and communicative and be a part of our

What do we do about it? Hey, I dont have all the answers and am hoping
for a healthy discussion on this issue... so read on...

Like many other women I too have experienced (offlist) mails and pings
getting personal. Last year I had brought this up with Linuxchix but
it was a women-only list with no archives and I cannot post their
reactions here. Suffice it to say that there were many "yes, me too"

I got proactive and suggested that we create a document outlining what
is acceptable online behaviour and what is not. Something along the
lines of a "How-to encourage women..." (which afaik does not address
these issues in detail).
I am not sure if LC is going to adopt the draft since their site is
still being reworked but I stored a draft on Chris's wiki[1]. I am
putting it up for discussion on UW and including the text in this
mail. It is incomplete in many ways and probably missing stuff. Feel
free to add your comments/ points/ thoughts/ suggestions/ whatever....
(including objections).

Before the meeting with Jono[2], we need to be well prepared about
what are the issues and how we can define and tackle them, minimise
(probably not eliminate) such things in future and so on...
Since the IRC day/timing is inconvenient for my timezone (ideally I
would like it to be postponed to April 29, a weekend, but ...) it will
be nicer to have a discussion on this list and at the U-forums
beforehand so we get a good amount of feedback from as many women (and
men) as possible.

=====start Draft=========
The following is a draft of some social Etiquette's when working
alongside women in Foss. These are guidelines and much of it may not
be relevant to one and all so feel free to discuss, edit and add as
you see fit.

1] Learn to recognise and respect differences in others as much as in
oneself:- Women from different parts of the world volunteer in FOSS
for different reasons. They may have similar or contrasting views on
any given subject or idea. Do learn to respect this difference of
opinion even in disagreement.

2] Agree to disagree:- Difference of opinion is common even among
people who work alongside in real life but in FOSS the majority of the
work is done online and most often by people who may have never met
each other. This makes it all the more important to find synchrony in
work patterns online. You get to interact with people who have a
different perspective than yours which should not be an excuse to
flame, badger them or put them down in your responses. Agree to
disagree politely, always.

3] Do not make assumptions and/or refrain from asking *any* woman her
life history online:-
Curiosity about the person you are working with is normal and
understandable. However, many women choose to not discuss their
personal life online or are uncomfortable sharing it with strangers or
people they have never met before. Although you consider yourself
trust-worthy, she may be interested only in the technical aspects of
volunteering and may not necessarily be interested in a social
interaction outside of the volunteer field. Hence, avoid asking her
personal questions about her location, religion, caste, age, work,
status, phone number, availability, etc... directly or indirectly. You
may consider it friendly to share your life history with others but if
she does not reciprocate likewise, stay calm. Most importantly, if you
do get to know her, avoid sharing or passing out this private
information among your other male/female friends. However harmless it
may seem, it is a breach of trust and very unprofessional behaviour.

4] Keep it simple, polite and short:- Most women have less time for
volunteering as is so when she redirects you to the relevant mailing
list or IRC, there is no reason to be offended. Its not a personal
insult and there is no need to over-react or lash back. Do not indulge
in personal insults, name-calling and such-like which goes to
highlight your juvenile attitude even more starkly.

5] Respect their time as much as you do yours:- When one gets a salary
(or are paid/compensated in other ways) for the work they do, it is
not volunteerism. Like male volunteers, women too may spend their even
more rare spare time in volunteering. Hence don't demand a response
every time, or expect her to be available 24x7 according to your time
frame. That usually works in the corporate set-up, but rarely in the
volunteer world.

7] Lurking for years and/or being the most vocal/visible by way of
maximum posts per month, on mailing-lists and/or IRC is not reason
enough to discredit a woman's contribution which may not always be
openly evident.

8] It isn't compulsory for people to reveal their real identity to
volunteer in Foss. Its also not very uncommon for people to use a
nick/cloak online, who may not be interested in revealing their real
identity/gender/location, etc.. and the resulting fame and glory of
being a Foss contributor. Do not insinuate or imply that this is a
deterrent to contributing in Foss. Just so long as the work gets done,
nothing else matters.

=====end draft=====


[1] http://mosshead.com/wikichix/index.php?title=EtiquetteGuidelines
[2] http://wiki.ubuntu-women.org/Events

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