Is a code of conduct vital to the success of an open source community?

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Core purpose

Late last month, the Debian project voted to adopt a community code of conduct, a set of guidelines for acceptable participation in its official communication channels. Members agreed to abide by the following principles:

  • Be respectful
  • Assume good faith
  • Be collaborative
  • Try to be concise
  • Be open

The project also cemented a formal process for altering the code: only a vote from the Debian general assembly can amend the community's code of conduct.

In ratifying this general resolution, Debian joins a host of high-profile open source projects—like Fedora, Ubuntu, GNOME, and OpenStack—that have adopted community codes of conduct.

Open source communities' codes of conduct differ, but all tend to embody a core collection of values: respect, consideration, collaboration, concision, transparency, patience, deference to electoral processes, and the importance of seeking assistance when in need.

Certainly these values express something central to the open source way, but do they go without saying? Should all open source projects formalize community codes of conduct?

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Formalizing code of conduct is not enough to ensure the rules are respected. I found that "lead by example" is far more effective. Pointing to the code of contact itself when somebody does not show the right behavior can be seen as a disrepectful act in itself. Dialog is more effective.

No, it's not necessary. There are many successful projects that do without such rules. I agree with Arjen Balfoort, it is far more effective (in general!) to lead by example.

Also, while I think we should be respectful to people, we need to be brutal to code, because people are depending on having good quality in the code they run. It is important to distinguish between respecting people and being brutal to code.

Too much bureaucracy kills every project, however, a simple code of conduct sets basic rules and if everyone act according the rules, open source projects can develop in a god direction. Of course, you always may find someone, who violates the codex, independently how complex or how simple the codex may be. We should be all interested in good developments and therefore, follow the basic rules.

Code of conduct is not the same as bureaucracy, or activism by license restrictions. As long as open source licenses continue to be non-partisan and do not dictate how the software is to be used, code of conduct for a community helps guide its mission and represents organizational values. A professionally acting organization behind a software title encourages its adoption.

How do the projects which have adopted a code of conduct enforce the code?

Steve Stites

More crap that no one wants to read just like Terms of Use, EULAs, licenses and so on. As Anna Brakoniecka said, bureaucracy kills every project or at least the fun.

I couldn't care less about the sugar coating a code of conduct provides. People can still be mean with or without a code of conduct. Lead by example is a better idea. By the way, based on what I've seen, I like the way Linus Torvalds does it even if some people consider him abrasive.

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