A friend of mine encouraged me to sit in on the Ubuntu Community Council meeting after my name was invoked regarding FabianRodriguez's Complaints about Planet Ubuntu posts on the "Planet" going against Ubuntu's Code of Conduct (did you remember to read it on the first of the month?). Even though I was short on time, I did pop in, very briefly, to watch the Community Council in action. Oh, and threw in my own 2 cents on the matter as well. The final decision was to email the "offender" privately to discuss the offensive blog post and to include more specific guidelines on appropriate behaviour directly to the Planet Web site. You can read the full discussion in the public transcript from the meeting (start reading at approximately 23:00 to get the relevant part of the discussion).
(For those of you who are unfamiliar with a "planet" Web site... this is a place where lots of people's blog entries show up on a single Web site. They are aggregated from other, personal, Web sites and as a whole are meant to give a snapshot of what is happening across the community. The Ubuntu Planet Web site currently pulls from *pause to count* um, lots of blogs.)
I liked the discussion that happened in this meeting. I liked that there was resolution and that action will be taken. And I liked that the council was willing to hear my unsolicited opinion. I am especially pleased with Mark Shuttleworth's comments within the meeting:
it this way. i would love people to feel that all things ubuntu are
well articulated, and respectfully done, even when they are satirical
|23:46||sabdfl||this was not|
|23:46||sabdfl||i feel let down when i see this sort of thing, and i think it's quite ok for us to say so|
|23:46||sabdfl||i don't see how we could expect it to improve, if we said nothing|
Let me make that last bit as clear as possible: I don't see how we could expect to improve, if we said nothing. This comes back to Matthew's rant on behaviour as well (although perhaps moreso his on-stage rant). Sometimes the best thing really is to say to someone, "you're being a dick. Don't do that." The decision to say this privately is consistent with Selena and Gabrielle's suggestion to have this conversation privately (and also my own experience in getting people to change their behaviour). It should be noted that I'm actually all about the fanfare and the public and transparent application of rules. The fact that I'm now advocating for private critique suggests that, perhaps, I'm growing up. Or at least mellowed now that I've hit 30 (and a little bit).
Meanwhile, back at the meeting, there was also some discussion about providing guidelines on what is acceptable for the Planet. I completely support this decision. Let me give you an example: I live in a small town. We have these completely amazing "invisible fences" for dogs. You put a radio collar on their neck and have an invisible force field around the edge of the property. The pup tries to step beyond the bounds of the fence and it gets zapped with a dose of electricity. The pup eventually learns where the boundaries are. The electricity isn't harmful, just startling. Now let's pretend you're a visitor to the house. You have no idea that the invisible fence exists and a large dog comes screaming towards you full of excitement. It stops sharply in the middle of the yard and proceeds to bark. Are you safe? How do you know? I hate to give the analogy of better fences and better neighbours, because I don't want to give a visual of fencing people into or out of a community. Instead what I want to have is a visible boundary of what is within the scope of our community's behaviour, and what is outside of this scope. I want to make it easier for people on the outside of the community to evaluate if the community is for them.
We need to think about how potential community members evaluate whether or not they want to participate in our communities. The Code of Conduct is, in addition to being an excellent guide for community members, a marketing tool that attracts new members to the community. I am impressed with the Community Council's action tonight and I want to make sure it too is seen by people outside of the community.
Remember kids: this whole open source thing is not just about code and Diet Coke and keeping ourselves employed and entertained. This is a revolution and we're aiming for world domination. The more tools we use to attract new people, the more people we will get. And the more people we get, the closer we get to squashing Bug #1.
PS Go read George's article: Community: From Little Things, Big Things Grow.