UDS: Improving Diversity

The Ubuntu community embraces and encourages diversity.

It’s important to remember that a community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened is not a productive one. We expect members of the Ubuntu community to be respectful when dealing with other contributors as well as with people outside the Ubuntu project and with users of Ubuntu.  ~ from the Ubuntu Code of Conduct

At UDS-N there was a call to take additional steps to help further encourage diversity at UDS. One of the ideas was to create an anti-harassment policy. I offered to draft a potential policy for UDS. Doing so involved reading existing policies from other conferences and getting a better of idea of what kinds of harassment exists at tech conferences.  I have been gathering policies for the last four weeks, but put off reading them and the associated stories until today.

I am disgusted with what I have read about taking place at other conferences. Given my positive experience at UDS-N it is inconceivable to me that this behavior is not only present, but tacitly allowed, at other conferences. While these incidents happened at conferences other than UDS, they do show a need for UDS to lead by example and have an anti-harassment policy.

The Ubuntu community has always been a place I felt comfortable in and the experience I had at UDS was a fantastic and open one. Due to the positive nature of UDS I am currently reflecting on if an anti-harassment policy or an inclusion policy should be created that includes an anti-harassment policy Certainly there still needs to be negative results for those that misbehave, but perhaps seeking positive behavior in-line with the Ubuntu Code of Conduct would work to better meet the goal of a community open to all. UDS was a very positive experience for me and I would like to help ensure that it is for all future attendees as well.

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17 Responses to UDS: Improving Diversity

  1. How this is related to Ubuntu?

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention UDS: Anti-Harrassment Policy « Free Trader Beowulf -- Topsy.com

  3. Seung Soo, Ha says:

    It is always better to be proactive, rather than reactive on an issue like this.

  4. If the experience at UDS so far has been that people not only behaved well, but have been kind to each other, then I think writing a Policy in addition to the CoC would belittle all participants.

    Think about it: how does it feel to be told in detail what you should not do, when you never did it and never would because of your own judgement and already established general rules?

    • Charles Profitt says:

      I can see that point of view as well, but I think the pro-active part is to help those who have not attended UDS to feel as though it takes the issue seriously and thus make them feel comfortable to attend and apply for sponsorship.

  5. jorge says:

    Thanks for taking the lead on this, I saw the LWN story about what some people have experienced at other conferences and I’m glad we’re being proactive in our approach.

    (I’ve not experienced this behavior at UDS but I think it’s prudent to ensure it doesn’t happen)

  6. Stu says:

    I am really pleased to see work progressing on the development of a policy.

    I do not think the presence of a policy belittles or insults anyone – like house or car insurance, it does not say you are a bad driver, and you really hope that you will never need it. But it protects everyone – the alleged victim, the alleged harasser, the witnesses and the organisers.

    I have witnessed first hand how horribly wrong things can go in the absence of a good policy, and can tell you how gut-wrenchingly humiliating it is (for EVERYBODY) to be involved in a related court case because the policy failed.

  7. valoriez says:

    Perhaps before assuming that all has been well at UDS, it might be good to ask some women, some gay people, some people of color, some differently-abled people, how well the CoC is being applied? How safe and valued they felt at UDS?

    A CoC is only useful if those who are injured are able to speak up and be listened to. Mackenzie has said that some of the incidents she recounted in the story DID take place at UDS. Therefore we know that we don’t have a perfect record.

    We have to be ready to hear bad news, if we really want to make UDS a place where everyone feels safe.

  8. @Alan, yes, I have received reports of incidents at UDS which are not dissimilar to those at other open source conferences. We should certainly not presume that we are somehow immune to this problem.

    @Charles, “it is inconceivable to me that this behavior is […] present” — that word, I do not think it means what you think it means😉

    • Charles Profitt says:

      @Matt, inconceivable? If that is the word you took issue with I believe I used it correctly. It means unimaginable or unbelievable. Now, given what you and Mackenzie have said, it apparently does happen at UDS. To me that is inexcusable. As a community we are better than that.

      • Sorry for the oblique reference: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/quotes?qt0482717

        I thought The Princess Bride was required viewing for most geek communities😉

        On a more serious note: Is it really unbelievable or unimaginable? Do you not believe that it happens, even though you’ve read first-person accounts from credible people in the open source community? Can you not imagine that it happens at conferences, when this kind of behavior is commonplace elsewhere in life?

        I mean no disrespect, but I think this is overstating the case: this is a real problem which needs acknowledgement, awareness and action. It is not hypothetical, at UDS or elsewhere. Creating and applying an anti-harassment policy is something we can do to try to make things better, and we should absolutely do this.

        • Charles Profitt says:


          I believe you have taken my saying that it is unbelievable out of context and isolated on that. It is inconceivable to me that we have parents that kill their own children, but that does not mean that I do not believe the news stories that seem to come up weekly reporting that it does happen. It is just that the stories are so terrible, disgusting and twisted that it is hard to imagine them taking place in our civilized culture. That is what I mean by it being inconceivable. Not that they do not happen, but that with the FOSS culture and the social awareness of women’s issues it seems hard to believe.

          If I did not think this was a real problem I would not have volunteered to write drafts of the policies. I would not have posted about it on my blog. The fact that it is inconceivable and still taking place highlights a need to have both a policy and a need to draw attention to the problem. We need to remove the ostrich’s head from the sand.

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