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Valorie Zimmerman: Intentional community

Published Mar 22 2013 via RSS

This blog is generally seen in the planets for Ubuntu, KDE, and Linuxchix. These are all FOSS intentional communities, by which I mean that the founders and members form a community to in which they can create. I found Linuxchix first (thanks, Megan!), and I loved how welcomed I was, although I was still at the time using Windows. How many linux channels welcome an mIRC user? The longer I hung out there, the more I learned, and the more I was impressed by all the different work the community members were doing out in the greater FOSS world. I also loved that it was women and men working together to make FOSS a better place for women.

When I ended up using Kubuntu (after trying Mandrake and then Gentoo, and GNOME/Ubuntu), some of the Ubuntu Women members welcomed me onto Freenode. When I found that that freenode was where the Amarok team hung out as well, I added the server to my Konversation server list. Members of both of those teams made me welcome, taught me some of the Freenode quirks, and I learned a bit more about how Linux is made. Lots of teams, loads of projects, each with their own culture and ways of working. Because Ubuntu and KDE both have a Code of Conduct, I felt somewhat safe, although I had heard lots of horror stories about linux channels on freenode and elsewhere. After experiencing some quite frightening attacks in the Linuxchix channels, I learned how resilient a community can be, and how creative security can be -- even fun.

So, codes of conduct. In the wake of the recent controversy following PyCon, one of my friends said that they imply that all men are assholes. This surprised me. Linuxchix has two rules: Be polite. Be helpful. All people are expected to follow them; I see the rules as intentional community. We want polite and helpful resources, so those are the rules for everyone. The Ubuntu CoC has grown a bit through the years, but is still phrased positively: http://www.ubuntu.com/project/about-ubuntu/conduct. I prefer the old shorter one, but both are focused on creating a helpful, respectful community.

I like the KDE CoC a lot. Once I found it, I felt much better about becoming involved. It reminded me very much of the simple Linuxchix rules.
This Code of Conduct presents a summary of the shared values and “common sense” thinking in our community. The basic social ingredients that hold our project together include:
  • Be considerate 
  • Be respectful 
  • Be collaborative 
  • Be pragmatic 
  • Support others in the community 
In my opinion, there is nothing in any of these codes or rules that blames men, or is negative. They paint a picture of a place where we want to work, and hang out with friends afterwards. I'm an older woman as the name of this blog implies, and I don't want to pretend to be a guy to collaborate without hassle. I want to be myself, and be welcomed for the skills and passion I bring. I also want more women and other minorities to feel welcome. A boy's club is not welcoming, and linux has that reputation. Too often well deserved.

So I ask each of my readers, what do you want? Is your behavior creating what you want? This is not aimed at men, by the way. All of us create our culture together, intentionally or not. I hope we will more consciously make our community the most pleasant, welcoming and creative in all of FOSS.

[Note on PyCon: The entire controversy has left me feeling sick. Congratulations are in order to the conference staff and leadership, who conducted themselves well. Yet they now have this mess connected to their fine conference, rather than good memories. There are no winners here, from what I can see. Since I didn't attend, and am not part of that community, no comments on PyCon itself or the controversy will be published here.]

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