Erin Kissane expertly outlines why our gatherings need a code of conduct. If you are a member of the web community, or really any community, this is required reading. And if you are a conference organizer, you really shouldn’t be without a strong code of conduct, full stop.
I’m writing this in the late summer of 2014, and the last few weeks have been rough ones where I live. From the tech world’s routine accounts of casual harassment to the grind of violence and systemic unfairness that defines some part of every human society, we are surrounded on all sides by news that is alternately heartbreaking and enraging. And most of the time, in the face of these wrongs, we are helpless. Some of us can vote, some can investigate and expose. That’s often as far as it goes.
But to define a code of conduct is to formally state that your community—your event or organization or project—does not permit intimidation or harassment or any of the other terrible things that we can’t seem to prevent in the rest of the world. It’s to express and nurture healthy community norms. In a small, limited way, it’s to offer sanctuary to the vulnerable: to stake out a space you can touch, put it under your protection, and make it a welcoming home for all who act with respect.
And I think that’s what’s going to win. Enough of us clearly stating that in our spaces, this fuckery will not pass. And continuing to do it—one home, school, workplace, and community at a time—until the ground we cover with a mandate of mutual respect is larger than the gaps in between. Not out of any special benevolence, but because that’s what the world should be.