One of the last things I want to worry about as the Fedora Project Leader is the appearance of our community. We have so many bright, energetic, talented, and wonderful people helping build the future of free and open source software, that I sometimes take it for granted. The work that we’re doing, I think, is making a better world not just for us but for our fellow human beings too. And we’re open and transparent about everything we do, so everyone hopefully can see that same vitality when they look at Fedora.
But doing this work is more than just moving bits and bytes around. It’s remembering why we do it. If our work is accompanied by disrespect for our fellow human beings, what good does all the free software in the world do? “What doth it profit a man…?” It boggles my mind that people must be reminded their behavior reflects on them and on the groups with which they’re affiliated. Nevertheless, that’s exactly the sort of reminder this is. Read on if you care.
In the past few months, there has been more than one occasion where people have posted things to our Planet that other community members have found quite offensive. (Frankly, I don’t think that makes our Planet very remarkable, although that in itself is a sad comment.) Let me make my feelings very plain about content on our Planet.
You should remember that what you post to our Planet is being seen by thousands of readers, and quite a few of them are journalists. Or notable technologists. Or managers who might one day be making an important personnel decision involving you. Use some common sense. Beyond that, remember that what you post to the Planet is also representative of our community to every reader. Offensive or ugly words or images on our Planet present a very unpleasant impression of our community.
We are all Fedora. This is a community of contributors in which we all work for, with, and because of each other. Because of that, we all have to take responsibility for confronting actions that we find offensive. If you see someone behaving in a manner that offends you, point it out to them. Neither you nor Fedora is served by waiting for someone else to take up your banner, especially when it comes to what gives offense. What you and I each believe is offensive is hopefully fairly close, but almost never exactly the same. Which is why we cannot rely on the easy crutch of censorship to take the place of the hard work of dealing with each other as human beings.
I believe in censuring, not censoring. And censure is far more effective coming from peers than it is from authority. That confrontation doesn’t have to be in the form of public flaming. It’s just as (or even more) effectively done by taking someone aside and letting them know how their actions made you and others feel.
But frankly, I hope we all know that for the vast majority of Fedora contributors, I’m preaching to the choir. Let’s continue to show respect for each other and the rest of the world, even as we continue to advance FOSS to new heights.