Proposed Code of Conduct

Policy Status

This is a proposed policy for the Codidact organisation. It’s based on this CoC from Writing, which is itself the result of feedback from users there. Please leave your feedback on it in this thread.
This proposed policy has been updated with feedback from this thread, and its live, in-force version can be found on our wiki.

This Code of Conduct applies to all online spaces owned by the Codidact organisation, and any physical meetups of its community. It’s intended to make sure everyone gets off on the right foot and that we all have a shared set of expectations. These rules are not intended to be completely literal; they should be followed in spirit, not necessarily to the letter. To be part of the Codidact organisation, you must agree to this Code of Conduct.

  • Be respectful and polite. Treat others how you would like to be treated.
  • Presume good faith. Presume that everyone else is acting according to this Code of Conduct too - don’t accuse others of acting maliciously.
  • Keep it “safe-for-work” (SFW). It’s fine to discuss controversial topics, but discuss them in an adult manner without letting the discussion get heated. Discussing topics of sex and sexuality is likewise allowed if appropriate, but explicit sexual content is not allowed as this site is open to under-18s.
  • Be open to constructive feedback. If others offer feedback on your content or your communication, take it in good spirits. Conversely, if someone tells you they don’t want feedback, don’t force it on them.
  • Remember that accidents happen. Well-meaning people on a worldwide, multi-cultural platform can accidentally say things that are taken poorly. If you’re on either side of such a misunderstanding, presume good faith and try to work it out amicably.
  • Harassment is not okay. We will not tolerate harassment of anyone based on any aspect of their personal identity. If you see any of this happening, report it so we can deal with it.

We take violations of this Code of Conduct seriously. If you see someone behaving in a way that’s at odds with this Code of Conduct, flag or otherwise report the offending interactions to moderators or admins. We take these reports seriously, and we’ll try to follow up with you where we can. We’ll keep your identity private.

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I don’t like the first two items because I beware of copying text from SE.

The UI design may not be copyright IMO but any and all text (the Help and FAQs etc.) very much is, and though you could argue that these are common phrases I wouldn’t want to.

Also “treat others how you would like to be treated” isn’t very explicit – some friends like to tease each other in person for example, “joke around” etc. – good-natured insults even, which I tolerate in person but you know. You mentioned “safe for work”, maybe instead of “however you like” you might something like “business-like” or “formal” or “scholarly” or “impersonal” or whatever might make sense.

I don’t like “We take violations seriously” as a headline because it’s not prescriptive. All the previous titles (i.e. in bold) were imperative, this one should be too – e.g. “Don’t engage” or “Flag” or “Don’t inflame” or whatever the command is. Take a hint from a moderator – don’t make us have to tell you twice!

“Keep it” is a bit slangy.

I mean “We take” is OK as the last paragraph if you read the whole text through, but the first time I see the page I scan only the Bolded heading. and then “we take” stands out as relatively uniformative (compared with previous titles). If you want to keep it just as-is, maybe reformat so that it’s the concluding paragraph and not a final list item.

I don’t know (or much care these days…) how SE phrases things. I do know the “old” thing was “Be nice”. But “Be respectful and polite” is a lot clearer (even if it is twice as many words). And it is a common-sense phrase.

Yes, it is not very explicit. I would argue that is a good thing because it allows for some variance within reason and in appropriate context. “Business-like”, “formal”, “scholarly” are all arguably “safe” but they are actually quite restrictive. You could argue that anything at all posted on some sites (e.g., Code Golf) isn’t “business-like”. Alternatively, it is also possible to be “business-like” and “formal” when telling someone to go to [email protected]#($*!(@# as long as you use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation and avoid certain words. The more I think about it, “treat others how you would like to be treated” is exactly what we want.

Absolutely! That also struck me as a change in style - which just doesn’t work. Maybe “See something, say something” (well, no, that’s been taken and doesn’t really fit anyway…) But definitely something different from the statement “We take violations seriously”. Or have this be a paragraph (with appropriate heading) about what users should do and have a separate (not in the bullet list) item of how the organization “takes violations seriously”.

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This is confusing, at best. Please clarify (and then integrate into the CoC) whether this is for:

  • The Codidact Open Source development project
  • Any Instance(s) of Codidact organized by the Codidact development team and all of the Communities that are hosted there.

Obviously this can’t apply to anyone who chooses to stand up their own Codidact instance - I don’t believe there is a proper/legal (but IANAL) way to mandate conduct on those who copy (legally) and use open source software. Not even open source - I don’t think a printer manufacturer (or in the old days, printing press) has any legal control over what people print after they buy the printer - but arguably if it is a “managed print service” they do, just as we can mandate a code of conduct on our direct participants/users.

I would really, really prefer to have the second point be “Presume good faith”. Just as it is in the description. We should not assume good faith, we should just presume it until shown otherwise. This is a subtle but, in my opinion, important distinction. This was mentioned on SE meta here:

I not only want to echo the sentiments of those who want this phrasing restored, but I would also like to elevate Ben Kovitz’s comment on a different post:

@KateGregory Properly it should be “Presume good faith”, i.e. assume
it until demonstrated otherwise. You are quite right that trolls abuse
the assumption of good faith—and they should be run out of town
precisely because trust and good faith are so essential to community.
– Ben Kovitz 9 hours ago

I’d also point out a Lexico post about the differences between assume and presume. I concur with the idea that we should “presume good faith” - I believe it to be true that most people will act in good faith. If you take a random sampling of the world, the probability will be that a person won’t be a troll or other malicious actor and therefore we should treat them as such until there is evidence otherwise.

Also, if I was going to put it somewhere, I’d put it right in the “Our Expectations” box:

Presume good faith.

Don’t jump to conclusions about other people. Mistakes happen and can often be corrected with reminders.

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As a mod I’ve read it many times. If someone misbehaves one of the early messages to them is to link and quote from the CoC and so I’m looking for a sentence I can quote, which supports my position that their post was out of line, and which they can (I hope) learn from.

So it’s kind of useless, for my purposes: it’s literally saying, “post whatever you like”.

Some people like arguing, and putting other people down, speaking their mind, and all that – and that’s OK or normal or seemingly-welcome (or at least unmoderated) on some sites.

If it’s not explicit it’s not actionable – it’s pablum, bless its heart, in my opinion.

Anyway you suggested different communities would have different standards, if that so then maybe this could be deleted entirely, or replaced with something about “your community’s standards” or something like that.

@cwellsx The trick is figuring out how to describe unknown future actions in a way that:

  • Doesn’t limit people too much, where appropriate
  • Stops (or provides ability for moderators to stop) the bad stuff

Not an easy thing to do, as some other web sites have found out the hard way.

A similar problem is with spam filtering. Simple keyword blocking doesn’t work because doctors & patients may legitimately have conversations about topics which otherwise would be terminology associated with…all kinds of things clearly NSFW.

I don’t know the answer. And it may indeed be dependent on the particular Communities within an Instance, which only complicates things more.

Can you reuse one from elsewhere, anywhere … I don’t know, GitHub, or some open source project, or like an NGO – anything with an open Copyright?

The first result of a Google search was https://www.contributor-covenant.org/version/2/0/code_of_conduct

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It’s quite good at being welcoming, though – trying to set a tone.

But it’s a “Humpty Dumpty”:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

And kind of literally “pablum” – i.e. ethics which you learned at your mother’s knee. As such, I guess it isn’t universal, universally understood.

And worst case it might it be misleading – people assuming they’re “on the same page” when in fact they’re at cross-purposes.

Perhaps it’s a question of being “home ground and familiar” versus “behaving like a guest”, or something, inclusive versus exclusive and all that.

I mean this has plenty of words which are still subject to interpretation – kindness, respectful, gracefully, and all that.

You might see it as more lawyerish and less easily understood, I think it’s more adult – and more specific, longer.

The Contributor Covenant was the one I originally proposed on Writing. The consensus on that was that it’s too long and too explicit - we don’t need to define every possible behaviour we won’t accept, just set down some common-sense-based ground rules and rely on moderator judgement to enforce them.

Very much the opposite. Explicit rules all too often restrict moderators too much by being a vehicle for rules-lawyers. Instead, we should trust our moderators to back up common-sense rules with common-sense enforcement.

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What about adding an anti-rule-lawyering clause, such as:

Follow the spirit of the rules, not the letter.

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I don’t think it’s necessary. If someone’s determined to follow rules to the letter without considering the spirit in which they were written, it’s already pretty evident that they’re not acting in good faith, and moderators can take them to task about it.

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Just possibly a moderator’s use case for using it is different from users’.

I imagine users might want something which says, “You know this already, it’s so easy and natural you
could do this in your sleep, and everyone else will be as nice to you as you are.

I’d rather the CoC spell something out, a) so that I don’t have to, and b) so I have ready ammunition for every occasion – for example given the Convenant I could quote it saying, “Excuse me but in this comment you’re not “gracefully accepting constructive feedback”, please” – but whatever.

(when I said “for example” I don’t mean in this case, i.e. you and me – I’m thinking of a current problem user on my own site who, to put it mildly, doesn’t take gracefully to feedback on their answer)

Well on SE the moderators’ permission to override is that “moderators are exception handlers” – so a rules-lawyer who toes the line but still annoys you is exceptional and not immune to moderation.

There are also CMs who generally support and empower moderators (but who could be exception-handlers in their own right).

I would much rather we start with a smaller, common-sense statement that involves human judgement. We can’t enumerate all cases, but more importantly, I don’t want us to be a community that feels it has to enumerate all cases. Either we’re among reasonable adults and trust our admins/moderators when problems arise (with appropriate transparency of course), or we’re not and we don’t. Individual Codidact communities are always free to augment the instance’s rules, but I think for our own operations and for the instance we will stand up, I think the shorter statement is actually more powerful.

“Be nice” was too short; in particular, it should probably have instead been “don’t be not-nice”. But we don’t have to go overboard in the other direction.

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Maybe add something about posting spam, self-advertising etc. Goes without saying, but it doesn’t hurt to be explicit. Then automatic bans etc can just refer to the CoC.

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Be careful though. “spam” is something nobody (except the spammers) want to see. But self-advertising, with disclaimers, is something that may or may not be OK, depending on the community. If someone spends months on Writing or Worldbuilding working on a new book and wants to say “I got it published, here’s the Amazon link!”, I would think that’s fine (but again, the Community could choose otherwise).

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Do you agree that the Covenant is too long? Might you start with that and whittle it down (I mean, edit it) to something small, deciding what in it can be discarded? Or doesn’t writing work that way and you would rather construct from the ground up?

It was just this …

… and the thing is we know a lot of past.

Like the national fire safety code is written in blood i.e. built on actual past experience, each of the many rules in it was the result of (learning from) some past catastrophe.

And then …

… and so I thought, well, let’s try to leverage others’ experience, like best practices, already authored.

With self-advertising I mostly mean “check my blog” spam or people who want you to download their software. On SO we also had a few cases where authors of programming books would edit the book recommendation lists to recommend their own books, or companies writing tag wikis to advertise their own products.

SE have a whole section (in their Help) about that, and explicitly allow it under certain conditions. A real expert who posts an answer might want to reference something which they published elsewhere (and you might want to welcome that).

That leads to the slightly tricky topic of banning something as spam, not because it’s letter-of-the-law “self-advertising”, but because it’s off-topic (e.g. unsolicited) and/or low-quality or not illustrious (unwelcome as a judgement call).

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You’re talking to another SE moderator here :slight_smile:

I tend to agree with Monica - conciseness is good, because it means people are more likely to actually read the thing. Moderators should be able to articulate whether or not someone’s behaviour is acceptable, and why, without it necessarily being explicitly spelled out in the CoC.

I had a user a few years back now who was persistently annoying - targeted one user and continuously criticised their posts, sometimes (but not always) accompanied by downvotes. They weren’t breaking the letter of any rule - the criticism could reasonably be called constructive, the voting couldn’t be considered serial voting - but they were still doing something we didn’t want them doing, because it was making the targeted user feel put down and unfairly bashed. There was nothing in the CoC (then Be Nice) that was explicit about that, but we had to explain why what the user was doing wasn’t okay anyway.

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