Codification of Common Courtesy

The Open Source community had a pretty sad movement start last week, in the form of the Open Respect Declaration started by Jono Bacon, but plenty of others have gotten involved. And the Decleration is certainly not bad, just it seems as if it’s the kind of thing that should be wholly unnecessary.

I understand that it is not. Noirin Shirley posted on her blog about an unfortunate and abhorrent experience she had at this year’s ApacheCon in which she was sexually assaulted by another member of that community. What’s worse, the comments on her blog have more than a few where people feel she was in the wrong for calling out the member who assaulted her.

Now, I know that Open Respect is about much more than simply the misogyny present in the Open Source (or any Technical) field, or gaming and other traditionally male-dominated sub-culture. As a group, we tend to dismiss out of hand any opinion that runs contrary to our own, usually to the exclusion of any real discussion, let alone reasoned debate.

The Open Respect Declaration is, quite simply, a request that people behave reasonably. To disagree in a manner that doesn’t insult one another, in spite of the strength of conviction on our opinions. To behave as the meritocracy that we have always claimed to belong to in tech.

Last week, I was at YUIConf, held on the Yahoo! Campus. While there, I spent significant amounts of time with people from Brazil, met dozens of Indians and Middle Easterners, and yes, even an (admittedly small) number of women. I believe I conducted myself in a respectful manner, and I am aware of no real problems with serious disrespect which occured at this event. However, that is simply my perception, and while I am reasonably observant, I am also not one whom is generally subjected to disrespect.

We are a sub-culture which is full of holy wars. vi-vs-emacs. Unix-vs-Windows. jQuery-vs-Everything Else. And I am certainly more opinionated than most on these subjects. I can, at times, be somewhat abrupt in my discussion, but I do strive to at least allow for the other person to be wrong. Or right. I’m argumentative, but it’s not really about winning, it’s about the debate. Sometimes it’s unsuccessful and unproductive, and I’m constantly working on making the debate more approachable for those people who shy away from anything resembling conflict.

Ultimately, Open Respect is something that should apply to any situation, not just Open Source and other technology fields, and hopefully this little movement that’s started can help make those members of our community who, intentionally or otherwise, behave hostilely or rudely, recognize their behavior, and begin to correct it.