Guidelines for "kind communications" in free software communities

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Never has it been more obvious that Richard Stallman is out of step with the culture that surrounds him.


“There’s no replacement for good manners”



A few years ago I was on the bus. I have been a Dev since the 80s and professionally since the early 90s.

This guy on the bus had a GNU sticker on his computer. I asked him about it thinking it was a flavor of LINUX and he was a complete dick about it. It put me off the GNU community ever since


I asked a guy about eunuchs once, and he was a complete dick about it.


Ug, just code. Code, test, review, deploy, repeat. Work and speak deliberately in order to achieve tangible goals.



Keep in mind, however, that the “civility” sword is double -edged. It can keep things from devolving into insults, sure. It’s good to be kind and respectful except when that sword is being used to silence those without power.

We’re seeing it happen in the real world. People whose lives are on the line are being tut-tutted about civility by the very people threatening them.

Software has a known sexism problem. Being expected to remain kind when you deal with attacks every dau is sometimes too much. If you know that a poster is friends with people who spend their days graphically informing you how they were going to sexually assault and murder you and you get the equivalent of a very civil “There, there, little lady, you just don’t understand what we’re trying to accomplish here,” civility is a little much to expect, but an easy way to keep you out.

When someone says, “It makes us uncomfortable when you bring up when we graphically inform you how we are going to sexually assault and murder you, so please don’t talk about that,” it silences the victim and lets the abusers get away with it.

I don’t doubt that Stallman’s intentions are good¹ but we need to be on the lookout for when something created in good faith to make things more inclusive gets turned into a way to support an abusive status quo.

ETA: well, I do if he’s yet to update this stance.


Fortunately for me, I never met that guy. I started using GNU C at home in the 1980s, because it was free and I was a poor college student. My experience using the GNU tools greased the skids for my professional career. By the time I was professionally employed and forced to make the decision between open source and proprietary software, I took the gamble and went with free and open source. I couldn’t be happier.

Come to think of it, my Chromebook has a GNU sticker on the top (and Linux on board). If I didn’t work from home, I’d take it on the bus with me.


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