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@jim :) Thanks for elaborating :) And you made me reflect - so if I am contacted by a conference without a code of conduct, I will consider it :)

Yes we sometimes have a small group who shout loud and set the tone. I have not (yet?) met any of the CoC militants.

I am not sure what tools we can use though… Something needs to be done.

Comment by Nativewired Fri May 26 05:50:26 2017

@Nativewired: I’m sorry I didn’t make my point about CoCs and militants clearer. I tried to frame it that much of the initial impetus of “Don’t attend unless there’s a CoC” was started, and blown out of proportion IMO, by a small, vocal crowd.

I realize and respect there are others with that mindset who aren’t militant. Unfortunately, folks with that mindset lose out on participating in some wonderful conferences which thoughtfully choose not to have a CoC yet emphatically set the expectation of a safe atmosphere that promotes learning, participation, and open discussion.

I disagree they’re a useful tool. I am fine with you thinking they are. :) Cheers.

Comment by Jim Holmes Thu May 25 19:00:41 2017

As a current conference organizer and speaker I agree with many of Jim’s points.

To take this further.

With Jim’s point number 3 I’ve had conversations with organizers who said that the only reason that they had a COC was because some sponsors required that they have one. With that being said it was very apparent that they were going through the motions and if there had been an incident I don’t think the COC would have helped.

Point #4 in Jim’s response is something I’ve also personally witnessed.

I’m saying all of this as someone who strongly supports what I believe to be the original spirit of a code of conduct, which is to prevent some things that had been happening at conferences that were inappropriate. IE: Sexualized images, people getting drunk and too friendly with people of the opposite sex, harassing people etc.. None of these behaviors have any place in a professional setting.

The problem as I see it is that, sadly, these codes of conduct have begun to reach into areas that reach beyond these initial goals due to the strong agendas of the vocal extremists that have been pushing for their specific codes of conduct over other ones. I also personally know of cases where a woman have been banned from women in tech groups without ever having actually violated the codes of conduct. No reason was given as to why and one of the extremist COC advocates was involved with some of the bannings. I’ve also personally been in conversations, both online and in person with some of these extremist COC people where they were openly talking about ways to exclude religious conservatives (for the record I am a centrist) and people with political beliefs different from their own. The other issue is most don’t provide any accommodations for people on the autistic spectrum. How do you help an autistic person who may be easily mis-interpreted due to their condition?

Is a code of conduct bad, no. If it’s not abused the way some of the extreme activists have done, it can be a very positive thing. But the problem is that this movement has become co-opted (maybe even from the beginning) by some people who are using it to drive a specific political agenda. For example when a code of conduct, which is meant to protect under-represented people in tech, is used to discriminate against under-represented people in tech by other under-represented people (I’ve seen this happen) it sets the entire thing back. So on one hand you’ve made some under-represented people feel more comfortable, on the other hand you have actually made things worse and less welcoming for others who are also under-represented.

Brining this back to my own experience. I know a significant number of women and men who support diversity and having a safe experience for people at conferences, but are leery of the Codes of Conduct due to their experiences and observations which are often similar to mine and Jim’s. I’ve also seen some people, including underrepresented people, quietly stop supporting diversity efforts because of bad experiences with bad actors that are part of it. We all want diversity in tech, but the sad reality is that despite the large sums of money that have been spent on the efforts I’ve had trouble finding any solid, verifiable data to indicate that things are getting better, in fact some reports seem to indicate that things are getting worse.

I think we all agree that we want to improve diversity, the question is, based on what it has become in many cases is it the right tool if used correctly? If the abuse in the name of the COC’s doesn’t stop, even if we do end up discovering through data that it is effective, that abuse could and has undermined it’s goals and efficacy.

Comment by A Current Conference Organizer Thu May 25 17:10:05 2017

I see your point Jim. However I am one of the people who insist on a code of conduct AND an organisation that upholds it. I would not call myself militant in any way; it is just one way that I as a speaker can say “I expect you to create a safe environmemt” There is much more to safety, I agree with that, and a CoC does not protect from stupid harrasments. It does state that this conference cares about it and takes it seriously, which is sadly needed with the amount of people being harrased. Not only does it say to the potential harraser that it is not acceptable, it also tells the victims “when something happens, we are here to help”. Last year an incident happened at a conference, where the organisor emphasized every morning that they took CoC very serious, and that if people felt that it was too much, they could get their money back on the way out. So no it is not enough. I have yet to find a better tool so for now I insist on this. It would be easier if people just behaved, but….

Comment by Nativewired Thu May 25 14:29:37 2017

As a former conference organizer, long time speaker and attendee, I have to respectfully disagree. Several aspects come in to play for my rationale:

1 Codes of Conduct do not protect anyone from the bad things bad people will do. Two specific examples from conferences where CoCs were implemented: In 2014(ish) an attendee at an Atlanta conference was raped. In 2013 an attendee at CodeMash was sexually assaulted. Other examples exist.

2 Codes of Conduct can open up liability for conference organizers and staff. There is an expectation pushed by the most vocal CoC extremists (I’m sorry. I don’t have a better way to describe the group.) that Conference staff must handle incidents where assaults may or may not have occurred, literally in some cases bypassing law enforcement. I say this from direct, personal experience as a conference organizer. This removes due process for both the victim and accused. It also puts Conference staff in the position of potentially handling something that must be handled by law enforcement.

3 The “I won’t attend a conference without a CoC” mindset, in my experience, has been blown up not by people feeling minimized or unsafe, but by militants like Shanley Kane and Ashe Dryden as an exercise of their own power. Again, I relate this from direct, personal experience.

4 The CoC militants demand CoCs they approve of and castigate conferences with “unapproved” Codes which don’t meet their own criteria. Again, sadly, direct and personal experience found my position here.

5 One large conference I helped organize ran years without a CoC. I implemented one after direct conversations with a woman who was put in an uncomfortable position by an idiot who was borderline groping her. I went back and forth with her on terminology and process while drafting the CoC along with input from a wide range of others. After an incident of sexual assault years later the same woman, along with others, castigated me for not having a good enough CoC.

I apologize for the War and Peace length diatribe here, but I wanted to lay out a fact-based list of experiences.

Great conferences exist without CoCs, yet provide a safe, welcoming environment. One of the best conferences in the world runs as such. The organizer also lives in fear that the CoC militants will launch a “DON’T ATTEND !” campaign.

Comment by Jim Holmes Thu May 25 13:46:41 2017

Ditto Timothep. Babies are relatively easy, especially at first. Scary… but my experience is that as soon as my first was born, I was sure of what to do. Something just clicked.

Yeah, question the norms. Just because most people do it that way, doesn’t mean it’s good. (Hey, good life advice in general!) But don’t worry too much; babies are working hard on their own behalf, too. Most everything can be fixed or lived with.

Do read Happiest Baby on the Block! Swaddling is becoming the norm, again, but for a (relatively) long time it wasn’t. Your life will suck if you don’t figure it out.

Babies are a lot of physical work and time commitment. As they get older, those things decrease in exchange for mental and social effort. But at first, it’s just a lot of simple effort… and time to be together, and time to be away from normal life, and you should enjoy those parts of it. It’s actually very easy to travel in the first few months, too.

Remember you’re raising an adult, not a child. Children have a job: to grow up. Everything they do is about bootstrapping themselves to become more and more. That sounds harsh, but it’s not - even free play is about learning and growing. They need challenges and failures to grow. Focus on what you need to do to help them level up. Let them guide you.

Remember your marriage. It will fade very slowly; you won’t notice. Refresh it periodically. It’s hard to remember to do this before it becomes an issue.

Comment by Nathan Arthur Wed May 24 00:42:08 2017
… how little I really needed to know about babies. Somehow, nature does its things well and using common sense works wonders. Don’t spend too much time reading books, stay on your toes and question things. Oh and pay attention to yourself and your wife. In this new baby wonder it is easy to forget yourself (or for your wife to forget herself). Plan some surprises along the way to insert breaks in the baby daily schedule.
Comment by Timothep Sat May 20 10:47:17 2017
Not this time around, but my folks are still in the northern suburbs, so I get back there from time to time. Will let you know next time that happens!
Comment by Amitai Schleier Thu Mar 23 12:45:29 2017
What, no Chicago love?
Comment by Dave Schinkel Thu Mar 23 04:57:30 2017

A friend Jay Packlick has done a few talks and presentations around this concept - Metrics that Matter

He has suggested that we plot the metric on a grid - Y axis - Potential for Value and X axis - Potential for Evil. When I started doing this… it became much clearer when to say no to a metric and when to say… well OK, as long as we keep this idea true… and circle the area on the grid that we discussed.

Comment by David Thu Dec 22 17:39:39 2016