Diversity initiative update
Below I just want to go over some recent topics within the diversity initiative.
Respectful Review Comments
Thanks to the work of Sebastiaan Stok we now have a guide on how to write respectful review comments. The aim of this guide is to give hints on how to not discourage contributors during the review process. It's quite normal for issue tickets and pull requests to require some adjustments or even just further explanations. Especially for newcomers, this process can feel quite harsh. With this guide, we want to help make this process a positive learning experience for everyone involved.
Another area the diversity initiative identified is the creation of a mentorship program to help bring in more people of underrepresented groups into our community. Kevin Dunglas has taken on this issue which resulted in a paid scholarship to work on API platform. We hope that we will see more such initiatives. RGSoC is a great project, which as you can see has grown beyond "just" Ruby on Rails. Another similar initiative is Outreachy. Powercoders in turn is focusing on enabling refugees. So best talk to the people in charge of sponsorship budgets at your company to try and get funds allocated to initiatives like these. Outreachy for example will begin to seek new sponsors in August. Speaking of which, Daniel Gomes is looking into organizing a training event for local university students in parallel to SymfonyCon Lisbon.
Code of conduct and enforcement process
That being said, bringing new people into the community requires that we also ensure that we are truly welcoming. As such we are still very much committed to the idea of adding a code of conduct to Symfony. However, a code of conduct is of little help if there is no process in place to enforce it in case of violations. Therefore Tobias, Michelle, Egidijus and I have been working on a set of PRs to cover these topics, which are currently under discussion. Especially the enforcement topic still has some ongoing discussions that need to be resolved. At the same time, the real world example overview aims to show people why this issue is so important to address. Furthermore, we are looking into how GDPR will affect all of this, specifically the topic of record keeping and collecting consent.
Context and Slack discussions
We also had some intense debates on the Symfony slack about cursing, edgy jokes and more specifically the word "context". Cursing in a chat channel when something goes wrong might seem innocent since it's not directed at a specific person. Similarly making an edgy joke with someone you know intimately might also seem like a non-issue.
However, in a chat where literally thousands of people come and go, message scroll through. Each of us comes with their own "context" of what we deem appropriate, how much of the previous discussions we have read and whom we know in the chat. As such assuming all participants fully know the "context" in which a specific message was written is quite dangerous and can quickly create an environment where only a certain "in-group" might feel comfortable.
So the kind of talk that might be ok in an in-person discussion among close friends is not appropriate in a Slack channel. Now the occasional slip of the word is not going to derail the entire atmosphere. Furthermore just like in many cases when different cultures meet, one might not even be aware that certain sentences or phrases are considered inappropriate by some. When being informed in such cases, just listen, apologize, learn and move on. No need to draw red lines into the ground or become defensive. In the same sense if you do see someone using inappropriate language, simply point out that action (potentially also via a DM), no need to attack the person's character. In fact I must say I very much appreciate the willingness of several community members to adjust their behavior already!
New slack channels
Speaking of slack we have two new channels, one is called #thankyou and the other is called #victory. The purpose of the channels is to show appreciation to fellow people in the community and the other to celebrate personal achievements. The ultimate goal is to create positive energy and at the same time keep up with cool stuff happening in the community.
One last initiative I want to mention has recently been taken over by Maximilian relates to networking Symfony with initiatives that aim to improve the representation of specific groups. Please add any such initiatives to the ticket. This could for example become a great resource for conference organizers.
So to conclude, while I wish we would have already managed to adopt a code of conduct and many more things, I realize that it helps nobody to rush this. However, I am really thrilled with how many topics have already been proposed and picked up and are being worked on actively! Also, the willingness to listen and learn, especially on the above noted "Slack - context" discussion, has really been encouraging to see. Speaking of slack we now have over 60 people in the #diversity channel which is becoming a great resource for anyone interested in this topic. We obviously still have a long path ahead but with this much commitment, we will be able to realize the vision of the diversity initiative.
Help the Symfony project!
As with any Open-Source project, contributing code or documentation is the most common way to help, but we also have a wide range of sponsoring opportunities.
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The proposed conduct guidelines do not reflect what is currently the norm in western society or any other society. They are highly controversial ideas put foward by a small minority of left-wing activists, they are not accepted by the majority of people in the west as of now(!). I think it is wrong to impose them here, when they are not even accepted in society as a whole. The discussion around those ideas is ongoing and there is no consensus!
I also think that this is an attempt by some people to impose their world view on others. I think it would be wise to stick to current social norms.
The guidelines around "gender-neutral pronouns" are also very vague.
Heres a quote:
"While not "formally" required, it's better to use gender-neutral pronouns. Unless someone "indicated" their pronouns, use "they", "them" instead of "he", "she", "his", "hers", "his/hers", "he/she", etc."
What constitutes "indicated"? Heres a possible scenario:
A user has a profile image that displays a women and uses a female name. Another user refers to this user as "she". The user identifies as male though and is offended and calls for punishment. Whos wrong here? To me this is not clear.
This guideline also makes no sense because the internet is gender neutral by default. It is impossible to tell the gender unless someone "indicates" it.
Again: so what constitutes "indicated"? Is it appearance? Name? How can I be sure If there is no way to tell anyway how that person identifies? If gender is a social construct, and not a biological fact, then it is impossible to tell how a person identifies unless you can read their mind. You alway risk offending someone who wants to be offended.
I also think that the planned policing around this issue is extremely uncalled for and to be blunt reprehensible. The is just no need to keep a list of "misgendering"-offenders. Its the opposite of open, free and welcoming to impose a specific minority idea of gender on the community members.
People waste their time on made-up problems. Thus inflate the problem.
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A user has a profile image that displays a women and uses a female name.
Another user refers to this user as she. The user identifies as male though and
is offended and calls for punishment. Whos wrong here? To me this is not clear.
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It's simple. User A refers to User B as "she" because the name, avatar, etc looks like a woman. If the User B asks to be called "he", then there's no punishment to User A. There's been a confusion, User A rectifies and User B is referred as "he" thereafter.
The problem would be if User A refuses to refer User B as "he" after having been asked to do that. If he continues to misgender on purpose, then the Code of Conduct will be applied to User A.
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I understand that some people feel intimidated or threatened by diversity and inclusive activities. But let me explain what we want to do with an analogy.
Today, Symfony is a project developed around a table where some middle-aged white European men are seated. People against diversity initiatives think that the purpose is to kick some of those dudes off from the table and sit people "who doesn't deserve it". However, our goal is to make the table bigger so more people can seat with us and work on Symfony.
What you describe is very different to what is required in the guidelines (although not "formally" whatever that means):
The recommended way is to ask first or use gender neutral pronouns by default (forcing people to modify their speech).
What you instead described is covered by basic human decency, nobody needs a code for that.
If you don't think that there is a problem with implicitly gendered language, can I ask a question? Question being, are you a man? Because if you are, then maybe it's just that you don't know what it's like to feel excluded in this way?
Especially where we're talking about interacting on a website (Github) that uses pseudonyms and avatars that don't need to have any relation at all to the person behind the screen (example: my avatar is an old picture of me without a beard wearing a Batman mask - does that mean I am Batman, or would be offended if you called me Batman? no), why wouldn't there be basic thoughtfulness about using gender-neutral language? Unlike with some languages, it's pretty easy to do that in a northern European language like English.
These proposals aren't policing anything, they're just saying "think a bit more". We could all use that once in a while.
Is this for real or just made up?
If it was for real, I'd like to raise one concern:
I think it is extremely hard to tell for sure if someone keeps using a "wrong" pronoun on purpose. I'm 40, so I cannot promise that I will not out of habit use a term I've been using for the past 37 years (or so, hard to tell when I started to speak, but you get the point).
If called out on that, I'd for sure reply "ah, sorry, I forgot and will try harder".
Depending on how easy someone feels offended, I could still make it on such a list?
A person identifies as gender fluid, which in practice means that at 8am "he" is ok (because the subject agreed at that specific point in time), at 8:15am "he" is no longer ok but has morphed into "she". At 8:30am the subjective pronoun to use is "they".
How would I deal with this? Could I become part of "the list" later because I used a term at 8am that has morphed 15 minutes later?
Please don't get me wrong, I'm in no way against inclusive behavior and agree to the basic-respect part of all of it (which to me is on the same level of respect as washing your hands after you take a leak before you shake somebody's hand).
I want to understand the implications and, if such a list exists (which sounds pretty policing to me), point out that it can be exploited beyond what I think is the original idea of the initiative in the first place.
Any advise on that?
Isn't it just easier to write "Be polite to others and respect them"?
I agree it feels very weird to me to write something like this:
"Read what Fabien wrote, I agree with them".
I am sure if you give this sentence to anybody the large majority of persons on the globe will understand "them" as plural.
And I kind of understand (understanding being something different from agreeing with) why persons are not used to 14th century english.
A for me, singular they/them simply hasn't been part of my english, never got taught in school, never used it. I will see how that works and will for sure try hard.
Do you have thoughts on my other question? How do we differentiate between a mistake and intention?
I see huge potential for exploitation here, where an honest mistake is used to get onto a list of infringements.
Additional question on such a list... do things get dropped from that list after a certain amount of time?
Thinking back to when I was 16 and plain stupid I remember I said and did a lot of stupid things.
Imagining those things landing on an arbitrary list with no way to compensate for personal growth is a deeply frightening thought.
I would say so that the tone of this is not to catch people out, but yes, to have a framework to be able to act when it's pointed out to somebody in a reasoned way that their language is exclusionary and yet they proceed anyway. Everyone understands that we don't get things right all of the time first off.
Exclusionary according to whom? To an objective standard or just the person claiming to feel excluded? Not only do you make a judgement as to what is "exclusionary speech" but you also mandate that others agree with that and use only the words you deem acceptable.
What If I want to be referred to as neither he/she or they? Do I get to claim to be excluded too?
Why do you even use english? Its excluding everybody who doesn't speak it. Speak my language! As a non-native english speaker I feel unwelcome, underrepresented and marginalized. I now demand that you speak my language, and If you don't you must be a hateful bigot and you belong on a list of offenders.
The beauty of all this is that even if each event is non-inclusive for people not speaking those languages, if you sum all events, you get a very inclusive community friendly to dozens of languages ... but there are still much work to do around "language inclusivity".
Obviously these guidelines are also for the inclusion of women in the Symfony community, which is why I'm not against this being written down as a recommendation. Like Cornelius said this is a matter of human decency, and nobody here is arguing we should allow a**h**** into the community. Nevertheless, gender neutrality and transgenderism are oftenly used together for political purposes, this is why Symfony should avoid addressing the issue in a negative or vague way, which in my opinion, it now fails to do.