The SoC Controversy

Disclaimer

Please keep in mind that the opinion shared in this blog post is mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any other members of the PerlCon organization team. Please do not address anyone but me for the positions held in this post.

Those that know me are probably aware that I generally dislike to make political posts on my personal blog. I'd rather stick to technological arguments, as there's less problems to be found with regards to personal feelings and all that. However, as I'm growing older (and hopefully more mature), I find it harder to keep politics out of my life as I interact with online communities. This becomes especially true as I plan to assist with organizing PerlCon 2020.

PerlCon 2019 ended yesterday, and I had a lot of fun. I'd like to thank the organizer, Andrew Shitov, once more for doing an amazing job. Especially so, as he has been harassed for weeks, for trying to organize the conference. The reason behind the harassment was partly due to his decision to not have an SoC, or "Standards of Conduct", for PerlCon 2019.

During his final announcements at the end of the conference, he noted that this is still happening, even in person at the conference itself. This toxic behavior towards him has made him decide to no longer involve himself in organizing a conference for the Perl community. I personally think this is a loss for everyone involved in the community, and one that was completely avoidable by having humane discussion instead of going for Twitter harassment.

For what it's worth, I think Twitter is also the worst possible place on the Internet for any reasonable discussion, as it puts a very low limit on the amount of characters you are allowed to spend on a single post. This makes it downright impossible for any discussion, and seems to always lead to petty name-calling. This is one of the reasons why I'm instead using a Pleroma instance for my social media presence on the Internet. If anyone is on the Internet with the intent of having interesting discussion, I'd highly recommend to use some entrance into the Fediverse. The instance I'm using is open for sign-ups!

But I digress. The SoC controversy is what made me want to write this blog post. I wonder why this even is a controversy. Why do people think it is impossible to co-exist without some document describing explicitly what is and is not allowed? I would hope that we're all adults, and can respect one another as such.

I wonder, was there any certain event at PerlCon 2019 that would've been avoided if there was a SoC provided? I certainly did not, at any point, feel that people were being harmful to one another, but maybe I'm just blind to it. If anyone has concrete examples of events that happened during PerlCon 2019 that a SoC could've prevented, I would be genuinely interested in hearing about them. If I am to assist in organizing PerlCon 2020, and I want to be able to present a good argument on the SoC discussion, I'll need concrete examples of real problems that have occurred.

Of course, I also consider the opposite of this discussion. Can the SoC be used to cause harm, in stead of deter it? For this, I actually have clear evidence, and the answer is a resounding yes. The harassment brought upon Andrew was originally caused by an event that transpired at The Perl Conference in Pittsburgh (2019). A video was removed, and a speaker harassed, for dead-naming someone. Until that event, I wasn't even aware of the term, but apparently it's grounds for removal of your presentation from the conference archives.

A similar event happened with The Perl Conference in Glasgow (2018), where a talk was also removed from the archives for a supposedly offensive joke that was made. This also sparked a heavy discussion on IRC back then, with people from all sides pitching in with their opinion.

From my perspective, the people shouting the loudest in these discussions aren't interested in making the world a better place where we can live in harmony, but to punish the offender for their behavior. I don't think we should strive towards punishment, but towards understanding, if anything. Just being angry, shouting at people (either in real life, or over the Internet) isn't going to solve any underlying problem. It is more likely to cause more issues in the long run, where people will just be more divided, and will want to get continuous revenge upon the other side.

Additionally, I think that the existence of an SoC or likewise document is a sign towards outsiders that your community can't behave itself maturely. They need special rules laid out to them, after all. Like most rules, they are codified because issues have arisen in the past, and keep on arising. I don't think the Perl community is too immature to behave itself. I trust in the good faith of people, and to me it feels like a SoC does the exact opposite.

I hope this blog post does it's job to invite you kindly to share your opinions with me, either on IRC, email or on the Fediverse. I'd gladly start a discussion on the positive and negative effects the SoC has, and the problems it solves and creates. I think a civil discussion is in order here, to best prepare us for PerlCon 2020.