Guidelines for "kind communications" in free software communities

Richard Stallman's new GNU Kind Communications Guidelines are a brief set of guidelines for being "kind" in your interactions in free software communities, with the explicit goals of ensuring participation from "anyone who wishes to advance the development of the GNU system, regardless of gender, race, religion, cultural background, and any other demographic characteristics, as well as personal political views."

It's similar to other codes of conduct that have started to become the norm in tech circles, but with some free software-specific clauses ("be kind when pointing out to other contributors that they should stop using certain nonfree software. For their own sake, they ought to free themselves, but we welcome their contributions to our software packages even if they don't do that. So these reminders should be gentle and not too frequent—don't nag").

The guidelines do say that suggesting "that others use nonfree software" is "not allowed," and set out the two non-negotiable political principles necessary for GNU contributors: "(1) that users should have control of their own computing (for instance, through free software) and (2) supporting basic human rights in computing. We don't require you as a contributor to agree with these two points, but you do need to accept that our decisions will be based on them."

Please respond to what people actually said, not to exaggerations of their views. Your criticism will not be constructive if it is aimed at a target other than their real views.

If in a discussion someone brings up a tangent to the topic at hand, please keep the discussion on track by focusing on the current topic rather than the tangent. This is not to say that the tangent is bad, or not interesting to discuss—only that it shouldn't interfere with discussion of the issue at hand. In most cases, it is also off-topic, so those interested ought to discuss it somewhere else.

If you think the tangent is an important and pertinent issue, please bring it up as a separate discussion, with a Subject field to fit, and consider waiting for the end of the current discussion.

Rather than trying to have the last word, look for the times when there is no need to reply, perhaps because you already made the relevant point clear enough. If you know something about the game of Go, this analogy might clarify that: when the opponent's move is not strong enough to require a direct response, it is advantageous to give it none and instead move elsewhere.

Please don't argue unceasingly for your preferred course of action when a decision for some other course has already been made. That tends to block the activity's progress.

If other participants complain about the way you express your ideas, please make an effort to cater to them. You can find ways to express the same points while making others more comfortable. You are more likely to persuade others if you don't arouse ire about secondary things.

GNU Kind Communications Guidelines [Richard Stallman]

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