[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: Results of the Antiharassment Team Survey

On Fri, Jul 12, 2019 at 10:23:15PM -0400, Sam Hartman wrote:

> I think the question we should be asking ourselves is exactly the one
> Tina posed to Christian:
> Tina> How do you see mediation helping draw that line? (Not a rhetorical
> Tina> question, I am honestly curious). Also, there are different ways to
> Tina> interpret the word mediation, what is your interpretation in this context?
> [The line of which she speaks is the line around ambiguous areas in the
> code of conduct.]

I'll write about the reason I would like a team that can intervene in
conflicts with something different than enforcement.

On the enforcement side, the entities that I can see in Debian now are
DAM, and the teams responsible for various bits of infrastructure
(listmasters, bts admins, DSA, planet, and so on).

On DAM side, we tend to be contacted when issues are thoroughly
escalated already, and I would like people who got entangled in a
conflict to be able to get help[1] earlier.

As DAM we also do not intervene at the first problem, and look more for
repeated, established patterns. The gap between the first problem and
the establishment of a pattern of behaviour that makes work in Debian
harder is pretty wide, and I'd like the project to be able to do
something earlier, possibly avoiding that the pattern is established in
the first place.

At DAM we also don't have the energy to intervene early to ask people
"Ehi, what happened there? Are you ok?"[1]. I think it would require a
large team. In fact, this should be the responsibility of every member
of Debian: making a shared space good to work with is a responsibility
shared by everyone who is in the space.

I would be interested in investing in increasing the average skills of
Debian members as a whole in helping in a conflict, for example by
collecting and sharing links one can read, or working out suggestions on
how to join in safely if something happens, like who has my back if a
bully turns on me when I ask them to stop, or who has my back if I wrote
a single email in a bad day and suddenly I get 20 harsh emails from self
righteous people pointing their fingers at me[2].

Then I see a gap between "everyone can intervene" and "DAM intervenes":
what if nobody intervenes[3]? What if I need help and I don't know whom
to ask[4]?

I'd like to document a number of points of contact for "who to ask if
you don't know whom to ask". I'd like to document some contact addresses
for most teams in Debian[5]. I'd like a healthy diversity team to
contact for issues related to discrimination. I'd like a fallback
address to contact when all the previous did not work. That fallback
currently tends to be the DPL, although it's not documented as such, and
many good people might not feel entitled to bother the DPL for what
seems like a personal problem, and the DPL is only one person, and
usually very very busy indeed.

For that gap I'd like something like a Debian community fallback team,
some people who volunteer to be a safety net for when the community
itself didn't manage to help.

That is one need.

Another need is some peple who are trusted enough (and possibly
delegated) to interpret the Code of Conduct.

I have seen a few people going "you harassed me!" "no! you harassed me
by telling me that I harassed you!" and I agree we need someone who can
have a say on which things they believe were or weren't constructive or
respectful or acceptable.

Possibly the same people could help me with preemptive questions like
"To get $FOO done I can only think of doing $BAR, but I'm not sure about
it, do you think it's acceptable? If not, would you have a better idea
of how I can get $FOO done without getting people hurt?"

So, someone who could speak usefully for the Code of Conduct, to have a
better workflow than "try to do something and see if you get away with

I think such a team should be generally trusted, delegated, and so able
to get away with having the final say on controversial interpretations,
so that tricky situations at least would get, if not a sense of complete
satisfaction for everyone involved, at least a sense of closure.

Another need I have is some address that I can contact that gives some
serious guarantees of confidentiality: that would document who would get
to read my message, how it is archived, who could be able to see it in
the future, how it can or cannot be disclosed to others if needed. I
think that would also require delegation.

Another need I have is for someone doing moderation: intervening to wind
down a thread that has drifted off-topic, to move a thread from -private
to a public list, to poke a person who is flooding a discussion
repeating their point over and over again[7].

The tradition in Debian is to do as little moderation as possible. I
think it's because we identify the people who are running a service with
the people who we expect to moderate it, and generally those people are
too busy keeping the service running to also deal with the moderation.
Or possibly, the expertise needing to keep a service running is not the
same expertise needed in being an effective moderator for the service.

Also, moderation isn't the same thing as antiharassment, and is
something that possibly has more to do with editioral choices than with
personal conduct. For example, I haven't met a single person who doesn't
regularly skip the frequent CRAN posts on planet, and I think planet
would be destroyed if every single person who syndicates their blog on
it started to post montly summaries of their work, but I certainly
wouldn't call those posts inappropriate content.

Still, the confusion with moderation as editorial choices to keep the
signal-to-noise ration of a given medium optimal and moderation as
stopping inappropriate behaviour, and the confusion between who is
running a service and who is moderating it, means that it's just easier
at the moment to do no moderation at all, and I think we're missing out.

Then I'd like people who can do early intervention with short temporary
bans from lists or the bts when people get heated. I'd like it to be ok
to be kicked out from lists for a few days, and since everyone might
have a bad day every once in a while, It might even get to a point when
most people who have been in Debian for more than a decade could count
one or two short bans from a list in their history. It'd be better than
being able to count having flooded one or two threads in an extremely
embarassing way and having everything archived everywhere across the
internet for everyone to see.

It'd be more akin to asking a person to take a step back and count to
ten, than to tell a person that they are a harasser who is abusing
people. I'd see value in having this teams also being a team able
to add "and are you ok? Wanna talk?", now that they have someone's
attention, but I'd rather have one or the other, than try to have both
and end up with none.

I think this role would also need some delegation, to allow people who
run the services to act on their requests without the need to double
check them every time.

I would guess that all these needs of mine are needs that are more or
less shared by many in Debian, like a static charge building in the air,
and now that we are waving a lightning rod in that general direction, we
get a request for *everything* coming through: mediation, early
intervention, moderation, safety net, confidentiality, interpreting the
CoC, being reactive, being proactive, be nonjudgemental, pronounce

I'm super happy that we are having this discussion, and that we are
starting to deconstruct and map the gaps that we want to fill. I don't
think we'll be able to fill them all, and least to fill them all with
one team, and incremental improvement is better than no improvement.

If we can get someone who interprets the CoC, but doesn't do mediation
or moderation, I think that's better than the status quo.

If we can't have a mediation team, we can start a collection of links
for conflict resolution that anyone in Debian can read, and add to
Developers' Reference a section on how to help when people seem to be in
trouble, and how to ask for help. I think that'd be better than the
status quo.

And so on. Debian is going to be around for a long long time: we'll have
the solutions to all our problems when they're ready. In the meantime,
I'm super excited that we're working on them!


[1] I make no assumptions on directionality of help in a conflict: I
    think there is a stage at the beginning when everyone could use
    help. Even if one party turns aggressive, it may happen out of
    frustration from not being heard, for example.
    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tone_policing
[2] Or maybe that it's good to expect that if I don't postpone sending
    my emails when I have a bad day, I'll get 20 mails from random
    people telling me to take some long breath before posting next time.
    That sounds healthy actually. I'd like to expect that those 20
    emails are not harsh, though, because harsh replies don't generally
    help with recovering from a bad day.
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect
[4] I'd like to document an invitation never to be alone in Debian, and
    always have a few friends/teammates at hand you're comfortable with,
    who can help you weather a bad day, or support you and help you to
    respond if you find yourself on the receiving end of something
[5] There would be the team mailing list or IRC channel, but sometimes
    one could use some confidentiality.
[6] *sends a mail*
    "Failure to assume good faith!"
    *takes one penalty card*
[7] https://joeyh.name/blog/entry/thread_patterns/
GPG key: 4096R/634F4BD1E7AD5568 2009-05-08 Enrico Zini <enrico@enricozini.org>

Attachment: signature.asc
Description: PGP signature

Reply to: