Larry the BSD Guy
First things first: I’m the new kid on the BSD block. While in the process of still figuring things out on PC-BSD — dang that Synaptics! — and finding a place to contribute in the community, I have no real handle on the nuances of the inner workings of the wider BSD community. To my self-promoting credit, I am a quick study and the learning curve is not as difficult as I imagined. On the whole, I like what I see in those contributing to BSD, especially in the way of eagerness to help new users.
However, when Randi Harper decided to bail on participation in FreeBSD as she outlined in her blog, it raises the question, “Where have we seen this before?” Taking a step back, it raises the question, “Why does this keep happening in FOSS communities?”
Before we begin to answer those questions — and answers to those questions extend far beyond this commentary — I’m less interested in the “he said, she said” of the past than in finding workable solutions to permanently removing the 500-pound gorilla in the room — the quarter-ton simian of harassment and lack of proper channels to adequately address it.
That said, it bears noting that in Randi’s blog item linked above, she provides a blueprint for those in decision-making levels in FOSS projects to avoid situations — life-altering situations which affect projects, but more importantly and significantly affects people’s lives — and the list she provides is a valid guideline to help ensure both a mechanism to address and act upon conflicts, as well as to help ensure a smoother-running project. It’s at the bottom and it’s numbered for ease of reading, from 1 to 10.
Though the issue has a longer history, Randi posted her blog item on New Year’s Eve. A week later, the FreeBSD Foundation has taken up the issue, putting out a statement on harassment which states, among other things, “[t]o create a safer environment for all members of our community, we are developing new processes and procedures to handle these situations as they arise. Community members must feel unafraid to report harassment, and must know how to do so. When harassment is reported, community members need to be confident that their concerns will be heard and dealt with fairly and quickly.”
A revision of the project’s Code of Conduct seems to be in the immediate future, according to this statement, as well as the FreeBSD Foundation “engaging with outside professional resources experienced in dealing with harassment and conflict issues.”
“The Foundation and Core Team are committed to creating and maintaining a FreeBSD community that is welcome and safe to all those who wish to be involved,” the statement says.
The promptness of this statement — six or seven days after the blog post — speaks volumes about the FreeBSD Foundation’s current commitment to fixing this problem, and this is commendable.
My hope is that the FreeBSD Foundation takes much of the list that Randi provided in her blog and applies it to their new Code of Conduct. I am interested in this particular issue and will be watching closely — if not actually contributing, if they’ll allow me. Watch this space.
One more thing: We’ll touch on BSD at SCALE 14X next week, but what deserves special mention now is that the BSD Certification Group (BSDCG) will offer the BSDA certification exam at the expo. Participants need to register for a BSDCG ID and once you have an ID, you can choose an exam location and pay the $75 fee for the exam. The SCALE Certification Exam page touches on the details.
See you next week.
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