FOSS Force News Wire

January 7th, 2016

FreeBSD Foundation Takes Right Steps

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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Larry Cafiero

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

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6 comments to FreeBSD Foundation Takes Right Steps

  • Nomen luni

    So will you be dumping BSD on ethical grounds as you did with Linux?

  • Josh

    Larry, one vital piece to this puzzle that I am interested in is how will the Freebsd foundation act on the employee that told her she was violating the freebsd copyright by using freebsd in her name? I have always wondered because several of us unix geeks use some form of BSD/Linux/Unix in our online naming.

    Part was taken from her blog post
    “I had talked to someone from the FreeBSD Foundation earlier on the phone about what was happening. During this same conversation, they actually said “maybe you should be nicer.” Literally. Said. That. To. Me. After this person had witnessed my talk and seen all the shit that had happened in the past year, I was tone policed by the FreeBSD Foundation.

    During that phone conversation, I had told them that I was planning on switching my private and public twitter handles. My public account had always been freebsdgirl, but it felt like a reference to an earlier time in my life. I’d been focusing exclusively on the problems around online harassment, and the branding just didn’t fit any more. I also hoped that in changing my username I could reduce the collateral damage to the project. I had been planning on doing that later this year — and I had planned this even before the harassment from the committer had started.

    A week later, I received an email from this person threatening to involve the FreeBSD Foundation lawyers if I didn’t change my username immediately. They tried to pass it off as a trademark infringement by pointing me at Section 3 of their Trademark Usage Terms and Conditions.

    If we grant you permission to use the Marks, your use of the Marks must always be fully and clearly reproduced, and you may not incorporate any of our Marks into the trademarks, service mark, logos, name of your business, project, organization, or username, unless you have the express prior written permission of the Foundation.”

  • Waaa

    Sounds like she created an untenable situation for FreeBSD.

  • tracyanne

    I just finished reading Randi Harper’s blog… Wow, this crap seems to run deep in American society.

  • JR

    The current move started a lot earlier, it’s just the first surface waves that you’ve seen. The problem has been getting attention within the project for some months. A first attempt at a Code of Conduct was done a few months back but it didn’t meet the standards that some felt were required. A month or so back a new process was started. Randi just gave a reason to make it public.