Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stepping Down

(Quick reminder that this blog represents my own opinion, and not necessarily that of any open source project or employer.)

For nearly a year, I've been primary maintainer of nanomsg, a library of common lightweight messaging patterns written in C.

I was given this mantle when I asked for the nanomsg community to take some action to get forward progress on some changes I had to fix some core bugs, one of which was a protocol bug.  (I am also the creator of mangos, a wire-compatible library supporting the same patterns written in Go, which is why I came to care about fixing nanomsg.)

Today, I am stepping down as maintainer.

There are several reasons for this, but the most relevant right now is my frustration with this community, and its response to what I believed to be a benign proposal, that to adopt a Code of Conduct, in an attempt to make the project more inviting to a broader audience.

I was unprepared for the backlash.

And frankly, I haven't got enough love of the project to want to continue to lead it, when its clearly unwilling to codify what are frankly some sound and reasonable communication practices.

As maintainer, I could have just enforced my will upon the project, but since the project existed before I came to it, that doesn't feel right.  So instead, I'm just stepping down.

I'm not sure who will succeed me.  I can nominate a party, but at this point there are several other parties with git commit privileges to the project; I think they should nominate one.  Martin (the founder) still has administrative privileges as well.

To be clear, I think both sides of the Code of Conduct are wrong -- a bunch of whinny kids really. 

On the one side, we have people who seem to feel that the existence of a document means something.

I think that's a stupid view; it may have meaning when you have larger democratic projects and you need therefore written rules to justify actions -- and in that case a Code of Conduct is really a way to justify punishing someone, rather than prevention or education.  To those of you who think you need such a document in order to participate in a project -- I think you're acting like a bunch of spineless wimps.

This isn't to say you should have to put up with abuse or toxic conduct.  But if you think a document creates a "safe space", you're smoking something funny.  Instead, look at the actual conduct of the project, and the actions of leadership.  A paper Code of Conduct isn't going to fix brokenness, and I have my doubts that it can prevent brokenness from occurring in the first place.

If the leadership needs a CoC to correct toxic behavior, then the leadership of the project is busted.  Strong leadership leads by example, and takes the appropriate action to ensure that the communities that they lead are pleasant places to be.   (That's not necessarily the same as being conflict-free; much technical goodness comes about as a consequence of heartfelt debate, and developers can be just as passionate about the things they care about as anyone else.  Keeping the tone of such debate on topic and non-personal and professional is one of the signs of good leadership.)

On the other side, are those who rail against such a document.  Are you so afraid of your own speech that you don't think you can agree to a document that basically says we are to treat each other respectfully?  The word I use for such people is "chickenshit".   If you can't or won't agree to be respectful towards others in the open source projects I lead, then I don't want your involvement.

There's no doubt that there exists real abuse and intolerance in open source communities, and those who would cast aspersions on someone because of race, religion, physical attribute, or gender (or preference), are themselves slime, who really only underscore for everyone else their own ignorance and stupidity.  I have no tolerance for such bigotry, and I don't think anyone else should either.

Don't misunderstand me; I'm not advocating for CoCs.  I think they are nearly worthless, and I resent the movement that demands that every project adopt one.  But I equally resent the strenuous opposition to their existence.  If a CoC does no good, it seems to me that it does no harm either.  So even if it is just a placebo effect, if it can avoid conflict and make a project more widely acceptable, then its worth having one, precisely because the cost of doing so is so low.

Yes, this is "slacktivism".

I've been taught that actions speak louder than words though.

So today I'm stepping down.

I'm retaining my BDFL of mangos, of course, so I'll still be around the nanomsg community, but I will be giving it far less of my energy.