I Had a Rant Brewing

I had a pretty nasty headache all day, which led to a huge nasty ugly rant brewing. There's been alot going on that's just been bugging me badly about the community and communities which was just ending in some really bad nastiness. There's also been alot of certain kinds of whining in various channels that has been getting on my nerves. All in all, it's a good thing i was busy at work, and i never got the chance to sit and write it down, because the last thing the Fedora Planet needs is more fire and brimstone. A few minutes ago, Tatica announced in #fedora-ambassadors that she's reconsidered and will start posting her photoblog on the Fedora Planet again. Suddenly, the fire and brimstone seemed to melt away.

Lately there have been alot of issues with a few individuals in the greater community making sexist remarks with an insane back and forth about what is right or not in a community. I'll let the journalists and pundits slag that battle out, because on one is paying me enough for my opinions (anymore). It reaches a point where we cross a line in the community, though, and that's when we don't just make of colour comments, but we start excluding community members. This is a point where we're not discussing what's right or not, but we're actively hurting people.

Sometimes you have to have thick skin to trudge through all the muck there is in the extended community. But it's not all that easy for everyone. I'm not going to get into the details about an issue i don't know all the details about. What i do know is this: some persons' responses to one of our community members extracurricular activities convinced her to stop showing us her art. In my point of view, everything everyone does inside and outside of Fedora is their art. Even if you get paid for it. Your life revolves around it some way, and it's a massive multi participant creative project. But it's also the sort project that can include a bewilderingly wide array of people. When i say this, i don't mean every person who likes to stay up until ungodly hours of the morning, puts up black curtains to sleep during the day, and wears socks with sandals, yet living in different time zones. When i say wide, i mean from all walks of lifes, in all professions, with all sorts of hobbies. That's what makes up our community. Stopping people from displaying their art is counter-productive to what we fundamentally do. Think about that the next time, before you are about to push send on that flame.

It gets worse though. I can't for the life of me remember when i was reading this, but it was at least 4 or 5 years ago, when i was reading through the Linux HOWTOs for fun. There was one document on encouraging more women into the community. I don't really want to single out women with these comments, because i think there's a lesson for working with all kinds of people here, but here it goes. The point was that these new people we want joining our community aren't just going to chug ramen noodles every night. They are going to try new foods, and talk about it, with each other, and in public. Working with them means accepting and appreciating that these conversations, be it off topic, are going to occur in the community. The correct approach is to encourage people to tell you what they are doing in life. Who knows, it might even lead you to trying new things once or twice too.

In my mind, though, there isn't a good history here at all. When i first joined the community, i remember there was alot of debate about multiple languages on the Fedora Planet. I know that people were not made to feel welcome just because they blogged in a different language. While there were some good suggestions on how to filter what some people saw as noise, the whole conversation really seemed just as counter-productive. It seemed to me that the planet the represented our community as a whole. This is it, and people were expressing their art. Making rules about how to do this wouldn't help. It seems like everytime we have an identity crisis though, i feel like we're missing that crucial detail.

(I would think that the people involved in this latest incident are not the same as in other debates, but again, i don't know the details.)

That notwithstanding, i still have enough material for a rant of a slightly different nature, but at least the dark mood has calmed down quite a bit since there was some marginal amount of daylight out. At this point i'm just glad to see that we have a community that encourages our own to keep on doing what they do best. I'm also really happy to see Tatica post her photoblog to the planet too. It means alot when the community is free to talk about other things besides just Fedora. It's part of what makes it art.

2 flames:

Kevin Kofler zei

Uh, at least for me, this has absolutely nothing to do with sexism. Some male community members' posts about biking or ice hockey are just as off-topic as Tatica's pics. I consider neither to be appropriate for Planet Fedora (and neither do I think non-English posts belong here).

Now why Tatica's pics are getting the complaints whereas the male posters' off-topic posts apparently weren't is worth investigating, but the problem is not limited to those photos.

Yankee zei

That's exactly counter the point i'm trying to make. Open Source is traditionally done by guys with a very very technical focus and they don't want to see non technical oriented posts, or other languages for that matter. It's not sexism at all to not want to see these posts, but it is ultimately counter productive (depending on your goals.)

The problem, as you perceive is what we do to help build a true community. Like i mentioned, one of the things you have to consider if you want to bring more women in the community is that people in the community are going to have more and wider interests than just the technical issues at hand. My argument, though, is that encouraging this isn't just necessary to attract women to our group but to attract anyone to our group and to build a solid community in general. If we want more people to feel welcome, we need to allow them to express themselves about things that aren't just computers.

Now, if all the talk about biking, ice hockey, beer drinking and rowdy jokes scares people off, then we can talk about sexism in the community. Right now it's a question of who and what we want to see participating in the first place.