You Do Not Have A Right To Contribute

(Another in a series on the proposed PHP code of conduct, itself a work in progress in at least one other place.)

Over the weekend I listened to a recent episode of the Dev Hell podcast, hosted by Chris @grmpyprogrammer Hartjes and Ed @funkatron Finkler, and guest-starring Amanda @AmbassadorAwsum Folson. (Full disclosure: I have been a guest on the podcast previously.)

The episode is #70 “Anti-Canuckite Leanings”, and in it, they discuss the proposed code of conduct starting around 26:00. You should listen to the whole discussion, which ends after about 30 minutes (and really the whole episode if you can).

There’s a lot to address in the discussion, but I’m going to concentrate on only one point. Chris Hartjes says, at about the 30:17 mark:

I think fighting against the code of conduct is a losing battle, because it will get passed. And you have a choice, you can either keep contributing to PHP, or move on and do something else. It’s as simple as that. You do not have a right to contribute to PHP, it’s a privilege. It sucks how that privilege is handed out, and it sucks how sometimes that privilege is wielded as a stick by which to beat other poeople, but at the end of the day, despite it being an open source project, it is a private project, and nobody has to take your contributions. It’s as simple as that.

He reiterates the point a few times:

(48:09) If you don’t like it, go on and contribute to another project.

(48:44) The people who complain, well they either get with the program, or they just go do something else with their time.

(51:45) If you don’t like it, just don’t participate in the project.

To be sure, Chris does not specifically say he is either for or against the code of conduct as presented in the RFC, which currently uses the language of the Contributor Covenant.

Even so, I have heard variations of this from Contributor Covenant supporters. These kinds of comments strike me as interesting in two ways.

First, “If you don’t like it, just don’t participate in the project” and its variations do not seem in the spirit of “fostering an open and welcoming community.” I see this as revealing part of the true intent of Contributor Covenant supporters: to wit, they wish to set themselves up as judges of who is to be accepted, and who is to be rejected.

Second, and more importantly, the very same argument applies in favor of the status quo; that is, not having an explicit code of conduct. Let’s take a look at the same wording, but against having a code of conduct:

If the project does not have a code of conduct, you have a choice, you can either keep contributing, or move on and do something else. It’s as simple as that. You do not have a right to contribute, it’s a privilege. At the end of the day, despite it being an open source project, it is a private project, and nobody has to take your contributions. It’s as simple as that.

So the argument is simultaneously made for not-having a code of conduct, using exactly the same wording. If you don’t like that there’s no code of conduct, “go on and contribute to another project.” After all, “you do not have a right to contribute.” You can “either get with the program, or just go do something else with your time.”

This means to me, among other things, that the burden of proof remains on those who support the Contrbutor Covenant, proof which they sorely lack, or are unwilling to put forth.

For the record, this is not an attempt to hammer on Chris, whom I count as a friend. It is an attempt only to point out one of the many flawed arguments of some who support the Contributor Covenant.

Finally, for the record, I continue to be opposed to the Contributor Covenant and anything substantially similar to or derived from it. Having no code of conduct is better than having the Contributor Covenant.

Are you stuck with a legacy PHP application? You should buy my book because it gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your codebase, all while keeping it running the whole time.

8 thoughts on “You Do Not Have A Right To Contribute

  1. One of the challenges I see is that people have trouble with the difference between fostering an open and inclusive community and handling criticism for code or features that aren’t up to par. How do you think adopting a Code of Conduct will affect the community’s ability to reject poorly written code or unnecessary functionality without triggering someone’s “I’m Offended” reflex?

  2. There is a very interesting keynote from DjangoCon 2015 about diversity. The problem is, all of points made in it are bad.

    Her whole argument is that tech companies are intentionally not hiring women because they are women. She goes on to say when people say ‘there are just not enough women to hire’ and ‘we don’t care about gender we focus on skills’ she says ‘what that really means is we only want skilled MEN’ and that ‘you just aren’t trying hard to enough to find the women’

    Her whole keynote was sad. She also pulls up graphs of local python user groups and tries to say that the growth is due to local PyLadies groups. In short, she is very biased and thinks that the tech community is out to get women. She does not address the fact that there ARE just less women in the field, therefore it is normal to not see a 50/50 ratio. She’s one of those feminists who does not seem grounded in reality. She talks like the reason we don’t see 50/50 male/female ratios is because there is a prejudice against women.

    She also goes on to say things like “when referring to a woman, don’t ever use the word female, use the word woman. Female is a degrading term.” Seriously? I hope I didn’t offend anyone when I mentioned the male to female ratio. I did not mean to belittle you down to nothing but your biological label.

  3. I’m with you, I hear you. Stick to it; stick to the Internet as it was and should be instead of what LGBT/racial minorities/feminists lobbies trying to impose on people.
    We must stand our ground!

    It is heading to the direction where being a white straight man will be offensive, this is scary as well as how much more people are happily jumping onto that train. It

    Such as this nonsense code of conduct or, what Dano linked from DjangoCon.
    I mean WTF.

    Another example of where is it going is which is summed up, on point:
    ~”So basically she started talking at conferences and became popular in the community only thanks to being transgender, and because the Ruby community is willing to be diverse, not because she wrote a great popular gem or something.”

    Right now, it gets me near to the boiling point, what about future?
    Will it look more like this?

    All of this is plain stupid and really dangerous.

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