Diversity statement for the Debian Project

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Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Francesca Ciceri via nm
Hi all,

a recent discussion [1] on Debian Women mailing list made me realize that
the Debian Project, the *Universal* Operating System, doesn't have a
diversity statement [2].

Yet. :)

A diversity statement is a document expliciting something really
important: that everyone (no matter of gender identity or expression,
race, ethnicity, size, nationality, sexual orientation, ability level,
neurotype, religion, elder status, family structure, culture, subculture,
political opinion, identity, and self-identification) is welcome to join
our project.
The *technical* part of Debian Project is already committed to
diversity: we don't accept (in our main repository) licenses
which discriminate for persons, groups or fields
of endeavor (Debian Free Software Guidelines, points 5. and 6. [3]).
IMO is time for a similar statement also for the *community*
part of the Project.

So, I wrote a draft - mainly based on the one [4] created for Ubuntu
by Matt Zimmerman with the help of Mary Gardiner, Valerie Aurora
and Benjamin Mako Hill - and I'd like to propose it to the DPL to be
official published.
But I'd also like to have some inputs from you all, on it.

The draft is attached: we don't have a "Code of Conduct" as the Ubuntu
Community, so I removed any mention to it.

Thanks in advance,
Francesca

[1] https://lists.debian.org/debian-women/2012/03/msg00006.html (and
following messages)
[2] http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Diversity_statement
[3] http://www.debian.org/social_contract#guidelines
[4] http://www.ubuntu.com/project/about-ubuntu/diversity
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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Ian Jackson-2
Francesca Ciceri writes ("Diversity statement for the Debian Project"):
> So, I wrote a draft - mainly based on the one [4] created for Ubuntu
> by Matt Zimmerman with the help of Mary Gardiner, Valerie Aurora
> and Benjamin Mako Hill - and I'd like to propose it to the DPL to be
> official published.

I agree with the motives behind this.  But I have are some
difficulties with your wording; or, if you prefer, I feel this needs
to be qualified.

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
...
> Although this list cannot be exhaustive, we explicitly honour diversity
> in age, culture, ethnicity, genotype, gender identity or expression,
> language, national origin, neurotype, phenotype, political beliefs,
> profession, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status,
> subculture and technical ability.

What does "honouring diversity" actually mean ?

If it means "we won't discriminate on grounds of <list>" then
"technical ability" needs not to be there.  And while it might be nice
in theory to try to be neutral as to language, in practice internal
communications are primarily in English, and official or formal
announcements and documents of any kind are expected to be in English.

So perhaps you mean something weaker.

One of the things that I would be opposed to is statements like that
found in the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, which says, amongst other things,
 |  Everyone can make a valuable contribution to Ubuntu.
While I can see where the underlying sentiment is coming from, this
statement is patently false.  I would prefer to avoid false
platitudes.

I think we should make it clear that our aim is that participation in
the development of Debian should be equally open to all,
discriminating only on the basis of people's ability and the quality
of their contributions.

A much broader statement is appropriate with respect to our users;
your broad but still non-exhaustive list is a good one in that
context.  Our aim should be to support all users as best we can.
You need to add "location" to the list.

Ian.


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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Jakub Wilk-4
In reply to this post by Francesca Ciceri via nm
* Francesca Ciceri <[hidden email]>, 2012-03-23, 14:28:
>Although this list cannot be exhaustive, we explicitly honour diversity
>in age, culture, ethnicity, genotype, gender identity or expression,
>language, national origin, neurotype, phenotype, political beliefs,
>profession, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status,
>subculture and technical ability.

What is neurotype? I couldn't find it in any dictionary.

What does it mean to "honour diversity" in genotype or phenotype?

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Francesca Ciceri via nm
In reply to this post by Ian Jackson-2
Hi Ian,

On Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 02:56:21PM +0000, Ian Jackson wrote:

> Francesca Ciceri writes ("Diversity statement for the Debian Project"):
> ...
> > Although this list cannot be exhaustive, we explicitly honour diversity
> > in age, culture, ethnicity, genotype, gender identity or expression,
> > language, national origin, neurotype, phenotype, political beliefs,
> > profession, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status,
> > subculture and technical ability.
>
> What does "honouring diversity" actually mean ?
>
> If it means "we won't discriminate on grounds of <list>" then
> "technical ability" needs not to be there.  
I interpret it as "not only we won't discriminate on grounds of <list>
but we also will be richer if people from different <list> will join us".

> And while it might be nice
> in theory to try to be neutral as to language, in practice internal
> communications are primarily in English, and official or formal
> announcements and documents of any kind are expected to be in English.
>
> So perhaps you mean something weaker.
>
> One of the things that I would be opposed to is statements like that
> found in the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, which says, amongst other things,
>  |  Everyone can make a valuable contribution to Ubuntu.
> While I can see where the underlying sentiment is coming from, this
> statement is patently false.  I would prefer to avoid false
> platitudes.
>
> I think we should make it clear that our aim is that participation in
> the development of Debian should be equally open to all,
> discriminating only on the basis of people's ability and the quality
> of their contributions.
Makes sense, but it strongly depends on the meaning of "participation in
the developement of Debian".
IMO Debian became in the last years something more than an
operating system, and - as consequence - the "development of Debian"
does no longer mean only packaging (or other code-related activity).
Basically anyone can "make a valuable contribution to" Debian.
There's place for lots of different abilities, and several range of commitment.

For instance, organizing events, support users,
{reporting|triaging} bugs, helping booth staff at conferences,
translating, writing news, providing artworks, donating {money|hardware}
(and lots more I'm probably not aware of).

For some of these tasks there isn't even the language problem, as working
in local groups is made basically only in local languages.
The basic skills for all these tasks are probably just some free time, a pc, an
internet connection, politeness, will to contribute.
Speaking English and being able to learn things quickly, are obviously a plus ;).


With these premises, technical ability (intended, as I think you do but
please correct me if I'm wrong, as coding/packaging ability) is not
IMO a pre-requisite to contribute.


Thanks,

Francesca
--
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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Ian Jackson-2
Francesca Ciceri writes ("Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project"):

> On Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 02:56:21PM +0000, Ian Jackson wrote:
> > I think we should make it clear that our aim is that participation in
> > the development of Debian should be equally open to all,
> > discriminating only on the basis of people's ability and the quality
> > of their contributions.
>
> Makes sense, but it strongly depends on the meaning of "participation in
> the developement of Debian".
> IMO Debian became in the last years something more than an
> operating system, and - as consequence - the "development of Debian"
> does no longer mean only packaging (or other code-related activity).

We have recognised that for some time.

> Basically anyone can "make a valuable contribution to" Debian.

This is still patently false.  Consider a newborn baby, or someone in
hospital in a coma.

...
> With these premises, technical ability (intended, as I think you do but
> please correct me if I'm wrong, as coding/packaging ability) is not
> IMO a pre-requisite to contribute.

There are other kinds of ability besides technical ability.  All of
those useful activities you mentioned depend on the ability of the
people doing them.  And it is right and proper that when we choose
with whom we do these things, we should discriminate on the basis of
ability.

And when it comes to technical work, we should discriminate on the
basis of technical as well as other kinds of ability.  To say "we will
not discriminate on the basis of technical ability", when what we are
undertaking is fundamentally a technical project, is absurd.

Ian.


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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Russ Allbery-2
In reply to this post by Jakub Wilk-4
Jakub Wilk <[hidden email]> writes:
> * Francesca Ciceri <[hidden email]>, 2012-03-23, 14:28:

>> Although this list cannot be exhaustive, we explicitly honour diversity
>> in age, culture, ethnicity, genotype, gender identity or expression,
>> language, national origin, neurotype, phenotype, political beliefs,
>> profession, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status,
>> subculture and technical ability.

> What is neurotype? I couldn't find it in any dictionary.

A general term for a way of mentally processing the world that avoids the
rather loaded assumption that all divergence from neurotypical is an
illness.  Examples of neurotypical diversity (of varying degrees of
variation from neurotypical) are introversion, autistic spectrum, or
multiple personalities.  I know we have Debian Developers who are at
various places on the autism spectrum, and I suspect a *lot* of us have
personal experience with being introverted in a world that expects
extroversion.

> What does it mean to "honour diversity" in genotype or phenotype?

In this context, it generally means being accepting of non-traditional
gender presentations, whether genetic (XXY genotype, etc.) or behavioral.
It's not limited to gender, but that's where it most frequently comes up.

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Russ Allbery-2
In reply to this post by Ian Jackson-2
Ian Jackson <[hidden email]> writes:

> There are other kinds of ability besides technical ability.  All of
> those useful activities you mentioned depend on the ability of the
> people doing them.  And it is right and proper that when we choose with
> whom we do these things, we should discriminate on the basis of ability.

> And when it comes to technical work, we should discriminate on the basis
> of technical as well as other kinds of ability.  To say "we will not
> discriminate on the basis of technical ability", when what we are
> undertaking is fundamentally a technical project, is absurd.

I think, rather than saying that we won't discriminate on the basis of
something like technical ability, we should instead say something along
the lines of:

    We welcome contributions from everyone within their areas of
    particular expertise.  While much of the work of the Project is
    technical in nature, we will value and encourage contributions to the
    Project from those with expertise in non-technical areas and welcome
    such contributors as part of our community.

That's not very good, and I wouldn't want to put that into the statement
directly, but it should hopefully communicate the basic idea.

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Enrico Zini
In reply to this post by Francesca Ciceri via nm
On Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 02:28:58PM +0100, Francesca Ciceri wrote:

> But I'd also like to have some inputs from you all, on it.

Since one of my responsibilities in Debian is to actually discriminate
people, I feel like I should contribute :)

I like your idea. Such a statement is IMO a direct consequence of
defining ourselves a "universal operating system", and of having DFSG5
and DFSG6 in our Social Contract; but it's good that we spell it out.

I also like the draft, and I'd happily accept it as it is. This is the
extra input I can give:

> The Debian Project welcomes and encourages participation by everyone.
> We are committed to being a community that everyone feels good about
> joining. Although we may not be able to satisty everyone, we will always
> work to treat everyone well.

> Whenever any participant has made a mistake, we expect them to take
> responsibility for it. If someone has been harmed or offended, it is our
> responsibility to listen carefully and respectfully, and do our best to
> right the wrong.

I can think of another thing that we care about, which I don't see
mentioned here: "We expect people to be constructive members of the
community."

That is something that we have learnt to pay attention to, over the
years.

> Although this list cannot be exhaustive, we explicitly honour diversity
> in age, culture, ethnicity, genotype, gender identity or expression,
> language, national origin, neurotype, phenotype, political beliefs,
> profession, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status,
> subculture and technical ability.

I could see elsewhere in this thread how detailed lists are a fantastic
bikeshedding magnet; I wish I had an idea on how to get away with a list
and just say "what part of universal do you not get?". But I don't have
any good idea to offer, and that list does the job.

I fully agree with Russ at
http://lists.debian.org/debian-project/2012/03/msg00054.html
and I wonder if it's just enough to replace "technical ability" with
"skillset, and field of expertise".


Ciao,

Enrico

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

gregor herrmann-3
On Fri, 23 Mar 2012 20:38:39 +0100, Enrico Zini wrote:

> I can think of another thing that we care about, which I don't see
> mentioned here: "We expect people to be constructive members of the
> community."

Agreed.

And I think we are also not open to people who don't share these
values, e.g. people with a racist, sexist, ... behaviour.
 

Cheers,
gregor
 
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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Joerg Jaspert
In reply to this post by Francesca Ciceri via nm
On 12794 March 1977, Francesca Ciceri wrote:

> a recent discussion [1] on Debian Women mailing list made me realize that
> the Debian Project, the *Universal* Operating System, doesn't have a
> diversity statement [2].

Why do we need such a statement? Are we doing something better or worse
with/without it, does it change anything?

--
bye, Joerg
> Or write yourself a DFSG-free replacement for that piece of software.
Using the copy and paste method from the old source, obscured by
irrelevant changes.


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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Russ Allbery-2
In reply to this post by gregor herrmann-3
gregor herrmann <[hidden email]> writes:
> On Fri, 23 Mar 2012 20:38:39 +0100, Enrico Zini wrote:

>> I can think of another thing that we care about, which I don't see
>> mentioned here: "We expect people to be constructive members of the
>> community."

> Agreed.

> And I think we are also not open to people who don't share these
> values, e.g. people with a racist, sexist, ... behaviour.

While I certainly agree, I think it's best to leave the latter implicit in
the statement of what we *do* accept, since otherwise one can easily get
caught up in one of the more annoying derailing arguments ("you're
intolerant of my intolerance!").  After all, if we have a project
diversity statement, the obvious implication is that the members of the
project should pay attention to it as a guide for how to interact with
people.  And we want to avoid having the diversity statement drift into a
code of conduct, as that involves a whole different set of arguments (that
I think are mostly beside the point of a diversity statement).

For those who haven't seen it, this is my all-time favorite diversity
statement, although it's not completely applicable to Debian:

    http://www.dreamwidth.org/legal/diversity

The Ubuntu one isn't at all bad, and I think it's a good model to follow,
but I find the Dreamwidth statement actively inspiring and emotionally
moving, which is pretty rare for things that get buried in the "legal"
section of a web site.  (Which may be a bit too much to aspire to when
we're a large and diverse project; Dreamwidth has the advantage that their
diversity statement only had to be signed by two people when they first
wrote it.)

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Jakub Wilk-4
In reply to this post by gregor herrmann-3
* gregor herrmann <[hidden email]>, 2012-03-23, 21:07:
>And I think we are also not open to people who don't share these
>values, e.g. people with a racist, sexist, ... behaviour.

Why?

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Russ Allbery-2
In reply to this post by Joerg Jaspert
Joerg Jaspert <[hidden email]> writes:
> On 12794 March 1977, Francesca Ciceri wrote:

>> a recent discussion [1] on Debian Women mailing list made me realize
>> that the Debian Project, the *Universal* Operating System, doesn't have
>> a diversity statement [2].

> Why do we need such a statement? Are we doing something better or worse
> with/without it, does it change anything?

It's a statement of ideals.  Statements of ideals don't generally change
things in the way that, oh, code or even enforced policies change things.
The influence is at best subtle.  But I think statements of ideals are
useful things to have because they help people think about ideals, and
remember that the ideals are important, and that we can all do something
to live up to those ideals.  And that that can be as significant of an
action as fixing a technical bug.

I know that when I run across the Dreamwidth one and re-read it, it means
something to me, and it subtlely makes my behavior towards others better
for a while.

I think it's fine if the statement of ideals doesn't really mean much to
some; heaven knows that I'm often not in the mood for them, and when I'm
not, they seem like a bunch of fluff.  But I do think it can have a
subtle, long-term effect.

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Russ Allbery-2
In reply to this post by Jakub Wilk-4
Jakub Wilk <[hidden email]> writes:
> * gregor herrmann <[hidden email]>, 2012-03-23, 21:07:

>> And I think we are also not open to people who don't share these
>> values, e.g. people with a racist, sexist, ... behaviour.

> Why?

You can't have an open and welcoming environment if you're open to people
who work to make the environment non-welcoming to others.  It is, like
most things in life, a balance.

There's an old saying: the problem with an open mind is that people throw
all kinds of crap into it.  Neither one's mind nor one's community should
be *too* open.  Inclusivity does mean telling people who are not willing
to allow others to be included that they should find a different project
to be part of.

The point of a diversity statement is not to accept all behavior of any
kind.  It's to make a positive statement about what sort of behavior we're
actively seeking out and want to align ourselves with.

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

gregor herrmann-3
On Fri, 23 Mar 2012 13:25:41 -0700, Russ Allbery wrote:

> >> And I think we are also not open to people who don't share these
> >> values, e.g. people with a racist, sexist, ... behaviour.
> > Why?
> You can't have an open and welcoming environment if you're open to people
> who work to make the environment non-welcoming to others.  
> [..] Inclusivity does mean telling people who are not willing
> to allow others to be included that they should find a different project
> to be part of.

Thanks for putting my thought into better words than I could do.

Cheers,
gregor
 
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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

gregor herrmann-3
In reply to this post by Russ Allbery-2
On Fri, 23 Mar 2012 13:17:42 -0700, Russ Allbery wrote:

> > And I think we are also not open to people who don't share these
> > values, e.g. people with a racist, sexist, ... behaviour.
> While I certainly agree, I think it's best to leave the latter implicit in
> the statement of what we *do* accept, since otherwise one can easily get
> caught up in one of the more annoying derailing arguments ("you're
> intolerant of my intolerance!").  

Yup, that's the old question (limits of tolerance, or of democracy
[0]).

> After all, if we have a project
> diversity statement, the obvious implication is that the members of the
> project should pay attention to it as a guide for how to interact with
> people.  

Ok, if it's obvious enough, and the statement is about the positive
side (what we _do_ welcome), my footnote is maybe really uncalled
for.

Cheers,
gregor

[0] cf. the concept of "Streitbare Demokratie" in Germany:
"The idea behind the concept is the notion that even a majority of
the people cannot be allowed to install a totalitarian or autocratic
regime, ..."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streitbare_Demokratie
 
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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Ben Finney-5
In reply to this post by gregor herrmann-3
gregor herrmann <[hidden email]> writes:

> On Fri, 23 Mar 2012 20:38:39 +0100, Enrico Zini wrote:
>
> > I can think of another thing that we care about, which I don't see
> > mentioned here: "We expect people to be constructive members of the
> > community."
>
> Agreed.
>
> And I think we are also not open to people who don't share these
> values, e.g. people with a racist, sexist, ... behaviour.
That gets to another troubling part of the draft: Are there not some
political opinions, even some religions, that we should discriminate
against as being detrimental to the goal of a universal operating
system?

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Ben Finney-5
In reply to this post by Francesca Ciceri via nm
Francesca Ciceri <[hidden email]> writes:

> On Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 02:56:21PM +0000, Ian Jackson wrote:
> > I think we should make it clear that our aim is that participation
> > in the development of Debian should be equally open to all,
> > discriminating only on the basis of people's ability and the quality
> > of their contributions.
>
> Makes sense, but it strongly depends on the meaning of "participation
> in the developement of Debian".

Note that Debian is the name of the operating system we're building. The
name of the project is “the Debian Project”.

Sometimes we're sloppy with wording, but it seems we need to be clear in
this document since that sloppiness has already led to a
misunderstanding of what is meant.

> IMO Debian became in the last years something more than an
> operating system, and - as consequence - the "development of Debian"
> does no longer mean only packaging (or other code-related activity).
> Basically anyone can "make a valuable contribution to" Debian.

So here, I think you'd be best referring specifically to the project,
since you no longer mean specifically Debian (which is an operating
system).

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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Russ Allbery-2
In reply to this post by Ben Finney-5
Ben Finney <[hidden email]> writes:

> That gets to another troubling part of the draft: Are there not some
> political opinions, even some religions, that we should discriminate
> against as being detrimental to the goal of a universal operating
> system?

Meh.  Yes, sort of, I guess, but pretty much everyone else's diversity
statements include those, and I think people understand what it means.
Obviously, different things in any list like this can contradict each
other (neurotype diversity doesn't mean tolerating people with an
uncontrolled hatred of women, to pick an obvious example), but by the time
one attempts to split all of those hairs, you end up with a statement that
fails to be inspirational or a meaningful statement of ideals.

A diversity statement is not a binding rule that has to be parsed for any
possible ambiguity.  It's an aspirational statement that contains grey
areas, which I think people have to sort out for themselves.

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Russ Allbery ([hidden email])               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>


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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Ben Finney-5
In reply to this post by Russ Allbery-2
Russ Allbery <[hidden email]> writes:

> You can't have an open and welcoming environment if you're open to
> people who work to make the environment non-welcoming to others. It
> is, like most things in life, a balance.

Yes. This is why I'm troubled by the blanket welcome to opinions, like
political opinions and religions, without regard to what those opinions
direct people to do.

There are some hateful religions and political opinions out there, which
are significantly at odds with an open and welcoming environment, and I
don't think the Debian Project should be welcoming to those.

We should welcome every person, but not every opinion.

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Ben Finney


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