Code of Conduct at events

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Tue Nov 9 15:07:13 UTC 2010

Many of SPI's Associated Projects hold conferences or other kinds of
real-world meetups, often with SPI assistance.

Recently I've been very disturbed to see that some FLOSS conference
organisers apparently don't think it's their business to see that
attendees to their events aren't sexually assaulted by other
attendees.  (And the blogospheric victim-blaming heaped upon the most
recent victim[0] to come forward has been utterly vile.)

I remember attending my first BiCon[1] and found a very clear section
in the front of the programme setting expectations of behaviour by
BiCon members and promising that the con committee would take
complaints seriously.  I had assumed that this was necessary because
BiCon is on a topic related to sexuality and this had brought out
undesirable behaviours in some people.

I'm sad to say that it appears that I was wrong and that unwanted
sexual attention up and to including fairly serious assaults is not
unusual at at least some FLOSS events.

I think SPI could usefully play a role here by encouraging and helping
our Associated Projects take more responsibility for these issues.  

I think we should at the very least draft a Model Conference Code of
Conduct and encourage our Associated Projects to adopt or adapt it for
their events.

As an example of the kind of thing I'm thinking of, see my initial
draft below.  I shamelessly cribbed and then hacked-and-slashed the
BiCon 2010 CoC.[2]


[1] UK national bisexual convention.


Why do we need a code of conduct ?

Over the years we've found that while most people will be able to have
a fun and constructive time, there are unfortunately occasions when
some people's behaviour falls short of the standards we expect.

This Code applies not just to the formally organised venue and
accomodation, but also to fringe and offsite activities associated
with the conference, including informal social meetings.


No-one, under any circumstances, should threaten or use violence or

Personal Space

Please don't invade people's personal space without invitation.  This
includes sexual touching and hugs, but it also includes any other form
of touching.  Ask first.

No means _no_

No-one should be put under any pressure to join in with things they
don't want to.  This includes any sexual behaviour, but it also
includes hugs, touching, playing a game, or being in a photo.

It's fine to ask someone once if they would like to do something.
Pestering someone counts as harassment; if someone asks you to leave
them alone, do so.

"No", "Stop", and "Don't do that" are final and will be taken at face
value by the organisers and volunteers.

Your responsibility

It's everyone's event, so everyone has a part to play.  If you notice
an incident of harassment, or anything else that doesn't belong here,
please report it to the organisers as soon as possible.

Respecting Difference

People come to Free and Open Source Software from a variety of
backgrounds and beliefs.  You are welcome to share and explain your
own beliefs, but we ask that you allow others the space for theirs.

Racism, sexism, homophobia and other such behaviour will not be

Access is not just a matter of wheelchairs. Different aspects of the
environment affect different people.  (Some people may be lipreading;
some need smoke-free space; some find busy crowds difficult.)  You
can't always know without being told, but try to be aware of what the
people around you might need to make the event accessible to them.

The Organisers' Responsibility

We will try to deal fairly and respectfully with any complaints,
suggestions or feedback which you bring to us.

We will log every complaint brought to us and will pass those records
on to the next conference.

Breaches of this Code of Conduct will in most cases be met with a
warning from a member of the organising team.

In the event of serious breaches of this Code of Conduct, or multiple
warnings, the organisers will normally ask the offending person to
leave the event.  This will void the offending person's registration
and they will not receive any refund of registration fee or
accommodation costs.  Refusal to leave will be referred to the venue
security and/or police.

The conference organising team reserves the right to pass on to the
relevant project leadership, and any relevant future event organisers,
the name of any person given a warning, or asked to leave, including
description of the circumstances.


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