Code of Conduct at events [and 1 more messages]

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Thu Nov 11 14:08:55 UTC 2010

David Graham writes ("Re: Code of Conduct at events [and 1 more messages]"):
> On Wed, 10 Nov 2010, Ian Jackson wrote:
> > A written policy does a number of things:
> For a guy who comes from a stable western democracy without a written 
> constitution you place an awful lot of value on the written word. ;)

The experience of other conference organisers who have actually dealt
with these kind of problems (rather than ignoring them and hoping
no-one notices) seems to be this: by setting out a written policy, and
taking on some moral responsibility, the organisers can significantly
reduce the incidence of problems.

I don't know of any formal research, but I do know that events which
have these kind of policies are generally reported to feel much safer
and to have a much lower incidence of trouble.  Perhaps there's
reverse causation at work - I don't know - but these kind of policies
are being seen nowadays outside sexuality-related events.  I was at an
SF convention in the UK recently which had such a policy.  

> My position stands that it is unnecessary and unreasonable for us to 
> dictate how member projects conduct their business beyond asking them to 
> keep us away from liability.

I'm not saying SPI should dictate anything to anyone.  I'm suggesting
that we should collectively develop a model policy, and publish it.
We can then encourage our associated projects to adopt or adapt it for
their own use.  "Encourage" is not the same as "dictate".

I thought I made this very clear in my introductory posting.

> I am, as they say, not a lawyer, but I would think a document saying that 
> we don't permit these practices makes us liable when they happen because 
> we have accepted that they are within our jurisdiction.

This is FUD.  Plenty of events have behaviour policies of one kind or
another; that doesn't mean they accept legal liability for breaches.

If someone beats you up in bar, can you sue the barkeeper for failing
to enforce their "be nice in our bar" policy ?  No, of course not.
(Assuming that the barkeeper didn't serve the attacker while drunk, or

>   The duty of SPI's board is to protect the organisation from
> liability and problems arising, it is up to our member organisations
> and their members to act reasonably.

In the past SPI has been able to undertake activities which weren't
strictly related to shielding itself from lawsuits.  For example, SPI
has explicitly lent its support to certain campaigns (eg, related to
software patents).

I don't see that this is any different.

>   and we strongly recommend that 
> you only hold your conferences in countries where the rule of law applies.

So, not LA then ?  Nor London ?

I agree that it would be nice to hold all our conferences in
enlightened Scandinavia, but perhaps not entirely practical ?


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