Let's Learn to Accept

Sept 25, 2018

If you studied Computer Science in collage, you probably had a least one class that required you to use Linux, probably in one of those disk image emulators. When I first heard about the Linux operating system, the people that were trying to explain to me what it was would usually compliment it of its efficiency, light-weightedness and "openness". Some of my so-called computer scientist friends have fallen in love with it and refuse to run their machines other than on Linux. This is why, reading this very recent The New Yorker article about stepping down of Linus Torvalds came as a shock. Yes, it is just ONE tech group / organization, out of MANY. And yes, as Taeyoon, last week in his talk, illustrated, there are more people realizing and advocating the importance of creating and maintaining a health community in the tech industry and the open source community. Reading the About Us page of the Bubble Sort Zines, that they are trying to frame "computer science in a way that is accessible and inclusive to people who might not think there is a place for them in computer science", makes my heart warm.

The reason why I decided to check the "new" Code of Conduct for Linux's open source project was also partially to see some positivity sparking in the Linux community as well. I was NOT expecting it to be as welcoming as the Bubble Sort Zines spirit - this I knew. I discovered that the Code of Conduct file (code-of-conduct.rst) was created 10 days ago (I am estimating Sept 16 / 17), which is around the time that Linus stepped down. This file, is also hidden away in their Documentations > process folder of their repo. But my biggest disappointment came when I read through some of the comments that were being posted on the discussion about Code of Conduct for Linux's Open Source Project on github. The majority of the comments that received the most number of "thumbs up" emojis and were expressing their disappointment in the Linux organization "giving in" and expressing that this will make their development process more difficult. There was also a repeated posting of Photoshoped image of Linus, belittling him of turning "trans". I grew very tired and sad of reading through the toxic comments.

I know there are a lot of good people trying, talking about the importance of the Code of Conduct, how to write a good one, but also how to encourage people to stick by it. I think this Medium post about Mozilla's Code of Conduct is a great example illustrating the importance of details and specificity. Vague Code of Conduct just confuse people. Worse, they make people doubt whether they can speak up about an issue.

One of the comments that I saw from the discussion about Linux's code of conduct on github that stuck to me reads: (a section of the whole comment) "We are all working online and only few of us could see each other offline, aren't we? We only judge people by their code, aren't we?". I have two thoughts that rise from reading this comment: 1) ignoring a problem (real, with evidence, as well) doesn't make it go away and 2) is github really anonymous? You CAN be anonymous on github, but a lot of times, you will find that regular users' Github profiles include a face (that you can deduce the gender by) and a name (sometimes real, sometimes nicknames). It also contains repos of projects the person has worked on - which also could potentially provide another point of discrimination / barriers of entry. If everyone, like this person suggests, judge people ONLY by their code, does this mean amateurs and beginners are not welcome to contributing to an open source project?

Let's learn to accept that discriminations exist. But more importantly, let's also learn to accept that it's time to do something about it.