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Do women matter in FOSS projects?

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OSS

When will women be taken seriously in the FOSS community? That's a question that needs to be asked after the Debian GNU/Linux project garnered headlines earlier this month over an offensive mailing list post that had at least two women considering whether they would continue their involvement in the project.

A brief bit of background, developer Josselin Mouette made some offensive comments on the debian-developer-announce mailing list in November. Messages from this list are not limited to developers and go out to many of the other Debian mailing lists.

Mouette followed this up with an even more offensive post on his own blog - and this, as is usual, was published by Planet Debian, which aggregates blog postings from developers.

The strange thing about this episode is that it looks like the FOSS community seemingly doesn't want to know about it.

Apart from iTWire, there wasn't a single story about it by any other site.

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outrageous

http://www.kev009.com/wp/2008/12/political-correctness-in-open-source-doesnt-matter/

Bad headline

It's ambiguous, but trollish.

No talent = Race/sex/whatever card

Sounds like someone needs a Midol.

Or if it's a guy, he needs his mommy, or a beer, or to get laid.

You know what the difference is - NONE - both sentences mean the EXACT SAME THING - "Stop acting like a baby and DO YOUR FREAKING JOB."

Back (40+ years ago - before my time) when it truly was a man's world, excuses like this wouldn't fly. Now that it's a homogeneous work world, playing the "race card" or the "sex card" or the "sexual preference card" or the "religion card" is just plain bullshit.

GROW UP. If you can't compete in tech/science/counter help at a fast food place - get the hell out.

Tolerating boorish behavior

If you have a business, and you want to attract and hire the best employees, you don't tolerate people who revel in offending them. That's why most businesses have policies in place to deal with employees who go out of their way to offend other employees. People simply will not put up with it, and leave.

The same goes (possibly even more so) for open source projects, where there's no financial incentive. If you have an all-volunteer project, and you want to attract and keep capable volunteers, you don't tolerate people who revel in offending them.

It's not surprising that few in the Debian project wants to talk "code of conduct," much less admit there's even a problem. It's easier to let the prevailing attitudes (so amply displayed in the posts above) stay in place then attempt to change them.

It's easier to ignore someone who's going out of his way to offend other project members than to be put in the uncomfortable position of having to tell him, "stop it or else, and here's why."

This is not rocket science. It's pretty obvious stuff.

(One might also make note of the fact that a good way to attract more capable volunteers is to give them groups, such as "Debian Women," where they feel like they're part of a community. But one thing at a time. Wouldn't want to make your brains explode.)

re: Tolerating boorish behavior

Wrong. Watering down the talent pool because someone is too thin skinned to work in a group has FAIL written all over it's business model. Instead of the best, you get the "most sensitive" namby pampy wannabe's.

The same philosophy is screwing over the brightest kids in public school with their "leave no moron behind" education model, same thing doomed the whole "Affirmative Action" mess in the 70's and 80's, and basically any other group that chooses PC (political correctness) over brains.

Look at tech groups in China, or Korea, or Germany, or Russia - NONE of them are wasting time wondering if someone in their group is getting their itty bitty feelings hurt. They are all too busy eating America's current tech effort for lunch.

Between the "PC" HR effort, the lack of real education, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Financial handcuffs - America as a world tech power is doomed.

Shorter vonskippy: we can't afford to do the right thing

Reminds me of an entry in an old Fark Photoshopping contest -- "Theme: What if Fox News were around during other historical events?" -- with a parody of Bill O'Reilly, circa 1865, talking about the abolition of slavery:

(credit to telefunkenU47)

The whole of Mr Mouette's

The whole of Mr Mouette's output - and especially the post which concluded with the "Women, Know Your Place" statement says far more about Josselin Mouette than it does about women, which may not have been Mr Mouette's intention. But perhaps he sees the resultant kerfuffle as life-affirming and a way of proving his point. If that is the case then he has my sympathies; there is often a thin line between strutting and pathos.

There is a world of difference between catering for the lowest denominator and having respect for others. PC cannot necessarily change minds - a shame for Mr Mouette as he may feel a little less vulnerable around women with a different mindset - but it does make a statement of intent that enshrines basic human values. PC was a response to institutionalised xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny; it didn't appear in a flash of light and a cloud of smoke. Of course you cannot legislate for how narrow or bigoted someone's mind is. PC in that regard is unwieldly and clumsy. But it does offer people of a different gender than Mr Mouette some protection against the content of his brain. If PC offends you, then recall why it exists. Its usually bad-mouthed by male wasps who have never faced the barriers they cheerfully endorse.

Mr Mouette should have had the sense to understand that the best course of action when in a hole is to stop digging. This whole thing reflects badly on the Debian Project and on Mr Mouette himself. Its a shame, but perhaps a little adherence to PC could have saved a) peoples goodwill and Cool Mr Mouette's unfortunate follow up which exacerbated divisions at a time when Debian least needed it.

If there is no retraction or action by Debian I wouldn't blame any woman for leaving them or to refuse to join them in the first place.

And that's Debian's loss. However I am sure that a bunch of males who are equally thick skinned, insensitive and derisory of others as Mr Mouette can offer a lot to a voluntary project. It might not be good, but there will be a lot of it.

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