An anonymous response to dangerous FOSS Codes of Conduct

Yesterday, an anonymous web developer posted a single web page on /r/KotakuInAction containing some thoughts on the state of open source software. The post quickly went viral, attracting other developers and geeks that knew something was dreadfully wrong with the way Social Justice Warriors contribute to software projects. We reached out to the author and got permission to reprint the piece in full. Even if you are not a developer you should read this to learn more about the effect SJWs have on hard-working people who mean no harm. –Eds


Hello. I’m a professional web developer, but you can’t verify that by looking at this page. I’m afraid to post this content under my real name because I’m around people who would try to get me fired from a job I love, or worse. Still, I need to get something off my chest in a space I control.

I’ve been in web development for nearly seven of the ten years that I’ve been barking orders at silicon, and the undisciplined chaos in the web development community is enough to make me question my career choice. It’s not code that bothers me, its people who confuse innovation with fashion, and opinions with infrastructure.

Religious wars in software used to be about a fat bearded man named He-macs wrestling a pencil-neck named Vimmy over what text editor to use, but now FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) devs are concerned about making sure marginalized human beings feel “welcome,” as if someone was trying to physically block newcomers. That opens the door to social justice and other buzzwords that prigs use to feel better about themselves, and utopian visions documented in “Codes of Conduct,” or CoC.

The sentiment behind a CoC is that there is no excuse for being an ass, which sounds great until you realize that only a select few people get to decide who’s an ass. So when open source leaders want to stop you from doing free work they can pretend that its your fault for violating their code instead of admitting they never really wanted to include just anybody. They’ve managed to make exclusivity look inclusive, and it makes me crazy that so few people see that.

Let’s look first at Geek Feminism’s CoC, which acts as a source of inspiration for other CoC’s like ToDo Group’s Open Code of Conduct. ToDo Group’s CoC is in turn used or supported by Twitter, Box, Yahoo, Facebook and GitHub at the time of this writing, so we cannot underestimate the influence the following writing has in disciplinary response teams.

Any boldfaced words or omissions made for brevity using “[…]” are my doing.

Harassment includes:

  • Unwelcome comments regarding a person’s lifestyle choices and practices, including those related to food, health, parenting, drugs, and employment. […]
  • Physical contact and simulated physical contact (eg, textual descriptions like “*hug*” or “*backrub*”) without consent or after a request to stop. […]


The Geek Feminism community prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort. The Geek Feminism Anti-Abuse Team will not act on complaints regarding:

  • ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’ (because these things don’t exist)
  • Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I’m not discussing this with you.”
  • Refusal to explain or debate social justice concepts
  • Communicating in a ‘tone’ you don’t find congenial
  • Criticizing racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behavior or assumptions

Telling a cokehead female developer “It’s important to admit you have a problem. I am here for you! (hugs)” is harassment. Criticizing someone’s horrible coding habits to explain why they can’t hold down a job is also harassment. You being a victim of racism, sexism or discrimination does not matter if you are seen as privileged, and no one has to explain the social justice concepts used to ignore your voice. That ties quite cleanly into the “I’m not discussing this with you” part of “reasonable boundaries.”

Here are my favorite bits:

[Harassment includes deliberate] “outing” of any aspect of a person’s identity without their consent except as necessary to protect other GF members or other vulnerable people from intentional abuse.


This includes harassment outside our spaces and harassment that took place at any point in time.The abuse team reserves the right to exclude people from the GF community based on their past behavior, including behavior outside GF spaces and behavior towards people who are not in the GF community.


At our discretion, we may publicly name a person about whom we’ve received harassment complaints, or privately warn third parties about them, if we believe that doing so will increase the safety of GF members or the general public.

Geek Feminism bluntly declares that they alone decide what they believe is harassment, that they will not listen to or explain their justification, and that even if you are not in their space they will hunt you down and publish you as a subject of a harassment complaint.

They exempt themselves from their own standards and announce their willingness to proxy dox anyone if persuaded to do so on subjective grounds. There is no privacy for you: If you look privileged and someone makes up a story about you, you might get a concerned email from HR about something making the rounds on Twitter and causing a PR nightmare for your employer. Whether or not you actually did anything wrong won’t matter.

Hacker Eric S. Raymond noticed the manipulation at work and indicated that women at tech conferences were targeting male open source leaders with false allegations. Accusations have power, and the 2013 PyCon incident with Adria Richards proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

We need to acknowledge the problem. If you are not considered worthy of protection by ideological CoCs, then there are people out there that want you to at the very least lose your job. If they see you demonstrating even the most innocuous affection or humor, they will likely assume malice and retaliate, especially if you are the wrong color or sex. These are the same people who humiliated a scientist for landing on a comet because of a shirt he wore.

Open Source Vigilantism has invaded software, and it has to stop. We need a CoC that does not assume that you can create a space free from assholes because life does not work that way. We don’t choose our colleagues, and we can’t expect the community to cater to each of our own individual vulnerabilities.

There is something I can say to the political ideologues scaring the shit out of me. They won’t read it, and if they do, they won’t care. But I’m going to write it here anyway because I already hate myself for not saying it out loud.

I resent that I’ve actually been scared into hiding who I am just so I can speak my mind. I feel like I am not allowed to enjoy writing code anymore because communities want to tell me everything from how to think about problems to how to address women. I feel used and controlled. I hate it, and I don’t understand why you are doing this to me. I know I’m not alone in what I think, but I sure do feel alone because none of my colleagues at my day job are going to risk their careers getting up and challenging you. I don’t know who or where they are because they are just as freaked out about speaking up as I am. I want to stand up and say something, and right now this is the only way I know how where I get to keep my job.

Assholes and disagreement are part of life and our community will make no effort to shield you from that experience. It is not your place to say what someone else should think or feel, and in what vicinity. All that you can control is your own response to hostility.

We encourage you to report any ongoing, deliberate attempts by anyone to harm you to the proper authorities, but if the occasional off comment makes you feel “unwelcome” then that is no one’s problem but your own. Attempting to hold other people responsible for your feelings, choices and actions may result in a partial or complete loss of credibility in our community.

I don’t care if you are a man, woman or something in between that actually exists or was made up on Tumblr.

I don’t care if you are white, black, brown, polka dot, or if your daddy was a Sherwin William’s palette.

I don’t care if you are a chemo patient that faces cancer with bravery, or an Olympian athlete that can hit a dust mite’s tit with a javelin at 300 yards.

You just aren’t special.

If you act like something other than relevant skill entitles you to anything from us, then please, I beg you, leave me alone.

You are not entitled to a change of perspective in somebody else. Compilers don’t care about your mortal squabbles over racism or sexism.

I want diversity, but hope open source communities are NOT inclusive.

Fresh perspectives are the only diversity that matters in software, and that comes from people who practice development. Your crotch and melanin content do absolutely nothing to aid your development knowledge, so don’t bring it up. I. Just. Don’t. Care. If you try to make me care, then I don’t want to deal with you.

It’s rude and disrespectful to treat a developer with years of experience as if he or she is equal to a novice who wants attention in a corrupted form of “diversity.” If you are not skilled, then you are not equal to the skilled. There’s a reason why racers don’t cross the finish line at the same time, and why video games have high scores. Some people are just plain better than you, and that’s okay. Healthy people see inequality of merit as motivation. Learning from others is infinitely better than getting upset over feeling “unwelcome” or “excluded.”

Developers aren’t born into knowledge like some spoiled brats are born into wealth. We all started as beginners, and we all have all the access we will ever need to tutorials and tools on cheap laptops that you can find with the help of friends, public libraries, and thrift stores. Computers are dirt cheap compared to just a few decades ago, so unless you are literally incapable of reading this article, you can learn to code.

Cyberbullying? I understand that is difficult because I’ve had people call me names and give me a really hard time when I got started, but I did okay because I learned what bullies said didn’t matter in the end. That is, of course, unless the bullies have the power to get me fired over lies like you do.

You’ve taken harassment and bullying, which are real problems, and turned them into buzzwords used to shame and hurt people. You call people victims who aren’t victims and bury the ones who actually need help right now.

I’m telling you from experience that if you have a functioning brain it’s your own damn fault if you don’t like where you are. As a developer, you are in one of the most open and accessible industries ever created. I will appreciate you for your passion, your craft and your generous willingness to do something, but I just don’t have the energy to care about the dystopian fiction playing in your head.

Privilege has absolutely nothing to do with keeping anyone down in software. Do not tell me that you are facing some sort of obstacle to learning or finding opportunity when you have an Internet connection. If you are in computer science you are lucky enough to have more opportunities than you can even fathom. Instead of counting your blessings and taking on the challenges facing you, you squander your own intellect trying to bully people who disagree with you.

I like sentimental promises of fairness for all as much as anyone else, but I will not pretend to support a fully open and inclusive community. I don’t want that. I don’t want everyone to be my equal. I want some people to be smarter than me because it tells me what I could be. I want to be around people who like to learn, grow and help others with a healthy sense of personal accountability. When did this become too much to ask?

You do not need a CoC’s permission to blaze your own path and meet like-minded people along the way.

If you want to be right and make something of yourself, then do the work.

—A concerned developer

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