3.4. Write or Choose a Code of Conduct
Write or choose Code of Conduct to establish guidelines for how members of your community interact with each other. Your Code of Conduct will help you maintain a diverse, welcoming community.
A writing and thinking assignment (best done with community members, if available)
Have completed all previous sections and modules
Pen and paper, sticky notes, or computer to type
Introducing Codes of Conduct
To lead an open project effectively, you’ll need to think both about the individuals on your project and how they can join and grow with the project (as we did in the previous sections) but also about the community that your crew of contributors create together. For your project to truly thrive, your community must be welcoming, inclusive, and safe for all. This means that all people– regardless of their background or identity– who come to the project as a contributor or potential user should feel comfortable, find themselves reflected in some way in the project, and be able to participate.
One of the ways to do this is establish some guides for participation in the community, which you’ll write up in a document called a Code of Conduct or Participation Guidelines. These guides are for both projects and any events or convenings you’ll hold for your projects. They apply to face to face, in person interactions and those that happen online, in forums, chat, via email and in project repositories.
Codes of Conduct serve two main purposes:
- To establish the sorts of behaviors encouraged by the community, and to make clear which behaviors are unacceptable and discouraged
- To establish the process by which any problems or violations of the guidelines will be handled by the project lead or leads.
Code of Conduct Examples
Excerpt from Open Code of Conduct
- Be friendly and patient
- Be welcoming
- Be considerate
- Be respectful
- Be careful in the words that we choose
- Try to understand why we disagree
- Contributor Covenant - A Code of Conduct maintained specifically to be adopted by Open Source projects.
- Apache Software Foundation Code of Conduct
- Citizen Code of Conduct
- Hack Code of Conduct - A Code of Conduct for Hackathons.
Assignment: Write your Code of Conduct
What you’ll do: This is a writing and brainstorming exercise. It can be done individually by the project lead but it’s best completed with members of your community, to encourage shared responsibility for the community’s health and wellbeing.
Tips for this exercise:
- If you are working with a group, in person, do the first section as a silent brainstorming exercise. Participants jot down their ideas on sticky notes, then share– take note of any common thoughts, outliers and surprises.
- If working with a group online, brainstorm by sharing questions in an editable document (ie, etherpad, Google Doc, etc), and circulate to community members for input. Once you have answers, move on to to next steps.
- We find this process works best when the group creating the COC represents the diversity of interests and opinions within the community. You can invite your entire community to participate, or work with a representative subset of the community.
- Brainstorm. (30 minutes or more) Whether in person or online, start by reflecting on the following questions. Give yourself at least 5 minutes to answer each set of questions, or more time as needed.
- What core words would you associate with your community? These could be values, ideals, or characteristics. Try to keep these to one word answers, if possible.If you’re having trouble getting started, think of communities you identify with, be they a set of friends, a group of peers, or an organization you feel a part of in some way. What makes that a community you come back to? (Examples: welcoming, safe, open, friendly, creative, playful, fun).
- What behaviors do you want to encourage? …. and what do you want to discourage? Be specific enough to be useful here, and be sure to include lots of positive behaviors. Don’t focus only on the negative.(Examples: Encourage: active listening, being welcoming, asking questions; Discourage: unwanted physical contact, insults, being disrespectful of another’s skills or work)
- How does someone alert you as project lead to a problem, issue, or violation of the code?Be explicit in these steps. It’s OK (and encouraged) to have a few different options for reporting issues.Example: Leaders create a Safety/Code of Conduct committee, and advertise a bit about each person (general information, bios) including a photo to all.Reporters of problems can contact the Safety/Code of Conduct representatives by email or in person at an event. Note that all discussions or correspondences are confidential. Call or text a Google Voice number, set up specifically for the event or project.
- What consequences are there for violating the code? It’s important the consequences are real and appropriate to the situation. Examples: Asked to leave the event. Removed as a contributor from the project.
- Who decides what does and does not violate the code? What’s an example of how this might be done? Come up with a process and think about you’d explain it to participants. This should be clear and consistent. You may want to define response times, how decisions on reported events will be handled, where this will be posted etc.
- How can you make others feel safe and supported?Code of Conducts are about creating a welcoming and safe environment as much as they are about discouraging bad behavior. Take a few minutes to reflect on how you can better support your peers, reward or highlight good behavior, and model the behavior you want to see.
- Refine and Remix. (25 mins) Using the information you’ve collected in the brainstorm above and drawing on the examples, Write your own Code of Conduct. You can also remix some of these to get started.
- Share and Discuss. (As much time as needed) Share the version created with your wider community for feedback; make sure everyone knows about the Code, how it was created, and that the intention is to ensure the wellbeing of all community members. In the next section, you’ll be putting your project and this Code of Conduct on the online collaboration platform GitHub, where everyone can see it. It’s a great idea to ask for comments on your Code of Conduct from project members, and revise as needed.