“That’s the world we live in,” said my roommate after I told him about the harassment, rape and death threats that a lot of women received for voicing their opinions against sexism in the programming and gaming community. He was very right. We do live in a world where women are not safe from being harassed and abused. This can be clearly seen in the statistics on sexual violence at my university, and testimonials of women who have experienced violent online threats.
The online community of core contributors and users of Node.js is very large and growing exponentially. With such growth, the leaders of the community have needed to adapt their approach to ensuring that everyone feels safe when reaching out for help to other people on the web.
The Code of Conduct
I’m a white guy, I don’t get to decide what makes non-white non-male people feel safe and accepted. This is even more important to remember during enforcement of the CoC where the goal must be to make those affected by harassment feel safe again.
The Node.js community has opened up the code of conduct to edits and comments on Github, and can be read on this pull request. The purpose was to allow those affected by harassment to say whether they thought the code of conduct made them feel safe. The basics are there, and it is hard to believe that anyone would contend with a code of conduct to make the community safer for everyone.
However, the comments on the code of conduct showed the voices of many people who, for a variety of reasons, disagree with the formalizing of a code of conduct for the Node.js ecosystem. The threatening and demeaning tone of the comments made people feel even more unsafe and unwilling to participate in the discussion. Those who were brave enough to overcome their fears and speak up for the code of conduct were true heroes for the community.
Since the arguments became so heated, and the moderators could barely keep up with controlling the off-topic discussions, a new pull request was created, and soon locked to prevent more comments from coming in before the advisory board could be in a position to handle them. Many things said on Twitter surrounding the code of conduct were even more heated, and all of the comments seemed to be dragging the culture into a spiral of doubt and fear.
It was a very difficult weekend for the Node.js community, but it was especially difficult for the leaders of the community, who had to maintain constant vigilance for the sake of making everyone feel safe. These great people are phenomenal programmers and software developers who went out of their way to spend their weekend not coding, but actively fighting for the protection of people who felt unsafe in the world of software development.
Isaac Shlueter’s great comment sums up the stance that he is taking to make the Node.js corner of the internet safer for women. This and many other comments from the leaders of the community voiced their unshaking stance on creating a safe and welcoming culture surrounding Node.js.
I am proud to say that I am part of this community after seeing its efforts this weekend. I know that no matter what melodrama exists on a comment thread in a pull request, or how terrible the real world continues to be for women, the people whose names are listed first at Node.js conferences are actively establishing a world that is safer for everyone.
The world we live in is a scary one for many people. The Node.js community has taken on the challenge of fighting that world, one code of conduct at a time.