Facets: Issue 12

Feb 5, 2016

Why Hackers Must Welcome Social Justice Advocates

Coraline Ada Ehmke
"social justice advocates are not an external force acting on the open source movement; rather, they represent the voices of people within the community who are rarely heard."

Open source has long distanced itself from politics, but Coraline Ada Ehmke makes the argument that, in its roots as a campaign for digital freedom, it is inherently political. She asks hard questions of the community that prides itself on openness and freedom, wondering if marginalized people are truly free to participate. We see that social justice isn’t an opposition to open source or an attack upon the much-idealized meritocracy, but a force from within: an opportunity to identify and address problems rather than ignoring them.

The Hidden Power Dynamics of Open Source

Anonymous Author
"No one should be judged just because they don’t contribute to open source, and frankly the reason doesn’t even matter."

"How Open Are You Really?" This is the challenge that the author issues to open source, asking questions of the democratic, flat hierarchies so associated with open source communities. Our attention is drawn to the presence of power dynamics within open source projects, as well as the hierarchies (implicit and otherwise) which create a disconnect between the values we espouse and the communities we actually lead. In the end, we’re left asking what open source contribution truly means, and why we judge people on it at all.

"Females" in Open Source

Amber Wu
"Events being “open to everyone” was a token political statement. If they didn’t recognize someone as being part of their in-group, all they had to do was make them uncomfortable. After all, that person is always ‘free' to leave."

It starts out with an amusing anecdote, but Amber Wu’s piece takes that anecdote and turns it into an exploration of rationalization, the difference between what we say and how we behave, and the very real complexities behind tackling sexism in open source. She untangles the convoluted politics of open source in order to identify token statements, and describes how efforts of policy must be followed up by quantifiable action in order to create safe communities.

What makes a good community?

Sarah Sharp
"reaching the goal of a diverse community is a step-by-step process. There are no shortcuts. Each step has to be complete before the next level of cultural change is effective."


In keeping with the open source/community theme of this issue, here are a few resources that can help get started in the building of these communities:

The Contributor Covenant:

Itself an open source project, the Contributor Covenant is a code of conduct for open source projects, with the goal of "[being] overt in our openness, welcoming all people to contribute, and pledging in return to value them as human beings and to foster an atmosphere of kindness, cooperation, and understanding.” So use, enforce, and contribute!

Clef's Open Sourced Diversity Handbook:

"It takes active effort to find the hidden biases in our companies and remove them,” Clef say, when introducing their diversity handbook. Containing all of the inclusion policies in their company, the handbook is open-sourced in order to both help other companies and evolve and improve their own approaches. Definitely a good start, and more companies should make similar efforts at openness, while acknowledging that they won’t always get it right.

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