In this episode of my thoughts on communities, let’s have a chat about codes of conduct. Codes of conduct aren’t like HR policies for an organization; instead, they’re more like massive group contracts. Let’s dive in 🧵 (1/14)
When I talk with people who haven’t been in the community space, I notice a lot of folks assuming codes of conduct are more like HR policies. They expect the CoC to be a way to protect the community heads if "something goes wrong." (2/14)
In a conflict between employee and company, HR is to protect the company from legal ramifications (which may mean the employee is right!). HR policies are there to make clear lines of acceptable behavior to which the company can point if a lawyer comes calling. (3/14)
Codes of conduct, on the other hand, are distinctly not there to protect the heads of the community. They aren't a weapon to be used when someone doesn't toe a party line. Instead, they lay out how the community will enforce the moral and ethical code of the community. (4/14)
CoCs are a contract among all community members that states a shared code of ethics, a shared way of engaging, and a clear way for community members to hold one another accountable. (5/14)
That means that *anyone* can enforce a code of conduct. The final arbiter of a code of conduct violation is not the organizers (though they handle temporary/permanent actions). The final arbiter is the community member—the ones who define what, exactly, is a violation. (6/14)
Surprise! *No one* gets to decide what’s acceptable alone. By joining a community, you sign onto the group contract of behavior, acknowledging that you agree what is acceptable and how that will be enforced. (7/14)
If you want your community to change its CoC, you need to start a dialogue among community members. It’s like getting signatures on a ballot proposal—oh, wait, in fact it's *exactly* like that. You get people to sign on and vote. It’s grassroots politics. (8/14)
As an organizer of community events and meetups, I explicitly sign onto the same contract. It’s just that my duties, as an organizer, are a bit extra compared to a community member since I am the one with extra keys. (9/14)
As a community organizer, you are *of service*. You’re not there for fame or fortune; you help by offering your time and talents to make a community better. Which means that CoC isn’t there to serve you. Instead, you serve the CoC, the contract of the community. (10/14)
We really should name community organizers as community attendants. After all, organizer sounds like you get to call the shots, but a community leader is really leading by serving and listening to the desires of the community. (11/14)
As a result, the CoC strengthens the community in adversity. It ensures everyone moves forward together, even if the path gets a bit foggy, because there are lanterns (rules) to follow. And the community organizer tends the lanterns, ensuring the flame stays alive. (12/14)
Over many years, I've been the organizer keeping watch, the author/enforcer of a CoC based on the community's desires, and the community member of a group that tore itself apart over a leader thinking the CoC was all about them. The final one is depressing. Don't do it. (13/14)
TL;DR: Communities rely on the contract of CoCs. Use them inappropriately, and you violate the contract, which destroys communities. Keep them safe and sacred, and the community thrives. It's your choice. Do the right thing. (14/14)

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