Revising the Code of Conduct
Wouter Verhelst <w <at> uter.be>
2013-05-21 08:32:09 GMT
I've long thought that our code of conduct, as currently written, is
fairly useless. Because it contains things that are totally irrelevant
("swearing is illegal on packet radio, some people receive mailinglists
on packet radio, so don't swear"??? ) and some things
that are ineffective in today's world ("don't spam"), people tend to
As such, one of the things I wanted to do if elected last year would be
to overhaul the code of conduct. Since I didn't get elected, I didn't
pursue this with as much vigour as would have been the case otherwise;
but I still think this is useful.
So I'd like to propose the following *draft* update of the code of
conduct. The methodology used for this was:
- Rather than have several items enumerating things you shouldn't do,
merge related items into one. Items in this class include:
- Most of the first item ("no abuse") with the penultimate ("don't
flame) are merged into a generic point, the first item in my new
- Two form-related items ("plain text only" and "wrap content at 80
characters") are merged together with a recommendation to use
mail-followup-to: (see below) into a "fix your mailer" point (number
- merge the "no off-topic" and the "use the proper list" into a point
- Remove or replace things that aren't relevant anymore, or that could
be done differently.
- I've replaced the "Don't Cc" recommendation with a "Respect
Mail-Followup-To:" recommendation. As I've stated before, I
personally believe the "Do not Cc" recommendation is a very bad
idea, because, first, some people actually prefer to be Cc'd if
they're not subscribed to a mailinglist; and second, it goes against
the defaults of many MUA's, which is contrary to my goal of having
our code of conduct be easy for people to follow, not difficult. By
recommending that people use a mailer which respects that header,
people can express their preference.
However, I do recognize that this particular change may be
controversial; if there is significant opposition, I don't insist on
- The "don't spam" and "swearing is illegal" bits have been removed,
as well as the "use common sense" bit. What's "common" sense depends
very much on culture and background, which isn't something we can
rely on in a Debian context.
- The "don't send subscription requests" item belongs in the
mailinglist documentation, not in the code of conduct. If people
don't read documentation, repeating that documentation in the code
of conduct isn't likely to help (they're unlikely to read that, too,
anyway), so I think we should remove it.
- The "don't send test messages" should be moved to the documentation
IMHO, also stating that if you have issues, you should talk to
listmasters. I was a bit in doubt about this one, but finally
decided that it feels too much like singling out one type of
messages that doesn't belong on our lists, which isn't something I
think a generic code of conduct should do.
- Add some things that aren't there but, I think, do belong in a code of
- Note that in general, replies to a post should go to the same
mailinglist. Replying in private robs the rest of the list from that
particular part of the discussion; replying to a different list can
be disruptive to a discussion, too, and is unlikely to succeed.
There are some exceptions where this is the right thing to do, so
- Add some final language with advise on what to do when misbehaviour
is observed. This also formalizes what today already is effectively
the case, namely that listmasters may ban people temporarily or
permanently from posting on our mailinglists for behaviour contrary
to the code of conduct.
So, without further ado, here's my draft:
The Debian mailinglists exist to foster the development and use of
Debian. This Code of Conduct exists to help towards that goal.
In particular, the following rules should be adhered to by participants
to discussion on Debian mailinglists:
1. Do not flame, use foul language, or in general be abusive or
disrespectful towards other people on the mailinglists or elsewhere
in Debian. That type of behaviour is not constructive and can quickly
lead to a degradation of the quality of a discussion.
2. Make sure to use the correct language when sending mails to our
mailinglists. This is usually English, unless otherwise noted in the
description of the mailinglist in question.
3. Use the correct list when posting a question. If unsure, use
debian-user for support-related questions, or debian-mentors for
development-related questions. Be prepared to ask your question on a
different mailinglist if told to do so.
4. Configure your mailer to send mail in plain text format, wrapping
lines at 80 characters for regular content. Exceptions to the
word-wrapping rule may include things like quoted parts of other
people's mails you are replying to, or computer-generated output that
is relevant to the discussion. You should preferably also use a
mailer which respects the Mail-Followup-To: header, or make a
best-effort attempt at respecting it manually if you don't.
5. If you wish to be part of a discussion, you should preferably
subscribe to the relevant mailinglist, even if only temporarily. If
you choose not to, you should remember that you may lose out on part
of the discussion, even if you use an appropriate Mail-Followup-To:
6. You should avoid sending attachments; this generates a lot of
unnecessary bandwidth on our listservers. Instead, put the file you
would like to attach online somewhere and post a link.
7. Please ensure that your mail system never sends automatic replies to
the list. If you do, listmasters may remove you from the list with
immediate effect to avoid flooding or annoying participants. You may
resubscribe when the automatic messages have been disabled.
8. Replies to a post on a mailinglist should, in general, go to the same
mailinglist. Do not send private replies, unless posting something
sensitive. Do not change the mailinglist, unless you are posting
something that is no longer relevant to the original discussion and
clearly off-topic for the mailinglist where it is being discussed.
While these rules should be adhered to by participants, we recognize
that sometimes people may have a bad day, or be unaware of some of the
rules in this code of conduct. When that happens, you may reply to them
and point out this code of conduct. Such messages may be on the list or
off the list, whatever is most appropriate. However, regardless of
whether the message is on- or off-list, it should still adhere to the
relevant parts of this code of conduct.
Repeated offenders may be temporarily of permanently banned from posting
to our mailinglists at the Debian listmasters' prerogative.
 see <https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2012/03/msg00047.html>,
This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space.
If it starts pointing toward space you are having a bad problem and you
will not go to space today.