Hacker Conference Says ‘No’ to Political Correctness, Supports Diversity of Ideas

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 4:51 am, January 12, 2017

Progressives have been pushing for tech conferences, gaming conventions and hacker meetups to adopt a “Code of Conduct” to curb harassment at events.

While harassment does happen on occasion, these sweeping policies typically contain political bias banning speakers with right-leaning views from attending and presenting.

LambdaConf, a tech conference dedicated to the promotion of functional programming, made its own Code of Conduct that is inclusive to a broad range of political opinions.

It came under fire last year for refusing to ban Curtis Yarvin, a software developer, a proponent of “neoreactionary” political views. He was previously banned from a different programming conference, Strange Loop, after a backlash to his presence at the event.

Regardless of his politics, Yarvin only presented his open source work at LambdaConf, focusing on vulnerabilities in Android software and data validation.

Rules in the broadly-adopted Code of Conduct used at these events (sans LambdaConf) are based on the “Contributor Covenant,” a rulebook intended to govern the behavior of software developers. More than 140 software projects have adopted it.

Guidelines prohibit participants of associated projects from exhibiting “behaviors that [organizations] deem inappropriate, threatening, offensive, or harmful,” either privately or publicly. The rules are so opaque that they could refer to saying anything that might make someone else feel uncomfortable. Its creator, Coraline Ada Ehmke, was hired at the software development platform GitHub to manage the coder community.

Critics of the rulebook, including PHP developer Paul M. Jones, allege that its implementation has politicized software development. Software developer and Roguelike guidebook creator Eric S. Raymond described the rules as an “attempt to beat the hacker culture into political pliability.” A Medium commentator, GethN7, provided a solid deconstruction of the Code of Conduct.

Ehmke, a self-described “code witch” and transgender activist who proudly wears the “social justice warrior” label made previous attempts to ban speakers from events through behind-the-scenes maneuvering. In some instances, she was successful.

Beyond whisper campaigns, Ehmke often injects herself into communities to encourage them to adopt the Contributor Covenant.  She has gone on record demanding that hacker communities accept and embrace advocates of social justice into their fold.

In the face of these efforts, LambdaConf’s own rules—dubbed the FCOP—expressly prohibits discrimination on political grounds and carries an “assume best intentions” policy for adoptees. The Fantasyland Code of Professionalism is open source and free for adoption by any event or organization.

“Assume the best intention when others communicate with you,” it suggests. “If you don’t understand what someone meant, or have questions about it, ask them directly rather than speculating or spreading rumors.”

The rules prohibit members from sabotaging others for religious or political reasons. It also forbids shaming others within the community on social media during events, presumably to prevent another Adria Richards Donglegate debacle.

The standing of members is only relevant while they are participating in the community, and is unaffected by opinions they hold or express anywhere else —where privately or publicly.

Outspoken social justice activists in tech have railed against it since November. It’s currently implemented at the ongoing LambdaConf Winter Retreat and may see further use in the future, away from the vague and overly restrictive Contributor Covenant adopted by well-meaning software platforms and organizations vulnerable to the tyranny of political correctness.