October 2017 Meetup: On Conflict and Accountability


What came up for us:

    • Greater Than Code episode 50: Open Source Anarchy – good discussion here about BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life model that’s found in many open source projects)
    • Bus factor: We have this concept in tech already. How do we create awareness around it in our organizations? For example, we don’t want to have to keep a toxic person around because he is the only one who has the credentials to the server. Sometimes nothing can immediately be done, but it helps to have awareness around that imbalance of power.
    • In the case of an incident, we should also use it as an opportunity to examine ourselves as an organization. We could do our version of a retrospective with actionables.
    • Graph analysis might be a way to easily tease out people or groups that have too much power. See here – https://graphcommons.com/hubs/inquiry
    • Malcolm London Dedicated Life to Activism: Now, He’s Accused of Sex Assault (related to BYP100 reading)
    • Is technology needlessly complex? Mass literacy transformed the world. Could mass tech literacy have similar power?
    • Is low tech literacy part of general neoliberal capitalist alienation? We don’t know where our food or our phone comes from either.
    • “Degrowth? How About Some Dealienation?” – Terisa Turner, Leigh Brownhill, and Wahu Kaara (article)
    • Interview with Peter Hudis author of Frantz Fanon: Philosopher at the Barricades (discussion of race, Marxism, and alienation)
    • The Peer Production License (forcing functions on commercial use to remunerate the open commons)
    • Freeman offers good suggestions. Dr. Elinor Ostrom also has good guidance about managing commons. Governing the Commons would be a good read, but her Nobel Prize lecture is a good place to start.
    • Anton Pannekoek’s writing on Workers’ Councils might also be informative.
      “Common ownership must not be confounded with public ownership. In public ownership, often advocated by notable social reformers, the State or another political body is master of the production. The workers are not masters of their work, they are commanded by the State officials, who are leading and directing the production. Whatever may be the conditions of labor, however human and considerate the treatment, the fundamental fact is that not the workers themselves, but the officials dispose of the means of production, dispose of the product, manage the entire process, decide what part of the produce shall be reserved for innovations, for wear, for improvements, for social expenses, what part has to fall to the workers what part to themselves. In short, the workers still receive wages, a share of the product determined by the masters. Under public ownership of the means of production, the workers are still subjected to and exploited by a ruling class. Public ownership is a middle-class program of a modernized and disguised form of capitalism. Common ownership by the producers can be the only goal of the working class.”

Open Questions:

  • What is fair punishment for assault? Who decides? How do we determine what is true?
  • How do you deter assault in spaces?
  • Should we/can we offer mediation?
  • How do we build and maintain trust in a group?

Readings for Next Time:


  • Pull together a draft code of conduct and incident handling procedure
  • Plan to do a projectinventory process. No actionables necessary; just identify current projects, challenges, and opportunities.

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