The dynamics behind the Linux CoC adoption
I’m going to start off assuming you know what this is about. What the code of conflict was, what the code of conduct is, who Torvalds is, what role he played in this and what was the fallout of these events.
What I don’t expect you to know is who this person is.
This is the person behind the text in the code of conduct. This tweet gave me a lot to think. Who are “we”? Who are the collective “you”? I will go through the conclusions I was able to reach thinking about it.
A tight knit community
For a number of reasons, the majority of relevant companies that were born during the internet bubble of the 90s resided in a relatively small area of the US known as silicon valley. Before I go into details, I must talk about a few social aspects of the people who reside in this area.
I don’t know exactly why, but the people in this area operate socially based on social signaling. The image you passed was the most important aspect of where you fit in this society. And for some reason, the values on which these signals revolved saw a steep escalation. If you supported homosexuals you were a good person. One day that wasn’t enough, you had to support feminism. Then you had to support transgenders. Then queer folk. Then non-whites. Then be vegan. Then anti-gun. Then anti-capitalism. Then pro-immigration.
This created a constantly shifting goal for what meant to be socially acceptable and consequentially created a pressure on the ones who managed to stay inside this circle that kept getting smaller. And one thing that exclusivity is good in creating is social cohesion. Social cohesion is what enables a community to stick together, organize and push as a whole. It is known through history that there is strength in numbers, but there won’t be enough numbers when everyone is pulling in different directions.
From this cohesion is only natural for the people inside the circle to push towards common goals. Not only because of shared values and interests but also because failing in support the group means the group won’t support the individual, denying access to this collective power. And what people likes the least is to lose power.
Power in modern times
Is not uncommon for industries to concentrate in specific areas. Companies need employees, so they move where the know how is. Professionals need jobs, so they move where the companies are. This creates a cyclical accumulation in an area for the activities in an industry.
Not only you have these mutual interests, but also a starvation everywhere else. The more incentive people have to concentrate in an area, the harder is for everyone else in the industry to operate anywhere else.
The offer of professionals will be scarce and so is the offer of jobs. So everyone moves to these centers.
Then this industry struck gold. They controlled the modern flow of information through social media, specially facebook and twitter. There was also companies that while aren’t exactly in the bay area, aren’t too far from it and have heavy economic influence, like amazon. If you look at the top ranked sites in the world, most of them will be from companies in this area.
And the more traffic they have, the easier is for them to control what is accessed. In order to promote content that pays through ads, it’s known they pick what people see instead of just promoting what is seen the most. So it’s been always a black box that might changed on a whim. But power is meant to wielded. So these companies didn’t stop on shaping what brought in more money. They started to shape what people saw based on what they think they should be seeing.
One day you are looking for islam, the next you are being told what to think about it. At this point they didn’t care what was actually the most relevant results for what people looked for. What people actually thought on the subject was wrong and had to be controlled.
Eventually because of how relevant these companies became, the influence of the people in them started to show in free software projects. One day a Code of Conduct is created and it served as some sort of flag. It had very specific language when it came to values but vague language when it came to actual conduct. So when a project adopted it to conduct it’s community, two things were visible:
1: you had to fall in line with the social signaling.
2: there were no rules, you were either in or out.
And because power begets power, the more people adopted it, the more they wanted people to adopt it. Just like their social signaling kept moving, adopting this code went from being an allied to doing the bare minimum in their eyes. When they knocked on your door, you either let them in or they took you out.
So. 2016, eh. What a year. Back to the fact this is a closed group in a small area, they weren’t used to diverse opinions. They didn’t realize how many people disagree with them. So when Trump won an election and it was heavily credited to the information that went through their platforms, they didn’t like it.
They didn’t like it one bit. And you can see the mentality from the previous points is present on this quote:
Returning to seriousness, Brin says he is “deeply offen[ded]” by the election of Trump, and that the election “conflicts with many of [Google’s] values.”
What people voted was wrong. And it was their righteous duty to control it. Brexit also happened, which was something heavily against the values of the majority of people in this area. Now things got serious, they realized how many people out there didn’t agree with that they agreed, so they doubled down. At this point every single one of them was talking on how to prevent these incorrect opinions to get traction. They were here to push their agenda and eat their meat.
But they were vegan.
This topic went on for a while. They said how much it was a mistake to let information flow the way it did to get trump elected, people reacted to it, talking on how dangerous it was to have so few people to control so much information.
Then one day a man called Alex Jones gets banned from a dozen platforms in a single day. Someone worked on a god damn sunday to ban him. The actual merits or relevance of what alex had to say is not is important here. What is important is how much power these companies wanted to show. It's absolutely impossible that suddenly they all realized he was breaking some rule so important that warranted him a permanent ban, all on a single day. Because even then, there was never any single part of what he put up on these platforms shown as evidence of his wrongdoings. At this point it became VERY clear that whoever was running the show had connections and had an agenda.
There are people out there thinking this was part of the dreaded EEE tactic. Embrace, extend, extinguish. There are people out there thinking this was because Torvalds didn't want backdoors from three-letter agencies. I just don't think there's that much behind it and things are much more clear once you look at it with a clinical approach to how power and societies work. I think it's just a close community that got some power and is just trying to get more. I might be talking out of my ass, I might be spot on. I can't say for sure, I don't know anything that no one else does. I hope this serves just as food for thought for anyone interested in any of this.