Coraline Ada Ehmke argues that open source is a political movement, and that it should honor and welcome the work of SJWs.
This is badly wrong. Open source is not a political movement at all. Soi-disant “free software”, à la Richard Stallman, is indeed political: it attempts to deny programmers the right to profit from the fruits of their labors, arguing instead that code should be given “from those according to their abilities, to those according to their needs” — the most evil idea ever committed to paper.
But she’s wrong in a much more fundamental way, as well. She argues that participation by the “marginalized”’ will make open source better.
You know what? I agree. There’s plenty of work to be done out there. We cannot afford to run anyone off because of irrelevancies like the color of their skin or who they share a bed with. We need code, and lots of it, and documentation and support for users who don’t get it and website design and all that goes into a successful software project, open source or otherwise.
This points out a simple, truth, though: You may care what pronouns someone uses.
The computer doesn’t.
It doesn’t care if you’re black, or gay, or transgendered, or any other grievance-industry-victim-group-of-the-week. It only cares about your code. Does it compile? Does it run? Does it accomplish the task that needs accomplishing?
If it does, it’s usable code. If not, then it isn’t, and that fact is completely independent of its author and any personal characteristics that may apply.
Eric Raymond’s mantra is “show us the code!”. That’s because that’s what matters. Nothing else.
I was the manager of a successful open source softare project for 10 years. In that time, I rejected exactly one contribution, for two reasons: the code was crap that didn’t run well, and the author submitted it with a requirement that it not be licensed for use by enemies of Israel. Yes, the author was a straight (as far as I know) white male.
I didn’t know anything about the other members of the project aside from what they told me, and I didn’t care. They wrote good code.
Coraline’s code of conduct is designed to force hackers into the SJW-approved politically correct mold. umair haque posted an excellent essay on why political correctness is failing society, and I commend it to your attention. (And before you write him off automatically, note he’s a self-avowed leftist.) In the open source world, though, it has a more immediate effect: it forces those who produce good code but don’t subscribe to political correctness out, depriving the world of their contributions.
Don’t believe me? Ask Brendan Eich.
The computer doesn’t care about anyone’s political beliefs, either. Communist, Tea Party member, progressive, conservative, apolitical: everyone’s code either runs or doesn’t on its own merits. I knew even less about the politics of the members of the project I managed than I did anything else about them. That’s because nobody brought it up. It simply wasn’t relevant to whether or not they wrote good code.
I wrote a contribution policy a week or so ago, when Eric first posted his blog entry, that is intended to express all of this succinctly.. I encourage its wide adoption by open source projects everywhere.
And yes, I get how difficult it is for someone to contribute when they’re working 18 hours a day to keep a roof over their heads and their kids’. Open source is all about scratching your own itches. If someone in that situation is sufficiently irritated to take some of their scarce time and scratch an itch in my software, I want their contribution. I accept that it may not be polished, may not be easily readable, may not be good code — but there’s a valuable idea worth teasing out.
If they come to me and accept criticism, I’ll happily work with them to turn their contribution into good code I can use, and give them full credit for it.
If they come to me with a chip on their shoulder and say “you rejected my code because I’m <grievance-industry-victim-group-of-the-week>”, though, I’m going to tell them “No. Now go away before I taunt you a second time.” (I can even manage the outrrrrageous French accent!)
Open source communities are just that, communities. One does not join a community by loudly and obnoxiously demanding entrance. One joins by sharing the community’s goals and working with others to achieve them. Only an SJW fails to appreciate the difference.
If you really think a community is so toxic as to preclude participation by the grievance-industry-victim-group-of-the-week, then there’s a way to take concrete action. A fundamental right of open source is the fork. You are free — and welcome! — to fork the codebase and create a competing project, run the way you think it should be run. If you’re right, developers will flock to your project and make it better than the one you disagree with. If you’re wrong, it will be plain for all to see.
But forcing projects to adopt a poisonous code of conduct designed to ram SJWs’ ideals down our throats is detrimental to us all, because it takes the focus away from what truly matters: the code.
The computer cares about the code. Nothing else. So should we.