There is a trend among conferences that I find disturbing. In the last few years, a number of software development conferences have found it necessary to adopt codes of conduct. These codes of conduct deal with “bad actors” who find it necessary to discriminate and harass attendees, speakers and conference staff. The following sets of text are the Codes of Conduct from the <anglebrackets/> (http://www.anglebrackets.org) and PyCon (https://us.pycon.org) conferences respectively:

From http://anglebrackets.org/codeofconduct.aspx:

AngleBrackets is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund at the discretion of the conference organizers.

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

Exhibitors in the expo hall, sponsor, or vendor booths, or at similar activities are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.

If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. Conference staff can be identified by t-shirts/special badges/headsets.

Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance. We expect participants to follow these rules at all conference venues and conference-related social events.

From https://us.pycon.org/2013/about/code-of-conduct/:

PyCon is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form.

All communication should be appropriate for a professional audience including people of many different backgrounds. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks.

Be kind to others. Do not insult or put down other attendees. Behave professionally. Remember that harassment and sexist, racist, or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate for PyCon.

Attendees violating these rules may be asked to leave the conference without a refund at the sole discretion of the conference organizers.

Thank you for helping make this a welcoming, friendly event for all.

The Longer Version

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

Exhibitors in the expo hall, sponsor or vendor booths, or similar activities are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.

Be careful in the words that you choose. Remember that sexist, racist, and other exclusionary jokes can be offensive to those around you. Excessive swearing and offensive jokes are not appropriate for PyCon.

If a participant engages in behavior that violates this code of conduct, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund.

Playing by the Rules

To be clear, the thing I find disturbing is not these Codes of Conduct in and of themselves, but the fact that we need these codes of conduct at all. I thought I worked in an industry where a person could be judged based on merit, intellect and the quality of the work itself. For the most part this is true, but in some circles this is definitely not the case. We seem to live in the world of the “brogrammer.”

For those of you not familiar with this term let me enlighten you. The term “brogrammer” is defined as:

A programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy: popped collars, bad beer, and calling everybody "bro." Despised by everyone, especially other programmers. (taken from the NSFW site www.urbandictionary.com)

We now live in a world where “frat-boy” behaviors are common and have permeated our conferences. It seems that every conference and festival I have attended recently has been overrun by this attitude and it’s time that we refocus our energies to creating a positive environment for everyone. We need to focus on accepting people different than us; we need to create a safe environment where people can be free from harassment and discrimination; we need to grow up and stop the boorish and insulting behavior.

I am going to close my editorial with a one line Code of Conduct, coined by über-geek Wil Wheaton : “Don’t be a dick.”

Think about that, Rodman!