There has been so much written about why having a Code of Conduct is critical to conferences and online communities, but easily the best work I’ve read so far is Ashe Dryden’s amazingly thorough Codes of Conduct 101 + FAQ. Of course, I’ve never had to really worry about the lack of a Code of Conduct before as I have all the privileges.
As I’ve embarked on a new chapter working on our non-profit, Sound Off, the topic of Codes of Conduct has become super relevant. As an organisation, we’ve made the decision to only support conferences and groups with a strong Code of Conduct. That’s why we weren’t able to provide ASL interpreters and live captioning for the Cocoa Conf Yosemite conference – although we’re optimistic this might change for their upcoming events.
As a white man, I never have to worry about harassment when I attend a conference – except if someone discovers I like Celtic folk music – but a Code of Conduct is nevertheless critical to my enjoyment of a conference. If I’m going to fly half way around the world, I want to be challenged with ideas and opinions that will expand my mind and make me grow as a person; I don’t want talks I could get by speaking into a mirror. However, by making everyone feel welcome and safe, a conference draws a more inclusive audience and is likely to have speakers with a more diverse range of opinions and backgrounds. And that means I’m more likely to learn something new.
This hasn’t even been a difficult decision: I will not attend or speak at conferences without a strong Code of Conduct.