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Richard Stallman suggests GNU Kind as Code of Conduct alternative

Photo by Yvan Musy on Unsplash

In September, elements of the Linux kernel community managed to introduce a Code of Conduct into the project and the new document was formally adopted with the release of Linux 4.19 which occurred today. The text attracted criticism from some quarters and praise from others, now Richard Stallman has put forward the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines for the GNU Project after he announced he didn’t like aspects of a code of conduct proposal.

Writing in the announcement on the GNU mailing list, Stallman said that some maintainers had suggested a code of conduct which would introduce strict rules. Stallman wrote that he “did not like the punitive spirit of that approach, and decided against it.” Other GNU package maintainers said that they would quit from their positions immediately if a code of conduct was enacted.

Explaining the difference between a code of conduct and the GNU Kind guidelines, Stallman said:

“A code of conduct states rules, with punishments for anyone that violates them. It is the heavy-handed way of teaching people to behave differently, and since it only comes into action when people do something against the rules, it doesn't try to teach people to do better than what the rules require. To be sure, the appointed maintainer(s) of a GNU package can, if necessary, tell a contributor to go away; but we do not want to need to have recourse to that.

The idea of the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines is to start guiding people towards kinder communication at a point well before one would even think of saying, "You are breaking the rules." The way we do this, rather than ordering people to be kind or else, is try to help people learn to make their communication more kind.”

Stallman stressed that the new guidelines are not yet set in stone and that comments and suggestions are welcome. You can read the current iteration of the short document on the GNU website now.

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