issue queries

Managing Conflict in Open Source Communities

Posted on Updated on

On 10/28/19 at 1:45pm, I attended the All Things Open Conference Session: Managing Conflict in Open Source Communities at the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh, NC presented by George DeMet, founder and CEO of

Managing Conflict in Open Source Communities


Getting to know the presenter

George began with a short introduction. He’s been involved with drupal for 12yrs. Drupal has over 100k active contributors, and for several years he has been chairing the drupal community group. They’re a large project, and have been expanding, getting larger in the last 5-6 years.

More and more is being asked of the dev community by companies and users, and these things don’t always scale well. 60+% drupal 8 developers experienced or observed conflict in drupal issue queues, IRC, etc.

Its not always easy to find trolls when they are hiding behind aliases. We cannot always act or react right away and cause attention to those trolling. Contributing to this is the rise of reports made in bad faith. SO that means a series of standards have got to be made, made clear to the community, address them individually with the person in question, and not getting bogged down with the impact of social/political issues. We also have to avoid being reactive to context collapse. In some cases, intentional distortion or misinterpreted information can be delivered from the opposite side and cloud the issue. this makes it very difficult to get to the rub.

Patterns of Abuse

SLACK can also be a great deal for trolling environments. Accounts can be created, thrown away, and otherwise fired and destroyed. Our job is to increasingly fill in the gaps.

Patterns of conduct and abuse requires us to keep better records. People should not be able to skip communities and continue a line of behaviors. We need better tools, reporting mechanisms and procedures. especialy for handling reports of sexual harassment and/or assault.

Women and people of color

All of this has an impact on open source diversity. while drupal is up to 7% contributions by women, on average only 3% of open source code contributors are women. We have literally no way of knowing how many people of color are in open source. Women are far more likely than men to encounter unwelcoming behavior including stereotyping and unsolicited sexual advances. Women are likely to talk with those they know, but are less likely to collaborate with people they don’t already know. Open source is a great way for someone to build their reputation, however, more women may find themselves shut out and undervalued.

To make codes of conduct.

First, establish a firm standards for behavior and appropriate conduct when interacting with others. Help create inclusive spaces where people can feel safe and welcome to contribute. Make it easier for everyone to participate and share ideas in a professional and respectful way. A code of conduct is worthless if there is not structure to support it mechanisms to enforce it. Is it an employee or empowered community member? Is it a community and safety team? Is it volunteering team or sponsored group?

Ideally you want a diverse group fielded who are known, trusted, and identified for a high emotional intelligence. Members should have multiple ways to file reports and know how to reach out to individual members of your enforcement team. Be clear about how these conflicts and concerns will be handled, and how others might be included if they have expertise which cannot be easily fielded- for example if their first language is not english, yet they are perceived as constantly degrading or harsh. Be transparent about the activities of your enforcement teach and always be communicating the purpose, scope and processes with the wider social community.