The Freedom to be Civil
May 11, 2007, 21:45 (38 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)
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This whole business of how we treat each other online has been
on my mind a lot lately. I know you've heard all the same excuses
and justifications as I have for treating other people shabbily:
defending sacred free speech rights, can't you take a joke, stupid
people deserve to be treated like idiots, if you can't take the
heat get out, it's just colorful language lighten up already, oo
here come the politically correct police, Linus calls people
braindead and everyone thinks he's cute and funny, and so
Maybe I'm getting mushy in my old age, but I think it's wrong
and destructive. I'm glad that Ubuntu makes their code of conduct a
priority, and actually enforces it. Sure, there are bumpy spots,
but overall they're successful at establishing an atmosphere that
supports courtesy and discourages rotten behavior, without needing
jackbooted forum cops on duty all the time.
Why bother with courtesy? Because it shows respect for other
people. Because it shows you're a mature, thinking person who is
capable of understanding consequences, and who understands the
difference between undisciplined spewing and communicating.
Probably the most famous example is how to say RTFM in a
Obviously that is not constructive. But this is:
"You'll find the answer in the manual at
The first example accomplishes nothing; why even bother? What good
do you get out of speaking that way? A small bit of nasty temper
and peeve is emitted, and then what do you have? The second example
delivers almost the same message, but in a much more constructive
and helpful way.
I'm probably preaching to the choir here; the LT crowd is a
pretty good one. I enjoy reading your comments and learn a lot from
them. But even on LT we get the occasional spew of raw bile that
leaves me scratching my head, like this one:
"I won't even argue against the usefullness of a Linux
distribution designed for 17 - 23 year olds with testosteron
overproduction problems and the brains of not overly bright
I almost deleted it. But then I decided to leave it and let it
speak for itself. It's not like you fine readers are going to be
instantly brainwashed or drawn into a pointless flamefest.
My wise mom used to tell me "Any dope can be a vandal. It
doesn't take any skill or brains to break things. But it takes
special people to build things, and to build them with care and
love." Of course I didn't appreciate the wisdom of this until I was
approaching old fartdom; isn't it funny how our parents get smarter
as we get older.
I love this quote:
"It seems pretty simple to me: you try to post things
which are not offensive, and if somehow you do manage to offend
someone, you try to make amends. That surely should be the
This comes from Balancing
. Nearly all of the comments are wonderful; they
express disagreement with the parent post in clear but not
insulting terms, and present articulate alternatives. Just think if
the responses had been the more typical "STFU luser" type of
commentary- more heat, no light, and another little blotch of
nastiness is born.
I'm going to close with my current favorite Edmund Burke
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that
good men do nothing."
We need to support each other, and not toady to the bullies and
trolls of the world.
Oh, and what about Linus? Well, he's Linus. We aren't.