The Hard Work of Critical Conversations in Open Source

Open source is bigger and more diverse than ever before. With that success comes challenges, some new and some old, but all of them on a larger scale than ever before.

As we grow and convene more people and viewpoints, the conversations will get more difficult. In some ways, that’s good–vigorous discussions help us clarify our shared understanding and pushing the boundaries helps us find where those boundaries are. We evolve appropriately to meet the needs of a changing world.

But the challenges of cross-cultural discourse amongst people with strong convictions are readily apparent. This has come into stark relief, over the last two years, across contentious elections and experiments in licensing. We need to provide a safe and productive environment for the communities we convene. The world of open source is large and diverse. We appreciate the continued efforts of the people who were here at the beginning and recognize that while many new people have joined the community, many more do not feel like they’d be welcome participants–and we are lesser for it.

To fully realize the promise of open source, globally, at all levels of society, for people from all walks of life, we must do a better job of building a community that’s as vibrant and diverse as the world itself.

Here is an overview of what we have done and the work we are setting out to do to that end:

Moderation: In recognition that our mailing lists had built up a reputation for being dominated by those with the most time to write emails, and that sometimes conversations became unprofessional, we’ve stepped up moderation efforts over the last year.

Code of Conduct: Our Code of Conduct, first adopted in 2007 and then significantly revised in 2015, will be updated in 2020 with the aid of professional consultants who will also help us establish clearer, more transparent enforcement procedures.

New Forum Types: Mailing lists have served us for many years, but we believe they’re no longer the best fit for all of our forums. License Review and License Discuss may be better served with different types of communication mediums. We’re exploring different options for each forum and will make changes in consultation with the community.

New Forums: Some have expressed a desire for additional communication channels, and we’ve certainly had more in the past. We may look at bringing back some old channels, creating some new ones, and doubling down on things we know are working. Our quarterly affiliate calls have become popular and we may look at replicating or expanding those.

More Information: While we try to promote our work regularly and summarize it well in our Annual Report, many have expressed a desire for even more transparency. We’re exploring how we can offer more regular reports on all of our programs.

We have seen incredible progress over the last few years thanks to the efforts of our staff and countless volunteers, as well as community members who’ve praised us when we’ve done well and called us out when we’ve fallen short. Our work is not done.

The Open Source Initiative is a community-designed vehicle that is responsible for convening people around the public interest. We hope that we can find strength in diversity and continually ground ourselves in discourse that is both critical and respectful in service of open source.


Thank you,
Open Source Initiative, Board of Directors