Color of the Comments

Rikki Kite

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Oct 14, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

As soon as I arrived for the monthly Tweetup last night, I received a DM via Twitter that alerted me to a couple of new beyond-offensive comments left on a recent blog post. You're welcome to read that blog post, but I've turned off the comments for now. Originally I decided not to mention who left the majority of the offensive comments – the same few nasty comments, over and over again the past few days – because he seems to get some perverse pleasure out of getting attention for being a/an [imagine your favorite way to describe this person here]. Instead, I just deleted his comments, over and over and over again.

Before I left the Tweetup last night, I stopped to chat with a couple of guys about what they're working on, what I'm working on, and what we can work on together. I mentioned all the buzz around the topic of women in FOSS lately, specifically around this recent post on our site. Somehow our conversation shifted and Travis and James told me about Parkinson's Law of Triviality.

I'm not sure what part of our women in FOSS discussion led into the Parkinson's Law of Triviality discussion, but it was a small part and not the whole topic of women in FOSS. In any case, I was surprised that I'd never heard of the whole "color of the bikeshed" concept, and I'm delighted to have learned something new at a Tweetup at a local brewery on a Tuesday night.

This morning I woke up thinking about my new knowledge of the old concept of Parkinson's Law of Triviality. I'm still not quite sure exactly how it applies to the topic of women in FOSS, but at least it gave me some fresh angle on the discussion. I arrived at work, logged onto my email, and was greeted by some messages asking about the blog comments and my decision to turn off the comment feature on Bruce Byfield's recent post. Some people argue for it, others argue against it, but no doubt everyone has an opinion on it because blog posts, comments, trolls, "freedom of information," and women in FOSS are all concepts we think we grasp.

And I also had a nice note from one of my favorite women in open source, Beth Lynn Eicher. Beth Lynn wrote a thoughtful blog postNot in my neighborhood: mikeeUSA removed from sourceforge – over on her site describing how she took action beyond moderating blog comments. She writes, "I am Beth Lynn Eicher, a director of the Ohio LinuxFest. As a concerned citizen of the open source neighborhood, I submitted a code review to for and recommended removal of mikeeusa." For her efforts and for SourceForge's action I send out a big THANK YOU!

Shortly after reading Beth Lynn's blog post, I saw Lisa Hoover's article Responding Sanely to Sexism in FOSS. I've about overdosed on the words "Sexism in FOSS" this week, but I wanted an additional dose of sanity, so I read on.

Lisa writes, "Sexism in FOSS is not new news. I don't know when it will meet its long-overdue demise, but I do know it will happen eventually. It's going to take a long time and a lot of patience to turn this ship around but the willingness is there, I can see it in both genders within this community." I encourage you to read Lisa's smart and classy approach to this heated topic.

In some situations, we need to be a lot more patient, like Lisa suggests. Other times, we need to act, as Beth Lynn did when she worked with SourceForge to help remove one hateful character out of our much bigger, brighter picture. As Beth Lynn says, "As a community we will stand together to ensure safety in the open source neighborhood for all."


  • Bethlynn's blog

    As Bethlynn's co-editor, I can tell you we've already received one comment from Mikee and one from his buddy Bob on that post, but I'm sure you know where in /dev they're going.
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