An open-source software community comes together to create something that can benefit everyone. It welcomes contributions from developers from different parts of the world. Open source is, therefore, not only technical but also social. If you lead an open source community, you must come up with a code of conduct. Read on to learn everything about it. 

What is the importance of having a code of conduct?

When working on a certain open source project, every participant should understand what is expected of them. That is where a code of conduct comes in. This is a document that outlines the rules that the participants in the open source community should follow. It is important since it can help you create a good image in the community.

Working without a code of conduct not only affects the participants but can also affect you over time. This is because if the participants have an unproductive attitude, it can leave you feeling drained. 

A code of conduct can empower you to facilitate constructive and healthy community behavior. It ensures that every participant behaves in a respectable and impactful manner. It can also help you take action when a participant does not abide by it and minimizes the chances of anyone within the community getting fed up with the open source project.

How to establish a code of conduct

Since most open source communities already have a precise code of conduct, you can use some of them as guides to come up with a code of conduct for your open source community. Some of the communities that you can borrow ideas from when making a code of conduct for your open source community include WordPress, Mozilla, Microsoft, and Google. 

You should establish the code of conduct immediately when you create the open source project. As you create it, ensure you clearly state your expectations. You can explain where it takes effect, for instance, on community activities or on issues. Ensure you explain who it applies to. It could apply to the members of your open source community.

Many participants of open source communities who feel underrepresented have been fighting for inclusivity. A code of conduct is one of the useful instruments that help bring change to such communities. It is not only a tool for empowerment but also helps call out bad behavior. You should therefore highlight how an open source community member can report violations. Do not forget to explain what happens if a participant goes against the code of conduct. 

You should also ensure that the code of conduct is easy to locate. You can either have a specific page on your community’s website that outlines everything regarding the code of conduct or have a Code of file in your project’s repository.

Deciding how you are going to enforce it

As the leader of an open source project, one of your responsibilities is to ensure that there is safe and fair enforcement of the community’s code of conduct. Coming up with a code of conduct that cannot be enforced can send the wrong message to the open source community. It can imply that the values of the code of conduct are not important. 

Take your time to explain how you plan on enforcing the code of conduct to show that you will take action in case of a violation. Doing this can also reassure the open source community that any complaints raised will be reviewed and that the process will be transparent. 

Ensure that your participants have a way of reporting a violation of the code of conduct privately. For instance, they can do this by using a specific email address. Also, explain who will receive the report. You can also mention that as a community leader, it is your obligation to respect the security and privacy of any participant that reports a violation of the code of conduct. 

Enforcing the code of conduct

Though open source communities set a code of conduct that participants should follow, some people violate it. As the leader, you have to address negative behavior. Take your time to gather evidence and learn everything about the situation. Consider the voices of different community members. 

You can go through different conversations and comments online to try and understand why they may have violated the code of conduct. Once you have all the evidence, you can now take action. Think about the best way to deal with the situation as you consider how your action will affect the behavior of the rest of the community members. 

If, for instance, it is their first time, you can warn them publicly. Explain how their negative behavior may have impacted others in your open source community. Alternatively, you can contact them privately, especially if personal details are involved. If you do this, let the participant who reported the violation know that you warned the offender. 

If the person does not take the warning seriously and continues to violate the code of conduct, you can ban them temporarily. If they don’t change, a permanent ban from the open source project would be the right action. 

What are your duties as the maintainer?

As a maintainer, your duty is to come up with the guidelines that every participant must follow. You also have to enforce those guidelines according to the code of conduct. Ensure you review every complaint thoroughly before determining whether it is a violation of the code of conduct or not. Identify the problems in your community even if there is no violation and aim at shaping the community values of the open source project.

An open source project depends on the collaboration of members from different parts of the world. Since participants have different backgrounds and views, it is important that you establish a code of conduct as the community’s leader. This can help every participant understand your standards of ethical behavior and expectations. Though enforcing a code of conduct is not always easy, it is important since it can help the community thrive.