How to Thoroughly Insult and Offend People in Your Open Source Communities, or “Your #$%@ $%@&ing sucks and I $%@&ing hate it”


The tone and tenor of conversations in a community is a large part of whether a community succeeds, yet that’s often a hard concept to model and understand. Using a humorous approach, I’ll demonstrate behaviors that create a hostile community (and by contrast, those that create a welcoming community).

We’ll look at the “Defcon Insult Scale for Conversations” (the DIScon level), from mildly insulting to abusive, and at key signifiers of each level.  Audience members will be encouraged to share their own perceptions of how it feels to be at different DIScon levels. 

Moving on, we'll tackle the more subtle forms of riling folks up (ways you can assume ignorance, belittle people, and/or just be condescending).  I’ve even created a “starter list” of helpful phrases that people can use as writing prompts when they want to ensure that folks take things the wrong way (phrases like “You may have noticed” and “I’d just like to point out” and “I don’t mean to be [a pedant, sexist, etc], but…”).  As a team, we’ll brainstorm other “tinder-words” that can be used to quick start an argument.

Once we’ve talked about what “high DIScon” situations look like (and feel like), we’ll talk about why they make for unpleasant communities, and why that’s bad.

At this point it’s not uncommon for a host of objections to be raised, from “Well, so-and-so is the leader of the community, and as long as she’s that way, I won’t be able to change anything” to “Etiquette is stupid; people should just say what they mean,” so we’ll spend some time debunking many of the common excuses for what is, essentially, poor behavior. 

It’s also not uncommon for people to feel like the problem is “too big” for them to make a difference, yet it only by changing individual behavior that we can change the behavior of a culture (it certainly can’t be mandated).  With that in mind, I’d like to discuss some steps that individuals can take to reduce the “DIScon level” of the communities in which they participate.

Los Angeles C
Friday, February 20, 2015 - 13:15 to 14:15