Submissions:2016/A New Approach to Behavioural Rules on a Wikimedia Project: The Technical Spaces Code of Conduct

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A New Approach to Behavioural Rules on a Wikimedia Project: The Technical Spaces Code of Conduct
Academic Peer Review option
Type of submission
Patrick Earley, Chris Koerner (as presenters)
E-mail address
CKoerner (WMF)
Wikimedia Foundation

In 2015, members of the MediaWiki community of developers began discussing a potential Code of Conduct for the technical spaces where developers do their work, which includes both within physical spaces, such as Wikimedia technical events and Wikimedia technical presentations in other events, and virtual spaces (,, Phabricator, Gerrit, technical mailing lists, technical IRC channels, and Etherpad).

This is one of the first attempts to create a code of conduct through a community-driven process. Each section is being approved by the community, rather than a governing body or Benevolent Dictator. We will explain how we built strong community involvement through mechanisms ranging from in-person meetings to detailed online community debates.

Writing a new policy, especially one that looks at user behaviour, is a major undertaking. Many complex concepts come into play, such as freedom of speech, freedom from harassment, diversity, discrimination, and enforcement procedure and philosophy.

Another difficult issue is the correct balance between specificity and flexibility. We sought to have clear, understandable rules, without excessive rigidity that would allow people to avoid accountability.

We learned from existing code of conducts wherever possible. We relied on useful templates such as Contributor Covenant, the Open Code of Conduct, and the Citizen Code of Conduct. We also used text from past Wikimedia policies and documents from other communities. We consulted with experts in diversity and outreach, and adapted this code of conduct to our own unique technical community.

This presentation will show how this process progressed from a vague and short document to a fully developed behavioural policy. It will outline some of the challenges faced, major questions that came up in the process, and summarize where the project is now.

Length of presentation
45 min
Special schedule requests
Preferred room size
25 - 50
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