This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about since my original exposure to the first version of the contributor covenant. In theory, the document lays out a very reasonable list of expectations to prevent bad behavior in project spaces, with a particular emphasis on protecting members of marginalized groups – many of which groups I am personally a member of. If we had a similar document posted in human resources offices in workplaces around the United States and they were actually enforced, it would be an effort to applaud. However, this document attempts to govern contribution to open source projects, and as such, I feel it is more of a detriment than something to celebrate. As an autistic, transgender, and omnisexual, woman (for those playing at home, note how many protected classes I listed), I do not support the contributor covenant.

I think one of the biggest reasons I use open source software other than financial motives and the ability to modify things as I see fit for my use case, is due to the security benefits. An open source project which is widely used and deployed enjoys a large amount of security scrutiny that its closed source counterparts would never see. Any user of the software who gets curious is potentially able to find and fix security vulnerabilities, and submit a proposed patch to ensure it is fixed for other users as well. This is where open source shines, and one of the primary reasons I prefer open source software whenever possible. If somebody of an opposing political viewpoint, or yes, even an unapologetic bigot, finds and repairs a security vulnerability in a piece of software that I and many other equally marginalized people use, I would still want that patch to be included in the project.

It comes down to this very basic point – I don’t care if a nazi wrote the patch which helps protect mine and my users’ data; I care that the data is protected. I would not interact with the nazi in a social setting, and I jokingly advocate for punching your local nazi… but FOSS is one area where being able to separate the art from the artist is a very needed skill. Security, stability, and the future of the project unfortunately should outweigh individual concerns and biases. To be clear, in 99.9% of situations (employment, public access, etc), I would be arguing for the very things mentioned in the contributor covenant… but it doesn’t work for FOSS – sorry, just my two cents.

So says the wolf. The owls are not what they seem.

Social Justice in Free Software
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