Decentralized Organizing (Penguicon 2017)

"Groups like Occupy in the US and Podemos in Spain have created large-scale movements without a traditional, top-down leadership structure. But are they successful? (Spoiler: yes, just in different ways.) These “leaderless” -- or more accurately “leaderful” -- movements have been able to grow quickly and create large-scale demonstrations without needing grants or full time staff. How’d they do that? Come learn techniques you can use, and how they can be applied within the free/open software community." (slides, sticky notes)

How not to handle misconduct in an organization

A repeating pattern I've seen from multiple perspectives throughout my life:

1. One member of a community (Alice) repeatedly makes anonymous complains to an administrator (Carol) about another member of the community (Bob).

2. Carol takes action against Bob, giving only vague justification rather than addressing specific behaviors or events.

3. Bob asks for specifics about what the problem is.

4. Carol responds with a long list of vague statements, which at closer inspection contain no additional information.

5. Bob attempts to challenge Carol's action, but 1. the claims are too vague to be falsifiable and 2. any attempts at discussing specific claims are seen as nitpicking.

In practice, this usually occurs in the context of three scenarios, all of which look similar to outside observers:

Scenario A: Bob has done something wrong but has a skewed view of acceptable norms. The process does not clarify those norms and Bob leaves the community thinking "What I did was OK. Those people just don't like me. I'll go do it somewhere else." Observers get them message "What I do doesn't matter, just whether people like me."

Scenario B: Bob has not done anything wrong, but Alice has a skewed (possibly bigoted) view of acceptable norms (e.g., the way "wearing a hoodie" becomes "acting like a thug" for black men). Carol has unknowingly empowered Alice's bigotry.

Scenario C: Both Alice and Bob have a misunderstanding that could be resolved, but never is. An opportunity to strengthen the relationship between two members of the community and to clarify norms is lost.

None of these seem particularly desirable from a social justice or community standpoint. It's pretty easy to get a different outcome though, by 1. having a clear code of conduct for communities, and 2. separating behaviors from character judgements (as in NVC). But I haven't yet come across many communities that do this well.