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PASS Summit Code of Conduct – my thoughts

The big furor today is over PASS‘s new written Code of Conduct. I’m going to crib unashamedly from Nic Cain’s blog post “Mind Your P’s and Q’s” to get this started, because he’s a friend and won’t mind (especially with the link), and because it’s a busy day, so I’m going to shortcut this.

People are most hotly debating this section of the amusingly-abbreviated CoC:

Similarly, sexual, racist, derogatory, threatening, or other inappropriate language and imagery are not appropriate for any conference venue, including sessions.

The general outrage centers around language. We’re DBAs, and many (most) of us adore crude/coarse/vulgar/deeply inappropriate language. I myself am an advanced practitioner of vulgarity.

A few observations and opinions:

A good idea: By and large, nobody really objects to the implementation of a code of conduct, especially in light the TRULY inappropriate and unwanted behavior most of us have witnessed at one point or another at conferences.

But not for me: However, people in general also don’t like new rules – any new rules – that apply to them. Especially a clause like this which could easily be read as “don’t swear at all while you’re at PASS Summit.” I’m not at all surprised that there’s some fist shaking and flag waving.

I swear: There is offensive language, and there is a time and place for it. I  happen to believe that time and place is wherever I and my friends are (and children aren’t), so yeah, I’m likely to swear at the PASS Summit. Always have. More on this in a moment.

Still a good idea: I personally don’t mind the clause….so far.  It’s worded vaguely enough, and the punishment isn’t absolute.  The clause itself is fine, the wording is fine. It’s how the rule and punishment are applied that will determine whether I get up in arms or not.  If some passerby reports me for saying “shit” at a moderate volume, to a group of friends in a corner of the welcome hall, and I’m banned for life? Yes, I’ll get angry. If some jackass calls someone else a “stupid c***” at full volume in the middle of a spotlight session and gets kicked out of the conference? I’ll send the PASS board a round of flowers. (Virtual flowers, but still.)

They just wrote it down: What most people fail to realize is that  “other inappropriate language” was probably frowned upon before, too…and probably under the same circumstances. All PASS did was to write down the guidelines, which is what we really wanted them to do in the first place. Rant and rail all you want, but this is just PASS setting expectations – which you absolutely have to do for a group this wide and varied – and setting up a formal review and penalty process.

Reiteration: Of course, I’ll be the first to jump on the angry bandwagon, should there be a flagrant injustice. In the meantime, I’ll act the way I always did, wait, watch, and enjoy my favorite conference.

Happy days,
Jen McCown

Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Another well reasoned post. Without knowing what is deemed innapropriate by PASS it’s difficult to agree or disagree with the ruling. Having said that if somebody mentions clustered GUID’s I shall be mortally offended :)

    • Jen McCown says:

      Oh, that’s another point I forgot to make….that different things are offensive to different people. My swearing is offensive to many; you’d be surprised what’s offensive to me. So yeah, it at least needs to be *said*: “Don’t be total jerkfaces during the conference, mm’kay?”

  2. All that needs to be said is that the Midnight DBAs once tried a literal interpretation of this, and many of your fans are still emotionally scarred. http://midnightdba.itbookworm.com/VidPages/DBAsAtMidnightANewLeaf/DBAsAtMidnightANewLeaf.aspx

  3. Denise McInerney says:

    Good post Jen. Your examples of when “inappropriate language” might, or might not, be a problem are helpful. The anti-harassment policy says that harassment is “directed toward and individual or group.” Someone overhearing you swear in a conversation with someone else is not being harassed. Your second example of expletives being directed at a specific person in a session would be a matter that the committee would take up.

    We are working on a document that will provide guidelines to the committee charged with handling any complaints. As I stated in my blog post, the goal of implementing this policy is to protect the professional character of the PASS Summit and to be prepared should we have a serious incident. The guidelines will reflect that.

  4. Lisa Gardner says:

    I agree with your comments. Rules like these are typically just a CYA so that they can boot someone out who is causing a scene. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand the notion of “there is a time and a place”.

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