How the Chrome team aims to encourage more professional, respectful and inclusive discussions.
One of the ongoing challenges in the web standards community is ensuring respectful, inclusive, and constructive conduct in standards discussions. We've seen good technical discussions derailed when participants stop listening to each other; we've also seen dominant voices shut out interest from newcomers who don't feel included. Even among those of us who have been doing this for a long time, it is all too easy to answer bluntness with curt responses, and curt responses with rudeness; unfortunately, this escalates disagreements, and makes collaboration impossible. Several of us in the Chrome team set out to work with the community to develop some insights into how to improve. We hope to encourage the broad adoption of more respectful and productive interactions by setting a good example ourselves. We've collected our guidance at github.com/WebStandardsFuture/standards-of-behavior, and this post is a summary of that guidance.
The standards-of-behavior document reflects not just our work but the feedback of the community. It has been co-signed by the leads of Chrome, and has received widely positive response from Googlers who work on standards. In addition, we have received positive feedback from representatives of other key organizations that participate in standards. We welcome you to comment (the github issue tracker is a good place to do that), and even to co-sign if you agree.
We believe the development of successful, open standards for the web platform requires safe, inclusive and productive venues for discussion. In particular, standards discourse must include and be respectful of diverse perspectives. Our interactions should always be respectful, professional, and constructive. The continuing evolution of the web means new people join to contribute ideas all the time, and we want standards venues to be a place where not just old-timers and thick-skinned people can feel comfortable and be productive. Many of us have had to develop a thick skin to participate in the standards community. We have experienced discussions that have crossed the line from technical disagreements and debate into personal attacks. Dealing with this should not be part of standards work, and on open platforms, witnessing this type of behavior can prevent newcomers from contributing at all.
These guidelines are not an attempt to rewrite Codes of Conduct in venues; we are saying that we expect organizations to enforce their Codes of Conduct, and participants to abide by them. We can have better, more inclusive outcomes for all if we improve the processes and interactions in standards groups.
We want to be clear that this is a standard of behavior we (the Chrome team) expect of ourselves, as well as of others, in our interactions in standards venues. We welcome input in refining these expectations of behavior (by filing issues and participating in the discussion), and we expect to call out violations of these expectations as counter-productive. We also expect Chrome team members to be called out if they are failing to meet these expectations. Please email the web standards team ombuds (firstname.lastname@example.org) if our teammates aren't living up to our standards.
A quick summary of our guidance is that we believe:
- Standards discussions should adhere to standards organizations' Codes of Conduct.
- Participants should follow some simple golden rules for standards discourse:
- Be respectful, and recognize the validity of others' points of view.
- Don't assume; ask for confirmation instead.
- Look for (and communicate) basic requirements, clear use cases and problem statements.
- Take actions that are constructive, and move towards consensus when possible.
- Take responsibility for your own words, work to reduce hostility, and be intentionally welcoming and inclusive.
In particular, we on the Chrome team will enforce these expectations for our own team members, and Chrome team members will be encouraged to exit discussions that persistently fail to adhere to these expectations. If violations persistently fail to be corrected, we will cease participation in the discussions until they are corrected.
In short, we want to have more professional, respectful and inclusive discussions. Codes of conduct have not been consistently applied, and we should all expect them to be—we all have a responsibility to ensure safe, respectful venues. If any behaviors do not meet these standards, we plan to call them out, and we expect to be asked to improve in turn if we fail to live up to these standards.
Again, if Googlers are failing to live up to these goals after being reminded of them, we want to hear about it and make it better. Please contact the web standards team ombuds (email@example.com), and we will help improve our collaboration.
Chris Wilson and Jeffrey Yasskin
Web Standards Tech Leads, Chrome Team
Photo by Nik.