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OpalGate incident

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On June 18 2015, a self-identified OpalRB core contributor made transphobic comments on Twitter. In response, Coraline Ada Ehmke opened issue 941 calling for removal of the core contributor from the project, while enquiring about the project maintainers' stance on the issue and its possible effect on future contributors.

The response from other project maintainers was decidedly negative and included personal attacks against Coraline. What followed was an argument about whether a maintainer's publicly stated opinions had a bearing on the community around the project. The primary representative of the project in this discussion, who goes by the Github handle meh[1], went on to state that he would knowingly and gladly accept working with a child molestor or cross-burning racist as long as their contributed code was good. It was later revealed that meh has created a number of Github projects with homophobic, sexist, and otherwise problematic names.

The resulting pile-on of responses ranged from those supportive of Coraline's case and those who were not. The latter camp was bolstered by sock-puppet accounts once the issue hit Hacker News, 4chan, and gamergate sites. Many sexist, homophobic, and transphobic comments were made over the course of the day, with the issue hitting 374 comments from 67 participants before finally being locked by project owner Adam Beynon.

A separate issue was opened calling for the project to adopt a Code of Conduct. This issue also attracted the vitriol and ire of a large number of people, who continued making very negative and personal comments (436 comments from 60 participants).

The project owner closed the second issue and adopted version 1.0 of the Contributor Covenant OSS code of conduct. He had this to say in the final comment:

Over the last few days, a number of people in this conversation have taken the issue in hand and shown that discrimination against other individuals in our industry is, quite frankly, alarming. The tech/development/computer industry has a long and troubled history of discrimination against various groups of individuals which, judging by some of the comments in this and other threads, shows no sign of improving anytime soon.
To the people who contributed comments and messages looking to improve our community: thank you.
This whole matter could have been sorted in a peaceful manner; instead the problems in our community are not just present inside Opal, they are still present within the whole developer community.

Analysis of Issue 941 commentary Edit

Central parties Edit

filer of the issue
Opal project owner
Opal project maintainer, made transphobic comments on Twitter

Commentary Edit

  • somewhere near the beginning of the discussion, meh closes the issue, commenting plainly that elia is untouchable thanks to their major contributing to Opal, and adds that CoralineAda is incapable of matching elia's level of contributions.

  1. meh comments that Opal is a technology and technology does not have moral, suggests that elia's views "[would still be out of the project space and on Twitter]" if transgender contributors "appeared", and states that any contributor will be welcomed and if anyone tries to "bring morals and politics", they "will be shown the metaphorical door"
  2. strand supports the issue by commenting that as a queer contributor, "this sort of argument from a maintainer makes me feel unwelcome", and says that the ignorance behind elia's original comment on trans "is actively harmful"; they make an explicit statement that they will refuse to contribute in any project maintained by elia
  3. meh reminds that elia is "free to have his opinions" (but does not claim they have an unviolable right to express those opinions within the project), and explains their personal policy on acceptable speech in their project, saying that they will tell elia to clean up their act should elia badmouth other contributors "based on any of their mental or physical attributes", essentially expecting people to out themselves in order to end hate speech or harassment against their group.

    Meh also reminds strand of their Right to leave.

  4. strand comments that the Opal team is not a technology but a collaboration project "requiring mutual respect", and calls out meh's limitation of freedom from speech to contributors: "you are basically saying that opinions gain worth with merit"
  5. jaredcwhite supports meh, and comments that "the personal views of a maintainer, as long as they are not influencing in a discriminatory way the contributions accepted in a project, should be off-limits for discussion IMHO", and mention that their feelings are hurt by the existence of Issue 941
  6. aredriel mentions that they are very interested in Opal, but are "not going to come near it with a thousand foot pole if these are the people I'd have to interact with"
  7. CoralineAda posts a link, asking "@meh and others who think that OSS is a moral-free zone" to read The Dehumanizing Myth of the Meritocracy on Model View Culture
  8. tobascodagama concurs that the Opal team is not a technology, adds that if "developers can't trust the Opal team to treat them with respect", they won't want to "use and contribute to Opal", and asks if the Opal team is willing to [give elia an untouchable status] over plenty of potential users and contributors.
  9. meh upgrades their original "freedom of opinion" to a full-blown statement of unrestricted speech "as long as it doesn't get in the way of the project", and implies that they are comfortable with elia's conduct because they aren't outright "telling anyone to not contribute to Opal because of their [attributes]".

    They also imply that they consider refusing contributors "because of their views without even knowing what their work is" just as bad as refusing contributors due to their attributes, drawing a false equivalence between having views and expressing those views in public comments.

  10. fivetanley calls meh out on their dismissiveness in their closing comment (see top), and mentions that it also wasn't "a fair stab" since CoralineAda "is one of the most seasoned developers" they know
  11. meh replies to aredriel (see 6) that people "interacting ...about the technology" will always be welcome and respected, ignoring their concern about the people in the project community and possible implied criticism of how the discussion on the Issue has been handled that far. Meh's comment features, again, an explicit mention that they believe those outside of the project do not deserve the respect of those inside.
  12. sellout points out that the personal views of a maintainer do influence the contributions submitted (not just accepted) to a project, and that even if not explicitly telling people not to contribute to Opal, a maintainer is "dissuading them from participating just by espousing these biases".
  13. aredridel replies to meh (see 11) that if participation must be strictly limited to the technology to earn a welcome and respect, then it is "second-class participation" and not respect at all.
  14. meh replies:
    • to CoralineAda (see 7), that the link is irrelevant to the project and thus they won't read it, reminds them of the Right to leave, and dismisses CoralineAda's concerns by considering them a case of "doesn't like what you like".
    • to aredridel (see 13): "Why would you bring [who you are] up when asking questions or discussing something related to Opal? It's completely irrelevant."
  15. Ajedi32 pops in to say "You want an active contributer [sic] removed from the project because of his political views? Seriously? And you're calling him discriminatory? Sigh."
  16. jaredcwhite comments that they find their Slippery slope fallacy version of the Issue ("...vetted the personal views on a variety of issues of every single maintainer") madness and say they cannot believe that people are supporting that view.
  17. aredridel replies to Ajedi32 (15) that the issue is not someone's views but their way of interacting with others, and public conduct.
    • meanwhile, Issue 942 "Create a Code of Conduct" was opened and cross-referenced to Issue 941
  18. meh replies to fivetanley's (10) accusation of dismissiveness by repeating their False equivalence between transphobic comments on Twitter and "he doesn't like candy and you do" and insisting that "wanting a core contributor out" due to differences in candy-liking is dismissive. meh announces that they "do not care how long @CoralineAda has been in the industry, this is irrelevant to the project".

  • this analysis is a work in progress

References Edit

  1. [ github profile

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