Wednesday, April 29, 2009

right to complaint

(prompted by discussion of porn use at GoGaRuCo - see here, here)

Quick thought: It's not that the community needs to ensure offensive content never happens, or that the community needs to find a single standard of what is appropriate.

The key is the right to complain safely. When complaints are predictably met with accusations of "overreacting", "political correctness", and "intolerance", the resulting message is: Be like us, be silent, or leave.

If you reject the criticism, then try something like, "I think you're wrong, but I accept your right to complain." Complaint is feedback, it's a legitimate part of a community's communication.

(Let me clarify that I've had mostly really good experiences in the software communities I participate in!)

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yawn. You weren't there, it was a good talk, nobody cared about the imagery. All the questions at the end were technical. Get over it.

bwinton said...

@anonymous: I think you misspelt "Be like us, be silent, or leave."

Next time, maybe you could try going for "I think you're wrong, but I accept your right to complain." instead, and see what happens.

(My apologies in advance if you actually meant your comment in jest. It's getting harder and harder to tell who's being ignorant, and who's trying to be funny these days.)

Noons said...

Hmmmmm......

Sounds like Anon needs to wake up to the "right to complain".
The end questions/results are not the issue. The right of anyone to complain is. When that is met with "yawn", all is proven.

Lee said...

Catherine, you mean, like that? :-(

Catherine said...

I swear - I did not anonymously leave a comment on my own blog to fabricate evidence for my claim that not everybody in the community knows how to receive a complaint...

It sure looks like I did, though, doesn't it?

D'gou said...

Catherine: Hypothetically, yes, it would be possible that you left such a comment. In the real world, not a ghost of a chance.

Beth E said...

Catherine, for what it's worth, I did not assume that you left that comment yourself. I see that attitude a lot, especially in this context. People like to not only negate others' complaints, but after the fact, say, 'it was nothing, no one had a valid complaint in the end, get over it...' even if they have to seek you out 'offsite' on your own blog. Frankly, IMO, that reflects much more badly on them than the ones they're trying to oppress.

mdzlog said...

It is the responsibility of a community to support its members in exercising their rights, including their right to object to behavior, and to hold the community accountable for setting standards.

Intolerance of critique is a sign of a diseased community.

Anonymous said...

But silly, they are just complaining in response.. You don't seem to be accepting their complaints charitably!

mdzlog said...

There is a difference between complaining about someone's behavior, and complaining about their right to speak out. A strict interpretation seems like a paradox, but it isn't. Objecting to behavior is critique. Suppressing objection is tyranny.

Nathan Nutter said...

Excellent response Catherine. I was trying to read the post from Sara(h) but got tired of the comments. Yours should be the summary, people need to feel like they can object or it means that they don't feel like peers in a community.

I personally don't think the use of sexual imagery is absolutely wrong. I also don't think that just because someone objects means I should change something I've created.

I do agree that the slides were poorly done. The topic was supposed CouchDB but all I *saw* was obnoxious pictures. One or two could have been used for shock/humor but not in the amount that he used.

Anonymous said...

(I'm NOT the original 'Anonymous' above)

The following is not intended as criticism of any specific person or people, and might not even apply to many people. However...

If there's a right to complain, and a right to disagree respectfully with complaints, there ought to be a right to complain while simultaneously emphasizing that the complaint doesn't have to invalidate as a human being the person whose action is complained about.

Otherwise it's too easy to get into anti-constructive complaint cycles
that implicitly or explicitly devalue other people.

Even merely seeming to leap to call someone a sexist pig can easily (seem to) devalue the object of the complaint as a human being.

If someone wants to say, 'oh yeah? Well I'm absolutely sure everyone who ever seems a sexist pig meant to devalue other people first!' then that's just falling into the trap of encouraging your opponent to harden his/her position by making the fight as harsh and negative as possible. Better to leave room for people to calmly and gently listen and even maybe evolve their positions without feeling that doing so would have to be giving in to people who are intentionally throwing large amounts of insult as nastily as possible.

Is this ironic, when you might feel that the other person insulted and devalued you first? Sure! But do you want to encourage other people to consider changing, or do you just want to be as nasty as possible?