Open Source Design Etiquette / Netiquette

It’s come up a couple of times that people are not following what is perceived good etiquette. This is a totally fair critique, but it’s hard to know what good etiquette is if it’s not explicitly stated. Otherwise you don’t know when you’re breaking etiquette and can become afraid of stepping on people’s toes. Similarly, if what you perceive of as good etiquette isn’t what the rest of the community shares as etiquette, it might be good to be aware of this (and we can then turn it into a topic or conversation).

If people agree on these things it might be worth adding them to our by-laws or code of conduct (wherever they make the most sense)

Some things that have recently been suggested for good etiquette for the open source design community:

  • Don’t give out people’s personal e-mail addresses without their explicit permission
  • Don’t make someone an administrator without first talking it through (See Site Maintenance).

I think both of these are fair.


Many thanks.

Folks, for a moment:

  • forget open source, OSD online and the net.

Think real life. If you are invited to something (a party, maybe), it’s courteous to liaise before extending the invitation to someone who was not invited.

To avoid any confusion, for future reference: the Site maintenance banner that is currently seen is the result of first talking something through.

Personally I think the party analogy is off. I would compare picking people for administration of a public forum more along the lines of a municipality government. As a member of the community I’d be upset if I weren’t invited to take part in the conversation about it (I don’t have to attend, but I can and should).

If you are invited to take part in a community conversation that will define the future of the community it’s courteous to make sure that the entire community is invited, and not just a select few.

If open source design was a private group it’d be a different subject. It’s not though.

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Let me also use that party analogy from our view:

This Discourse forum is just one part of the party / municipality. A party people like @bnvk @simonv3 @evalica and me (and the other people I suggested to you) have been having for some years. We organized conference tracks, meetups, made a job board, wrote articles, raised funds etc.
We happily invited you to it because you seemed eager to contribute a new room to the party – we are very open regarding that.

But now you don’t let us change anything in the room you built in the house that we constructed. Even though we were open about everything, and built the house on values of openness. That feels off.

Hope that makes it understandable?


The first core person to thank should be Elio Qoshi (@elioqoshi), who highlighted the importance of periodically checking how the Open Source Design group may be perceived.

Establish by-lines for members & hierarchy (if any) · Issue #61 · opensourcedesign-organization – annotated.pdf (1.5 MB)

The second core person to thank is Brennan Novak (@bnvk), whose response (25th March) to a preliminary enquiry about the forum increased my sense of goodness within the Open Source Design community.

On two occasions – 28th March and 6th April – I made clear my readiness to take occasional breaks from administration of the forum:

I imagine myself occasionally stepping aside – rest periods, to make room for other members of staff, and so on. No pressure on you, or me, or whoever.

12th April at 18:24 in the staff area, I wrote:

I will fully support a future public distillation, if there can be reasonable agreement on the distillation.

The third core person to thank is Simon (@simonv3) for opening this topic about Open Source Design etiquette. A faultless first step towards defusing a potentially difficult situation; towards giving thought to more general etiquette.

I thank Sean Loughman (@studiospring) for being the first person to take the initiative with this forum.

I thank those four people for those things, and much more.

My wish for reason, agreement and openness may have been overlooked when someone from OSD described sweeping things under a rug. I derecognised, ceased to read, the topic in which the offending post was made.

Earlier this week I was pleased to gain confirmation, from Discourse, that my banking details are no longer associated with gratis hosting of this forum. If the basic plan (five local staff) – plus Discourse staff – is not enough to accommodate the requirements of the Open Source Design group, then GitHub may be used to make a decision on funding for a more appropriate plan.

Some of what is written about me here, and elsewhere, may be misleading. There is, at least, the chasm between my wish for openness and the notion of sweeping things under a rug.

To the people who read such things:

  • forgive the people who mislead you
  • leadership is not easy.

As I break away from administration, my gratitude towards the four people named above is undiminished.

Other people deserve special mentions – for their general positivity, here and elsewhere; for their use of this forum for normal topics; and so on – but I’ll not begin to name them. You know who you are. Thank you.