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Add education and socio-economic status #491

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systemed commented Nov 23, 2017

This pull request extends the definition of inclusivity to cover people's socio-economic status and level of education.

Rationale

Volunteer communities in general, and open source software in particular, can be unwelcoming places for people from poorer backgrounds or without a university/college education. Wealthy, educated people - which most open source contributors are - can easily dismiss contributions from such users through rhetorical skill, through sniping on grammar/spelling etc., and through belitting their concerns as not representative of the empowered, educated group.

The result is products/software that reflect only the values of an already privileged part of society, and are only useful to that part. 30 years ago computers were chiefly used by the wealthy and educated: that is no longer the case.

We are increasingly seeing (Trump, Brexit etc.) a disconnect between the privileged wealthy/educated classes and the poorer/less well educated. The resulting sense of powerlessness for a majority of the world's population is clearly a massive issue in itself. But so too is the polarised atmosphere it creates (Twitter 'egg' abuse etc.), which reduces the chances of building something inclusive and good. We can and should address this.

Examples of what this change would achieve

  • Discourages grammar/spelling flames against less well educated contributors
  • Discourages language exclusive of socio-economic status ("redneck", "chav" etc.)
  • Discourages language exclusive of educational background or achievement ("you are too stupid to understand", etc.)
  • Encourages contributors to consider design decisions which would make their software/products open to people from all backgrounds
  • Encourages an awareness that the work/family commitments of contributors from less well-off backgrounds may limit their free time to respond to issues/comments
  • Encourages project maintainers to actively attract contributors from a wider background rather than just "people like them" (i.e. university/college/Silicon Valley)

Background

For 10+ years I've run a successful community site, based entirely on volunteer contributions, with its own mandatory code of conduct. The community in question (a small town near Oxford, UK) is, on average, wealthy and well educated. However, there are areas of council/social housing (aka "public housing" in American English, I think) where typically residents have not benefited from as good an education, and have less well-paying jobs.

Increasingly I have noticed that contributors from these areas find it hard to articulate their views on the site without being shot down by the wealthier, more educated majority. This might take the form of the majority criticising minority contributors over minutiae (small sincerely-believed factual inaccuracies, grammar/spelling); or a deliberate unwillingness to tolerate assumptions that differ from the majority; or constructing means of engagement/consultation that are less open to those from poorer backgrounds (evening meetings arranged which are effectively closed to those unable to get childcare, etc.).

Locally I've managed this by individual interventions, whether public (on the site) or through private messaging etc. Since noticing it here, however, I've become aware that it is absolutely endemic to online volunteer communities. By and large, open source is middle-class people using their copious leisure time to build sites and tools for other middle-class people.

My open-source background is largely in the OpenStreetMap project where there has been a fair amount of academic research done into contributor biases (particularly, though not entirely, through the work of Professor Muki Haklay). The result of such bias is easy to visualise in OSM: wealthy areas such as London or San Francisco are mapped in much more detail than poorer areas such as the Welsh Valleys or the rural American Midwest. However, although the prevailing open-source narrative has led to a fair amount of (welcome) discussion as to how we can welcome and help those groups traditionally considered marginalised in technology, there has been little or no thought given to how we make ourselves more welcoming to poorer or less well educated people. Indeed, there are instances of where such contributors have received a hostile reception on the project's communication channels (mailing lists, on-site discussions).

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Add education and socio-economic status
This pull request extends the definition of inclusivity to cover people's socio-economic status and level of education.

## Rationale

Volunteer communities in general, and open source software in particular, can be unwelcoming places for people from poorer backgrounds or without a university/college education. Wealthy, educated people - which most open source contributors are - can easily dismiss contributions from such users through rhetorical skill, through sniping on grammar/spelling etc., and through belitting their concerns as not representative of the empowered, educated group.

The result is products/software that reflect only the values of an already privileged part of society, and are only useful to that part. 30 years ago computers were chiefly used by the wealthy and educated: that is no longer the case.

We are increasingly seeing (Trump, Brexit etc.) a disconnect between the privileged wealthy/educated classes and the poorer/less well educated. The resulting sense of powerlessness for a majority of the world's population is clearly a massive issue in itself. But so too is the polarised atmosphere it creates (Twitter 'egg' abuse etc.), which reduces the chances of building something inclusive and good. We can and should address this.

## Examples of what this change would achieve

* Discourages grammar/spelling flames against less well educated contributors
* Discourages language exclusive of socio-economic status ("redneck", "chav" etc.)
* Discourages language exclusive of educational background or achievement ("you are too stupid to understand", etc.)
* Encourages contributors to consider design decisions which would make their software/products open to people from all backgrounds
* Encourages an awareness that the work/family commitments of contributors from less well-off backgrounds may limit their free time to respond to issues/comments
* Encourages project maintainers to actively attract contributors from a wider background rather than just "people like them" (i.e. university/college/Silicon Valley)

## Background

For 10+ years I've run a successful community site, based entirely on volunteer contributions, with its own mandatory code of conduct. The community in question (a small town near Oxford, UK) is, on average, wealthy and well educated. However, there are areas of council/social housing (aka "public housing" in American English, I think) where typically residents have not benefited from as good an education, and have less well-paying jobs.

Increasingly I have noticed that contributors from these areas find it hard to articulate their views on the site without being shot down by the wealthier, more educated majority. This might take the form of the majority criticising minority contributors over minutiae (small sincerely-believed factual inaccuracies, grammar/spelling); or a deliberate unwillingness to tolerate assumptions that differ from the majority; or constructing means of engagement/consultation that are less open to those from poorer backgrounds (evening meetings arranged which are effectively open to those unable to get childcare, etc.).

Locally I've managed this by individual interventions, whether public (on the site) or through private messaging etc. Since noticing it here, however, I've become aware that it is absolutely endemic to online volunteer communities. By and large, open source is middle-class people using their copious leisure time to build sites and tools for other middle-class people.

My open-source background is largely in the OpenStreetMap project where there has been a fair amount of academic research done into contributor biases (particularly, though not entirely, through the work of Professor Muki Haklay). The result of such bias is easy to visualise in OSM: wealthy areas such as London or San Francisco are mapped in much more detail than poorer areas such as the Welsh Valleys or the rural American Midwest. However, although the prevailing open-source narrative has led to a fair amount of (welcome) discussion as to how we can welcome and help those groups traditionally considered marginalised in technology, there has been little or no thought given to how we make ourselves more welcoming to poorer or less well educated people. Indeed, there are instances of where such contributors have received a hostile reception on the project's communication channels (mailing lists, on-site discussions).

Thanks for your time and consideration.
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CoralineAda Nov 23, 2017

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I'm opening this up for community discussion. Thank you!

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CoralineAda commented Nov 23, 2017

I'm opening this up for community discussion. Thank you!

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derickr Nov 23, 2017

I'm in favour, and Richard has articulated this problem well.

derickr commented Nov 23, 2017

I'm in favour, and Richard has articulated this problem well.

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cebe Nov 23, 2017

There's not much to discuss about this. It's A good addition.

cebe commented Nov 23, 2017

There's not much to discuss about this. It's A good addition.

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tomchadwin Nov 23, 2017

Timely and necessary. Thank you.

tomchadwin commented Nov 23, 2017

Timely and necessary. Thank you.

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rory Nov 24, 2017

Totally agree with this.

I'm not American, but I wonder if in the USA class is highly correlated with race, causing US people to focus on fighting racism in USA, which will have the knock on effect of fighting classism in USA. Other countries have different set ups. "redneck" shows that there is classism in USA.

rory commented Nov 24, 2017

Totally agree with this.

I'm not American, but I wonder if in the USA class is highly correlated with race, causing US people to focus on fighting racism in USA, which will have the knock on effect of fighting classism in USA. Other countries have different set ups. "redneck" shows that there is classism in USA.

@CoralineAda CoralineAda merged commit ba37cda into ContributorCovenant:master Nov 28, 2017

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systemed Nov 28, 2017

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Thank you!

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systemed commented Nov 28, 2017

Thank you!

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CoralineAda Nov 29, 2017

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Thank you very much @systemed for this thoughtful addition. I really appreciate the background and context that you provided as well, and I'm happy to merge your changes. If you'd like to share your twitter handle I'd be happy to give you a public shout-out. ♥️

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CoralineAda commented Nov 29, 2017

Thank you very much @systemed for this thoughtful addition. I really appreciate the background and context that you provided as well, and I'm happy to merge your changes. If you'd like to share your twitter handle I'd be happy to give you a public shout-out. ♥️

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casusa1991 commented Dec 1, 2017

Hdjd

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systemed Dec 2, 2017

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That's kind - thank you! I'm richardf on Twitter.

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systemed commented Dec 2, 2017

That's kind - thank you! I'm richardf on Twitter.

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