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Clarify language surrounding "representing" #74

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@duncan-bayne
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duncan-bayne commented Jun 20, 2015

Introduces text to clarify the definition of 'representing the project
or its community' to avoid a chilling effect on personal speech while
participating in projects governed by this covenant.

Should this commit be merged, some examples of the sort of situations
that would not constitute 'representing the project or its community'
include:

  • Comments made on Twitter, outside the course of a conversation on the
    project itself, where that Twitter profile makes mention of
    participation in the project.
  • Comments made on LinkedIn, outside the course of a conversation on
    the project itself, where that LinkedIn profile includes
    participation in the project.
  • Comments made on GitHub on projects other than the project covered by
    the Contributor Covenant, except where the author claims membership in
    the project as part of the conversation.
Introduces text to clarify the definition of 'representing the project
or its community' to avoid a chilling effect on personal speech while
participating in projects governed by this covenant.

Should this commit be merged, some examples of the sort of situations
that would not constitute 'representing the project or its community'
include:

 * Comments made on Twitter, outside the course of a conversation on the
   project itself, where that Twitter profile makes mention of
   participation in the project.

 * Comments made on LinkedIn, outside the course of a conversation on
   the project itself, where that LinkedIn profile includes
   participation in the project.

 * Comments made on GitHub on projects other than the project covered by
   the Contributor Covenant, except where the author claims membership
   in the project as part of the conversation.
@duncan-bayne duncan-bayne force-pushed the duncan-bayne:clarify-representing branch from 0cda7a4 to ded6415 Jun 20, 2015
This code of conduct applies both within project spaces and in public spaces when an individual is representing the project or its community.
This code of conduct applies both within project spaces and in public spaces when an individual is representing the project or its community. An individual is deemed to be representing the project or its community if discussing topics germane to the project, or when the individual has explicitly identified as belonging to the project or community in the course of the conversation.

This code of conduct does not apply to opinions expressed in public fora when not representing the project or its community.

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@kerrizor

kerrizor Jun 20, 2015

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Fora is a good word here (and 100% accurate) but it is a little obscure. Perhaps a more plainly spoken phrasing would help maintain the voice?

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duncan-bayne Jun 20, 2015

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@kerrizor heh, I bet you'd object to my use of 'data' as a plural in documentation too 😉

I've pushed a change, let me know what you think.

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achadwick commented Jun 20, 2015

Tbh, I think you implicitly do represent a project if you mention a very deep (verifiable) association with it in your profile or are widely known as a lead developer on that project. With high profile comes great responsibility and all that. There may be cases when even the best wording will fail to capture reality adequately.

But it's a super grey area, and I still want people to have the space to vent elsewhere provided it doesn't constitute harassment or incite it in others as a kind of backscatter attack.

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kerrizor commented Jun 20, 2015

One thing I'd like to see v2 incorporate is more of a "buffet style" format with suggestions about different solutions or wordings that people have to chose from; make projects actively DECIDE what their CoC is going to look like, rather than just slap this into their project and check a box without thinking about it.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 20, 2015

@achadwick you've hit the nail on the head, really: expressing opinions that others find distasteful, in a forum unrelated to the project, shouldn't be grounds for action under this covenant. At least, that's my take on it, hence this PR.

@kerrizor nice idea, you could even build a UI to help people generate a CoC by choosing from various options, in a similar fashion to the way some people have created Rails application template generators.

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kerrizor commented Jun 20, 2015

@duncan-bayne could you leave that as a comment on #75 or in a new issue itself? Neat idea!

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achadwick commented Jun 20, 2015

@duncan-bayne We're actually in disagreement in a couple of corner cases:

  • Individuals with so much power and influence in their project that they basically cannot be separated from it in public should the discussion turn ugly. IMO such people have a bigger responsibility than, and will - quite by circumstance - practically represent the project in wider ranges of public spaces than more ordinary contributors whose name may not be known. Do they have a duty to watch their language more widely? Yes, and it's bad that things are this way - but we have to be pragmatic.
  • Toxic discussion or harassment campaigns directed at the project or its other contributors as individuals from behind a smokescreen of (whatever loopholes the CoC provides them). Abusers are often very clever, manipulative people. I just don't there to be any loopholes allowing the most serious types of abuse to be excused as, e.g. "well, $BADACTOR wasn't posting in an official capacity or thread when they posted $VILENESS involving $OTHER on $CESSPIT_FORUM, so it was Surely Entirely Unpredictable Honest that [EDIT for clarity: regrettable blowback from unrelated persons] happened, causing every single $OTHER working on the project to just pack up and leave."

That said, everyone has the right to express unrelated opinions in forums unrelated to the project. I might reword the para as

This code of conduct applies both in full within project spaces, and in public spaces when an individual is representing we discuss or explicitly represent the project or its community. We resolve never to publicly undermine the pledges and commitments we have made to our fellow project contributors and community by making this covenant.

How's that? In other words, you cannot be a dick in the project's forums or in public spaces while wearing the project's hat: the covenant applies in full there. You can be as dickish as you like elsewhere, provided your actions don't have the second-order effect of undermining your covenant responsibilities where they do apply in full.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 21, 2015

@achadwick I think that one edge case is the one where we're in disagreement: the case where prominent project members have to 'watch their tongues' in public. That's basically the reason I raised this PR in the first place.

I think a covenant like this is a good idea in the context of any particular project, but there's a very real danger that only people with essentially non-controversial opinions on everything (or at least, only people who express non-controversial opinions) will be able to work on projects using this covenant.

Essentially, the purpose of this amendment is to prevent oppression in either direction: to create a professional environment within a project that encourage contribution from the widest possible demographic, but also to leave those contributors free to express themselves openly on topics of interest to them in other contexts.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 21, 2015

@kerrizor, good idea, I've added a suggestion there.

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kerrizor commented Jun 21, 2015

everyone has the right to express unrelated opinions in forums unrelated to the project

Everyone has that right, but they don't have the right to live free of the consequences of their choices.

I've been working on the Calagator project quite a bit recently, and I really like how their CoC handles this - no loopholes, no word games, simply this as the next-to-last item on their list of Bad Behavior:

Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior

I would suggest reworking this language into your PR - it's simple, more encompassing, and clearer about the intent behind outlining what acceptable community behavior is and is not.

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kerrizor commented Jun 21, 2015

@achadwick while an entertaining turn of phrase, I can't say I like the ADULTCHILDREN_SHITSTORM reference as it really does discount the honest hurt and frustrations that most of those folks are expressing. I see what you're trying to say, and yes, they're relatively unproductive exercises that only serve to entrench opinion (and sure, perhaps sometimes provocative) but let's try to respect those who are expressing themselves (and who are often from marginalized groups whose voices are routinely mocked and/or ignored)

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achadwick commented Jun 21, 2015

@kerrizor I am sorry, and I have retracted the wording. That indeed went too far.


Directly encouraging others to harass in unrelated forums ("advocating for or encouraging the [behaviour I hereby forswear, in others]") is never acceptable, and directly undermines one's duty under the covenant.

Acting with wilful disregard to one's actions while at first blush ticking the boxes to stay within the letter of the "law" should probably be treated as undermining one's project obligations too.

Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior

I like this. I still suggest "we resolve", "we choose", "when we discuss or explicitly represent" - style language since this is a covenant we are voluntarily making with each other as contributors,

(From a consequentialist perspective I would still like:

We resolve never to publicly undermine the pledges and commitments we have made to our fellow project contributors and community by making this covenant.

but maybe that's too vague?)

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 21, 2015

Everyone has that right, but they don't have the right to live free of the consequences of their choices.

@kerrizor that's precisely the problem here. As the covenant stands, those consequences may include being excluded from projects simply because of political, philosophical, religious or political views that others find objectionable, even if those views are expressed solely outside the context of the project. Do we really want a covenant that encourages this?

To take a concrete example: I once worked (at a private company, not on an open source project, but I don't think that difference is germane) with a man who on many topics held opinions that in my opinion ranged from amusing to abhorrent; these included his belief in young-Earth creationism, and his agitation for bonded slavery in place of bankruptcy, criminal penalties for tattoos, and disenfranchising women. He wasn't shy about expressing those ideas in public, either.

At work, he was thoroughly pleasant to deal with. Never had a bad word to say about anyone, polite, punctual, creative, a great coder with an intuitive understanding of hardware as well as software ... the list went on. No-one he worked with - and that includes some fairly progressive & libertarian folks like myself - had a problem with him in the office.

So ... should he be welcome in an open source project adhering to this covenant, without having to modify his evangelism in public? If he joined a project adhering to this covenant and then mouthed off on Twitter about enslaving poor people until they paid their debts (really, I'm not making this up) should there be professional consequences?

That's really what I'm getting at with this PR ... trying to nudge things in a way that might prevent people being professionally harmed simply by expressing their opinions in public.

Directly encouraging others to harass in unrelated forums ("advocating for or encouraging the
[behaviour I hereby forswear, in others]") is never acceptable, and directly undermines one's duty
under the covenant.

@achadwick yes, absolutely. Incitement to harassment is in the same camp as incitement to violence, at least as far as I'm concerned.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 21, 2015

@achadwick while an entertaining turn of phrase, I can't say I like the ADULTCHILDREN_SHITSTORM reference as it really does discount the honest hurt and frustrations that most of those folks are expressing.

Probably not constructive in this context, either. I've adjusted my wording also.

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sigmavirus24 commented Jun 22, 2015

I don't think that difference is germane

It is though. Open source projects are much different from companies. For one, companies have their own procedures for dealing with people who are offensive or represent the company in any way which they perceive as negative. For example, many people have disclaimers on their twitter accounts that "Their opinions are their own", in other words "I don't speak for my company" but that doesn't prevent what they say from getting them fired. You can say whatever you want, but your freedom of speech doesn't mean your immune to criticism or that people have to listen to you. The Contributor Covenant specifically applies to projects that choose to adopt it, and those projects thus far are predominantly open source. Open source communities differ greatly from private employment in a few ways:

  • Private employment tends to have well defined and several layers of hierarchy

    Open Source tends to have two: core developers, other contributors

    This leads to a much different power dynamic. In companies, if there's a problem there's a defined process for handling those problems. Without the contributor covenant, there's no way for that to happen for the project.

  • Private employers tend to have guidelines, rules, etc.

    Open source projects tend to avoid rules under the guise of "Freedom". What that usually means is that the people don't want to do to the work to think of consequences or what might cause the leadership to act. People don't want to deal with people really, they just want to write code.

  • Some private employers care about open source contributions, most still don't. Getting kicked out of a project will probably not negatively affect your employment.

    At the moment, most people running open source projects don't care if you get kicked off another team. Look at the reaction that most of the Opal team had "He writes good code and makes good contributions. That's all I care about". That's how far too many people who run projects behave.

Either way, if what you say causes people to feel unsafe around you, that's your fault. If those actions cause your employer to reprimand you, that's still your fault, not the covenant's. The covenant applies only to the project you contribute to that uses it.

That's really what I'm getting at with this PR ... trying to nudge things in a way that might prevent people being professionally harmed simply by expressing their opinions in public.

Just to reiterate one last time, that will happen regardless of whether this covenant is in place or not. If the employer is attuned to their employee's social media accounts (which is an increasingly common occurrence) or if someone is caught being a jerk online, this covenant will have no bearing on their employment.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 22, 2015

@sigmavirus24 - I asked:

So ... should he be welcome in an open source project adhering to this covenant, without having to modify his evangelism in public?

If I understand you correctly, you're saying that no: those statements in public should be sufficient to have him ditched from an open-source project in which he participates?

This is significant, because it's the exact opposite of what I'm trying to achieve by this PR.

Look at the reaction that most of the Opal team had "He writes good code and makes good contributions. That's all I care about". That's how far too many people who run projects behave.

That's very close to the correct reaction, though. "He writes good code and makes good contributions; in addition, he keeps his opinions on controversial non-related matters out of the project" should be sufficient.

Your comments do read like you're okay with the idea of people being ejected from an open-source project on the basis of political / philosophical / religious expressions outside of the context of that project. Am I mis-reading you?

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sigmavirus24 commented Jun 22, 2015

I'm saying that if a contributor tells me that they feel threatened or unsafe around a core developer, I would personally not hesitate to either speak to them about their conduct or remove them from the project as necessary. To me, the safety of the community is paramount. There are very few exceptional programmers in the world and I guarantee that pretty much any developer can make meaningful and impactful contributions. Just look at the Linux Kernel, how many hundreds (if not thousands of developers) has Linus personally alienated? The kernel is still a quality project regardless. If the community can trust that their safety is paramount, you have fulfilled the covenant.

But yes, please, put words in my mouth. That's what you're here to do, right?

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CoralineAda commented Jun 22, 2015

To be clear, "outside the context of that project" did not apply in the case of the Opal team. Elia posted those things with a Twitter account that directly mentioned his role in the Opal project, and meh made some very disturbing statements in the discussion on the issue tracker. In both of those cases it would be understandable for a lot of people to be discouraged from contributing based on the viewpoints expressed by these two core contributors.

Note that the CoC's goal is establishing a minimum set of criteria that must be met to participate in the project's community. It is not mandatory, it is voluntary, as is participating in the project at all. Making a clear statement of your values as a project team-- of which "he writes good code and that's all I care about" is a valid example-- is what is most important here. It's a signal to other contributors and would-be contributors as to what these standards and values really are.

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CoralineAda commented Jun 22, 2015

Also note that enforcement is at the discretion of the maintainers. There are no mandatory calls for removal for what may be violations of the CoC. The people in power, remain in power.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 22, 2015

@sigmavirus24 - I was paraphrasing you in an effort to understand your position. If I'm wrong about your position on this matter, please correct me; that's specifically why I asked whether I was mis-reading you. I don't mean to enquire about what you'd prefer to do on a project of your own, rather, it's what this covenant protects that's of relevance here.

@CoralineAda - The reason I'm suggesting this wording change is to increase the safety of those participating in open-source projects to express themselves outside the context of a project protected by this covenant.

Critics of CoC in general, and this one in particular, point out that as the wording currently stands Elia would be in violation by his original tweet, which constitutes a chilling effect. Hence my original statement of intent:

Should this commit be merged, some examples of the sort of situations
that would not constitute 'representing the project or its community'
include:

* Comments made on Twitter, outside the course of a conversation on the
project itself, where that Twitter profile makes mention of
participation in the project.

The idea is that people should conduct themselves professionally in the context of a project, and have the freedom to express themselves & their opinions outside of it.

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sigmavirus24 commented Jun 22, 2015

@duncan-bayne No you said "you're okay with the idea of people being ejected from an open-source project on the basis of political / philosophical / religious expressions outside of the context of that project." Which is A) not what I said and B) wrong on the idea that things are black and white in general.

You seem to think that all political, philosophical, or religious expression are magically excluded from being harmful or intimidating. That's an incredibly wrong position. I'm strongly against unequivocally protecting contributors because they claim what they said was political, philosophical, or religious.

as the wording currently stands Elia would be in violation by his original tweet, which constitutes a chilling effect

Except that Elia's twitter profile explicitly associates himself with the Opal project. And I quote:

@\opalrb core

screen shot 2015-06-22 at 7 27 33 am

His comments weren't directly related to the project but he does represent the Opal community via that profile. If someone searches for Opalrb on twitter, they'll find his profile. I don't follow Elia, but I doubt that is the extent to which he discusses Opal (or his involvement with the project) on twitter. You can't claim an association with the project, discuss it's development or announcements, etc. and not claim that you use that social account to participate in the project. My profile has a similar association with projects I contribute to and I would expect people to have the same association of my tweets to the projects. In fact, I'm willing to estimate that somewhere between a third to half of my tweets (not including retweets) relate to those projects. If I make someone feel as though they would be unsafe contributing to one of those projects, I absolutely expect someone to confront me about it or even remove me from the project.

Keep in mind, that in most countries not all "political", "philosophical", or "religious" speech are protected. If someone says something along the lines of "${MARGINALIZED_GROUP} should suffer ${REPERCUSSION} because of my (political|philosophical|religious) belief that says ${X}", that could still be prosecuted under the law if it is hate speech. Even if there aren't legal repercussions, that person could still suffer professional repercussions. Also keep in mind that this covenant doesn't need to base itself in law, just like other contributing guidelines don't need to base themselves in law.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 22, 2015

@sigmavirus24 - thanks, that's a good summary of your position, and I think highlights the difference between our positions.

I do disagree with your summary of my position, though. You wrote:

You seem to think that all political, philosophical, or religious expression are magically excluded from being harmful or intimidating. That's an incredibly wrong position.

That's not my position at all; in fact, I think that a lot of those expressions are in fact harmful or intimidating, regardless of the intent of the person expressing them.

However, I value freedom of speech very highly; just because someone finds speech harmful or intimidating is not reason to prohibit it, and in fact a lot of speech that has proved very useful has had that character at the time it was made.

Consider for example how people reacted to MLKs speeches; they were certainly received as harmful and intimidating by a great number of people at the time.

I think we disagree on two points. Firstly, the level of protection that should be afforded to contributors. You wrote:

I'm strongly against unequivocally protecting contributors because they claim what they said was political, philosophical, or religious.

Personally, I'm not in favour of unequivocally protecting freedom of expression in this charter. I'd not protect expressions that are:

  • illegal (e.g. incitement to violence)
  • made in the context of the project (e.g. when representing the project, or in a project issue tracker, or at a conference during a presentation about the project)

Secondly, we disagree on the nature of representation. You wrote:

Except that Elia's twitter profile explicitly associates himself with the Opal project.

I don't think that having a project name in one's Twitter bio counts as representing that project. If we set the standard for representation that low, then one would have to expunge all mention of project participation from Twitter profiles, LinkedIn histories, personal website, etc. in order to post controversial opinions online. That's the "chilling effect on personal speech" I speak about mitigating in the original commit.

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webmaven commented Jun 23, 2015

@duncan-bayne:

If we set the standard for representation that low, then one would have to expunge all mention of project participation from Twitter profiles, LinkedIn histories, personal website, etc. in order to post controversial opinions online.

Not so. A disclaimer that this is a personal account and personal opinions are your own and do not reflect those of the projects or communities mentioned should do the trick.

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sigmavirus24 commented Jun 23, 2015

I don't think that having a project name in one's Twitter bio counts as representing that project. If we set the standard for representation that low, then one would have to expunge all mention of project participation from Twitter profiles, LinkedIn histories, personal website, etc. in order to post controversial opinions online. That's the "chilling effect on personal speech" I speak about mitigating in the original commit.

You either want to define a link between yourself on that account and the project, or you don't. You either want to borrow against the credibility of that project or you don't. Either way, that explicit link will affect the project and how contributors to the project view the leadership.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 23, 2015

@sigmavirus24: that is the precise "chilling effect" that I'm talking about. If the choice is between "mentioning project membership in my bio" and "saying controversial things online", that is a problem.

What about @webmaven's suggestion? I could change the wording to clarify that a personal account - like a Twitter account - would not constitute "representing the project or its community" if the bio includes an explicit disclaimer to that effect.

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sigmavirus24 commented Jun 23, 2015

I find something like that to be equivalent to making a misogynistic or racist joke and then saying "I'm only kidding". Maybe others won't object to it, but it doesn't hold much water.

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achadwick commented Jun 23, 2015

Personal twitter accounts are not magic excuses (especially non-magical when you have a verifiable association as a core dev mentioned in your bio of course). But even with one of those silly "opinions are my own not those of $ORG" disclaimers, the manner and content of your free speech may serve to indirectly undermine obligations you have freely chosen to hold yourself to elsewhere. People do tend to see past the disclaimers, and you are not actually free of this consequence. Words bleed. Context gets stripped. The internet is not a haven of scholarship.

In what grey areas are left, then practically perhaps you and the other devs can come to an agreement to disagree. That's fine too, and a basic social skill, and as @CoralineAda has said here and elsewhere: enforcement is ultimately at the discretion of the maintainers. Not a (collective) decision free of consequences itself, but hey.

Thread is getting long-winded now, and "chilling effects on free speech" seems more and more like a red herring. If you know that exercising your legally protected right to write the awful ideas you habitually write free of governmental censorship would even indirectly undermine an responsibility you might freely take on by adopting one of these CoCs, then you have a personal ethical obligation to do either one or the other, but not both.

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duncan-bayne commented Jun 23, 2015

@achadwick - that interpretation makes participation in a project governed by this CoC contingent upon expressing only opinions (religious, political and philosophical) that are deemed acceptable by the maintainer, in any forum whatsoever.

That is precisely what I mean by the term "chilling effect".

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achadwick commented Jun 23, 2015

@duncan-bayne How so? Other maintainers can do that already.


@duncan-bayne
What bothers me is loopholes and leaving scope for weasel-thoughted persons to undermine covenant commitments they merely pretend to have adopted. If the phrasing

This code of conduct does not apply to opinions expressed in public while the individual is not representing the project or its community.

(yours) were adopted, it would seem to leave room for, say, opinionated and repeated personal attacks on fellow project members made in non-project arenas provided the harasser is careful not to talk about the project in their attack thread or their site profile. IMO this wording might imply to others that such undermining is condoned. It muddies the unacceptability of "public or private harassment" established elsewhere in the text.

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webmaven commented Nov 17, 2015

Disagreement from @sigmavirus24 and @achadwick about my suggested 'disclaimer' solution notwithstanding, I'm a bit disappointed that some form of this PR was not merged. 😞

Ah, well. I still support the contributor covenant project.

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