I'm about to post the following in response to a proposed Code of Conduct.

From: Alexandre Oliva
Subject: Re: Binutils Code of Conduct

On Sep 26, 2023, Nick Clifton via Binutils binutils@sourceware.org wrote:

We are going to have a Code of Conduct for the GNU Binutils.

This sounds like the decision has already been made. Is that so? Did I miss any discussion with volunteer port maintainers like myself, and other community members?

If you have any strong objections to this please let me know as soon as possible, as I plan to put the text up on the binutils web page and wiki by the end of the week.

I'm not sure my objections are strong enough, but I do have objections.

Having recently recognized myself as neurodivergent, I've realized how often I've been misunderstood and discriminated for thinking and expressing myself differently from most. For holding and expressing unconventional ideas in ways that don't adhere to common expectations, I've been severely mistreated. I've also watched others be misunderstood and brutally mistreated for similar reasons, even by people who participate in this community.

For this reason, and for having seen how often this sort of initiative phrased as inclusive gets abused for exclusion, how the power associated with positions with authority for enforcement and exclusion tends to attract people with authoritarian leanings, and how often enforcement of rules takes over and pushes justice and inclusion to a back seat, this sort of initiative makes me very concerned and anxious. I feel vulnerable and unsafe, fearful of being misinterpreted, judged, condemned and excluded for thoughts attributed to me that oppose what I stand for. Again.

Now, don't get me wrong. I appreciate and stand behind the goal of inclusion, and even the proposed wording, but Code of Conduct is unfriendly, unwelcoming and traumatic to me. And the proposal is so full of contradictions that I must doubt the meaning I get from it.

I mean, neurotypicals seem to often read or hear A and infer and understand that the other party meant B. When I write or say A, I don't mean B, and I can't imagine why someone would assume I meant B, that's entirely different. But they do, and then they insist that I must have meant B, and that I'm being dishonest for even trying to deny it. So I've learned that such traps exist, that even when I speak languages I'm fluent in there are other, erhm, undocumented translation tables that I'm not aware of, and I fear that they will be used against me, and that are also being used in the rules I'm expected to abide by. So I can't really tell what the actual rules are, and CoCs with enforcement cabals lead to trigger-happy inimical escalation instead of trying to sort things out cooperatively. In my experience, none of this is conducive of good community.

And don't get me started on the acronym for Code of Conduct! In French, it stands for rooster; in Portuguese, that's a bun, a way to arrange one's hair that may resemble a cockscomb, but the first meaning for that English word seems to be obscene, vulgar slang for something that some people love, some love to wield, but if forced into an unwilling party, amounts to rape. Well, I'm the unwilling party, I feel subjugated, and this feels very unpleasant. Even showing one's CoC in public, or in private to others who haven't asked, is usually understood to be inappropriate. But would this paragraph, that for most people presumably comes across as "don't think of an elephant" WRT sexual imagery, violate the CoC if it were in effect? I mean, even saying "Introducing a CoC" could arguably break the rule already. Would it? Would the acronym, all by itself? I see a lot of potential for abuse there. Not as in rape, I mean abuse as in word twisting to, erhm, mess with others' lives. Other terms I considered, instead of "mess", were "screw" and "fsck", but I figured they might also suggest something sexual, and thus not offer the intended disambiguation. That uncertainty and room for persecution worries me a lot. Seriously. Such things have happened before, to me and to people close to me.

Here are some other points of concern:

This isn't an exhaustive list of things that you can or can't do. Rather, take it in the spirit in which it's intended

Red flags here. The first part legitimizes making up rules on the spot. The second seems to involve the very kind of undocumented translation tables that the part of the population I'm in has trouble with. So, instead of being inclusive, it becomes exclusive, and it induces anxiety and a feeling of unsafety and vulnerability that is not good for community.

I also acknowledge that this is very hard to fix. Which is why I prefer guidelines over rules. They're a lot gentler, they are conducive of trying to cooperate to sort things out instead of, erhm, CoCing weapons and expelling accidental offenders over misunderstandings and common disfavorable interpretations.

  • Be friendly and patient.

And yet the CoC comes across as threatening of exclusion for violation of made-up-on-the-spot and not-quite-spelled-out rules, and encouraging people to report others, without as much as trying to confirm intent or working things out first. That's neither friendly nor patient...

  • Be welcoming.

... nor welcoming, for that matter.

We strive to be a community that welcomes and supports people of all
backgrounds and identities.

Except people like me, is what I read.

This includes, but is not limited to,
members of any race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, color,
immigration status, social and economic class, educational level,
sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, size,
family status, political belief, religion, and mental or physical

I miss "philosophical beliefs" here, and I wonder whether there are reasons to not spell it out. I can think of some, just as I can think of some contradictions between tolerating various (intolerant) political/religious beliefs and other of the explicitly listed characteristics, which, by itself, leads to anxiety, unsafety, and a feeling that compliance is impossible (damned if you do, damned if you don't), and that even understanding the intended rules already goes far beyond my mental ability. It's not a good or welcoming feeling.

And yes, I acknowledge my tendency to engage in overthinking and overworrying, to interpret things in unusual ways and ponder about boundary conditions. It's not like I choose to be this way, like I can opt out or turn it off. Neglecting that this is how at least one member of the community is would signal disregard for others' needs. That's the opposite of being inclusive, accessible and welcoming.

  • Be considerate.

Yes, please!

Your work will be used by other people, and you in turn will depend
on the work of others.  Any decision you take will affect users and
colleagues, and you should take those consequences into account when
making decisions.  

Given the way my mind works and the above, I start worrying whether the way I breathe or sit or express myself may be annoying, disturbing or distracting (i.e. affecting) colleagues. That demands of me far more than what I would find reasonable, acceptable or able to deliver. It feels too demanding! Compounded with my inability to predict how others react (see undocumented translation table, and also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_empathy_problem), this makes me extremely anxious about not being able to take the consequences of my actions into account.

A friend of mine came up with an image that is pertinent, and I found it so fitting that I've extended it a little further: sometimes people have an invisible extra foot, and if I accidentally step on it, they don't only feel hurt, which would be understandable if surprising; they actually feel angry that I couldn't tell or guess that they had an extra foot, that I couldn't tell or guess where it was, and they conclude that if I stepped on it, it's because I must have intended to hurt them.

And then I spend a lot of time worrying about whether I'm unintentionally stepping on others' invisible feet, and how I could possibly help it if they won't tell me about it and demand me to guess! I often worry so much about others that it took me a long time to realize that I could also politely ask others to not step on this invisible foot of my own, which they do when such unbounded and unachievable requirements are posed on me.

Remember that we're a world-wide community, so you
might not be communicating in someone else's primary language.

Plus, undocumented translation tables, that affect even primary languages.

  • Be respectful.

Unless it's to others' fear of abuse of authority, difficulty of dealing with unstated rules, of guessing implied meanings that others somehow find obvious and natural, is how I read this.

Not all of us will agree all the time, but disagreement is no excuse
for poor behaviour and poor manners.

Here I find myself wondering whether 'poor behavior and poor manners' refer to lacking the mental ability to predict what others will consider poor behavior and poor manners, or lacking the consideration for the lack of such ability. I mean, is this a threat for me, or is it protecting me from others who would threaten me for my disability?

We might all experience some frustration now and then, but we
cannot allow that frustration to turn into a personal attack.

/me nods

It's important to remember that a community where people feel
uncomfortable or threatened is not a productive one.


Members of the community should be respectful when dealing with
other members as well as with people outside the community.

Even towards people who have been misunderstood, misrepresented, and framed as displaying 'poor behavior and poor manners'? Or will it remain acceptable to treat them like scum?

  • Be kind to others and be careful in the words that you choose.

Yes! But see undocumented translation tables, and inability to predict how others are going to use them.

Do not insult or put down other participants.  Harassment and other
exclusionary behaviour aren't acceptable.

Whether real or imaginary?

This includes, but is not limited to:

Red flags again, on "not limited to"

  - Violent threats or language directed against another person.

Unless it's the thread of exclusion built into the CoC itself? Are any other acceptable exclusions implied?

  - Discriminatory jokes and language.

Self deprecation? Speaking of disabilities of a group I'm part of? That appears to be ruled out, and I find that excessive.

  - Posting sexually explicit or violent material.

The threat of ostracism due to an alleged violation of a "CoC" seems violent, but posting such a CoC seems acceptable and even desirable to others. What other kinds of violence are implicitly acceptable? I can't tell.

  - Posting (or threatening to post) other people's personally
    identifying information ("doxing").
  - Personal insults, especially those using racist or sexist terms.
  - Unwelcome sexual attention.

These seem perfectly reasonable, but also prone to abuse, and contradictory with other terms.

A name or even a pronoun can be framed as personally identifying information, and if posting that is construed as a problem... In political action, posting public figures' email addresses and phone numbers, and in some cases even other addresses are fair game.

I've seen genuinely non-insulting expressions be misunderstood and framed as insulting, and I have myself used and been reprimanded for terms that have been mistaken as insulting for meanings I wasn't even aware of.

I've seen people condemned for behaviors that weren't sexual at all, but that were framed as such, and I've seen people be accused and harshly judged over false allegations of unwelcome sexual attention. It's been used to destroy target's lives, and harassers and manipulators know it works to that end. How are we going to protect ourselves from that sort of manipulation, without further harming actual victims?

  - Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behaviour.

Oops, have I just broken the rules for daring to ponder and to point out IMHO necessary exceptions to the stated rules? Would I have if they were already in effect? Would proposing and arguing for exceptions to the rules, once the rules are in effect, be regarded as violation of the rules in effect?

  - Repeated harassment of others.  In general, if someone asks you
    to stop, then stop.

Please stop proposing such threatening and excluding rules as CoCs, would you? Requiring CoCs is the very opposite of being inclusive and welcoming to all.

When we disagree, try to understand why.

Yes, please!

Disagreements, both social
and technical, happen all the time and the GNU Binutils community is
no exception.  It is important that we resolve disagreements and
differing views constructively.

Yes, please!

One of the strengths of the free software movement is its varied
community, with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
Different people have different perspectives on issues.


Being unable to understand why someone holds a viewpoint
doesn't mean that they're wrong.


Don't forget that it is human to err and blaming each other
doesn't get us anywhere.  Instead, focus on helping to resolve
issues and learning from mistakes.

I like that!

See the GNU Kind Communications Guidelines for more guidance on
constructive interactions:

I find "Kind Communication Guidelines" a lot less threatening and more welcoming than a CoC.

How about naming it "GNU Binutils Kind Communication Guidelines" or "GNU Binutils Inclusion and Diversity Guidelines" instead?

If you believe someone is violating the code of conduct, we ask that you report it by emailing binutils-conduct@sourceware.org For more details please see our Reporting Guidelines.

I find this wording, and the committee's email address, very unfortunate and threatening. I find them conducive of trigger-happy persecution rather than of tolerance, inclusion, diversity and cooperatively, kindly and respectfully working differences out. I'd prefer to replace the above and the remainder of the proposal with the following:

If you believe someone is failing to abide by the guidelines, please raise your concern privately with the perceived violator, and try to work things out kindly and respectfully. We have an inclusion and diversity support committee that can offer advice and help mediate such conversations, and it may, as a last resort, bring such concerns to the community's attention, and take other actions in accordance with community procedures. See (Supporting Inclusion and Diversity)

for more information on the committee and on community procedures.

Inclusion and Diversity Support Committee

The committee can be reached at binutils-indsc@, but it is not fully formed yet, nor are the community procedures. For the time being, it reaches the GNU Binutils maintainers.

If you are interested in serving on the committee, and would like to work on a proposal of community procedures to maintain these guidelines and the procedures, to be submitted to the community at a later date, please send us email.

If you have questions, please the the FAQ part of the web page, and if that doesn't answer your questions, feel free to contact us.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Text derived from the Django project Code of Conduct, used under the Creative Commons Attribution license and the GCC Code of Conduct, also under the same license.

Thanks for bearing with me and my oddities,

Alexandre Oliva, happy hacker https://FSFLA.org/blogs/lxo/
Free Software Activist GNU Toolchain Engineer
More tolerance and less prejudice are key for inclusion and diversity
Excluding neuro-others for not behaving ""normal"" is not inclusive

So blong,