Changes to the Cambridge Software Craftsmanship Community

October 8, 2017 - 5 minute read -

At the end of August, I sent the following message to the members of the Cambridge Software Craftmanship Community.


Hi everyone

It’s not often that we email our members, so please bear with me and read this to the end.

Recent events in the wider tech community, and reactions within the Software Craftsmanship community, have prompted wider discussions about the inclusiveness of the community, and I’ve decided to make some small but important changes to our local chapter.

My experience of the wider Software Craftsmanship community has been one of an inclusive, diverse, friendly and welcoming environment, to which I hope anyone who has attended SoCraTes events in the UK and abroad will attest. I believe we, as a community, have moved beyond the technical focus of the original Craftsmanship events like SCNA and SCUK to provide discussions and interactions that remain relevant today, and grow in value with each new voice added. I firmly believe we are a superset of the original movement, with more to offer to our members and the industry in general.

TL;DR From 1 September, we will be known as Cambridge Software Crafters, and new attendees will be required to agree to the Community Code of Conduct defined at https://communitycodeofconduct.com/. We are distancing ourselves from the recent remarks of Robert Martin.

Context

The infamous Google Memo1 written by James Damore kicked off a chain of events within the wider Software Craftsmanship community that I believe requires action at the local level to address. Specifically, Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin wrote a reaction piece to Damore’s firing, entitled Thought Police2. This was a misguided piece which many took as defending Damore and his views, and the follow-up posts, On the Diminished Capacity to Discuss Things Rationally3 and Women in Tech4 did little to resolve the situation. The latter post in particular is a poor attempt at an apology that never actually says “sorry”. He has a history of misogynist statements and essays, so this is not a one-off.

Sarah Mei, a prominent US-based Software Developer whom I respect highly and whose opinion I value enormously, posted a series of tweets reacting to Martin’s blog post5, including a critique of Software Craftsmanship and the community. Her critique is interesting and worth taking the time to read. Two things stood out for me as a community leader, though: 1) that Sarah considers the word “Craftsmanship” gendered and exclusionary; and 2) that the association with Robert Martin reinforced the view that the community is exclusionary.

I will address the second of these directly right now: Robert Martin does not speak for me, nor for the community I founded. Neither is it representative of the wider community which I have come to love for its inclusiveness and relentless attempts to improve the diversity of its membership. The views laid out in his original piece, and his poor apology, are neither opinions nor actions welcome in our community.

Community Name

Sarah’s thread of tweets set me and a bunch of other community leaders thinking and talking. There is a Slack team which you can join at http://slack.softwarecraftsmanship.org/; the discussions have been taking place in the #culture channel. After discussion with the co-organisers of the Cambridge community, we have agreed to rename the group to “Cambridge Software Crafters”, and to refer to the “craft” of software rather than to “Craftsmanship”. We will also be referring to our members as Practitioners or Software Crafters rather than Software Craftsmen. This change will take effect from 1 September.

You are, of course, free to continue referring to yourself as a Software Craftsman if you would prefer! Please adopt the new gender-neutral language when referring to others, however, to help our community be as friendly, inclusive, and welcoming as we can. A gentle reminder to your fellow community members to use gender-neutral language in our meetups will go a long way, too.

Code of Conduct

When I first started this community in ~2012, codes of conduct were barely discussed, if they had even been “invented” then. After a number of events, particularly in the US, experienced some high-profile cases of sexual harassment, sexualised imagery in slidedecks, and other inappropriate behaviour, it is now commonplace for events to implement a Code of Conduct.

I have, from the beginning, tried to build a community that is open and friendly and safe for members to attend. Early efforts focussed on filtering membership to ensure ethical recruiters who were interested in being an active part of the community were welcomed. It has, however, taken me a long time – far too long, in reality – to implement a Code of Conduct for our community, to protect our members at large. To anyone that has felt uncomfortable within our community, I am deeply sorry.

As of 1 September, the Community Code of Conduct will be in place. All new members will be required to agree explicitly to adhere to this before joining the community, and continued membership of the community will be considered a tacit agreement to abide by the code of conduct.

Whom to contact

At least one of the organisers is present at every event we run, and often are facilitating; they are myself, Amélie Cornélis, Alex Tercete, and Ally Parker. If you are made to feel uncomfortable because of the words or actions of another member, and are not able to speak up at the time, please speak to one of us at the first opportunity so we may address the issue swiftly. We are easily reachable via Meetup if you prefer online contact.

Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope I have articulated clearly the reasons for making these changes. I’ll be briefly reprising this email at the next Round Table Discussion on 5 September, and am happy to discuss the changes in person or via email. You can just hit reply on this email to send me your thoughts.

All the best

Alastair

(Text licensed under the terms of CC-by-SA v4)