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Tweaking the Moral UI

A couple of years ago, I was asked to help put together a code of conduct for the IA Summit. I laughed.

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We need a code of conduct here? The IA Summit is the nicest, most community-friendly conference ever! Those problems happen at other conferences! And they want me to help? There are sailors jealous of my cussing vocabulary—surely I was not PC enough to be part of such an effort. But the chairs insisted. So, being a good user-centered designer, I started asking around about the idea of a code of conduct.

I found out design conferences are not the safe meetings of minds I thought they were.

One woman told me that she had been molested by another attendee at a favorite conference, and was too scared to report it. “No one will ever see me as anything but a victim,” she said. “I’ve worked too hard for that.”

At another conference, a woman was woken up in the middle of the night by a speaker demanding that she come over. When she told the organizer in the morning, he said, “We were all pretty drunk last night. He’s a good guy. He just gets a bit feisty when he’s drinking.”

Then there was my own little story. Years ago at the IA Summit, I went to talk to a speaker about something he’d said. I’m a tall, tough lady. But he managed to pin me against a balcony railing and try to kiss me. I started wondering, what if there had been a code of conduct then? What if I had had someone to talk to about it? What if I hadn’t said, “Oh, he’s just drunk”?

Maybe I wouldn’t have spent the past seven years ducking him at every event I go to. And maybe he wouldn’t have spent those same years harassing other women—women who now were missing out on amazing learning and networking opportunities because they thought they’d be harassed.

The idea of a code of conduct didn’t seem so silly anymore.

A wicked problem#section2

Unfortunately, it still seems silly to others. Recently I was talking to another conference organizer about setting up codes of conduct, and he said, “That doesn’t happen at our conferences. People know me, and they know they can talk to me. A code of conduct will make people nervous that we have a problem. And we don’t.”

I wonder how he knew that, since most victims don’t come forward. They don’t want to be seen as a “buzzkill,” or be told that what they wore or what they drank meant that they asked for it. This is not unusual; every day we see examples of women whose reputations are trashed for reporting rape and harassment. On Twitter, women who talk about sexism in games or even think a woman should go on a stamp are given death threats. Reporting carries consequences. Reporting is scary.

In order to feel safe enough to come forward, attendees and speakers need to know that the conference organizers are paying attention. We need a guarantee that they’ll listen, be discreet, and do something about it.

In her recent piece, “Why You Want a Code of Conduct & How We Made One,” Erin Kissane frames precisely why codes of conduct are absolutely necessary:

To define a code of conduct is to formally state that your community—your event or organization or project—does not permit intimidation or harassment or any of the other terrible things that we can’t seem to prevent in the rest of the world. It’s to express and nurture healthy community norms. In a small, limited way, it’s to offer sanctuary to the vulnerable: to stake out a space you can touch, put it under your protection, and make it a welcoming home for all who act with respect.

A code of conduct is a message—not a message that there is a problem, but a message that there is a solution. As much as a label on a button or a triangle with an exclamation point in it, a code of conduct tells you how a conference works.

Tweaking the UI#section3

We are designers.

That means we make choices about the interface that sits between the people and the thing they want. We mock interfaces that aren’t clear. We write books with titles like Don’t Make Me Think. Yet when we hold conferences, we seem to assume that everyone has the same idea of how they work.

Why do we expect that people will “just know” how to use this complex build of architecture and wetware? There is a lecture; that means professional behavior! There is a bar; that means drinking and flirting! There is a reception; that means…alcohol plus speakers…network-flirting? A conference can be a complex space to understand because it mixes two things that usually have clear boundaries: social and work. If one person is working and another is looking to get social, conflict will happen.

These fluid boundaries can be particularly hard on speakers. Attendees often approach speakers with questions inspired by their talk, which could start a conversation that leads to work…or a date. It’s hard to tell; cautious flirting and cautious networking often look the same. People can feel uncomfortable saying no to someone who might hire them—or keep them from being hired.

Sometimes after giving a talk, I’ve mistaken admiration for flirtation, and the other way around. A wise speaker stays neutral, but it can be hard to be wise after a few glasses of wine. A code of conduct is useful because it spells out parameters for interaction. Some codes have even gone so far as to say if you are a speaker, you cannot engage in romantic activities like flirting. Clarity around what is expected of you leads to fewer accidental missteps.

Set expectations#section4

A good code, like a good interface, sets clear expectations and has a swift feedback loop. It must:

  • Define clearly what is and isn’t acceptable behavior at your con. “Don’t be a dick” or “Be excellent to each other” is too open to interpretation. The Railsconf policy offers clear definitions: “Harassment includes, but is not limited to: offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation; stalking; following; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact; and any unwelcome sexual attention.”
  • Set expectations for what will happen if the code is violated, as the O’Reilly code of conduct does: “Conference participants violating this Code of Conduct may be expelled from the conference without a refund, and/or banned from future O’Reilly events, at the discretion of O’Reilly Media.”
  • Tell people how and to whom to report the incident. The Lean Startup Conference’s code includes: “Please contact a staff member, volunteer, or our executive producer [name], [email] or [phone number].” Providing a phone number is a massive signal that you are willing to listen.
  • Set expectations about how it will be handled. The World IA Day code is very clear:

    First we will listen.

    Then, we will help you to determine the options that we have based on the situation. We will also document the details to assure trends of behavior are uncovered across locations.

    Lastly, we will follow the situation to a resolution where you feel safe and you can remain anonymous if you wish to be.

A code of conduct is a little like a FAQ or a TOS. It’s clunky, and I hope someone comes up with something better. But it’s instructions on what to expect and how to behave and, most importantly, what to do when something breaks. Because, as we keep seeing, something will eventually break. It’s better if it’s not people.

A lot of conferences are adopting codes of conduct now. The Lean Startup Conference one mentioned above is heartfelt and crafted based on their values. The art and technology festival XOXO has an excellent one, based on the template from Geek Feminism. Yes, there’s a template. It’s not even hard to write one anymore. It doesn’t even take a long time.

Meet (or exceed) expectations#section5

Any good experience designer knows that setting expectations is worthless if they aren’t immediately met. Beyond writing a code of conduct, conference organizers must also train their team to handle this emotionally charged situation, including making sure the person reporting feels safe. And there needs to be a clear, established process that enables you to act swiftly and decisively to remove violators.

So how should a conference handle it when the code is violated? There are a couple of telling case studies online: one from Elise Matthesen at the feminist science fiction conference WisCon, and another from Kelly Kend at XOXO.

In both cases, these women were immediately supported by the people they spoke with—a critical first step. In Kelly’s case, she brought her situation directly to the organizers, who listened to her and made it clear they weren’t going to blame her for the incident. Once the organizers had made her feel safe, they removed the harasser. It was improvised action, but effective.

In Elise’s case, it’s clear that WisCon was well-prepared to handle the incident. The first part of the story is exemplary:

  • The conference staff member (called a “safety staffer”) asked if Elise wanted someone there while she reported.
  • The safety staffer asked if she wanted to report it formally, or just talk it through first.
  • The safety staffer asked if she wanted to use her name, or remain anonymous.
  • And the safety staffer and the conference organizers kept checking in with her to make sure she was doing okay.

Unfortunately, WisCon fell down when it came to acting on the report. Eventually the harasser was banned, but only after a slow and onerous process. And the ban isn’t permanent, which has infuriated the community.

It is hard work to get the poison out of the apple. Elise writes, “Serial harassers can get any number of little talking-to’s and still have a clear record,” which has been my experience as well. Since I started writing about conference harassment, a number of women have spoken to me about incidents at various design conferences. Two names keep coming up as the abusers, yet they continue to get invitations to speak. Until more people step forward to share their stories, this won’t change. And people cannot step forward until they are sure they won’t be victimized by the reporting process.

If you are a conference organizer, it is your job to make sure your attendees know you will listen to them, take them seriously, and act decisively to keep them safe.

If you are an attendee who sees harassment, stand up for those who may be afraid to step forward, and act as a witness to bad behavior.

And if you are harassed, please consider coming forward. But I can’t blame you if you choose not to. Keep yourself safe first.

A promise#section6

John Scalzi, author of several best selling sci-fi novels, made a pledge to his community that he would neither speak at nor attend any conference without an enforced code of conduct.

I will make the same pledge now. I will honor any commitments I’ve made previously; all new ones are subject to the pledge.

I will neither speak at nor attend conferences that do not have and enforce a code of conduct. This may prove hard, as many conferences I’d love to speak at do not have a code yet. But change takes sacrifice. Integrity takes sacrifice.

If you believe, as I do, that it is critical to make a safe place where everyone can learn and grow and network, then leave a comment with just one word: “cosigned.”

About the Author

Christina Wodtke

Christina Wodtke teaches dreamers how to make change happen. She speaks everywhere from conferences to universities to boardrooms and opines across the internet, but is found most often on or Boxes and Arrows. She's rumored to be writing a book, but procrastinates on twitter under the name cwodtke.

137 Reader Comments

  1. I pledge to be an adult. And if someone says, or behaves, toward me in a way that I find to be inappropriate, then I will deal with them as I see fit. Furthermore, if I see someone else in, or someone tells me of, a difficult situation, I will do my utmost to encourage them to also be an adult and stand up for themselves.

    Adults do not need codes of conduct.

    I think it’s far more disturbing that people know about these men who are behaving so abhorrently, and yet do nothing to drive them out. This is what needs to be fixed.

  2. I agree on having and enforcing a code of conduct, but I’m afraid I’d say the example you’ve given is not clear, but woefully unclear.

    “Harassment includes, but is not limited to: offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation; stalking; following; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact; and any unwelcome sexual attention.”

    For example, what’s an “offensive” verbal comment? One that uses foul language or is delivered in vehement and hostile manner? Or just one that some people hotly disagree with?

    What’s “stalking”? I chatted with someone, I want to continue the conversation so I look for that person around the hotel and conference centre. Is that stalking? What if the other person (unknown to me) dislikes me and accuses me of stalking? What could my defence be? We know what extreme stalking looks like (probably not a single drunken phone call, IMO. That would be “oafishness”.) The code needs to be clearer; otherwise everything’s thrown to the possibly arbitrary judgement of the organizers.

    What’s “harassing” photography as opposed to regular photography? How do you know when intimidation is “deliberate”? For that matter, what is “intimidation”? Some people deliberately lace their speech with technical jargon with the intent of intimidating their listeners. Does this really constitute harassment in your mind, and would you sanction such people?

    I guess we know what “unwanted” sexual attention is, more or less. But what about *wanted* sexual attention. Presumably that’s allowed (maybe it shouldn’t be). And yet, how is someone to know in advance whether their sexual attentions are wanted or not? To make it clearer, what you ought to say is something. “Sexual attention known to unwanted,” or better, “persistent sexual attention known to be unwanted.”

    If you’re going to have a code of conduct (and I think you should), *every point* needs to be worked out to at least that degree of clarity.

  3. Cosigned.

    Every conference, every workplace, needs a code of conduct that, as you say, spells out both expectations for behavior and for enforcing those expectations. People are messy and confusing, and in a world where some have distinctly more privilege than others, we need to do more than just say, “everyone be nice to each other.”

    Social awkwardness or inebriation may be causes of unwanted behavior, but they’re by no means excuses.

  4. @Christopher Burd
    “how is someone to know in advance whether their sexual attentions are wanted or not?”

    I think it’s safe to say that you should not be giving sexual attention full stop. Even if this person is your beloved. If the person says “Please, give me sexual attention”, then perhaps that’s another story. However; sexual attention in a conference atmosphere is not acceptable in my opinion. So, let’s say that we shouldn’t be doing it.

  5. 100% agree with Gabb’s comment. Adults do not need codes of conduct, but reporting needs to encouraged more and stigmatized less. Holding up signs saying “do not harass”, “do not exploit” will do nothing unless people who have been harassed/exploited feel it’s safe to come forward. Until they feel safe to report, every conference organizer will feel that they don’t have a problem at their conference.

    To that end, the three main bullet points in the code of conduct (two of which have to do with reporting and consequences) are pretty good.

  6. @Adam Jenkins and @Gabby: It’d be great to have everyone act like adults. I look forward to living in that world. In the meantime, I’ve seen time and again that some will people harass and abuse, and when there’s no code, there’s often no recourse. Without identifying an infraction of a specific set of rules, it’s hard for an event to take action against a harasser. A CoC reduces the stigma of reporting, because it sets expectations about what will happen if you do report, identifies where to go, and sends a clear message that you’ll be heard.

    I see many people who would be helped by a CoC. So who do you think is harmed by having one? Saying adults shouldn’t need a CoC isn’t much of an argument to me.

  7. With that out of the way I want to address:
    Adults do not need codes of conduct.

    And yet…

    And yet, there are laws that govern adults. And yet, bars and taverns have rules about refusing service or ejecting adults for bad behavior. And yet, businesses have posted rules for behavior in their establishments. And yet, all of our local transit systems have posted codes of conduct. And yet, at sporting events they remind you that inappropriate behavior will get you removed from the venue. And yet, HR departments exist.

    If adults don’t need codes of conduct, why do codes of conduct even exist?

    There are three things a conference code of conduct provides:
    1. An set expectation of behavior
    2. Clear consequences for violating those expectations
    3. Clear safe harbor for those who feel they have been violated

    I know about the two known problem people in our community. Their stories are hanging out there like so many Bill Cosby rumors. But you want people to report these known problems? Create an environment where it’s safe to step forward. A code of conduct is the first step towards providing that safety. After that, it’s up to the conference organizers to provide empathy as well as fairness.

  8. Cosigned.

    Thank you for writing this, Christina.

    As an event organizer, as a speaker, as an attendee, as a designer, and as a person I, too, have had to deal with harassment (and more) of and by a variety of community members. In some cases, it had serious and long-lasting consequences.

    When I have raised these concerns with organizers (most often on behalf of others), responses have ranged from inaction to outright and sustained hostility. Decisive action was the least common response.

    This must stop.

    When we embody the values and ethics that we espouse in word and in deed, we can honestly say that we act with integrity.

  9. Cosigned.

    Watching the enthusiasm of Andys and their pro team handle the security at XOXO was a thing of beauty. More conferences/events need to follow these guidelines. (Also more people need to stop doing their personal work while sitting in the front rows, but that’s a topic for a different thread.)

  10. I may be missing something obvious here, but I don’t think so. There is an elegant solution to the serial offenders issue – a central database.
    A good code will go a step further than enforcing the rules for its own event. It will commit to sharing reported offences with, and vetting all speakers (and possibly even attendees) against, that database.
    Yes, the database needs to be secure, and only verified conference organisers granted permission to query it (ask about specific individuals, not get a full offenders list). There will be other technicalities that need sorting out, too…

  11. Cosigned.
    But the real problem comes when the conference organizers have to confront a speaker or other Known Person in the design community. As detailed in this article, reports of harassment are met in this circumstance with replies of “He was just drunk” or “He’s usually a nice guy.”

    Not sure if this is a sign of cowardice, or protecting one’s “spot” as a conference organizer, or just a blind spot (intentional or not).

    A Code of Conduct is meaningless if there is no enforcement behind it. And the web industry is not exactly known for enforcement of these policies when they actually matter, or when they are tested against a Person of Great Esteem.

  12. John, this is hard.
    A Code of Conduct is a baby step. It’s a start toward encouraging people to speak up. But fixing conference incidents is a truly wicked problem. As you say, some people don’t get reprimands and fewer get banned.
    Or you can get a reprimand, the person can be contrite, and that is the end…. for that conference. But the person goes on to cause more mischief elsewhere. Then other organizers don’t know there is a serial problem. Should they be outed? Well, after the conversation happens, maybe they did mend their ways.
    We are a people who love stories of second chances and redemption. Sometimes thats a good thing, and sometimes it’s the cover serial abusers can use to continue abusing. Rick’s idea is an interesting one.
    As well, the point Christopher raises is also valid. What is offensive? At 1 am in a hotel bar is saying the waiter/waitress is sexy offensive? I’ve done that. As I pointed out in the beginning of the article, I’m never sure if I’m the right person to talk about Codes of Conduct, as I have violated them. But the CoC also gets me to think more deeply about my choices, consider different sensibilities, and ponder what it means to represent a conference as a speaker.
    As I said, like a TOS and a FAQ, they are not very good, but they are way better than what we’ve got now which is a confusing, ad hoc, conference-organizer-call based unsystem. And perhaps they’ll lay the groundwork to get to something better.

  13. Most of the behavior mentioned isn’t just against good morals, but also against the law. “Serial harassers” are serial criminals and need to be put in prison. Your Code of Conduct won’t do that, and may actually actively discourage that from happening. If the answer to, “Why didn’t you go to the police?”, is often answered with “I went to the conference organizers.” You have a problem. If the code of conduct unintentionally discourages people to go the proper authorities, you are doing it wrong.

    Is there any evidence that having a code of conduct actually encourages good behavior, increases the percentage of incidents that get reported, improves incident response at the conference, or otherwise has an actual effect? I am genuinely curious, but fear that such data isn’t available.

  14. I went to a hackathon and a couple short local conferences earlier this year. Which I’m fairly certain all had codes of conduct. Which I DID NOT READ, just like I don’t read the click-wrap agreements on software installs or website signups. (Hm, what percent of attendees actually do read the CoC if there is one? A couple quick searches doesn’t turn up anything.)

    People need to know how to report inappropriate behavior, but beyond that? If someone’s uncomfortable as a result of your behavior… guess what? It’s YOUR FAULT. Regardless of anything. And if you behave that way repeatedly, or don’t stop when asked, or miss signs that a reasonable person would find bloody obvious… guess what? You’ll get kicked out (assuming the organizers are even half sane), even if the organizers have to dig thru the fine print for the CYA “or any reason not listed” bit.

    Yes, I’m rather fond of personal responsibility over legalism.

  15. J A Streich 4:53 pm on December 16, 2014
    Most of the behavior mentioned isn’t just against good morals, but also against the law. “Serial harassers” are serial criminals and need to be put in prison.

    Harassment alone is rarely a criminal offence (although it may well be behaviour that can lead to a lawsuit in a professional setting) and thus is almost always *not* appropriate to report to the police. Assaults are a different case, and if you don’t know the difference then do some reading. Comprehensive Codes of Conduct include the capacity for conference organisers to notify the authorities where breaches reach the level of criminality.

  16. Cosigned.

    And too the commenters that make the point of it not being clear. Yes, you might be right. Yes, it’s complicated. And no, it doesn’t fix the problem on its own. And yes, some of people might see it is the T&As; in software agreements that they click without thinking about. Does that mean it’s too hard and we shouldn’t try and deal with it, talk about it or communicate it?

    Let me change the example. Should the police in the USA not bother with changing their present behaviour because it’s too difficult? Should nobody hold them to account to a code of conduct (protect and serve)? Should it not be made clear what is and is not acceptable? Regardless of the fact that many police might choose to ignore it, its important to those on the other side to know that it’s there.

    Conference are multicultural events. Not just in terms of nationalities, but also tribes (UX, IxD, IA, business management, products, services, etc.). What’s “bloody obvious” as bad behaviour to one person may be the norm to others. In most cases I’ve heard of, however, harassment is clearly deliberate from the perpetrator’s point of view and they know exactly what they are doing and deliberately tread a blurry line in order to pass it off as a misunderstanding when the victim of that behaviour complains (the police use the term “resisting arrest”). The victim’s fear of being misunderstood plays into the perpetrator’s hands. Being able to say, “I didn’t just misunderstand this. We all agreed upon a standard of behaviour” and to know you’re going to be heard discreetly is enormously important.

    A CoC doesn’t solve everything. But it does make these ideas tangible and because they’re tangible we can actually have a discussion about it. That’s very valuable.

  17. Cosigned. I am involved in a number of organizations that are working on codes of conduct. These go beyond just events but also covering behavior on email discussions, working group conference calls and board meetings. It is a difficult process and there is the predictable “do we really need this” argument along with those who say yes we do and go on to enforce their opinions with their own set of intimidating behaviors. (One discussion recently had the person promoting a CoC lamenting that “Be excellent to each other” ethic was not enough, and yet used offensive terms in his own argument).

    No one wants to examine their happy family and find there is a problem, but addressing it makes the family stronger. There is a right and a wrong way to do it. Name calling is wrong . Hiding libelous statements in quotes doesn’t protect you from a lawsuit. Giving someone a pass because of their past contribution to the group is unfair to the victim. Having a public discussion of an accusation is unfair to the accused.

    Inclusion is good but not if you turn it into a zoo. I was recently at an event in a predominantly male industry that had a lunch panel of female executives, where they were introduced with a statement to the effect of “We’re going to see why women would want to be in this industry. It’s not glamorous.” I was horrified. Enforcing mixed panels and making sure there is diversity on the speaker list is important. Holding that diversity up as a token is wrong.

    Christina, I appreciate your effort to keep this discussion going and look forward to seeing events with clearly understood and enforced CoCs.

  18. NOT cosigned.

    I read ALA to learn about UI…not the fumblings of attention-seeking drunkards and unskilled pick-up artists.

    I don’t have the desire to babysit grown adults who are incapable of resolving their own social interaction problems, by adding a bureaucracy to enforce social standards that are already in place.

  19. Cosign with caveat. Gabby and Christopher make valid points that should be considered by any CoC committee. It is my fervent hope that formalized investigation and action will put an end to the online character assassination that has been going on around this issue

  20. @Jay and @Bärli, I’m ALA’s editor in chief. If you want to come to ALA to read about design, great—we’ll keep writing about that, too. But we’ve made a deeply considered choice that diversity, inclusivity, and safety are part of our editorial mission, too. (See We Have Work To Do, posted to the blog on 5/29/14, for background.)

    This is a real problem, and it’s hurting the industry we love. We’re not going to be silent about it.

  21. Marianne, formal investigation is important. Sadly, we are currently in a society where women and people of color are penalized for reporting misdeeds. A CoC– especially one that has clear expectations set of how issues will be handled– will help those who have been hurt to feel safe enough to come forward.

    Why does “online character assassination” happen? Victims don’t feel safe coming forward, but their friends worry about others being hurt. So this takes the form of stories told to warn organizers and keep vigilant. The accused then can’t tell their side of the story, and can’t learn that their actions are hurting others. This is a not a world I want to keep living in. I’d like to see the bad actor conversations moved from back alley chatter to formal complaints that can be used to remove those who have crossed a line from our community spaces.
    When we have an enforced code of conduct, the organizers can have good conversations with all parties, and hopefully people will be safer because perpetrators either change or are removed.

    Obviously there will still be liars, and predators, and organizers who just chicken out, and people who still won’t come forward. But if even a few do, we are turning the ship. Bit by bit. A CoC is only one small piece of a solution, but that doesn’t make it worth trying. Then we’ll do the next step, and the next.

    It’s like Lean, we’ve got to try something, and learn, and iterate, and make it better. Because the results are worth more to our community than any profitable exit, IMO. Doing nothing is the most expensive choice we can make.

  22. @christian crumlish, I note and appreciate your refusal to speak on male-only panels, but also note the absence of a refusal to speak on white-only panels. Anticipating a possible objection, you can’t always assume from a name the sex or gender of an individual you haven’t met. And of course I cosign, not that I have any pending speaking opportunities!

  23. I’ve been asked a few question in other channels, and wanted to reply here

    Q. Would I speak at a conference that had the elements of a Code of Conduct, but didn’t call it that?

    A. Absolutely. It’s about safety, not semantics. In fact, if a conference felt they could be safer and more inclusive with an alternative, I’d be happy to see people iterative and improve.
    What are the elements? What was listed in my article — tl;dr
    1. Key expectations for what is expected in people’s behavior, and what will not be tolerated. This must prohibit harassment.
    2. A clear reporting path with consequences. (see above article for details)

    Q. What do lawyers and insurance say?

    A. This varies a LOT by venue and country. If you are an organizer, your best bet is to contact your lawyer/insurance company. Some requires a CoC, some might raise rates if liability is an issue. Others got lower rates. As well, the language you use in the CoC is important to how it will be interpreted if there is an incident. This is the standard most tech confernces are now adoptiong and has been vetted.

    Q. Can’t we just shut down the alcohol?

    A. Considering many conferences are held in hotels that have bars, or on streets with bars, good luck with that. Restricting the alcohol by providing limited numbers of drink tickets or having a cash bar can help. But truly bad actors use alcohol as an excuse. It doesn’t turn decent people into bad people, it just lowers inhibitions. If you want to know more about how alcohol affects people (it’s very cultural) this is a very readable article

    Many other common questio s I’ve been asked have better answers writted by Ashley Dreyden. Check it out here.

    She also consults on Codes of Conduct and conference safety. I am not an expert, I merely researched this extensively before writing. I recommend you reach out to her with your hard questions. Thanks!

  24. Consigned!

    I live in the Arab world where the “fact” here is: this never happens with us is something more of a religious “fact”. A need is high for such awareness!

  25. cosigned.

    Although I’ve yet to make it to any conferences (social anxiety issues), I have friends and colleagues who have been at the wrong end of such situations and am fully aware that this is more of a problem than some would accept.

  26. Cosigned. CoC’s put serial offenders on notice and engender safer, more welcoming environments for attendees. I notice that not many people above have mentioned that a clear CoC *also* provides a framework for conference organizers and volunteers to react properly if needed. It cuts down on the amount of improv/grey-area-deciphering that needs to be done when an incident occurs, which in my opinion helps *all* parties (the accuser, the accused, and the mediators/enforcers).

  27. When we have an enforced code of conduct, the organizers can have good conversations with, and hopefully people will be safer because perpetrators either change or are removed.

  28. Cosigned on behalf of the @smashingconf team. To all who think a CoC was Kindergarten rules for adults: a CoC doesn’t indicate you have a racist or harrassment problem. It doesn’t mean that a conference organizer team is a moral police patrolling around all the time. It is an offer to help if someone needs or asks for help. It shows that the organizers pay attention and care about every participant.

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