Last Sunday I decided to /quit IRC for a while. I’m on almost two weeks of summer vacation, and since I nowadays feel I am in IRC mainly because of my work in Finnish Summercode for COSS, being on vacation is a perfect excuse to take a time off from something I’ve started to find extremely stressing and cause for mental anxiety.
But why is that? Why is it that something that has filled my free time almost totally for almost fifteen past years is now a source of anxiety and anger?
My use of IRC has evolved from being fun way of passing time and communicating with friends to source of information, connecting with people interested in similar issues and surprisingly, keeping in touch with the professionals, enthusiasts and issues I consider vital to my work and learning new skills. This comes with a downside: I expect a level of professionalism from people I discuss with.
I’m not saying being casual is bad. God knows my jokes are sometimes horrible, punchlines somewhat questionable and sometimes I’m just irrational. But I still expect a certain level of professionalism, not only on IRC, but in conference speeches, blog entries I see in various places, like Planet Ubuntu and Planet Gnome and all the rest I follow, in discussion forums and IRL meets. What I’m looking for is a atmosphere you’d expect to find in a pub on a weekday, after 5pm, but before 8pm. I call it The After Work Beer -atmosphere.
What is it? Lets do a thought experiment. Imagine going to a pub for a drink (be it alcoholic or just your favourite fruit juice) with your colleagues. While you might still talk shop, the atmosphere is notably more casual than at the office or on the shop floor. There’s still most of the social norms of the work place in effect – social faux pas that should be honoured in most cases, right?
This includes how you interact with your colleagues of different gender, sexuality, race, nationality, religion and so on.
A) Think of how you’d behave?
Consider then another group coming in the bar for an AWB just like your group has. They might be all female, all Indians, all Finns, all LGBT, all Somali, all Russians, all Muslim (or Jewish or Bahá’i), all English, all Mexicans.
B) How would you behave towards them?
here’s some hints:
A) You treat them respectfully as you’d treat them at workplace. You don’t hit on them, make racial slurs, tell them they’re going to hell because of their religion or sexual preference, you don’t aggressively pick them out from the group, but you don’t also ignore them.
B) You treat them respectfully as you’d treat them at workplace, being guests, customers or subcontractors. You don’t gang up on them to hit on them, make racial slurs, tell them they’re going to hell because of their religion or sexual preference, you don’t make a scene by calling them out by names from across the pub. If you’re interested in them, you go and ask them all to join your group, but you don’t single out just a few or feel insulted if the request is declined.
And this is what I expect of the FLOSS community, as we are trying to produce a professional level software and services that are on par or better than proprietary ones. We may not be working in the same company, not in the same country or share opinions on political, religious, sexual or whatever levels. But we are interested in reaching the same goal, and we need to work together to achieve it.