Not in my Name

Not in my Name

The Linux community is made up of a diverse plethora of people. There are the technophiles, the geeks, the nerds, the adventurous, the curious, the contrarians, the weirdos, wizards and those who think outside the box.

There is a world of variety in thinking, philosophy and belief. This manifests itself in different types of code as well as licencing. There can be arguments on what code is best and what licensing is better. Generally however most will get along as their aims and interest generally align. This is what creates ‘community’ – when people come together for shared interests.

But what if you felt part of that community; in that you contributed to that community with code, bug reports, helping new users on forums, you promote the software and organisations devoted to FLOSS and donate to developers and foundations – only to have your association with your main community tainted with ideals you do not believe in, or even disagree with?

If you chose to join a chess club which had the stated aims of creating a welcoming space for the local community to play and enjoy chess, you would be horrified if that organisation then put out on its official media that is supports local duck hunting – but you happen to be a Vegetarian. As an active member of that club you would feel betrayed. Your perception in the wider community would be coloured as you are associated with the Chess Club that promotes hunting. You would feel betrayed and mis-represented. It is not what you joined the community for.

There is a continuing trend for community based Linux organisations promoting political and social agendas outside of their mandate. If you are a FLOSS organisation you should be sticking to issues regarding FLOSS. There is enough difference of opinion within this realm in and of itself to cause division – let alone letting in other extraneous issues.

If an organisation in its manifesto has the stated aims of:

  • Open Governance to ensure engagement in our leadership and decision processes

  • Common Ownership to ensure that we stay united

-then the organisation, at the very least, should not be issuing official media statements flying under the banner of the ‘community’ on extra curricula, extraneous issues that it did not even consult its community on.

If the organisations Mission statement says:

  • create software products which give users control, freedom and privacy

  • provide users with excellent user experience and quality

  • enable users regardless of their location, background, abilities, operating system and device

  • promote the Free and Open-Source ecosystem

-then that organisation in fulfilling its Manifesto goal of ‘Inclusivity -to ensure that all people are welcome to join us and participate’ -should be focused on those aims only!

Nobody wants to be tarred with ideals that do not believe. To represent your community with issues those in the community did not ‘sign up’ for will only cause resentment. It is antithetical to inclusivity.

Free Speech is a wonderful thing. If you are a moderator or spokesperson of a community, with strong views on social or political issues, go ahead and promote, preach, propagate, educate, rally and organise others to you the things you are passionate about -but NOT in the name of the community (if it is unrelated to it aims), regardless of how obviously noble, true or universally acceptable you believe them to be.

Do so by all means in your own name on any forum that welcomes you.

Keep FLOSS communities inclusive and cohesive by remaining within the stated agendas.


It’s difficult to work without examples, but in general I think it is better when projects don’t go too far into ideology.

That being said, they should have every right to do it as long its not harmful and we have every right to oppose it if we don’t like it.

It’s also worth pointing out that some FLOSS projects come specifically from political reasons, which shouldn’t be a surprise given how Free Software itself is a political movement and there are people supporting it because of their political opinions.
If I’m not mistaken Mastodon was created to counter alt-right on twitter, so it is fundamentally very political in nature - even if I don’t like some things about their messaging.

Agreed with @Kikuchiyo… examples could help though I loved your post. It’s a very difficult topic.

I’m not sure how far i’d agree with “tarnishing” because it’s generally understood most contributors/employees aren’t involved in the political decisions of higher-ups. It’s also impossible to avoid rough politics especially if you’re serving people globally.

For example your contact form may have a country drop-down which includes “Taiwan” or you may have women in your team photos with uncovered hair. We all express political positions all the time without noticing often because they’re normalized in our environment. It’s a bit like how political speeches at the Academy Awards are never considered political unless they annoy the audience.

Maybe the question is which broad political positions a team should have rather than if they should have “out of topic” ones. Here’s a test ethos… The project should hold the positions which best serve the project goals and the desires of the contributors weighted by how much each contributed.

To your point i’d imagine that looks like picking political positions that optimize for collaboration, like you said it’d probably mean not taking on more positions than is necessary accounting for how much opinions differ. Some things are more important than a project though but the World needs completed projects too, there’s some balancing act there.

What’s great about FOSS is you can always fork a project and in doing so it usually proves if the problem was bad enough to warrant it. Forking isn’t a great answer but it is a great safety net.