Social Rules

2i2c has a few social rules. They help ensure that the 2i2c community lives up to our values, which is a fundamental part of 2i2c’s mission. They also create a friendly, intellectual environment where you can spend as much of your energy as possible on interactive computing, open infrastructure, learning, discovery, and collaboration.

The social rules are:

  • No well-actually’s

  • No feigning surprise

  • No backseat driving

  • No subtle -isms

One thing that often confuses people about the social rules is that we expect people to break them from time to time. This means they’re different and totally separate from our code of conduct.

No well-actually’s

Alice: I just installed Linux on my computer!

Bob: It’s actually called GNU/Linux.

A well-actually is when you correct someone about something that’s not relevant to the conversation or tangential to what they’re trying to say. They’re bad because they aren’t helpful, break the flow of conversation, and focus attention on the person making the well actually.

This rule can be a bit tricky because there isn’t a clear line between relevant to the conversation and not. Sometimes your correction might actually be necessary, and it could still come off as annoying when you make it. The best rule of thumb is, if you’re not sure whether something needs to be said right now, hold off and see what happens. You can always say it later if it turns out there’s no way for the conversation to move forward without your correction.

No feigning surprise

Dan: What’s the command line?

Carol: Wait, you’ve never used the command line?

Feigned surprise is when you act surprised when someone doesn’t know something. Responding with surprise in this situation makes people feel bad for not knowing things and less likely to ask questions in the future, which makes it harder for them to learn.

No feigning surprise isn’t a great name. When someone acts surprised when you don’t know something, it doesn’t matter whether they’re pretending to be surprised or actually surprised. The effect is the same: the next time you have a question, you’re more likely to keep your mouth shut. An accurate name for this rule would be no acting surprised when someone doesn’t know something, but it’s a mouthful, and at this point, the current name has stuck.

No backseat driving

Bob: What’s the best tool for data science with tables?

Alice: NumPy.

Eve: (from across the room) No, you should use Pandas. It’s better.

Backseat driving is when you lob advice from across the room (or across the online chat) without really joining or engaging in a conversation. Because you haven’t been participating in the conversation, it’s easy to miss something important and give advice that’s not actually helpful. Even if your advice is correct, it’s rude to bust into a conversation without asking. If you overhear a conversation where you could be helpful, the best thing to do is to ask to join.

No subtle -isms

Carol: Windows is hard to use.

Bob: No way. Windows is so easy to use that even my mom can use it.

Subtle -isms are subtle expressions that assume negative characteristics in a blanket fashion because of identification with a particular group. This is especially true for -isms around traditionally marginalized groups (e.g., subtly racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic statements). They are not as blatant as Blatant -isms, and may not be intentional. They are small things that make others feel unwelcome, things that we all sometimes do by mistake. Subtle -isms make people feel like they don’t belong in the 2i2c community.

Subtle -isms can also be things that you do instead of say. This includes things like boxing out the only woman at the whiteboard during a discussion or assuming someone isn’t a programmer because of their race or gender.

The fourth social rule is more complicated than the others. Not everyone agrees on what constitutes a subtle -ism. Subtle -isms are baked into society in ways that can make them hard to recognize. And not everyone experiences subtle -isms in the same way: subtle homophobia won’t hurt someone who’s straight in the same way it hurts someone who’s gay. Subtle -isms can also be intersectional (for instance, statements that imply negative characteristics to a particular combination of race and gender) in ways that can multiply the harm.

There’s another part of no subtle -isms: If you see racism, sexism, etc. outside of 2i2c, please consider the welfare of marginalized groups in 2i2c spaces before bringing it in. It is important to make space for complex and difficult discussions relating to subtle -isms, but constant conversation about these topics - or publicly discussing particularly difficult or traumatic topics - can become exclusionary on its own. For example, people from oppressed groups often find discussions of racism, sexism, etc. particularly hard to tune out. Before bringing up these topics, consider their impact on other participants in 2i2c spaces, and consider whether to have them in “general” conversation spaces, or to create a private or “opt-in” space for this conversation. When in doubt, optimize for the welfare of marginalized groups in our spaces.

How do they work?

The social rules are lightweight. Breaking one doesn’t make you a bad person. If someone says, “hey, you just feigned surprise,” or “that’s subtly sexist,” don’t worry. Just apologize, reflect for a second, and move on.

The social rules aren’t for punishing people. They help make 2i2c a pleasant environment where everyone is free to be themselves, to tackle things outside their comfort zone, and to focus on creating, learning, and collaborating.

Code of conduct

The social rules don’t cover harassment or discrimination. For that, we have a separate code of conduct enforced by the 2i2c Code of Conduct Stewards. All members of the 2i2c community are expected to abide by our code of conduct.