Archive for August, 2009

At last month’s OSCON, I caught Kirrily Robert’s keynote on “Standing Out in the Crowd” in the open-source environment.  Her speech discussed how welcoming everyone who comes willing to learn and work hard has built a stronger community of contributors at Dreamwidth, an open source, non-profit organization I have to admit I’d never heard of before.   Whatever Dreamwidth may or may not be, its diversity statement was inspiring to me for a number of reasons.   First, it wasn’t  the least bit “legal,” which I take as a good thing, even though (or maybe because) I am a lawyer.  The statement was not about quotas or being politically correct.  It wasn’t defensive nor was it blaming (at least that’s not how I read it).  And it wasn’t about any one particular variable in the diversity discussion.  It was about diversity as a value in and of itself.

Kirrily discussed diversity as an important value in creating and nurturing a broad community that is reflective of the world that we strive to serve and reach and include as organizations.   These values of openness and community are consistent with Mozilla’s key values.  And Mozilla’s ability to build strong, international communities is one of its strengths (if not its most valuable strength).  For these reasons, I think Mozilla is uniquely positioned to engage in the discussion of community building and diversity as those in the open source world (as occurred at OSCON) and beyond consider what diversity means for our organizations and our communities.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Here is Dreamwidth’s Diversity Statement:

“Diversity Statement

Platitudes are cheap. We’ve all heard services say they’re committed to “diversity” and “tolerance” without ever getting specific, so here’s our stance on it:

We welcome you.

We welcome people of any gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, size, nationality, sexual orientation, ability level, religion, culture, subculture, and political opinion. We welcome activists, artists, bloggers, crafters, dilettantes, musicians, photographers, readers, writers, ordinary people, extraordinary people, and everyone in between. We welcome people who want to change the world, people who want to keep in touch with friends, people who want to make great art, and people who just need a break after work. We welcome fans, geeks, nerds, and pixel-stained technopeasant wretches. We welcome Internet beginners who aren’t sure what any of those terms refer to.

We welcome you. You may wear a baby sling, hijab, a kippah, leather, piercings, a pentacle, a political badge, a rainbow, a rosary, tattoos, or something we can only dream of. You may carry a guitar or knitting needles or a sketchbook. Conservative or liberal, libertarian or socialist — we believe it’s possible for people of all viewpoints and persuasions to come together and learn from each other. We believe in the broad spectrum of human experience. We believe that amazing things come when people from different worlds and world-views approach each other to create a conversation.

We get excited about creativity — from pro to amateur, from novels to haiku, from the artist who’s been doing this for decades to the person who just picked up a sketchbook last week. We support maximum freedom of creative expression, within the few restrictions we need to keep the service viable for other users. With servers in the US we’re obliged to follow US laws, but we’re serious about knowing and protecting your rights when it comes to free expression and privacy. We will never put a limit on your creativity just because it makes someone uncomfortable — even if that someone is us.

We think accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority, not an afterthought. We think neurodiversity is a feature, not a bug. We believe in being inclusive, welcoming, and supportive of anyone who comes to us with good faith and the desire to build a community.

We have enough experience to know that we won’t get any of this perfect on the first try. But we have enough hope, energy, and idealism to want to learn things we don’t know now. We may not be able to satisfy everyone, but we can certainly work to avoid offending anyone. And we promise that if we get it wrong, we’ll listen carefully and respectfully to you when you point it out to us, and we’ll do our best to make good on our mistakes.

We think our technical and business experience is important, but we think our community experience is more important. We know what goes wrong when companies say one thing and do another, or when they refuse to say anything at all. We believe that keeping our operations transparent is just as important as keeping our servers stable.

We use the service we’re selling, and we built it because we wanted it ourselves. We won’t treat people as second-class undesireables because they’re non-mainstream or might frighten advertisers. We don’t have advertisers to frighten. To us, you’re not eyeballs. You’re not pageviews. You’re not demographic groups. You’re people.

Come dream with us.”



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