Codes of Conduct, an Organizers Perspective

I helped organize my first conference last year, Write the Docs. It was a great experience, but was also rather stressful. Organizing things is an interesting exercise in managing fear and risk. There are so many possible outcomes, and this is scary as hell.

As an organizer, I found myself looking for systems to minimize uncertainty. Uncertainty is the breeding ground of fear.

Code of Conduct

We established a Code of Conduct for Write the Docs early on. As the conference came closer, it became really valuable for me as an organizer. It was one aspect of the conference that I didn’t have to worry about.

An event that violates our Code of Conduct might happen, but you can’t remove that possibility from existing. If anything did happen, I felt prepared to deal with it. This was much easier because of this amazing document, which provides an example internal policy to follow.

The Code of Conduct also gave us a leg to stand on if there were any issues. If we had to reprimand or expel someone, they couldn’t claim ignorance of the policy. We mentioned the Code of Conduct on conference signup, on the website, and in the opening address.

Conclusion

Adding a Code of Conduct for your conference will reduce a source of stress as an organizer. If anything happens, you have a playbook ready, and you won’t be caught off guard.

If you need a place to start, the Geek Feminism Wiki has you covered. I hope that you consider adding a Code of Conduct to your next event. It means a lot, and will let you sleep easier at night.



Hey there. I'm Eric and I do consulting and provide other services around software documentation. Feel free to email me if you want to chat.