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Canonical responds to 'abusive' Ubuntu posts

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Administrators overseeing Ubuntu mailing lists are taking steps to thwart and apparent rash of un-Ubuntu-like behavior.

Canonical is investigating what has been reported as "abuse" and "intimidation" of unnamed members of the Ubuntu community email lists. The investigation will produce a set of guidelines that will help decide when to escalate future posts of a similar nature for action to Ubuntu's overall governing board, the community council.

Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon promised the outcome would not establish a system that censors the thousands of people participating in Ubuntu's more than 300 email lists.

"I don't want to censor people and come up with ideas that make it a very restrictive environment, but want to make sure there's an acceptable level of behavior," Bacon told The Reg.

"The most important thing is to identify the most important means of dealing with this issue and make the Ubuntu community do great work together."

He said that the community already had "key" processes in place and that the existing Ubuntu code of conduct, here, is a good basis for future guidelines.

Bacon is separately organizing a Community Leadership Summit next month in San Jose, California, to debate ways of building what he called "open and frank" communities without imposing too many rules.

Any recommendations on action for the Ubuntu community itself will need the approval of the community council to be adopted as procedure. Currently, there are dates set for when recommendations will be delivered or when the council will meet.

Tech forums and communities in general can have a reputation for sharp and abusive language. Sometimes that can be a simple clash of egos, but there have been genuine attempts to intimidate people.

The Debian Community in 2008 saw women developers threatened by an individual with a grudge who claimed women were "killing" free software. The year before, systems interface and design blogger Kathy Sierra quit the blogosphere, saying she'd received death threats for her posts.

It's unclear what exactly has been said through Ubuntu's email lists, but Bacon categorized the posts as people being snippy with each other, rather than comments being racial or sexist in nature.

Ironically, Canonical and the Ubuntu-Linux community define "Ubuntu" is an African concept of "humanity towards others".

"You see it in every distributed community at some point," said Bacon, who blamed trolls who wanted to be contentious while hiding behind email clients - and who accompany the expansion of any successful project or community.

He believes the Ubuntu community had been lucky not to experience this before. ®

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