This is of course not an easy topic to get to agreement on since The Ubuntu Women Project has several aspects, and not all the participants require or employ all aspects.
The current discussion is centred around logging for things like the tracking of project and initiative discussions, etc. To understand how best the channel archiving is to implemented going forward, it requires evaluation of how the channel is used now.
It is also a group who women can make contact with as a starting point. A place where they can get to know people like themselves (read: other linux geeky women) who are part of the community as a whole, who can inspire them through the process of stepping out in to areas like MOTU, or support channels, or their LoCo, and provide somewhere to fall back to if something happens. Instead of a 96:4 male:female gender skew, the proportions are much more balanced and hence more woman-friendly. The IRC channel (of between 60 and 70 people) for example, currently floats around 50:50.
It is a place that has an incredibly higher chance of being sympathetic to problems that occur due to the 96:4 gender skew. A place that is less likely to attempt to silence discussion of the issues and hence give them more consideration than they would receive elsewhere and more likely to help the individual work through it. It is a place where people are less likely to turn a blind eye to people behaving badly towards women, both within and without.
And that’s what makes it a ‘safe space‘.
Being a safe space is not by any means a guarantee of airtight, cotton wool and bubble wrapped safety. It is a relative thing. Even men who are willing to respect the intentions and boundaries of the group are welcome to join, and always have been. The #ubuntu-women channel is available for anyone to join, and we don’t interrogate your intention or ask for proof of possession of ovaries. Questions are usually not asked unless behaviour raises them.
As I mentioned before, the topic of archiving IRC activity is under discussion, and part of this involves understanding what a safe space is. I sent a mail to the list yesterday describing what I understand a safe space to be:
What tends to be needed from a safe space is:
* The ability to approach people who advertise to care about the issue
at hand, and can share experiences and advice.
* The ability for these approaches to be an environment where we can
seek privacy if we need it,…
* …and likewise do not feel shamed into a confessional booth if we do
not wish for such.
* A *balance* between public and privacy.
* A moderation policy that is accommodating of proactive moderation, not
* An understanding that the boundaries of the target demographic takes
absolute priority over the boundaries of those who are not of that
* The ability to socialise and learn in an atmosphere in which the above
principles establish the tone.
Right now, the moderation of the IRC channel is sub-optimal as far as this is concerned. I have been, in the past, condemned for greeting a new participant who turned out to be looking for hawt ladeez and consequentially banned. I have been, in the past, condemned for directing to the rules a new participant whose behaviour in either PM or channel had been inappropriate, leading to their earning a ban for continuing the bad behaviour in the channel. In these (and other) cases I had blame for causing the behaviour of the individuals placed upon me because I dared to be proactive. This needs to change.
Introduction of blanket logging of current #ubuntu-women discussion would put everything we say in this channel out in to the Public Domain (as this is what irclogs.ubuntu.com is licenced as). This includes women asking advice for dealing with online stalking, or inappropriate behaviour by people within the Ubuntu community. This would ruin the balance of public and privacy. You may be on the ubuntu-women mailing list and wondering why the discussion of this stuff is rare there. The mailing list is publicly archived.
Both these things have happened on multiple occasions, and were discussed in #ubuntu-women. Without these discussions in #ubuntu-women the issues would not have seen resolve, and eventually would have driven the women away. The incidents included some actively participating women whose names are linked to their IRC nicknames on their wiki pages and elsewhere, and whose discussions would have, if logging had been in place, been locatable by a google search on something like ‘”her_nick” + “his_nick” site:irclogs.ubuntu.com/year/month/’.
Right now this is not possible, so women who discuss incidents in #ubuntu-women are not currently doing so on the reflective side a 2-way mirror. If logging the social, mentoring and advice discussions occurs, they will be. The chances of someone guessing the domain of sekrit unauthorised logging is minimal. The chances of someone being told to look for logs in irclogs.ubuntu.com via say, a factoid in the Ubottu the official IRC bot, is rather high.
If however we split the channel in to sections, then we can target the important discussions, pertinent to the project’s initiatives. Siphoning all project discussion to a publicly-logged project-specific channel would un-bury it from the social discussions that occur daily in the channel now. I honestly believe this is the best way to resolve the issue of archiving positive activity.
The alternative that has been proposed is to split off a counselling-specific channel and leaving the regular socialising and project discussions all mixed up in the current channel and log that. I don’t think this would solve much. It would not give the project-specific discussion the focus it would greatly benefit from, and it certainly would not solve the “argh evil feminist Amazonian fem-bots are plotting our demise in sekrit discussions” attitude, since there would still be a private forum. And private discussions in PM which would need to be referenced in the channel. This privacy is needed for sensitive discussions that I mentioned above.
There is no doubt that the discussion archiving needs work still. A policy that declares to a participant from the outset the circumstances (ie, need for higher intervention) under which personally held logs (of whichever area ends up being not-publicly-archived) will be exchanged with parties such as Freenode, the Community and IRC Councils, should be drafted. Here in Australia, private recordings of discussions are, AFAIK (and IANAL), able to be shared in spite of a privacy agreement if all stakeholders waive their right to privacy for the specific exchange. A written policy that permits the exchange of logs of presumed private discussions with respected parties under this sort of practice is probably worth investigating.
On a personal level, the idea of logging the #ubuntu-women social banter is a real concern and worries me to no end. #ubuntu-offtopic is not logged, and is a social channel that caters to the 96% male/4% female audience. The prospect of logging a 50% female social channel because some people who haven’t bothered to really take the time to understand the Ubuntu Women Project think that maybe they might kinda one day be mentioned potentially negatively doesn’t sit well in comparison. Letting women socialise with a group half-comprised of women under the same circumstances as men are allowed to socialise with a group almost entirely comprised of men isn’t going to ruin the whole Ubuntu project. Seriously, it isn’t. Not even slightly. Really, it won’t.
The meeting tomorro^WToday is set to decide on this, and the implementation of the result will be up to whoever is appointed Leader next week. Lucky them! And will no doubt involve sleepless nights like this one has been so far for me. I’m off for a nap. The meeting is in 4.5hrs.