Public Lab Research note

Public Lab Code of Conduct

by Shannon , klie , liz , nshapiro , thegreencommunitygarden | July 06, 2016 19:01 06 Jul 19:01 | #13263 | #13263

Update 9/2016, the Code of Conduct is live at this link:

Last year we celebrated our 5th anniversary as a thriving, growing community of people from numerous backgrounds. Many of us met for the first time through Public Lab, have found collaborators and people to discuss a range of topics with, and some of us have had the opportunity to connect with one another in person through Public Lab and non-Public Lab events. Public Lab has always been a friendly community that attempts to welcome and include as many voices as are interested in joining the conversation. As we've grown in numbers though, it has become increasingly important to note the ways that we can maintain the important values that this group was born from.

During the 2015 Annual Barnraising, we tried out a new in-person structure where four members of the community-- Carla, Klie Kliebert, Nick Shapiro and myself (Shannon Dosemagen)-- acted as team facilitators. We were available to help facilitate conversations, make sure everyone felt welcome in the space and listen if someone wanted to sit and chat for a moment. Coming out of this gathering, we were happy that although facilitation was unnecessary during this event, knowing that the group and structure were available was well received by those in attendance. Over the last several months, we've expanded this initial event specific facilitation model into a Public Lab Code of Conduct, which will be adopted across the community. Interacting and making decisions with people who geographically span the globe and whose experiences are similarly as broad can be difficult to navigate - our goal with this document is to specify values that we as a community can reference, agree to and abide by.

We want everyone to not only have this important document, but to also be able to replicate the process. Through our many conversations, research and work sessions, we realized that writing a Code of Conduct was similar to other research that we do, so we're sharing below the journey along with the outcomes. We've included details, steps, and reference documents that describe our process (thus far), which we hope will help others who may be in need of a Code of Conduct for their group or organization. We continue to maintain that being open, learning together and offering space for questions and improvement is what makes our communities, research and work stronger.

Please take a look over the Code of Conduct (linked below), and add your comments or questions by July 15th. We'll be using it in the current form during the regional Val Verde Barnraising this weekend, but afterwards comments will be reviewed and incorporated and a final version released on July 20th.

The following section is written by @liz on our research and drafting process:


Here is a link to the document in GoogleDrive. To add comments, please just request access and we'll grant it right away.

The core

We framed the very top of the document with language from in-person democratic space holding that emphasizes the combination of respect and responsibility. The sentiment of "for democracy to work for everybody..." as practiced by the Highlander Center for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia / the South is described in the book by Miles Horton "The Long Haul: an autobiography". Also see We also drew from the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing which was written in 1996 by forty people of color and European-American representatives who met in Jemez, New Mexico with an "intention of hammering out common understandings between participants from different cultures, politics and organizations." Carla added the clarifying points on dignity during interactions.

For the fundamentals, we looked to the Ada Initiative guide to writing Codes of Conduct (CoCs), specifically these three points:

  • List specific common behaviors that are not okay
  • Include detailed directions for reporting violations
  • Have a defined and documented complaint handling process

Over that, we added a heavy overlay of JoyConf consent and empathy culture:


  • After Geek Feminism and Django, we described the set of spaces that our community is active in and to which the CoC applies
  • From @Mathew suggestion of we added a list of who the CoC applies to, seeking to level status
  • @Klie designed the reporting process via anonymous online submission form, and converted the list of unwanted behaviors to "Do's and Don'ts", now updated for 2017:
  • @Kanarinka wrote in our existing practice of checking in before posting people on social media, clarifying media interactions with minors
  • Potentially unique to Public Lab, we created a dual moderators group and facilitation group which cannot entirely be described by an online/offline dichotomy. The Addendum clarifies that staff of the non-profit are additionally bound by their Employment handbooks which meet federal and state laws.
  • Generally, a lot of solid and clarifying editing by Nick, Shannon, Klie, Carla and Public Lab staffers, and the organizers.

Where this doc will live or be linked to:

  • on
  • /signup form (link, checkbox, force readthrough)
  • check with ppl who are already signed up (pop-up?)
  • in the standard footer that's on all websites
  • as a link in the dropdown menu page "Get Involved" (FYI this generally needs updating)
  • make a new section called "Core Values" on the "About Public Lab" page
  • on github repos (as fulltext)
  • on comment / research note forms (like how we ask again about open sourcing)
  • a "how to print & post this at an event" thing, and also as a single slide to put into multi-day event kickoff decks
  • on event invitations, letting people know this Code of Conduct will be in effect


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Per conversation via email: After "When a situation is uncomfortable, hurtful, exclusionary, or upsetting" we will point to a footnote that says, "we are using these terms in reference to the behaviors in the "don't" columns on pages 4 and 5".

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