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A GNU/Linux developer and consultant has called for the adoption of a code of conduct at open source conferences in order to avoid the harassment of women.


Valerie Aurora (formerly Henson), who made the suggestion in an article for the Linux Weekly News (LWN), an online technical publication run by kernel developer Jonathan Corbet, said such a code would also help to avoid harassment of people for reasons other than their sex.

(The article is subscriber-only content until December 9 but Corbet was agreeable to posting a free link to it.)

Aurora, who is also a writer and feminist, said she had made the suggestion because of the constant harassment that women had to put up with at open source conferences.

Her appeal comes close on the heels of the alleged sexual assault of Noirin Shirley, an executive vice-president of the Apache Software Foundation, at the ApacheCon conference last month. Shirley named her alleged harasser in an online posting and has registered a complaint with the Atlanta police.

Aurora has compiled a list of incidents of harassment, spanning the tech industry, FOSS, science fiction fandom, and comic book fandom, among others.

She wrote that despite the belief that open source was inherently progressive, this was definitely not the case where the treatment of women was concerned. She had stopped attending the Ottawa Linux Symposium because of the constant sexist behaviour, she added.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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