This lesson is in the early stages of development (Alpha version)

Theory of Codes of Conduct


Teaching: 15 min
Exercises: 10 min
  • What is the relationship between community norms, participation guidelines and codes of conduct?

  • How can one begin to develop a Code of Conduct

  • Understand the types of agreements that guide collaboration in communities, levels of formality involved with each one, and where each type of agreement is best suited.

We will begin by defining community very broadly as a group of people who come together to work towards a shared goal. In the early days of their interaction, and likely before in-depth collaborative work begins, a newly formed community discusses individuals’ strengths (common interests, areas of expertise) and agrees on

  1. modes, frequency and platforms of communication,
  2. tasks at hand and persons responsible for each,
  3. collaboration and accountability tools as they work

Community Norms

At this stage, individuals are also likely to share their limitations (think availability, time zone differences), pet peeves and terms of cooperation. Altogether, these details help to inform the accepted norms of a newly formed community.

Community norms can be defined as the accepted / positive forms of behaviour that members of a newly formed community agree to adhere to out of respect for one another, and as a necessary precursor to working together effectively. An example of community norms agreed to in the early days for a newly formed community may look like:

Community norms are sufficient for smaller and newer communities such as task or project-bound working groups and one-off committees where long-term activity and community growth are not an immediate priority.

Values and Participation Guidelines

As the reach and scope of work of a newly-formed community expands, new individuals, joining the community present a need for more formal, defined processes that constitute onboarding onto the community.

Onboarding can be defined as the process through which individuals interested in joining a community are introduced to the community’s goals, activities and acceptable norms in a way that brings them up to speed and allows them to contribute meaningfully and work collaboratively with others.

At this point, our new community may discover that the community norms stipulated at an earlier point are not adequate to meet needs that the growth of the community demands, and the demand for faster information flow and more specific guidance for new members that comes with it. To do it in a way that scales well,

Community Codes of Conduct

As a community grows, it is important to define lines of responsibility more formally. Clarity is a core tenet of transparency, and clear lines of responsibility help to cultivate trust in community processes and set room for activities to run more effectively, with set structures for conflict resolution as it arises. Conflict can make or break a community, and for this reason, codes of conduct are key for the continuity and sustainability of any community.

For anyone looking to write a Code of Conduct for your community from scratch, Mozilla Science Lab’s Getting Started with Codes of Conduct and Frame Shift Consulting’s book on Codes on Conduct are excellent resources to use.

Key Points

  • First key point. Brief Answer to questions. (FIXME)