Code of Conduct
Below, you’ll find the Code of Conduct for Exclamation Foundation events – for now, these are !!Con and !!Con West. Our Code of Conduct is a little different than most: where many Codes of Conduct start and stop at preventing harassment, ours is part of an intentional effort to define the culture of !!Con events. We don’t think that !!Con is something that you passively participate in: everyone who attends helps construct !!Con and, ideally, makes it a better conference.
!!Con is about the joy, excitement, and surprise of computing. That can’t exist while excluding people who have been traditionally marginalized in the computing community, so an intentional part of the culture that we want to set is for you to feel welcome. Our purpose in this Code of Conduct is to give all of our attendees some ideas for how to make all of the above happen.
How to be !!Con
Harassment has no place at !!Con. This sounds obvious, but it’s important. There are almost limitless ways to harass people; an incomplete list might include harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, skin color, or religion, as well as making predatory sexual advances on other attendees. Don’t do any of those things, and in any event, please be mindful of how you talk to and about other people at the conference. “Jokes” (or serious actions, for that matter) that serve to exclude people aren’t okay, either.
Conversely, try to make an extra effort to be kind and empathetic in how you act. Here’s a few ways you can do that:
Read pronoun badges! It’s impossible to know what pronouns somebody uses just by looking at them. Let them tell you.
Write your pronoun badge! Even if you think your pronouns are “obvious” by looking at you, you should write yours down, too!
Assume that all your fellow conference-goers are technical! No matter whether people do or don’t look like someone that you often see at a conference, everybody at !!Con is here for the love of computing.
Let marginalized folks choose how much they want to share about themselves! It can be tempting to ask somebody about their background, based on something about them that you can see or hear. They might want to talk about themselves, but maybe they just want to enjoy technology – let them choose!
Read up on the Recurse Center social rules! The Recurse Center has four social rules: “no feigning surprise”, “no well-actuallys”, “no backseat driving”, and “no subtle -isms”. Although !!Con isn’t a part of RC, we were founded by people who met at RC, and we found that their rules contribute enormously to a supportive, productive, and fun learning environment. If you haven’t heard of those before, we encourage you to read the rules; they’re a great way to add an extra dose of empathy to your time at !!Con (and maybe even beyond!).
A particularly kind way of interacting with your fellow attendees is to respect their boundaries. If somebody asks you to stop doing something, or tells you that you’re doing something that makes them uncomfortable, just stop doing it. Even if you think that what you’re doing is reasonable, it’s better to be cautious and respectful.
Above all else, remember that !!Con attendees are all here to relish in the joy, excitement, and surprise of computing. These guidelines help us all create a space where that can happen.
How we handle Code of Conduct issues
In the past, we’ve resolved many of our Code of Conduct reports in a collaborative fashion. Often, we find that there’s something to learn, and ways that the whole community can grow in response! (We’ve written about some of these in our past transparency reports.)
But we want you to know that we have your back, and so we encourage you to get an event organizer involved if you’d like some help (more information on how to do that below). Our policy is that we do not tell the subject of a Code of Conduct concern who brought the matter to our attention.
We hope it doesn’t come to this, but at our discretion, we will ask attendees who harm the !!Con community to leave. This Code of Conduct is a guide, and since we can’t possibly write down all the ways you can hurt people, we may ask attendees to leave for reasons that we didn’t write down explicitly here. On the other hand, where it’s appropriate, we want to be forgiving, too: if it seems like you’ve made a good-natured mistake, we want to give you space to grow and learn!
This Code of Conduct applies not just in “official” !!Con-sponsored spaces, but also in spaces adjacent to the conference. If you have a concern about something that happens outside of the !!Con conference room, it’s OK to bring it to the organizers. And, although we explicitly called out attendees above, this Code of Conduct applies to everybody who contributes to the !!Con space, including attendees, organizers, sponsors, volunteers, staff, and Exclamation Foundation board members.
Guidelines for speakers
If you’re a speaker – thank you! We’ve been really lucky to have speakers who give thoughtful and exciting talks that are almost always inclusive of the people in the !!Con audience.
Here are a few guidelines you can use to help make your talk even more welcoming to everyone in the !!Con community:
Give people a heads up if you’re discussing sensitive topics. If your talk includes descriptions of hurtful experiences that attendees might share, let us know about it! Some of these include transphobic, homophobic, sexually-motivated, racially-motivated, or religiously-motivated abuse and harassment; sexual assault; eating disorders; mental illness and self-harm; or relationship abuse. It’s not possible to give a full list, but these are some examples of things that we hope you’ll be sensitive of. If you expect to cover these topics, talk to the !!Con organizers before the conference so that we can let attendees know these topics will be covered in your talk. If you want to discuss a sensitive topic in your talk and you’d like help approaching it, let us know and we’ll be happy to brainstorm with you.
Avoid unnecessarily violent and sexual imagery. Sometimes, including these is unavoidable, or is central to the point of the talk, and that’s okay. But sometimes, the imagery isn’t necessary. This can be in overt ways (for example sexual images) or in more subtle ways (like an indirect sexual reference used as a joke). So before your talk, take one more look over your slides and prep material in this light – and if you explicitly plan to include sexual or violent content, consider how you can contextualize it. (If you plan to include graphically violent content, please do let us know in advance.)
Talk to the experts. !!Con thrives at the intersection of computers and the human experience. Many of us have become experts in technologies just by reading about them, but this doesn’t always work when real people become involved! If you plan to include anecdotes about the experiences of a minority group you’re not a member of in your talk, make sure you’ve spoken with someone from that group first. They can help guide you on what language would accurately capture their experience, and how to do it with sensitivity.
Often, talks won’t need to make any changes at all to address these! But even if your talk is mostly about computers, taking 10 minutes to go through it and look for some of these issues (even if they’re subtle!) goes a long way to keeping !!Con welcoming for everyone.
Getting in touch
If you notice behavior that feels out-of-place at !!Con – you’re being harassed, you see someone else being harassed, or something just makes you uncomfortable – please contact a member of conference staff. Even if you don’t think that disciplinary action is needed, we want to keep tabs on how we can build a better conference, so please feel free to reach out to us.
If you have any questions about any part of this Code of Conduct, or about the Recurse Center social rules, please feel free to reach out to the conference organizers, or to the Exclamation Foundation board.
If you’d like to contact us, you can send e-mail to email@example.com, or simply talk to any individual organizer. We want you to feel safe during the conference, and we’ll do what we can to make that happen – you matter to us!
!!Con’s Code of Conduct committees have compiled transparency reports for reported incidents in previous years, which you can find below:
The Exclamation Foundation Code of Conduct was illustrated by Annie Ruygt.