Our Culture

The LGBTQ in Technology Slack is a big place. We do not all agree on anything, but there’s a rough consensus around some things. The code of conduct is uncontroversial at this point, so it’s worth a read.

We have active moderators, generally willing to intervene. If we see racist comments, even subtle, we intend to call them out: this is not an attack on the speaker, but a correction. These comments affect members of the slack, and this affirms that their presence is welcome. This is the same for transphobic or ciscentric comments, for similar reasons. This goes beyond explicitly offensive statements, and we encourage nuance and precision – and being aware that the membership of the slack is in fact quite diverse, and we are speaking to people both like and unlike ourselves.

We have a lot of members at this point, and requesting something or soliciting all of them is a request for a lot of people’s time and attention. Because of this, it’s recommended that you ask the moderators before you post your survey, study, advertisement, job posting (other than in #jobs), or event in the places where approximately everyone is (#chat specifically). We especially want to make sure that information doesn’t get misused and members who are particularly vulnerable understand when they are identifying themselves.

Also in an effort to keep people from being spoken over, there is a statistics bot that tracks the rough demographics of groups and reminds us that the proportion of people speaking. It distinguishes a binary – whether one is a member of the dominant group or not, though it allows for complexity and unknowns as well, as its purpose is to track whether dominant groups are in fact dominating the space.

There are a huge number of channels, over 250 at time of this writing. A great many are identity-exclusive: #trans is space exclusively for trans folks; #not-men is space exclusively for people who are not men; in general we seek to support and make space for groups that get talked over and ignored. There are channels for geographic areas, some large and some small.

We support autonomy: most channels were simply created by someone who decided it was a good idea. We frown on doing things to people without their consent.

Some channels have a -unfiltered or -explicit counterpart; it’s completely acceptable to suggest moving a conversation to the -unfiltered channel, and completely normal to leave that channel if upsetting conversation is there. This leaves identity channels free to keep their membership so people can find each other, without having to be in conversations they are not equipped for. We’ve worked on making sure it’s acceptable to leave channels for any reason without it being implied that someone speaking is a problem. Hard topics happen, are encouraged, and space has to be made for them, but we’ve also tried to make sure that there is space for self care and that it’s okay to leave a conversation. Sometimes more sexually explicit conversation will spring up in these less filtered spaces.

Since people use Slack from work, we try to make it possible to participate while in the workplace (or elsewhere in life) where adult images in particular and themes in general are able to be opted out of.

It is common to join many channels, and conversations can span multiple channels. Our community is pretty cohesive, and we find the same people in many channels. This is different in IRC, where each channel forms its own community, ours are much more expansive. This changes how conversation flows, and is worth being aware of.

The only two channels joined by default are #chat, and #announcements. We keep #announcements low volume, without chat since it is the only channel that cannot be parted. We welcome people when they join #chat and are new to the slack.

We want sexually explicit pictures to be posted as URLs, not uploaded as files, as the ‘all files’ tab is visible by people regardless of their channel membership. Upsetting images should go further and some effort made to hide them from Slack’s automatic link expansion.

The #selfies channel is for selfies, and these are encouraged as we get to know each other, we can show love for ourselves and it’s not narcissism.

Subcultures

There are a lot of trans folks, and several channels are exclusive to #trans folks.

There is space specifically for #men. Some people need space away from men, so there are several #not-men channels.

There are various active channels related to non-mono(sexual/romantic) folks: #bi-and-pan acts as a general non-mono channel. There are also specific #bi, #pan, and #polysexuals channels. Remember to check out the section about discussion of labels on this page for more about this.

There is an active #polyamory group.

We have a #genderqueer group, as well as our #trans channels being explicitly genderqueer-friendly. We work to not assume binaries, as a great many of us are more complex than binaries can express.

For managing elements of community culture that we can control or influence, as well as discussing the structure of the community and channel list, we have #meta. While #meta may include discussion of specific people or behaviours, it is as much subject to the Code of Conduct as the rest of the slack, if not more so due to the type of conversation that happens there.

We have a common convention for geographical area chats: #loc-areaname e.g. #loc-sfbayarea, #loc-nyc, #loc-berlin, and #loc-australasia, to name a few.

Finally, we have a namespace for conferences and conventions: #con-conname e.g. #con-e3, #con-wwdc, #con-anthrocon, et al.

Discussion of Labels

The rule in the Code of Conduct about avoiding discussions about identity labels may seem odd at first, but it comes with some history.

There have been recurring discussions about some labels over the lifetime of the slack, particularly when it came to using “bi(sexual/romantic)” vs “pan(sexual/romantic)” as an identity label. Both of these labels may mean different things, and the discussion in the LGBTQ community involving them can be particularly contentious. Our experience with these discussions was that it was very easy to be accusative or dismissive of other (for example, implying or stating that bi-identifying individuals or their label are inherently against trans or non-binary people). These discussions were often more disruptive and stressful than fruitful, and it was clear that sometimes the larger context was intentionally or accidentally ignored (for example, the erasure that both bi and pan people so often face in the queer community).

It is a policy of this community that people’s own identities (and corresponding labels) must be respected as presented, and since there did not seem to be a clear way to prevent the cycle of challenging and relitigating the issue, a decision was made to ban that, and any such discussion – this now includes any discussion related to trans vs trans*, lesbian vs bi, ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ as generics, etc. Note that this only applies for self-identification. Forcibly applying a label that you think is fitting to someone who does not self-identify that way is still considered harassment as per our Code of Conduct.

If you are unsure what a label means, feel free to research it externally or, if the person who used the label clearly consents to the conversation, ask them in private for a simple clarification, but understand that the CoC will most likely not favor you if the conversation goes awry. Do not have these discussions in open channels. Because of their inherent complexity, it is too easy to step on toes even if you don’t mean to, in very serious, hurtful ways.

Free Slack Limits

Some cultural conventions have been created to work around limits in the free slack: integrations are locked down to administrators only. We discourage bots in general, other than statsbot. The ephemeral nature is a feature, not a bug.

There is a limit of 10,000 messages of history. As our current rate puts us at about 60,000 messages per week, that works out to be a bit more than a day of history. Use email or other out of band communication for private communication you want to keep.

We prefer that files be linked, uploaded elsewhere, especially private pictures which count against the slack quota but cannot be seen or deleted by administrators. Uploaded files are deleted after a period of time, since the slack quota is reasonably small.

We keep important URLs in channel topics, as they are not subject to the free slack limit of 10,000 messages of history.

A common suggestion is that we use an open source alternative to slack and host it ourselves, this would lead to a number of problems:

Differences from IRC culture

Slack does not exist in a vacuum, with no awareness of prior communication systems. In particular, IRC has influenced a lot of its development, but some notable differences cause differences in culture.

The unit of cultural identity is the entire slack team, not a single channel; while we don’t usually enter every channel, we tend to be consistent identities across them, and conversations can move fluidly between channels. They are not individual cultures to the same degree they are on IRC, so taking a conversation to a new channel is more an aid to filtering attention than it is taking over another cultural space.

The move to mobile connectivity has also changed how chat communication works. Conversations can move between desktop and mobile devices fluidly, and attention can be managed by muting channels in addition to parting them. Notfications exist and history is available, so conversations can at once be more immediate and more asynchronous.

Final Notes

This is a living document. Culture changes over time. Please make PRs to keep it up to date.