Over the past few weeks I’ve encouraged you to get involved in your local WordPress community by attending meetups and going to WordCamps. It only seemed right for me to share with you how the panel discussion went at WordCamp Buffalo 2019 which is one of the things that prompted me to talk about getting involved in the first place!
The panel, called Ethical Behavior in an Open Source World: A Panel Discussion, consisted of Nick Adams, Michelle Ames (my co-conspirator as well as panel member), Kiera Howe, and Maryann Reissig (each representing themselves, although they all work with WordPress in some fashion.) The questions I posed weren’t meant to put any of them or the companies they work for on the spot in a bad way, that would be questionable, rather to get some discussion going about different situations that we may encounter as website designers and developers as well as website users and owners.
I posed several questions to the panel and each person offered their insight sharing with the audience first hand experience or opinions about situations others had encountered and some questions were even asked by the audience. You can watch the video here, so I won’t recap every question. Some of the stories were really hard to believe (like holding a package for ransom) and others were all too relatable (a website client having different political views), but at the end of the session I think we all realized a few things.
First, that some behavior might be inadvertently unethical. The person might not even realize what they asked wasn’t ethical (or was illegal) because they honestly didn’t know. For those of us that know, we should use these times to teach, rather than punish or make an example of them.
The second thing that stood out to me is that personal ethics and business ethics don’t always line up. Well, that and that everyone’s ethics are just a bit different.
I won’t post the questions here, or individual answers. You can watch the video! Instead, I encourage us all not to jump right to judgement (like I admit I sometimes do) but rather to step back when you find yourself in a position wondering whether something is ethical or not…Step back and think about the person. Is this an area they are familiar with and could be doing or asking you to do something that is unethical because they want to take advantage? Or maybe they really have no idea that what they are asking or doing is questionably wrong? Let’s take the time to educate them, rather than admonishing.
I think for the most part my community polices itself pretty well. That we hold ourselves to ethical behavior even though we don’t take a Hippocratic oath when navigating this online space and deal with clients and customers and visitors to our websites who are entrusting their information to us.
images of panel taken by https://www.flickr.com/photos/kierahowe/