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Node.js Forks over TSC Disagreements

The Node.js Technical Steering Committee (TSC) voted not to remove TSC member Rod Vagg, after he made several controversial statements on Twitter and GitHub that were allegedly not in line with the group's Code of Conduct. This has set off a flurry of discussion on Node.js about how to encourage new ideas and foster growth, while at the same time curtailing harassment and other unacceptable behavior.

According to a summary of the meeting on August 22, several TSC members had raised concerns about several of Mr. Vagg's posts in Github and Twitter (the specific issues have since been removed). The committee voted on, and did not pass, two questions: "Should the member be removed from the TSC and should the member be asked to voluntarily resign from the TSC?" For both questions, the votes were the same - six votes for "No," four votes for "Yes," two abstentions, and one recusal. After the vote, four TSC members - Anna Henningsen, Bryan Hughes, Myles Borins, and Jeremiah Senkpiel - stepped down from their positions, and the Ayo fork was created.

In their resignation letters, according to the Outline, some of the former members alluded to repeated violations of the Code of Conduct, and a breakdown of the system.  Myles Borins wrote: "We cannot be complacent about our culture, we need to actively maintain the culture we want to see. A culture that is diverse and inclusive."

The Outline also notes anonymous accusations against Ashley Williams, a member of the Node Foundation Board of Directors and diversity advocate. One anonymous poster claims that Williams violated the Node.js Code of Conduct with some of her tweets, but has refused to reveal themselves. In another news item, Williams states, "This was a systemic failure of leadership." Williams had previously started an inclusivity group at Node.js, but the effort was abadoned, due in part to unsupportive leadership. 

Mr. Vagg also posted about the vote to remove him: 

  • He contends that the process so far has not been transparent, noting regarding one issue, "Had I been given clear feedback regarding my misstep earlier, I would have attempted to resolve this situation sooner."
  • He responds to the complaints against him, noting his efforts to rectify issues, and inconsistencies in how other members' behaviors were not similarly addressed.
  • He defends himself against claims that he is a hindrance to diversity ("Claims that I am a barrier to inclusivity and the building of a diverse contributor base are at odds with the prominent role I've had in the project during its explosive growth.").

An article in the Register emphasizes Vagg's reference to an article opposed to campus speech codes, which Vagg explains does not mean that he is opposed to Codes of Conduct in communities such as Node.js.

There is also a comment thread within the Node.js community, which includes multiple comments on the pros and cons of Codes of Conduct, possible methods to encourage greater inclusivity, and the perceived need to self-censor in order to "avoid the wrath of the internets" (@ronkorving).

Mark Hinkle, representing the Board of Directors, posted a "Board Statement on TSC Action" on August 24, and asked that the TSC "enforce its Code of Conduct equally amongst community members, collaborators, and leadership." According to the Outline, "before the thread was moved to a private discussion, multiple members of Node leadership seemed to agree that William’s dredged-up tweets constituted a violation of the Code of Conduct." 

On September 6, Hinkle added a comment to the Board Statement, identifying several changes that the Board will make to "better support the Node.js community:"

  • Merger of the CTC and TSC - while already in process, this was completed at the end of August.
  • Moderation Policy Updates - including the creation of a Moderation Team, with a "clear process defined and posted for the community to refer to."
  • TSC charter updates - These recommendations include more clear definitions of charter violations, processes to handle those disputes, and more frequent communications between the board and TSC.


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