Code of Conduct for OSI Mailing Lists


The OSI's mailing lists aim to facilitate constructive discussion of issues related to open source and further the goals of the OSI. We can achieve this, in part, by behaving well towards each other, so that the broadest diversity of participants - both amateur and professional, new and experienced - feel that the lists are welcoming and useful.

This code of conduct helps maintain that environment by capturing the conduct we aspire to when we participate in discussions at OSI.

We Strive To:

Be friendly and patient

  1. We are volunteers, and so a sense of fun is part of why we do what we do. Be positive and engaging, rather than snarky.
  2. If someone asks for help it is because they need it. Politely suggest specific documentation or more appropriate venues where appropriate. Avoid aggressive or vague responses.

Be civil and considerate

  1. Disagreement is no excuse for poor conduct or personal attacks. A community where people feel uncomfortable is not a productive one.
  2. If you would not feel comfortable saying something to a co-worker or acquaintance, it is probably not appropriate on an OSI list either.

Assume good faith

  1. Remember that licensing questions are often very complex and difficult to assess. If you disagree, please do so politely, by disputing logical errors and factual premises rather than by attacking individuals.
  2. If something seems outrageous, check that you did not misinterpret it. Ask for clarification, rather than assuming the worst.

Respect time and attention

  1. List members are often busy people. As a result, we value concision and clarity. Emails that are brief and to the point take more time to write, but are repaid many times over when other members of the list make the same effort.
  2. Conversations should remain focused and on-topic. If you must change the topic, start a new thread by changing the topic line of your emails. Also, avoid flooding the list with long threads by reading the entire thread first, instead of responding quickly to many emails in a short period of time.
  3. New members are welcome, but should be careful to respect the time and energy of long-time list members by doing research in FAQs and with search engines before asking questions.

Disclose potential conflicts

  1. List discussions often involve interested parties. We expect participants to be aware when they are conflicted due to employment or other projects they are involved in, and disclose those interests to other project members.
  2. When in doubt, over-disclose. Perceived conflicts of interest are important to address, so that the lists’ decisions are credible even when unpopular, difficult or favorable to the interests of one group over another.


This code is not exhaustive or complete. It is not a rulebook; it serves to distill our common understanding of a collaborative, shared environment and goals. We expect it to be followed in spirit as much as in the letter.


Most members of the OSI community always comply with this code, not because of the existence of the code, but because they have long experience participating in open source communities where the conduct described above is normal and expected. However, failure to observe the code may be grounds for reprimand, probation, or removal from the lists.

If you have concerns about someone’s conduct:

  • Direct contact: it is always appropriate to email a list member, mention that you think their behavior was out of line, and (if necessary) point them to this document.

  • On-list: discussing conduct on-list, either as part of another message or as a standalone thread, is always acceptable. Note, though, that approaching the person directly can be better, as it tends to make them less defensive, and it respects the time of other list members, so you probably want to try direct contact first.

  • Moderators: You can reach the list moderators through the addresses they use for on-list communication.

Further Context

Other resources, while not formally part of this code of conduct, can provide useful context and guidance for good behavior.

  1. Chapter 6 of Producing OSS, by alumnus OSI board member Karl Fogel, describes common best practices for mailing list participation, particularly “You Are What You Write” and “Avoiding Common Pitfalls".
  2. RFC 1855, particularly section 2.1.1 (“User Guidelines for mail”), also provides useful guidelines for sending good emails.
  3. The Ubuntu Code of Conduct provides useful guidance for group leaders.

This policy was inspired by the GNOME Code of Conduct, the Mozilla Community Participation Guidelines, the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, and other codes listed at the OpenHatch list of project codes of conduct.

To promote and protect open source software and communities...

For over 20 years the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has worked to raise awareness and adoption of open source software, and build bridges between open source communities of practice. As a global non-profit, the OSI champions software freedom in society through education, collaboration, and infrastructure, stewarding the Open Source Definition (OSD), and preventing abuse of the ideals and ethos inherent to the open source movement.

Open source software is made by many people and distributed under an OSD-compliant license which grants all the rights to use, study, change, and share the software in modified and unmodified form. Software freedom is essential to enabling community development of open source software.