Social Coding: Nonviolent democratic principles

TODO This is a placeholder topic. To be elaborated.


Fr33domlover proposed rethinking the mention of “democratic principles” menioned in the Social Coding Principles. According to the ideas of Nonviolence and Nonviolent communication (NVC) this might be revised to “nonviolent principles”. More than rewording, this is a fundamental change.

Background: Prior discussion on the Social Coding Foundations channel:

Click to expand the Matrix chat discussion

@fr33domlover mentioned: I looked (again) at the Social Coding website, wondering if there’s a way for me to contribute that is within my current limited capacity Again struggled to find something, mostly wanting to read docs and thoughts more deeply but can’t get to that yet, overloaded with work already :-/ But there’s one thing I noticed: The principles part of the website talks about “democratic” principles, and I’m proposing to change that into “nonviolent” principles

It’s not just a wording change, it’s an entirely new set of assumptions, tools. views and principles

There’s a whole ecosystem/culture/community of people and tools of nonviolent living. I suppose at the heart there’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC), and then stuff like decision making using Convergent Facilitation, the 5 organizational systems for nonviolent action groups/teams/organizations, creating a needs-aligned work plan using Vision Mobilization, also conflict mediation, liberation from patriarchal conditioning on the personal and organizational level, probably lots more stuff…

This sort of stuff is a passion of mine and a primary field of interest :slight_smile:

I’m finding an interesting intersection here. I’m also (sort of trying to) participating in NGL (Nonvioment Global Liberation), a group of people working on many of the tools I mentioned. One issue there is that they’re using g00gle for documents and mailing lists, z00m for video calls, etc. etc. so they could enjoy support getting connected with Free Software options. And here in the free software community and fediverse, we’re aligned on the technical stuff but could enjoy a deeper dive into those Nonviolent human interaction tools :stuck_out_tongue:

And response by @aschrijver (also distilled from multiple comments):

I am fully open for such changes, and want to stress that movement is crowdsourced. Anyone’s voice carries equal weight and we improve collecctively, etc.

So, this refers among others to the Principles page. It consists of 2 sections… the first part deals with the Process and the second part is about Deliverables. Together they form the acronym CODE GEM’s. And indeed it says there:

Democratic governance

Social coding is for everyone. Regardless of skills and background every person can have their say and make their voices heard. Communities are self-governed and apply democratic principles that foster inclusion and diversity.

I am not sure if “Non-Violent Principles” equates “Democratic Governance”. There’s relationship, but they are not the same, I think? I feel that “nonviolent” can be added to the description and then shaped along the way as the site is elaborated. E.g. “democratic principles” → “nonviolent democratic principles”. Not having it a named top-level principle might also be better because most people are new to the term. It must be introduced. Whereas “democratic” is something that people at least have some common understanding about.

Having read a couple of informational pages on NVP I must say that it really appeals. Besides humane technology, Humanity itself is majorly important, i.e. all those qualities and virtues that make people shine in relation to others. And I see a lot of that in the NVP approach, from a philosophical level towards practical approaches.

Response by fr33domlover:

Indeed it’s a term people are unfamiliar with (although people also don’t really realize what democtratic means, they’re just familiar with the term itself). Anyway, sounds reasonable for a start, to use both terms

They indeed differ: “democratic” comes from an assumption of lack of trust, so very different practices stem up. Some examples:

Democratic: When people behave in a way you don’t like, you judge and punish them
Nonviolent: You identify colliding needs, communicate them, find a way to satisfy everyone’s needs, mediate conflict

Democratic: You can decide stuff by majority-vote, which means minority’s voices get pushed aside
Nonviolent: You decide stuff by hearing the needs and considerations that everyone brings up, so everyone’s needs are taken into account, you find a solution that everyone can accept as their own (hard to believe it’s possible, right? We’re so used to believing that people always disagree, and we grow up without any tools for decision making that sees everyone; I’m glad this stuff does exist, it sounds advanced/new but it’s actually way more ancient than democracy…)

Democratic: People can make decisions for other people, tell them what they can or can’t do, fear-of-law-enforcement makes people be obedient even when they dislike decisions made
Nonviolent: All authority is based on free choice and respect, nobody forces any decision or anyone else, people can have roles and get authority to make decisions about certain things, but the roles are chosen in consensus and kept only as long as there is trust and willing cooperation

Democratic: There are certain things you “must” do, “should” do, “expected” to do
Nonviolent: If you’ve taken accountabilities but don’t have capacity anymore to continue holding them, you can step down from the role you were given, or look into passing some accountabilities to other people to alleviate your overload of work, there’s a lot of compassion and support for working within your capacity and not stretching yourself and burning yourself out.

And reply by @aschrijver:

I see what you mean, the gist of the ideas.

… people also don’t really realize what democratic means

In general what I like to do is avoid the terms and definitions that are so overloaded with meanings, controversy and biases that they are effectively useless. Clear examples to me are e.g. “capitalism” and “socialism”. The mere use of them means that any fruitful discussion is dragged sideways into wars of words and clashing dogma’s. Often ones deliberately brought to life as divide and conquer strategies to sow endless disagreement between parties, and drive people into extreme positions. So you see me often use the word “hypercapitalism” instead, to denote a system run amok and inherently unsustainable.

For “democratic” as an adjective in the context it is used here I feel there isn’t this controversy. Here I’m sure “democratic governance” will be interpreted by people as “Ah, a system where we can have a say”. How that materializes is yet another matter which comes later and can be done in many, many ways. And it can combine best-practices from democracy and NVP along the way.

While I dig what I read about NVP, what I am a bit fearful of is that the terminology “Violent/Nonviolent” is enough to hang people just on those terms, cloud their vision, and leads to endless arguments. In other words, leads to culture war.

So guess what I am trying to say is that imho it is important to avoid existing terminology in Social Coding Movement where that risks bringing engrained ideological stances to the forefront, and just adopt the gems that exist within these lines of thinking.


Summarized gist from chat discussion:

  • Social Coding is crowdsourced. Anyone can contribute.
  • Nonviolent principles / communication look appealing for consideration.
  • “Violent / nonviolent” is unfamiliar concept. May detract people, be controversial.
  • We can adopt the best-practices (the “Gems”) of Nonviolence. But not too “in your face”.
  • In Social Coding Principles we can change text to: “nonviolent democratic principles”.

Democracy as mentioned in the description of Social Coding is not simply a description of the communication within Social Coding projects and movement.

It is my conviction, that sustainable development communities require the principles of democracy:

  1. Right of speech and proposal for all decisions.
  2. Equality of votes on decisions.
  3. Accountable and short lived leadership.
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