Bullying, Diversity and Inclusion Parliamentary Update

November 15, 2017

A message from the founder and chairperson, Josh Cohen

​1​ Bullying Awareness, Diversity and Inclusion

At OSDI, as we continue to grow and move forward, we continually evolve and refactor ourselves.  With the passing of the election, we can take a breath and patch ourselves.  Though many in our community are heads down on the election, October was Bullying Awareness Month.  So we can tackle that late.

In that spirit, the first update we’re making is for Diversity and Inclusion.  OSDI is a technical workplace, which typically can be a difficult environment for marginalized communities. As a gay software engineer with a substantive tenure in corporate tech, I’ve felt the discriminatory behavior that leaders from marginalized communities frequently face.  My path origin into the progressive tech space (from corporate) is a desire to address discrimination-based bullying and other circumstances and behaviors that treat people as, or make them feel, like second-class citizens.


​1.1​ Awakening

The most significant event that awakened me and shifted my path in this direction was the suicide of my friend Ryan in 2005.  Ryan was a fellow 30-something tech nerd, true to form, decided to publish his suicide letter online. It can be seen as the end of his syslog, which lays out the problem he was unable to solve.

“My experiences in high school left me deeply scarred. I came away from those years feeling fundamentally broken and not good enough. I always thought I could shake those feelings in adulthood, and have learned various techniques to distract myself from them, but they still haunt me. As much as I’ve tried to rid myself of certain feelings I can’t shake the idea that I’m not good enough and that I am unlovable.”

That passage has stuck with me ever since.  It describes the dent left in him from being bullied by people or situations where power was being used in harmful ways. This a common thread in bullying, sexual abuse, discrimination, and rape culture.  These kind of tragic consequences of isolating and exclusionary behavior are examples of the worst-case that happens all too common, not just to marginalized communities, but to anyone subjected to these ills.

​1.2​ Becoming an Upstander

A desire to fix that led to my first step to get involved by going to YearlyKos 06 (which is now Netroots Nation), and doing work LGBT campaigns and learning more about the broader progressive movement. Through those experiences and conversations with people wiser about the movement than me, I found a shared problem where I brought something unique to the table:  Integration.  OSDI is a community driven solution to that problem, but it is a means to an end: Inclusive Communities.

No one should be made to feel like they are unlovable, not good enough, not wanted, or subjected to the exclusionary harms which can lead to such tragic consequences. No one should be able to abuse power to cause those harms or betray core progressive values of fairness, equality, due process, and proportionate justice.


​1.3​ Abuses of power in our community

Let’s take examples from rape culture, which I know many others have experienced.  While selling consulting services, a potential customer expressed interest in demos and meetings. However, these were accompanied with increasingly explicit sexual advances, despite direct rejections from me.  It became clear that closing the deal would require putting out.  This person was able to control the sales decision making process which allowed them to extract a sexual toll. Another common example was being subjected to sexual misconduct while in a relationship with a much more powerful person, attempting to confront it, and that being a career limiting move.  In this kind of situation, like lets say with Bill Cosby, leaders in the shared community are incentivized (via reward or fear) to abuse their own power to isolate, ostracise or attack the victim.

One reason I’ve always gravitated to standards work is because standards bodies operate as a democracy, with parliamentary procedures.  This severely constrains personal power, which is a critical component of abuse.  The rules which the organization operates by are decided by democratic vote, and are designed to be fair and protect the weak from the strong.


​1.4​ Doing things differently

Let’s say you wish to join OSDI as a member and you fill out the request form.  This is transparent to leadership, and your membership will be decided by a vote of the governance committee based on merit. .Similarly, should you make a proposal for the technical committee, say via github, it will come up on the meeting agenda, and will be decided by vote.  Holding an officer position, does not provide additional voting power, nor can they.control or stifle your ability to interact with other members to argue the merits of your proposal, even if it dissents from the officer’s position..

Standardization work is also a perpetual exercise in conflict resolution.  Since many participants are also competitors, resolving conflicts, which will inevitably happen, in a fair, proportionate and inclusive manner is essential to the integrity of the organization.

The democratic nature of the organization ensures that resolutions to conflicts are not being made by a single person, and the transparency minimizes the opportunity to abuse power for one’s own benefit.


​1.5​ Peer to Peer Bullying

While many forms of bullying and exclusion come from the abuse of authority, community members can also be excluded by peers using other bullying or abusive means.


​1.6​ Non-Consensual Pornography

In 2010, Tyler Clementi was a freshman at Rutgers university just beginning his exploration into understanding his identity as a gay male. While taking those first steps and engaging in same sex intimacy, his roommate live-streamed the hookup surreptitiously and without his permission.  The result, was a shaming that led Tyler to commit suicide.

Non consensual porn, aka “Revenge Porn”,  can also be a source of power to be abused in the workspace, against women and men.  Intimate relations occur in our workplaces, and in the digital age or Tinder, Grindr and others, the potential for NCP arises.  One party can control and intimidate the other with a threat of shaming them by publishing or sharing intimate images.


​1.7​ Behind the Back Gossip

In communities and workplaces, adults do not commonly bully with their fists. The bullying is done via gossip that is done behind the back of the target, or spoken to those in authority while using power to prevent the target from being able to refute or tell their side of the story.  The result can be that the target is isolated without even knowing it, and the damage to their reputation cannot be undone.  

This can also be institutionalized in a conflict resolution process which deprives the target of due process and right to self-defense before punishment is delivered.  Even in a case where the target would ultimately be found innocent, the fact that punishment took place will damage and exclude them in a permanent manner.


​1.8​ Isolating Language and Rhetorical Devices

The OSDI workplace is a democracy focused on dialog and technical merit.  In the course of those discussions, isolating language can subjugate the contributions of others.  Use of gender specific language like “bizdev guy” or “nurse lady” can be isolating to people who pursue roles outside of historic gender norms.  Rhetorical devices like feigning surprise “Gosh, I can’t believe someone like you would actually understand something so complicated”,  or subtle -isms like “”It’s so easy my grandmother could do it” can stunt someone’s enthusiasm in a heartbeat.

​1.9​ Looking Ahead

As I mentioned earlier, OSDI is a technical workplace.  It is also a progressive workplace.  

In that spirit, we will attempt to set a positive example in defining code of conduct and conflict resolution procedures that promote inclusivity, education, and democratic decision-making.  We can do our part to make sure that participants in technical progressive spaces aren’t made to feel like they aren’t good enough, don’t belong, aren’t “wanted” or subjected to bullying behavior which can lead to depression, self-abuse, or in the extremely tragic case of Ryan, suicide.

That brings us to the next order of business.


​2​ New Officers

​2.1​ VP of Diversity and Inclusion

In our travels, we have come to know a great leader who is passionate about progressive values, inclusivity, learning and conflict resolution. This leader has already shown initiative within progressive tech spaces and we are proud to announce the appointment of Sonya Reynolds as VP of Diversity and Inclusion.

If you are interested in participating, you can contact sonya at diversity@opensupporter.org


​2.1.1​ Diversity and Inclusion Committee

In an effort to see these behaviors and solutions documented in a concise and consumable way according to our community driven democratic process, we have created a dedicated committee to focus on this issue, led by Sonya.

In the course of this work, we will be reaching out to other organizations with related domain knowledge, and soliciting ideas from others who have created their own solutions.

Though I’m a gay male and an anti-discrimination and anti-bullying activist, I’m also a pushy Jewish kid from NJ with a big mouth who makes wisecracks, sometimes when I shouldn’t. This is an endeavor we can all learn from, including myself.

You can also submit information and ideas to the committee using this form:



​2.2​ VP of Outreach Tim Holahan, Broadstripes

Tim Holahan, Product Manager at Broadstripes, has been a participant in our technical committee since 2014. He is an active participant in our discussions, taking an interest in topics critical to OSDI’s future beyond his own employer’s perspective.  Tim has decided to step up and has been appointed to VP of Outreach, where he will help coordinate our outreach at conferences and other community events.

You can contact Tim at outreach@opensupporter.org.


​2.3​ VP of Liaisons for Volunteer Engineering, Jacob LeGrone, Progcode

Jacob LeGrone hails from the Progressive Coders Network, a volunteer engineering organization descending from Coders4Sanders.  In the aftermath of the 2016 election, progcode has created a vibrant community of developers working on software projects to support the progressive cause.  Its sister group RagTag, which spawned from the volunteer coders for Hillary, has come on the scene as well.  Both of these organizations are doing important work and it is critical that the plethora of tools they build can integrate with other systems that progressive customers use.  Therefore, we realize that the relationship between OSDI and these efforts is so critical that have created an explicit officer position to ensure we stay in sync.  Though his title is a mouthful, Jacob will now be a single contact point for RagTag, progcode and other volunteer engineering organizations at OSDI.

You can contact Jacob at liaisons@opensupporter.org


​4​ Officers Incumbent

The following  officers will continue to in their roles


VP of Customer Coalition Russ Rampersad, Director of Product Management | Catalist customer@opensupporter.org
VP of Logistics Shai Sachs,Innovation Platform Director | NGP VAN logistics@opensupporter.org
VP of PR Adriel Hampton, CEO and Principal Consultant | The Adriel Hampton Group Ltd. pr@opensupporter.org
Chairperson Josh Cohen chair@opensupporter.org


​5​ Officers Emeritus

As we move forward, it is important to recognize those who have served terms as officers and the contribution they have made. Though they are passing the officer batons to successors, they continue to participate in OSDI as governance and technical members.  We thank Seth Bannon, Joe McLaughlin,  and Jason Rosenbaum for their service.


Before closing, I’d like to call out a unique contribution from Seth Bannon and his critical role in getting OSDI off the ground.

In 2012, I served as the Director of Technology at the Washington United for Marriage campaign, and had begun speaking with partners and vendors we worked with including Amicus. As many of you leaders know, that is an extremely difficult time where you face doubts from others “that will never happen!”, your own insecurities, and folks reluctant to attach their name to what is a mere fantasy in the would-be founder’s eyes.  Things don’t become “real” until you have convinced another respected entity to sign on and join in advocacy.   For OSDI that moment was when Seth Bannon, and the team at Amicus attached their credibility to OSDI.  Seth set a positive example that an ever growing list of leaders have followed.


​6​ Thanks!

We look forward to the continued community participation in our new Diversity efforts and beyond and welcome new members.

If you are interested in working with Sonya Reynolds on the Diversity and Inclusion work, feel free to contact her or myself.

Sonya can be reached at diversity@opensupporter.org


Josh Cohen

OSDI Chairperson