In recent weeks, I’ve seen a whole lot of FUD regarding the Drupal Community Working Group, and what it is they do or don’t do. While I no longer serve in the CWG (I stepped down from all “extra-curricular” Drupal activities back in 2015 to focus on my family), most of the portrayals I’ve read are misinformed at best and completely inaccurate at worst. So, as an ex-member, who was uninvolved in recent events and therefore can perhaps speak more freely(?), I’d like to try and clear up a few misconceptions I’ve seen.

Some have characterized the CWG as some nebulous dark secret court of frothing SJW activists, gleefully acting as judge/jury/executioner, deliberately seeking out “bad apples” in the community to oust, laughing malevolently all the way. This is patently false, and nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, barring “flash point” incidents like the most recent one, it’s a pretty mundane gig. It mostly involves watching for something to be brought across your “desk” via an incident report, then trying your best as an unpaid volunteer—appointed based on your demonstrated ability to stay neutral and diplomatic in a crisis—to help empower people in the community to solve their own problems.

This takes different forms. A lot of the times it’s simply giving people a safe place to post concerns where they know they’ll be looked at seriously. The CWG provides someone to speak to who will genuinely listen to your concerns, and will give both parties a chance to speak and feel heard. If the situation escalates, the CWG will sometimes suggest neutral third-parties to help mediate, or in the “bigger” cases, get directly involved with mediation themselves. And while the CWG is empowered to oust people from the community in extreme circumstances, a) to-date, they have only done so once, following a harassment incident at DrupalCon, and b) barring “extreme” circumstances such as that, it is only done after a last, *last* resort. All of this is laid out in the Conflict Resolution Policy and Process:

If an individual has multiple, *multiple* complaints against them, in many cases driving others to either leave the community entirely or dramatically reduce their involvement in the project, and if every other attempt to resolve the situation has failed, which includes private mediation, one-on-one mentoring, sterner warnings, etc. then as a last-ditch effort something like an Action Plan is developed. This is summarized as:

“The aim of an action plan is to find a path forward that avoids additional harm to the community. Drafting an action plan should help people recognise what triggers these incidents and help them learn to respond differently by using alternative approaches to problem-solving.

However, the action plan may also serve as a “final warning.” If further complaints come to the CWG, further action may be necessary. As a group, our authority derives from Dries, and when necessary, we also consult Dries and involve him in the process.”

The template includes a summary of complaints (all of which have been already vetted by the CWG for validity), the impact the person’s actions have had on members of the community, and a clearly outlined set of steps to perform to prevent future complaints (e.g. if you’re feeling frustrated, WALK AWAY instead of engaging in online battles in the heat of the moment). The intent is to wake the person up a bit, to help them understand that their actions — regardless of how justified they feel they are in having taken them — have consequences, often on people they care about, and to give them a clear path to re-engage with the community in a constructive and healthy way.

The CWG will bend over backwards to help people not get to that point, *especially* if they have an extensive contribution record. At a certain point though, if a “body trail” develops of people leaving the community because of an individual’s conduct, it becomes something that needs to be addressed, especially if you sit on a governing body with the mandate to keep the community healthy. This is the situation that happened with chx, whose self-ban from the community was widely publicized, and which keeps getting brought up in the context of recent events as somehow related, which it is not.

Some people might respond to this with “Well, then contributors should just grow a thicker skin.” That’s certainly one approach. However, you lose a lot of great contributors that way (and indeed, we already have), as well as a lot of new blood into your project. I’ve previously documented my first 5 minutes in the Drupal community. Had I not been “contractually obligated” to remain because of Google Summer of Code, that likely would’ve been my last 5 minutes in the Drupal community, as well. And there are 1000s of other contributors out there like “past webchick.” Food for thought.

So thanks, CWG, for doing your part of the thankless and difficult job that is ensuring that the Drupal community remains a respectful and collaborative place for all of us to do awesome things. <3