Interpreting the Debian Code of Conduct

Some General Comments

The purpose of this document is to provide some explanation and examples of how the Code of Conduct (CoC) is interpreted within the Debian Project. If you have any questions, please reach out to the Community Team ( If you are worried something you are thinking about doing might violate the CoC, please also reach out to the Community Team.

The purpose of the CoC is to create a community space where people feel comfortable. This helps us maintain a collective of contributors who are excited to participate in Debian and help us fulfil our goals of creating and maintaining Debian. The Debian community is, at the same time, both a group of friends working on a project and a group of colleagues doing their jobs. Debian is as much a huge social grouping as a technical project.

The goal of the CoC, and CoC enforcement efforts, is to help people align to the shared values Debian has adopted as a community through the General Resolution process. You have to follow and respect the CoC in order to participate in Debian. You do not have to be perfect -- everyone makes mistakes or has a bad day -- the goal of CoC enforcement is to help people to do better. That is all that's being asked of you: try your best to treat your friends and colleagues with consideration. The CoC covers all activities within Debian and those you carry out as a representative of the Debian Project. Punitive actions, such as (temporary or permanent) banning or loss of status, may also occur if your non-Debian activities impact the Project or create an unsafe or harmful space in Debian.

This is a living document. It will change over time as what is considered normal and ideal both inside and outside Debian evolves. The Debian Code of Conduct was initially ratified in 2014. It has not changed since then, though expectations and best practices in the free and open source software communities, and in tech in general, have.

1. Be respectful

In a project the size of Debian, inevitably there will be people with whom you may disagree, or find it difficult to cooperate. Accept that, but even so, remain respectful. Disagreement with someone's actions or opinions is no excuse for poor behaviour or personal attacks. A community in which people feel threatened is not a healthy community.

Every member of the community and the wider world deserves respect. Respect is not something to be earned in Debian, it is something each and every member of the Community deserves, regardless of their age, gender, body size, education, ethnicity, or other factors.

Debian is an open community. All cultures and beliefs are welcome and acknowledged so long as they are not harming others. Your own expectations or your own cultural background are not an excuse to violate the CoC or be disrespectful to another person within the Debian community or within your role as a member of the Debian community. Debian has its own culture. When working with Debian contributors or users, please abide by Debian norms and represent Debian positively.

People in Debian come from different cultural backgrounds, have different experiences, and might not be fluent or comfortable in the language of a given discussion. This means that it is important to assume best intentions (see below) and be understanding about differences in communication styles. This does not, however, mean it is acceptable to intentionally communicate inappropriately or not change your communication style to meet community norms once it has been brought up.

Examples of Disrespectful Behaviour

The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of disrespectful behaviour:

2. Assume good faith

Debian Contributors have many ways of reaching our common goal of a free operating system: someone else's ways of doing something may differ from your ways. Assume that other people are working collaboratively towards this goal. Note that many of our Contributors are not native English speakers or may have different cultural backgrounds.

Debian is a global project. Debian includes people from many different backgrounds, experiences, styles of communication and cultural norms. As such, it is particularly important to assume good faith. This means to assume, as is reasonable, that the person you're talking with is not trying to hurt you or insult you.

In order to assume good faith, we must also act in good faith. This also means that you should assume someone is trying their best, and that you should not hurt or insult them. Intentionally upsetting someone within Debian is not acceptable.

Assuming good faith includes communication, behaviour, and contribution. This means assuming that everyone contributing, whatever their contributions, is putting in the effort they are capable of and doing so with integrity.

Examples of Non-Good Faith Behaviours

Again, the following is a non-exhaustive list:

3. Be collaborative

Debian is a large and complex project; there is always more to learn within Debian. It's good to ask for help when you need it. Similarly, offers for help should be seen in the context of our shared goal of improving Debian.

When you make something for the benefit of the project, be willing to explain to others how it works, so that they can build on your work to make it even better.

Our contributions help other contributors, the project and our users. We work in the open under the ethos that anyone who wants to contribute should be able to, within reason. Everyone in Debian has a different background and different skills. This means you should be positive and constructive and, whenever possible, you should provide assistance, advice, or mentorship. We value consensus, though there are times when democratic decisions will be made or direction may be decided by those people who are willing and able to undertake an activity.

Different teams use different tools and have different norms in collaboration. This could mean things like weekly synchronous meetings, shared notes, or code review processes. Just because things have been done a certain way doesn't mean it's the best or only way to do things, and teams should be open to discussing new collaboration methods.

Part of being collaborative is also a good faith assumption (see above) that others are being collaborative as well rather than assuming that others are out to get you, or ignoring you.

Good collaboration is more valuable than technical skills. Being a good technical contributor does not make it acceptable to be a harmful community member.

Examples of Bad Collaboration

4. Try to be concise

Keep in mind that what you write once will be read by hundreds of people. Writing a short email means people can understand the conversation as efficiently as possible. When a long explanation is necessary, consider adding a summary.

Try to bring new arguments to a conversation so that each mail adds something unique to the thread, keeping in mind that the rest of the thread still contains the other messages with the arguments that have already been made.

Try to stay on topic, especially in discussions that are already fairly large.

Certain topics are not appropriate for Debian, including some contentious topics of a political or religious nature. Debian is an environment of colleagues as much as it is one of friends. Public collective exchanges should be respectful, on-topic, and professional. Using concise, accessible language is important, especially as many Debian contributors are non-native English speakers, and much of the project's communications are in English. It is important to be clear and explicit, and when possible explain or avoid idioms. (Note: Using idioms, for example, is not a violation of the Code of Conduct. Avoiding them is just a good practice in general for clarity.)

It is not always easy to convey meaning and tone over text or across cultures. Being open-minded, assuming good intentions, and trying are the most important things in conversation.

5. Be open

Most ways of communication used within Debian allow for public and private communication. As per paragraph three of the social contract, you should preferably use public methods of communication for Debian-related messages, unless posting something sensitive.

This applies to messages for help or Debian-related support, too; not only is a public support request much more likely to result in an answer to your question, it also makes sure that any inadvertent mistakes made by people answering your question will be more easily detected and corrected.

It is important to keep as many communications public as possible. Many Debian mailing lists can be joined by anyone or have publicly accessible archives. Archives may be recorded and stored by non-Debian sources (e.g. the Internet Archive). It should be assumed that what has been said on a Debian mailing list is permanent. Many people keep logs of IRC conversations as well.


Private conversations within the context of the project are still considered to be under the Code of Conduct. Reporting that something said in a private conversation is inappropriate or unsafe (see above for examples) is encouraged.

At the same time, it is important to respect private conversations, and they should not be shared barring issues of safety. Certain places, like the debian-private mailing list, fall under this category.

6. In case of problems

While this code of conduct should be adhered to by participants, we recognize that sometimes people may have a bad day, or be unaware of some of the guidelines in this code of conduct. When that happens, you may reply to them and point out this code of conduct. Such messages may be in public or in private, whatever is most appropriate. However, regardless of whether the message is public or not, it should still adhere to the relevant parts of this code of conduct; in particular, it should not be abusive or disrespectful. Assume good faith; it is more likely that participants are unaware of their bad behaviour than that they intentionally try to degrade the quality of the discussion.

Serious or persistent offenders will be temporarily or permanently banned from communicating through Debian's systems. Complaints should be made (in private) to the administrators of the Debian communication forum in question. To find contact information for these administrators, please see the page on Debian's organisational structure.

The purpose of the Code of Conduct is to provide guidance for people on how to maintain Debian as a welcoming community. People should feel welcome to participate as they are and not as others expect them to be. The Debian Code of Conduct outlines things people should do, rather than ways they should not behave. This document provides insight on how the Community Team interprets the Code of Conduct. Different members of the Debian community may interpret this document differently. What is most important is that people feel comfortable, safe, and welcome within Debian. Regardless of whether it is called out specifically in this document, if someone does not feel comfortable, safe, and/or welcome, they should reach out to the Community Team.

If someone is concerned that they may have done something inappropriate or are thinking about doing something they think may be inappropriate, they are also encouraged to reach out to the Community Team.

As Debian is so large, the Community Team can not and does not proactively monitor all communications, though sometimes members may see them in passing. As such, it is important for the Debian Community to work with the Community Team.

Failing to Follow the Code of Conduct

No one is expected to be perfect all the time. Making a mistake is not the end of the world, though it may result in someone reaching out to ask for improvement. Within Debian there is an expectation of good faith efforts to do well and do better. Repeated violation of the CoC may result in reprisal or restrictions on community interaction including, but not limited to: