August 4th, 2021
Since your community will likely be made up of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, it’s important to clearly set standards and expectations around participation. Many communities do this through a code of conduct. In this post, we’ll dive deeper into what it is, why it’s so important, and how to write one. We’ll also provide our own code of conduct that you can copy and paste to use as your foundation.
A code of conduct describes what members are signing up for when they join your community, what they can expect from you as a host, and what you expect from them. It allows you to make your community’s values explicit, and signals your commitment to create a welcoming and safe environment for all. It’s typically composed of 3 sections: 1/ community purpose, 2/ values and guidelines, and 3/ enforcement.
Start by describing the purpose of your community so members can confirm it aligns with their expectations. Who is the community for and what is the intent of bringing members together? In this section you can also lay out any operational ground rules, such as “please use your real name” or “please have off-topic conversations in #banter.”
The next section details your community’s values (e.g., create a healthy and inclusive space for all) and lays out guidelines for behavior that will and will not be tolerated (e.g., zero-tolerance policy for any kind of harassment). From our experience, a diversity of people, perspectives, and experiences makes communities, and community-driven builders, stronger. So we think it’s important to state these beliefs early on. You don’t have to write out an exhaustive list of things that should or shouldn’t be done, but rather define a broad set of guidelines that make participating in your community a more enriching, engaging, and inviting experience for everyone.
It’s also important to note that simply writing these values and behavioral guidelines will not prevent conflict in your community. As the host you are responsible for the safe, fair, and transparent enforcement of your community’s code of conduct (more on that below). It’s also a best practice to actively seek feedback for ways you can improve, elevate, and deliver an excellent community experience for all.
With your values and guidelines clearly laid out, you’ll need to set up an escalation and remediation process so members can report any breaches of the code of conduct they may encounter. This is typically done by setting up a dedicated email address for members to write to (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org) or a form to fill out and submit describing what happened. Enforcement of the code of conduct shows the community your commitment to the values you declared and reassures them that you’re looking out for their best interests. It’s also critical to enforce it transparently and with privacy and security top-of-mind.
Illustrating the power of community sharing, you don’t have to write your code of conduct from scratch and can instead base it off of ones that already exist. We were inspired by Contributor Covenant, Django Code of Conduct, and Discourse when writing our Uncommon Code of Conduct (which you should feel free to adapt to fit your community’s needs 😉). Think of your favorite community and they’ll likely have a code of conduct you can draw from.
Once written, your code of conduct should be easy to locate. For example, it could have its own page on your website and be permalinked in your website header or footer. It should also be presented as a part of the sign-up process, or during the onboarding process, so members know what to expect as early as possible.
A thoughtfully written code of conduct:
✅ Clearly communicates your community’s values
✅ Is something you as a host believe in and commit to
✅ Is easy to find and access
✅ Is enforceable
These attributes make it possible for you to create and uphold a healthy and inclusive space for everyone.
Have you written your own code of conduct before? Or have you been inspired by codes of conduct you've read or seen enacted by communities you're a part of? Let's talk about them on Twitter. And to see our code of conduct at work in the wild, join our Uncommon community.