On June 5, 2021, the 2021 China Developer Ecosystem Summit hosted by SegmentFault came to a successful conclusion. At the meeting, Zhuang Bianwei, an expert of Huawei cloud products and president of Open Source Society, delivered a speech on the topic of “Community Rules and Hidden Rules Outside License”.

Guest: Zhuang Bianwei, Huawei cloud product expert, President of Open Source Society

Sort and publish shorthand: SegmentFault Editorial Department

Dear friends, good morning! It’s a great pleasure to be here at the China Developer Ecology Summit and talk to you about rules.

There are tables, water and cups in the first row of our meeting, but not behind the second row. This is a rule. The last time I went to a Digital China innovation conference, there was a line of leather sofas in front of the table, two people wide at a seat, which was also a rule. Different communities, different situations, different rules. We’re going to talk about rules today, but there are also unspoken rules.

First of all, the preposition is explained, including what is the rule, what is the hidden rule, what is the community and so on. This is really just a frame of mind. The PPT will continue to grow, maybe one day it will become a longer article, or N articles, or even a collection of articles.

What is a rule

First of all, affection, ritual and law are three parts. The way people behave, the basic way people behave, the way people relate to each other, these are the basic ethical rules, that’s the first part. I say courtesy to you, you say courtesy to me, courtesy in return, to have etiquette, understand etiquette, these are etiquette, etiquette rules, this is the second part. The last is law. When we talk about rules, most of the time we just stop at the third part — law. We tend to understand rules as laws, but in fact rules are not just written laws. We have statutes, we have written codes, we have licenses in our community, we have licensing agreements, we have CLA, all of these are legal aspects.

But why does Code exist? In simple terms, we think that the development in society, in the original small village, hundreds of people, you can’t speak each other or method, can only speak basic ethics, the slave society and feudal society began to speak basic etiquette, later developed into the word, DE, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, such a process. In the beginning, people preached, then they began to preach, then they began to preach, then they began to preach benevolence, then they began to preach handouts. The general public will not be polite until they have lost their benevolence, righteousness and morality. No law will be made until after the disobedience. Because the society has become complicated: your gift and my gift, your reason and my reason are not the same. At this time, we need a kind of coercive, more consistent meaning of written law to regulate the society. But the law is actually very backward, because all laws need to be interpreted by professionals, need to be implemented by professionals, such as lawyers, judges, law enforcement personnel and so on. So there’s a code that says, for example, a door card swipes at the door control and the door opens. Behind this is actually a rule, that is, people who have access to the door, people who do not have access to the door. But the person doing the execution is not the doorman, but an intelligent, executable code. It is also a rule, but it is implemented much more quickly and without any ambiguity. This is the rule as we understand it.

What are the unspoken rules

The feature of an unspoken rule is the part before the rule is made. For example, we set up a WeChat group, and one day someone posted an advertisement, so we made the first rule: you must send red packets before you post the advertisement. When people started to send ads every day, we made a rule: you must send big red envelopes before you send ads. This process is from the hidden rule to the rule, but this rule is very difficult to implement, if he is very familiar with group manager or give group manager some benefit, he can continue to play in the group, and will not be kicked, so there is still the hidden rule. But these rules are not always effective, it depends on the consciousness of the manager, the reasons behind the manager, but some reasons are not made public. In a larger community, and we will observe various communities, we will form part of the inner circle, behind ponder, why he’s been closed, why he was banned for, why his post was deleted and so on, we will consider a variety of reasons, such as he could do something, or he didn’t do certain things, these things are hidden rules. We can find that any community will have unspoken rules, no community is without unspoken rules, completely open and transparent.

What is a community

First of all, is a group of like-minded people together and create something together, such as do a open source software, the process of doing this kind of open source software, we continually grinding, improve, improve, improve the work, the formation of the community can produce some kind of “its shores” effect: a growing number of people will because of your products, the open source project, the community atmosphere. People in the community will also be immersed. When there are more people, there will be more conflicts, so we will continue to improve the rules. At this point, it will come back to the process of like-minded people, because in the process of improving the rules, we will constantly think about what can be done in the community, what can not be done, what is encouraged and what is not encouraged. If the community has enough sense of community, we will ask ourselves: why are we together, why are we a community, what is our ambition, what is our original purpose? That’s why we set the rules. So it’s a cycle. If it’s done well, it’s healthy, the community has more and more people, and there are more and more rules that work well, and better work is produced. This is what happens in a successful open source community.

Common ethical

I think “do unto others as you would not have them do unto you” is the simplest of ethics. In any community, we see arguments about what can be done and what can’t be done, and we come back to the ethic: do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. Another one is that the king and the minister, the father and the son are orderly. This is a traditional Chinese ethic, but is this still the case in the open source community or the technology community? Not necessarily. Because in the technology community, there is an emphasis on equality, but there is also an emphasis on contribution. We’ll get into the background of that in a moment. Of course, benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and trustworthiness are also social ethics, which will not be repeated here.

The hacker ethic

The hacker ethic is actually the fundamental ethic most of the open source community espouses. There are two books, one is called “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” and the other is called “The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Internet,” which is about how hackers do things. In the book, it is mentioned that we should not believe in authority and promote decentralization, because everyone is essentially equal. We should judge hackers by their behavior, rather than by false criteria such as degree, age, race, gender, position and so on. This is a very important point of hacker ethics.

Equality for all and meritocracy

There is a phenomenon in the open source community: equality and meritocracy. There is a paradox behind it. At first, everyone is equal. Gradually, those who have done a lot of contributions have higher status, more voice and even the most privileges. They are not easy to be held accountable for their mistakes. For example, there was a man named Linus who swore in the community and even gave the middle finger. While there will be some criticism of Linus in the community, it doesn’t matter who the critics are. People will think, he is Daniel, Daniel is so good, Daniel is so cool.

There is such unfairness in the community. At some point, we need to curb that, but it’s bound to happen, because we naturally look up to the people who do the most, the best, the fastest, the best, we inevitably look up to them, and we inevitably look up to them more easily. We are bound to overrate them on many things and not underrate them. On the other hand, when a new member of the community comes in, they look at him with a watchful eye and are harsh on him when he submits the code. This phenomenon also needs to be suppressed, if a community can be more friendly to new people, then the community can better grow. But some communities with a strong sense of self can easily be unfriendly or more critical of newcomers.

Social gifts and community gifts

Let’s come back to the ritual part. On the left is the gift of society, on the right is the gift of community, which today we divide into etiquette, etiquette and gifts. There are all kinds of etiquette in our society, such as weddings and funerals, we have to hold a ceremony or do wine or dinner, this is social etiquette. It’s part of our community etiquette for a group of us to meet new people at conferences like today and talk to each other.

The second part is etiquette. In the society, we should be polite to others, the first time to meet with what kind of title, attitude to address each other, this is the social etiquette. In Japan, it is even more exaggerated. For example, they have regulations on the degree of bowing, and the Angle of bowing is different for people of different positions. This is their etiquette. And in our community, there are some etiquette, for example, when you go to the community for the first time to ask a question, you have to figure out how to ask. And when you communicate with people in the community, what kind of posture should it be? “Kneeling for answers,” “Ask someone to save me,” “Wait online, urgent!” And so on and so forth and these are really bad community gestures. On the other hand, if you ask questions in a very objective, unemotional way, you’ll be treated with more respect. That’s the art of asking questions. As for gifts, both in society and in the community will be emphasized. There is a tradition in the open source community because of gifts. There’s a book called The Cathedral and the Fair that talks about why people in the community contribute their code, and why they get respect from the community after they contribute their code, and it’s a gift culture. Whether in traditional or modern or even primitive societies, those who give the most gifts have the highest social status. Corresponding to the open source community, those who write the highest level, the most excellent, the most important open source projects, open source code, they contribute to the society the most important gift, they will have the highest social status, this is the gift of the community.

Written law in the community

There are many statutory laws in the community, such as licensing, trademarks, privacy, Code of Conduct, GDPR, Code Style, information security, trade secret intellectual property, and so on. These are things that professionals study, and since I’m a non-professional, I’m going to skip them.

Automation rules in the community

The next thing I want to talk about is Code, and there’s a book that I highly recommend, by a jurist called Code 2.0. Soon after the birth of the Internet, he studied all kinds of codes on the Internet. He believed that Code is Law, and all rules that can be automatically executed by Code will occupy an increasing proportion in the community, in the society, and even in the world in the future.

I used to work in a community called JavaEye, which was one of the first to implement some sort of points-to-permissions linking model in the community. For example, you start out with one star in the community, and slowly, as you write posts, it becomes two stars, three stars, four stars, five stars, then one crown, then two crowns, then five crowns. Your star and crown represent the weight of your score. For example, if we think a post is bad, we click on it and think it is rubbish. When a rubbish post gets 20 points in the voting, then the post will be directly sent to the dustbin. Each person can only click, but the higher the weight, the higher the score of the vote. Both Stack Overflow and Think No have their own points system, logic behind them, and different designs. We think they are rules automatically executed by the code. There are also GitHub automation rules, such as Action, Robot, and an Issue & PR Template that has come out in recent years. Gerrit, for example, is also a Code Review tool, which means that if more than two or three people think the Code is good, it can be merged into the trunk. In our company we actually use similar points rules. There are many variations of this integration rule. For example, we can specify that a certain piece of code can only be merged after five or three points. Each person has a maximum of two points, or even one point, which means that the larger the team, the higher the percentage of people who agree with the code. These rules are used to more easily regulate the various behaviors of the community, and contribute to a more fair and reasonable management of the community.

Unwritten rules in the community

There are a lot of people in a community, and how you are seen in a community, and what kind of people you set for yourself, matters. There is such a person called Posting machine, they usually post first in the WeChat group, then send a red envelope, please help forward. Such people are at the bottom of the food chain in the community, and they may be forced to do this, but they are not respected or valued by everyone. That’s who they are. I was talking to a business school professor at WeChat once and found out he was doing the same thing. He posted an article he wrote to the group. Two days later, he sent it again, and group manager reminded him that you sent it again. “Oops, I’m sorry,” he said lightly. And I said to him, you have people in the community who set you up, and your people set you up to make people read your article or not. If you’re a Posting machine, no matter how good your writing is, no one will read it. The unspoken rule is that no one is going to tell you that your setup is a Posting machine, and once you’re labeled that way, it’s going to be very difficult for you to survive in the community. A lot of friends, especially children, who are just starting out in the community are very easy to place their original people there. I especially hope to be a community of children, if possible, do a bit more high-end people, others will be more acceptable to you. Others are particularly interested in finding a presence in the community, such as the barmen. Once they are identified, they should be kicked out as soon as possible, because they do not increase the quality or level of discussion in the whole community, they only bring traffic, and this traffic is toxic. But in a community that operates purely on KPIs, there is a love-hate relationship between these people and the idea that they are at least an active part of the community, and that they provoke debate in the community. But people like this will poison the community. When mentioning the Dama constitution, the first person that comes to my mind is Zhou Qi (Python Dama). He works in the community for various things. This kind of person is actually great, and he is the core or reason for the existence of the community. When we start to do community operation, do not become a master bar, do not become a Posting machine, but determined to become the old mother of the community, then the community will be more hopeful. When we are in a community, we have to figure out who we are and how I want to be seen. For example, my favorite people are those who think my speeches are more reasonable. If I can maintain this attitude, then people will come to me and ask me: What do you think about this? So you’re a sharer in the community, and people are willing to accept your ideas, your perspective, and you become a kind of KOL. And that’s a quality worth pursuing.

The tolerance of the rules has been described previously, so it will not be repeated here.

Channels of communication within the community, usually the “thriving” WeChats have some lesser known subgroups. These groups are known as cliques, used for gossip and private discussions. Not long ago, I met a “barker” in a WeChat group. Many people in the group were not happy with his style and his language and took turns quarreling with him. Later, I secretly found group manager, suggesting that group manager could kick him off, and he was kicked off as expected, so the whole group went back to a harmonious and happy atmosphere, which is the unspoken rule. There’s also an unspoken rule that’s very important, if you’re a community operator, you have to have a sense of community. You need to know what kind of atmosphere the community is now, whether it is good or bad, whether a certain rule should be enforced, how to implement, to adjust. It’s all about community intuition.

Conclusion: Zen and the art of community operation

One of the most important attributes of a community operation is community intuition. So, I’d like to recommend a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The author of this book mentions a word in his book which translates as “good quality”. He said repeatedly: I can’t define what good quality is. After I read the book, I don’t define what good is, we can use a circular definition, what is good? That can be felt by taste. What is taste? The ability to experience good quality. For example, if I am a gourmet and I think a dish tastes good, that means I am a person with taste, the dish has good quality. So, if someone is not a foodie and doesn’t know whether this dish is good or not, he has no taste. In any line of work, hone your craft. For example, if you are a gourmet, you can tell whether food tastes good or not, but you don’t have the ability to cook a good dish by yourself because your skills are not good enough. So first of all you have to have taste, to constantly hone their skills, and finally not only know what good quality is, but also to create good quality. Going back to the context of how the community works, you have to immerse yourself in the community, constantly feel whether the community is good or bad, constantly feel and understand how the rules of the community work, how the rules of the community should work, and you have to keep honing your skills. In the end, you’re likely to create a better and better community.

Thank you very much.