A New Rift for Node.js
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 25 August 2017

The Node.js community faces a new crisis which has led to a new fork of the project, Ayo.js. The fact that "ayo" is pronounced the same as "io" is a reference to the previous major fork of the project. However, the motivation for this split is very different.


When io.js forked from Node.js a large group of its contributors were involved and their dissatisfaction was with Joyent, the project's official sponsor. Their main complaint was that Joyent made the development process too slow. The rift was healed when the Node.js Foundation was launched, to provide a collaborative and organizational framework which would allow the project's developers to concentrate on the code base. The two factions re-merged and Node.js appeared to be stronger as a result.

The recent crisis appears to centre on a single individual, Rod Vagg, whose job title is Chief Node Officer at the technology company Node Source. A member of the Node.js Technical Steering Committee (TSC) and a long term contributor to the project, he is accused of code-of-conduct violations, specifically the endorsement on Twitter of an article written by a men's rights activist arguing that codes of conduct discriminate against people with "eccentric personalities" or with ADHD and autism.

When a vote of the TSC failed to remove Vagg from the committee or ask for his resignation, four of its members, Anna Henningsen, Bryan Hughes, Myles Borins, and Jeremiah Senkpiel resigned and their departure coincides with the Ayo split.

Announcing his intention to leave Node.js completely, Bryan Hughes, who had been working on inclusivity for Node.js for two years wrote: 

... Rod had repeatedly shown a lack of judgement in how he acts within the project and with the broader community. He violated the Code of Conduct multiple times, and undermined efforts to increase inclusivity efforts at every step along the way.

I do not believe Rod did this intentionally, or that he is a bad actor in the classical definition. Rather, his bad behavior stems from ignorance and an unwillingness to learn. Rod’s intentions don’t really matter though. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

More importantly, Rod’s bad behavior was due in part to the Node.js leadership’s tacit endorsement of his behavior through their unwillingness to take appropriate action. The TSC has tried talking to him on several occasions, but when those inevitably failed the rest of the leadership stopped trying. They were both unwilling and unable to make the hard decisions in this matter, and I was not able to take unilateral action.

Mark Hinkle, executive director of the Node.js Foundation, has now announced that a board meeting taking place on August 28th will be devoted to the issue and has asked the TSC to reconsider its decision:

"The board does not support antagonistic, aggressive or derogatory behavior in the community and leadership and expects that the TSC will enforce its code of conduct equally amongst community members, collaborators, and leadership. Accordingly, we urge the TSC to revisit this issue and suspend the individual involved from active TSC participation until this matter is resolved, hopefully with consensus, including support from those who recently resigned, if they would be willing to help."

The latest contribution to the debate is a long post from Rod Vagg initially posted in GitHub to CTC members and reproduced on Medium. After stating that he was unaware of the complaints made against him he argues:

By most objective measures, the Node.js project has been healthier and more open to outsiders during my 2-year tenure in leadership than at any time in its history. We have record numbers of contributors overall, per month overall and unique per month. We span the globe such that our core and working group meetings are very difficult to schedule and usually have to end up leaving people out. We regularly have to work to overcome language and cultural barriers as we continue to expand.

When I survey the contributor base, the collaborator list, the CTC membership, I see true diversity across many dimensions. Claims that I am a barrier to inclusivity and the building of a diverse contributor base are at odds with the prominent role I’ve had in the project during its explosive growth.

All of this does raise concerns over how vulnerable large open source projects are to interpersonal tensions. Hopefully Node.js can resolve the issue and welcome ayo.js back into the fold.


More Information

The Truth About Rod Vagg

Why I’m leaving the Node.js project

Related Articles

Node.js Foundation Heals Rift

Node.js Gets A Foundation - Is It Rock Solid?


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