17–19 October 2016: Conference & Tutorials
19–20 October 2016: Training
London, UK

Handle conflict like a boss

Deb Nicholson (Software Freedom Conservancy)
11:40–12:20 Tuesday, 18/10/2016
Location: Windsor Suite Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ****.
(4.33, 3 ratings)

What you'll learn

  • Understand what causes conflict
  • Gain confidence in your ability to de-escalate situations, find agreement, and move forward positively


Conflict sucks. The FOSS community is full of passionate people with many, many differing ideas on how to achieve our shared goals. Disagreements seem inevitable, but what if they could be handled rationally, in a way that left everyone feeling at least OK about the outcome? It’s possible. You can learn to cut to the heart of the disagreement, mediate, and move forward.

Many of us avoid dealing with tricky situations or let conflict avoidance keep us from accomplishing amazing things together. Leaving conflict to fester, although a popular solution, does not help build the collaborative communities we rely on to create great software. Conflict can be handled—without flamethrowers—and the process often makes your community stronger. It just takes time, a slightly relaxed ego, and a willingness to see the best outcome for the most people.

Deb Nicholson covers strategies for handling conflict in both one-on-one and group situations and offers tips on how to scale your conflict resolution skills like a boss. Understanding what underlies conflict and then finding a way forward will help you, your project, and the wider community.

Photo of Deb Nicholson

Deb Nicholson

Software Freedom Conservancy

Deb Nicholson is the director of community operations at Software Freedom Conservancy, where she supports the work of its member organizations and facilitates collaboration with the wider free software community. A free software policy expert and a passionate community advocate, Deb previously served as the community outreach director for the Open Invention Network, a shared defensive patent pool on a mission to protect free and open source software, and the membership coordinator for the Free Software Foundation. She won the O’Reilly Open Source Award for her work with GNU MediaGoblin, a federated media-hosting service, and OpenHatch, Free Software’s welcoming committee. She’s also a founding organizer of the Seattle GNU/Linux Conference, an annual event dedicated to surfacing new voices and welcoming new people to the free software community. She lives with her husband and her lucky black cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.