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Tech Community Outraged after SQLite Founder Adopts Benedictine Code of Conduct

Close-Up Of Javascript On Computer Monitor

The founder of the world's most widely used database engine ignited a firestorm in the tech community after it was revealed that he had posted a code of conduct for users based on the teachings of the Bible and an ancient order of monks founded by Benedict of Nursia.

Codes of conduct (CoC) have been all the rage in online communities in recent years. The gaming and tech communities, in particular, have grappled with behavior standards for online users in forums where bad behavior sometimes proliferates. While a CoC for users of a forum or email list sounds like a good idea in theory, increasingly they've been used to push social justice talking points and left-wing ideologies. For example, this sample CoC from Geek Feminism bans harassment, which it defines as "Verbal comments that reinforce social structures of domination [related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, [your specific concern here]."

In response to pressure from clients who were demanding a CoC before they would do business with him, Richard Hipp, the founder of the widely used SQLite database engine, adopted the Rule of St. Benedict as the guiding principles for his community. The move angered many in the tech community — but was applauded by others who are fed up with the distractions CoCs have caused in recent years. The rules encourage users to love God and their neighbors and to forsake overeating, laziness, and grumbling, among other things.

Chances are you've never heard of Hipp or SQLite unless you work in the tech industry, but it's quite likely that you've benefitted from his embeddable database engine — it's found in every mobile phone, Mac, and Windows PC, among other places. "There are billions of instances of SQLite running as we speak, and over a trillion active SQLite databases," Hipp told PJM.

Even though Hipp, who has a Ph.D. in AI from Duke, signed away his rights to SQLite when he placed it in the public domain, he still does work with clients who use the technology he created. "But lately, when companies would come to us wanting to buy some service or product from us," he told PJM, "they have increasingly been giving us lots of 'supplier registration' forms to fill out."

Earlier this year, "two companies in a row sent us (different) supplier registration forms that requested (among many other things) a copy of our CoC," he said. Hipp didn't have one, so he "needed to come up with something."

After looking around at contemporary CoCs, Hipp found them to be "vapid." "I felt like they were trendy feel-good words that had no depth," he said. "I could compare them to pop music, which sells millions of copies this week, but next year is forgotten." He was looking for something more enduring, like Mozart. "What is the Mozart equivalent of a CoC?" he asked. He considered, among other things, Ben Franklin's 13 virtues, the Ten Commandments, the Noahide Laws, Micah 6:8 from the Old Testament, and Mother Teresa's prayer from her 1985 speech to the UN GeneralAssembly. "None of these provided a framework for governing the interaction of a community," he explained. "But the 'Instruments of Good Works' from the Rule of St. Benedict seemed to fit the bill."