Santa Hat Icon in VS Code Creates 'SantaGate,' Locks Down Repository

It's called "SantaGate."

The Visual Studio Code development team placed a Santa hat on the settings gear icon in the IDE as has been done in the past for the holiday season, but this year someone objected.

That resulted in the team apologizing for hurt feelings and taking the hat off the icon and replacing the icon with a less-sensitive snowflake.

That resulted in yet more complaints from developers and a growing brouhaha.

"Much to our surprise, many people were fond of the holiday treatment, so when we changed it, they were a little disappointed with us," said the team's Chris Dias in a GitHub issue that was updated today (Dec. 20). "Someone filed an issue, and we closed it pointing to the original issue that was raised. Someone else filed a new issue. And then another. And another."

Things apparently got nasty, with personal insults being thrown around. The Microsoft Code of Conduct was violated, issues were removed and things went so haywire the vscode repository had to be locked down to certain contributors so the team could clean up.

"To adhere to our values and the Code of Conduct, we had to delete a handful of comments, which is unfortunate but not uncommon," Dias said. "Our responses triggered more responses. Bots were being employed to create issues and comments. Temporary accounts were being created to spam the system. Offensive issues were being created. The repository was filling up with issues which, frankly, were uncalled for, and we needed to do something, fast."

After the lockdown and cleanup, the team ended up providing a mechanism for developers to choose their own icon in Insiders builds.

A couple of the icon choices are shown below:

The Tree Icon
The Tree Icon (source: Microsoft).
The Sun Icon
The Sun Icon (source: Microsoft).

The original issue objecting to the Santa hat read:

The Santa Hat on vscode insiders and pushing of religion is very offensive to me, additionally xmas has cost millions of Jews their lives over the centuries, yet even if that was not the case, pushing religious symbols as part of a product update is completely unacceptable. Please remove it immediately and make it your top priority. To me this is almost equally offensive as a swastika.

In the end, Dias summarized, the team did the following:

  • Created a new label called *off-topic and tagged issues with it, which caused our triage bots to close the issue, making it easier for us to go through the backlog more quickly.
  • If the issue was already closed by a team member, we added the *off-topic label and added the reason for closure manually.
  • To allow people to see what we closed, we left the issues unlocked, and decided we would only lock it if necessitated by later Code of Conduct violations.
  • We deleted a handful of comments which we deemed too offensive to leave as-is (foul language, racist remarks, etc.). We also deleted a few issues that were overwhelmingly offensive. Unfortunately, that resulted in some non-offensive comments within those issues being deleted as well.
[Click on image for larger view.] You can still trigger an animated snowy scene with the "Happy Holidays!" command. (source: Microsoft).

The VS Code team may be playing with fire, though, as Dias said, "You will still find the 'Happy Holidays!' command which will bring up the overlay, snow, and message." Stay tuned to see how that flies.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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