"Blogger's Code of Conduct" Well Intentionedâ€¦ And Lame-zor
On March 31st, in reaction to the Kathy Sierra incident (a strange and somewhat involved story that basically led to Kathy getting harassed by a number of web hooligans), Tim O’Reilly put out a Call for a Blogger’s Code of Conduct. The code includes the notion that bloggers should take responsibility for their words and actions, recognize that the online world has repercussions in the “real” one, that bloggers need to be strong in ignoring abusive comments and “trolls,” and that all should take action against harassers (“if you know someone is behaving badly, tell them so”).
I think it’s great and appropriate to discuss better blogging behavior and practical strategies for dealing with the nogoodniks who will show up at every site from to time. However, bringing some formality to a “code” and having people sign on or ratify it (as Tim then called for on April 8th), followed by posting badges on websites adorned with the words “civility enforced” is well intentioned, butâ€¦ well, it’s kind of lame-zor. Further, the code calls for turning off anonymous commenting, which I would argue is a fundamental right and privilege of every blogger to decide on his or her own.
While it’s fun and in some ways accurate to think of the blogosphere as a wild west frontier of the online world, we don’t need sheriffs rolling into town with silver digital badges. Good conduct, after all, is mostly common sense. And just as an enormous purple octopus banging away on an eight-piece drum set under a banner of Online Media Cultist is the best-est blog in the whole dang world! wouldn’t make it the case (though it is), a code is only as good as the intentions and actions behind it.
I seem not to be alone in this general assessment:
Mathew Ingram: “I think codes of conduct should be a personal matter, rather than a quasi-legislated thing.”
Mike Arrington: “The code of conduct and the mass of bloggers lining up behind it scares me a lot more than the hate comments and death threats Iâ€™ve received in the past. I wonâ€™t support it.”
Tony Hung: “Bloggers donâ€™t need a code of conduct, because it isnâ€™t the content of blogs that are in the question. Whatâ€™s being called into question is the cowardly personal attacks that are sent by email, and left in the comments sections of blogs.”
Robert Scoble: “I do find disquieting the social pressure to get on board with this program.”
Andy Beal: “â€¦any attempts to define or restrict blogging, will ultimately suck the life out of it, and kill much of the momentum we have going on.”
Okay, I’m driven to write it: we don’t need no steenking badges.