Posted March 29, 2007 4:53 pm by with 10 comments

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Every once in a while, there comes a call for a blogging code of conduct. Usually, these rules are unwritten, but after what’s been happening to Kathy Sierra et al., some are campaigning for a more concrete code of ethics for bloggers.

And it’s not just people outside of blogging that are out of touch with its ins-and-outs. Tim O’Reilly tells the BBC:

“I do think we need some code of conduct around what is acceptable behaviour, I would hope that it doesn’t come through any kind of [legal/government] regulation it would come through self-regulation.”

While condemning the bloggers who issued the threats, Mr O’Reilly was keen that the whole blogosphere should not be tarred with the same brush.

“The fact that there’s all these really messed-up people on the internet is not a statement about the internet. It is a statement about those people and what they do and we need to basically say that you guys are doing something unacceptable and not generalise it into a comment about this is what’s happening to the blogosphere.”

Clearly, the people sending Kathy and others death threats crossed the line. Do we need to redraw it—literally?

via Drudge, c/o my husband.

  • I sure hope not. I’d be very much against any code of conduct. Who would decide, where would it stop? Would we have to have a code of conduct for readers and commentators?

    My hope is that the blogosphere will define what’s acceptable, and those blogs that live on the fringe will find themselves with little attention.

  • Jordan McCollum

    I knew you’d say that. I think Tim wants the blogosphere to define what’s acceptable, too, but it might be helpful to have it written out. I could give a lovely lesson on the rule of law, written law and written constitutions now, but that’s not really relevant.

    I think that one way that might be more acceptable is for each blogger to set his/her own ground rules for his/her blog—kind of like our comments policy. Might not stop the abuse, but taking a stand might help to show what behavior is and isn’t okay.

  • rick gregory

    The problem with something written out is that, to be useful, it will have to be specific. And then you’ll get the usual arguments about exactly where to place the line and why a particular thing is just on one side or the other of that nice new line. If you don’t get specific, you get into the arguments of whether a particular action really cross the line or not.

    The stuff Kathy has had to endure is so far over any conceivable line that it would violate any code worth the name. So, what would have been served by having that code?

    What would the punishment be if one did violate some code of conduct? And who is going to arbitrate said violations? Do we have a prosecutorial process? Under what authority? I don’t need anyone’s permission to setup a blog now and I would view any world where I did need permission with a lot of alarm.

    There’s a desire to have bright lines but that rarely works in areas of social norms… some things are obviously beyond the pale, some are obviously OK. What we need to do is ostracize the people who do go far too far (death threats, sexual insults and threats), question (on an individual basis) those things that make us queasy discuss the gray areas and compliment people who do good things.

  • Rick – I wish I had said everything you just did! 🙂

  • It’s human nature for idiots to get brave when they believe that they can get away with it. The solution is to remove that anonymity, and make people really think twice about what they’re saying. (yes I know it’s not that simple, there are many ways around it – faking IP etc. – , but it should sort out quite a few of the idiots).

  • I think Simon is onto something. I think it would be easier to build a blogging platform that removed the anonymity rather than trying to enforce a code of conduct that would most likely get worse and more restrictive over the years.

    We have plugins for SPAM…why not develop ones that detect hate, anger, or threats?

  • Jordan McCollum

    You can do that manually with WordPress, at least, if you can think of all the words someone might use in hate speech.

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  • Guidelines are often good, for many folks having a universal theme to work with is a great thing. With that said, as long as there is the internet there will be flamers, spammers, and trolls. Some people enjoy them and look for them. Some folks like sites where they can flex their own “flaming muscles”. To those people that create the environment and support those individuals – more power to them. I choose not to frequent those communities… Having communities that follow a guideline of conduct would certainly be more appealing to me. If there were a way to identify them, either from a directory, site, or badge of identification, I’d probably linger longer.

    It’s a fantastic topic for discussion and it will be interesting to continue following how the blogosphere incorporates (or ignores) this thought process.