"Prominent" blogger Kathy Sierra has called on the blogosphere to combat the culture of abuse online. ... What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs... blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers. ... It has led her and others to question some of the unwritten rules of blogging. Tim O'Reilly has helped draft a code of conduct. At best, it's amusing.
1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.
We are committed to the "Civility Enforced" standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it.
We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:
- is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
- is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,
- infringes upon a copyright or trademark
- violates an obligation of confidentiality
- violates the privacy of others
We define and determine what is "unacceptable content" on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, we will say so and explain why. [We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.]
Basically, it's saying that we're responsible for what's on our web site, and we can delete anything we don't like. Hurrah.
The thing is, if we're in the US or most of the civilised world we're already responsible for the content of our own web sites, whether or not we say we are. We've signed up to that in our hosting agreements, we're covered by the perfectly good laws that already stop us from infringing copyright or committing libel. And we can delete spam comments if we want, and we can delete comments we don't like if we want because it's our site and we can do what we like. Hurrah.
2. We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person.
Balls. Utter balls.
I spend minutes thinking about what I say here. I'm not this erudite in public, you know. I might say, controversially, that Adolf Hitler was a bit of a nasty man, but I wouldn't say it to his face. I might say it to yours.
But it's a written medium. It's not a conversation.
3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.
When we encounter conflicts and misrepresentation in the blogosphere, we make every effort to talk privately and directly to the person(s) involved--or find an intermediary who can do so--before we publish any posts or comments about the issue.
Not bad, but needs work. The fact is, though, conflict and misrepresentation is rife and some would say it's the basis of many blog entries. It's provoking, it creates debate. Stuff like that. But a private response isn't always appropriate, possible, or effective. Because blogging isn't a conversation.
4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.
When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we'll tell them so (privately, if possible--see above) and ask them to publicly make amends.
If those published comments could be construed as a threat, and the perpetrator doesn't withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with law enforcement to protect the target of the threat.
And we all live in a happy world, where bullies back down when you ask them to publicly make amends. Well, they do if it's not important or accidental, and if not - then hello escalation time!
And as for cooperation with law enforcement - again, I don't see why I need to state this? Either I will or I won't, and chances are I will, so why bother saying it? If I don't, then I'll be in trouble and that's back to my whole point - this isn't actually adding any protection to anyone, is it?
The only time I've seen a group of bloggers have any influence is when they googlebomb someone.
5. We do not allow anonymous comments.
We require commenters to supply a valid email address before they can post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with an alias, rather than their real name.
Must we? What about people without e-mail addresses? What about the comical wheeze of making up an e-mail address that LOOKS valid but isn't? Are we going to shove people through validation routines? Are we bollocks.
6. We ignore the trolls.
We prefer not to respond to nasty comments about us or our blog, as long as they don't veer into abuse or libel. We believe that feeding the trolls only encourages them--"Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it." Ignoring public attacks is often the best way to contain them.
Sadly, it's not easy to identify a troll, and it's not easy to ignore them. Every time I've closed down my blog, it's been because I've not liked something that I've read in my comments (hey, revelation, kids!), and that's absolutely my right if I want to.
So why is this going to fail?
There are literally dozens of blogs. New ones are created every minute, and the "blogosphere" doubles in size roughly once every twenty minutes. And guess what? It's completely impossible to force everyone to sign up to a blogging code. Apart from anything else, everyone's definition of a blog is slightly different. And not everyone allows comments. Comments weren't even available back when I started blogging. That's how old I am, so I know what I am talking about, kids.
So if any blogging code is going to work, then it's going to have to be entirely voluntary and customisable. Maybe something like the Creative Commons Licence. How many people have a Creative Commons Licence, eh? And how many people realise what it actually means?
But what will it achieve? And why is it being proposed?
I mentioned that right at the beginning, didn't I? A prominent blogger had some death threats.
And here's the questions that raises.
How prominent is Kathy Sierra? As I believe I mentioned a paragraph or two ago, I've been at this for years. I'd never heard of her. Which is not to say she isn't prominent, just that the blogosphere is a varied and diverse group of people that in no way can be described as a community. We just have one thing in common. We're no more a community than people who use credit cards are a community. So while I think what's happened to her is awful, I'm really not certain it actually merits all the brouhaha and kerfuffle.
And secondly, and more importantly, how on earth is a voluntary code of conduct along these lines going to stop defamatory comments on someone else's web site?
And a reminder of this site's position on the matter
This is my site. Think of it as my living room. You're here as my guest. If I don't like you, I will throw you out. Don't shit on the sofa.
Posted by DM
April 15, 2007 1:01 PM
I tried to think of something regarding this code of conduct thing but keep coming up with nothing much.
there was a discussion on slashdot
which pointed at (surprise) a blog
There's been a few posts on other blogs I read and the general feeling is pretty much the same. As in, what a load of rubbish.
Sorry about the sofa.
Once again you say exactly what I was thinking, only way better than I could ever put it.
Could you please extend this service to this idiot document I'm supposed to be writing for work, because god knows I can't make it come out right.
Could you put up a link (or even a reprint) to that excellent post you wrote on the subject of deleting comments, please? The one with a similar line to your concluding sentence here. That is the most sensible thing I have ever seen written on this subject, and undoutedly completely changed my view on what I do and don't allow now. Thanks.
Thank you :)