Blogger code of conduct

I’ll let you read Tim O’Reilly’s code of conduct for yourself. While I understand the desire to create something like this, especially in light of what happened to Kathy Sierra, it doesn’t address the real problem. The code sure wouldn’t have prevented what happened. It also scares me the amount of traction it’s getting. The mob is forming, non-conformists beware. If Dave Winer had tried this, he’d have been flamed to a crisp..

The code of conduct ignores a fundemental fact:

People can be assholes.

No code of conduct will correct that. I can’t put my finger on it, but the whole concept of a code offends me somehow. It seems to be yet another way to avoid personal responsibility. Tony Hung and Robert Scoble bring up interesting points, two posts well worth your time.

I’m not defending the actions of those who routinely offend or troll just to cause a disturbance, but those who are targeted by such a code wouldn’t follow it anyway. If there are no crimes, do we need police? So what happens next, the Keepers of the Code and their sheriff badges start policing blogs that do not conform? Holy crap that’s a slippery slope. I chose to not be a part of this, and I urge you to think about it before you slap that badge on your site.

Here’s my code of conduct:

The views expressed on this site are my own and in no way reflect the positions, opinions or strategies of my employers or clients. Anything I’ve written here is evaluated on the fact that I will be able to sleep at night. If I’ve offended you, I probably didn’t mean to, or you may have mistaken my judgment of an idea as a personal evaluation. There are rare cases though, where I might actually think you’re a tool. I reserve the right to think and express that.

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  1. hugh says:

    yeah I found this whole thing really strange, on both sides. I ain’t no lawyer, but my understanding is that the original posts were actually illegal, that is: they were death threats, which is a crime. so a code of conduct is just a weaker version of something that already exists. or rather weaker in that it has no force … but at the same time more wide ranging & invasive…. and annoying.

    I also think the “freedom-at-all-costs” argument on the other side is a bit pissy. Freedom’s all good & well, but come on. I’m not free to punch people in the nose. And I’m not free to threaten to kill them in weird sexual ways.

    Rather than a code of conduct & all the buttons & hats & graphics & tshirts & bumber stickers that go with it, maybe each blogger could post one of 2 things in their sidebar, so we’ll all know where we are:

    1. “I am a jerk”
    2. “I am not a jerk”

    …and, really, “civility enforced” ?? that’s pretty creepy-sounding.

  2. Jim Milles says:

    I don’t know, Bob; my initial reaction was somewhat like yours, but after reading O’Reilly’s guidelines I think it makes some sense. He is not calling for any overall enforcement mechanism or any sort of rule-making organization, just a simple, voluntary choice by each blogger: do I want to allow a completely free, even if occasionally offensive, wide open discussion on my blog, or do I want to try to maintain a different type of community? The badges he is proposing (“Civility Enforced” or “Anything Goes”) would be available for any blogger who chooses to participate. How is this any different from the “Powered by Passion” idea that Mark and Andrea have proposed on their blogs and podcasts? (And whatever became of that, anyway? I thought it was a great idea.)

    Don’t forget also, that freedom of speech means that anyone can create their own blog–including the full environment of the blog, with whatever sorts of limitations or suggestions for topics, manners of discussion, or rules of conduct you like. If I have something to say that you don’t want on your blog, I can post it on mine, and link to you. Freedom of speech has to include the freedom to promote the sort of productive discussion you want, on your own blog, in any way you see fit.

  3. Bob says:

    hehe Jim, I reacted like you at first, then I went the other way 🙂

    I think as soon you as you call for badges, you open the door to enforcement, otherwise the badges are meaningless. I don’t see how that would lead to anything else but monitoring (if not policing) to maintain adherance to what the badges represent.

    I agree about your point about freedom of speech, and I don’t see that going away..

    I agree with Hugh though, that “Civility enforced” thing sounds creepy to me.

    I think “Powered by Passion” was easier to define, as it was a black/white thing. It’s either done for money or not. Civility, though has many meanings and interpretations which can vary greatly by region/culture/affiliations etc..

    I’m inherently uneasy about something that tries to make black or white out of grey.

  4. hugh says:

    hey jim,
    I would say that every blogger I read on any regular basis adheres to a high standard of reasonableness already (otherwise I likely wouldn’t be reading them), so what is the purpose of the badges? I take civility for granted, I suppose, because that is my experience on the net.

    To me it would be something like walking around with a badge that says: “I am Not a Murderer.”

    … another way to look at it – “civility enforced” is presuming uncivility is the baseline everywhere, and must be “enforced” on my blog, whereas, again, my experience is the opposite. I *expect* the opposite as a matter of course. I expect civility.

    “Civility Enforced” seems so draconian and negative …and I think reflects badly on the web, and blogging as a whole: it implies that civility must be enforced.

    we’ve got a “code” at librivox, which reads:

    and, I think, achieves more or less the same objective without turning everyone into a presumed blog-criminal.

    so, i’d prefer something that presumes innocence (& civility), rather than something that presumes guilt and enforces good behaviour.

  5. Jay Moonah says:

    Bob, I’m with you on this. I posted my idea for a “code of conduct” a little while back at

    My point has been, we have a code to cover this stuff. In this country, we call it the The Criminal Code of Canada. What I’ve found about all this is while it’s not exactly offensive, it sort of misses the point that this that it’s really not about blogs or the ‘net or whatever else.

    Posting on the Internet makes it easier to be anonymous, but it doesn’t change the fundamental problem. Doesn’t matter if you’re Ernst Zündel with an pamphlet or an idiot blogger or commenter, if you make threats or hate speech, you’re a criminal.

    If a nice neat “code of conduct” was to fix everyone’s problems, we would have a trouble free society since Moses came down from the mountain. Unfortunately we don’t and we never will, so we have laws and we have penalties for breaking them.

  6. Mark says:

    The proliferation of online communications has dehumanized communications and relationships. It’s made them nameless and faceless. At least, for a vocal few that are tainting the potential value of the tools that make relationships that break distance and time barriers possible.

    I believe in the elements that go into O’Reilly’s code of conduct. It feels like his goal is to remind the online community that there are people on the other end of the website. What I find hard to believe is that we need to have the proposal of a code of conduct and a discussion around it.

    It’s simple… if you haven’t anything nice to say, don’t say it. Do we need to police that?

  7. Mark says:

    After re-reading what I wrote, I realize that what I was trying to say is that there is a real anti-social-media subculture that has taken root. The best we can do is take care of the relationships that matter to us.

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