Colin Rule’s post today points to what will certainly become a heated point of discussion in the weeks to come – a Bloggers Code of Conduct. Some are clearly very dismissive about this latest initiative to establish a foundation of civility to blogging, whereas others like Colin think otherwise.
This latest furore concerning the need for a blogging code of conduct concerns the travails of Kathy Sierra, who received death threats through her blog. It’s interesting how a single (albeit well-known) blogger in the West can generate a global discussion on civility, whilst others such as this recent example in Egypt, are incarcerated for speaking out their mind with scarcely anything done to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
As an ArsTechnica article avers, with which I agree with based on my own experience of blogging:
… suggesting that all bloggers voluntarily follow this single set of guidelines seems both impractical and unneccesary. The Internet is so vast and people so diverse that a single standard for all of them is unworkable. As noted above, plenty of people would in fact make all sorts of abusive , libelous, or ad hominem statements in person. People differ on determining when an attack on another person is “unfair,” or even “threatening.” Plenty of web users have a libertarian ethos and might object to posts being censored to fit someone’s notion of civility, and they might see profanity, abuse, and ad hominem attacks as a simple part of the normal give-and-take of any heated discussion. Anonymous posts might be necessary on sites dealing with sensitive political topics, especially in countries where repression is a real concern. Talking privately goes against the whole purpose of a blog, which is essentially a public conversation; while encouraging those with disagreements to talk to each other might be a good policy, many communities would like to see this happen publicly so that the community is involved (and is a witness to) such a discussion.
A blogging code of conduct, so long as it is voluntary, is a fine idea, but bloggers worldwide might be better served by many codes of conduct that are tailored to particular circumstances and communities. Attempts at separating the sheep from the goats online can unfairly stigmatize those who don’t accept the code wholesale, but who might still run successful, vibrant, and responsible communities. More important than subscribing to a particular code of conduct is crafting one that works with your site, that is made public, and that is enforced.
Such a code of conduct is strictly enforced at Groundviews and though I’ve had some problems to date, the overall tone of published comments have been markedly different to those of the erstwhile Moju.
From personal blogs to group blogs, the necessary differentiation based on the content and ownership, prevents the belief in a simplistic set of rules that will govern communications in the blogosphere. Clearly, there will always be those who are disruptive elements. A code of conduct may give a foundation to not publish or isolate their comments, but it doesn’t prevent them from posting vitriolic comments on their own blogs or leaving comments in blogs that don’t follow the same guidelines. The very nature of the web is that if someone wants to say something, they will find a way to say it.
Does the proposed code of blogging help in any way to foster civility online? Possibly not.
Does the proposed code of blogging help in any way to highlight the problem of hate speech online and the dangers of blogging in the midst of violence directed against authors in the real world? Yes – and it’s about time.
I believe in civility, and trust the people around me to act appropriately. If they don’t I either deal with it or ignore it and get on with my life. I can almost see where you’re coming from and you probably have the best interests of the Blogosphere at heart, but that very same realm is one built on freedom and individuality of expression. What you are proposing is building a barb-wire fence around it and posting guards at the gate. Good luck to you.
And while you are at it, check out this hilarious illustration of a life-cycle of a blog post here.