Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Blogging Code of Conduct

Hopefully this wouldn't affect too many of you, but it's something we should be aware of. Tim O'Reilly has created a draft 'Blogger's Code of Conduct'.

According to the BBC

The code was drawn up by web pioneer Tim O'Reilly following published threats and perceived harassment to US developer Kathy Sierra on blogs.

I first heard of what was happening to Kathy on Apophenia, and then I followed through a few links to have a better understanding of what was going on. And I can definitely understand where the concern is coming from. It's not something that I've experienced myself, but I can appreciate how nerve wracking and upsetting it can be.

Which brings me to Tim's code of conduct. The code has 6 points, all which relate to being civil and polite, and basically thinking before you speak. Pretty much common sense. But how do you codify common sense? And how can you enforce it? And is it really needed?

Unfortunately, as my bus trips often prove, there's no way of forcing others to be polite, considerate or even civil. And in an online environment, it's just as hard. Deleting someone's comment can result in calls of 'censorship', private emails can be posted in public forums, and the whole thing can get messy. Where in the 'real world', comments are verbal and only heard by those in the immediate vicinity, online the words are written and are there for anyone to see. Even deleting posts or comments doesn't mean that the words are gone. People will print screen the page to have a record of something said, so that later they can prove their point. We'd all like to think that others would act civilliy, but there's just no way to make it happen.

Another point in the code relates to anonymity:
5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

We require commenters to supply a valid email address before theycan post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with analias, rather than their real name.

This point has garnered the most response in the comments to Tim's original post, and a number of valid counter arguments are mentioned. Anonymity has it's place. I, here on Enquiring Minds, quite like my anonymity, and plan to keep it. It's quite easy to make a valid email address using any one of the numerous free webmail services available. And honestly, anonymity is an important aspect of the web. It's helped shape so much of what it is, and taking that away, even from a small aspect of it, would be a shame.

I do realise that the code would be opt in, but as a blog reader, I would have to 'opt in' on blogs that I read that subscribe to the code. And as such, it's not really so 'opt in'. And I cringe at the idea of the web being 'policed' in some way, even a small way. Personally, I don't think that civility can be enforced, not without severe repurcussions. It would just make situations worse, as the adage goes, "making a mountain out of a molehill".

And besides, he's made really tacky badges. That's not going to make me want to get involved. :)

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