High-profile bloggers planning code of conduct.

Something about the internet and anonymity reveal people’s inner dickheads, as Virginia political blogs illustrate more and more clearly with every passing month. The New York Times reports on the call for an internet-wide blogger code of conduct, using BlogHer’s community guidelines as a starting point. Personal attacks and threats have become an incresaingly-accepted norm. It’s time to build a wall between those blogs that are premised on this behavior and those that won’t stand for it.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

21 replies on “High-profile bloggers planning code of conduct.”

  1. With a few exceptions the wall is largely one between anonymous versus named content. I have hope that systems like Open ID will close the gap further so that people who choose to operate in the civilized camp may project some assurance about their actual identity.

    There may be a place for anonymous content, but it is primarily used by people to avoid getting caught wasting time at work or making a nuisance of themselves in ways that they would never do in person. Were it available I could easily switch on a non-anonymous filter to all my web browsing content and never look back at the day of filtering through Jane Doe commentary.

  2. I personally would like that everyone adhere to a code of conduct, but I don’t see it happening. Some people are just frankly too pathetic and sad to care about their behavior. I have been called at my place of work and threatened by those who find me…threatening, I guess. I have gotten anon comments that have made it clear that my place of residence, work, and even the make of my car is known to other bloggers, or lurkers. Is it annoying, creepy, and kind of frightening? Sure. But they forget that IP addresses are pretty easy to track, esp. if they are return visitors, and threats don’t bother me that much. If I am getting under the skin of a person so small that they have to call my job and “try” to get to speak to my boss about what I do and say, then they have a hell of a lot more time than me. They also have proven that they have less than no life.

  3. That’s really terrible, Jaime. I hope you’ll take any future threats to the police, and perhaps past ones. There is a distinct possibility that these threats are not hollow. Anybody willing to engage in such a behavior may well be willing to hurt you. By taking a stand, you could prevent many others from suffering similarly.

  4. Hmmmm, yeah, I guess you’re right. I figured, “eh, pshaw, they’re just trying to get a rise,” but the truth is, they could really do damage if they wanted to. And think of how many people they could be threatening like this. Now, we may sit on opposite sides of the aisle, but can we not be civil enough to let one another get a paycheck and live in a place where their mailing address is safe? Anyway, I will heed your advice in the future.

  5. Meh, a code is useless as it will only apply to those who already follow it. And the guidelines on comments, having such things shared and such won’t change the complaints of those who are already shut out by limited commenting arrangements. The best hope one can have is for a sense of community to be developed so like minded people can band together when necessary, whether privately or publicly, and understand that we’re all in this thing together and hopefully foster a sense of civility. But to codify that civility is to voluntarily open the more “legitimate” bloggers to greater regulation. Our best bet is to simply have an unwritten understanding and a close group of friends who we know have our backs when faced with asshattery.

  6. In the early days of Operation Iraqi Disaster, I engaged in some fact-based blog discussion with what can only be described as a hard-right, neo-fascist group of truly wacky self-described “veterans”, who took my dissention from the party line as a clear case of Treason, and Anti-Americanism. These guys regaled one another with tales of violence against “traitors” in their former military units, and noted that I was one of those kind.

    At some point the moderator, a normally somewhat level person, decided to join the blog Goons, and Followers – by posting my name, address and description. I guess he thought it would be fun to unchain the dogs. What followed would curl your hair. I was harrassed by email, phone, and eventually received anonymous letters at my home. I was physically threatened by people who indicated that they were willing and capable of harm. Although the moderator had taken great care to hide his own identity, his efforts were flawed. When contacted directly he was shocked and frightened. We agreed that the thread with my personal info would disappear immediately along with a message that the information and comments were wrong. The lessons I took from this:

    1)There are crazy people blogging, leave them alone.
    2)Don’t moderate a blog that cultivates crazy people.
    3)When crazy people use your blog, you are responsible for them.
    4)Using a pseudonym allows you to(sometimes)protect crazy people from themselves, and their demons.

  7. Meh, a code is useless as it will only apply to those who already follow it. And the guidelines on comments, having such things shared and such won’t change the complaints of those who are already shut out by limited commenting arrangements.

    I disagree with this, but for perhaps not a very good reason. This is the same logic often applied to laws: the good people don’t need ’em and the bad people won’t follow ’em. While accurate, we continue to self-regulate because the alternative (anarchy) isn’t particularly attractive.

    But I think that’s a valid objection, one that I’m sympathetic to, with a single exception that’s brought up in the New York Times article. A big part of the advantage of such a code of conduct is that it would make it socially acceptable to reign in the behavior of commenters. There’s no clear standard on when it’s appropriate to ban somebody or to erase comments. If we established some rules as to when those two acts are appropriate, then bloggers wouldn’t need to fear blow-back when banning somebody or erasing comments within those guidelines.

    1)There are crazy people blogging, leave them alone.
    2)Don’t moderate a blog that cultivates crazy people.
    3)When crazy people use your blog, you are responsible for them.

    These are all very good rules, especially the third. When running a blog with comments, you’re running a community. If that community behaves badly it’s your fault. If people tend to be rude, obsessive, nasty, or commit crimes, then that’s the fault of the person running the blog for failing to exercise proper control over his community. (This is where things get awkward for those of us who run aggregators.)

    IMHO, an enormous percentage of the social problems that spring from blogs could be avoided if more people understood and acted upon their supervisory roles.

  8. I hate it when sites require registration for commenting — I really don’t want to go through the whole verifying-my-email-address rigmarole every time I come across some random blog post I want to discuss.

    Of course, OpenID is a great solution for this.

  9. “Something about the internet and anonymity reveal people’s inner dickheads”

    I cant believe you used that conjunction. I always thought you preferred penis.

  10. Waldo – I think the treament of commenters is something that will be unique to each site. At the very least, a blogger could post their own rules somewhere on their site, but to say that I’m responsible for how people comment on my site is to make me responsible for the words of others and that’s just not fair. I may decide to keep an offensive comment up in order to refute it, I can not be held accountable for that offensive statement, yet this code requires that. Should Verizon be held accountable for what people do with their internet account? Should blogspot be held accountable for someone who blogs on it? Why should I be held accountable for what someone says, especially if I don’t agree with it.

    Beyond that, this just seems like a way to create a table for the cool kids. It’s a way to show who’s cool and who’s not and limit readers starting to find blogs and thoughts for themselves. How is this any different than someone creating an aggregator of only the “best and brightest” blogs as they call them and people taking that as the God’s Honest Truth? It’s automatically limiting and creates a false impression of what blogging is about.

    Who is the audience of this code? The bloggers who already agree to it? The readers who can form their own opinions? Or the mainstream media that a good number of folks really want to please?

    I just don’t like the idea of voluntarily regulating ourselves with a written code that could very easily become the rough draft for actual legislation that limits the ability of respectable bloggers to blog.

  11. No, Waldo, I’d like to know. How can you condone the language you use on these boards? Do you find it wrong that you use these vulgarities? What makes it OK for you to use them, and yet, when you’re called on it, you make US out to be the bad guys?

    I mean, I don’t think these are difficult questions to answer and own up too. They are questions that demand a response.

  12. Alex, if you don’t like the words that I use, stop reading them. If you find the word “crap” so confusing and offensive to your tender eyes, cover them and flee, flee to the safety of your mother’s arms! There there, Alex. There, there.

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