• Print

Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct

Before I start, I should disclose that in addition to being an author and a conference presenter for O’Reilly, Kathy Sierra is a friend, and I’ve been talking with her about the situation referred to in this post since I first became aware of it last weekend. (I was not, however, aware in advance of her decision to go public with her story.) I know some of the other protagonists only slightly. In my comments below, I try to be fair-minded, and unlike many others, I took the time to speak to Chris Locke before saying anything publicly, but you should be aware of my potential bias.

I was quoted in a BBC article a few days ago and a San Francisco Chronicle article on Thursday calling for a “Blogger’s Code of Conduct” in response to the firestorm that has arisen as a result of Kathy Sierra’s revelation that she’s been targeted by a series of increasingly violent and disturbing anonymous comments on her blog and on a series of weblogs that appeared to have been created for the purpose of celebrating cyber-bullying.

[Note: Chris Locke argues in email that the meankids site was set up in fun, and while the first posts on the site were apparently about continuing the conversation that had been shut down on Tara's blog, he insists that those comments were not mean-spirited. (Tara confirms that the second post on that blog was a photoshopped image showing her as Dr. Phil, which is hardly inflammatory.) Chris claims that "There was no cesspool of misogynistic attack rhetoric going on there until the stuff Kathy surfaced began to appear." At which point the site was shut down. As a result, he feels that the characterization of the meankids and unclebobisms sites as "set up for the purpose of celebrating cyberbullying" is "false and irresponsible." I have never seen the sites, and they have now been taken down, so I can neither confirm nor deny Chris' statement about the initial tone of the blogs. However, if what he says is true, then the term "cyber-bullying" may be a bit strong, at least when describing the aims of the sites. I understand Chris' concern to make clear that he and the other founders had no intention of creating sites that would encourage the kind of comments posts that ended up there. That being said, as Bert Bates notes in the comments below, the offending items were posts by members of these group blogs, not comments from unknown participants.]

In a discussion the other night at O’Reilly’s ETech conference, we came up with a few ideas about what such a code of conduct might entail. These thoughts are just a work in progress, and hopefully a spur for further discussion.

  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.

    In his response to Kathy’s post, Chris Locke, owner of the unclebobism site where one of the most disturbing images was posted, wrote:

    I was a conference host on the Well 15 years ago where the core ethos was acronymized to YOYOW — You Own Your Own Words. This has remained a guiding principle for me ever since. I will not take responsibility for what someone else said, nor will I censor what another individual wrote. However, it was clear that Sierra was upset, so it seemed the best course to make the whole site go away.

    Chris’ comment echoes the libertarian ethos that many bloggers and internet pioneers share. However, we now have one more clear object-lesson on what you get when you start a site that not only tolerates but encourages mean comments: there’s a quick race to the bottom. It seems to me that there’s a big difference between censorship and encouraging and tolerating abuse.

    Contrast Chris’ statement with The BlogHer Community Guidelines:

    We embrace your diversity of opinions and values… but we insist that your content may not include anything unacceptable.

    We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked that is:

    • Being used to abuse, harass, stalk or threaten a person or persons

    • Libelous, defamatory, knowingly false or misrepresents another person
    • Infringes upon any copyright, trademark, trade secret or patent of any third party. (If you quote or excerpt someone’s content, it is your responsibility to provide proper attribution to the original author. For a clear definition of proper attribution and fair use, please see The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Legal Guide for Bloggers)
    • Violates any obligation of confidentiality
    • Violates the privacy, publicity, moral or any other right of any third party
    • Contains editorial content that has been commissioned and paid for by a third party, (either cash or goods in barter), and/or contains paid advertising links and/or SPAM…

    Yes, you own your own words. But you also own the tone that you allow on any blog or forum you control. Part of “owning your own words” is owning the effects of your behavior and the editorial voice you foster. And when things go awry, acknowledge it. It would have been far better for Chris to have deleted the post, and said explicitly on the blog that it was unacceptable, than to have silently shut down the blog and removed all entries and comments without explanation.

    There’s an attitude among many bloggers that deleting inflammatory comments is censorship. I think that needs to change. I’m not suggesting that every blog will want to delete such comments, but I am suggesting that blogs that do want to keep the level of dialog at a higher level not be censured for doing so.

    There are many real-world analogies. Shock radio hosts encourage abusive callers; a mainstream talk radio show like NPR’s Talk of the Nation wouldn’t hesitate to cut someone off who started spewing hatred and abuse. Frat parties might encourage drunken lewdness, but a party at a tech conference would not. Setting standards for acceptable behavior in a forum you control is conducive to free speech, not damaging to it.

    We don’t usually get inflammatory comments on Radar, but in the past, when they’ve occurred, we’ve tended not to delete them, lest we be accused of censorship. But in future, we’re going to adopt a policy of deleting comments that are ad-hominem, insulting, or threatening to any individual. I’d like to see other bloggers do the same. Obviously, there’s a responsibility on the other side for bloggers not to delete comments solely because they express opinions the poster doesn’t agree with.

    It’s important to be transparent. If a comment is deleted, it’s likely good practice to say so, and to explain why. (It would be nice to have mechanisms in blogging platforms to show markers for deleted comments, with the reason shown.)

  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments..

    At our brainstorming session at Etech, Kaylea Hascall suggested something like the Creative Commons badges that sites employ to label the re-use rights provided for their content. This would let people know which sites to avoid, if they aren’t willing to put up with foul language and insulting comments, and as in the blogher guidelines, let people know in advance what level of discourse is expected.

    Explicit labeling of “danger zones” is probably not going to take off (I can’t imagine sites labeling themselves “flaming encouraged”), but the idea of sites posting their code of conduct might gain some traction given some easily deployed badges pointing to a common set of guidelines, as Kaylea suggested. But even absent such a mechanism, self-identifying your level of tolerance, as blogher does, seems to me like a really good idea. We’re going to kick around some design ideas here at O’Reilly, and may have something to present in the next week or two.

    In the meantime, The BlogHer Community Guidelines are a good place to start.

    Deploying moderation mechanisms like slashdot’s might also help. I know that there are lots of nasty comments posted on slashdot, but I never see them, because they are below my threshold of visibility. I’d love to see the major blogging platforms offer comment rating systems that would allow automatic moderating down of nasty comments. (Of course, many blogs don’t have enough comment volume for this to work, but there are enough sites with large commenter communities where this could be a big help.)

  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.

    When people are anonymous, they will often let themselves say or do things that they would never do when they are identified. There are important contexts in which anonymity is important, for example, for political speech in repressive regimes. But in most contexts, accountability via identity changes how people behave. Requiring a valid email address for comments won’t prevent people who want to hide their identity from doing so, but it’s one more indication that accountability is valued.

  4. Ignore the trolls.

    Sometimes you need to stand up to bullies, but at other times, the best thing to do is to ignore them. As one person advised me long ago when I got in a public tussle with a blog bully, “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.” Actors and other public figures have learned long ago not to read the tabloids (although they also have learned to take action when they get out of hand.) It’s human nature to flock to controversy. Responding in public to a public attack feeds people who thrive on controversy, substitute abuse for real dialog, and stroke their egos by putting down others.

    Obviously, it’s hard to miss nasty comments that are sent to you directly in email, and you can’t police your own blog without reading the comments, but you can, for instance, ban the IP address of someone who violates your guidelines. And you can let people know that their comments are inappropriate without shaming them publicly.

    Looking back at the comment thread on Tara Hunt’s blog that apparently led to the launch of the mean kids site, I also see something else: it’s important to know when to walk away. That comment thread (absent the comments that Tara deleted, and which as a result I’ve never seen) is not mean so much as it is an example of comment threads gone awry, with comment piled on comment till no one is very clear at all what the dispute is about. Know when to walk away from a thread. A sure way for an argument to escalate is to try always to have the last word.

  5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.

    While Kathy’s disclosure of the stalking behavior she encountered has led to much greater awareness of a very serious problem — we’ve seen an outpouring of stories from others, especially women, who’ve experienced similar abuse — it’s also true that in her post, Kathy tarred with a broad brush some people who were guilty only by association. (Doc Searls, for example, is someone I would go to the mat for as someone who is incapable of meanness.)

    When I first talked to Chris Locke, he was outraged because he felt that Kathy had named him as the site owner even though “she knows it’s not me” who posted the images. I think I was able to convince him that she didn’t know that, since she’d been asking for my help tracking down the perpetrator. All she knew was that the same small group of people, Chris prominent among them, had created first one site, and then another, that posted increasingly gruesome comments and images, and then disappeared.

    It’s an irony of the situation that the very thing that Chris thought exculpated him from blame (“We took the sites down as soon as they got out of hand”) is what made these sites particularly terrifying to Kathy.

    It’s a further irony that both Chris and Kathy, both exponents of networked conversation, communicated about the inappropriateness of the images via comments on the blog rather than by any direct means. (Kathy did communicate directly with several of the meankids protagonists, including Jeneane Sessums and Frank Paynter, but hadn’t done so with Chris Locke, who ran the unclebobism site, both because she didn’t know him, and because by then the harrassment had escalated to a level that terrified her, and she felt the need to go public.)

    I do know that when I was able to act as an intermediary between Kathy and Chris, explaining each to the other, I was able to create a bit more room for a real conversation to begin. (Obviously, this only worked because I knew both parties enough to suspect that there was at least some amount of misunderstanding at work.) Written comments in a public forum are a really terrible way to have an emotionally charged discussion!

    I don’t know what the result will be now that Kathy and Chris are in direct communication, but I do hope that it will lead to more understanding than a public exchange of accusations. In particular, I’m hopeful that Chris will be able to persuade the person who did create the gruesome image on the unclebobism site to come forward (something that’s far more likely to happen in a private conversation than a public confession) so that he can reassure Kathy that no physical threat was actually intended. (Chris clearly knows this person, since when we spoke he at first assumed that Kathy did too.)

    It now seems fairly certain that that the images posted on meankids and unclebobism were not intended as actual threats — but as long as the perpetrator remains anonymous, there is no way to be sure. In particular, as the person who is now seen as the most likely perpetrator insists, after the fact, that his computer must have been hacked, Kathy is left with the fear that there is indeed an unknown stalker at large.

  6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.

    Bringing this back to the level of principle: if you know someone who has anonymously published comments that could be construed as a threat, you owe it to them, to their victim, and to yourself, not to remain silent. If there is no actual threat, you need to convince the perpetrator to apologize; if there is, you need to cooperate with the police to avert that threat.

    If you know someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are merely offensive, but not threatening, don’t be afraid to tell them so. And if they continue, don’t continue to associated with them. As one person I talked to noted, “these are not your friends.” A friend is someone who makes you better by your association with them, not worse. And if one of your friends is out of line, you owe it to them and to yourself to let them know it.

  7. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.

    The next time you’re tempted to vent your anger or frustration online, imagine you’re talking to your mother. Or if you have no respect for your mother, imagine you’re talking to a big, mean dude that you met on the street. Or simply imagine the person you’re speaking to as a real person, standing in front of you. Would you say what you’re saying to them if you were in the same room?

Net net: as Doc Searls famously said in The Cluetrain Manifesto, the book he co-authored with Chris Locke and David Weinberger, “markets are conversations.” We celebrate the blogosphere because it embraces frank and open conversation in ways that were long missing from mainstream media and marketing-dominated corporate websites. But frankness does not have to mean lack of civility. There’s no reason why we should tolerate conversations online that we wouldn’t tolerate in our living room.

A culture is a set of shared agreements that allows us to live together. Let’s make sure that the culture we create with our blogs is one that we are proud of.

tags:
  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    Tim,

    Just a few comments on what I think is essentially a right-headed piece:

    (It would be nice to have mechanisms in blogging platforms to show markers for deleted comments, with the reason shown.)

    I encourage you to follow the policy that Teresa Nielsen-Hayden follows on Making Light: Disemvowelment.

    The discussion there is often heated, yet generally remains within the bounds of civility. Disemvowelment leaves a marker of the comment, one which can usually be puzzled out by someone sufficiently motivated to rd smthng lk ths. It also tends to publicly shame the rude commentator, yet is playful enough to soften the shame. The very word “disemvowelment” itself conflates the seriousness of the offense with the ridiculousness of the offense.

    You’ll notice in that article above that there are Movable Type plug-ins for disemvowelment. There are also WordPress methods, and I believe (though it’s not on the page) a Javascript implementation.

    Chris’ comment echoes the libertarian ethos that many bloggers and internet pioneers share.

    For all their knowledge of economics, libertarians often seem strikingly unaware of the concept of externalities. (I’m not saying that about Chris Locke specifically, by the way, but as a general observation.)

    Frat parties might encourage drunken lewdness, but a party at a tech conference would not.

    I think we might’ve been to different parties. ;-)

    More seriously, I think simple lewdness is of an entirely different category than threat and violence.

    But in most contexts, accountability via identity changes how people behave.

    The level of discourse in O’Reilly weblogs gained considerably when logons were linked to people’s O’Reilly accounts. I urge you to do the same for Radar. (I’m puzzled as to why you didn’t do this from the start.)

    Deploying moderation mechanisms like slashdot’s might also help. I know that there are lots of nasty comments posted on slashdot, but I never see them, because they are below my threshold of visibility. I’d love to see the major blogging platforms offer comment rating systems that would allow automatic moderating down of nasty comments. (Of course, many blogs don’t have enough comment volume for this to work, but there are enough sites with large commenter communities where this could be a big help.)

    Again, Making Light offers a fine example of how this can be done via community without much technical intervention.

    Know when to walk away from a thread. A sure way for an argument to escalate is to try always to have the last word.

    On the other hand, the last comment is often taken as the last (in the sense of definitive rather than final) word on a subject. This is a difficult balance to strike, and walking away is sometimes the right thing, but other times it’s not.

    Finally, I urge you to look into organized self-regulation in United States journalism from the late seventies and early eighties. We went over it in Mass Communications class years ago, and I remember just enough to say it’s worth checking out.

  • http://daggle.com Danny Sullivan

    Watching all this — and calls for a “code of conduct” — I have to confess to some eye rolling. That’s because part of me was feeling this isn’t about how bloggers should behave. It’s just about how people should behave to each other. Yes, don’t say (or act) online in a way you wouldn’t do in person. I wrote about this recently, http://daggle.com/061220-215331.html, and I’m far from the first or the only one. Blogger, commenter, journalist, posting on a forum, sending email, whatever. Act like decent human and as if the person you are talking to or about was as you say, in front of you.

    But to be honest, Tim, some of the other things you write do make sense from a blogging context. Enough with anonymous comments. Yes, email can be faked. But it’s a start to making people take more responsibility to have them register before commenting. Sure, it makes it harder to comment. That’s fine. It means you care more, and you are less likely to be abusive (since if you abuse your registered account, it gets killed, and you start again).

    Be responsible for comments? Sure — with the caveat that it’s worrisome in part to say this. Comments have so far been shown to have some protection as a public forum. If we start editing comments, so we start taking on a more legal responsibility for them? Regardless, if I have a comment I consider abusive, not helpful or whatever, yeah — I’m going to yank it. Anyone should feel empowered to do so.

  • http://dotnetjunkies.com/WebLog/paul/ paul

    Newspapers have lied us into wars, how many innocent people have died in Iraq since Kathy published her paranoia?

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj sees an ad hominem masquerading as a non sequitur

    Or vice-versa.

    Anyway, that’s how posters at Making Light call attention to comment spam, and to abusive comments.

  • Vanderleun

    Tim,
    As another long time veteran of the Well, I have to say that I admire your clarion call for a “Code of Conduct.” But when you go out to get one, be sure to pack a lunch and take along plenty of drinking water. You’ll be en route for a long, long time on the way to the magic land of “Ain’t Gonna Happen.”

    Still, it is a nice ideal.

  • steve

    Reminds me of Gandhi’s reaction to western civilisation: “would be a good idea”.

    I found the response more interesting than the cause. Lynch mobs doing the same thing as the perpetruator, only they felt justified as it was in a good cause.

    It is surprising how controversial and offensive it can be to insist on examining the evidence rather than indulging in emotive responses.

    So I am just as wary of those who behave well as I am of those who are overtly offensive. The Stanford Prison experiment illustrates that point very well.

    I don’t want politeness enforced by design. I want people to behave as they are. If someone is polite, I want to know it is because they feel that way.

    On the other hand, I do acknowledge the broken window nature of the problem, so I need to think some more. And a lot of other people do too. Even if they weren’t involved.

    PS. You mentioned that you would have a bias. I feel this showed in the way you didn’t point out that Kathy Sierra’s going public and naming people at that point was not the right thing to do.

  • http://www.paradox1x.org/weblog/kmartino/archives/004218.shtml Karl

    I like the idea of an optional code of conduct, but Danny Sullivan brings up an important point.

    Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.

    That implies a legal responsibility.

    According to the EFF, Section 230 protects bloggers from such legal responsibilities – for good reason.

    Lets say, as a hobbiest blogger, some content – just like the vile stuff that was posted against Kathy Sierra – was posted to numerous threads on my blog.

    And I take a vacation.

    I get back a week later. The damage is done. The content was further published, indexed, etc.

    Now if I agree that I am legally responsible – the sanest course of action would be to shut down commenting on my personal blog *entirely*.

    Lets take it a step further – I host a grassroots Philadelphia region blogging community. We already do our best to remove comments we think cross the line. We tell our community why when we do so. But sometimes – since the service is ran via a group of volunteers – we just can’t keep up.

    Would the sane course of action be to shut down the entire community? Because there is no way – just no way – to take full responsibility for everything posted to my service – without having thousands of dollars of budget or a hell of a lot more free time.

    This particular part of the code needs to be something akin to the Boy Scout Oath – “I will do my best…” – because to accept full responsibility will mean that those of us without resources will have to shut down the conversations that take place on our pages to avoid liability.

    And that will create a stratified web where only those with money and time will be able to provide places to converse – places to connect – places to grow.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not what you want – or any of us do.

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    karl,

    If you take a vacation, you can put all comments into the moderation queue until you return. That’s not ideal, but then, neither is having garbage in your comments.

  • http://blog.glennf.com Glenn Fleishman

    A sort of related problem that’s not commented on here or elsewhere. When the LA Times ill-considered wikitorial project failed, and when newspapers turn off comments because the “community” has become out of control, the assumption is that people with ties to the community are responsible.

    But there are a lot of amoral and actually crazy people who have access to the Internet, and they say and do crazy and amoral things. I had a member of a list on a design program that I moderated threaten me via email (from his company’s email system, even better) because I wouldn’t forward an off-topic post. I called his home and his place of employment, and he didn’t apologize, but got freaked out that I knew how to reach him — and that was all I heard about him.

    These days, however, we could have people in Australia threatening people in Colorado (or Kuala Lumpor).

    It’s not that I think Kathy Sierra’s antagonists don’t know of her, but it’s highly possible that as in other cases the people engaged in anti-social and illegal activities aren’t really part of a community that’s engaged.

    Those people never abide by rules, which is why, Tim, your rules make a fair amount of sense. If you don’t allow people tangential or not willing to engage participate in a discussion (or, rather, don’t let their extreme thoughts present themselves or persist) then you’re cutting off a rich source of bad behavior.

  • http://www.paradox1x.org/weblog/kmartino/archives/004218.shtml Karl

    Sorry adamsj, but for an average joe, that kind of solution just doesn’t cut the mustard.

    Getting folks over the fear of blogging in the first place is difficult enough, warning them that they must be fully responsible not only for themselves – but for the comments others post on their blogs as well will shut down opportunities for discussion that will otherwise not be there.

    Take it a bit further adamsj and you might as well say that WordPress.com should be held responsible for any blogs it hosts. That any ISP should be held liable for any comment it helps transmit.

    It’s a question of where the buck stops. Do we want a Big Brother state? Or do we want an environment that expects us to take personal responsibility for our *own* personal actions?

    I do think we bare some form of moral responsibility for the conversations we participate in and encourage – but the moment we codify that into a legal responsibility….. that’s the moment the Web… well it’s no longer the Web.

    Maybe suggesting a legal responsibility is not your suggestion Tim. And if that’s the case, maybe a different wording would help.

  • http://rosedesrochers.com Rose DesRochers

    Tim, for a year now I have been the victim of harassment. Mind you I have not come close to being the victim of the kind of harassment Kathy has went through, but if you Google my name there are some harsh things said about me. One part of this post I need to take into consideration is
    “Ignore the trolls. Sometimes you need to stand up to bullies, but at other times, the best thing to do is to ignore them. As one person advised me long ago when I got in a public tussle with a blog bully, “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.”

    I agree that there should be a code of conduct.

  • http://www.vsente.com Mike Smock

    Markets are conversations like Normandy Beach was a vacation spot on D-Day.

  • http://www.curious.com Curious

    The problem is you are not supposed to have you ID on the blog, which would mean no one will have to know you in the first place to be mean or whatever to you. What you’re trying to do is convert blogs into a mainstream things where people will have to go out of their way to be nice to each other. That might not cut it in the blog scene, and if that’s what you want, become a columnist where you’ll have an audience you can interact with, and that as you know it turns off ordinary Joes who just want to be themselves, and when something tells them to be mean they’ll be mean without feeling some cry sis will start whining. This only happens when you’ve your ID there for everyone to see it, and blogs are meant to be anonymous affairs where individuals get very creative, and you respect them for that, not for someone trying to make themselves popular, by divulging who they are. That’s mainstream and to play that kind of game on blogs you’ve to know how to turn a blind eye, and if you are a moderator delete what you don’t like because they are doing it everywhere, and don’t take everything personally if possible.

  • http://thisoldcode.net Aaron

    I don’t get this. For Kathy’s case how would rules of conduct matter? People would still post nasty comments, at some point you have to approve/deny them even if they are not anonymous(ie you have to read each one to approve or deny the comment). Your only solution as a blogger is to turn comments off. For the general public people that want that kind of bile will find sites that provide it, onces that don’t will leave and never look back. All you could ever do is brush the root issue under the proverbial carpet. People can be evil and disgusting. There really is nothing we can do about it.( at least not in this country)

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    karl,

    I thought your first post made a good point about the current “safe harbor” for unedited forums, but I did want to point out that the first example you gave had a cost-free solution.

    You lose me in your second post, though.

    I don’t speak for Tim, but I’m pretty sure he’s not suggesting a legally binding code of conduct. I wouldn’t support such a thing myself, and might not support exactly what he might support in a voluntary code of conduct. In particular, if Tim wants to make lewdness in and of itself an issue, then he and I disagree. (In general, that is–if he wants Radar unlewd, more power to him.)

    A voluntary code of conduct, though, is just that–voluntary. If someone feels strongly enough that his or her speech is unreasonably limited by such a code, then they’re free to violate it.

    What I’m interested in is seeing speech that treads sufficiently close to violence discouraged. I think Tim wants to go a bit further, and I’m not necessarily against that.

    (I am someone who has used a fair amount of such rhetoric in his day and would use it again if circumstances required, but no longer feels those circumstances arise on a daily basis.)

    Mike Smock,

    The agora is to market fundamentalism what gaia is to green fundamentalism.

    Aaron,

    The point is to establish norms. You’re right to say people will still violate them. Given that eliminating nastiness isn’t possible, reducing it without damaging free speech is still worthwhile.

    When you say, “People can be evil and disgusting,” again, you’re right. Establishing norms is giving people one more weapon with which to resist that aspect of human nature.

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    Most of this alleged “problem” would be remedied by turning off comments. Comments are strictly optional for blogs.

  • Ron G

    Hi Tim: judging by your image, I’m guessing you and I are in the Baby Boomer tail: We’re grown up, with a lot of mileage, and we’ve seen a lot of what this planet has to offer.

    Your thoughtful reasoned approach completely misses the fact that trolls, stalkers, brats, and just plain rude folks might be mentally insane or psychopathic. Reason won’t touch them because they are incapable of understanding deep humanity.

    The internet is wide-open and ten percent of your audience are certifiable (check Robert D. Hare for details). If you aren’t going to impose restraint you allow whack-jobs to unload in public.

    So you, me, our peers, our equals — and age has nothing to do with this — we all have to establish some rules to allow society to function without devolving into a jungle.

  • http://www.stpaulrealestateblog.com Teresa Boardman

    There has been some pretty nasty stuff directed at me both, publicly, privately, and anonymously because of my blogs. I have been slandered in comments all over the internet. I have recieved email that is nasty and I have banned one bloggers I.P address so that he can not leave comments. My blog is G rated and I protect it. No death threats but there are some sick and twisted people out there. no one can leave a comment on my blog without leaving an email addres which is easy enough to make up.
    We have many laws and codes of conduct yet people still committ crimes, the interent just provides a new vehicle for stalking and harrassing.

  • http://borasky-research/net/ Ed Borasky

    Tim, it’s not just about blogging, accountability, anonymity or cyber-bullying any more. What I’m hearing is that the Internet and the geek culture are so hostile to women that Laura Lemay wrote:

    http://blog.lauralemay.com/archives/2007/03/kathy_sierra_or_imminent_death.html

    ‘Honestly until this week I thought this sort of constant harassment was so common and so obvious it wasn’t even worth mentioning. It had gone on for so long and I had gotten so used to it that it hadn’t occurred to me that this is anything other than what it means to be female on the internet. I told Eric about it and he asked me, aghast, why I had never mentioned that I get death threats. We’ve known each other for fifteen years. It just never came up. The shocked reactions internet-wide to Kathy’s post have made me realize that hm. maybe this isn’t normal. And maybe it shouldn’t be.’

    That’s what my outrage is all about. It’s not about codes of conduct, but what seems to have happened to the industry in which I have earned a living for almost fifty years.

  • http://www.horsepigcow.com Tara Hunt

    Interestingly enough, it was ‘ignoring the trolls’ (or shutting down that conversation) on my blog that incited the meankids.org. When I was trying to please everyone and defend myself, it just kept escalating.

    After 2 posts over at meankids, which I ignored for a couple of days, I decided to comment…something to the tune of:

    “This is a pretty big honor for me to have an anti-Tara blog erected, where you’ve obviously spent a great deal of time photoshopping photos of me.”

    They replied, “Just wait for the next round.”

    So, I replied, “Excellent, I can’t wait.” and made a reference to enjoying the attention.

    To which they replied in a third post:

    “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.” (same quote you used, but worked it into the Horse Pig Cow thing)

    And ceased to bother me at all. In fact, a couple of them actually posted it on their own blogs that they were bored with taunting me and needed juicier victims (ostensibly someone who would become upset from such attacks).

    It wasn’t so much that I wanted to have the last word in this one, it was that I understood the psyche of someone wanting attention and played on it. So, yes, ignore the trolls, but it’s all about snuffing out their own “glory”. As a woman who has never shied from the public light, I’ve had them all of my life. But as a person who is always craving a little attention myself (ask my mom, I was a total princess), I’ve been able to defiantly out-”perform” them when I need to.

    I hear the commenters above when they say that a code of conduct is fruitless, but I still have faith. I, personally, like all of your suggestions and plan to print this out and keep it on my wall beside my computer, reminding myself.

    Personally, I’m ashamed of myself for talking to a reporter and not thinking about what I said about Chris Locke. I am trying to build the courage to email him an apology for it. It was uncalled for and said in a moment of anger.

  • http://www.jrtsoftware.ca Roger Tessier

    Just a nit. What you wrote here

    Before I start, I should disclose that in addition to being an author and a conference presenter for O’Reilly, Kathy Sierra is a friend, …

    states that Kathy Sierra is “an author and a cinference presenter for O’Reilly”, which is not, I think, what you meant to say. You should phrase your statements more carefully. And so should we all.

  • http://gailwilliams.wordpress.com Gail Ann Williams

    Nice statement. Thanks.

    The references to The WELL here and elsewhere are making my head spin, tho. Only partly because I manage The WELL! Partly because I have seen thousands of heated posts inside The WELL debating the meaning of YOYOW over years and years, as user and as a manger, and now Chris has yet another spin on it all, and we’re all bouncing off of that.

    Being responsible for what you post on The WELL goes with being non-anonymous there. We also refuse service to people now and then. Certainly we don’t condone illegal threats. Conference hosts have the power to delete (but not edit) the words of others.

    In the original YOYOW, as expressed by Stewart Brand 22 years ago, “own” was more about owning up to and being defined by your words, and that works in a non-anon environment. There are — and I still believe there must be, somehow — places for anon speech, but it is harder to collectively self-correct when there’s not continuity of identity. Much harder. So that to me is the heart of our larger dilemma on the net.

    I wanted to say this now because April 1 is the ironic birthday of The WELL, and all this very odd reference to the site we love is kind of disturbing. Thanks.

  • Motmaitre

    Forgive me for being blunt, but I think you’re talking utter nonsense.

    First, this is an overreaction to an overreaction to an overreaction. If Kathy Sierra is the type of pussilanimous woman who cringes every time a car backfires in the street, or sees a serial killer under every bush simply because someone with impulse control issues made explicit threats, she should go to therapy. People have faced far worse.

    As for your underhand stratagem to censor the internet, ponder this: some people like the idea of untramelled discourse. Some even think allowing the worst hate speech outlets to vent is cathartic and healthy. Allow a Nazi skinhead to rant, and he just might not kill someone.

    Some think anonymity is good. We all have thoughts we don’t express due to social convention. I probably wouldn’t be this blunt if I was sitting across a table from you. The sad thing would be that in that instance, you’d never know what I really think. By setting inner thoughts free (and even encouraging anonymity), the internet is richer for it.

    The reason blogs have comment forms is because some people actually want to know what others really think. Is’;t this suposed to be why web 2.0 is superior to the monologous web of the past? If you want a dialogue, be prepared to hear things you don’t like. Otherwise, be like those cowardly writers who have no comment forms.

    Lastly, not everyone has such a thin skin. Some do revel in the blood, gore, cut and thrust of no-holds-barred verbal combat. Those who can’t take the heat should get out of the blogoshphere.

    Code of conduct indeed. Next we’ll be calling for UN regulation of the Internet.

    Will you let this comment stand, or in your thin-skinned censor-friendly state of mind, will you delete it and silence those voices you don’t want to hear?

  • Joey

    What about when bloggers get a story entirely wrong and simply echo it around for eternity without bothering to do any research at all? Should that not also be part of any Blogging Ethics?

    I’m also not entirely sure Tara’s comments are accurate. She, like me, doesn’t have clean hands in this discussion she we’re both part of it.

    Best,

    Joey

  • http://www.figby.com/ Michael Moncur

    I assume Tim is smart enough not to be suggesting a “rule” when he says there should be a code of conduct. There obviously isn’t any one organization of bloggers – and it’s a conceit to even suggest such a thing – so there are no rules, really.

    And he obviously isn’t suggesting a law either.

    I agree – there should be a code of conduct. There should be several, and I should be able to choose the appropriate one (if I want to) and disclose it on my site. I’m not sure Tim’s proposed code would be the right one for me, but that doesn’t mean I want anarchy.

    The real take-away message here for me is that YOU should have a code of conduct for YOUR blog. Whether it’s a cute icon referencing a standard code, or just a paragraph on your About page, you should decide what your code is, then tell your readers, and do whatever enforcement is necessary.

    I couldn’t handle a “you own everyone’s words” code myself – sometimes a blog or forum is too large for the owner to keep up with it. But I can handle having an open line of communication for people to let me know when somebody’s crossed the line, and promptly taking action when they happen.

    Forum moderators have been dealing with this stuff for a long time. I don’t consider hate “free speech” on my forums, and the readers know the guidelines, so it’s rare that anyone cries Censorship when we remove a post.

    So…

    1. Choose a code of conduct.

    2. Take whatever enforcement actions it requires.

    3. Be reachable so that people can let you know when someone has broken the code, or when the code needs to be changed to maintain civility and community.

  • http://nobletranscription.wordpress.com Chris Naaden

    Before everyone in the discussion get too opinionated, let’s remember what Kathy Sierra was supposed to do.

    She was supposed to give a presentation at eTech in San Diego. If you’ve never heard Kathy, pick up her podcast from SXSW, and/or the transcription at my blog, nobletranscription.wordpress.com.

    Listen or read for some context.

  • http://www.ambiguous.org Quinn Norton

    “7. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.”

    My usual advice here is a bit stronger. I tell people when you’re writing online, always write to the embassy. Be polite, charming, magnanimous, careful and persuasive. Spell check. Write like you’re trying to convince the ambassador to get you out of a Turkish prison. Because someday, you might be, and in the age of Google and the Wayback machine, every post could be a letter to the ambassador.

  • http://www.blogworldexpo.com/blog Rick Calvert

    While I am personally opposed to a rating system particularly any sort of mandated rating system, I don’t see any problem with people voluntarily rating their blogs. Something like the movie ratings and now video game and music ratings could be useful for the more sensitive among us.

    Donít expect it to be universally adopted unless mandated by law. When that happens we all lose.

    I donít know any of the players involved but have read the comments that Ms. Sierra has made public on her blog (the offending blogs have been completely deleted). What she has posted is very tame compared to the everyday conversation in the political blogosphere.

    Take Tony Snowís announcement of his Cancer returning. Literally hundreds if not thousands of his detractors and political adversaries cheered what they hope is his impending death.

    Popular progressive blogger Glenn Greenwald has had several very unflattering photo shopped images of him posted far and wide on the net mocking everything from his political positions to his sexual orientation.

    Want to see a real credible death threat?

    A well known scandal in the political blogosphere involved real life Ex CIA Agent Larry Johnson anonymously (until he was caught) threatening a mid level political blogger Seixon with physical violence.

    Mr. Johnson has the know-how and means to really hurt someone. In the end the police did nothing.

    Please google any of the above examples.

    The comments leveled at Ms. Sierra pale in comparison (unless there are things I am unaware of).

    The moment you decide to blog, podcast, or publicly publish any content you make yourself a public figure. People will respond to what you have created. The more people are exposed to it the more response you are going to receive good bad and ugly.

    Anyone who publishes anything ever without knowing this is naive.

    You may wish the world was different but it is not, never has been and never will be.

  • http://phoenixrisingtattoo.hartjoy.com/thornesworld.html Thorne

    Greetings. I’m not directly an part of any of this KS issue; just came upon it at BlogHer, and have been following from link to link to try to get a general idea of the whole story (being the “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” type).
    As I commented on another thread:

    There are alot of valid points made in the original post here, as well as by many of the commenters. I myself, have had strong and varying feelings and thoughts on this topic since first catching wind of it.

    Here are just a few:

    “OMG!! That’s taking it too far. This is NOT satire. Noone should be threatened this way.”

    “KS is so overreacting”

    “How irresponsible to link to a hate site”

    “Wait, was it a hate site or a juvenile satire site”

    “What about free speech?”

    “How can people be so hateful toward each other”?

    “Who is crying wolf now”?

    I could go on, but I suppose what I’m trying in my fumbling way to express is that I am constantly surprised by my own naivetee. I’m repeatedly getting caught up in “Spin”. It’s difficult to keep the facts straight, especially when we don’t really know what the facts are.

    If there was a death threat made it should be appropriately investigated and adjudicated.

    If it’s a matter of character assassination it’s Civil. (whether against or by KS or both)

    Intimidation is a tool of the ignorant, and Trolling and Baiting and Flaming have practically become an Internet institution unto themselves.

    I have a delete key and am willing to use it.

    That said, I really think that the bloggers and site owners that would abide by your “Code of Conduct”, probably already are, for the most part and as they see fit. Although you have made some valuable suggestions, in it’s entirety your “Code” is flawed in some of the ways already mentioned, and perhaps in ways as yet unforeseen. As a blogger and a citizen of this so-called “free” country, we are already plagued by legal provisions in the Patriot Act and elsewhere that impinge seriously on our right to express ourselves freely, and guilt by association is again (as in the days of McCarthy, Hitler, and countless others) is a tool of the powers that be.

    Will and should we as bloggers attempt to implement a “Code” that amounts to censorship? Or shall we continue to each operate our blogs in the way that meets our own comfort level?
    KS is not some 13 year old that has been lured to a remote site by a sexual predator, and she herself, has fallen short of your proposed “Code”.

    By your “Code” should I be ostracised for posting this,
    I Repudiate Fear

    publicly, in my personal life journal after having doors in my house kicked in, my grandmother and daughter terrified, and my life directly threatened face to face?

    Let’s think, people.

  • http://schestowitz.com Roy Schestowitz

    On the rule of anonymity, it’s probably futile and undesirable. People can easily fake identity and some valid comments get posted without disclosure. Unless there’s some digital signature (maybe OpenID), it’s unrealistic, IMHO.

  • http://onwebapps.com Shanti Braford

    Mod +1: Tara Hunt’s comment.

    Those of us who have never really been attacked or threatened cannot meaningfully comment on the issue, imho.

    It’s like men who try to have really strong opinions on abortion: they just do not come out looking so hot (regardless of the side) no matter how you slice it.

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    motmaitre,

    Two points, possibly connected:

    First, “word master” is better translated as “maitre de mot”.

    Second, what you are accusing Kathy Sierra of is being “pusillanimous”–only one s. You have two.

    I leave it as an exercise for the reader to consider whether your command of etymology and lexicography might suggest something about the basis of your argument.

  • http://clublet.com/why?RichardDrake Richard Drake

    A useful conversation, thanks to Tim and others. Earlier I made a suggestion on Scobleizer as to what a voluntary code of conduct should be called:

    “Zero Tolerance Internet”

    That was inspired by an earlier suggestion and graphic on Scoble’s blog.

    http://brandcurve.com/zero-violence-blog

    It’s meant to have shock value – and of course to allude strongly to the clean up that has worked (as far as I can tell) in places like New York. But, as is being discussed here, it’s the content of the code that is key. Disemvowelling is a lovely weapon to add to the armory, in my view. But who decides what’s part of the code and how? There are some initial suggestions on that which I won’t repeat here:

    http://scobleizer.com/2007/03/26/taking-the-week-off/#comment-316731

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Hmmm — we really need to install provision for nested comments. It’s hard being away for a day and then coming back at the end of a long thread. But let me try.

    Steve, you write: “PS. You mentioned that you would have a bias. I feel this showed in the way you didn’t point out that Kathy Sierra’s going public and naming people at that point was not the right thing to do.”

    But I did. One of the principles I suggested was to go backchannel before making public accusations. And I pointed out that Kathy had failed to talk to Chris and had tarred people by association in her post.

    In her defense, Kathy was scared, and was hoping to get some collective action focused on the issue. But the reason I reached out to Chris and got him talking to Kathy was because I felt she’d erred in not doing so herself, and that this could be a way to shed more light on the situation, and less heat.

    That’s also why I didn’t “pile on” like lots of others when the flap first erupted. I wanted to make sure I really understood the situation first.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Danny, you say: “Comments have so far been shown to have some protection as a public forum. If we start editing comments, so we start taking on a more legal responsibility for them?”

    This may be a real concern, but like you, I think we have to get over it, and take the responsibility to police our online space. I’m sure that everyone deletes spam comments without a thought.

    I’m also not sure that this is analogous to other common carrier cases, but I’m not a lawyer, so I won’t opine further on the subject.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Karl, I don’t know what words in “Code of Conduct” suggest legal responsibility. I’m suggesting blog labeling, and a move away from a libertarian ethos that suggests that it’s *wrong* or equivalent to censorship, to delete inappropriate comments. I’m suggesting that blogs that encourage or tolerate nastiness let people know that they do so, and that those that enforce civility do likewise.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Aaron — here’s how rules of conduct would have mattered in Kathy’s case. If meankids and unclebobism followed this rule, they would likely have nipped the increasingly sexual and violent comments in the bud before they reached the level that they did.

    Of course, if they wanted to encourage those kind of comments, they can’t then say “we’re not responsible.”

    As Kurt Vonnegut famously said, “You are what you pretend to be. So you’d better watch what you pretend.” (Mother Night.)

    The point is that if people acknowledge responsibility for the tone they foster on their blog, then they either build a more civil community, or they don’t. And if there is a general assumption that bloggers are responsible for the tone of their blog, then people are incented to moderate, and to encourage civil behavior.

    As someone mentioned, it’s the broken windows problem. If you don’t look after your neighborhood, it gets worse, and eventually you have to move out. That’s what happened to both meankids and unclebobisms.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Joe — I don’t agree that comments are optional for blogs. A blog without comments loses a great deal of its value. We blog to learn. We blog to meet new minds and to engage with them. A blog without comments is a publication, not a blog.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Ed, I agree that a huge amount of what we’re talking about isn’t civility, really, but sexism and racism, as those are at the heart of many of the most egregious violations. Laura Lemay’s comments were eye-opening. And I’ve had similar conversations with many other prominent women. It’s sad.

    But there’s a continuum, and the fact that many of us allow people to make inappropriate comments without action, encourages the slide.

    People who are disturbed misbehave to test boundaries. If there are no boundaries, they misbehave further. Parents learn that about kids, and many of the problems come from kids whose parents never set boundaries for them (or children of parents with that same problem.)

    I remember when I was a kid, my father thought nothing of collaring some other local kid who was out of line, and frogmarching them home to their parents. In those days, every parent took responsibility for every child, at least in the circles I traveled in. We’ve lost that sense of community ownership of standards.

    There are two views of morality: one is that it is innate, and the other is that it is a process of social formation. I think there are elements of both. We are our own work of art, with raw materials, the gift of inspiration, and hard work producing either a mediocrity or a masterpiece.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Tara –

    A couple of points. Going back and reading the discussion on horsepigcow that led to the meankids thing, I have to say that it doesn’t look to me that it started at all as a troll. Chris looks to me like he really was a bit outraged to see Henry Ford held up as a hero, when he was a Nazi sympathizer. When you seemed to miss that point, and dismissed him as merely trolling, then things went back and forth, and after a while it seemed that people were enjoying the muddle and piling on for the fun of it.

    As to your response to meankids — you’re right. sometimes taking it all in stride takes all the fun out of it for mean kids. That can be a great strategy.

    As can calling them on it. Marty Graham, a woman reporter for Wired News with whom I talked about this issue, told a great story. One time, she had an anonymous email that said, “I’m going to cut your head off and stuff sh*t down your neck.” She said, I was a private detective before I was a reporter, so it wasn’t hard for me to track down the person involved. I called him up on his home phone and said, “Hi, this is Marty Graham. I understand you want to cut my head off and … Want to talk about it?” The guy apparently started blubbering that he didn’t mean it.

    When people can’t hide behind anonymity, many of the outrageous statements that are made do in fact evaporate, because people are ashamed to have people know that they are the ones behind the statement.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Gail, it’s great to have you clarify what the Well policy actually is. Thanks! It’s nice when someone invokes the ancestors, to have someone else come along and say, “not exactly…”

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Motmaitre — of course I’ll let that comment stand. You don’t seem to understand what I’m calling for: responsibility, not censorship; dialogue, not name-calling. You don’t agree with me, fine. You didn’t call anyone nasty names or say anything inappropriate, so why would I want to delete your comment, based on what I said in this post or what you said in your comment?

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Joey — You’re absolutely right that bloggers have a responsibility to get their facts right. That’s why I thought that many people’s rush to pile on after Kathy’s post was inappropriate. (It was fabulous for people to tell their own stories, but sometimes, people were making judgment of others without knowing the facts.)

    That being said, people will always disagree about the facts, and your responsibility is only to tell the truth as you see it, and to listen to others doing the same. You don’t need to tell their story for them.

    I’ll also point out that one of the big distinctions between bloggers and professional journalists is fact checking. This came up for me recently when I first heard rumors of the layoff meeting at the Chronicle. When I asked if it was OK to blog, the reporter who’d leaked the news to me said, “I’d feel more comfortable if you had a second source,” which led me to contact Phil Bronstein, the Chronicle editor in chief, directly.

    This is a really good point to bring out. I think I’ll make a second, separate post on this subject.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Shanti, you say “Those of us who have never really been attacked or threatened cannot meaningfully comment on the issue, imho.”

    If you take that attitude, most of us couldn’t comment on any issue, let alone take a stand against evil in the world that doesn’t touch us directly.

    Edmund Burke said it over 200 years ago: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

    But never mind evil: we can never truly know what anyone else’s experience is. That’s why we communicate, trying by speech and imaginative reconstruction to inhabit the world of another. It’s the most profoundly human thing we can do.

  • http://www.elainevigneault.com/ Elaine Vigneault

    Three ideas:

    1. I agree with Ed Borasky above. It’s not about civility, it’s about a culture of hate, a culture that attacks women on a regular basis for fun and entertainment.

    2. Tim’s calling for the blogging equivalent of the film industry’s rating system. I don’t think that’s enough. The real issue is violence, death threats, assault. There is a difference between assault and speech. In the US we’ve defined that in specific legal ways and anyone operating a web community based in the US should become well versed in those distinctions. A code of conduct won’t change that.

    3. I’ve disabled comments on my personal blog ( http://www.elainevigneault.com/ ) because I am NOT developing a community. But I encourage comments on my community blog ( http://www.2kblogges.com/ ). A blog is just a web publishing platform and it takes whatever shape the blog owner desires.

    Tim, you say, “A blog without comments is a publication” OK, so? That’s why I’m calling for a web publishers code of conduct rather than a blogger’s code. Bloggers in general tend to be more civil, more responsible, less anonymous than the average Internet user. Remember, the death threats came from blog readers, not bloggers. Those readers will likely make those comments elsewhere on the web, not just on blogs.

    It’s ridiculous to limit this conversation about misogyny, death threats, assault, free speech and so forth to the blogosphere when it clearly involves the entire web.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Elaine, you’re totally right that this isn’t just about blogging. It’s about comment moderation on any site that allows comments. A number of folks have pointed me to the completely inappropriate comments on the Washington Post’s coverage of Tony Snow’s cancer. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/25/AR2007032501218_pf.html

    I think they too would be well served by deleting this kind of commentary, and not giving a voice to the nasties. Setting norms for taste and appropriateness is not the same as censorship.

    And yes, my comment that “a blog without comments is a publication” might have been too strong — there are other elements about blogs: their personal tone, their time-sequenced posting, etc. that makes them unique.

    And you’re completely right that all web publications, not just blogs, should be thinking about this issue.

    I’m not saying that we can’t have sites that are devoted to nastiness either, just that they should be clearly labeled. You expect dirty jokes and stories about sex in Penthouse; you don’t expect them in Vogue or Time. What many online sites have done by failing to moderate their comments has been to damage the clarity of their brand.

  • http://nationalcomputerassociation.com Doug Skoglund

    Subject: Terrorism…

    It would be very helpful if you would all wake up and realize that what happened to Kathy Sierra was another example of terrorism, unacceptable behavior on the part of an angry individual. While the blogosphere may have contributed, the problem is obviously much larger and will not be cured by any kind of conduct code.

    We all know the cause of this sort of thing — just go back to your days in grade school and think about some of the “king-of-the-hill” kind of games that were played and how it felt to be at the bottom of the hill, unable to make it to the top. These kind of games create frustrated, angry people — some of which might very well get violent.

    The blogosphere creates angry people because it is exclusionary, it is designed to control or exclude the reader by controlling the process of communication. The ranking system (A-List) determines the actual participation, not the total number of bloggers. Techmeme is the grown up “king-of-the-hill” game.

    You want to fight terrorism — start working to include readers — develop an inclusive system that rewards new contributions — switch to forums — off-line forums: http://nationalcomputerassociation.com.

  • http://www.paradox1x.org Karl

    Got it Tim. That makes more sense to me.

    Elaine, “It’s ridiculous to limit this conversation about misogyny, death threats, assault, free speech and so forth to the blogosphere when it clearly involves the entire web.”

    Absolutely. Ya know, a lot of this reminds me of an old Clay Shirky piece “A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy”.

  • http://www.blogworldexpo.com/blog Rick Calvert

    Tim,

    Every blogger should take your advice about approaching a flamer / troll via back channel. I try to respond to every first time commenter on my blog via email particularly those who disagree and always those who insult me. My tone is always civil and I always thank them for taking the time to comment.

    The most abusive usually respond with gratitude, often times surprised and tend to become valuable contributors to some real constructive debates.

    Very rarely do they respond with more hatred and insults. Almost always no matter the disagreement a level of respect is established.

    As for the misogyny angle to this story, most trolls are intended to make the target angry or make other people laugh at the target’s expense. Anything is fair game for the troll. Your weight, your looks, your age, your race, your citizenship, your race, your sex, your sexual preference, your job, your relatives, your politics, your intelligence, your education and of course the old standby the spelling correction (as already witnessed in this thread).

    Maybe the tech industry is full of misogynists and racists /shrug. If the techy’s say it’s so then maybe it is.

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    Rick,

    I will own up to being the person you refer to:

    Anything is fair game for the troll…and of course the old standby the spelling correction (as already witnessed in this thread).

    I was snarky in my reply to motmaitre. I considered not making it or making it differently.

    What I was trying to get at was this: motmaitre chose a pseudonym containing a word, maitre/master, which is both male in gender and which has some sexual overtones. He (I assume he) also put an extra s in pusillanimous so that it started p-u-s-s-i. Whether he did so consciously or not, I read that in context to indicate at least a little misogyny.

    I don’t think Tim is saying that we should never be snarky or sarcastic (though I do think he would like for it to be toned down considerably), but that we should a) be more thoughtful in what we say and b) not cross certain lines. I agree with him whole-heartedly on a) and agree with him on b), with the caveat that I might draw different lines.

    I may not have expressed myself as well as I could have, and for that I’m sorry.

    I was looking for a way to say just what I found so objectionable in motmaitre’s post. I don’t believe I was trolling, and I don’t think I went over the line–but I’ll give it more thought.

  • http://www.horsepigcow.com Tara Hunt

    Hey Tim,

    Yeah…thanks. I know. And I’ve totally changed the way I respond to comments since. I should have probably deleted the tiny reference I made to Ford from my post, which was insignificant, but very much undermined my point anyway (which I think is what Chris Locke was trying to say, but David W. said amazingly well later on). That whole fiasco actually changed the entire way I handle my comments section. Now, I have a personal policy of stepping back for a day or so and ‘thinking’ about what was said. I get defensive offline (usually telling Chris M. the story), then think about it, then return to respond once I understand the perspective of the commenter. That was me owning my own words, so to speak.

    But the trolling did occur when, out of frustration that I wasn’t listening, Chris sent an email to his muckruckers list calling for help. Then there was a swarm (and I probably deleted 20 comments that were purely taunting and mean and non-productive).

    At Rick Calvert –

    RE: Maybe the tech industry is full of misogynists and racists /shrug. If the techy’s say it’s so then maybe it is.

    Maybe I wouldn’t go as far as saying misogynists and racists, but check out the comments on this thread:

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/02/27/ning-demo-video/#comments

    Yikes. At first it’s flattering, then it’s downright condescending. Ning is one of the geekiest things out there and Gina is a super geek (she rocks). I highly doubt she wants to be objectified when proudly showing off her work.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Rick — great idea about introducing yourself to new commenters via back channel email. (A bit hard to do with lots of new commenters.) Certainly worth trying for people who are on the snarky edge.

    Adams, I thought of remarking that your comments to motmaitre seemed to be an ad-hominem attack rather than a response to the substance, but it wasn’t really over a line I’d feel the need to draw, unless the personal name-calling escalated. That was partly because motmaitre seemed to be trolling a bit himself.

    The point isn’t to shut down every bit of snarkiness, but just to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    Tim,

    As you can see, I had ambivalence about it myself. Harping on spelling errors is often an ad hominem.

    In this case, I thought there was a misogynistic tint, and I was looking for a way to call attention to it. I also didn’t want to use what I think you’d consider inappropriate language, so I didn’t want to explicitly spell out what I thought was so notable about the misspelling of pusillanimous. (Which I ended up doing anyway.) Possibly the explicit way would’ve been better.

    That’s been the subtext to a lot of this conversation,I think: Misogyny, not always expressed openly. The open expressions are easy to deal with, relatively speaking. The others aren’t.

  • Bert Bates

    Regarding the backchannel.

    Kathy tried using the backchannel. Ten days before her post, Kathy emailed Frank and Jeneane with her concerns about the “noose”.

  • http://clublet.com/why?RichardDrake Richard Drake

    Adams, I for one appreciate the effort you’ve made to expose the sly misogyny that I now see was definitely there (though being in a hurry I didn’t see it when I first read monmaitre) and that in the context of Kathy’s suffering is a lot less than a joke

    But look how much time it took you. Compared to the minimal amount it took the anonymous perp, who can morph right away into some other guise, for some other slyness.

    It’s that unevenness of effort required to ‘be good’ that increasingly bothers me, that convinces me that our idea of goodness itself needs to be questioned. Among other things, it makes me question the simplistic ‘only delete the grossly offensive, not just because you disagree with the poster’. If you had been Tim (which you no doubt you both are gratefeul that you’re not!), and you’d read this post the way you did, a quick delete would have been a perfectly acceptable option. In my book. All power to the owner, for the sake of clarity and focus. One of the aspects of web culture we just need to vaporise is this sense of affront if the owner vanishes our stuff. Just like mine here. Thanks, Tim!

  • http://www.horsepigcow.com Tara Hunt

    I have a comment that’s been in moderation all day. I don’t think I said anything ‘troll-ish’ in it. I did insert a link?

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Tara — found it. Somehow MT decided it was junk. I don’t usually review junked comments, as it’s usually pretty good. It should be posted now.

  • http://www.mercextra.com/blogs/vindu Vindu Goel

    We won’t rein in the increasingly harsh tone of so much commentary on the Web unless those of us who favor respectful dialogue take a stand against the trolls.

    Tim is absolutely right to push for a voluntary blogger code of conduct. Many Web sites and blogs already have one, and if they don’t, they should seriously consider adopting one.

    The San Jose Mercury News feels so strongly about the need to fight back that we are publishing an editorial on it in Monday’s paper. (For a sneak preview tonight, it’s already up on my blog.)

    One thing we’ve learned at the Merc is is that when the punks see that responsible adults are paying attention to their nasty comments on message boards and blogs, they tend to settle down. If that means deleting the worst comments or publicly chastising commenters who are out of line, so be it.

    If we don’t fight back against incivility, Web discussions will continue to deteroriate and we’ll have more Kathy Sierra incidents.

  • Marie

    It feels that there is an increasing call on the internet for a code of conduct (optional of course) Not only do blog comments suffer from threating and unwanted behavior on occasion but there are also problems with ‘fake’ or ‘biased’ comments from PR firms and marketing departments.

    There was an interesting post on Ryan Gibleys (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/03/how_prs_invaded_my_blog.html)Guardian film blog a while ago

    There is definitely room for an opt in code of conduct, for example people would declare they would have to inform others when they have invested interest in say a film being reviewed, promise not to use threatening behavior, be truthful about their identity, and so on an so forth.

    I do not presume that this was prevent the all bad on blogs but would give authority to those who adhere to the code, and if in violation may face online blacklisting.

    I know that there would need to be heck of a lot of ground work put into something like this, but as i said there is room, does anything like this exist?

  • sandra

    Left field comment for you

    I don’t blog and am not a techie but moderate a smallish fan forum (9,000+ members)

    I will also be printing out your suggested code of conduct and referring to it for guidelines when dealing with the more persistent of our ‘difficult’ members and staff.

    The web is a wonderful place and the kids I moderate will be the techies of tomorrow
    The fact that all this is up for public discussion is very heartening, and because of the nature of the web the bullies and trolls will be left behind as we develop a culture of meaningful discourse that has its own intrinsic code of conduct.
    Within our new mass conciseness the reasonable voice will always be heard.
    Generations of kids will grow up on this new web politic and will come to expect it in real life
    I love the way the web changes the world

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    For those of you who are following the new comments only, and not re-reading the article, I thought I’d post here a note that I also added at the front of the article:

    [Note: Chris Locke argues in email that the meankids site was set up in fun, and while the first posts on the site were apparently about continuing the conversation that had been shut down on Tara's blog, he insists that those comments were not mean-spirited. (Tara confirmed that the second post on that blog was a photoshopped image showing her as Dr. Phil, which is hardly inflammatory.) Chris claims that "There was no cesspool of misogynistic attack rhetoric going on there until the stuff Kathy surfaced began to appear." At which point the site was shut down. As a result, he feels that the characterization of the meankids and unclebobisms sites as "set up for the purpose of celebrating cyberbullying" is "false and irresponsible." I have never seen the sites, and they have now been taken down, so I can neither confirm nor deny Chris' statement about the initial tone of the blogs. However, if what he says is true, then the term "cyber-bullying" may be a bit strong, at least when describing the aims of the sites. I understand Chris' concern to make clear that he and the other founders had no intention of creating sites that would encourage the kind of comments that ended up there.]

  • http://www.blogworldexpo.com/blog Rick Calvert

    Adamsj,

    No need to apologize. I enjoy a bit of snark now and then. I also completely missed the point of your original post due to not speaking French and being a bit dimwitted myself =p.

    Tara,

    Thank you for providing the link and a great example of how a popular and influential site can become a boys club.

    Would most of those commenters talk that way in front of their mothers, sisters and wives?

    My guess is not. Some people have a hard time realizing when such comments are inappropriate.

    Tim,

    Thank you for the kind words and what has turned out to be a productive post, thread and now intervention.

    Chris and Kathy have released a joint statement:

    http://www.rageboy.com/statements-sierra-locke.html

  • http://www.sergetheconcierge.com Serge Lescouarnec

    Tim

    I had the pleasure to meet Kathy at South by Southwest.
    I think what she had to deal with were tasteless pranks.
    Nevertheless I do not think that the whole episode warrants front page news in the media.
    To me however despicable the comments made on and to Kathy were it gets nowhere near the actual danger experienced by say the BBC journalist held hostage in Gaza.
    Maybe this is a case of the blogosphere navel gazing and loosing touch with real threats in the real world?

    Maybe we could use some of the energy spent on this topic to support the release of people such as the above mentioned BBC journalist.

    As far as comments go, screen comments and ask people to take ownership of them.

    My 2 cents.

    Serge

  • http://grandcanyonhiker.com Ken McNamara

    A graduated reputation system with levels based on a person’s willingness to take responsibilty for their remarks, provide identifying information and accept scoring by the web community at large might go a long way to solving this problem.

    If you don’t solve it technically this kind of stuff is going to end up in court and further damage the usefulness of the web (consider how far email has come – not).

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    Ken,

    Phil Windley makes the point that, given cheap pseudonyms, good reputations have value, while bad reputations don’t stick. (Again, Gordon Dickson comes to mind: In his story “Brothers”, a character explains his actions on the grounds that a person’s reputation is a thing of value, to be guarded even after that person’s death.) Here we see what happens when a cheap identity gets linked into meatspace.

  • http://3donthewebcheap.blogspot.com len bullard

    Of all of these comments, the one that has the most clout and local control is to refuse anonymity. Abstractly, this is local and global control regime problems. Given that there are plenty of local controls from turning off the comments, to moderating them, to filtering, this comes down to the willingness of the blogger to expose themselves to the danger given their topics and the positions they take on these topics.

    It is strange to see this labeled as a sexist problem in a medium where the behavior has not been limited thus. Or unsurprising. Perhaps there is something sexist in the reaction to the action but that is a rathole of a topic (should Bill O’Reilly at Fox Attack Rosie O’Donnell).

    While you can debate the side issues endlessly and to little gain, the best advice is to refuse anonymity with deliberation, meaning if you take the time to blog, you accept the dangers as a journalist does and you accept the responsibility to personally filter instead of leaving it to the machine or the community. If that limits the conversation, accept the reality that all conversations are limited and local by nature, otherwise they are cacaphony.

    Too much of what is accepted by the blog medium and web medium supporters about human behavior and the power of this medium to shape it is nonsense. The medium and the technology are just stuff. The human is the intelligence and the local control.

  • Bert Bates

    TIM: ” I understand Chris’ concern to make clear that he and the other founders had no intention of creating sites that would encourage the kind of comments that ended up there.”

    Just to clarify, we are talking about *posts* that ended up on those sites–posts made by authors of the sites — not just *comments*. There is a distiction between comments left on someone’s blog, and posts made by one of the authors of the blog.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Very good point, Bert. I’m trying to bend over backwards to be fair. But I believe you’re absolutely right. These were posts by authors of a group blog, not comments.

    This is a really good point that I ought to clarify in the piece, regarding responsibilities of a group blog.

  • http://clublet.com/why?RichardDrake Richard Drake

    The interaction between Bert and Tim raises a much more fundamental question for me.

    The story I have read is that at some point Chris Locke ‘took down’ the two sites. Which is meant to imply, I presume, that before the ‘take down’ event everyone in the world with a browser could read the full history — all the posts and comments, however noxious — and that after the event only a very few people could read them all. People at WordPress, in other words, perhaps Chris himself?

    What this situation demanded – and what future victims of this kind of attack have every right to expect – is for a trusted group of ‘wise men’ (and women) to be able to view the full record, for as long as they like.

    Tim O’Reilly strikes me as one of those people. In fact, Tim trying to summarize the situation without this this power is, on reflection, a tiny bit ridiculous. Indeed, I now think Tim should have made it a condition of entering into dialog with Chris Locke that both Tim and Kathy were given this power to see exactly what had been posted by whom.

    I’m sure I’m about to hear that, very sadly, the technology doesn’t allow for this.

    I don’t buy it.

    I very much doubt every disk sector and every backup has been wiped. And given the very serious nature of the possible offences …

    And that of course raises how much we should be told about police actions and police priviledges in this situation.

    What bothers most is that Kathy (or her agents) clearly have not had access to this terrible material, hence her uncertainty about certain things.

    It seems to me that Chris Locke has a lot more explaining to do. Including why this option of a ‘private viewing’, if necessary specially negotiated with WordPress, was not offered to Kathy the moment she made such a serious complaint to him.

  • http://grandcanyonhiker.com Ken McNamara

    Adamsj -

    You are correct -

    “Phil Windley makes the point that, given cheap pseudonyms, good reputations have value, while bad reputations don’t stick.”

    That’s why I think this needs to be implemented:

    “…person’s willingness to take responsibilty for their remarks, provide identifying information and accept scoring by the web community at large…”

    The Web ID problem must be solved. Then a ‘Code of Conduct’ has meaning.

    Then a blog could set an acceptable ‘reputation score” for posters. Reputation could have more aspects than moral (although that should be the starting point) – a technical blog could set a pretty high reputation requirement.

    Given a technical blog with a high rep requirement – a lot of the folks posting here would probably pass – but I’d wouldn’t, since I’m not highly technical and don’t post on other tech blogs. But, perhaps over time I could “earn” my way into posting.

    But even though I’m not highly technical – I’d like to suggest that the ID problem is essentially a technical problem and failure to resolve it will damage the Web (or continue to damage the Web).

    Having said all that – Thanks for allowing open posting.

  • http://jeremiahfoster.com jeremiah foster

    I am a blogger on The O’Reilly network and am going to follow this code of conduct. I feel it closely matches my own ethics.

  • http://blog.iimail.nl Nigel

    In the Netherlands you have this nice saying, that goes a bit like this:

    Never strike the person, always aim for the ball!

    Which suppose to mean that when discussing with people you’re not to personally aim at the people you’re discussing with – but on the subject.

    It’s one silly soccer-saying, but it’s the summary of your point here Tim.

    I’m afraid that the people who are responsible for these kinds of behaviour won’t be impressed by our calls for more decent behaviour tho… :(

  • http://jdscolam.blogspot.com Jon Scolamiero

    Well I’d just like to jump in here and say that I think this is a wonderful idea. Particularly if we did it in some sort of a voluntary manifesto signup.

    I’ve been around the net for a while, and from the Posting Board/Simming wars on AOL and mIRC, to LJ flame wars, to blogging threats it feels that something like a code of conduct is long over due. The cruelty on the net is just insane at some points, and more often than not it spills over into harrassment and negative action in real life. I have experienced this personally, and it can be devistating. I believe that at a grass roots level we should do something about it as a community.

  • anko

    Mountains out of Mole-hills. It’s a cute idea…in a vacuum. Am I wrong in stating that most individuals who engage in actions like that are fickle and by ignoring them the problem quickly goes away?

  • chuk

    Sticks and stones may break my bones but bad words
    are in the mouth of the beholder. OR
    Morality is on the side of the heaviest artillery
    Or
    If the shoe fits wear it, if not, sue the bastard!

  • Kathy Sierra

    Anko: Am I wrong in stating that most individuals who engage in actions like that are fickle and by ignoring them the problem quickly goes away?

    Yes. Although this approach works well for the random internet troll or flame-baiter, when people are determined to get a reaction from *you*–personally–ignoring them only makes it worse. They must then keep turning up the pressure until you DO react.

    I tried ignoring it… It just got worse. I tried cajoling and playing along. It just got worse. I tried talking to some of the people involved who I thought could stop it (before I ever went public). In still got worse.

    When one is determined enough to go to such drastic lengths as whoever it was that was posting on those two sites (we still don’t know who the real author was), the standard approaches don’t apply. Ignoring can “force” those seeking a result to escalate.

    It is the culture of “just ignore it” that has led us all to become so desensitized that we say, “it’s on the internet so it means nothing”, no matter how bad it becomes.

    What was the most disheartening, for me, is when–for example–a “standard” comment like, “You’re an idiot…” starts to become “You’re an idiot who should have his throat slit” and hardly anyone seems to notice the difference. Or care.

    If we all keep ignoring it, not only will it NOT just go away, in some cases it will escalate. I think we should rethink the standard advice.

  • http://penguinpetes.com/ Penguin Pete

    Wow, this whole article is right on the money! I recently had a lesson in just this issue this week. I finally deleted a troll that’s been hanging on for a year. I could care less what people say about me – that’s confidence! – but when the troll starts fights with everybody else on the board, that’s just too far. Other readers thanked me for finally blocking out his static.

    My explanation: just because I champion maximum freedom does not make me an anarchist. As in real life, I say that just because I’m a pacifist does not mean I’m going to stand by watching innocent people get hurt.

    My only caveat is the part about infringing on patents, and a few of the other rules in that section. Gray areas; if I say so-and-so site posting an editorial today was just plain wrong, is that libel? No, don’t think what your common sense tells you, think how a slippery lawyer could twist it around in court.

    As for the patents, about 80% of the technology patents out there are just plain stupid. It is impossible to use a computer without violating dozens of proprietary patents every day. Every control widget, every program command, every method has some patent troll claiming it. When the patent office puts somebody in charge with some common sense, and voids the thousands of patent trolls out there, that’s when I’ll start respecting them again.

    But for the most part, these guidelines closely match my ethics. I am so glad to see them set down in black and white.

  • http://www.theforvm.org M Aurelius

    I got here a bit late, coming from a Times article. I find a code of conduct to be basic, and banning a necessary tool.

    Does it always work? I have no idea. It more or less works here, a collective site I helped put together when our previous home was closed by its owner. It is a bi-partisan political blog which is reasonably successful at maintaining certain minimums, and the community has kept it going for quite some time, years in fact. The rules are extremely simple, and anonymous commenters are allowed, though registration is required.

    Anyway, judge for yourself.

  • Susan

    We need a better criminal code to deal with the most flagrant harassers, stalkers, defamers, etc.

    Current laws do not provide much protection and the process is awkward and lengthy at best…..just try getting a Court-order to get Yahoo to reveal the ISP and address of a user who is stalking you and you’ll see.

    A Code of Conduct is a great idea. However, the bright line of criminal harassment, cyberstalking, intentional infliction of emotional distress in the cyber-space arena should be much more clear. Cyber-laws should have real teeth, with financial penalties and jail time, and enhanced time for aggravating circumstances.

    This would be a better deterent I think than a code which most members already follow in their blogging.

  • Wanda

    I just read the article in the NY Times about the notion of a Code of Conduct in blogs and discussion pages. And I’ve just read the comments by people who are clearly better informed than I am.

    I cut my teeth on the old saying, “I may disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” The problem I have with the flame-balls that are so often thrown in blogs and discussions is that I can’t defend them or the right of the blogger to say them. Even in sites as benign as the IMDb, discussions on a movie have deteriorated to personal attacks of astounding visciousness.

    I would gladly and actively support a Code of Conduct, but I fear the onus of responsibility will always lie with the owner of the site. It’s a shame, but the anonymity of the internet seems to bring out the bestiality of some of the users.

  • Susan

    Anko: Am I wrong in stating that most individuals who engage in actions like that are fickle and by ignoring them the problem quickly goes away?

    I agree with Kathy. If you’ve picked up a dedicated stalker, then ignoring them just makes it worse. I had an annon cyber-stalker for two years back when all the action was on message boards. I responded to her just once in the very beginning, so she retaliated by calling my current and past employers and old friends to get my attention. And it went downhill from there.

    After two years and a lot of detective work we discover this annon was a unhappy retired woman who lived alone, her glowing blue monitor her chariot to an outside life. Her other “love was hacker Kevin Mitnick, who finally sued her in small claims court and got an injunction against her.

    So no…ignoring this woman for two years did not help me at all. She only stopped when she was served the injunction.

  • http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2007/04/08/new-york-times-features-my-blog-pornographer-impersonator-story/ Richard Silverstein

    Just found this link in Brad Stone’s NYT story about the code of civility. I’m interviewed in this story & have suffered almost the same vicitmization as Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com, who’s also interviewed. Both of us have been abused by someone who has created websites that both impersonate and mock us. In both cases, the site’s creator stole copyrighted images of us w. our children & featured them at the fraudulent site. In my case, the site contains pornographic references to me & various other disgusting material. And in both cases, we’ve failed to get the fake blog site’s taken down by their hosts.

    While I applaud yr efforts at cleaning up comment threads, I’d ask you consider broadening yr ambitions. In my case, Blogger.com, which hosts the fake blog, refuses to take down the site by retreating behind the sophism that it has no responsibility for the material that its clients upload to its server. This even though such material flagrantly violates Blogspot.com’s own TOS.

    As part of the code of civility can’t we encourage blogging platforms like Blogger to cooperate by showing respect to those of us who are abused by crazed stalker trolls like the ones victimzing Heather and me?

    I know that what I’m suggesting is more complicated than merely encouraging people to police their own blog comments. But hell, I’m feeling great pain from this onslaught on my integrity & invasion of my privacy. I’m a victim and there’s nothing I can do about it.

  • http://thepopulistblog.com The Populist

    The fact is, when you start controlling free speech, you start imposing yourself on others. I don’t think what happened to Kathy Seirra was right, but if it were a guy, nobody would care. My feelings are, if you can’t take the heat. stay out of the kitchen. I will not allow others to censor me or my blog. Sorry.

  • http://www.passionsaving.com Rob Bennett

    My name is Rob Bennett. I am the founder of the Financial Freedom Community, a group of discussion boards that explore strategies for early retirement and related topics. I pointed out at one of the boards (a Motley Fool board) that one of the individuals who posted in this community (he was the founder of the Motley Fool board) had gotten an important number wrong in a study published at his web site (he had failed to account for the factor of stock valuations). As a result, this individual has been stalking me for five years now and has destroyed numerous wonderful boards in the process.

    It was not this individual alone who made this error. He was using a methodology that is used in many studies that are cited in articles telling aspiring retirees how much they need to save for retirement. Millions of retirements are likely to go bust in days to come if people are not informed of the problem. But this individual’s efforts have caused discussion of this topic to be blocked at every forum at which I have attempted to discuss it.

    There have been hundreds of people who have asked that the discussions be permitted. Because the individual has his own web site, he has been able to form a Goon Squad that follows him from board to board for purposes of poisoning the discussions. I have been banned from most of these boards (I have never posted abusively). The abusive individual has never been banned.

    We have an issue of the greatest possible importance at stake. We are dealing with a numerical calculation, so there is no question of reasonable differences of opinion here. I have contacted several well-recognized experts who have confirmed my findings. But it is I who have been banned, along with reasoned discussion of the errors in the flawed studies. The boards we are talking about have rules in place prohibiting the tactics used to block these discussions (which are of great interest to most investors). Yet the site administrators (these include Motley Fool and Morningstar.com) have failed to act.

    In one case at Morningtar.com, there was a thread in which longtime participants at the board were asking why abusive posters were suddenly showing up on a daily basis. I put up a post explaining the background and noting as part of the history that this individual had directed death threats at me and my family members as one of his tactics. A Morningstar.com employee threatened to ban me for saying this! (Later, I was indeed banned at Morningstar.com.)

    This is a free speech? Where the party who got a number wrong in a study can use any tactic imaginable to block discussion of the flaws of the methodology he used and those seeking reasoned discussion of important issues have zero recourse? This is not free speech.

    Most normal people do not want to be associated in any way, shape, or form with this sort of behavior. It repulses them. A small number of posters intent on destruction can hold an entire community hostage if they are determined enough because most Normals do not want to get involved and because many site administrators are not willing to honor the promises they make to people who post at their boards to keep the discussions held at them reasonably clean.

    This is a serious problem. I was heartened to see the New York Times article. The internet has great potential as a learning medium of the future. But it is only as strong as its weakest link. The weak link of discussion boards and of blogs is the abusive posters who make use of them with no constructive intent in mind.

    Speech must be governed to be free. There should be a great freedom to discuss a wide variety of ideas. For that goal to be achieved, there must be limits on the poison that can be injected into a discussion as a means of intimidating the posters of the greatest intelligence and integrity into silence.

  • david

    The idea of a Code of Conduct for the blogosphere implies universal rules, but the reality is that any enforced Code of Conduct is a product of the blog owner’s sense of appropriate conduct since only the blog owner can “moderate” content. Free speech is not a right when private ownership of property is involved. The private owner of any property sets the rules amd those who show up are guests of the owner. They can be removed at the will of the owner. Free speech arguments are absurd when it comes to privately owned property.

    Bad conduct exists because owners tolerate it. If blog owners practiced more responsibility and less tolerance for boorish conduct, the blogosphere would be a far better place.

    Libel and threats are not protected speech at anytime. Just bad behavior is only protected when it is given a pass by those who could stop it simply by policing their blogs.

  • Daniel Chow

    who was it who said “good fences make good neighbors”?

    i remember one summer in new york city a pair of men were standing outside my home listening to their boom box at a very loud volume. i went outside to ask them to turn down the volume, or to find another spot where they won’t disturb other people’s peace. their response was:”why should we? this is a free country. we’re free do anything we want.”

    the men were right, but they failed to see that they’re exercising their freedom is at the expense of my freedom. my freedom was curtailed — while exercising their rights, these men were at the same time curtailing my freedom to enjoying a relatively quiet environment on my property.

    a canadian acquaintance from many years ago said me that most American’s don’t understand freedom and responsibility. he said americans liken freedom to a yard without fences. they feel that they have the right to cross from one yard to another without any regards for the rights of their neighbors. i’m afraid he’s right.

    i’m all for the freedom of speech and expression, but when this freedom is exercised at the expense of another person’s freedom, then it’s no longer freedom but abuse. the proposed guidelines are good fences.

    sincerely,

    daniel chow

    philadelphia, pa

    Mending Wall

    by Rober Frost

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

    That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

    And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

    And make gaps even two can pass abreast.

    The work of hunters is another thing:

    I have come after them and made repair

    Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

    But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

    To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

    No one has seen them made or heard them made

    But at spring mending-time we find them there.

    I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;

    And on a day we meet to walk the line

    And set the wall between us once again.

    We keep the wall between us as we go.

    To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

    And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

    We have to use a spell to make them balance:

    “Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”

    We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

    Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

    One on a side. It comes to little more:

    There where it is we do not need the wall:

    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

    My apple trees will never get across

    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

    He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

    If I could put a notion in his head:

    “Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

    Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

    What I was walling in or walling out,

    And to whom I was like to give offense.

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

    That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,

    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

    He said it for himself. I see him there

    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

    He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

    He will not go behind his father’s saying,

    And he likes having thought of it so well

    He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

  • Fredric Alan Maxwell

    As a member of the Authors Guild who is suing Google for stealing the digital rights to our books — a project Mr. O’Reilly supports — I never thought that I’d find myself agreeing so much with him on any subject, yet his code of conduct is just what is needed to deal with the dark side of blogging and help clear up blog smog. To paraphrase Voltaire, I may disagree with what you say, but only if you let me know who you are and subject yourself to libel action will I defend your responsible right to say it.

  • http://notquitecrunchyparent.blogspot.com/ MC Milker

    The actual statement should be” You own your forum” – this includes words you, as well as, others post on your site.

    In a world of entirely free speech, he/she with the “loudest voice” rules. The idea that a blogger that took the time to create a blog should allow anyone, anytime to write anything they want is ridiculous.

    This reminds me of the complaints when Amazon started charging for shipping- “but it should be free on the web!!” – the web “shouldn’t be” anything…it is an evolving entity that requires thoughtful participants to develop it into a useful tool. For blogging that means a useful tool for information AND opinions – not for harrasment under the guise of free speech.

  • http://www.nealmoore.com/neal_moore/2007/04/a_call_for_a_bl.html Neal G. Moore

    Tim,
    Your call for a code of ethics is right on the mark. I am a former reporter, and while I hold dearly to the First Amedment, and believe strongly that blogging should remain as transparent as possible, I heartily support the establishment of your suggested conduct code for the blogosphere. If we do not adopt something like this soon, we risk the blogosphere becoming irrelevant. And that serves none of us well. http://www.nealmoore.com

  • http://nakedtrooth.blogspot.com/ Bill Cee

    I think it would help immensely – in the blogosphere and in everyday life – if we all remember the golden rule: do to others as we would LIKE THEM to do to us. Don’t just not be nasty. Be kind.

    When you’re blogging, imagine that what you’re about to say some stranger had said to your mother, father, wife, husband, boy/girlfriend, best friend, etc. How would you react if someone was speaking to your loved ones the way you’re speaking to others? Think first and be compassionate.

  • http://www.mahablog.com Barbara O'Brien

    Many of us political bloggers decided a long time ago to post comment guidelines and delete comments that are out of bounds. Your first two items are old news.

    I learned years ago — I’ve been engaging in Internet discussions from the pre-web days when all we had was Usenet — that unless there is some moderation a discussion can quickly be taken over by flamers and bullies. And this is not “free speech” it’s “mob rule.” My blog is my property, and I have no qualms at all about deleting comments (and banning commenters) that detract from my property.

    I’ve kept a tight lid on comments since I started allowing comments sometime in 2003, and my commenters appreciate having somewhere to go for civil, substantive discussion.

    I generally don’t like to use barriers like pre-registration or moderation queues. If I’m getting a lot of hostile traffic from a link on an opposition (right-wing) site I sometimes suspend comments on a particular post, or I’ll turn on the moderation queue for a while so that nothing gets posted until I approve it. Usually in three or four days the flamers get discouraged, lose interest, and go away.

    I ban trolls. Trolls are disruptive. Maybe I could ignore them, but the other commenters don’t.

    Anonymity generally isn’t a problem for me, and in any event if a commenter is determined to hide his identity from me it wouldn’t be that difficult to do so, no matter what filters I put up.

    Your “take conversations offline” suggestion doesn’t work for me. I’ve got other things to do with my life that carry on ceaseless email arguments. If someone’s arguments are so offensive I delete them from the comments, this is probably someone I don’t want to waste time arguing with, period. There have been a few times I have taken a discussion offline, but these situations didn’t involve a commenter who was hostile or offensive.

    Regarding the last suggestion — Good blogging is being gut-level honest about what one really thinks. Face-to-face discussion has a bigger element of social interaction that must be respected; hence, most people restrain from gut-level honesty. I don’t allow gratuitous personal insults, but people WILL be snarkier online than they are in person. This is to be expected.

    Frankly, I doubt very much that many bloggers will accept any of the guidelines you suggest wholesale. More bloggers might do what a lot of us are already doing, which is creating our own guidelines and enforcing them ourselves.

  • http://www.historyisaweapon.com history is a weapon

    I think that it is high time for a blogger code of conduct, but a few of these should be tossed. Specifically, the ones about copyright (inappropriate), Confidentiality and privacy (at a minimum should be amended- what about whistle blowers?), or editorial comment (So if we want to quote and debate editorials, we can’t?)

    The blogger code of conduct’s focus should be about raising the bar of discourse so that there are established areas where we can have productive discussion, not so that we can individually enforce copyright law or politely protect power. The internet should be an incendiary device and any code to improve us should be to help shape and frame the heat’s direction rather than smother the possibilities.

  • http://www.travelingcramps.blogspot.com Yasamin

    I think a blogger code of conduct is all well and good but what about those of us who do not follow the Code but police our sites in our own way?

    My blog was attacked just a few days ago by some anonymous person who decided to use my blog as their personal crapping ground regarding a specific literary agent. Now, I know rejection sucks, but come on!!

    anyway I deleted their comments and was so angry i even blogged about it. I explained that my blog isn’t a public forum. my blog, my rules.

    anyway, I say alot of things that are harsh and honest from my point of view on my blog. if i follow this Code of Conduct, will I have to watch everything I say? and Will people who do follow the Code, tell their readers to stay away from those of us who choose not to? will I be segregated becuase of this?

    It’s a lovely idea, but you cannot just think of the positive rammifications. you have to think of the negative ones as well. I think it should be an option not a requirement and we should respect each other regardless of which direction we choose to follow.

    But not everyone thinks like me…

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Yasamin — of course, it’s optional! How could it be otherwise?

  • http://www.librarything.com John

    Tim, thank you for starting this discussion, it’s necessary and important.

    One technical suggestion, employed by my employer: letting users flag inappropriate comments, which then become click-to-see. This lowers the visibility of the trolls, without censoring them. For an example, see this thread:

    http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=8702

    Message 5 is no longer immediately visible, because it was flagged by a certain number of users as inappropriate. But it can still be seen, if you want to, by clicking on the ‘show’ link. It’s a compromise, but perhaps a practical one.

    Similarly, it might help the situation to let users configure whether or not they want to see flagged content, and set the default for flagged content to some sort of reduced visibility.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    John, I love this idea. What blogging platform do you use to implement it? Is there a plugin for this?

  • http://www.librarything.com John

    A postscript. A flagging system combined with users setting their own level of comment visibility conforms nicely to David Weinberger’s concept of “filtering on the way out“, a powerful paradigm and relevant in this context.

  • http://www.librarything.com John

    That example is from LibraryThing’s groups/talk section, which was built in-house. Tying comment visibilty to user flagging was added last year, in response to a spate of abusive behavior.

    Creating blog plugins for this is a great idea. If anyone wants to coordinate on a plugin for WordPress or Mephisto (the two platforms whose code I’m familiar with), feel free to contact me: john[at]librarything.com.

  • http://twentymajor.net Twenty Major

    A blogger’s code of conduct is the biggest load of simpering bollocks I’ve ever heard in my life.

  • dizzle

    ìFree speech is enhanced by civility.î Sounds like newspeak to me. Why should we censor at all? The rantings of lunatics prove to be funny and enhance the web experience.

  • http://vrypan.net/ Panayotis Vryonis

    Why sould this “code of conduct” be applied only to blogs? Why not to other services, like search engines or feed aggregators? But then how would you apply the “Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog” clause?

    To what extend is a blogger responsible? Say I have a post dicussing relationships, and someone comments using her real name and surname something like “I agree. This reminds me when my best friend Suzan discovered that her husband John is gay”. Am I responsible for letting the commenter disclose this kind of information? Should I try to contact in person the commenter, validate her real ID, then contact both Suzan and her husband and make sure (in paper?) they are OK, and then allow the comment to appear?

    While at first read I like the suggested code of conduct, I feel that it is only applicable to a certain type of blogs.

  • http://techfold.com TechFold

    Is there another page of comments, or have a bunch been removed? I posted earlier, suggesting more or less what ended up in #7 — but that comment is now gone.

    Anyway – my thought was that presenting to a large auditorium was a more suitable metaphor than a one on one conversation.

    The rest of it is here…
    http://techfold.com/2007/04/09/an-alternative-to-oreillys-politeness-manifesto-the-un-code/

  • http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2007/04/08/new-york-times-features-my-blog-pornographer-impersonator-story/ Richard Silverstein

    “One technical suggestion, employed by my employer: letting users flag inappropriate comments, which then become click-to-see. This lowers the visibility of the trolls, without censoring them.”

    There is a big problem w. this idea. A group of people can decide that they don’t like someone’s comment & flag it serially. Even though there may be nothing wrong with the comment except in this group’s own eyes, the comment still disappears. I know this is possible because it has happened to me at Daily Kos.

  • http://mysticsaint.blogspot.com mysticsaint

    it is a very good step. i appreciate. we have experience issues on it and was thinking along these lines as well. the ideas i think its quite global now in blogsphere, specially in group / community blogging.

  • sammywrae

    “There’s no reason why we should tolerate conversations online that we wouldn’t tolerate in our living room”

    But the web isn’t your own living room – it is more akin to a huge pub.

    And I am pretty sure that if you tried to tell someone on the other side of the pub to stop swearing because you don’t like foul language, they wouldn’t take it well.

  • daniel

    @Rob Bennett [04.09.07 03:49 AM]
    That is indeed a bad example. But what is a code of conduct was in place at those sites? Would it change anything? With a code of conduct you would be creating more lawsuits (what Americans love any way. It’s a good way for early retirement)
    But it will move away the freedom of speach. If this is what O’Reilly means with the whole web 2.0 experience. Than leave me at web 1.9…
    Make your own blog and block that bloke. That’s the beautiful thing about the internet: you do have freedom of speach. Start your own blog and there you go!

    @Barbara O’Brien [04.09.07 07:05 AM]:
    “Frankly, I doubt very much that many bloggers will accept any of the guidelines you suggest wholesale. More bloggers might do what a lot of us are already doing, which is creating our own guidelines and enforcing them ourselves.”

    Common sence should work. As a blogger you have enough tools to make your blog private, moderate the comments, etc. Flag systems can be placed as well.

    I still see this as a kind of O’reilly thing. And I definitly don’t like the way one institution, company, goverment, or anything gets involved in the internet. It’s bad as it is, it’s going to be worse if one view gets the upperhand. That’s the same as the example Rob Bennet has pictured.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com Elvira Black

    Tim:

    Though I don’t consider myself a hermit in the blogosphere, I somehow managed to remain unaware of this whole brouhaha until last night when I stumbled onto a ref to it via a blogger- colleague’s post.

    The irony is that I’ve recently gone through something similar, albeit less public, on a blogger’s forum which I was invited to help jump start before all members were invited.

    The result? Without going into gory detail, a lot of nastiness by fellow forum members who came out of their bag, calling for heads to roll while they themselves were the most egregious culprits in the hurling of tasteless ad hominem attacks.

    Various attempts to lock down threads ensued when discussions didn’t go their way or they were called to task for their inconsistencies. Some members who had inadvertently been given the temporary power to lock threads did so when it suited them, with or without explanation, or threatened to do so if things were not toned down to their liking. This was far far more offensive to me than anything anyone could have said–and did say– on a personal level.

    Same thing seems to have happened in this instance. One blog was shut down; then another opened; then that was shut down. But these kinds of issues can’t be squelched or ignored that easily, for they merely spill over onto the blogosphere via other blogs such as yours, and banning and censoring just do not make a problem or issue go away. In fact, censorship sometimes exacerbates the very problem it attempts to solve via this “instant band-aid” approach.

    It also seems unfair to feel compelled to remove a post, thread or blog under duress, since it makes it impossible for folks who feel unjustly maligned to have their say, and of course, just as with any “objectionable” public expression (such as a controversial movie) many of those with an agenda/axe to grind will jump on the bandwagon, judging a phenom they have not witnessed firsthand based on their own preconceived philosophies. This is intellectual laziness of the highest order, imo.

    In any case, as a female blogger, what personally offends me the most is the fact that so many women trot out the same old tired p.c./ misogyny “issue” when, as some here have pointed out, trolls are an equal-opportunity bunch. To imply that being a woman gives one special dispensation to censor others’ comments seems naive and rather cowardly, not to mention hypocritical in many cases. Some of these folks, if allowed control of the blogosphere, would reduce it to the verbal equivalent of non objectionable “art” along the lines of cute puppies, adorable babies, and pretty flowers. Non offensive speech is often bland and culturally vapid speech as well, for it is very hard to have an opinion without offending someone somewhere, esp in the case of such hot button topics as politics and religion.

    Everyone handles comments differently, but I made my policy clear from the get go on my personal blog–all comments, nasty and nice, were welcome. There have been some very occasional flame wars, but oddly enough, I relished them as an intellectual exercise, and an opportunity to prevail in a battle of wits (or nitwits). The only comments I’ve ever deleted are from spammers’–unless they’re very amusing ones.

    As a result, or perhaps by coincidence, the vast majority of my commenters are as civil as civil can be, and no code of conduct or misconduct has been necessary other than the one I stated above. The occasional flamer quickly discovers they must engage or withdraw, and their ridiculous uncensored comments will henceforth stand as permanent testimony to their idiocy. Indeed, sometimes a flame war can result in the unlikeliest of cyber-bedfellows when the “combatants” finally realize they are really on the same page, and/or the exchange has become comically absurd and entertaining to others as well as themselves.

    I also write for a larger blog where comments are often gratuitously nasty, though the comments policy eschews personal attacks. However, one can get around this very neatly and still deliver quite a wallop.

    If one writes a political post, as I’ve done several times though it’s not my “specialty,” one can amass hundreds of comments–some by rather “difficult” folks.

    However, I take them all on and wear them down til in most cases they give up or we reach a truce. I actually enjoy this exchange most of the time. If one has the wherewithal and the stamina, this approach can do more to make the flamer look like a total fool than all the censorship in the blogosphere ever could.

    As for codes of conduct, if one looks at most internet provider’s rules of the road, the first thing one will find is something to the effect that direct attacks, threats, abuse, etc are not officially allowed. The crux of the matter is how to interpret what constitutes a breach of policy, and this is often a slippery slope and can be a very subjective call. Thus, as many here have stated, perhaps the sanest course to take is to make it crystal clear from the get go what one’s rules of the road are: comments will be allowed and/or deleted or turned off at the blogger’s discretion; flamers will be chastised, tolerated,and/censored; and so on. Of course, the blogger reserves the right to change these rules as circumstances dictate at any time. It’s their baby, and they can do what they will as long as they don’t commit any illegal acts.

    Another issue that hasn’t really been explored here in depth is whether a blogger chooses to use a pseudonym or not. If they use their real name, they are, in effect, a bona fide public figure, every bit as vulnerable as any mainstream media personality or celeb. Stalking is rampant in this day and age on the blogosphere and off. There are innumerable sociopaths, child molesters, and assorted other scum of the earth for whom the relative anonymity of the web constitutes their personal wet dream come true.

    Because of this, a blogger’s personal decision to post their real name, real photo, and other public details means that they have made the call to open themselves up to more potential danger than those who use a pseudonym, though of course a determined cyber stalker may be able to track the latter down or at least harass them with relative impunity. In some cases, they are using their blog as an adjunct to a business venture; in others, they simply want to present themselves to the world as “themselves.” In either case, the choice is theirs, but so are the consequences. This does not excuse dangerous stalkers, but they will not go away even if they are censored. They will simply find another victim to troll.

    In essence, I feel that if the rules are clearly spelled out, it’s unfair to change them in midstream when things get too hot to handle. On one’s personal blog this is of course one’s right, but I’m talking more about personal integrity and just plain old fashioned cojones here.

    In any case, I enjoyed your post and the comments here immensely. Just wondering though–why do you not allow links to commenter’s urls? Most if not all of the commenters here who have blogs are folks I’d love to check out, time permitting, and the fact that there are no hyperlinks seems puzzling and personally frustrating.

    Again though, many thanks for tackling an important issue that merits the sort of intelligent, reasoned debate shown on this post and comment thread.

  • http://commandline.org.uk Zeth

    If you have read Stallman’s 4 freedoms, agree or disagree, you will probably appreciate the aesthetic quality. This quality helps you to remember and understand it. Below is Gentoo’s Linux’ code of conduct, generalised a little bit, most of this can be summed up by the universal, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”

    A code of conduct for bloggers and commenters

    • Be courteous.

  • Give accurate information in the spirit of being helpful.
  • Respectfully disagree.
  • Use the correct venue for your post.
  • Admit the possibility of fault and respect different points of views.
  • If you screw up, take responsibility for your actions.
  • http://techype.blogspot.com/ raddedas

    Much more important than badges to say we conform, can we have badges when we break the rules? Kind of like ASBOs – try to collect as many as you can for peer recognition. Much more fun than groupthink and censorship from self-proclaimed elites ;)

    Though to be fair I do think that with many of these suggestions show the good intentions, but fall the wrong side of practicality…

  • http://www.passionsaving.com Rob Bennett

    That is indeed a bad example. But what code of conduct was in place at those sites?

    You make a very important point here, Daniel. There was a code of conduct in place at each of these boards that prohibited the conduct that destroyed those boards. In each case, the code of conduct was not enforced by the site administrator. Without reasonable enforcement, codes of conduct are empty promises.

    This goes to a point that Kathy Sierra made at her blog. She is not up against a small number of highly absusive posters. She is up against a culture that tolerates highly abusive posters. She named some names of people who failed to speak out when these things were done in their presence or at blogs that they have endorsed. Good for her. That is what is needed. Anyone who tolerates this sort of behavior should be shamed into tolerating it no longer. There is no excuse for engaging in such behavior and there is no excuse for tolerating such behavior.

    We need a culture change. We Normals far outnumber the Goons. The Goons gain their power through intimidation. The Normals need to speak out in clear and direct and firm terms. When enough Normals speak out, it is the Goons who are intimidated into silence.

    Codes of Conduct alone are not the answer. We need Code of Conduct plus reasonable enforcement by those charged to enforce the Codes of Conduct. When those charged fail to act, we need all Normals insisting that they do so. And we need shaming of those who fail to speak up.

    That’s what we have in the Real World, isn’t it? Would you not be ashamed in the Real World not to speak up about this sort of thing if you saw it taking place in your presence? That’s how you should feel when you see it taking place on Planet Internet. It is shameful not only to engage in the sort of behavior we are discussing here. It is shameful to tolerate it too.

    Some say that the best thing to do is to ignore it. That is the worst thing to do. The reason why the Goons resort to the tactics they resort to is that they know perfectly well that they cannot engage in reasoned discussion effectively. Allow them to control discussions through threats of violence and they gain a power on the internet that they can never possess in the Real World, where everyone knows that to continue to remain a respected member of the community he or she must speak out when he or she sees this sort of thing taking place.

  • http://www.plexus2007.com Marie

    TIM: You are an angel from heaven. I support you 100%. Please don’t let anyone deter you from this great cause. The corporate world has effectively abandoned the “transparency” of the blogosphere. Blog is no longer a good word. You should see Mike Arrington’s string. Corporate blogging is becoming an oxymoron indeed.

  • thickslab

    Could this possibly be any fucking stupider? There are already things called laws that are supposed to prevent death threats and harassment. This is just more stupid navel-gazing by tech-obsessed nerds with little or no connection to the real world.

  • http://thickslab.com/blog/ thickslab

    Could this possibly be any fucking stupider? There are already things called laws that are supposed to prevent death threats and harassment. This is just more stupid navel-gazing by tech-obsessed nerds with little or no connection to the real world.

  • http://explic.it/ dahamsta

    Dumbest idea I ever heard. Well, since O’Reilly’s dumbass cronies tried to sue over Web 2.0, that is.

  • http://www.plexus2007.com Thickslab Crasher

    Thickslab: your behavior is exactly what the impetus for these actions are based on. Thick indeed. You are in the wrong place. There are blogs for you. Why don’t you drink a long cold glass of water, take a long walk and try to come back and be intelligent and civil.

  • http://www.thatsplenty.com/ Stephen

    Tim – I read the NY Times article this morning, and you were quoted as saying:

    ìThat is one of the mistakes a lot of people make ó believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,î he said. ìFree speech is enhanced by civility.î

    That seems counterintuitive to me. Could you talk a little bit more about that? And do you have any response to the objections to your code of conduct made here:

    http://www.tnl.net/blog/2007/04/09/dissecting-the-proposed-bloggers-code-of-conduct/

  • http://www.kbox.cc kbox

    Do as i say, not as i do is it, Tim? I have just commented without providing a valid email address..

    Nice to see you don’t let something like a disturbing event stop you pouncing on a linkbait opportunity. How noble…

  • http://gus3.typepad.com/ gus3

    From suggestion #3:

    There are important contexts in which anonymity is important, for example, for political speech in repressive regimes.

    I think it’s telling that, with over 100 comments, very little effort has gone into considering when such a “code of conduct” becomes a tool in the hands of such repressive regimes. Don’t believe me? “Reasons” such as these were used to justify blocking YouTube in Thailand.

    Ann Althouse (via Glenn Reynolds) was right: This “code of conduct” will be interpreted by every party according to his/her/its own purposes, and we’ll just be sitting around arguing about what it means and whether or not it applies in a particular context.

    Remember, the Internet considers censorship a form of network failure, and routes around it. And yes, even the term “censorship” is up for debate.

  • http://www.plexus2007.com Marie

    Gus read Tim’s quotes again. It’s not about censorship–it’s about the freedom of civility. Do you know how many people are afraid to post or comment fearing the vitriol. Their voices are not heard. Tim is trying to initiate a dialogue about this and hopefully end up with a voice FOR civility. Tim is not a lawmaker. He is not placing this before Congress. He is actually trying to make the blogosphere more transparent–a good thing. If a study were conducted of how many comments and post have hidden agendas on the web, the scale would be tipped in their favor. The internet is not reknown for precision and veracity. This is BAD for the internet. Many are leaving it. Women and corporations especially. Do you we want the blogosphere to devolve into a dark, unwelcoming community? This is happening already. At least the conversation has started.

  • http://www.plexus2007.com Marie

    Gus, Tim: I forgot to add my point that each web site or blog is intellectual property and has an owner. It is property and as such its owners have the right to set any guidelines they wish. They have the right to invite people into their dwelling or shut the door to them. This is not censorship; it is squatting rights. Publishers have the same rights. Broadcasters are quick to announce that cerain ideas presented or advertorials are not theirs. The belief system that visitors are censored when shown the door is simply constructive. Conversely, those who wish to have their vitriol heard after being “censored” at a reputable (usually well-visited site providing them an instant audience) and retaliate by creating a web site or blog for the sheer purpose defaming are subjecting themselves to law suits. Victims should make screen shots immediately and track the IP addresses. I think Kathy Sierra should take legal action; it would set a dearly needed precedent.

  • http://www.thatsplenty.com Stephen

    Marie: Anyone who doesn’t speak because they’re afraid they’ll be contradicted – or worse, insulted – has no place in a conversation.

    Only individual blog owners have any business regulating civility.

    Those who agree with this code of conduct don’t need it, and those who need it won’t adopt it. It’s a pointless conversation, a pointless exercise. A conversation starter, and a weak one at that for precisely the same reasons that the code of conduct is worthless.

    The only possible application for the above code of conduct is so that a blog owner challenged on their decision to censor their readers can cite a source instead of (gasp) using their own words to convey the strength of their convictions.

    And, I say again, people who won’t speak because they’re scared of someone disagreeing with them, even abusively and inappropriately, doesn’t really have a place in a serious conversation.

    We should thank our lucky stars we only have to worry about idiots photoshopping our heads into gross or disturbing pictures, unlike so many in the world who actually have something real to be concerned about should they exercise their right to free speech.

    Not to mention the serious dereliction of sense involved in that fear, even of internet death threats. Does anyone have statistics for the number of people murdered last year over something they wrote on the internet?

    How about car accidents?

    If we’re going to start really acting on our fears, let’s do it with some sense.

    Kathy, you can start going to speaking engagements again, but I reckon you’d better walk to them.

  • http://thickslab.com/blog/ thickslab

    Thickslab crasher writes:
    Thickslab: your behavior is exactly what the impetus for these actions are based on. Thick indeed. You are in the wrong place. There are blogs for you. Why don’t you drink a long cold glass of water, take a long walk and try to come back and be intelligent and civil.

    Calling out O’Reilly for writing drivel is the impetus for this inane “code of conduct?” And yes, there is a blog for me. A blog, incidentally, which I was writing on long before *you* ever came on the blogging scene.

    Stephen has it write when he says “Those who agree with this code of conduct don’t need it, and those who need it won’t adopt it. It’s a pointless conversation, a pointless exercise.”

    I’ve seen this “we need a blogging code of conduct” shit time and time again. Every year this crap comes up. It just gets stupider and stupider each time some tech nerd brings it up.

  • http://www.thatsplenty.com Stephen

    Oh! I almost forgot!

    Marie:
    The internet is not reknown for precision and veracity. This is BAD for the internet. Many are leaving it. Women and corporations especially.

    Are you kidding? The internet has a population problem like China would if you tried to fit the country’s population in Texas.

    We have and, I hope, will continue to see a rainbow of content and personalities on the internet, from the OED and the people that have striking stylistic similiarities to it, to the goatse photoshoppers and overweight basement-dwelling tasmanian devil talk-alikes.

  • http://www.plexus2007.com Marie

    Stephen and Thickslab (you probably don’t want to identify yourself because of your potty mouth):

    “Thou both protest too much”.

    I disagree with you completely. Tim wants to elevate the moral standard on the internet.
    How can anyone argue that?

    Indeed all good folk should begin adopting his code now. This should reduce the amount of abuse on the internet. I will adopt each. And post its rules and ask my staff to distribute them wherever possible.

    About the veracity of the internet, it is commonly experienced that when you mention to anyone, “I have checked on the internet and learned tha….”. People invariably respond “Oh well the internet…you can’t rely on the internet.” It has little credibility. This it the truth. You know it. Perception means a lot. Get out of your basements and go talk to normal pedestrians.

    Do you realize you are trying to squash my voice–is that not an attempt at censorship? I have my viewpoints and they are as real to me and to the many as yours are to you.

    Stephen many are avoiding and leaving the blogosphere because of idiots like those who attacked Kathy Sierra. Take some time off from commenting and go read. The word “blog” is becoming bad–Tim is aware of this and is aiming to shore up collaboration. You just don’t get it.

    The blogosphere must not be taken over by trolls. It’s too valuable.

  • Stephen

    For starters, your unattributed quote seems out of context here. Do you mean to say that we’re actually in favor of the code? Or that you wish we’d shut up?

    Anyway…

    Yeah, I’m sure thickslab is real ashamed of his potty mouth.

    You should know that on this message board you’re no better identified, no less anonymous, than he is Marie. So please, come off it.

    I can and should argue against the ‘elevation (of) moral standards’ because morality is different things to different people. Some believe that elevating moral standards means outlawing not only gay marriage but gay sex, censoring all violence, blasphemy, and expletives from all media, and making sure that no one has intercourse before marriage. And that’s just in America, where popular interpretation (and enforcement) of ‘morality’ is pretty tame.

    If people want to enforce this code of conduct on their website, that is their business and I would never argue against it.

    There are still, however, a few things that bother me about the code.

    The first one that comes to mind is the idea that those who adopt and/or enforce it are somehow superior to or better than those who don’t (a position you yourself have already taken : “all good folk should begin adopting his code”).

    It can’t and won’t reduce the amount of abuse on the internet for precisely the reason I’ve already stated: Those who agree with the code don’t need it and those who ‘need’ it won’t adopt it.

    Your argument against the veracity of the internet is deeply flawed. Of course ‘the internet’ isn’t a reliable source. Neither are ‘some guy,’ ‘something I read somewhere,’ or ‘some show I was watching.’ None of the above, ‘the internet’ included, qualify as reliable sources. They’re all essentially hearsay. But I’d give much more credibility to ‘nytimes.com’ or ‘dictionary.com’ or ‘imdb.com’. Just as you’re more likely to believe someone who quotes a statistic they read “On the front page of the times yesterday.” over a statistic that they read “somewhere.”

    I am not trying to squash your voice, I am disagreeing with you, and that is exactly the kind of distinction that needs to be drawn more realistically in this argument. If I were deleting your comments, threatening to throw you in jail, or sending you trojan horse programs in an attempt to cripple your computer, THOSE are examples of squashing your voice. Right now I’m just disagreeing with you.

    Albeit with great enthusiasm.

    ‘Blogs’ have had a dubious distinction for their entire existence. There is no past ‘golden age’ of blogging that you seem to be pining for, not yet anyway. So when you say that ‘blog’ is becoming bad, what do you think it was like before? And how is it different now?

    You’re presenting a false dilemma.

    The blogosphere is not and never will be taken over by trolls, no more than it will be dominated by the civil.

    Further, I believe that the value of the blogosphere is not in spite of the wide spectrum of opinions and personality but, in fact, because of it. If a real and concerted effort is made to codify or legislate objectionable content out of existence, value will be lost, not added.

  • Stephen

    For starters, your unattributed quote seems out of context here. Do you mean to say that we’re actually in favor of the code? Or that you wish we’d shut up?

    Anyway…

    Yeah, I’m sure thickslab is real ashamed of his potty mouth.

    You should know that on this message board you’re no better identified, no less anonymous, than he is Marie. So please, come off it.

    I can and should argue against the ‘elevation (of) moral standards’ because morality is different things to different people. Some believe that elevating moral standards means outlawing not only gay marriage but gay sex, censoring all violence, blasphemy, and expletives from all media, and making sure that no one has intercourse before marriage. And that’s just in America, where popular interpretation (and enforcement) of ‘morality’ is pretty tame.

    If people want to enforce this code of conduct on their website, that is their business and I would never argue against it.

    There are still, however, a few things that bother me about the code.

    The first one that comes to mind is the idea that those who adopt and/or enforce it are somehow superior to or better than those who don’t (a position you yourself have already taken : “all good folk should begin adopting his code”).

    It can’t and won’t reduce the amount of abuse on the internet for precisely the reason I’ve already stated: Those who agree with the code don’t need it and those who ‘need’ it won’t adopt it.

    Your argument against the veracity of the internet is deeply flawed. Of course ‘the internet’ isn’t a reliable source. Neither are ‘some guy,’ ‘something I read somewhere,’ or ‘some show I was watching.’ None of the above, ‘the internet’ included, qualify as reliable sources. They’re all essentially hearsay. But I’d give much more credibility to ‘nytimes.com’ or ‘dictionary.com’ or ‘imdb.com’. Just as you’re more likely to believe someone who quotes a statistic they read “On the front page of the times yesterday.” over a statistic that they read “somewhere.”

    I am not trying to squash your voice, I am disagreeing with you, and that is exactly the kind of distinction that needs to be drawn more realistically in this argument. If I were deleting your comments, threatening to throw you in jail, or sending you trojan horse programs in an attempt to cripple your computer, THOSE are examples of squashing your voice. Right now I’m just disagreeing with you.

    Albeit with great enthusiasm.

    ‘Blogs’ have had a dubious distinction for their entire existence. There is no past ‘golden age’ of blogging that you seem to be pining for, not yet anyway. So when you say that ‘blog’ is becoming bad, what do you think it was like before? And how is it different now?

    You’re presenting a false dilemma.

    The blogosphere is not and never will be taken over by trolls, no more than it will be dominated by the civil.

    Further, I believe that the value of the blogosphere is not in spite of the wide spectrum of opinions and personality but, in fact, because of it. If a real and concerted effort is made to codify or legislate objectionable content out of existence, value will be lost, not added.

  • http://thickslab.com/blog/ thickslab

    Marie, give me a break. If you want to see who I am, just click the link.

    Marie writes: People invariably respond “Oh well the internet…you can’t rely on the internet.” It has little credibility. This it the truth.

    Good. People shouldn’t believe everything they read.

    Marie writes: Do you realize you are trying to squash my voice–is that not an attempt at censorship?

    Melodrama.

    Get a grip. Since when is disagreeing with someone censorship?

    Marie writes: Stephen many are avoiding and leaving the blogosphere because of idiots like those who attacked Kathy Sierra. Take some time off from commenting and go read. The word “blog” is becoming bad–Tim is aware of this and is aiming to shore up collaboration. You just don’t get it.

    BLOGS ARE DYING! FILM AT 11!
    Give me a break. This is melodrama. Blogs are not dying. Blog is not becoming a bad word – at least no more of a bad word than it ever was.

    People who use the word “blogosphere” are the people to avoid when it comes to talking about blogs.

    I’m going to pull rank: I’ve been blogging a lot longer than probably most of you who are commenting here ever have — more than six years — and I’ve seen this “code of conduct” shit come up time and time again. It’s nothing more than a way for bloggers with fragile egos to make themselves feel all important and ethical and grown-up. It has no real use and no relevance. Writing inane rules on a web page and coming up with another icon to stick with the hundreds of others on the sidebar of your blog WILL NOT MAKE PEOPLE ACT NICER TO EACH OTHER.

  • Stephen

    Huh. I wrote a profanity-free, ad-hominem attack-less response to Marie’s post and it never went up.

    The filter must be working!

  • http://www.plexus2007.com Thickslab Crasher

    Hey Thickhead: there’s no link on your comment. Because they don’t work that way.
    Tim’s final suggestion is to ignore trolls–everything you say and do matches.
    You are not worth responding to. I have not even read your whole post. But I am glad that folks can see what we are trying to get rid of–bloggers like you. Thanks for the show and tell.
    If Tim gets his way, soon no one will entertain you. This could be your last stage.
    Give us all you got Thicky.

  • Stephen

    Just so we’re clear, saying someone is beneath response and refusing to even read their post while gleefully predicting their future irrelevance is both ad-hominem and insulting.

    That pendulum swings both ways, not just in favor of the ‘righteous.’

  • http://thickslab.com/blog/ thickslab

    Thickslab crasher writes: Hey Thickhead: there’s no link on your comment. Because they don’t work that way.
    Tim’s final suggestion is to ignore trolls–everything you say and do matches.
    You are not worth responding to. I have not even read your whole post. But I am glad that folks can see what we are trying to get rid of–bloggers like you. Thanks for the show and tell.
    If Tim gets his way, soon no one will entertain you. This could be your last stage.
    Give us all you got Thicky.

    My apologies. I didn’t check to see that the URL that the comment form asks for is actually posted. So here’s the link in question: http://thickslab.com/blog/

    As for your comments, you sure wrote a lot in response considering that you said I’m not worth responding to. Will you adhere to asinine codes of conduct as well as you adhere to your own stated intentions not to respond to stuff that’s “not worth responding to?”

    This could be my last stage? Whatever. I’ve was blogging before you and I’ll be blogging once you’ve tired of it. And with more pageviews than you, too.

  • http://twentymajor.net Twenty Major

    I disagree with you completely. Tim wants to elevate the moral standard on the internet.
    How can anyone argue that?

    That is the most pretentious thing I’ve ever read.

    Why not try to stop murder too? Or bring about world peace?

    You’d have the same success rate.

    Honestly, the hysterical overreaction to some words on the internet is just priceless. Can none of you step back and see how ridiculous what you’re suggesting is or are you all so caught up with your backslapping and pursuit of this nonsensical crusade to actually realise it?

  • Duf

    Let us take the morals of the internet and raise them to the next level is what this author is suggesting.

    I question, what level is that, and who or what does that level belong too.

    “If librarianship is the connecting of people to ideas ñ and I believe that is the truest definition of what we do ñ it is crucial to remember that we must keep and make available, not just good ideas and noble ideas, but bad ideas, silly ideas, and yes, even dangerous or wicked ideas.”
    – Graceanne A. Decandido

  • http://www.hyperlogos.org Martin Espinoza

    The very idea of a “blogger code of conduct” is contrary to the notion of freedom of speech, which I find to be substantially more important than whether one woman, your friend or not, is comfortable on the internet. So-called death threats on a website (many of which did talk about death, but very few of which were actually actionable threats – it’s not illegal to say you wish someone were dead) are so extremely non-scary compared to actually dangerous things in this world that I can’t help but think that this entire event was deliberately engineered by an individual or a group of individuals bent on depriving people of the world of even more of their rights.

    If you love freedom, then you can only be opposed to anything like a code of conduct.

    On an even more serious note, your call for elimination of anonymous posting is seriously frightening to me. Without anonymity, there is no freedom! Those persons who say things that they KNOW will make them unpopular with the established order are the people who TRULY have something to fear, not an obscure researcher in love with the idea of being important.

  • http://unitedirelander.blogspot.com United Irelander

    This idea is the worst idea I’ve heard in a long time. If you want to start a crusade, start it over something that’s actually worthwhile.

  • Somebody

    This code of conduct is unnecessary. Bloggers already have many options on how to regulate comments, if they want to accept them at all. I do not agree with this code. Some of the best blogs I read have some anon idiot commenting on it and some people responding, and that’s most of the time better than the blog post itself. You have a good example with NPR, but remember radio, newspapers and TV are practically one-way conversation media. The Internet is the most democratic of media, simply because anybody can say what they want and has a chance to be heard. I’m sorry about Kathy Sierra, but any opinionated, high-profile media person have risks, and that’s the price you pay for freedom of speech. Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus and Bill O’Reilly may have their share of “haters” who may have thought about harming them. Ask Larry Flint or Dan Rather if you disagree.

    Freedom of speech has to be protected and cherished. The Internet is a two-way conversation medium and I am keeping it that way.

    If you want to follow rules of conduct, way better than these, follow mine:

    Delete spam.

    That’s it.

  • Anonymous

    This is the most useless, pretentious piece of bollocks I have read in a long time.

  • http://www.majid.info/ Fazal Majid

    For the record, the whole idea of a blogging code of ethics is incredibly misguided, rife with potential for abuse as with other “voluntary” codes like the Hays code or the Comics Code Authority.

    I also find Tim O’Reilly’s assumption of a mantle of self-righteousness (and Mena Trott before him) incredibly pompous and self-aggrandizing, not to mention patronizing.

    I don’t want to minimize Kathy Sierra’s anguish, but at first glance it does look overblown. If there were actually death threats, they are covered by existing legislation, and indeed like all aspects of criminal law, the State incurs the cost of investigation and prosecution, if it deems an offense actually occured. That determination does *not* belong to the aggrieved party. Mrs. Sierra is a PR professional, I have a hard time believing this whole media circus was entirely unorchestrated.

    Last but not least, I am not surprised that the “Cluetrain Manifesto” was invoked, as it always seemed to me like a hyperventilating and content-free piece of marketing pabulum.

  • L. Katz

    Based on Jimbo’s guide to life

    The Blogging Code (also known as the O’Reilly Code) was a set of industry guidelines governing the production of American blogs. The Meta Organization of Blogging (MOB), adopted the code in 2007, began effectively enforcing it in 2011. The Blogging Code spelled out what was and was not considered morally acceptable in the production of blogs for a public audience.

    The Blogging Code enumerated three “General Principles”:

    1. No blog shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.

    2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of melodrama and entertainment, shall be presented.

    3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

    Specific restrictions to be spelled out as “Particular Applications” of these principles:

    Nudity and suggestive linking were prohibited.

    The ridicule of religion was forbidden, and ministers of religion were not to be represented as comic characters or villains.

    The depiction of illegal drug use is forbidden, as well as the use of liquor, “when not required by the blog or for proper characterization.”

    Methods of crime (e.g. safe-cracking, arson, smuggling) are not to be explicitly presented.

    References to “sex perversion” (such as homosexuality) and venereal disease are forbidden, as are depictions of childbirth.

    The language section bans various words and phrases that are considered to be offensive.

    Flaming has to be blogged in a way that would discourage imitations in real life, and brutal flamings cannot be blogged in detail. “Revenge in modern times” is not to be justified.

    The sanctity of marriage and the home has to be upheld. “Blogs shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.” Adultery and illicit sex, although recognized as sometimes necessary to the blog, cannot be explicit or justified and are not supposed to be presented as an attractive option.

    Portrayals of miscegenation are forbidden.
    “Scenes of Passion” are not to be introduced when not essential to the blog. “Excessive and lustful kissing-up” is to be avoided, along with any other treatment that might “stimulate the lower and baser element.”

    The flag of the United States is to be treated respectfully, and the people and history of other nations were to be presented “fairly.”

    “Vulgarity,” defined as “low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects” must be treated within the “subject to the dictates of good taste.” Capital punishment, “third-degree methods,” cruelty to children and animals, prostitution and surgical operations are to be handled with similar sensitivity.

  • http://annierhiannon.blogspot.com/ Annie Rhiannon

    I think this whole thing is a complete waste of time. It’s like religious guidelines; some people will stick to them but most people will completely ignore them, only serving to infuriate the religious nutcases who made them in the first place.

    I welcome all comments over at my place, especially the arsey ones, if only because they make me feel important.

  • http://www.instituteforcivility.org Tomas Spath

    Codes are good but when one forces it on others, there’s rebellion. It’s difficult to draw a line that defines what’s right and what’s wrong. What would happen if we all get to a point where respect and appreciation for different perspectives rules?

    Instead of forcing it on to each other, why not lead by example and use the rules to help us all appreciate differences. AT the Institute for Civility in Government we define civility as: “claiming and caring for one’s needs, identity and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

    That’s what we offer to draw the line.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Folks, before continuing this comment thread, you might want to move over to http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/04/code_of_conduct.html, which has some updated thoughts and reactions based on all this feedback.

    A couple of comments more here, though:

    1. A lot of people seem to be reacting to something I’m not saying. I’m making NO proposal to regulate what people deem acceptable on their blogs. I’m proposing a mechanism for people to express their standards. There is no proposal for a “keepers of purity.” There is an attempt to stir up discussion, and to move the needle a bit away from the widespread idea that “civility = censorship” to “it’s OK to tell people to be nice or to go away.”

    I’m a bit puzzled that many people here say it’s OK for a blog owner to set such policies, but have such a negative reaction to a mechanism intended to help blog owners set their policies.

    2. The “code of conduct” idea definitely has some hackle-raising overtones, and I made it worse with the proposed badge. Bad judgment on my part. One of my big takeaways is actually in the area of “mechanism, not policy.” Right now, policing blog comments is binary: you either delete a comment or you let it stand. You can post a “moderator” style comment to let someone know that they’re pushing the limits, but that’s it.

    I’d love to see some better mechanisms built into the widely used blogging packages for “demoting” comments that either the readers or the site owner finds offensive. Right now, it’s a tough judgment call to decide when something is offensive enough to merit deletion. Despite all the folks posturing and saying that I’m trying to allow only G rated blogs, what I’m really looking for is a better ability to manage the tone of a discussion, such that when it starts to slide down a slippery slope, the slide can be halted short of censorship.

    See the followup post, Code of Conduct: Lessons Learned So Far

  • http://www.gubatron.com Gubatron

    Here’s one for #6

    Shut up, this is ridiculous.

    Many bloggers say things in blogs by hiding their identity, that kills your “dont say anything you wont say in person”

    You need to do something productive with your time dude.

  • http://kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu/~kamikaze/ Mark Hughes

    This is worthless. Back around 1993-4, long before it was even a blog, I put a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” icon on my web site, because I can and will post things that other people may find offensive. Anything you write will offend someone sooner or later. That’s not your problem, that’s their problem.

    If you don’t like what someone else writes on their own blog, don’t read that blog anymore. If you don’t like what someone posts as a comment on your own blog, delete it; they’re free to respond from their own blog. If someone’s actually committing a crime (death threats are assault), call the police.

    Other than that, mind your own damn business, and don’t be sanctimonious.

  • http://keeptonyblairforpm.wordpress.com BlairSupporter

    Hello there,

    I’m British and run a wordpress blog.

    I pasted this from Kathy’s page:
    “We all have trolls–but until four weeks ago, none of mine had threatened death. (The law is clear–to encourage or suggest someone’s death is just as illegal as claiming you intend to do it yourself).”

    My blog is in support of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who I KNOW is resigning soon, because he has been forced out, partly by the left of his own party and partly because of Iraq. But these love-and-peacemakers are after his blood, literally it seems to me. This concerns me greatly, because it gives a certain group-respectability to this kind of talk. Not long ago on one of the British comment sites someone said “Blair’s fair game for a shot in the head.” Came the reply, “I’ll do it!” Someone else said -”No, me, please, me, me, me!” Are these people “encouraging or suggesting someone’s death” ? If so, I have a lot of research to do on old Guardian postings. I started my own blog by allowing anyone and everyone to post. After a while I got sick of the different ways they told me they’d like to dispatch Mr Blair, – disembowelled, hanged, drawn and quartered, executed like Saddam, skinned alive, stoned on TV, tarred and feathered, beheaded – some stuff I’d never heard of, and had to look up in a dictionary – you name it – my blog got it. I then decided to monitor the comments and now only put on an anti comment if it is well argued and not abusive or threatening. I know most of these people are just all talk, but not everyone who reads it understands this. And I still do not know what the law is on all of this. And is British law different from American? The Guardian newspaper, on its ‘Comment Is Free’ pages is rife with this stuff at times. The comments there CAN be removed, if someone complains, but are not initially monitored. In actual fact they seldom remove anything. Although someone I know had his comment removed a few days ago because he referred to “Islamo-fascists”. So – calling some people a name is not allowed, but saying you want to kill the Prime Minister, and are in a queue to do so, is OK. I’m going to link my blog to one of the blog rules sites you suggest here. I might even paste it into a page. In the meantime, we should all argue our corner without declaring war on each other.

  • http://kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu/~kamikaze/ Mark Hughes

    In the U.S., death threats against politicians are taken especially seriously, as we have a history of acting on them. As I understand it, under British law, threatening to kill the monarch is treason, but civil government may not get as much protection there.

    See http://www.haltabuse.org/resources/laws/index.shtml

    The statutes are generally pretty clear and readable. Making a death threat online, whether or not you intended to carry it out, is a felony carrying a year or more prison time in most states.

    Some “code of conduct” with little stickers for “nice” websites is pointless, when you can lock up the bad guys and get on with your life.

  • http://hjhop.blogspot.com Bing McGhandi

    I have to agree with Mark Hughes here: there are standards of what is acceptable and they are written in law. Threats of violence and defamation of character may (and should) be dealt with as legal matters.

    The most misguided part of this whole matter is that people don’t seem to realize that you only have freedom of speech as long as you practice it. There is no corresponding rule that you have any right to not be offended. Hell, being offended every so often is evidene that you are living in a free and open environment. It means things are healthy. Yay for the Internets! Now I’m going to look up some hyperviolent Japanese porn cartoons!

    HJ

  • http://www.bullsrant.com.au James Bull

    Calling for a Bloggers Code of Conduct is like calling for a Code of Conduct for People Who Talk to Other People.

    It already exists, does it not? It’s called common decency, thinking before you act, showing respect for others. It includes accepting responsibility for what you do, and also for what you don’t do (like deleting a blog comment) if it’s going to hurt someone else.

    The meaning of words like “decency” and “hurt” are subjective and open to discussion, but common sense will prevail. I hope.

  • Banned

    por favor!
    esto es censura pura y dura!
    Hasta cu·ndo el stablishment querr· copar todos los espacios de los ciudadanos libres?
    Que sea la policÌa la que se encargue d elos delincuentes, yo no lo harÈ.

  • Tim O'Reilly

    While we’re at it, let’s all burn books that don’t agree with our opinions. JACKASS!

  • Patrick Bowman

    The notion that public forums have to be anonymous because people won’t post what they think otherwise is really saying that some people are too cowardly to say “in person” what they can say from behind a mask. There is no possibility that governments are going to legally enforce a code of conduct for all on-line forums.

    But there is no reason that on-line forms can’t accommodate both if they choose. When a post is made, include a banner that describes the user as “anonymous” or “authenticated” where authenticated means holding a verified, ISP-based email address (and perhaps an authenticated phone number as well). Email address and phone number would not be part of the posting, but would be held by the ISP. Automated phone number authentication could be done by emailing the prospective user a link, then phoning them with a canned message saying “here’s the password to type in at the link we just emailed you.”

    Lastly, create some posting privileges only available to authenticated users – for example, immediate posting (anonymous posts have, say, a 24h delay); unlimited length, unlimited number of posts in a 24 hour period, unmoderated posts, HTML support … enough to ensure that people who want to post will be willing to register. In addition, set the default filtering level so that users only see authenticated posts unless they change their filter settings.

  • Domenico

    El problema en esto es que quiÈn es la persona que pone lÌmites, la que determina quÈ cosa es abusiva o difamatoria, quÈ es falso y verdadero, quiÈn tiene que asumir responsabilidades y de quÈ manera encarar una falta y con quÈ castigo. øEl asustadizo OíReilly? øY quÈ le duele a OíReilly, aparte de que amenacen de muerte a Èl o a su amiga? (SÌ, nos parece de mal gusto, pero sÛlo eso) øConoce OíReilly todas las culturas del mundo para ponderar cada texto dentro de un contexto?

    Una gran parte de personas que escribe o tienen Blogs se oponen al cÛdigo. Yo tambiÈn. Nadie puede abrogarse el derecho de censurar internet.

  • http://blogabarbara.blopsot.com Sara de la Guerra

    Sometimes, anonymity protects you for other reasons. I’ve luckily had the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation several times this year….our community has begun a guidelines area. This discussion is necessary and helps a great deal. Thanks.

  • http://letmespellitoutforyou.blogspot.com Mike Sierra

    Hi Tim. Long time no see! Betcha don’t need any more feedback about this subject, huh? I was going to comment here, but it wound up getting kind of involved, so instead I posted it over at tinyurl.com/35pgvs. It’s an impression, perhaps not very well thought out, perhaps a little Talbotesque. ;-) Regards, Mike.

  • Chris

    Trying to police the internet eh?

    Stupid idea I’d say.

  • http://www.bytebot.net/blog/ Colin Charles

    I disagree with removing comments. It then makes the forum a non-common carrier, and thus the editor(s) are subject to be sued for libel, etc.

    Though eliminating anonymous comments is a must do, IMHO.

  • http://www.24hourtrading.co.uk/blog Rob Scott

    No need for the rules, simply moderate comments, and report illegal activity to the authorities.

    Why create a completely meaningless code of conduct which the people who behave poorly (illegally? i.e. making threats etc) would ignore anyway? What makes them follow this code? Why don’t you just delete the offending comments?

    “Cyber bullying” can’t really be effective unless you actively seek out what these people are saying. If you are popular/famous enough to warrant an entire blog devoted to criticising or ridiculing you, then you’d have a good deal of popularity (which is surely the point of a blog?).

    Bloggers are in the public eye. If one puts oneself into the public eye, one must be prepared to be “shot at” (metaphorically) by every loon with a computer. That’s a fact. Such rules as you suggest would be both unenforceable and prohibitive to the freedom of thought that I hold dear. If blogging became regulated, I for one would dump it and start doing something else.

  • http://writingaspirations.blogspot.com Rashenbo

    Guidelines are often good, for many folks having a universal theme to work with is a great thing. With that said, as long as there is the internet there will be flamers, spammers, and trolls. Some people enjoy them and look for them. Some folks like sites where they can flex their own “flaming muscles”. To those people that create the environment and support those individuals – more power to them. I choose not to frequent those communities… Having communities that follow a guideline of conduct would certainly be more appealing to me. If there were a way to identify them, either from a directory, site, or badge of identification, I’d probably linger longer.

    It’s a fantastic topic for discussion and it will be interesting to continue following how the blogosphere incorporates (or ignores) this thought process.

  • http://www.thecrankymonkey.blogspot.com CM

    Weíve regulated everyoneís rights to free speech everywhere else, this idea is the first step to doing it on the internet as well.

  • http://five4all.com/blogs/wordpress musashi

    MY oh My, here we go again.

    A proved misscommunication and lack of action from a third part, reaced to transform an ALLREADY solved local minor issue into a storm.

    What`s the matter with you, peoples ?

    You keep posting about NY newspapers, chapter 230, legal USA documents, wheater in Kingston and best underwear color to wear at your brother wedding …

    Hello, internet is not in USA !!!!
    You like or not, LIVE WITH THAT.

    Kathy proved to be weak, easy to be scared by words. Tim recently re-read Don Quichote. Severa others affraid of them own shadow and barelly hope tomorow sun will raise on sky.

    All “big guys” sitesHAVE rules, terms, policy. All. yahoo, google, technocrati, blogger, all.
    All self-respected bloggers who choosed to host them own blog platform, have too.

    The only feature of your idea is the badge.
    “this is safe, good guys.” badge.
    “this is not safe, don`t go.” badge.

    Up in this colon of comments you say ” sure is optional”.
    Blogs who`ll not have the badge, how they`ll be listed, as safe or as “bad guys” ?

    Again, this is comunist feature – order peoples by “us” and “them”. They didn`t invented, but they used and promoted.

    In long terms and time, what you try to enforce is far whorst than few “trolls” spreading them poison here and there.

    But you fail to understand that. Becouse you don`t have the scarps I have. You didn`t feel the pain I felt.
    Or you badlly whant to have your name related to a product, as bulb is related to Edison.

    If you need REAL issues to debate on, do yourself a favour and ask me. I`ll give you real ones, more than you can even think ..

    Btw, if you feel ofended, think again. I answer to your posts. My reactions are generated by your posts. Then, according to your own code, you are to be banned … Do you belive in your code ? If yes, what are you waiting for ?

    Anyway, I have a “code of conduct” on my blog.
    Do you dare to read it ?
    I think is far better than yours …
    mwuahahhahaha

    “the day you forgot to laugh is a day you missed to live”

  • http://caranita.blogspot.com lenje

    Heck, I’m not even a US citizen, so I don’t abide by the First Amendment, but I find some elements of the Code of Conduct as Tim points out are against the universal freedom of speech. Everyone is entitled to write whatever they like in their own blog, though I acknowledge that that way they should be prepared to receive harsh comments. Comments moderation, in my view, is only applicable to spams. If Kathy thinks the comments are irritating she can simply ignore them. Or if they are threatening, report them to the police. Less threatening comments don’t necessarily mean her life is safer :).

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    lenje — I don’t think you understand what I was suggesting. Two things, at bottom:

    1. That people voluntarily take a stronger stand against personal insults and demeaning speech in the comments on their blogs. That is, take more responsibility to moderate the conversation, rather than just letting it run wild.

    2. That we get some consistent language for letting people know what is allowed and what is not. E.g. one site might allow profanity, but not insults, while another considers any profanity to be grounds for comment deletion. So for example, on radar, I’d allow a comment that said “Wow, that site was fucking awesome” but not one that said “You’re a fucking idiot.” Someone else might want to let their community know that both were inappropriate.

  • http://five4all.com/blogs/wordpress musashi

    Well, somebody must inform you, mister O`Reilly …

    Both above point state about things allready on progress. Your code then is useless.

    The lack of selfconfidence and inside resources of your dear Kathy is not and will never be an acceptable reason to enforce to worldwide. In fact, I must remind you that you also have not the quality to do it.

    Valentin,
    Romania

    ps : “Wow, that site was fucking awesome” .. well, translated in romanian, this sound dezastruoslly wrong. Becouse of “was”. Which lead the subject to a part of problem that your code totally ignore : we are not all born native english speaker. In fact, native english speakers are a minority. Will your code have a rule to force me, one of ppl who don`t know english at all, to not read + comment on english language sites/forums/blogs/tv-radio stations/newspappers/cities/countries ?

    Please, pay a visit here : http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html

    art 2 + 6 + 7 + 19.

    ps2 : I have a code on my blog. Where is yours ?

  • http://www.crazymeds.org/new.html Jerod Poore

    Invoking the EFF as a way of laying the groundwork for civility is ever so ironic. Take a look at http://tor.eff.org

    Just what all the stalkers and shit-stirrers of the world need, a cookbook on how to be IP-anonymous. Ban them all you like, but with all the disposable free e-mail services available if an IP address vanishes into the data cloud then no ban is enforcible.

    And that’s just having their own, there’s a buttload of anonymous proxy sites scattered about as it is.

    I run a website for the mentally interesting. We’ve tried to ban some people time and time again, to no avail. They just keep coming back to attack moderators, disrupt discussions and continue their little stalking games. We can delete things only so quickly, but we can’t do anything about a private message that has already been sent.

    One known drug-seeker came by and posted that he stirred up the shit for no other reason than that he was bored. Poor us.

    My daughter has been stalked online and physically assaulted by one such person. Her medical bills have totaled $1,700. Maybe the EFF would like to chip in for that. We haven’t been able to collect from her assailant, his family or Oregon State. Was he kicked out of student housing after yet another violation of the one-strike violent act policy? You must be joking. Did the DA want to prosecute? Boys will be boys after all.

    That the same thing is happening by some dickweed in Florida, well, that’s just our problem, isn’t it?

    Hmmm. Mentally unbalanced stalkers doing violent things at universities. That could never lead to more trouble.

    So all this discussion about good old YOYOW and civility is just fine and dandy for people who are willing to show a legitimate ID at the door.

    As the EFF has a project dedicated to writing software to facilitate stalking and the behavior that starting this very discussion, I’d like to know what they, or anyone else who can rub two expressions together, proposes for people like me who run sites who wish to prevent anonymous asswipes from using my site? If they wish to be anonymous, fine. All I want is a way to prevent people who use proxy servers and other ways that mask IP addresses from accessing my site. If there is no way of contacting a real systems administrator to report abuse, we don’t want them around.

    I can’t code such software and I don’t know anyone who can, so specs are meaningless to me. I need an anonymity firewall.

    It’s tools not rules folks. Rules don’t mean squat without the complete toolkit to enforce them.

  • http://five4all.com/blogs/wordpress musashi

    @ Jerood Poore :

    That is one fact : this code proposal IS to limit – deny FREE internet use. There is “right to remain innocent until proved guilty” in human rights. Mister O`Reilly want with any price to make it sure he`s guilty for denying free access to internet, particulary to blog use. Thru limit speach freedom. But this is the top of aisberg, my friend. Is what is clear at a shallow view.

    You touched a point in your comment. “What about anonimus proxy ? “. Look here the answer > http://www.maxmind.com/app/geoip_features , on bottom of page :

    “We offer proxy detection. Anonymous proxy detection is included with the GeoIP Country, Region, and City databases, and open proxy detection is available through the minFraud service.”

    Is a PAID services, Of course …

    Is all about communication. Web 2.0 is a big thing, but easyly can become a repression tool if used unaccurate. Enforcing to internet users certain rules simply is same as denying them right to use. This is a simple fact wich O`Reilly fail 24/7 to see or to admit (that last case is obviosly very bad …). A code of conduct enforced to users is wrong.

    Becouse, one out of two :

    - will split users into “good” and “bad” using a subjective and no-reality-facts based, sending ones who WANT speach freedom in “dark side, danger, don`t go there” and others, fans of idea, will reach to point to PAY LOADS of money to use sophisticated tools;
    -will force ALL users to PAY for the right to use certain FREE-UP-TO-NOW intercommunication tools, as blogging.

    Speaking of this second option, I`m sure that most of “big boys” (yahoo, google, microsoft etc., no capital letters for names on purpose :-P ) love the idea you have while they will happyly start to cash some bucks from millions of users … is that what you`re up to, mister O`Reilly ?

    Half serious, half joke :
    -start-
    7. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.
    7.1. (variant a) – NEVER speak in person other way that you speak online
    7.1. (variant b) – Allways speak online as you speak in person.
    Next, I urge you to speak HERE as you speak in RL. Tell us EXACTLLY your words you used towards bad drivers endangering traffic, while driving your car … mwuahahhahaa
    -end-

    It happen I know the way out. I have the solution. I know how you go out as hero and everybody live happyly everafter. I`m a nobody ? Maybe for you …
    I`m ready to share it with you, in private, while I`ll never make public I have been contacted by you. By YOU, in person. I can see, looking to this lines I type, at least 3 free (no money) ways you can contact me. Deal is valid until 25 april 23.59 gmt. After, I`ll make public the solution, which will or will not affect your image. You are not a target for me. Your idea is. It disturbing me to enjoy my .. 1, 2, 3 … 10 .. 11-th beer.

    Valentin Hornicar,
    Romania

    ps : If you wonder what mean the word “Romania”, watch this, will maybe change your perspective about world .. http://youtube.com/watch?v=YEdPoPkUsYc

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Musashi — you clearly misunderstand my point. I was calling for self-regulation of blogs, not for anyone else censoring. You can do whatever you want on your blog, but I’m suggesting that you take responsibility for the comment community that you create. If it gets nasty, then you need to step in and moderate. If “anything goes” and it gets out of hand, you have to accept some responsibility. If you have standards, enforce them.

    Many of us allow comments that we shouldn’t because we have this idea that civility = censorship. But saying “come back and restate your argument without insults” is not censorship, just telling people how to behave in your space.

    We all ban spammers. We might also want to ban other types of hostile commenters.

  • http://five4all.com/blogs/wordpress musashi

    My dear friend,
    Thank you for answer.

    First, I`ll be “rude”.
    “I was calling for self-regulation of blogs”
    With “here are tigers” badges ? And still stay unsolved the problem of “no badge mean .. what ?”.
    Not to mrntion that most of bloggers DO selfregulating them blogs.
    Exceptions : ones who don`t care, ones who enjoy, ones who have no idea how to. Together, maybe 10 .. 15% of bloggers. Is big ? Is acceptable ? I dont know and, honestly, I can`t care less. I don`t want to save the world, I passed the time when I was dreaming I`m the ultimate solution :-))
    And a badge wont make the difference on this number. But WILL sure destroy ones reputation.

    You will never be able to stop really bad guys.
    Is a total jam to make a storm from a missunderstanding.
    IT IS necessary to be more or less undercontrol, but SURE enforcing bloggers is not the way, until you also give them rights to accept “here goes anything”, as you do. That is simply delaying the next REAL fact.
    Else, badge-ing blogs-forums-sites, is simply an error and a threat, long terms point of view.
    Single way your idea as proposed and sustained by now is, actually, to “badge” the “good”. Which mean, said it or not, that any “unbadged” is dangerous for … eyes-mental health-personal safe-whatever.
    You maybe are or not a smoker. If you are not, ask a smoker. On cigarettes packs is writed “smoke is dangerous for health”. Is that STOP the smoker to .. smoke ? No, sir. Got my point up to here ?
    The heal is somewhere else, in other kinda actions.
    One, proved to be sometimes not quite succesfull, but stoping it will sure raise big style the number of bad guys, is education.
    But ..
    I know flamers who are highly educated peoples. VERY highly. They use the flamers account for fun.
    As to not spend your time with useless details, the issue is hopeless… not. Actually, it can`t be stoped, is human nature after all .. but can be severlly reduced. Not thru “code of conducts”, laws and rules are to be broken, I quoted here ANY average person worldwide, 99.99% of peoples had said this at least once in life.
    Still, preventing and stoping trolls, spamers, flamers to invade certain spaces is an issue to be solved … my idea MAY be one fast-long-easy-hard-lame way.
    Sure, I could say it here now or before.
    But is not the way. Becouse … the way I see things is fit for YOUR position. I deny your rights to enforce the code of conduct with badges. At least becouse NOBODY selected / elected you president :-P of internet bloggers.
    :-)))
    Stil, the way I see how to solve the problem, entitle you.

    Try .. or not. Up to you. I`ll be the same. World will still be round. :-)

    Valentin

    ps : After TIM O`REILLY read this, is equal for me if will be or not published in this blog, specially becouse my wretched english may be boring for comments-readers.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Musashi — world will still be round, yes — but this isn’t about an external fact, but human psychology. What we choose to focus on helps to frame what we see and what we become. People used to think the world was flat till people proved otherwise.

    People here say that nothing can be done to make speech on the net more civil. I disagree. All it takes is people who care standing up and saying so, enough that the public perception changes.

  • http://www.crazymeds.org/new.html Jerod Poore

    Musashi,

    Thank you for the pointer to Geo IP. I’ve written to their sales people with some questions.

    I don’t care if I have to pay for it, even if the software has a monthly license. If that’s what it takes to keep people from hiding behind all those free proxy services that allow them to make violent threats and never be tracked down, it’s worth it.

    The response I got from the people at tor.eff.org was priceless.

    First I should get in touch with the people at mindfreedom.org – you know, a bunch of couch-jumping morons who think that drugs are bad mmmmkay. Don’t ever take a drug a psychiatrist or neurologist prescribed because it will turn your brain into goo mmmmmkay.

    Secondly we should all be more civil. Our tone is too “flip.” Gosh, I’d love to see her post about how her meds aren’t working while her meds aren’t working and she’s facing yet another 72-hour timeout from polite society. Be my guest at being oh so civil under those circumstances.

    But it will be all OK as long as we’re all polite to each other while the stalkers and other people who fit the DSM-IV definition of antisocial can hide behind home-brewed IP maskers.

  • http://five4all.com/blogs/wordpress Valentin

    Tim,

    “People here say that nothing can be done to make speech on the net more civil. I disagree.”

    Me too.

    You missunderstood peoples reaction.

    Peoples disagreed your WAY, not your purpose.

    Do you really want to do it, even if the way is not the one you choosed ?

    War against “bad” is not hopeless. Is long and 99.(9) % filled with failure while giving up mean surrender and acceptance.
    Up to now, each and every one I saw being against your proposal were peoples stating they can / try to deal, with more or less success.

    So, again, how determinated are you into this action ?

  • http://the-goddess.org/blog/index.html Morgaine Swann

    I have no problem deleting abusive comments – my blog is my “house” and I don’t tolerate people coming in and being rude. People are free to disagree with me or ask questions if they do it in a civil manner and back up their positions with sources. Debate is fine, but I rarely see anyone express a different opinion without calling names. Feminist blogs are also routinely targeted by men who think they’re going to tell us how to behave and what to think, and I give them very little leeway.

    Do people need to be kinder to each other on line? Yes, absolutely. We have a chance to communicate with unprecedented freedom, and we should make the most of it. We should try to live up to the promise of the internet rather than using it as an excuse to express our basest behaviors. I’m thoroughly sick of the lowest common denominator determining what I read on the web or see on TV, and that element shouldn’t be allowed to dominate a forum for political discussion or news.

    I think expecting a blogger to be responsible for comments by others is unreasonable, though. Some systems don’t have comment moderation options, and even if they do, they can be an extreme barrier to conversation. I do think a person should have to provide a web address to comment, though, and I don’t allow anonymous posts anymore. For those who do, I still think it is unfair to expect them to take responsibility for the actions or ideas expressed by others. Each of us needs to bear the ultimate responsibility for our own actions.

    There’s no one we can report disturbing or threatening posts to except the sender’s IP and I do that routinely. In doing so, I’ve discovered that some of the most threatening communications I’ve received were generated via military and law enforcement accounts. Those cases can be handled by threatening to report their behavior to the relevant IG or other authority, but what do we do with uncivil civilians?

    I’d like to see some sort of Department of Technology assembled to address problems endemic to the web which are not addressed by existing laws. I’d like to see some proactive attention given to guarding fair use of materials under copyright, and protections against use of electronic means to stalk or harass. There should be an agency I can forward obscene spam to, who is tasked with following the IP address and sanctioning its originator.

    The government has been irresponsible in not addressing these issues, and they need to encourage industry to adapt to changing technology rather than fighting it. Information is digital, iPods abound, yet we are still generating CDs and DVDs that are already obsolete and will never decay. The files I buy for my MP3/video player have ridiculous restrictions on them because the RIAA can’t deal with the fact that their mode of doing business is over. Instead of prosecuting 12 year olds, they should be coming up with a better business model. Instead, they’re tying up the courts and appealing to Congress, delaying the inevitable. Technology will always win – we need to adapt to it more efficiently.

    It isn’t fair to expect bloggers to police their blogs if they have no one to whom they can appeal for help.

  • http://LJ bemusedoutsider

    Imo the freedom of speech argument is pretty silly on an LJ! Deleting someone’s inappropriate comment from my LJ isn’t violating their freedom of speech. Anyone is free to make their own LJ and say anything they want on it.

    On a large public forum, it might be a little unfair to ban someone without leaving links to his own blog for those who want to hear his side of it. And it seems a little tacky to go on badmouthing someone when he is no longer there to answer back. But imo the solution is to provide the links, and refrain from badmouthing him — rather than let him go on trashing one’s own forum.

    Anyway, bravo for Tim and good luck!

  • http://josempinto.blogspot.com Jose Pinto

    Hi Mr. Tim, I´m from Brasil and I work with hard disk repair, I start to write a Blog about backup and hard disk.
    I saw your proposition on a Code of Conduct for Blogs, and I think that is very importante that all people in world read it and try to fallow it, we need rules or we will loose what make us “racionals” . I would like to ask your permission to transcribe your “Call for a Blogger’s Code of Conduct” and also to translate it and to publish the translation in my Blog, and with this I think that I can give to brasilians the chance to know about it.My small contribution.
    Thank you very much,
    Best regards
    Jose Pinto

  • http://www.ncprevue.com/blog John Meyer

    I have some observations in this whole blogging story. First I’d add a rule to your list based upon my own personal experiences in blogging. A blog is, when you get right down to it, an online journal. How many of you, either by accident or design, rifled through your sibling’s diary? Some of you may have even “accidentally” turned the key lock about 50 times, say. I would presume that if the person had bought a lockable diary they weren’t planning on anything they said there getting out in public.
    To take another example, how many of you have gossiped around either the water cooler or at a poker game? I’ve talked my own amount of trash in the past. Was all of it “appropriate”? Very likely not. Would we have said that stuff in the same room as the person? No, but that’s because we adjust our tone of language to the situation presented in front of us.
    And sometimes, we all just need to vent, period. It has nothing to do with truth or falsehood, We’re just upset about a particular position and want to get it out of our system.
    I think more and more of us are taking that view online and ignoring the public reality of our blogs. We write our comments and journals, thinking that only a few of our friends will ever look at them and never realize who they might pass them onto. So what I would suggest is a spin on the old “save your e-mail before you send” rule. If you are unsure of the appropriateness of something you have written, make it private or at the very least so vague that there is no real way to connect it to what you are talking about.
    Finally, I also have to ask you, Tim, what about the other part of the equation and readers who, quite frankly, can’t hold their tempers. Should Ms. Sierra be punished simply because a bunch of hot heads start spewing off death threats? Also in the article, an HR manager talked about not hiring a person because of some comments that she didn’t find appropriate. I notice that she didn’t say exactly what those comments were or why they weren’t appropriate. So we really don’t know if, say, those comments were saying that her former employers had violated any laws or safety standards. Is that a “suitible” response for somebody who’s informed the public of something important?

  • http://www.vibrant.com/blog/ Corey Donovan

    “Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.”

    For most people, this should be all they need to keep in consideration. Personally, when I blog, I like to think that I’m at a dinner party with friends. In turn, I want to try and come across as witty and intelligent, never crass or rude. Criticism is acceptable, but be civil!

  • http://www.web-articles.info Gombos Atila

    I also have a few blogs and when I review the comments, I can make the difference in a second between spam and useful comments.

    I can’t imagine the work of a webmaster who owns a very large blog.

    Regarding what is posted in blogs, I heard that in Singapore, two ethnic Chinese were imprisoned under the country’s anti-sedition law for posting anti-Muslim remarks in their weblogs.

  • http://www.maxdirectory.eu ibolya

    I think what is needed is less in the way of a blogger’s code than federal laws on cyberstalking, so that a person communicating realistic threats in one state can be prosecuted if the victim lives in another state. I think part of the reason Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom has had problems in getting rid of Deborah Frisch is on account of different laws and different jurisdictions. I’m not any sort of lawyer or law professor, though, so I may be clueless as to what laws may already be on the books.

    As for bloggers, they should each set their own policy on conduct. It’s up to the individual blogger to make commenters aware of what is expected of them; the Anchoress does this, for example.

  • http://www.lost-series.com LS-SAM

    Wow – very well said. I especially agree with points 1 and 7. Bloggers have an obligation to keep their websites safe to read for people of all age – some people are easily offended.

    Just because you’re on the internet, behind a PC, it doesn’t mean you can disrespect people and throw all manners out the window!

    Thanks for the great article.

  • http://afghan-artist.com/Desktop-Tower-Defense-Strategies/ DannYok

    I wont drag things as many already discussed it very well but i wanted to quote one of my friends here who i thought said it very well but in every few words and lines..

    “The fact is, when you start controlling free speech, you start imposing yourself on others. I don’t think what happened to Kathy Seirra was right, but if it were a guy, nobody would care. My feelings are, if you can’t take the heat. stay out of the kitchen. I will not allow others to censor me or my blog. Sorry.””

  • http://www.microsoftproxy.com Unblocker

    wow that took some reading :pant:
    If a C.O.C was ever enforced then in my eyes it would never work. The rebels will do what they do best and rebel, the no one tells me how i can run my blog etc etc will rebel.
    The people/sites that would take notice of it don’t need to as they already have things in ship shape. It could have the total opposite effect by turning some good guys in to a hell with this nonsense.
    Regardless of this if something so serious as a death threat or similar threat happens then action should be taken!

  • http://mariankrajcovic.com Marian Krajcovic

    Well, it depends on what the audience of your blog is. You can’t prohibit someone from reading and reacting. Be nice & polite, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

  • http://www.malkeenan.com Mal

    A code of conduct?

    Bloggers should police their own blogs and take appropriate action against blatant abusive posts – ie. delete them.

    Well, that’s in an ideal world. Unfortunately it’s the nature of the net that there are going to be trolls and those just out to stir trouble.

    That’s the price we pay for the freedom of expression that the net afford us.

    Mal

  • http://www.uparticles.com James

    Didn’t like the idea. Police the internet ? more than bad idea.ugghh

  • http://www.boxyad.com Chris Wong

    The move to create a bloggersí code of conduct is a waste of time since the basic rules of human behavior should take precedence over our actions, be it online or in the real world. Besides, these guidelines will remain to be ìguides,î and will not necessarily apply to all in the blogging world.

    I think an open ecosystem will police itself and produce its own non-written guidelines for proper behavior.

  • http://www.copingdivorce.com/ Ajeet Khurana

    How did I miss this post? Well, my interpretation of the 7 codes posted is:

    1,3) Be responsible
    2,6) Be clear
    4,7) Be mature
    5) Be efficient

    Seems right to me. Call it code of bloggers’ conduct. Or general code of decency.

  • http://beginnorth.com/blog/ ben

    If it weren’t for bloggers, there would have been nobody that covered the little known fact that YOUR TEETH FELL OUT ON LIVE TV!!!!

    For anybody who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, Bill O’Reilly was in an interview and his top teeth fell out of his mouth. Literally.

    read the story: http://beginnorth.com/blog/2007/08/14/bill-o%e2%80%99reilly%e2%80%99s-teeth-fall-out-on-live-tv/

  • http://www.lijo.in lijo

    I am a bloger since i was on college.I belive a code of coduct or ethics should be there. But the question is who is going to make that and who is going to obey that ? anyway having a code of conduct is a nice idea.

  • http://www.thewallstcafe.com Beth Carmen

    From what I can see around the the different blogs I visit is that more manual comment moderation is needed. Indeed we need common decency with regards to comments and posts but sadly there will always be those that don’t comply.

  • http://greatpiercingshop.com Yorgi64

    The actual statement should be “, you posess the forum” is switches on words you just as, others send the message on your site.

    In the world completely freedom of speech, it or it with “the loudest voice” rules. Idea, that blogger, which occupied time to create a blog, should allow any, at any time write something, that they want, is ridiculous.

    It reminds me of complaints when Amazon has started to raise for delivery – “but it should be free on a network!!” – the network “should be” anything…, what is it – developing object which demands that thoughtful participants have developed it in the useful tool. For blogging which means the useful tool for the information And opinions – not for harrasment under a mask of a freedom of speech.

  • http://discussionworkshop.googlepages.com/home artie gripe

    If you want to blog and invite the public to comment, then you ought to be prepared for any response. To interpret any public comment as “harrassment” or “abusive” is simply too subjective. I have never seen a blogger or message board moderator yet delete a post that praised the blogger or moderator. I am more ready to believe that abuse begins with the bloggers themselves. Restraint must be applied first to administrators, then to moderators and least of all to the public.

  • http://boinkinchipmunks.com thacker

    Tim O’Reilly [04.12.07 11:09 PM]

    While we’re at it, let’s all burn books that don’t agree with our opinions. JACKASS!

    :::chuckling:::

    That is implementation, as best at it can be put within a blog, of a “Code of Conduct”.

  • icoft roke

    WORLDWIDE client base in the cell phone sector. Tremendous opportunity to get in the stock now. Check out how big the opportunity is at
    http://www.icoft.com/roke.html
    any clarification at
    icoft123@gmail.com

  • http://www.personalfinancegate.com Tom

    It’s a fantastic topic for discussion and it will be interesting to continue following how the blogosphere incorporates (or ignores) this thought process.

  • Random Soul

    Mr. Bennett is about the poorest example of a body being harassed as you could find on the planet. His history is east to find — just Google him. Banned from a dozen or more places, he hardly fits the profile of one who is being hounded; rather HE is the unwanted aggressor everywhere he tries to worm his way in in order to to spread his peculiar brand of same-old-tune misery, regardless of the actual board concept.

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black — I invite any and all who dare to do the Google search and read up on him to also experiment by randomly diving into any of his roughly 70 or so hour long podcasts at his site. He is forever ‘just about’ to get to his brilliant strategy, oh, if only he could quit talking about how “they” won’t let him talk about his brilliant strategy… a perfect psychotic circle…

    There is a word for folks like Bennett. The word is “Crank.”

    All above is IMHO, of course, and he is free to rebut — this is just as it should be!

    His blog with the rant-casts:
    http://www.passionsaving.com/personal-finance-podcasts-page-ten.html

  • http://www.sskbank.com ssk sorgulama

    If you want to blog and invite the public to comment, then you ought to be prepared for any response. To interpret any public comment as “harrassment” or “abusive” is simply too subjective. I have never seen a blogger or message board moderator yet delete a post that praised the blogger or moderator. I am more ready to believe that abuse begins with the bloggers themselves. Restraint must be applied first to administrators, then to moderators and least of all to the public.

  • http://gorrion-info.blogspot.com/2009/11/llamamiento-para-un-codigo-de-conducta.html Javier Aranda

    First of all: Thanks a lot for this magnificent post, and the related ones (regarding with Bloggers Code of Conduct). I have found them very enlighting.

    For Your information: I have just taken the freedom of translating the article into Spanish.
    I found some difficulty with some vocabulary, but I hope it’s 99% correct.

    If anyone sees anything wrong with my post please let me know. Thank you in advance.