# Draft Blogger's Code of Conduct

When I wrote my Call for a Blogging Code of Conduct last week, I suggested some ideas of what such a code might contain, but didn’t actually put forth a draft that people could subscribe to. We’re not quite there yet, but we have a plan.

We’ve drafted a code of conduct that will eventually be posted on bloggingcode.org, and created a badge that sites can display if they want to link to that code of conduct.

But because we want a period of review, we don’t want to finalize that code yet. I’ve put a draft below (and you’ll see it’s based closely on the BlogHer Community Guidelines that I linked to last week.) But we’re also working with wikia to put the draft through a wiki-based review process on blogging.wikia.com. (There’s an easy to remember shortcut link at http://blogging.wikia.com/wiki/BCC) Please feel free to join in and edit the wiki as well as encouraging others to do so. We’ll post the final version on bloggingcode.org, along with the html to display the badge and link to the code.

(While wikis are great for developing the code, we don’t want it to be a moving target once people have signed up for it.)

Here’s the first draft:

We celebrate the blogosphere because it embraces frank and open conversation. But frankness does not have to mean lack of civility. We present this Blogger Code of Conduct in hopes that it helps create a culture that encourages both personal expression and constructive conversation.

1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

We are committed to the “Civility Enforced” standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we’ll delete comments that contain it.

We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:
– is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
– is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,
– violates an obligation of confidentiality
– violates the privacy of others

We define and determine what is “unacceptable content” on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, we will say so and explain why. [We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.]

2. We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.

3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.

When we encounter conflicts and misrepresentation in the blogosphere, we make every effort to talk privately and directly to the person(s) involved–or find an intermediary who can do so–before we publish any posts or comments about the issue.

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we’ll tell them so (privately, if possible–see above) and ask them to publicly make amends.
If those published comments could be construed as a threat, and the perpetrator doesn’t withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with law enforcement to protect the target of the threat.

5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

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

6. We ignore the trolls.

We prefer not to respond to nasty comments about us or our blog, as long as they don’t veer into abuse or libel. We believe that feeding the trolls only encourages them–“Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.” Ignoring public attacks is often the best way to contain them.

We also decided we needed an “anything goes” badge for sites that want to warn possible commenters that they are entering a free-for-all zone. The text to accompany that badge might go something like this:

This is an open, uncensored forum. We are not responsible for the comments of any poster, and when discussions get heated, crude language, insults and other “off color” comments may be encountered. Participate in this site at your own risk.

tags:

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I just can’t believe you created badges.

• Honestly, I think the badges are a little hokey. The guidelines are okay, though I think it’s worth making a reciprocal commitment; that is, not only will commenters be subject to the policy, but so too will you.

• Interesting idea. A lot of the points in this draft could apply to web sites in general, not just blogs. Especially forums.

• i like this; however, i think it’s important to keep in mind that some bloggers may agree with a code like this in principle but may, for whatever reason, want to opt out of or amend one of the articles. for example, for obvious reasons (i’m a therapist) i think it’s important for my blog to have the option of posting anonymously. i’m also wondering whether this could be more of a guideline than a code. i don’t think we want to bureaucratize the internet.

• I like the idea, but I agree with other commenters about the fact that many bloggers would want to customize the code to their specific site and ideals. Maybe the code could be something like Creative Commons licenses where there are different levels to choose from.

• There definitely needs to be an option that allows for anonymous comments.

• Since I nurture cloaked personalities–Chinese students back home, US military constrained by chain-of-command, and Twenty Major who needs to use the C-word–I feel I need to respect the occasional need for anonymity wrapped in a screen name. I would seem hypocritical not to understand the need for anonymity.

Since my blogs track (and embargo) users by IP, allow me to block unwanted phrases (more than 1034 blocked at the moment), I wonder about the usefulness of a blanket ban on anonymity.

• Chris

“We don’t need no stinking badges!”

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Seriously though, I think the “no anonymous posting” bit is going to be a deal breaker for a lot of people. Blogging isn’t really a conversation without comments and any sort of verification method for validating e-mail addresses is just another source of friction that’s going to discourage people from commenting. For something like forum software, where a person is making a longer term commitment to a site, sure, I can see validating and e-mail address. For a quick blog comment, I just can’t see a lot of people going to be willing to go through all that trouble.

• While I like the intention here… I have to say I disagree with the implementation.

This is too specific and tries to wrap online communities under too wide a blanket.

I’d prefer to see something more akin to a voluntary (and I DO mean voluntary) rating system for the web, similar to the one being used by the video game industry.

That way, blogs that may contain potentially offensive material and comments could be rated ‘M-Mature’ say, while blogs containing happy bunnies and chirping birds could be rated ‘E-Everyone’ or what have you. Leaving the vast majority of the internet with essentially a ‘T-Teen’.

Throw a corresponding bit of meta data into the header and you could even filter out such things without much trouble.

• Hi there

I’d love to know what people think about the code Segala was also talking about a little while ago. A post where they talk about this is at http://segala.com/blog/do-we-want-a-code-for-blogs/

• 2. We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.

If blogging is international, then I would disagree with this point.

In the authoritarion and cruel regimes, if one wants to get himself hanged, only then he would in person criticize the regime. Blogging is the great and unique way of protest for the oppressed people against such regimes.

• What do people understand by civility? They’ll see the badge and expect, according to most dictionary definitions:

1. Formal or perfunctory politeness

2. The act of showing regard for others

I suspect that 1) would be sneered at and 2) is not how the world works. Suppose someone were doing something that harmed others. Would we be required to show regard for them?

Maybe ‘civility’ has a better ring to it in the USA (I’m UK-based). An American, well-known in blogging circles, tried to raise the civility issue with a European audience a while back and it went down like a lead balloon. Even worse, this same person became quite uncivil in the ensuing discussion.

The ad-hominem thing is idealistic and impractical. We do take people’s personal circumstances into account. I’d settle for ‘ad-hominem abuse’, or similar. Or just drop it, the other elements in that clause cover it.

The only other thing that bothers me is the business of making personal contact before writing. This is not always practical or desirable.

• I like civility but prefer the “anything goes” badge, so how about “Civility Enforced with Dy-no-mite?”

Censorship is a slippery slope when you are dealing with bright people who want to take legitimate but mean-spirited shots at others. I hope these efforts, which are needed, do not dumb down the debates.

• Human values cannot be contained within rules. The complexity of situations, language and unknown future conditions make rules a mockery of values. Further rules have an inherent assumption that people are not trusted to act on good values.

• There are aspects of the code (mainly the first bullet point bit) that is great and I’d happily sign up to.

However the rest of it is just too tightly defined – as has already been mentioned the anonymous comments things would be a deal breaker.

A better ‘code’ would be a very brief set of core blogosphere values instead of a tightly defined code of conduct.

• Some of these comments would make excellent additions to the relevant wikia talk page, for those who think the idea is worth pursuing but would need a bunch of changes first.

I commented that to be widely adopted a CoC would probably want versions and variants rather than a binary approach, that the anonymity clause could be expanded so that moderating anonymous comments before they became visible would be an acceptable alternative, and also that OpenID authentication should be a valid alternative to leaving an email address.

• I’m a little annoyed by the symbols that are used here. It’s maybe because I’m not american or because I have buddhist sympathies but using a sheriff star and “enforce” civility is not the way I want to see the blogosphere evolve.

I might be a naive hippy :) but I would prefer a positive image as a symbol of respect between bloggers instead of a symbol of repression.

I would prefer something like the jainism symbol can be found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Jainism_logo.png symbolises equality, self control and non-violence

• This is ridiculous. “Voluntary code of conduct” give me a break. And the badges just top it.

Reminds me of some of the things america has done at its worst. Commies. Terrorists. Anonymous commenters. This makes me angry.

• Codepope

• Tim OíReilly notoriously stated silent on the fact that folks shouldnít be convicted in the court of public opinion. Likewise, if he were to take the high road, he might have put money where his mouth (say $5K) is by contributing to charities that prevent abuse against women. However, you wonít see this happen as his sole goal is pressÖ • Anonymous If you don’t like my blog because you don’t think it’s civil…or for whatever reason really, then don’t read it, don’t link to it, etc. Then my nasty, uncivil blog will die into obscurity and that will be that. No code of conduct needed. • Codepope Ooops… lost the rest of my comment. The issue is not civility; the issue is accountability and responsibility. By creating the “enforced civility” concept, you’ve conflated a number of issues (for example, copyright) with the accountability issue which may seem neat and tidy, but actually comes down to “We reserve the right to delete comments” because there’s no actual accountability enshrined in the code for the person running a blog… no anonymous comments, yet no requirement for no anonymous blogs. But then this entire discussion is basically about the best way to nail jelly to the ceiling to stop it being used in a food fight. It’s going to be a messy failure and even if you do manage to do it, there’ll still be enough jelly around to start a food fight, and now there’s a hammer and nails which can get thrown around. • Tim OÔøΩReilly notoriously stayed silent on the fact that folks shouldnÔøΩt be convicted in the court of public opinion. Likewise, if he were to take the high road, he might have put money where his mouth (say$5K) is by contributing to charities that prevent abuse against women. However, you wonÔøΩt see this happen as his sole goal is pressÔøΩ

• What a load of bull. People should be civil to each other without it having to be ‘enforced’.
Who is going to enforce this code of conduct?
You’ll be wanting a regulatory body next, and all bloggers and commenters to register, carry cards or wear badges. The internet is free, and should stay that way. There are ways to trace even an anonymous commenter’s IP these days.
“They came for the commenters, and I said nothing because I did not comment.”

• Anonymous

I would revise #6 about “trolls” to read as follows: “Ignoring public attacks is often a good way to contain them. But simply deleting their comments and letting them know repeatedly that their derogatory or inappropriate voice is not welcome is the best way to contain them.”

• I see a problem with #2, “We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person”, because there are things a blogger actually can’t say in person — because of corporate affiliation that limits one’s ability to speak openly, for example. I think that #1, about taking responsibility for our own words, is enough, and #2 can be omitted.

• Timmy wants a safe place where PR flacks can propagate their lies and VC’s get a good return on their foolish investments.

• You do of course realize that #5 is in fact opposed to itself, and is functionally impossible.

Who is going to verify the “validity” of an email address? You going to send an email and wait for a reply every time someone comments? What’s that going to prove? Autoresponders anyone?

As well, if you allow an alias instead of a real name…that’s *anonymous*.

How about not letting knee-jerk reaction to teh dramah create things like this?

• WHO ENFORCES THIS?!

Take: “4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.”

Isn’t that how we got this tempest-in-a-Techmeme in the first place? Someone felt they were unfairly attacked, “took action”, and a whole lot of other people then got unfairly attacked.

In general, every whining thin-skinned A-lister says they are “unfairly attacked” and “takes action”.

This is like proclaiming “Go to war only in self-defense”. We’ve seen how well that’s worked.

• Anonymous

I’m glad you currently allows anonymous comments. I’ve gotten a lot of value from anonymous comments I’ve read on this and many other blogs.

Isn’t this issue covered by rule #1? That is, it’s fine for a blog owner to allow anonymous comments as long as they go about deleting them as necessary.

• I understand the things that have led to this, however:
I won’t allow anything I find unacceptable on my blog. I know unacceptable when I see it without needing others to give me a badge for accepting their definition.
Further.
* Civility, is a trait which, like intelligence can’t be enforced.
* My respect for people’s privacy trumps the desire to have them register.
* Not everyone who has something worth hearing is prepared to register.
* It is sometimes it is worth engaging with people passionately disagree with us. Sometimes these people are trolls. Engaging with trolls – never say never.

• Tim, We’ve worked this way in our little corner of Cyberspace for months now.

We had another local issues forum that is sponsored by our local newspaper. It is basically a wild west free for all with anonymous posters and a ton of nastiness. We created a forum with two simple rules and we’ve run with it ever since. The quality of our postings has gone way up and the discussion has been expansive.

There are some people who refused to participate in our forum because it supposedly abused free speech. I have to say that the posters participating in our forum have the freedom they desire and the discussion goes on. We’ve been very productive with 44,000+ posts.

I support the call for civility. I ask my neighbors who post on the forum that I moderate to consider themselves in the same room with the people they are speaking with. That goes a long way to keeping the discussion civil.

• “Blogging” Code of Conduct –> “Social Media” Code of Conduct: it’s not just about blogs, it’s about any user-generated content – it’s about community.

• The badges idea is so, I don’t know…. HIGH SCHOOL.

How about I just let “anything go” without putting a nutty badge on my site?

I think your idea is going in the right direction, however it is getting very close to censorship. The very principle that makes blogging what it is revolves around free speech.

Should someone advertantly or inadvertantly post something that falls under the criminal code definition of a hate crime, or illegal activity it will be either edited or deleted and an email sent to the poster. Beyond that… ANYTHING GOES.

For the most part we aren’t children. I think common sense should prevail. Anyone who is going to allow hateful comments, threats etc etc etc on their site isn’t going to sign on to any “Moral Majority” led code of conduct, nor will they necessarily post a BADGE stating one is entering an “anything goes zone.”

I could keep going, but I think, when time permits this week I will just blog my response. What scares me is I am in almost total agreement with Scoble for a change. OUCH!

• Marcus

It’s simply unbelievable what’s going on here.

So-called “community standards” are merely the latest example of the agents of normalcy and entrenchment subconsciously attempting to organize, dictate, tame and pacify.

As always the salvos come as a reactionary countermeasure to some unusually extreme example of the worst of human nature.

As always each one of this “community” of normalcy has their own ax to grind.

As always with “community standards”, new attempts are made to classify and control speech. And parody, satire, dark humor, as always, are feared and maligned implicitly if not explicitly.

As always, the “community” wants nothing but the best, they want to save us all from ourselves.

The only surprise to me is that so far the “community” hasn’t figured out a way to tie pedophilia in with all of this. But don’t worry, that will happen soon enough.

The old media dictator is dead. Long live our new media overlords.

• mcdtracy

O’Reilly talks about “we” – I wonder who he means by that? There are a few of his pet peeves in there, so it seems fair he will be one of the arbiters of what’s civil or inappopriate on other people’s websites. This reeks of prohibition and candlelight marches.

O’Reilly is a control freek. Do a little checking on the guy, look at how he responded to challenges to the exclusivity of his events on Om Malik’s discussion board a couple of years ago. Suppose his board of standards decided he was uncivil, I wonder if he’d abide by their judgment. And he doesn’t say what the penalties are. Banishment? Trial by angry mob? Lynching?

Is this post civil? I haven’t threatened anyone, I mean no one any harm. Let’s see what happens to it, let’s see how Tim O’Reilly applies his justice.

• I put together some thoughts on civility, see http://thoughtpad.net/who/alan-dean/on-civility.html

• Suggest that we add option and encouragement for those with blog conflict to engage in online mediation. Mediate.com is available to provide mediators.

• “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I see no guaranteed right of distribution in this. No newspaper has ever been required to cede editorial control to its readers to be in compliance with this amendment.

If someone has something mean to say there is no reason at all they can’t go start their own blog, slap an “anything goes” symbol on it, and have at it. How is this a free speech issue?

• Van der Leun

Sigh. It seems, as certain mini-moguls become more affluent, they have more time on their hands to wander about the world shoveling seaweed against the tide. These badges are fine with me. They are actually sort of slick. Will they make a bean’s worth of difference. Not so you’d notice.

The only thing that will be noticed out of this will be a bit more attention to Tim. And that’s fine with me also. I think he’s done a vast amount of meaningful and useful work in his time. And will probably do more.

• “How is this a free speech issue?”

Exactly right, Jim, IMO. Phony issue, contrived to present as victims those who would play at or outside the boundaries of unacceptable behaviour.

“parody, satire, dark humor, as always, are feared and maligned implicitly if not explicitly.” By implicitly, read “never restricted” – another phony attempt to set up a straw man, the better to avoid dealing with the actual issue: taking responsibility for a**holes.

“they want to save us all from ourselves”. Give me a break. The interest comes from protecting ourselves and our own communities – this is a right to bear arms issue, and the formation of a community that shares the same values.

• Donna

I think it’s awfully telling that male A-list bloggers feel the need to stifle conversation on the Internet in the name of protecting female C-list bloggers.

This little lady doesn’t need you looking out for me.

But now that YOU’ve gotten rich off the Internet, Mr. O’Reilly, it’s apparently time to close the frontier… and keeping the wimminfolk safe is an excuse that’s hard to argue with, unless you’re a troll.

• a blogger code of conduct would be like herding hornets – nice idea but painful to all in execution

• Good job, Tim. I’m glad something structured is being worked on and hope that it helps improve the Web.

• Mostly good. Here are comments on a few things I’m not comfortable with:

I don’t like requiring people to provide a valid e-mail address. I try to keep my working address known by as few people as possible, have gotten virtually no spam at it as a result, like to keep it that way, and understand the desire of others for the same.

In many cases I would rather respond to knowingly false or fallacious statements than delete them.

If I delete a troll’s or spammer’s comment, I do so without notification. I don’t want to give them even the satisfaction of a stub that says “Troll’s comment deleted.”

• Ick. I would never put one of these on my blog.

• You’re all right who said the anonymity bit needs to be optional. I realized that as soon as I posted last night, but I was already in bed, so I figured I’d fix it in the morning. Alas, I should have gotten back up.

As far as this being a guideline, I think that that’s all it is. What I really think is useful is giving notice to participants in a community that there are standards. Obviously, any site can publish its own standards, and anyone is free to take off on these. But the idea of the “stinkin’ badges” is to make it easy for people to say “I want to use these guidelines” without having to set up their own guidelines page.

As far as the quality of the badges — I agree that they’re a bit hokey, but they seemed like a good place to start. The idea came from Creative Commons, where simply putting a badge is a link to a set of statements about copyright. Perhaps text-style badges like CC uses would indeed be less hokey. We’ll think on it.

Seth asked: “Who enforces this?” The answer is, the site owner, who can delete comments and ban commenters, or moderate them before posting. The “we” in the case of Radar is the set of people who post here. On some other blog, it’s the individual or group who runs the blog. It’s not like this is some law that’s enforced on other people’s sites. It’s just a statement about what you’ll allow on your own blog.

And it doesn’t say anywhere that this is about “stifling conversation.” There are a number of comments here that fall into the “troll” category.

I’m leaving them in as data points about sentiment, but don’t feel the need to respond to them. There are also a number of comments with ad hominem attacks that I’d delete on some other post, but will probably allow here because this post is trying to suss out sentiment on what is a controversial issue. (Paul’s “Timmy wants a safe place where PR flacks can propagate their lies and VC’s get a good return on their foolish investments.” is a good example.) If paul thinks that is the purpose of this blog, he’s welcome not to read it. If he kept up with comments like that, he’d make himself unwelcome.

mcdtracy — you clearly misunderstand. I’m not proposing to be the arbiter of anyone else’s website, just my own. I’m looking to provide an easy way for bloggers who feel similarly about taking more of a stand on uncivility to do so.

Requiring civility does not mean censorship.

I’d be curious as to what you found offensive in my comments to Om about exclusive events — I’d be happy for you to quote and explain your objection here. Saying I’m a “control freek” without justifying that accusation is something that I wouldn’t do, and per my “code,” I’m suggesting as moderator of this space that I’d rather you made a stronger case for your position than simply making personal accusations that aren’t even substantiated by a link to the comments you say you found offensive.

• Harry

“Requiring civility does not mean censorship.”

Please explain how that would be possible; how can you make people “be civil” (whatever that means) absent some sort of coercive force or action—that is, censorship? It sounds like you’re trying to draw a square circle.

Tim, frank, open, and honest discussion is often messy, and there’s no way around that. Instead of codes of conduct, perhaps it would be more productive to remind people that “free speech” is not the same as “consequence-free speech” and that, as adults, they should have developed thicker skins by now.

• I’m relieved to see Tim say all that, and I think it addresses most of the points I covered in my last blog post! (see sethop.com) It’s strange taking part in this highly fragmented conversation. No wonder I tend to stay out of anything “current”…but it’s past 4am over here in NZ, so I’m very much going to bed now.

• Harry, would it be censorship if someone came to a party at your house, got drunk and disruptive, and you asked them to leave? Censorship to me implies preventing meaningful discourse, or as Wikipedia notes, “a group controlling certain information is using this control improperly or for its own benefit, or preventing others from accessing information that should be made readily accessible (often so that conclusions drawn can be verified).”

• I WANNA BADGE. GIMME, GIMME.

Coral

• Jim

I mean who really cares? This is ridiculous. Here come the blog police. Isn’t there something more meaningful you could be spending your time on? Let’s get a little perspective here. It’s just a blog. It’s something that 80% of the rest of the world could care less about. It all comes across as so pretentious and self important. Deal with the riff-raff how ever you want to, do it quietly and move on. It’s part of life.

• i find that badge & “Civility Enforced” a really negative way to look at this problem. it presumes that civility is not the norm, and must be enforced. it presumes the guilt of your readers, and warns them that they will be watched, and punished if they cross the line.

like wearing a lapel button that says: “I am not a murderer.”

why not presume & expect civility? (i certainly do, on my blog and the ones I read … 99.9% of net interactions are civil).

then make your badges & codes accordingly. ie: “Civility is Here” or whatever you like. But to say “Civility Enforced” seems to me a misrepresentation (a bad misrepresentation) of what the blogosphere is really like, and the “need” for enforcing.

• Before there was a debate about what the blogging community can or should do in reaction to Kathy’s predicament, you had already posted these codes to your web page. Can we table these for a few months to digest what happened, give time for us to cool off, and think about alternative solutions?

I have no doubt that you have the best intentions in mind, but this seems like the wrong solution and the wrong method to reach that solution. Hell, I’m not even sure what problem this is attempting to solve — all the more reason not to rush to an answer.

• ficke

This whole idea will be tossed around for a few days while different bloggers comment on it, then it will be forgotten about and never mentioned again.

• hugh — very good comment about the negative tone of the civility enforced badge. I think you’ve nixed that one for me. We’ll think of something else.

• I think trolls have value, actually. We value satire as a literary form, do we not? Trolls often have a nugget of truthiness in them, even if they’re gruffly written.

And this isn’t a face to face conversation, so don’t treat it as such. Part of the great thing about the internet is that it’s liberating from the constraints of niceness we’d see in meatspace. I guess my feeling is if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the fire.

• Kathy Sierra

This Code of Conduct would have had no effect on what happened to me. I had a comment policy in place, and deleted the threats that came directly to my blog. But if people are determined to hate, harass, intimidate, or threaten you, it’s easy enough to do on other blogs.

I do think that people should be able to have their own comment policy with impunity–I’ve had one clearly stated for the last 6 months–but anyone who would support a code of conduct doesn’t *need* one, and anyone who we *wish* would adopt it never would.

I have absolutely no faith that anything can be improved. People have become too desensitized and accepting. Worse, way too many people encourage the worst of it. The thousands of emails I’ve gotten since this happened paint a very depressing story.

I’ve been nothing but optimistic for the last two years of my blog, but I was wrong. I’m glad people are having this conversation, but the more I hear… the more it appears that there is only one solution — the one I’ve been hearing the most — “grow a pair.”

• What is the difference between this code of conduct and a site’s Terms of Service? Must one of these two warts appear on each blog?

• As currently written, a blog post that is a parody or satire technically may violate the code, but still adhere to the spirit of the code. I suggest changing the following

“is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person”

to

“is libelous; or is knowingly false, is ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person except if the content is satire or parody.”

• Jonny Goldstein

I think it’s absolutely fine to set the standards for the blog one administrates. While I don’t happen to agree with all of the standards Tim laid out, he’s not proposing that everyone adopt his standards.

People who break the law (by threatening, for example) should be liable to legal sanction. Of course, it may not always be easy to track down lawbreakers.

Overall, I think the anonymous nature of the internet is a good thing, as it lets people express themselves who would get in trouble for doing so under their own name (whistle blowers, political activists in repressive countries, etc.). Sadly, this anonymity is an also invitation to bad behavior.

Kathy, I am disgusted by the way anonymous people have threatened and harassed you. I hope you can draw some hope from the fact that there has been a huge outpouring of support for you.

• Kathy Sierra

“except if the content is satire or parody.”

That’s the get-out-of-anything loophole, employed by those who trot out those words as an excuse to be cruel or worse.

Those who are skilled in satire consider it both an art and difficult:
http://www.thehappytutor.com/2007/04/tips_for_satiri.html

I think people who do *real* artful satire and parody are probably insulted by those diluting, misusing, and abusing those words.

I do think you’re right Aaron — satire and parody must be protected — and we should also try to protect those two words (satire and parody) from being co-opted to enable virtually anything, by anyone.

• Tim, I realize you’re overwhelmed, and thanks for responding, but that being said, if this is just for blog comments, it’s rather pointless. Note the particular blogs which set off this fracas considered themselves to be satire and parody, and hence it was simply not applicable to have a delicate civility policy. In fact, if you came up with a “this is satire” badge, that might be a halfway decent idea (though not nearly as a publicity generating, I suspect).

Is there really a crying problem with nice blog-owners needing assistance in telling their commenters to play nice? They usually don’t have too much trouble doing so.

But when you write (my emphasis): “When someone who is publishing comments OR BLOG POSTINGS that are offensive, we’ll tell them so (privately, if possible–see above) …”

NO THIS WON’T HAPPEN! Because an A-list bully can, and will, rain down abuse with impunity on anyone “below” them, and peers generally won’t want to get into a fight for someone who is powerless. So that part of your proposal is at best wishful thinking, and at worst, cruel posturing.

A system which runs on attention-mongering, demagoguery, and too many infamously abusive tin-pot egotists accountable to nobody but a handful of other BigHeads, is never going to be “civil” from saying it should be (no matter how elaborately it’s said).

• Gary T. Brown

You created badges? What’s next, a blacklist?

I haven’t required the services of a nanny since I was four years old.

Isn’t it a given that people should behave and conduct themselves as they would in person and that we ostracize those who don’t? We also have to consider that some people do conduct themselves a certain way in person and just because they also do so online should mark them for censure.

Again, as with so many things no-a-days, whose parents didn’t do their job here?

• Tim…

where were you last year when myself, Nancy White, Bill Anderson, Grace Davis, and Jimmy Bice were part of a panel on civility in the blogosphere at SXSW Interactive.

In fact, the only people who showed up for that panel were a few folks who ran message boards who wanted to share what actions they took about it..

Thing is, this reeks a bit of hypocracy. The incivility has been going on for a very long time, and has ran off a number of women–including Peggy Phillip, a Memphis-based tv executive who used to blog regularly. She got death threats and was forced to stop blogging.

Are you calling for this now only because the incivility has hurt someone you know, Tim? This is a very big place out here, and it would have been very nice if you’d have been part of the civility conversation a bit earlier in the game.

• Tim, I respect and understand the idea behind this. Because of my experience and background in dealing with non-anon expression and accountability, this brings up a flood of concerns and suggestions.

After 15 years in management at The WELL, in a context where there is close to no anonymity, paid participation, and twenty two years of debate about what Stewart Brand’s famous WELL aphorism, “You Own Your Own Words” or YOYOW really means to participants and volunteer conference hosts, some things that seem simple turn out to be more complex.

At The WELL we see an astonishing range of civility and bluntness among our conferences, where the same people play rougher in different arenas. We also see teasing that doesn’t bother the participants who are pals but looks rude to strangers. You probably would not find any hosts willing to put up a sherriff badge. If you go back to the model of hosting a dinner party, the range of styles and behaviors are almost infinite.

The sherriff badge is pretty much asking for rebellion and mockery. Aside from that, it’s a cold image to present in terms of our wanting to welcome guest contributors, friends and community. Obviously that varies depending no blog popularity, and the graphic can change.

Perhaps a slightly more flexible and thoughtful commitment, and a more inviting badge of hostship would help as an addition, or even a replacement, to the wild-west sherriff stance.

Requiring an email address in the world of free and disposable addesses is a little hurdle, but we all know it is not an identity guarantor. Getting a credit card, money, mailing address, etc. adds a little more hurdle, but at some level pseudonimity is still in the mix. If the hurdle and the peer scrutiny are at a good level, people still bother to join and behave with accountability, but some will still be assholes. My feedback: don’t over-idealize the beneficial effects of non-anonymity, though they can be powerful, and don’t define anybody with an email address as non-anonymous, either. Too much potential confusion!

Taking responsibility for the comments of others is very interesting. This is where it makes sense to look at the legal context. I don’t think all bloggers can be expected to understand defamation law, frankly. Is it fair to ask them to say they will behave with the liability of a publisher or editor? (I’m looking forward to discussing with some legal experts!) Not wanting to make new laws doesn’t make existing real world laws go away, and we can’t forget that.

Also, there is the question of time. Does the sherriff badge mean comments must be pre-moderated, or is there an assumption that spammy trollish crap could go up and and may be looked at or decided on later?

Backchannel private communications can be helpful, but it’s a judgement call when to do them, and promising to always do them can set you up for being gamed by a group who demand more backchannel attention than you can give, for example. Maybe unconsciously, maybe not.

Finally — because this has gotten long and I have got to get some work done — check this out, from
http://www.well.com/confteam/hosting.html
(Adapted from great advice from WELL host John Hoag and others, and intended for application within a non-anon environment):

Whatever rule you make, someone will eventually question it — even if it is “no rules at all.” The most casual glance at human history shows that humans love making rules and arguing over them…

There are, however, ways to avoid some of the more common rule pitfalls. If you feel your place needs a special rule, take care to consider its fairness before implementing it and try to imagine how it might be circumvented. Words are a malleable medium, and they can be made to say things by inference, innuendo, and ambiguity which are very hard to pinpoint. Suppose you set up a place in which you wanted everyone to be nice to each other, and you made a rule saying just that. You might have a difficult time enforcing it because language can be made to imply something unkind even while saying something ostensibly respectful. Excessive niceness, through hyperbole, can even convey an insult. Rather than creating a rule, you may want to depend on the direct yet respectful approach, calmly asking people to clarify whether an insult was actually meant, and making it possible to save face.

Sorry for blurting out a mini-tome. I have been stewing in these issues for eons now. Thanks for your thoughfulness and best luck.

• Gary, in my experience, there are many people who fear cutting off offensive comments lest they be accused of censorship. It seems to me reasonable to make it easy for people who don’t want offensive comments on their blog to have an easy way to notify people before they post that offensive comments will be deleted.

Many sites already have terms of service or codes of conduct. This is just a way to start a conversation about a widely agreed set that people can use without having to make up their own.

Hopefully, from the discussion over on wikia, we can come up with a modular, useful set, associated with a set of simple badges, that will be much like what Creative Commons does for copyright, expressing mores with common language.

Maybe it’s a dumb idea. It will either work or it won’t.

• Enforcing civility and censorship. I recently encountered this nexus when I had to ban an insightful but abusive commenter. He was the type of person who seems compelled to be abusive. It’s OK to ban those folks but don’t think it’s not a form of censorship – it is.

I’m concerned people are confusing two different problems: death threats are illegal and need police follow up. Mean-spirited comments are hard to regulate effectively, regardless of any policies, because the line is subjective, unclear, and very dependent on context (e.g. discussion of a savage serial murderer vs a new cell phone).

• Tim,

I suspect good luck without seeing my face and hearing my tone could make the words “good luck” come off as snarky and rude. Hence you can see one of the problems with blogs, comments, email, and other forms of written communications. Without the benefit of some type of personal interaction, things can (and often do) go sideways.

Attempting to regulate or ‘herd’ mass behavior is, at best, an exercise that won’t have much luck. I worry about the “we” part of your post. Who is the we? How will “we” amend, change, waive, etc, all the things that will come out of this?

Every person is responsible for the actions they do and those they have control over. Like you, I delete attacks, nasty comments, trolls, etc. I do that because I am responsible for my little corner of the world.

A “warning, this is a free for all” actually applies to much of the planet we live on.

A sincere “Good Luck” is certainly in order as maybe, through the mere discussion of the problem, the notion of personal responsibility will get elevated to a higher priority.

Rick Segal

• If it were like Creative Commons, we could sign on to parts that we agreed with. I’m fundamentally against the lack of anonymous commenting… there are people that, due to their position in employment (e.g., govt., etc.) or society that just can’t comment on the record.

• Kathy: “I have absolutely no faith that anything can be improved. People have become too desensitized and accepting. Worse, way too many people encourage the worst of it. The thousands of emails I’ve gotten since this happened paint a very depressing story.

I’ve been nothing but optimistic for the last two years of my blog, but I was wrong. I’m glad people are having this conversation, but the more I hear… the more it appears that there is only one solution — the one I’ve been hearing the most — “grow a pair.”

I don’t think that’s what people are saying at all — and perhaps what you’re suffering is a result of too optimistic a view of this world.

If people are desensitized, it’s because we hear about torture and barbarity every day in the real world — what we face here online is nothing more than a pale shadow of the human condition.

I do think this has been more of a control issue than anything else. And again, this comment thread and the discussion associated with this post has ended up conflating two different types of events.

The first has to do with threats. Tim, your idea that we should demand an apology and retraction for a threat implies that the threat isn’t that serious a thing.

If a serious threat occurs, anonymous or not, it should be investigated by the police. If it’s not a serious threat, which the retraction would seem to indicate, then we should not waste the time of the police.

Then there are the people who create ‘offensive’ material. No one can judge what is offensive for another. In this regard, people don’t necessarily have to ‘grow a pair’, as much as they have to learn this is a world where everyone plays, and some people don’t play nice. Or even define ‘nice’ the same way.

This whole thing has been badly botched. Kathy, if you had threats that scared you, you should have gone to the police and not said anything until the investigation was finished. You didn’t though, and took this to the weblogging world, and that, unfortunately, caused you additional pain when someone smelled blood in the water and decided to make matters worse.

You also made a mistake yourself, by drawing in four other people into a very serious accusation, and focusing more attention on their actions than the actual so-called threats.

You didn’t even acknowledge that the person who wrote the ‘threat’ in your comments, did so using their name and email address, and came in and apologized later.

Are you still afraid to leave your house? What happened with the investigation? What have the police said?

This is all different than putting a badge on one’s site and demanding others adhere to our standards of acceptability.

I’m sorry but this whole thing does seem more like the powerful abusing the less powerful, as much as it has anything to do with ‘civility’.

• erik h

I started getting interested in this until I realized that none of this stuff matters at all. Banning anonymous comments does no good because pseudonyms are almost as bad (you still can’t hold anyone responsible for their comments in a meaningful way) and you still have perfectly anonymous bloggers who can harass and link to your site, like happened to Kathy Sierra. Whatever you do to run your site in a civil manner cannot be enforced on another blog, so what’s the point? Her harassers probably knew what good conduct was, and ignored it.

Here is what I would like the blogger code of conduct to be: a guide on how not to be a dirtbag blogger (TOS REQUIRED, no memory hole content deletion), and a guide on how not to be a dirtbag commenter (no ad-hominem, definition of trolling.) A code of conduct would identify “good” community members and “bad” community members. Banning anonymous comments is not relevant. The content of anonymous comments you should suppress is relevant. The effect on civility by having anonymous comments is relevant for policy discussions, not conduct discussions. I don’t want rules telling me how to run my blog, I want community standards of acceptable behavior as a blogging community member. Don’t tell me to not have anonymous comments, tell me to disallow personal attack anonymous comments for example. What is civil and how to enforce civility are two separate issues.

btw, the number one rule on this list should be that terms of service are listed and abided by on EVERY blog.

• “3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.” — sounds good but in practice the problem is that there is bad will and given person doesn’t want to give up badmouthing that they commited in past – nothing helps. What to do then?

• Kathy, the code itself wouldn’t have had an impact. But if more a-listers had stood up and taken a stand for civility *before* this, maybe Chris would have thought twice. I blame Chris’s lack of judgment on the Anshe Chung thing; where a-listers pretended to care about “free speech” by running virtual rape footage on their blogs after it had been pulled from YouTube. It was disgusting and shameful, a crass play to get more page views. Just as the French are banning “happy slapping”, a-listers need to make it clear that they are not willing to play that game. Chris Locke created the equivalent of a “virtual happy slapping forum”. He should have the right to do that, but the rest of us who think it’s a pathetic thing to do should not be afraid to say so.

• Looks like trackbacks aren’t working, I responded on my own site (without contacting Tim first).

• This is clipped from a post on my blog:

///////////
THE BLOGGERS CODE OF CONDUCT: A Simple Test

1. ìDo online as you would in person.î
Before every post or comment you make, ask yourself whether you would be comfortable shouting it out loud from a well-lit lectern in an auditorium full of 300 people that included, friends, family, and a whole lot of strangers. If the answer is ìNo,î revise and retest before posting.

I think that really sums it up. It leaves plenty of room for freedom of speech, and leaves ìregulationî in the hands of individual bloggers and readers. That is to say, if youíre comfortable shouting out offensive stuff in a roomful of people, expect to be heckled, and then the auditorium to empty quickly.
//////////

EDIT: In terms of comment regulation and deleting/censoring offensive comments – I’m not sure how to tackle that one. How about Digg style flags for comments – i.e.: community moderation? Flag an offensive comment as such, and when enough of your readers have done so, it disappears, or is viewable only on an “View Offensive Material” page. Sure – this could be gamed, but presumably restricting voting to registered members or something would keep it in the hands of legitimate users.

• Eli

The only point to having a policy is so that when there is a conflict you have something to point to other than the admin’s personal judgement in deleting posts. Unfortunately, all of the guidelines listed in this draft require the admin to use her judgement. So there is no way to defuse that argument, and blog admins will just continue to have to suck it up — when someone crosses the line, you have to be the “bad guy” and censor them.

• But poking the trolls is so much fun. ;-)

How are you gonna define a “valid email address?” I don’t know if an address is valid or not. I’m sure not going to email it before approving a comment I like. I’m not going to force my readers to register. I totally don’t blame readers from entering fake email addresses on blogs. I mean, I don’t do anything with email addresses, but there are enough spam harvesters around, I don’t blame new readers for not trusting me.

• Isn’t April Fools Over Already?

• While I have serious doubts about the what and why of the whole code of conduct idea, I fail to see how “lack of civility” connects with including or linking to content that “infringes upon a copyright or trademark.” IMO, the intellectual property angle is completely irrelevant here.

• Tim, I do appreciate your intention to make the Internet a safer and more respectful discussion space. But I have a suggestion for you: stop trying to brand and own the process. It’s turning people off, and it can’t be owned anyway.

Please consider reframing this. Instead of a top-down decree of standards of behaviour, offer a humble set of suggestions for people to use in establishing their own community standards would be more effective. Think along the lines of, “Here are some tools that, in our experience, have been useful for us, and you’re welcome to use any or all of them to help you build healthy online communities of your own.”

• Corkey

I like the idea and I like the direction that the draft is going. But PLEASE hire a graphic designer for the badges. You’ve obviously put some time into the ones you’ve posted so I commend you on your effort. However, there are quite a few blogs out there that are dedicated to exceptional graphic design and photography on the web and I would be hesitant to put anything less than exceptional on my site.
It’s definitely worth the cost of a professional. After all, what good does it do if people don’t use it?
My two cents worth…

• If someone threatens you, or wrongs you in some arbitrarily unacceptable way then you are quite justified in taking whatever steps you feel are required to resolve the situation. And you are also justified in creating standards and codes of conduct for your own blog. But to expect that you can then impose those standards on the rest of the Blogosphere… exactly how deluded are you to think that you can tell me how I run my own blog, on a domain and hosting that I pay for? Or anyone else, wherever they may blog?

I can think of a few appropriate adjectives; “extremist” comes to mind, along with “alarmist”. “Grandstanding” makes a good verb for all of this. I’m sure I could slip “Sour Grapes” in here somewhere too. But instead let’s just take a closer look at some of your codes…

“You Own Your Own Words”. You are responsible for what you say. That is correct, in much the same way that your commentors own their own words. You can slap any rationale you want over them, but they still don’t become your responsibility. If you really must take it on yourself to control the “tone that you allow” then you might not have blogged at all. No blog, no comments, no problem.

If someone wants to comment on something you’ve written and is not allowed to do it on your blog then they will find somewhere else to do it. All you’ve achieved is to move the comment to a domain that you do not control. If you had tried engaging in dialogue (or even following your own advice and ignored it) you might have resolved the issue and moved on.

“We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person”. Why blog at all? I don’t know about you, but I blog because I have things I want to say that I can’t say in person. This facet of me is just as real as the one that walks and breathes and I’m damned if I’m going to watch what I say every time I try to express myself.

“We connect privately before we respond publicly”. Not a bad one. Makes sense, but is it really practical? Do I have time to chase after everyone who disagrees with me or would I rather state my case publicly where it can neither be ignored or denied? Or I could just ignore it and move on. Maybe number 6 should have been placed higher in the list.

“When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action”. Of course we should, and I believe most people would. I find the fact that you feel the need to state it explicitly rather worrying, like you were expecting otherwise. In my experience if it seemed people were not taking action against bullying it was because they were either not aware of it, ignoring it because it would just be giving the bullies more attention than they deserved, or because they were part of it, in which case they wouldn’t be about to take action against it.

“We do not allow anonymous comments”. Really? How do you tell which one’s are real and which one’s aren’t, or even define ‘real’? Are all anonymous commentors trolls and bullies? I’ve never seen you in real life, so how do I know you really are who you say you are? I’ve blogged under the same nickname for over five years, but am I anonymous because I choose not to use the name printed on my driver’s license? You’ve made a sweeping judgment against anonymity but if I remember right, isn’t that the very foundation of your own political system? Hm… on second thought, considering the current state of the world, that probably wasn’t the best example…

“We ignore the trolls”. This one’s incomplete. You listen to the trolls, and choose not to respond. You listen to them, because they may actually be saying something that could be useful to you in the future.

Pardon me for taking my time to list out my views. I did so because you took the time to come up with your code, and because of your reputation this list is going to get a lot more exposure than it deserves. I wouldn’t be surprised if it does more harm to blogging than all the trolls in the world combined simply because you came up with it and hence it can’t be ignored.

I believe in civility, and trust the people around me to act appropriately. If they don’t I either deal with it or ignore it and get on with my life. I can almost see where you’re coming from and you probably have the best interests of the Blogosphere at heart, but that very same realm is one built on freedom and individuality of expression. What you are proposing is building a barb-wire fence around it and posting guards at the gate. Good luck to you.

I’ve taken the liberty of posting this reply on my own blog here where you may reply if you wish. Just don’t bring any badges with you.

• Greg

What a waste of time and effort. Some people just need to grow a backbone.

• I think I’m still very concerned that saying you take responsibility for the comments on your blog means you actually take *legal* responsibility for them.

The only people who can take such responsibility are those with time on their hands – with money and resources.

Which leads to thinking that only those with money should enable comments on their blog.

Maybe I’m the only one concerned about this angle because I’m the rare exception of someone still in touch with poverty and being poor and folks that aren’t tech savy – in this discussion mainly filled with technologists and such.

I’m sorry but that and the addition of the badges make this feel like a form of self-segregation – just another way of identifying ‘us’ against whomever ‘them’ is.

Aggregators will be able to use such badging to further filter the Web, keeping other voices from its edges from being heard.

Having commenting policies makes a ton of sense. That’s obvious. But what this is evolving into….

I’m sorry, IMHO it’s reactive and needs a re-think.

• Kane

How about a Declaration of Principles:

I’ll provide the people of this internet with a daily blog that will tell all the news honestly.

I will also provide them … the true news – quickly and simply and entertainingly.

And no special interests will be allowed to interfere with the truth
of that news.

• Joe Buck

While I take issue with much of the proposed standards, I am in no way defending (and in fact, I strongly condemn) abuse and threats directed at any person.

We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

That standard would require moderation of every comment. It’s one thing to have a policy of removing deleted comments, it’s another to publicly take responsibility for words posted by others.

We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:
– is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others

OK so far.

– is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,

ad hominem, in most cases, is entirely fair and proper comment. “Fred is only saying that because he works for FooCorp” is ad hominem, and in many cases is also fair comment.

This combines two things that should not be combined. Copyright infringment is one matter. However, lately IP lawyers have been promoting the ridiculous idea that anyone who says something bad about a trademark commits a tort. Trademarks aren’t going to be infringed by comments or blog postings, unless the blog is actually selling something. Trademarks matter when one is engaged in trade.

– violates an obligation of confidentiality

So much for investigative reporting online.

– violates the privacy of others

Depends. In most cases, privacy should be respected. Exceptions involve exposing active deception, like sock puppetry, or blatant misrepresentation (pretending to be a neutral product reviewer, when one is really a marketroid whose job it is to sell the product).

We define and determine what is “unacceptable content” on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, we will say so and explain why. [We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.]

But you’re asking people to sign up and pledge allegiance to standards, and then let you change them arbitrarily?

2. We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.

That’s a good standard for extraverts.

3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.

What? No online dialogs in public? No commenting about someone who provides no contact information?

When we encounter conflicts and misrepresentation in the blogosphere, we make every effort to talk privately and directly to the person(s) involved–or find an intermediary who can do so–before we publish any posts or comments about the issue.

This is sometimes a wise approach, but I don’t think it should be a general rule. One can discuss conflicts publicly in a polite manner, and going private cuts the public out in a way that might raise suspicion.

And these standards don’t say anything about undisclosed conflicts of interest, like the fact that after your private connection you received some sort of quid pro quo for not commenting negatively in public.

• Ben

Anonymous comments are definitely not fare to make, however, it’s sometimes nice to be able to say some of the extreme thoughts on on your mind without getting that feeling that causes you to blush. I belong to a great site called MindDeposit.com. They do a great job of filling in the gap between being anonymous and having to reveal who you are.

• Why does that star/badge remind me of the Nazi “Star of David” ?

• Anonymous

I am an anonymous user, and I want to say, one day you will regret including the line, “We do not allow anonymous comments,” in this draft of your code of conduct. This is no threat of retribution, I am merely stating you will eventually see the errors of forcing pseudonymity on decent users.

• “6. We ignore the trolls.”

But aren’t you doing the complete opposite by coming up with this whole CoC?

• Casey Marshall

Keep the Internet free and sometimes offensive. Most importantly, free.

• What do you do with the determined a-hole who spoofs his address every single day so he can keep leaving nasty comments? I finally had to shut down comments, which silences the “good” people but the veiled threats and just plain cruel remarks pushed me over my limit. Can’t we shoot the spoofers? ;)

• I think this needs to be stronger to include a “Be friendly” requirement. My conviction for the need to enforce extreme friendliness – and toss the other rules – grew out of my appreciation for Kathy Sierra’s Creating Passionate Users website in an article entitled: Building a Successful Online Community.

• Poster

“- violates an obligation of confidentiality

– violates the privacy of others”

Being able to do those two things is what gives journalism its power. Nixon’s tapes were private. Whistleblowers have an obligation of confidentiality.

I really don’t think that because someone gets hatemail and has a picture of them photoshopped you need to cry THE SHIP IS SUNK ABANDON ALL YE BUT THE RATS.

• “The Internet is not for sissies.” — Paul Vixie

• Aeirlys

• It’s unfortunate that you’re taking this tack. Anonymity provides an unusually different perspective for people that isn’t merely abusive. The idea of anonymity means that we’re able to explore aspects of ourselves that might remain hidden otherwise. For example, take someone with low esteem: if they’re scared of looking foolish, anonymity gives them the chance to speak freely but wear a mask. Taking away anonymity means taking that mask away from someone.

And oddly, it’s a peculiar opportunity for people to explore just what self esteem is, anyway. After all, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, it’s impossible to insult someone without their permission. If we’re able to treat these little black pixels as just that, then we see the illusion of esteem, as well. When we make the conscious decision to require any internet post to actually make sense, then does it really matter what anyone says or thinks?

It’s healthy to have a competitive place like the internet. And it’s safe enough – being a virtual reality – to explore even the most bizarre relationships. After all, how do we really know the stalker is the raving nutter, and not the one with the sophisticated argument? Just as the most effective shoplifters don’t look how you’d expect them to look (they dress smartly, and look like they’re regular shoppers), so the sociopath and psychopath is charming and erudite.

It’s very silly to take apparent civility as being real civility, just as it’s narrow minded to see online rudeness as lack of vision. Sometimes, a little APPARENT contempt is just what’s needed to enliven an online conversation. After all, it’s not as though they’re going to throw up on your carpet, or steal the family heirlooms…

• anon

I fail to understand the kerfuffle about these “rules of conduct” for bloggers and commenters.

The rules seem perfectly reasonable to me.

However, in the interest of preventing blogging from becoming an insulated “viral marketing tool” instead of an open conversational medium, anonymous comments should be allowed as long as they are not libelous, defamatory or offensive (in which case they should be removed). Journalists protect sources through anonymity where important matters are concerned, so should commenters have the ability to post constructive criticisms or concerns anonymously to avoid facing the backlash if they were to make these statements under their own name as public entities.

When critical, anonymous comments are deleted, they are symptomatic of the blog as an advertising medium. There’s a reason the corporate blogs like those of the xbox team (majornelson’s blog is an example) or Dell’s ideastorm are unloved: they are suspiciously like spam and propaganda instead of conversations.

• John F.

The golden rule rules in my book, but who will care for all the homeless servers this will leave?

• Mac Justice

How about people just buck up, and stop freaking out about mean people on the internet? The more attention you give them, the more shenanigans you create. This whole thing has brought out the worst of the blog world, hand-wringing and navel-gazing about its own imaginary problems.

• Nice. And now I am going to make a wild guess and break the sense of propriety, so to speak, and guess what you are actually thinking. You don’t really believe this code of conduct is going to work. But you are happy to kick up some dust, perhaps get people to rile about this a little (or a lot), make them admit that there is need for some kind of a bloggers code of conduct. Ok. Then what? How does one actually implement this kind of thing?

I read the draft again and still shake my head. Not implementable as it reads now. Too many nuances. Text is not speech. It seems to me that civility in textual communication – hence blogosphere – is excessively dependent on contexts that are not all that controllable. Too many dangling contexts. Text doesn’t have a context, so one imposes it immediately. How do you control that? I know I am just handwaving.

But I’d like to make one or two suggestions that may be a bit more useful.

All this chaos that you (and others) are trying to wrestle with, is perhaps because the structure of a blogging software (all blogging platforms seem the same to me so allow me to generalize) is too packed, too one-dimensional, too blogpost-centric.

1) For each blogpost, have a “shadow” copy of the same. Everytime you (blogpost author) sees an objectionable comment (one that violates the code of conduct), you simply click a button for this comment and that shifts the comment to the shadow copy. By doing this, you are saying that, “Hey, you guys warring over there, can you please step aside and take your conversation elsewhere? You are not helping us…..” or something like that. People form subgroups and fork away in any room all the time. Moving an objectionable comment(s) into the shadow post is simply shifting the conversation to this shadow, other room.

As the blog author you can maintain much better integrity this way, because you are not destroying anything. In fact one can have many “shadow” copies of a single post and people (commentors) can move in and out of a shadow post at their will.

2) The most important, in my opinion, feature that can only help: Provide an option to commenters to control whether their comment is to be recorded permanently, or to be deleted after a certain date, or to be deleted by them manually.

It is not the anonymous nature of commentor that is the problem. People “go anonymous” only because they loathe the permanent recording aspect of a blogging platform. If the platform lets the commenter to delete, erase, or even take back the commment, then you would see, I think, a much more civil order.

Apologies if these suggestions are a bit out of tune with the purpose of the blogpost. But I think we’ll have a better handle on the problem that you folks are trying to solve, if you at least try this out.

Regards, Crazyfinger

• Joe Buck’s points, above, are all pretty good. It’s a shame this blog doesn’t have permalinks on comments so that I can link to them from the BCC Wiki. Might get around to cut/pasting them into there later (on a sep page, with full attribution) if he doesn’t do it himself.

• JP

Tim, this is the best idea you’ve had since you decided to start suing non-profits who want to use the term “Web 2.0.” Maybe you should work up a “Bogus Trademarks Enforced” badge to add to your growing badge collection, Herr Commandant.

• B Dubya

And what is civility? It is that necessary social lubricant that keeps me from becoming so white hot angry that I feel it necessary to hunt you down and make you give an accounting for your actions, your words or whatever it was that set me alight.

Civility, manners, and the related social graces, often misunderstood and maligned by the young and the impatient, by the naif, are often all that stands between you and a freshly opened can of whupass. Remember, folks, these concepts have real life functions….and the promise of impending violence has always been one of the main civilizing tools.

• Thanks a lot Tim! Now that the NY Times has run with your post we bloggers are now perceived as nasty and uncivilized. It would have been nice if you thought about what the possible ramifications of your words would be.

We’re all in this together, and no, you still do not own Web2.0.

• steve

The problem with the Code of Conduct is that it puts the responsibility onto the owner of the site, and that may make the owner legally responsible for the contents.

The comments on this blog entry illustrate the problem that the Code of Conduct is trying to solve. I feel that a better approach would be to educate people so they do not keep reacting.

Whatever you think of Tim’s proposal, you guys are part of the problem while you’re reacting in angry ways. As a logical person, I have no interest in how emotionally you phrase your points, as I’m only ever going to examine the evidence.

I am compelled to point out that Tim O’Reilly is fairer than he needs to be, and responded in a very civil manner to my own troll posting in the past. I have posted a couple more not entirely nice messages, and he has consistently responded in a thoughtful way that made me wish I’d phrased things differently.

Whatever you may think, I argue that Tim goes out of his way to accomodate other people’s points of view, and that you should present your perspective in a civil manner. Implying that Tim is part of the Gestapo just makes people ignore your whole message.

Take the opportunity to express your viewpoint in a way that makes other people agree with what you’re saying. You may be surprised and find that Tim also agrees.

• Scott C.

People are missing the point that uncivil commentors and trackbacks are 90% of the underlying problem. How about somebody just writes a plugin for all major blogging software that does Bayesian filtering on “uncivil”. See an uncivil post, tag it – any followups to it get dumped in the “uncivil” section, too (if you want to roll in the mud with pigs, go for it, but I don’t have to watch you.)

Then allow readers to turn on or off the “civil” filter on the comments. Eventually, the blog owner doesn’t have to manually enforce the rules, and the readership sorts itself according to the level of civility people want.

• Nice April Fool’s. Almost fell for it!!!

Oh, wait… April 8th?

• kurttrail

Bugger off, you foul agent of conformity!

And yes, I’d be quite happy to tell you to bugger off in person.

• What part of “don’t fight the internet” don’t you understand?

Come on Tim. We should be harnessing not attempting to control.

• I have puzzled long and hard about this, because it seems to me to be an attempt to solve a problem that simply doesn’t exist.

There is not, and never has been, a problem with uncivil comments on blogs. There has been a problem concerning some people who publish blogs deciding (for whatever reasons) not to delete comments that other people feel they should have deleted.

This “code” will do nothing to change that since civility is in the eye of the beholder. It is an entirely relative term, and what is defined as civil in one place may be very uncivil in another.

All this proposal does is to define a moral panic and (in effect) ask people which side they are on. Historical examples such as the Comic Code Authority show that this approach can squash the “good” as easily as it hurt the “bad”.

I believe Tim when he says that he does not wish to be sheriff and enforce anything – but what he *is* doing is announcing loudly that there is a dangerous problem in the blogosphere that needs to be tackled by an agency bigger than individual bloggers.

There may well be other people out there in the wide worlds of religion, politics and moral enforcement who will be happy to take this announcement as evidence of something amiss, and run with it.

Then, just like the CCA stamp on comics, and “voluntary” ratings on video games and movies, distributors (ISPs in this case) will be encouraged to make sure that they are not harbouring anything anti-social by checking for the stamp.

The proposed code amounts to know more than “take responsibility for the things that happen on your blog”. If people need a code to make them aware of this then the underlying problem is not the lack of a code, but the lack of any moral awareness in the people who allegedly need the code.

And in that case, my point above stands. Civility is in the eye of the beholder, and those that need a code to help them see, will soon find that they need an external authority to advise them on whether or not they are using the code correctly.

And I am sure someone will be happy to oblige, even if Tim ends up opposing them.

• I do not like the all-or-nothing approach of the code (that is, either anything goes or one must accept all the points). Maybe an approach similar to the licenses in Creative Commons could be better, so that everyone could choose an appropriate code of conduct from several alternatives for his or her blog. I, for example, would expect myself and my commentors to obey 1,2 and 6, but not 3, 4 or 5 in my blog. (Anon commenting is OK, public debate is OK as long as it is not about private issues, and if someone is unfairly attacked in my blog, I would remove the attacking comments without further action.)

• Tim Anthony

I believe in several aspects of the code, but also believe the world should continue to have room for trashy blogs. We don’t ban trashy books, movies, paintings or newspapers – we just exercise preferences in the market place, and the trashier stuff proliferates amongst its consumers but without inundating quality in all corners.

A problem with this draft is that it creates significant work for a dedicated blogger with a popular yet controversial site. As much as I may be commenting now myself, I’m not sure of the intrinsic value of commenting on many or even most blogs. I am very much against commenting on news stories in news media – that is a perversion and a useless distraction and it reminds me of the pejorative description, ‘opiate of the masses’. Opiated masses don’t do much except opium.

Some people need trashy blogs and some need good blogs. Why not have a whole range of graded ‘codes’ and some kind of voluntarily-subscribed rating system?

• This is my real name

This is the stupidest initiative you’ve ever had. Who the hell do you think you are to make these kinds of rules?

• Rick

I apologize in advance for any offense my words me cause, but for anybody who tries to propagate and enforce (through social pressure) this kind of conformity, I have always an will always have one response:

And thank you for allowing me to post this comment on your blog. The ability to react open and freely in a way which best represents my feelings about this initiative is greatly appreciated.

BTW, I’m a strictly non-violent person, but somehow this whole debate has finally given me a better understanding of why punks used to enjoy kicking the shit out of hippies. It actually makes me feel like starting a blog like meankids (minus the death-treats offcourse).

• Mow

We need this. To all those who disagree: the internet IS serious business!

• Anonymous but not coward

It’s surprisng that Tim-o is spending time on something like this rather than, you know, run his company. (Yeah, I’m posting anonymously becuase I’ve written for O’Reilly, and, well, not been treated with the “civility” that Tim wants – a nice juxtaposition of ideas. Tim comes across with this benevolant public persona, but in business, he’s totally different…)

Trying to herd cats like this is not only counter-productive, but just opens the door to ridicule. The mainstream press has picked it up in an attempt to diss blogs of all stripes, and bloggers have picked it up as an attempt to create one ring to rule them all.

Tim, you don’t own the Internet, you don’t run it, and it’s time you realize that not all your ideas are even worth listening to. I think most bloggers deal with this on a day-to-day basis without require rules (and badges! geez…). If you had really thought out some of your rules, you might have realized how isolated they are from reality. But it seems that you’re out of touch with the reality of the little people, such as those who have no choice but to express themselves anonymously out of fear from their employers or, perhaps, the secret police in their country.

You’re trying to impose some sort of western, Christian world-view on people, and you just don’t have the open-mindedness to realize just how limiting it is.

I mean, come on, badges? Geez…

• Absolutely no way. The idea that ‘naughty words’ should not be allowed in comments is only palatable to a small censorist section of American society – the rest of the English-speaking world is mature enough to read all words in this language of ours without thinking the sky is falling.

Anonymous comments are important in a lot of circumstances – especially when a comment is on a controversial topic.

The idea of a blogging ‘code of conduct’ was a good one, but with this ridiculous, corporatised, moralising draft you have killed it stone dead. Congratulations.

• pap

Those who will stick to the code are the people who would be reasonable in the first place. Those who ignore the code will be those who would have been impolite or aggressive anyway.

The code won’t change anything, people will continue to act the same way they have in the past.

• Jeez, you guys have waaaaaay too much time on your hands.

• This is all fine, except for the wording on that nice little sheriff’s badge – shouldn’t it read “DEBATE CHILLED”?

OK, I’ll be constructive. Two immediate thoughts. Firstly, I’m shocked – seriously – to see ‘ad hominem’ appearing in this clause:

is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person

Civil debate is important, Lord knows; more specifically, it’s important to give the other person a way out – I always try to write “you’re arguing like an idiot” or at worst “it seems to me that you’re an idiot” instead of “you’re an idiot”. But the idea that writing “you’re an idiot” is an offence on a par with libel or knowingly posting falsehoods – an offence to be banned, even – strikes me not so much as an over-reaction, more as a category error. Come to think of it, that phrase “misrepresents another person” is storing up trouble, too – who’s to judge?

Secondly, even if we assume that Rule 1 works for comments, its hold over posted material is rather loose:

we will not post unacceptable content

We define and determine what is “unacceptable content” on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list.

We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.

What happens if one badge-wearer posts something that another badge-wearer finds offensive? Wouldn’t you just end up having the same argument, about what was and wasn’t within the bounds of acceptable Web discourse, only with references back to Rule 1?

• Pleased you’ve decided to re-do the anonymous thing, but as other people have pointed out, there’s whistleblowing, not wanting (or being able to) communicate privately and so on to consider too.

And then, there’s degrees of civility. For example, I sometimes use ‘robust’ language on my own site, where I deem it appropriate. Does that mean I’m being uncivil? And yet I would tend not to use the same one someone else’s site (unless I was a regular and/or was using language that fitted the existing tone of the site). And of course there’s the issue of discussing swearing. Am I being uncivil if I say that I might use the term ‘bugger’ or ‘crap’ as part of a sentence – not abuse – on someone else’s site?

What’s wrong with just keeping the whole thing simple?

1. I’ll take responsibility for my own words
2. I will seek to be fair and honest in what I say
3. I reserve the right to delete any comment, at any time, for any reason, without notification
4. If someone points out to me that a comment or a post is offensive, unfair, or in some way breaches legislation, then I’ll change it, remove it, or offer a right of reply as appropriate
• Just some thoughts.
badges: Ummm OK, not my cup of tea but I can see some people who would go for them.

point 1: “1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.” It is my responsibility for what I post, not for what others post, quite frankly I don’t have time to mod every comment posted on my blog (and theres not even that many), and it opens you up to accusations of censorship.

point 3: this may work for a tec blog, but since my blog is a political (or rather has political elements in it) blog, should I get Tony Blair’s to agree the wording of every post I make on his leadership? i.e. this is impractical for some.

point 5: “We do not allow anonymous comments.” anyone can set up a hotmail account, it doesn’t help stop people who want to post death threats. all this would do is stop people posting comments ad hoc, on a blog they stumble across.

point 6: umm… if I was to post “Tim O’Reilly has two heads” or something more offensive. Would you not be correct in pointing out that you only have one head (I assume you do anyway :)? All not replying does is say to the world you can respond to that accusation (and thereby making it in there minds true)

• Gabe

Sig Heil O’Reilly!

• Ben

This is the worst idea ever. Seriously.

What next, videos of you kicking puppies? Get off the tubes and get yourself some sunshine.

• kris

In this case there is no way that one can express his views on any subject.
this is more like getting into censored blogging..

• Nick Reynolds (BBC)

Human beings are rule making creatures so it was kind of inevitable that this would happen. But as the comment above says the problem is not the rules themselves, but who makes them.

People should set their own standards of behaviour for their own blogs as long as they obey the law. You can be as rude as you like, but hate crime or incitement to violence are illegal in most societies.

These guidelines are more like tips on how to behave well than a code.

I think posting anonymously is pointless but people should have the right to do it if they want to. And as for trolls – sometimes it’s fun to wrestle with a pig – and getting dirty is part of the fun.

To declare an interest – I drew up these Guidelines for the BBC (with the help of BBC bloggers):

• JG

The whole idea of blogging is that anything goes and by ‘anything’, I refer to the right to free speech. This is an inalienable right and will remain so.

The inherent nature of ‘the blog’ allows the blogger and their respondents to remain anonymous. This permits an individual to test the very edges of the right to free speech. The only way to balance the abuse of free speech is if the law were to be enforced in such cases just as you might respond to those letters, phone calls or emails which fall outside the margins of free speech, (e.g. death threats, etc.)

The second scenario is the more commmon one which lies under the realm of “appropriateness” as defined by the blogger. Of course, the blogger is free to moderate as he pleases, for the blog is not a democracy, but a dictatorship. However, enforcing this through moderation (deletion, modifications) threatens the ‘open’ nature of the blog.

The solution to this fear of censorship is moderation by the community themselves as exemplified by Slashdot. Blogs can allow the suscribers to score each other’s comments. The audience can then decide to see all the comments or only the highly scored ones. ‘Inappropriate’ posts (a subjective measure) hence become invisible to the audience who deem it to be inappropriate.

Of course, implementing this would require a new breed of blogging software. The current format present only two options: delete or not delete. A change in the standard blogging format along the lines of comment moderation by the blog audience is the solution rather than a set of rules enforcing what the majority of blogging community see as common sense and etiquette.

• Who know, who cares

What next, gold stars?

If I can not post anonymously on a blog (even if I don’t need to) it better be shit hot. It’s a rare blog that I will read that doesn’t allow comments of any sort.

If you want a badge that encapsulates the theme of this enterprise you want one of the men who were employed to carry a red flag and walk in front of cars to warn people that this new fangled ‘technology’ was coming their way.

It’s ideas like this that make me feel young again and that isn’t a complement.

• I think the list is a good idea, but i don’t agree with the number 1 point, where it says “We take responsibility for the comments we allow on our blog”. I’m not responsible for other people comments, and i just delete comments when they are offensive or anonymous, but if i have the obligation to be responsible for my words people who comment should also be responsible for what they wrote.

• Shiny spherical objects to this strange clown who wishes to control what others think, or read, or write!

• Iƒºja Ketris

The symbol is just ridiculous. Not everybody reads English, and absolutely not everybody understands and/or likes the allusions to the US sheriffs.

• Totally absurd.
1) If you say We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog and while you are asleep someone posts some death threats to someone else then you, friend, have just set yourself up for the high jump
2) Getting a valid email address takes a couple of seconds
3) The point of no anonymous comments is laughable

• There is not much to add to the uproar of dissent for this “Blogger’s Code of Conduct”. Perhaps, some words from one much wiser than I, would dissuade you from pursuing this any further.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

As we can all see, the real life civil liberties of everyday Americans are literally disappearing at the whim of a tyrannous administration, because we needed to feel safe. Would you side with those that have caused America to be reffered to as “The Once Great Nation”? Would you tread on liberty to reach for safety?

So I ask you, is this rather blatant code of censorship really what YOU believe in? Forget all the others and all the circumstances surrounding the formation of this code, do YOU believe in what you have tried to do here?

I can only hope that you even glance at this comment, if you do drop us an email.

Keeping Information Free (no matter the price),
TheRealDonQuixote

• Although I am in general agreement, I am not sure I happily concur with everything here. I guess I agree with the spirit of what you are putting, but not the letter.

Have to be careful with written codes of conduct and statements of belief. The Council of Nicea was arranged to stamp out bad practices within the Christian Church, but it had the unforeseeable and undesired effect of restricting genuine religious expression and worship… and creating a legalistic religion where once had existed a community of faith.

I would hate for something similar to happen to the blogosphere.

While I am keen for people to comment openly on my blog, I respect their right to anonymity. Especially if I am talking about a deeply personal issue.

I created my own informal policy back in 2005 it’s located at:

I only retrospectively moderate comments in my blog. I’d rather have people say their piece and have a visible certainty that what they write will remain. I am watchful enough, if they put something vile and offensive… I’ll take it out for the sake of others.

Blessings and regards

N

• Er … how about “We don’t condone evil” … full stop [period to you].

• Why are you trying to strangle us?

• I think that the point I was trying to make was that you can create a good thing, with the best of intentions… but you don’t know what kind of future leviathan you may have created.

People twist words, good laws become bad laws… just because lawyers and politicians cleleverly put news slants on them.

• David

Absolute rubbish.

It would almost be ‘cute’ if we weren’t all aware of the historically sinister implications of enforcement typical of American culture.

I would also be critical of the Wild West references in the symbolism in the ‘badges’. A sheriff badge and dynamite. Hmmmm. Let’s keep those damn injuns off our good wholesome blogs.

It’s just the usual paranoid garbage I have come to expect from this rampant fear based culture.

• Undoubtedly well-intentioned, but as others have pointed it, fundamentally flawed (hugh’s comment rings truest for me).

Most bloggers who have been around for a while have some form of comments policy on their own site. I have only enforced it once, but my visitors are hugely nice and lovely. I’m lucky.

So whilst discussions around “how to police this?” or “stop with the sheriff badge!” or even “getting a valid email address is easy” (indeed, me@example.com anyone?), are envitable, they are missing the point.

It shouldn’t be about how to POLICE what we have, it should be about how we change the culture in which we find ourselves.

And no code of conduct is ever going to solve that one.

Mind you, I will say well done Tim for having the balls to post this. I’m sure you were expecting quite a backlash, but maybe somebody had “break the eggs to make the omelette”.

• Bob Gouzinis

I may be wrong but I think that ‘We’, the people behind the draft, although quite into the Web, Blogs, technology in general, etc., do not share a strong background in law, philosophy, history, politics and similar areas.

The matter in question – how does one impose good behaviour across the internet – is one of the most important and difficult to solve issues in social history. What we have in this draft of Code of Conduct for Bloggers is just a manifestation of this issue in the blogging community.

The numerous references to ‘We’ in the draft make me uncomfortable. Especially this paragraph here:

” …We define and determine what is “unacceptable content” on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, we will say so and explain why. [We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.] …”

Why is this not good enough?

Let’s put it this way: There are fundamental reasons why law enformcement do not change the rules and apply them on a case by case basis, and then go back to the judges or the law makers and explain why they did it. Similarly, you can’t rely on a bloggers-police (even if this police is actually ‘We’, the good bloggers society or something) to make people behave nicely or not break the law, when the letter of the law is not clearly defined up front.

I do understand that the Web, and blogging specifically, is fast paced. But I don’t think that’s not a good reason to enter this case-by-case policing business.

The answer I’m afraid will have to be more general and more substantial than the idea behind this draft, utilising many different disciplines, from technology to human and political sciences.

Until this answer comes, we have to use alternatives. There are bloggers who set their own set of rules in their blogs – see for instance Nick Payne’s comment to this article above. I feel happy with that. I trust individual bloggers more than I trust ‘We’. One could even put togather pre-defined set of rules (not like the code of conduct draft here, but more specific and simple rules), label them and let bloggers use apply them . One (naive!) set of rules, for instance, coujld say ‘I will not permit any posts with spelling mistakes.’. That’s fine, as long as it’s clearly states up front. Now, if you really want to go and post anything on a site like this, then you only have yourself to blame, I guess. This is something similar to the open source licences currently available to open source projects, a developer may choose to publish their software under some licence, say LGPL, and everyone who will be using the software then knows exactly what that means.

I’m afraid this is just the beginning of a very long road ahead of us.

Kind Regards

• RF

Mr O’Reilly,

I know your IT credentials, but when you say ‘We do not allow anonymous comments’, I would like to know how you would handle the issue of whistle blowers. With all due respect, you are placing too high an importance on civility and thinking through the issues of free speech fully. It’s not such a simple issue that it can be resolved simply by having civil sites or free-for-alls.

What does verifying a Yahoo, Hotmail or other free email account proved about anything; it shows that a human opened the account and no more.

Fast law is almost always bad law, and I am afraid that your code seems to be an example of this.

• The blogosphere is not a democracy, it has no ‘code’. It’s self-governing. Your voice is no louder than the next person’s voice. You’ve done irreparable damage to bloggers with these antics. What a terrible mistake.

• Blitz

Uhm, lots of interesting reading/comments in this thread, thanks for an enjoyable half hour. Now my 2cents. Life and the World are a noisy place. Building a Castle of Solitude will not keep the rodents out, they always find a way in. About the best you can really expect to obtain is guideline #6 and just as in real life tune out and ignore the noise.

• I’ve been a blogger since 2004 and have had my own experience of abusive and threatening responses. However, they took place off my blog, on a forum, on which someone suggested that I need my throat cut. This draft does not mention fora. Admittedly, the line is sometimes blurred, but on many blogs it’s certainly not the case that “anything goes”. Blogs are often highly personalised and censored; comments are screened first. This is what I do, more to weed out the spam that the spam filters didn’t than to identify abusive or inappropriate comments. By the way, with most blogging software, you cannot withdraw a comment on someone else’s blog. The software just doesn’t allow it; it’s only on a forum you can do this. A lot of blogs do allow anonymous comments, particularly if the poster is identifiable to the blog owner through his/her email address.

I suspect you won’t get many takers for this code. I support the general ideas laid out, but I already have my code which is in the left side-bar of my blog. Many of my blogging friends also have a written or unwritten code; other blogs exist for the purpose of spreading rumours and misinformation about people or entire groups of people. If they sign up, it will not doubt be a hypocritical fig-leaf. Meanwhile, the idiots will continue on fora, which are barely mentioned in your article.

• One of the primary features of blogs is that they allow people to say things online that they would NOT say in person, for a variety of reasons. You can not enforce civility. You can only encourage it by, for example, removing uncivil comments, which we can already do. I would rather the blogosphere be run by actual bloggers deleting comments at their pleasure than be stymied by a ludicrous attempt to turn the riotous free-wheeling culture of blogs into one defined by misguided rules.

Resist this. And take responsbility for your own blog.

• The chances of people following this are very small. If there are millions of blogs being created everyday there is no way that all of them will follow these guidelines.

• Donald

Boo, Hoo, Hoo, protect me from the big bad trolls, they hurt my feelings, please grow some thick skin and stop trying to make the blogosphere a virtual communist state, the blogosphere is too big and diverse and this “bloggers’ code of conduct” will never fully be accepted.

• The idea of a formal Code of Conduct is taking form for some people, and resembles a pile of shit for some others.

Tim OíReilly has published a draft Code of Conduct on his weblog, which makes interesting reading if nothing else. Here follow my thoughts on the draft, point by point.

Pi.

• RF

Fast commenting is almost always bad commenting too.

I meant ‘not thinking through the issues’.

Sorry

• There’s too much inertia in the blogosphere for this to work- you’d have to educate every existing serious blogger, and keep up with educating all the new ones. Voluntary codes have to offer at least as much as they take, so it would have to be a pretty serious upside to attract people on their own.

• I’m supportive of the seed of your idea and have just blogged something to that effect, but I think your specific code is clumsy beyond belief. It makes me wonder what I was supporting! I think something more loosely procedural and open-ended, that might categorize blogs into “types,” would be useful to the community. I realize that’s what you’re trying to do, but already some of your proposals are overly specific. I think this needs to be torn up and started over, hopefully based on broad feedback.

• bigoldgeek

Trolls are in the eye of the beholder. Frankly, I think you’re falling into a trap here of giving the Mainstream Media a pass (and handing them a story about how awful the blogs are).

As for anonymous comments, I think you should refer to the authors of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers to understand why anonymity and pseudonymity can be an important feature of any site.

• SailorJ

I’m thinking that these rules might apply to a myspace page much more aptly than a generic blog. For argument sake, let’s just say there are about 71 million blogs currently out there. These rules might apply to less than 1% of them, as for the rest, they are rarely a regular read by anyone but a small group of friends.

I see this as a basic user agreement. If somehow all the blogging systems adopted a standard for user log-in for commenting, sort of like an LDAP Internet wide, you could maintain trusted posters who volunteer to maintain these standards.

• I am not so much for badges myself. As to not answer trolls it is a good idea, it did work for me. Another woman blogger closed her blog because some adolescents harassment, I just waited until the same got bored with mine.

We should put so much more in a “code of conduct” then just text about nasty comments or writings. And I feel that one paragraph would be enough: We feel responsable for our texts and for our comments.

Most of us do!

I wrote in two years (and a note by day) lot of personal stuff and got rewarder rather then hurt. Let’s not forget, most people out there are warm!

• Nunya

As repeatedly seen in Wikipedia wankery, “troll” is a word that frequently means “someone I want to discredit without engaging in actual debate”.

Subjective, easily abused, control freakery. Terrible idea.

• Aaron

This is crap. A ‘we play nice’ badge? I think I had one of those when I was in the fourth grade.

Well-run blogs don’t need your badges because they are well-run. Poorly run blogs, on which the problems you describe actually exist, are beyond the help of an 86×91 GIF of a sheriff’s badge.

Your company still manages to put out some good books, Mr. O’Reilly. Why don’t you occupy yourself with that, which you know how to do, and stop making such noise about your irrelevance in any other field?

• themole

This looks very much like voluntary self-censorship (and the badge looks like some tinpot web sheriff). Under these rules, there could be no whistleblowing (potential breach of confidentiality) and only limited journalism (potential invasion of privacy).

“We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.” – this is obviously written by someone with limited contact with the real world. In the real world, people can be shockingly rude, so why not online? This isn’t playschool, we don’t need to play nice with those opinions we detest.

Who should judge whether something is “unacceptable content” – a clique of top bloggers? A majority vote? Community standards? Whose “community standards” apply – LA, Salt Lake City, Beijing?

If a comment is seriously, obviously unreasonable (threats, obscenity, or even copyright violations) there are already actual laws under which the perpetrator can be traced, so hokey “valid email” registration will do nothing. Besides, it takes about 2 seconds to set up a valid free email account that never gets checked again.

In short, grow up a bit, accept that there are assholes on the internet just like there are in real life, and while it is easier for them to contact you online, its easier for you to ignore them. Don’t seal the Internet in bubblewrap and round off the corners – the freedom that is being abused by the tiny minority is the freedom that makes it worthwile for the majority.

• Then there is the other side of the debate I suppose… if we don’t appear to be finding a way to regulate ourselves… then I’m sure some political think tank or legal body will notice the vacuum, start lobbying governments and we could eventually discover we have something a lot nastier in place.

As I mentioned before, I self regulate and I don’t have a problem. Only once did I encounter a troll and it was a problem of my own making… I invited them to attack mine in order to protect a 14 year old girl whose blog they were assaulting. I resolved the situation by deleting and ignoring any obscenities… eventually they made an attack on what they assumed one of my beliefs was – it was very aggressive, but it wasn’t abusive… and I responded to it by showing my reasoning. After that, their attacks subsided.

I find if you pick your moment, you can wrestle a pig into submission without resolving to their game plan.

Regards

N

• Nathaniel

Personally, I would always opt for transparency in who is posting on a blog of mine. However, I can see situations in which anonymity is important. Thus, I think the multi-tiered approach, akin to the CCL, is appropriate.

More importantly, the badges need work. For this to be taken seriously, they have to look professional. The Blue Ribbon, the CCL badges, and countless others manage to achieve a certain clean-cut look that suggests they’re being serious, and not to be taken lightly. Lets not have the work and effort and, frankly, passion that is going into this effort to raise our awareness and level of conversation fall flat because people can’t take clip art seriously.

(Not that it *is* clip art, or to deride the images or their creator, but I think this calls for something that is above-par in terms of graphic design.)

• Legalschmeagle

Don’t we have enough (or more precisely, too many) rules in our society? The answer to a problem is not always ‘make another set of rules’. Life is full of things we’d rather avoid, and generally speaking we can choose not to encounter them again. If you feel the need to regulate your own blog/website/life then fine, that’s your prerogative. But please don’t start creating codes of practice for all to follow. Let them decide for themselves.

• Tom

I think it is a good idea, but I am not sure how this will be implemented and/or enforced. I believe that most bloggers already use these ideas. I think all too often people don’t realise that there IS another person on the other end of the “tubes”. There is a certain degree of dehumanization which occurs.

The issues I do have with this idea though:

It seems too black and white, with no grey area.

For example I agree mostly with 1,2,4,6 but not 3 and 5, does that mean that I would not be able to state that “I enforce civility”? As per those two that I do not agree with, I reiterate what several people have stated above. Anonymity will not be removed from the internet until the internet is restructured in such a way that there is physical accountability of who is who (i.e. how many people could have the same IP address? Not to mention public access internet terminals.)

With the privately before publicly policy, does this mean that bloggers who have thousands upon thousands of viewers will have to validate each and every person to comment on them? This will tilt too much toward the side of only posting the “good” comments. In some instances this is okay, but others? For example company X wants to have comments on their product. Is it right to deny those comments that make a valid point that their product is not good, for example that it is a possible health hazard? I just worry that this will lead to one-sided bias.

The other big issue is that the internet is not ONLY in America (i.e. USA), these rules are all well and good, but will INTERPOL get involved on an online harassment case? Which leads to another point, most police agencies will scoff at something like being harassed online, they don’t tend to take it too seriously offline either.

I also think that people aren’t reading this correctly, it is an option that a blogger may use. I don’t think that this is intended to MAKE people use these rules or “badges”. As it is stated by Tim: “…that people could subscribe to…” and “…for sites that want to warn…” This comes across more as an option than a rule.

The only other issue is that by having this “flag” on your site will most likely draw the wrong types of people more than deter them.

Remember, your freedom of speech ends where my rights begin.

Regards,

Tom

• Thank you Tim for telling me and others what we should be blogging, who we should allow to comment and what the contents should be.

I wouldn’t want to have to think for myself and act like an adult so thank you for publishing these rules for all your children of the internet. You, of course, are above all us scum.

You saved me from the evil internets.

• Yes readers should be warned about blogs that may contain “crude language”, and blog should be made/forced to use a code of conduct warning.

• Eric Dufour

Note that RFC1855 draw the Netiquette for the Mailing Lists and NetNews http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1855, A blogg etiquette will not be much different.

Internet is one of the last place were censorship can be a democratic principle. If I don’t want to hear you, I filter you out. Even in a blogg I can skip your comments. And if you disturb too many people you’ll be baned by the owner of the blog.

What else do we need ?
Just the little push-button at the end of each comment “mark this comment as unacceptable”. It’s easier for the owner to go through them ;)

• yarvin

I don’t know. I don’t like it. I don’t do the stuff you condemn (except allow anon comments), but don’t expect me to be participating.

• Good idea, bad semiotics… No one would want such a badge in her/his blog.

• We don’t need pompous bloggers dictating to others how to run their own blogs. If people want jackasses to come out in throes, let them.

The code is nothing but censorship.

• Patronising, yes, that’s the word I was looking for…

• cristian

in fact, this question is a important question. But I think this code is so simple. Now, it’s time to understand what are we make with so much posts, opinions, etc… two things are trust:

1- all may be regulated
2- the rule is in us

No cry, because now you don’t post jokes, think why are you a joker.

• good overall. i agree to the tone.

however, points 2. and 5. are incredibly problematic.

blogging provides an outlet for democratizing dissent or whistleblowing that cannot otherwise be found in many countries. while the confidentiality of sources may trump this as far as whistleblowing goes, imagine being a pro-democracy blogger in china or cuba, blogging about government repression in zimbabwe, criticizing religious fundamentalism in iran or the monarchy in thailand? there are many things you cannot say in public that need to be said.

governments have a habit of imprisoning bloggers lately, even in the united states (ahem…josh wolf), and bloggers therefore it is ridiculous to assume all bloggers can freely go about what they are doing as easily as some bloggers.

anonymous blogging for dissidents is a requirement of safety and freedom of expression. the same applies to anonymous posting.

instead, we should conceive of it as a standard to be applied with respect to trolling, flamebait, spam ads, baseless accusations and other valueless comments, as opposed to a blanket no anonymity concept.

• happily anonymous

not everyone wants to have future employers / partners / competitors / etc googling our opinion history, so the importance of anonymous is kinda vital for free speech.

a code of conduct that new bloggers can learn from and the rest of us can refer / debate and contribute to sounds great. but badges.. I mean.. really!

Long term it could only be a matter of time before search engines / web shields and the like started to discriminate one way or the other.

ps – I do love almost everything you have to say normally tho, especially your peacebrokering position in this business.

• I am totally against this attempt to impose rules on bloggers. The idea that all bloggers are belong to a blogging community is nonsense. It is totally arrogant for a person to believe that when they write some rules on their blog, those rules should then be adopted by all the other blogs in the world. Each blogger should be free to make their own decisions about what rules apply on their blogs. Obviously everybody should obey the law which applies in their country when on the internet, and the terms and conditions of each site they visit while visiting the website. Each blogger should be able to make their own decision about how to legally react to abusive comments. Each blogger should be able to make their own decisions as to the level of moderation in blog comments. As for the mediation suggestions with regards abusive comments, two people against each other isnít the same as two countries threatening each other at a UN conference. The Blogosphere now appears to have a secretary general, but hopefully itíll never have a police force or an army. If a few bloggers wish to form a community in which certain rules apply, that is fine. However, they have no right to impose their little community on every other blogger.

• B. Waite

Tim, should your proposal be reframed as a manifesto?

Few people are passionate about a set of thous-shalts (like the formal rules you suggest); however, they can be very passionate about the reasoning behind the rules.

Stand for the reasoning, and not the rules. The good people of the internet will stand with you.

• Personally I hate the fact that people sometimes need to say things anonymously. But they do.

I would love to ban them, but I just can’t do it.

Shame.

• James King

What total and utter nonsense. How are you going to stop people from viewing ‘offending’ material before they glance over it looking for some dumb badge? Especially when the arrive via a search engine and enter slap bang in the middle of the blog? A blog is a diary. I would dare read anyones diary if it was sitting in front of me, you never know what you might find out. There is various outcomes from reading someones personal thoughts.

• Some of those rules seem to be not very usefull to me. Refering to point 2 you want people not to blog anything they won’t say in person. That’s a comfortable position if you life in a country where free speach is allowed (I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but maybe you should explain this rule a bit more to avoid missunderstandings).

Not allowing anonymous comments, as in point 5, will lead to many people stop commenting blogs (or anything else). This is one of the main advanteges of blogs (and one of its main disadvanteges to) that it offers a place for free and annonymous speech.

I definatly agree, that bloggers should have the right to and should delete comments, which are much to offensive.

But in general, i see no need for rules like that. If a blog is crap, and all its comments are crap, nobody is going to read it, so that the problem takes care for itselfs by itself.

• weebit

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we’ll tell them so (privately, if possible–see above) and ask them to publicly make amends.
If those published comments could be construed as a threat, and the perpetrator doesn’t withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with law enforcement to protect the target of the threat.

Common now. This can be abused by both the blogger, and the commenter. You have to be more precise. This can also create a new bunch of people that only reason for being on the net, is to patrol the bloggers and commenter’s.

5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

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

You need to strike this out all together. Some blogs became famous because of their anonymous posting. Others were able to bring justice down on company’s, and people etc all because of being anonymous post. You are closing the doors to many blog sites that have done good for everyone.

Yes I realize anonymous comments have caused some trouble. But bloggers don’t need to accept the obvious comment post, they can simply monitor all new post.

You are drawing a fine line on the law of things too. If you make this code of conduct, it may open the door for Courts, and Police departments everywhere to have a free for all on the blogging industry. The frivolous lawsuits will begin also.

• Hi Yusuf! The point about editing/deleting comments is a good one – I’ve used this facility myself on a blog that supported it, and missed it elsewhere.

Nick P: eventually they made an attack on what they assumed one of my beliefs was

Reminds me of some very vitriolic exchanges I got into with a survivalist militia type on comp.software.year-2000 (Usenet practice has a lot to teach us, incidentally). His best shot was “Royalist!” (Because, well, because I’m British, so obviously…)

• D-G

I don’t believe in speech codes, plain and simple. It cuts off the free exchange of ideas.

• Anonymous

I’m loving the arrogance, let’s create an elitist circle of bloggers in this “blogosphere” of stupidity and make ourselves look superior.

• Nice, this worked so well with the Comic Code and the MPAA, I can’t imagine this not being just as successful.

• So here is what happens. Mr. O’Reilly gets people to put this star on their site, which is linked to a page of rules and regulations that a blogger promises to uphole.

The page will be on a site that Mr. O’Reilly owns and will have google adsense all over it, thus making who ever hosts the page loads of money.

Or maybe, many years down the line Mr. O Reilly might try to trademark the term “bloggers code of conduct” after it becomes generic like he did last year with the Web 2.0 term.

Here is the reality. The internet is a scary place, if you don’t like it then go home and hide under your bed.

Each individual blog should have the freedom to enforce it’s own rules. They do not need no nosey neighbour telling them what to do.

On my own site there are rules regarding comments. If those rules are broken then silly anonymous muppets run the risk of losing their anonymity. It is a good deterrant.

As for civility, I would like civility, but i would also like the freedom to tell any stormfront nutjob that posts garbage on my blog to go f**k themselves if i so desire.

This code of conduct wants to ensure people are civil to one another. anyone who doesn’t plan on being civil will not sign up to it, hence its effectiveness will be zilch.

• weebit

This one is much better…

Alternate Code of Conduct

A code of conduct for bloggers and commenter’s

* 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.

• Brian

For the most part I believe that website and blog owners need to be accountable for the things they publish, at least in the context of their site. However attempting to censor public responses in a public forum is in ill taste especially if the response in question is one that you disagree with. Though an effort should be made to cut down on erroneous or off topic replies, for the most part all controversies and responses should be left to stand on their own. To do otherwise is to belittle your reader and to assume that he or she is not smart enough to read and draw their own conclusions.

While I respect your attempt to establish guidelines for fair and honest blogging, as well as realize that this is a work in progress, the managerial task of drafting and forming consensus about how we all feel is a mammoth undertaking. At the very least I believe that all site owners should adopt their own policy and reference it as they would an About Us or Privacy Policy page. I believe it is the only reasonable way we can put ideas like these into practice at this time.

• Michael Mahoney

This is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

The argument is the same in form to the argument that we should give up just a few of our civil liberties because we will all be safer as a result. And that form is fundamentally flawed.

The world (and by extension the Internet) has inherent dangers. Our laws have been constructed to protect us from those dangers to the extent that we feel, collectively, is necessary. That’s what they’re for. Outside of that, everything else is censorship, and the slippery slope here is more dangerous to civil discourse, by far, than the enforced civility that it strives to achieve.

Civility is valuable because it comes from people free to be uncivil.

• Tim Anthony

Observation:

The entire Independent Media Center Network (IMCN) was rendered irrelevant, indeed a sad joke, by trolls who, though physically independent from each other, were consistently more organized than the IMCN organizers. IMCN could have saved themselves (from themselves), but opted not to in deference to ‘higher’ principles. Proving perhaps that life is the highest principle, not quality of life.

Question:

The ratio of good blog to bad blog on this site is fairly high, so I want to ask Tim O. something:

About how many comments have you deleted or edited so far in this thread? And, how does this thread compare with other blogs of yours? Just asking for “background info”.

• Well, it had to happen one day. Someone who would try to set rules for the blogging community. But
I guess Tim O’Reilly’s Blogging Code of Conduct has a long way to go before it’s universally
accepted. Which it will not be in a million years.

O’Reilly’s Laws are limited in scope and can’t stand for everyone. Expecting a blogger in Arkansas to think like his counterpart in Pondicherry is crazy. A guy blogging from Egypt or Saudi Arabia may not be able to express himself as freely as someone in India or the US.

The online community is increasingly becoming the symbol of democracy and its denizens won’t accept
a Hitler on the loose. You can’t chain the blogosphere, no less the internet, and transform everyone into law-abiding online citizens.

Next, there will be calls to isolate and create a virtual prison for blog trolls. Or worse, a Censor Board to rate blog content.

If you comment on my blog, you have the right to remain anonymous. And no comments will be deleted
unless you are a bit too abusive. After all, I retain control over my blog. Of course, making death threats is impolite but you can be sure I won’t ask the cyber cops to trace your IP address.

P.S. Still can’t believe O’Reilly actually created badges for blog content

• Yeah, this is lame. How about we just act this way out of common courtesy instead of signing some doctrine. That’s what humans do. I don’t need someone imposing legislation on how I interact with others.

Might as well make that button a hammer and sickle.

• I just wanna be on record with my vow: No way, no how, no time I’m every gonna have anything like that badge on my site.

*mebbe time for someone to take a 7th inning stretch and a long walk down by the swan pool*

• Idiocy

I didn’t bother to read all the other posters comments, I just wanted to say straight out that this whole concept is completely lame.
If someone’s reading my blog and they come across something they can find objectionable, they have the same options as someone watching tv or listening to the radio: turn it off. Simply leave my page if you don’t like what you see.

This whole idea of a blog code of ethics is nonsense. It’s like abortion. If you don’t like it, don’t have one.

• Gee, thanks, Tim. You’ve just given big corporations the tool to start the restriction and commercialization of blogging. No wonder the NY Times ate this story up.

Who else remembers what the self-appointed comics and movie codes did to the artistic integrity of those media forms?

We don’t need a badge or membership to an exclusive club to tell us what blogs are good; we’re fully capable of judging that for ourselves. But that’s where this “code of conduct” will take us, a gated community of “socially acceptable” blogs.

Please, kill this project now. ‘Tho it’s probably too late.

• sundayblue

That’s the problem, Dave C. “Common courtesy” is exactly what’s lacking in the blogosphere today and elsewhere, I might add!

We create laws that enable everyone to live together in peace and harmony. When those laws are broken, everyone suffers for it!

O’reilly is making a good faith effort at proposing some new “code of ethics” to prevent future attacks on those who dare to speak their mind.

I believe these code of ethics should be voluntary in nature and those blogs that want to embrace the new code, should do so. Those that don’t, openly say they don’t. Let the buyer beware!!

Dave C. [04.10.07 12:03 PM]

Yeah, this is lame. How about we just act this way out of common courtesy instead of signing some doctrine. That’s what humans do. I don’t need someone imposing legislation on how I interact with others.

Might as well make that button a hammer and sickle.

• jef

You take yourself- and this medium- way too seriously.

• Tetsuo

This is ridiculous. For one, all y’all behind this are acting like a bunch of butt-hurt pussies who can’t handle it when bad words are formed from pixels.

WHY DIDN’T HE SAY POOPIE! WHY DID HE HAVE TO SAY SHIT? WHY DIDN’T HE SAY POOPIE!

Second, it’s human nature to be a dick when you’ve got an anonymous forum. Trolls have been around since the dawn of human communication. Face it, the choices are either man up or get off the Internet.

• Tansley

This is the sort of thinking that lay behind the old Catholic church laying down a blanket authority for all thinking, from what days to eat what kind of food, to the ‘ultimate purpose’ of sex, to how the universe itself was organized.

Moreover, the idea that one person can cobble together an arbitrary set of rules for something so large, the ramifications of which extend so far into the future, that the finite human mind can barely grasp their implications, is ludicous.

I’m reminded of the tale of St. Augustine, walking along a beach, contemplating the nature of the Creator. He came across a small child ladeling spoonfuls of water from the ocean into a hole the child had dug in the sand. (The ‘child’ was actually an angel.) St. Augustine stopped, studied what the child was doing a few moments, then opined “How can you expect to get all of the sea into that little hole in the sand?” The child/angel looked up at Augustine, smiled and replied “It is far easier for me to get all of the sea into this hole in the sand, than it is for you to get all of the concept of the Creator into your little mind.”

Maybe you should stick to things you actually understand, Tim…like PHP…

• I think the “anything goes”, or the “others” badge should follow the same basic layout of the “civility” badger. But since it’s a warning badge, I sugest another colour. Maybe a yellow star…

• @ Sundayblue:

You said,

“Might as well make that button a hammer and sickle.”

I couldn’t agree more. This code smacks of communism. “If I don’t like what you have to say then I’m going to censor you.” Granted, it’s a private blog and more likely than not the blog is paid for by the owner and he/she has the right to do whatever he/she wants to with the space. If they want to make it nearly impossible for people to comment by putting in place email verification, CAPTCHAs and the like, then they should feel free to do so. They should just know that I probably won’t comment there because it’s a pain in the butt.

I’m a Conservative Christian Minister and I would never NEVER sign any such code. I let any comment go on my blog and edit them only if I’m asked to by their writers. The only comments I delete are those which are spam.

I don’t delete those comments because I trust people to make the right decisions for themselves. If there’s a stupid comment then people (or I) will either a) jump all over it and point out why it’s stupid or b) ignore it and let it die. If I deleted the comment I take the option to make the decision away from you and I trust you too much to do that. You’ll make the right decision for yourself what to do with the comment.

• Tim Anthony asked: “About how many comments have you deleted or edited so far in this thread? And, how does this thread compare with other blogs of yours? Just asking for “background info”.”

I always delete spam (i.e. unrelated posts trying to sell something) and I don’t keep any count of those. Most of them are filtered out automatically.

In terms of comments deleted for “bad taste”, I think we’ve only ever deleted one comment (that was one on the Web 2.0 trademark controversy that claimed I was a pedophile, and Marc Hedlund deleted it while I was away.) Our standard in the past has been to leave just about everything.

But after the Kathy Sierra debate, which led me to suggest that bloggers be less tolerant of childish commenters, I’ve though I should delete a lot more. So far, though, I’ve only deleted one comment from this thread, which was someone swearing — obviously just to test whether the standard would be applied.

BTW, I have no problem with swearing per se — see for example Nat’s famous post on this list about seven dirty words. I have a problem with childishness that gets in the way of reasonable discussion.

(An aside: this really is about childishness, not free speech. You don’t see activists who’ve stood up for free speech on the net like Ed Felten, Phil Zimmerman, John Gilmore, Mitch Kapor, or Cory Doctorow running around swearing on people’s blogs to prove their point.)

That being said, I’m of two minds about applying the “delete” key to this post. Since it’s actually about the issue of civility, I kind of want to keep a complete record of the discussion as a kind of petri dish. I’m regretting deleting that one comment for that reason.

I LOVE the idea that was floated of a plug in that will allow comments to be moderated to invisibility by the readers of the blog (not by the host) — still there to be viewed by anyone who wants to see them, but not in your face. That’s really the ideal, and I plan to see if I can encourage all the major blogging platforms to add that feature.

Even slashdot, which is a haven for juvenile posters, is not bad to read because of its moderation system. Just set your threshhold appropriately, and you can read the substantial comments without seeing the stupid ones.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to keep up with all the comments in this thread, so I think that what I’ll do is write a separate post that lists some of my main takeaways from the discussion.

• You're not the boss of me

I’m totally for people being civil and I try to behave that way. I have no confidence that the people who are not civil will be made civil by such a code. However, it lays out a rationale (though it needs work) for not tolerating certain abusive behavior and the like. I think it is strange how commenters here act as if there is no common decency. We all get to make up the rules of decency? I think it is pretty clear upon reflection what is polite and decent and that codifying it is a good idea.

No one has a right to publish comments on my blog. I will delete them willy nilly and at random if I choose. If I lose credibility then so be it. They have the freedom to be uncivil on their own blog. I think that kindness and civility cannot be forced on people so it is a lost cause. However, I do think we should be intolerant of incivility.

• Preface: I work for Slashdot, but am not speaking for Slashdot.

Of course, Slashdot has anonymous comments, and I think it would be foolish to remove them. They are a very useful tool, and while the bathwater is grimy and nasty, the baby is worth keeping. I don’t allow anonymous comments on use Perl, however. It depends on context. I realize you may see Slashdot as an “anything goes” site, and apart from illegal content, that’s true. Still, even if it were not “anything goes,” as long as the owner of the site is willing to put down or remove content that violates its TOS, anonymous comments can be a good thing. It is just a lot of work (which is why I don’t allow it on use Perl).

Also, sometimes I have very good reason for saying things online I would not say in person. Maybe, for example, because it is something complicated that I would be unable to address adequately in person.

Same thing with connecting privately before responding publically. Maybe this is a good rule of thumb, but it is not hard for me to imagine where it wouldn’t make sense.

Similarly, I don’t think taking responsibility for the comments is absolute. I would absolutely delete illegal, or potentially illegal, content, or content that unnecessarily and unreasonably directly harmed someone else. That’s one thing. But “ad hominem” is merely a logical fallacy.

People use the term “ad hominem” to mean “personal attack,” but it is a misuse of the term. I can attack someone personally without engaging in argumentum ad hominem (argument to the man). For example, I could start off this email by saying, “Tim O’Reilly has bad hair.” That would not be an ad hominem; it would be a personal insult, and a non sequitur.

And on the other hand, not all ad hominems are insults: if I said, “Tim has violated this code of conduct, so we should not listen to him on the matter,” that would be an ad hominem, too, and a logical fallacy. Regardless, though it is logically irrelevant, it is certainly not something I would think should be categorized as “unacceptable content,” unless all logical fallacies are to be censored, including straw men and red herrings.

Now, those who read my Slashdot journal may find this funny, because I actually have banned users (by making them my Foe) for incessant logical fallacies (usually straw men). But I would not delete the fallacious content, and I would not recommend this as a rule for everyone: I’ve just found it makes discussions in this particular context more enlightening.

Bottom line here, I think going after logical fallacies (ad hominem) instead of actual bad behavior (egregious personal attacks) is very much the wrong way to go. And, I would only delete the most egregious of personal attacks (again, without regard for whether they are argumentum ad hominem).

I do agree we should ignore the trolls, however!

• Jerry Peek

Whether or not the specifics of Tim’s Code are workable, the intention (as I understand it) is good — for people like me, that is. I’m one of the people who doesn’t read many blog comments.

I’d spend a lot more time reading blog comments if so many of the people who post comments didn’t come across (to me) as rude and unthoughtful, as if they simply love to spew negativity. I don’t read blogs for entertainment, to see how nasty other people can be. I’d like to read reasoned discussion — information, not just (what I think of as) rubbish.

A lot of people here have been saying things like “What a waste of time and effort. Some people just need to grow a backbone” or the comment about a hammer and sickle. I suspect that those people don’t understand my point of view. To me, civility (or whatever term Tim might settle on) doesn’t mean personal attacks — clever or not. It does not mean inflammatory words (or whatever term is more clear and acceptable). It means a clear statement of fact and opinion in a way that you’d say it to another person’s face.

If a blog had a civility code approximately like the one Tim proposed, I’d probably be glad to read its comments. I’d guess that there are a lot of other people who also ignore blog comments for the same reasons I do. A civility code could help to bring us into the blogosphere — and that would be good.

• Leake

Wow – some raw sentiments expressed here… Web 2.0 and its spawn are much like the “drive-by journalism” first popularized by Jerry Springer and Morton Downey, Jr. Where we go from here is probably more Jeffersonian than Adams. Tim’s suggestions might work well for a community of interest and not so well for controversy (as he himself seems to recognize in this blog).
..

Rules of conduct and netiquette may satisfy a small subset of users similar to the practice and expectations behind social etiquette – exemplifying social grace by choice and not by prescription. Tim’s core concern may rest with who hosts the party and not ultimately the participants – an editor is a terrible thing to waste…

• Adding copyright infringment seems a bit off-purpose to me. The rest, in spirit, sound about right. Consider the idea of a troll-free zone and leave it at that.

• daniel

This is a ridiculous overreaction to something which was admittedly a bad situation.

A code of conduct or TOS is something that should be handled on a site-specific basis. For something like this to work it would require that bloggers actually be part of a singular community. Which, of course, doesn’t exist. If you are worried about civility, this doesn’t solve the problem as people can just go to an “Anything Goes ” site, which was part of the problem in the Sierra incident. How does this change that? Are you going to legislate it? That’s not cool.

Everyone can spot an offensive comment, and any site administrator can remove them. It is their site.

Creating some singular code of conduct like this seems reactionary and pretty unnecessary. I’m not likely to link to some third party code of conduct on my site, because I don’t have to. I can use my common sense.

• Lazarus Magdalene

Actually, the clear intent of these rules is to screen out those who disagree. Such disagreement could make it clear that the way of thinking that’s gets the seal of approval of said web site might not be the only way to think about the subject or, God Forbid, it might not even be the way the majority thinks of the subject. One’s views must be presented as being the consensus if they have any hope of being widely propagated. Nowadays, a no longer small minority of people are onto these misrepresentations of popular concensus.

REAL threatening behavior that seems to imply a physical manifestation of a threat always should be dealt with by the proper authorities. Anything else is an excuse for censorship. Slanderers’ stupidity should always be left in place to be laughed at and eye rolled at.

Furthermore, people who are worried about misrepresentations (i.e LIES) in blogs don’t realize that we each seek people we want to believe according to our own view of the world without regards for the naked truth. Nothing will ever change that. In fact, that’s why I almost never read blogs (they are mostly excercises in narcissism) and only read news that comes from the opposite viewpoint of mine (cnn.com: amateurish, pandering, ofttimes knowingly misreprenting headlines and facts: And to think CNN used to be trusted and my general take on things but then experience is always the best teacher).

If you don’t believe these assertions about people seeking out those who agree with them watch or listen any of these so-called comedy shows that focus on politics (the Daily Show is the only one I have ever bothered to watch) and try to find anything genuinely funny. If there is anything funny it won’t be coming out of the mouth of the host. He just generally just sits there pandering like a * to his audience with stupid ‘wittisms’ and they just eat it up. Could the whole audience really be that eager to fit into this Hollywood click? Talk about a total lack of originality. One should at least demand to hear something funny before one forces out a clearly phoney laugh.

• Duf

“Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”
— Winston Churchill

Censorship is just plain wrong, it leaves the eagle alone and will pursue the dove.

Sorry, the idea may have good intentions but will end up being used as a censorship tool by some. If you don’t like what I write or allow on my blog than you don’t have to go there. Code of conduct is just another form of censorship.

If you don’t like what I have on my blogs or comments that are allowed on my blog, then don’t read it. If there is something, – is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
– is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,
– violates an obligation of confidentiality
– violates the privacy of others, I would suggest that you inform the authorities or the host of the blog.

Your code is neither wanted or needed.

• Mindazon·ltal szeretnÈm megjegyezni, hogy ez egy orbit·lis fass·g. A problÈma az, hogy faszok mindig is voltak Ès lesznek is. Lehet draftot Ìrni, meg szab·lyzatot, de ezzel a faszok mÈg faszok lesznek, mÈg ha megpukkadsz akkor is.

A lÈnyeg, hogy ha olyan komment·r Èrkezik ami problÈm·s, akkor r·bˆksz a delete-re. Ez ilyen egyszer? :)

• I take back what I said earlier. There were a couple of taunting profanities right after my last comment, and I thought, “who needs this?” and deleted them.

I have nothing against profanity in the right context, but in blog comments, it’s often pretty juvenile. I’m reminded of an event from many years ago. My phone number when I lived in Newton, MA was 964-7448, and I’d frequently get anonymous phone calls saying “Do you know your number is 964-SHIT?” One night, when my kids were little and sleep was precious, I was woken by one of these calls at 2 AM. I had the presence of mind to say, “Yes, but it’s usually twelve-year olds who call to tell me that.” The college student on the other end of the line swore mightily and flung down the phone.

Those who use profanity liberally in hopes of getting a rise out of others will one day realize how childish they look.

Nobody here is shocked by bad language, I’d guess. If it’s used effectively, it’s part of the language toolkit, just like any other. But if it’s used without any other content, just to test limits, it’s not worth wasting everyone’s time over.

• votre proposition a dÈpassÈ le cadre de vos frontiËres et arrivÈ en France. Je ne pense pas qu’il faille instaurer un code, laissons les blogueurs faire la police sur leurs site web.

• Anything which involves censorship is wrong.

Stopping me from calling people a name which they don’t like is denying me my freedom of speech.

If we decide, as a ‘community’ to start acting all civil – whose civility are we talking about? Are we talking the liberal civility where any anti liberal point of view is wrong?

Today it’s a cute little badge, tomorrow its a censor bot – and next week its a loss of hosting ability!

These things always start off with a sort of a good idea and always end in authoritarian rule by the minority!

• I share Ann’s concern about liability. I am not even remotely about to state that I take responsibility for the comments on any blog or forum, if it increases the likelihood that I will land in court. I do NOT have to claim responsibility for the comments on my blog for me to assert my right to moderate it.

Blog comment areas and forums are services. A service provider is well within its rights to enforce Terms of Service, without taking responsibility for the the actions of the service users. I agree that we should notify our users of the terms under which we provide our service. However, that does not require taking on a mantle of liability which we would not have otherwise had.

• P

I’m currently having a discussion with a friend who was being harassed on Myspace, she ended up closing her account. I don’t think she should be the one suffering for someone else’s misbehavior. Anyway we were having a discussion and I sent her the following message, which has somewhat to do with what’s talked about here…

— original message —

I can understand why you won’t want to keep your photos or profile up.

At this point I wouldn’t recommend fully public for most people and have this concern for myself when/if I do post personally identifiable material up (i.e. photos). Until some of the things get worked out, I’ll have my reserve and inclination to play it safe than sorry…for now…or at least until I know I can deal with constant barrage of harassment and can consistently turn it around into positive energy for everybody.

I watched a leader of a community I used to frequent get insulted and harassed when his intentions were only to help people who sought for help, and it really pissed me off that several members who contributed little to nothing but made a lot of noise ruined the place (hindsight, they shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place…or put through quarantine first). Initially the community was positive and constructive, and then it started to get infected with worthless counterproductive and negative comments. And the negativity virus illness spread till it destroyed the place. I really liked the initial energy of the place and am thinking about how to fix the current situation…

This isn’t an isolated incident but rather frequent occurrence online (public chats, public forums, spam), which leads me to believe that the current system makes it too easy for people to contribute junk and negativity and insults and makes it increasingly difficult for people to be constructive and positive. It has to be reversed, people should pay a huge price for dumping junk–so much so that it wouldn’t be worth doing–while constructive contribution would be easy and natural. People who contribute should be given increasingly larger voices, while those who don’t have anything constructive to add get tinier voices.

In order to minimize and eliminate online harassment issues, I can see two things that need to happen. Developing the cure:

-1st we need to trace the negativity virus, how it occurs and track it’s movement (can be something akin to… Viral infection in host > Trigger mechanism to activate virus > Growth …and say things like food source… web anonymity with no accountability = bad mix, food for online bullying. bully’s will actively look for such opportunities, while contributors will generally not see this as a benefit because it’s not food. > Spread to new hosts)

-2nd figure out a way to stop the virus at every point along it’s route. An immune system. Prevention, nipping the bud at the root, repairing damage done, and if things get beyond cure…extract the healthy parts and terminate the rest. Maybe there needs to be an online hell for viruses who don’t want to play nice to go (places marked as hell will be where the most destructive would get the megaphones and the constructive would be given little squeakers voices).

Here’s where it gets messy….implementation.

There will be trade off for any identification/enforcement system, you risk losing potentially healthy and good clientele. A successful system has good outweighs the bad, the higher the ratio the better. Perhaps we need a filter system, if we prescreen members vigorous, we lose a lot of potential audience at first but over the long run quality will be higher and the potential for growth will be there. Say in order to be a Tier 1 member you have to have direct connection with the community founder, identity and quality verified, you have to be a contributor with your own positive community to be a Tier 1. Tier 2: have a invite system where Tier 1 members trained to identify good fits for the community can invite potential members who will have to go through quarantine. And if there’s a viral infection, find where the virus started from, savage any good members, and then chop off the whole branch.

We’re fighting Idea Viruses not necessarily people, because people can be productive in one context but not the next, people can also be reprogrammed. Online code of conduct = white cell rules. Enforced by: Moderators = white blood cells. In terms of good cell mutations/community member and possibility of mutations being viruses/people you don’t want around…there’ll be new permutations that need to be put in quarantine to determine if the net effect is positive or negative. Virus always look for the weakest link, if the system for identification is perfect and they can’t do damage that way, they’ll try to steal identity and get in to do damage but that’s harder, so it fits the bill of making it hard to be destructive while easier to contribute…however that could change if identity is easily faked. Viruses that fake looking like good cells, where some detectors can flag ’em while others can’t and approve them instead can cause a mess and lead to a split community.

It can be complex. At the moment I don’t have a definitive answer on how to perfectly deal with this issue but these are some of my thoughts at the moment and what I’d consider if I were to start my own/have/or join a community…

• I’ve never read such total and utter tripe in my life. Were you hight when you came up with this non-starter of an idea?

Re. the “anything goes” badge… bollocks! What I’d like to see is a ‘I’m a child in an adults body’ badge for the pathetic, half-witted lightweights that seem to think we should pander to their every weakness.

• cruella

As a troll hunter and voice for civility I applaud your efforts. People who cry censorship are usually either the troublemakers and trolls themselves, or inexperienced users who are misapplying what they learned in school without actually seeing the effects of uncivil speech in destroying online forums. There is no reasonable free speech issue in a properly run forum moderation.

However, the code needs lots of work and I think in several respect it takes one side of undecided controversial positions. Specifically:

1. Take responsibility for what’s posted. Yes, but different forums have different standards. Best to have a core list of bare minimums as you do, then ask people to post guidelines and rules if they intend to be more restrictive.

2. Won’t say anything online….disagree. That’s too broad. People have public and private selves, and some places are intended for competition or debate. Should be narrowed to say we won’t treat anyone online in a way that’s harsher or meaner than we would treat them in person. Some golden rule like that.

3. Generally agreed that off-forum disputes, private behavior, emails, etc., shouldn’t be taken to the forum. Generally. Probably needs some elaboration. Also, some people you can’t respond to. Best to deal with the site owner.

4. Protecting site users. Okay as a start.

5. Anonymity. Strongly agreed that we need something. We probably need more than an email, to track down and ban problem posters like sock puppeters. But we do need to preserve strong anonymity. Some people are rightly afraid of big brother, stalkers, harassers, spying, retribution, etc. We should have specific identity protocols and the site owner should choose one and publicly say which it is.

6. Ignore trolls. Disagree. Trolls need to have their accounts deleted proactively through an abuse report and moderation system. People should not /engage/ trolls in discussion. However, they should be encouraged to /report/ trolls and /educate/ other users about trolling and about troll problems.

Other suggestions: discourage people from —
1) flame wars
2) indecency (bad language, scatology, sex, discussions of violence, etc. should either be tolerated or not on a site, or left up to the community — a site should state what its policy is and stick to it). This can make the net a friendlier place for families, women, minorities, etc.
3) hate speech, bigoted comments about people due to race, sex, ethnicity, religion, national origin, etc. You can make a list. Different sites can have different tolerance levels and different criteria. For example some regionalism and nationalism is just fine on a sports site, not so good for a science research site. However, the policy if there is one should be clearly stated and enforced.
4) online harassment, stalking, etc. sexual / romantic propositions on sites that don’t allow that. Needling users by bringing back stuff they said or did in another context to impugn their integrity (a form of ad hominem). Again, different sites can have different standards or none at all but it should be made clear.

If a site wants to go along, it gets your “good housekeeping seal of approval” badge. If not, no harm done. It’s a free country, it just doesn’t get the seal.

The danger is that schools, corporations, libraries, etc., will start requiring that websites they deal with have the seal. Which means that even if a site is technically free to opt out, it can’t practically do so. So it becomes a private censorship mechanism. If people start pushing rules against sexuality, blasphemy, defaming religion, etc., things can get awfully stifling.

• So tell me this: if this is about the Kathy Sierra thing, can someone explain to me how this “Blogger’s [sic] Code of Conduct” would have prevented it from happening, or even changed the course of events one iota?

• DeniseNY

I think these are terrific ideas!

I like this because identifying the sites with the badges is similar to a rating system: they identify what you can expect in that milieu. If you don’t wish to go to a horror movie or a porno flick, you go down the street. You shouldn’t have to watch a snuff film or Girls Gone Wild video first to know it’s not an environment you would choose. It’s not a bar against people who create such things, it just gives the user a choice of entering there.

• DeniseNY

There could also be a different color badge for “Civility Enforced with Caveats” for groups that decide that the code is too restrictive for them.

• DeniseNY

Here’s a thought for people who are against this: Would you rather have lawmakers holding up the worst examples of netiquette and “hate speech” and saying, “this Internet must be stopped” or would you prefer to have the zones clearly marked?

I’d rather have the choice to go where I choose and choose where I go.

• Jon Kay

First, I want to express my sympathy for you, your friends, and everybody else recently threatened.

But, that doesn’t mean this is going to help. What’s going to help is understanding that some people are edgy and abusive, talking to police about threats you have reason to take seriously and deleting off-boundary posts personally. Or disabling comments for your blog, which plenty of people do. These are tools we already have.

Over the years, I’ve seen too many insightful, informative, anonymous comments that could never have been made with IDs to be willing to go along with any policy that will ban them.

And sometimes I feel it serves my purposes to keep offensive comments. Trolls, spam, and threats are different, of course, and we all use the tools we have.

And a polite Internet would be intolerably stiff and unfunny. How many good jokes are polite?

• It’s not bad enough that you people have badly reinvented Usenet as “Web 2.0”, but now you’re trying to reinvent netiquette, too. It’s a clever idea that completely ignores the reality of online interaction.

“I take back what I said earlier. There were a couple of taunting profanities right after my last comment, and I thought, “who needs this?” and deleted them.” These words are yours, and they immediately show why a “Code of Conduct” is a joke. PEOPLE OF THE BOGOSPHERE: the Internet is labeled “HERE BE DRAGYNS”. Proceed with caution. If you control an area of discussion, CONTROL IT. Codes of conducts are for country clubs and shopping malls.

• why guidelines? not everything in our life needs rules. freedom of speech!

• Tim, the arguments against anonymity and pseudonymity that I read here are disturbing.

These days, employers, rivals, and all sorts of slime will search the web for anything you may have written. Even if your name is Joe Smith, if the blog or website has enough other biographical information, it can be taken out of context and used against you by some jerk who disagrees.

Do you check to see if your employees post to BDSM sites, swingers sites, or fringe religion sites? Some employers do. There are several people who have lost their jobs over this, one who got the sack for something his *wife* posted on MySpace.

While it’s easier to be a twit as “anonymous”, it’s just as easy to be a jerk with a real name like Joe Smith. But people with “legal” names like Horace Harrington will just be targets.

BTW, how’s your female to male ratio doing on http://www.oreillynet.com/blogs/ and http://radar.oreilly.com/ Still at less than 10%?

• Joey Bhananas

Well I for one started stabbing people and littering once I’d read a blog that made me feel bad about myself, so a blogging code of conduct would be a great idea! I live in Philadelphia, so I’m usually protected from the evils of the outside world. It’d be great to know that I’ll be safe from ‘unsavories’ thanks to a few 10K .png or jpg ‘badges.’ Lord knows badges worked for the boy scouts…

A sheriffs badge is very militant and very American. I would love to proclaim that I expect a certain level of civility on my blog, but without the underlying conotations of America and enforcer.

Truly would it hurt to think a little more globally about the symbol you choose, when we are discussing behaviour on the internet.

• This is one of the dumber ideas I have heard of lately. Almost as dumb and worthless as twitter.

• Scott

This is complete nonsense! I had to double check to make sure this wasn’t posted on April 1.

It’s a shame what happened to Kathy Sierra but that kind of thing happens all the time. Due to the anonymity of the internet it’s just something we must deal with. An voluntary code of conduct will not change that. Perhaps the real problem is that current blog comment systems do not scale (in terms of users, not technically). Forum operators have had to deal with this much longer and it’s done by having terms of service that clearly state “we can remove anything for any reason”, banning, “report abuse” systems, etc. They never had to resort to a “Forum Posters Code of Conduct”.

• Joey Bhananas

Why don’t we just issue all bloggers a list of appropriate words, and anything used outside of those words should be reported direct to some sort of UN action committee?

There’s obviously not much room for human personality on the Internet, so let’s stamp it out now, homogenize it so it sounds like everyone agrees and loves each other, since contrary opinions can offend. It’s wasting perfectly good bandwidth we could use for more of those wonderful “enlarge your penis” junk emails that are always so tasteful.

Look, you’re squeezing the world onto a head of a pin here. 6 billion opinions, who knows how many are reading your blogs, wherever you hold them. If you expect to wrangle everyone into rank and file based on a ‘code of conduct’ and some badges, then good luck, the Crusades took 200 years or so, I’m guessing so will this, and it’ll work out just as well.

• Eric Jaffa

You should drop this sentence:

“1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

The concept of a blogger being responsible for comments is vague at best.

Does it assume that the blogger delays and reviews every comment? If not, is the blogger taking responsibility for comments automatically posted before he or she has read them?

Even with comments a blogger has read, it’s someone else’s opinion, attitude, beliefs, and phrasing.

The paragraph reads fine without that sentence.

Note: I’m not saying I like the idea of a Blogger’s Code of Conduct in general, but I definitely don’t like that sentence.

• Mel

Oh, puh-leeez! How old are you all again? Twelve? Months?

First of all, “enforce civility?” Why, hello there, Mr. VoPo! This, frankly smacks of the Stasi (and believe me, I actually know what I am saying here).

So, “we” will make every one behave civil? Who is “we?” Am I a part of “we” when I don’t subscribe to your silly code of conduct? Or does that make me automatically into the evil “Other?” Who has to be branded with a “Free for All” badge?

You will never find a stupid little “I play nice!” badge on my blog. Basically because I am not a nice person who is not afraid to speak her mind. In return I give commenters a very free reign to post contrary opinions. I had to deal with misogynistic trolls almost right from the start of my own blog. I am pretty triggerhappy with the banhammer and not shy about deleting stupid comments.
I ignore their screeching about “free speech.” As long as I am the one who pays for the webspace and has the work with maintaining the blog? I am the one who determines what stays and what gets kicked.

Honestly, I could plaster the walls of my entire flat with death threats and stupid photo-manipulations. I take these very seriously: Every death-threat has been reported to the police – and a few of the jackasses have been punished severely.

The internet – like the real world – is not a nice and cosy little place because it is populated by all kinds of people. Intelligent ones and jackasses. No amount of wishful thinking and “But I WANT it to be a nice and save place, dammit!” will change that.

Your rules of conduct and the badges are like invitations for the jackasses to come and play in your yard. You could as well put a graphic with a target on your blog that says “Here am I! Come and swamp me with jackassery!”

Because that is what will actually happen. The jackasses and assholes will descend on all the oh so conveniently marked “nice” blogs to have a field day.

The only thing that helps really is “grow a pair” and learn to be a bitch. Sad? Yes. But can’t be helped. You know what they say: If you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen.

• Thats absolutely ridiculous. The bloggers who develop a readership are people who make sense, at least in their readers’ eyes. Nobody gives a damn about the other clowns.

Bloggers should be free to say what they want, about whoever they want. If the subject of a post has a problem with it and has evidence to disprove any allegation/contention then they should present it – either on their own website or in a court of law.

Who are you to try and enforce a code of conduct on the majority?

• To use the words of my late great grandfather, “Hell no!”

I would not adopt the Blogger’s code of conduct. I don’t feel the need to. I don’t set out to hurt anyone or put offensive content on my blog, but that may be a matter of interpretation. As a gay writer, some of my material may be deemed offensive by some, though I may think it’s more vanilla than vanilla. Also, I do write creative non-fiction, so a party may not like how they were portrayed, despite my attempts to fictionalize it (along with names and details) to protect them and myself.

For me, freedom of speech is paramount. Some days, blog content can be pretty bland, but there are days when it’s just damn brilliant, so bloggers need the room and flexibility for that to happen.

• holy_bazooka

i fear for freedom of speech on the internet. this can be very useful tool for crushing on dissent and minority opinions. if this is accepted then new media will become a reflection of old media. a lot of diverse opinions and viewpoints being shut out in the favor of a privileged few.

• Tim Anthony

Solutions must be easy to implement and not troublesome to operate or they won’t get used. Which means: FILTERS! Tim said he uses them and implies they catch most stuff. Filters need to be set up once, they’re easy (what’s to know?), then they work without further distraction tot he operator.

More importantly, filters are relatively uncontroversial in the sense that complainers could be simply informed, “I’m sorry, it’s the system, it treats everyone the same, there’s nothing I can do.” Filters filter language, not users. This means the ‘bad’ users are actually filtering themselves and so they can’t complain.

So, though only a few people have mentioned filters, I think there is a possibility they could be highly effective in cleaning up the blogosphere without causing much trouble at all, i.e. without also taking up the full attention of the blogosphere for a long time.

I DO like the idea of the blogosphere mirroring the non-virtual world, where swearing at a scientific symposium would be unthinkable. At the scientific symposium you need an invitation to get in and only eligible people get invited. But on a blog, you have to actively enforce any rules in real time because you can’t easily screen out people online. We do and will need blogs where “greater minds” can talk (mostly but maybe not entirely to each other) free of flack and dreck, and we need a place for pig-wrestlers so they don’t try crashing the symposiums.

• I appreciate the idea behind this proposed code of conduct. But disagree with the manner you choose to implement it, and disagree that you want us to implement it at all. This is what “you” feel is appropriate behavior for bloggers “everywhere”. If you feel it appropriate, follow the code yourself, do not preach to the rest of the blogosphere. What seems right to you may not(does not!) to the rest of us. I know there is no authority as yet which will enforce this or any other code, but this code in itself is a step towards censorship, which cannot be tolerated online. Let me decide what i wish to allow/disallow on my own blog. If my posts invoke anonymous derogatory comments, then so be it. I am quite capable of dealing with the consequences of my own actions, and will not let anybody else decide anything for me.

• The idea of a blog code of conduct seems logical.

Indeed, this is best promoted on the basis of a good practice approach (which suggests a voluntary approach). For my part, I like the idea of there being no need for a badge for the general pages within a blog. However, I would like within my blog an “anything goes” section. Thus, by using an anything goes logo for that section I could depict that section of the blog site as being more open in terms of discussion.

As cheesy as badges are – they do signify at a glance the intent of the blog pages (See my book ‘Tackling Militant Racism’ – www,peterjepson.com – where I advocate the need for government to require a counter-message on race material).

• Yochanon

Good grief. All this is is a sugar-coated way of censorship, plain and simple. If a blogger puts a simple ‘If I don’t like what you’re saying, I’ll delete it, whether you like it or not.” post on their blog, what’s the big deal about *YOU*, Tim, deciding *YOU* need to try to all of a sudden make everyone everywhere behave on blogs?
Let the *OWNERS* of each blog make up their own minds what they do. There’s absolutely no need for nannies in any form. If a blogger can’t handle the rough stuff, they need to simply find something else to do.

• Meow.

• I think this is a countertrend in respect of what services like Digg are doing: a blogger should care about the opinions and reactions of the blog readers, and not about a “Blogger’s Code Commission”… Let readers vote and give their preference to the contents, and you’ll see more quality published.
I’d suggest a different priority: let’s distinguish between “online journals”, with a complete editorial staff, 10 posts per day, etc. and blogs written by singles. If a blog is a company journal or an online journal, editors should state it clearly and let the blogosphere to real bloggers.
Regards,
Giacomo

• Rick

There probably is some value to the “Civility Enforced” badge as both a safe zone and a “don’t waste your time” marker. Beyond that, the whole internet is “Anything Goes”, get used to it.

• Groucho

Amazing amounts of vitriol here: by people proclaiming “freedom” with a straight face!

Blog owners -as well as posters – are entitled to form a rational opinion and to advocate it.

Vitriol really gives me the pip. Freedom of speech implies universal responsibilities – to respect the other fellow, to present rationally, and in good faith.

The vitriol peddlers here are simply the witch hunt, the tumbril and the lynch mob of old. Whats the human mind for? Mindless ranting? Bring on the code of conduct.

• Samilon

*THUMBS UP*

• Samilon

The question is, why should we communicate different on the web, as in real life?
Creating new communication-forms makes only sense to people who want spend the rest of their life on the web. I think, I would ignore such kind of people if I would meet them anywhere, because it would be difficult to me to communicate with them.

• Joey Bhananas

You’re right Groucho, let’s just label everything. Let’s all wear blue shirts if we’re civil in our private lives, and red shirts if we’re ‘anything goes!’ What a cool idea!

I’ve been posting on blogs, websites, BBS’es and the like for more than two decades now. And I appreciate the fact that I can talk to anyone I want however I want. I also know there’s repercussions if I take advantage of it (ie getting the same treatment in return, or getting cut off from blogging there.) Sure, there are people out there that will pick on you, try to tear into you, and that’s when you walk away if you don’t want to deal with it. These few are no reason to “Disney-fy” everything, just let the blog owner do his job and cut who and what (s)he wants. If *he’s* unfair in how he does it, sad truth, he’s not Walter Cronkite, (s)he can cut whatever he wants, integrity be damned.

It’s not Walmart’s job to make sure you get a ‘good shopping experience” no matter where you go, and it’s not your job to protect people from other blog sites.

Put your badges up, that’s fine, but if it’s policed (and yes I mean to use that term) any more than a “well then you can’t use our badge” then simply put, it’s wrong.

• Go on then, try and enforce it. I dare ya.

If I was to spout off and yell and scream and curse in my blog, I will. If I want to be a raving bitch in my blog, I will. If I want to allow Anon posting, I will. If I want to be blunt/mean to someone on a blog or forum, I will. And so will everyone else.

And we will accept the treatment we get in return if we harass and flame people.

What a pile of steaming……

• Coolkama

Well here come the thought police.

Some of you “bloggers” may think your a type
of editorial news broadcaster, most of us
are just using a blog as a means to “get it out”

Just like the old fashioned keeping of a diary,
with a mix of voyerism thrown in.

We have laws for liable and death threats.

Stop trying to find an “issue” to make you
feel like an important and informative newshound
and just blog.

• Ian Rennie

This is, and I want you to know that I mean this in all sincerity, the worst idea I have ever seen suggested by people who work with the Internet on a daily basis.

Again in all seriousness and meaning no insult, if you have to codify niceness and civility, you have already lost the battle.

This idea will fail. It will fail because people simply do not like having what they say controlled. I don’t have to conform to what you view as niceness. I don’t like being told what I can and can’t say.

Obviously, you have the ability to mod whatever you want on your site, but to try to represent this as in ome way being safe and cuddly rather than totalitarian is just flat out silly.

If you declare some methods of expressing yourself to be wrong, sooner or later you will declare some things that are being expressed are be wrong. At that point, you have arrived at thoughtcrime, and that’s not a nice place.

For myself, I solemnly swear that I will never, from this point onwards, post on a blog where any kind of idiotic “code of conduct” is enforced. I am entirely certain I won’t be the only one.

• Ian Rennie

“So, though only a few people have mentioned filters, I think there is a possibility they could be highly effective in cleaning up the blogosphere without causing much trouble at all, i.e. without also taking up the full attention of the blogosphere for a long time.”

The problem with filters of course is that they’re so phucking easy to get around that in practice they aren’t the hot sh|t they’re represented as

• I really think there is no need for a code of ethics or any other kind of code. If people do not like what they are reading on certain blogs , they can comment on it or simply leave.

• Dictionary Man

I think bloggers should have badges to show that they know how to spell, and commit to spell checking their blogs.

And I also think that anyone who misuses an apostrophe (such as it’s for its, or iPod’s for iPods) should have their blog shut down for one day.

Seriously, spelling has gotten so bad that no one knows what’s right any more.

• That Spastic Girl

wow. good job, ian! :)
forget the filters. the internet is a scary place, and as far as i’m concerned, if people are so irresponsible as to let their young(er) kids surf unsupervised, it’s their own problem if the kids are exposed to something… ahem… BAD. my thirteen-year-old son doesn’t surf unsupervised. PERIOD. that’s called GOOD parenting.

• dc

In a city like DC, there are a lot of people who won’t comment unless they can stay anon. They have to. You can’t close the door to anon comments.

• dc

In a city like DC, there are a lot of people who won’t comment unless they can stay anon. They have to. You can’t close the door to anon comments.

• derrick

. . . paved with good intentions. . .

The last think anyone needs is another group setting themselves up as the “Keeper’s of purity”.

Certainly I regulate comments, I don’t allow anons, etc. I think people should be polite and civil. But I certainly don’t want a group of self-appointed law makers deciding who can say what and when.

• Could we start a war on comment spam instead, and expose some of the spammers? Far more obscene stuff get through to my blog that way, and it seems more of a common issue, than how blogs need to conduct themselves.

This code of conduct sounds more like: you are either with us (Civility Enforced), or against us (Anything Goes)

To establish as a rule of good conduct that commenters must each provide a “valid” email address, no matter where the comment is being submitted, would be reckless, irresponsible, and misleading. Beginners and trusting persons are quite likely to provide an ISP web mail address, not knowing who may see it and how it can be misused. There are providers of email addresses that can easily be abandoned or deleted, and even ways to set up functionally anonymous email accounts. With all the talk of email address as validation, we could use some prominent online tutorials on how to avoid risks.

• I think this should be a must have rule:

If a commenter posts a URL to their site, and their comment posts on the blog, then along with the comment, the blogger must provide a link to the commenter’s URL.

• What a bunch of crap. If you’re so scared you might see something offensive, then censor your own eyeballs by putting some blinders on.

And if you can’t take comments, whether anonymous or not (except spam) then CLOSE your comment section.

• Dear Mr. O’Reilly

I’m a brazilian reporter and I’m writing an article about your proposition over a conduct guide for blogosphere. My deadline is pretty cruel – it ends up on Friday, 13th of April, 10 am. But I’m in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is GMT less 3 hours time. Sorry about using this comment to ask for it, but I thought that it would turns out to be the quickiest way.

Thank you.

• Johnny Reb

This is a monumentally bad idea. (Unless your real idea was to point out how bad the idea is.)

• 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

• Ian Rennie

The problem, Tim, is both in your intention and the way you are going about it.

1) the badges are cheesy and pointless. We’re all grown ups. We don’t need good boy badges and naughty boy badges.
2) Your rules allow no flexibility. They’re all or notheing. Either toe the line or be put into the bad kids ghetto.
3) at their heart, your rules are pointless. Blog owners already HAVE the ability to set their own rules, ban anyone they like, delete or edit comments, and all the other things that mean that if they don’t want uncivil comments, they don’t have to have them. All you are doing here is creating a whitelist and a blacklist.

• Deliberately Anonymous

Tim, you may want to read this post from a UK blogger. We don’t necessarily have a different take on the criticisms of your code of conduct over here, but at least we’ve got a sense of sarcastic humour about it!

• Yopias

NEE!

• Er… Freedom of speech or newspeak? We all have problems with idiots on our blogs but is it so hard to to delete comments? No-one takes any notice of them unless someone wades in on your behalf. The nutters are few and far between. I like the diversity – how ever badly written in purple ink – that comes my way. You can’t homogenise the ‘blogosphere’

• I’m not sure I’d want to go out for a drink with someone who signed up to a Blogging Code of Conduct. They’d be a frightful bore and would certainly disapprove of me.

• All I can say is, Tipper Gore, call your lawyers – you’re being plagiarized. Times like this, I really miss Frank Zappa.

This is a total crock – but at least I’ll know the tards to avoid from now on – they’ll have little 6-point stars on their blogs…sort of like…like….

….oh no….

• Joey Bhananas

I like the badges idea, it got us all complaining instead of clicking “Stumble!” again.

• Windy

As a feminist who once wrote a feminist column for a newspaper, I often received very misogynist, and even physically threatening, letters in response to the columns I wrote.

The most hate-filled letters arrived whenever I advocated on the side of women’s freedom of choice in abortion, for example, or when I advocated for affirmative action policies or when I wrote anti-war columns.

In a print newspaper format, of course, the editors have the editorial discretion and responsibility to not publish those letters that engaged in the personal low-blows or threats …

My newspaper did (with my full consent and approval) print all the opinions that opposed my own, (there were many.) But the editors drew the line at those letters that were libelous to me as a person or that were particularly vile and offensive in laguange or that physically threatened me wih violence. Those letters that were not published in the paper ended up in my “hate mail” file folder and that was the end of it.

Likewise, in many forums, the extremely vile posts can be deleted by the “editor” or the person who is the administrator of that posting forum and therefore holds the responsibility for it.

That is fair enough. And obviously, if the administrator of a blog goes too far and starts censoring too much, people will flee that forum and it will be self-damaging, so I think there are natural “checks and balances” built into that system.

But beyond doing that, I don’t think anything can, or should, be done to curtail freedom of speech.

I don’t see any point in putting a formal “bloggers code of conduct” out there … it’s just pointless.

People intuitively know what is “civil” and what is not, and I don’t think people who are writting the hate-blogs even expect that their posts will survive more than a few hours. They are just venting online, and that’s all.

(Actually, they are doing themselves a disservice because any point of view can be put forward without the need for personal attacks or foul language … but I guess some people are just not skilled enough to know how to express their opinion in a civil way.)

Anyway, my belief is that is that if you are a well-known person in the community and are expressing a strong opinion in a public forum, then you need to have a thick skin.

That’s just the way it is. If you have “power of the press,” so to speak (in the internet world, that means the power of a name or a position of authority) then either you develop a thick skin and a very high tolerance for the hate mail.

(Of course, if the hate mail is consistent and coming at you in a particularly threatening way on a regular basis, then maybe you need to bring that to the attention of the police … but fortunately, in my experience, there aren’t too many nut-bars that actually act on those letters… so you just have to keep a balanced perspective on all this!)

• Windy

The person who is the administrator of a posting forum holds the responsibility for it and can (and should) delete posts that cross the line into personal attacks, foul language and threats of physical violence.
And obviously, if the administrator of a blog goes too far and starts censoring too much, people will flee that forum and it will be self-damaging, so I think there are natural “checks and balances” built into that system.
But beyond doing that, I don’t think anything can, or should, be done to curtail freedom of speech. I don’t see any point in putting a formal “bloggers code of conduct” out there … it’s just pointless.
People intuitively know what is “civil” disagreement and what is not, and I don’t think people who are writing the hate-blogs even expect that their posts will survive more than a few hours. They are just venting online, and that’s all.
Also, my belief is that is that if you are a well-known person in the community and are expressing a strong opinion in a public forum, then you need to have a thick skin. If you have “power of the press,” so to speak (in the internet world, that means the power of a name or a position of authority in expressing a strong online position) then you are bound to get hate mail and need to have a very high tolerance for that.
Administrators should use their discretion —- allowing posts that strongly disagree and only delete the ones that really and truly do ÔøΩcross the lineÔøΩ into physical threats or intolerable and unnecessary foul and vile language.

• Anonymous

Why?? That’s my question.

The person who is the administrator of a posting forum holds the responsibility for it and can (and should) delete posts that cross the line into personal attacks, foul language and threats of physical violence.

And obviously, if the administrator of a blog goes too far and starts censoring too much, people will flee that forum and it will be self-damaging, so I think there are natural “checks and balances” built into that system.

Bu I don’tsee any point in putting a formal “bloggers code of conduct” out there … it’s just pointless.

People intuitively know what is “civil” and what is not, and I don’t think people who are writing the hate-blogs even expect that their posts will survive more than a few hours. They are just venting online, and that’s all.

Also, my belief is that is that if you are a well-known person in the community and are expressing a strong opinion in a public forum, then you need to have a thick skin.

• Windy

(Sorry for the repetitive posts … every time I posted, I got a message saying that the attempt failed so I kept re-writing it and trying again!)

• Jeez, why so complicated?

• Tim, Please, fix the URL link at post [04.11.07 12:56 PM] – there is a wrong additional comma in the end ‘html’ termination. It results an 404 error… ;)

• Some of us bloggers already DO THIS. We self-police. We have standards and decency, and we are better because of it.

Fed Locally
http://www.fedlocally.com

But to try and promote a ‘code of conduct’ across the entire blogosphere is a pipe dream.

• This world has lost a great deal of common courtesy. We are all moving towards a completely individualistic society where we care about no one but ourselves. One major cause of this is technology abuse. Technology is great at making our lives easier but is easily abused. We are becoming lazier and crueler. I remember reading some comments on a blog about a obese lady who did not know that she was pregnant until three days before she gave birth. The comments got very nasty and most where totally uncalled for. If we set some guidelines, not censorship, I feel that the web would become more friendly. If we got rid of all anonymous posts and comments and use real names people we be less likely to say ridiculous comments that have no factual basis. This would be a first step to making the web what it should be, a world wide network that connects people not a world wide network that pushes people farther away.

• While I share the spirit behind all of this, I feel quite strongly against some of the fine print:

1.- I am not responsible for comments I may not have read yet, and I do not like moderation queues.

5.- Anonymity is the basis of free speech. Of course I will allow it! That’s what deleting comments is for.

0.- Badges are silly, just like that. No need for a badge to act reasonably, nor will a badge make anyone.

Suppoose that means no badge for me, huh? Oh, well.

• anonymous poster

If you’re fair don’t delete this link.

Why you’ll be responsable for what I am typing here ? and why should I tell my name ? You’re just a new big brother in the blogosphere !

• “Blogging Code of Conduct” equals “Jew or not Jew”
[It’s all disgusting jewish-zionistic propaganda.]
Examples:
www_mathematics_milApr 11th, 2007 – 22:23:17

‘Zooming in on Darfur: Google teams up with _Holocaust Museum_'(4/11/2007):
Reference _Holocaust Museums_: ‘Usama bin Laden Says Israeli Regime is Behind the 9-11 Attacks KABUL, Afghanistan (Ummat): Prominent Arab mojahed (freedom fighter) Usama bin Laden or the Al-Qaida group has nothing to do with the 11 September attacks on the Bush Administration, according to an Usama bin Laden interview with Ummat, the Karachi-based Pakistani daily newspaper. In his interview, Usama bin Laden pointed out that the Israeli regime is behind the 9-11 attacks'[Bin Laden: AUTHENTIC INTERVIEW by Carol A. Valentine
Curator, Waco Holocaust Electronic Museum, October, 2001 ].

PiperApr 11th, 2007 – 23:43:33

This is not an apolitical move. Darfur is located on top of some large oil reserves that a Chinese oil company currently has dibs on. Sudan geography alone makes it an important strategic point. (it’s connection to the read sea, important rivers, relation to Mideast and Africa etc.) The US government wants the ability to create a pretense to get its hands in Darfur, just as it did in Iraq. The demonstration against the genocide last year included speakers from congress and the state department. The amount of people killed is really quite smaller than those killed in Iraq. (about 200,000 vs. 655,000-900,000 deaths) Genocide has only been an issue for our government when money and power are at stake. The Sudanese government is supporting the massacres in order to push rebels and the communities that support them off the oil rich land. Given our government’s record, there’s no reason to think this would stop if they stepped in to get the oil themselves. Most likely the violence would increase because the political pressure to stop the killing would disapear. That a holocaust museum is involved isn’t suprising. Most holocaust institutions (not to mention Jewish institutions) have been taken over by a leadership that actively collaborates with American imperialism. Instead of drawing real lessons from the holocaust that could prevent another one (such as the need for a working class movement, the threat a collapsing capitalist system poses, and the need Jews have to align ourselves with workers and oppressed nationalities (including and especially Palestinians) in order to build a new world etc.) Holocaust rememberance has been primarily used to bolster the image of American imperialism and shield it’s junior parters in the Israeli government from attack. (Just one instance: The entire justification for war in Iraq was basically: Saddam=Hitler) This Darfur propaganda is only the latest installment.

• I see that my trackback got eaten. My semi-rebuttal is here.

• Trackbacks are broken. In summary, there’ no point because there’s no enforcement mechanism of any sort, and no real advantage to anyone in even being seen to sign up.
More

• The site Bloggingcode.org does not have anything…?

• The problem, Tim, is that this ‘code of conduct’ is being seen as preaching. You want to censor certain comments on your blog? Fine. The problem is that you are presenting your _opinions_ as the only right way of doing things. Put it this way: how would you react if Cory Doctorow compared your blog to ‘pig wrestling’?

• Olav

Tim, this is the Internet right? Why in the world are you further complicating the net? Let it grow and self regulate itself. Stop trying to enforce intellectuality on a medium that should be free to grow.

You don’t need to give blogging a structure. Who are you anyway? Who is giving you any rights to change blogging or the net?

Where is the freedom of expression? Why must people that are civil be punished because of a few hate filled humans? Delete the comments and finished.

This is just a bad dream, I’m going to wake up and all is fine.

You have lost a lot of positive karma for me Tim. A real pity.

• groucho

Amazing. To attempt to paint this as a Right Left divide simply makes me laugh. Its just self-regulation written down.

All that’s proposed here is that Blog owners individually take responsibility for looking after their own space using a common standard, and that posters individually take responsibility for what they post using the same standard.

One point, though: the draft is over-blown. Shear off the rhetorical, polemical flourishes and keep it simple.

• David — if Cory compared my blog to “pig-wrestling,” I’d do a lot of soul searching, because I value his opinion, and trust his insight.

I may indeed be preaching, but preaching isn’t coercing. I’m trying to persuade bloggers to think about their responsibility for the tone of the comments they allow as well as for their own postings. Persuasion allows for dissent — as evidenced here — and even more important, it allows for disregard. If a group of people get together on a wiki and agree on some common language for blog terms of service, and that’s useful to some set of bloggers who want to adopt those terms of service, why do you care?

If you don’t want to use them, don’t. It may be that no one will adopt them. End of story. It may be that they are widely adopted. End of a different story.

There are definitely outcomes that could be very different, for example if, as some posters seem to fear, standard terms of service were mandated. But that’s a straw man. No one is proposing that, except people who want to use that as an argument for trying to keep others for considering a common code of conduct or terms of service.

• I’m impressed by your guidelines. Maybe it’s a generational thing (I’m ancient by internet standards), but I think there are several words that do not further a discussion and only serve to reveal the writer’s inability to present a valid, intelligent argument about the topic.

Your guidelines encourage people who want to participate to make more of an effort to address the topic instead of attacking the author.
I find it sad that so many of the comments I see here would rather ridicule than see the intent and purpose.

Your guidelines encourage commenters to keep to the topic of a blog (what were you thinking?) and that is far better for public discourse than flaming and namecalling.

I invite you to see my submission guidelines. Some may disagree, but unlike some bloggers, I accept responsibility for everything on my site. Yup, I am the thought police.

• Phillip

You’re serious, aren’t you?

Really….

I don’t mean offense, but it almost seems like you must be either mildly delusional or affected by some sort of surrealistic Pollyanna syndrome or something.

I mean, who is this going to effect? Bloggers can already moderate what others post in their blogs, so the ones who care, do. For those who enjoy things a little bit crass, your initiative will mean nothing. Who exactly is this for?

I don’t see any harm in this, but I don’t see any real benefit either.

All I can really see coming from this is you making yourself a target of derision without really accomplishing anything.

I wish I could say that I’d read all of the comments before posting my own to make sure I wasn’t repeating anyone, but there’s too many. I did make an effort, and got through about a third of them before I just started skimming. It kind of seems like the sentiment that this is sort of useless is a common theme.

I guess that’s all I have to say…..

• Phillip

(Hm, your ‘preview’ striped out all the carriage returns, so I added them in by hardcoding them – and then the ‘post’ button did something different than the ‘preview’ button. Sorry.)

• Well.. I am not an old guy,.. nor am I a nerd, but Tim’s suggestion is sensible. It would make the net more manageable. There is no possibility of gray areas…either ur blog caries the CivEnforced tag or Anything goes tag.. so much easier to filter out content. It would not affect anyone who does not want to be affected. You can overlook the tag if you want to… embed the javascript code if you dont like the graphics. It will be definitely be a boon to net nannies. E.g. One wouldn’t have to block the complete MySpace, just the blogs without the tag or anything goes tag.

Maybe a better idea would be to add some sort of leveling system as someone suggested above. I think its great idea.. kudos

• Good idea.

• Joey Bhananas

I have nothing to add at this point, I just wanted to have the last word in this.

I think that word should be “antlion.”

Thank you.
Err… I mean, “Antlion.”

• Tim, I particularly liked your item about trying to communicate directly with the person we take issue with before posting our argument. That was my practice on an open mail list that spun out of control several years ago, and it definitely helped moderate the tone of the discussions I joined. Some of us actually learned something. Had several others adopted the same practice, I think the list might have survived long enough to become a blog. So you’re onto something important here. Let’s all keep working on this.

• Tim, I like your code and I plan to refer to it in a column I’m writing for Sunday.

I need to clarify a point, though. I was going to attribute the words in this draft to you, but when you say, “We’ve drafted a code of conduct,” who is WE?

• Another thing…

You may or may not be interested in this, but here are a couple of posts from my blog on this subject:

• Brad, the O’Reilly Radar is a group blog (as were the blogs involved in the Kathy Sierra situation that sparked this debate), so the use of the word “we” rather than “I” was an unconscious one, representing how “we” think of governance of our blog. It’s a bit unfortunate, as it added to the perception by many of the commenters here that I was trying to speak for bloggers as a whole.

But as to authorship: Sara Winge drafted the code based on a combination of my original “Call for a bloggers’ code of conduct” and the Blogher Community Guidelines to which I’d referred there. (I believe that Lisa Stone wrote those, but I’ve never talked to her about it. She also used “we” because blogher is also a group blog, by the way.) But Lisa wasn’t directly involved in our effort, so you’d have to say that the “we” of authorship was me and Sara Winge, my VP of Corporate Communications.

• From italy:

NO. That’s unfairy. Why don’t enjoy whitt trolls, eventually? Why I have to say in rl waht’s is impossible to explain without a write code?

• Thanks, Tim. I’ll be posting my column Sunday.

Congratulations on the positive mention in The Wall Street Journal.

• I’m sure this point has been covered and I’m slow to realize it: but what does a blogger do when requested (demanded) by a law firm of a powerful criticism-averse corporation to hand over the email address of someone who left a negative comment?

At least when IP addresses are all that’s available, a large scale ISP usually tends to buffer such abuses of legal process since, by now, nearly all have decent policies and legal departments designed to (also) protect their customers.

I’m sure others have covered the other problems with presuming email addresses are some form of validation as well. To fully implement non-anonymous systems, I’d imagine government regulated biometrics and a Data Czar Department run by the United Nations would be needed.

Eeek.

Best,

Joey

• In the meantime, here’s a related post:

• Janten

It’s interesting to see how threatened so many people feel by the proposed, voluntary Blogging Code of Conduct. If a blogger voluntarily chooses to adopt such a code of conduct for his or her site, that should not need to offend anyone. Those who are unwilling to abide by the code simply do not need to visit let alone comment on such sites – they’re free to choose the anything goes sites, whether or not they display any logo publicizing their voluntary choice regarding how to manage their sites.

I do find the badge logo somewhat inappropriate, though, because that carries a lot of authoritarian baggage with it, particularly involving petty, arbitrary, threatening and abusive behavior under the guise of doing good. I suggest that a heart would be a better symbol to use. A heart, though perhaps viewed as silly by some, actually symbolizes the essence of civil behavior. There’s actually a lot more to this Blogging Code of Conduct than there might first appear to be.

In order to behave well, one needs to have developed some degree of several “heart qualities” as a basis for one’s behavior. One needs to accept and even embrace a wider range of possibilities of experience, values and behavior. In other words, one needs to embrace the diversity that provides such richness and fullness in our individual and collective life experiences. One needs to care – to sympathize, empathize, and be compassionate towards others. One needs to realize that even if one hates what another has done, it’s possible, even necessary, to love that other being. One needs to be open to all the good that others have the potential to offer that can enrich us in ways that can’t be measured only in terms of money, material goods and power over others. One needs to accept that good, open, civil dialogue is one of the most powerful ways we have of relating to one another, especially in this electronic realm we populate.

Words are powerful tools and, just as with any tool we wield, the privilege of using words freely and spreading a message widely also implies a great responsibility. Freedom does not mean we have the right let alone the duty to abuse others because such use actually limits freedom. Although we tend to have a bad habit of evaluating and measuring freedom on an individual basis, freedom is best evaluated and measured on a collective basis. If you are not free, then there is no way I can be truly free. This is because, behind all the individuation, behind all the diversity we are so used to, so identified with – behind all of that there is an underlying unity.

If you aren’t aware of this underlying unity, it is because you are so identified with, so attached to your individuality. That is not to say that individuality is bad. In fact it is good. It’s wonderful. It’s how things are in this world. But there is more to our existence beyond individuality. There is a unity within our individual life experiences, and our individual life experiences are within this unity. Though it might put you and many others off, this unity can be expressed as God and as Allah and as YHVH. It can be expressed as enlightenment, both individual and collective. It can also be expressed as the intelligence of the universe (which does not devolve into intelligent design in the current usage of the phrase).

However one might conceive of or experience the unity behind and within our experiences of life, once one becomes aware of it and realizes it’s significance, it is impossible to avoid realizing that how we treat one another directly impacts upon one’s own self. That is simply a fact, a truth of life. So, what others think and feel in response to one’s behavior reflects directly back on one’s self.

It’s also true that sloppy, uncaring use of language and basic communication skills leads to sloppy, uncaring thinking. Whatever language you speak, it is rich in words, phrases and manners of expression and familiarity with this richness through use leads to richness of thought. If we see ourselves as thinking beings, with worthwhile thoughts, questions, insights and opinions to share, trying to do so through SHOUTING, profanity, name calling, demeaning language simply reflects back on the user. It also greatly limits freedom – one’s own freedom as well as the freedom of others. Such language and expression limits the opportunity for open, meaningful and productive discussion, debate and dialogue. It limits everyone’s opportunity to learn, to expand one’s understanding of the issues at hand, and to find solutions to the problems and difficulties we all face together.

The problems we face have been created through low level thinking, feeling, communication and action. The only way we will ever be able to rise to find solutions will be to raise the level of our thinking, feeling, communication and action. With this understanding, it follows that raising the level of our blogging communication is one small but very significant step we can take toward a goal of finding real solutions. Do you want to be part of this process, or are you instead in favor of continuing to wallow in the messes we and previous generations have gotten ourselves into? It’s your choice, though I’d like to encourage you to become all you were meant to be and, thereby, become part of the solution.

• Honestly?

I strongly believe the “Don’t Be An Idiot” badges have a lot more chance of gaining traction, and give a much clearer message that is universal.

• Ian Rennie

“There is no possibility of gray areas…either ur blog caries the CivEnforced tag or Anything goes tag..”

This is EXACTLY what a lot of people are complaining about.

What do you do if you don’t want the choice between total anarchy and Uncle Tim’s Shiny Happy People Ruleset?

What if (for example) you want to encourage polite behavior, but want to allow anonymous comments without an email address? Your choices are over-restrictive terms, no terms at all, or not being a part of the code.

THis means the code is either useless or broken in these circumstances.

• Hi,

I’ve stopped allowing anonymous comments. When I worked for a newspaper, we never published letters from an unknown source; why should I do it in a blog?

Here’s the other problem we need to adress:

• I don’t believe in codes of conducts of any kind, this is all hypocritical nonsense.

Blogging and everything else written in the internet is a reflection of Society, they’re part of a reality, they are reality, they are The Society.

this should not concern us as all this spread-about-conduct-nonsense has only one goal. To make us keep our mouths shut. The aim is censorship not conduct or any other cover-up refined terminology.

Ciao.
I’ll keep on bloggin the way I feel.

• Ian — I agree that if the “civility” I encourage were mandated across all blogs, that would be a bad thing. But if it were mandated by a site owner as part of the conditions of participating in his or her space, I don’t see it as so bad.

Roidis — I bet you’d believe in codes of conduct if someone showed up at your house and started shouting invective at 2 AM. It’s part of society that there are people who do that, but most of us don’t welcome them. Rules like that are not censorship, that’s what it takes to live together.

As noted previously, please go over to Rules of Conduct: Lessons Learned So Far to continue the discussion. I will not respond further here, though you are free to continue the discussion among yourselves. (i.e. comments are not closed.)

• Here’s my column that touches upon the code:

It’s right next to a post that is bound to generate its share of incivility, although I’ll hope for better. It’s about the Confederate flag:

I look forward to the opportunity to display the badge.

• Reto Scherraus-Fenkart

GREAT IDEA

but not this way… you make a code, you need a judge… so it’s only feasible if this all will be about volontarily adopting the sherif’s star (also, you guys could have come up with some less police like logo, really!) Also, please, forget about ‘marking’ others for ‘anything goes’ – this is not ok (even if it could help!), it goes against the philosophy of blog, which, per se, is already an “anything goes matter”.

good luck,

RSF
scherraus.com

• This is not an acceptable idea under any circumstances as it infrnges upon the ideals of free speech that blogging stands for, and this little venture, I have no doubt, will ultimately fail, no matter how many not-for-profit organisations you have backng you up.

• Ok,I take that back but that was my initial gut reaction to this premise Tim.You may put a little stick of dynomite next to my previous post if you care to but that’s not going to change what or how I write. In so many ways you were/are a prime mover of this whole deal we have now and you seek to censor it? That’s about as sad as Howard Stern’s myspace comments section that requires approval before comments are posted. Why not just let readers judge for themselves?

• Moderate Guy

I have been posting in discussion boards on the Internet since before it was graphical, before Mosaic, Mozilla, Explorer, back in text under Unix.

Most of the professional and hobby boards are pretty civil.

The problem seems to be in political boards, and the root cause seems to be posters who are confronted with facts which are shocking to their dogmas. Most of the vitrol I see comes from so-called “liberals” who shift into trying to discredit the other posters when they cannot confront the facts.

This goes on in letters to the editor, in news and editorials. But here, they are busted, and quickly.

• Two viewpoints – first, as the administrator of my blog; I would never put anything like this on my blog because it implies you don’t trust your readership. Second, as a commentor; I would never comment on a blog who imposed this “legislature” because it really creates an uptight environment in that comments can be interpreted a variety of ways, who knows if what I consider within the guidelines is, according to that blog author.

I think it’s really a waste of time and energy, personally. It’s my opinion that it probably wouldn’t be successful in the outer circles of the blogosphere.

On another note, I could waste my time wondering if my comment in whole or in part could be construed as argumentative and biased, and if it might be removed. That’s the new comfort level you want to create for your readership, or potential readership?

• since i’m a contrarian, i’ll give it a shot.

• James S.

Ironically, I think that the discussions that are arising because of this document are actually in need of it in the first place.
In all forms of human communication we have developed protocols, rules of behavior, “politeness” , because we feel empathy towards the person we are communicating with, we do not generally want to hurt that person¥s feelings, make them feel uncomfortable, etc. Think of how you greet a friend, or someone on the telephone. You follow a set of culturally defined steps to demonstrate that you feel no ill will towards the other person, you say hi, you ask them how they’ve been, etc.
Sadly, the internet does not allow for instant feedback on the effects our messages have, we do not see a person flush with embarrassment or anger, simple letters are not very efficient at communicating emotions. Thus, we do not feel empathy towards the other person, and frankly, that means we are careless and clumsy, angering, embarrassing, hurting, etc.
That is what makes this a good idea, it¥s not mandatory, the same way there is no law regulating hand shakes, it’s simply a form of reminding yourself by other means of what others may be feeling and thinking. It gives you a guideline of how to act in order to make sure you don’t accidentally offend someone, which is in your own best interest, since communication is smoother, not being interrupted suddenly by someone who didn’t get the joke you wrote and now thinks you’re a jerk.
The irony comes in because the forum discussions are probably going to lack this “etiquette” in the first place, meaning it’ll be full of the real world equivalent of throwing keyboards, monitors, and CPU’s at each other.
I suppose many think that the point of the internet is that you can flout the normal social rules, but that’s only true if you forget that there’s people at the other end of the line, and if you don’t mind messing with people just because you can. Generally, in the normal world of audio and visual communication, that role is filled by all the rude, inconsiderate, speak-before-they-think, “jerks”, which this code of conduct is trying to prevent from spreading on the internet.

• There’s always two sides to every story. Sierra has had her say and chose her reactions. So be it.

Many of us who presently blog; and are in our forties…or more; cut our teeth in BBS boards, AOL 3.0, and learned long ago what the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” and keeping things online and offline seperate. We also learned to use ‘ignore’ features and let kids play with kids instead of playing with them.

Which all leads up to the necessity of ‘Codes’. In this case, it’s simply no more or less of a Viewer/Interaction label that movies have. One man’s Hentai is another man’s porn is another man’s art. It’s based on perspective.

In the end, people having sites they write on with the ability of interactions of readers will have to determine how and when to moderate.

Oh, my bad. That’s what they’ve been doing until now…still are…and will. Sierra simply chose to take internal problems with her site and let it all hang out. Makes for readership and marketing is all I can say.

• Tim, I think you are doing a great thing by raising this conversation. I am surprised by the many claims of censorship people are saying about this. It seems many want the right to speech in any form, even perhaps to yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. Interesting times . . .

• Mr. O’Reilly is asking to act as gentle as possible. That’s fair enought to me.

• We are making this really complicated. Here’s your code of conduct, ready? –

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Done, next issue?

• I don’t really see this proposal as analagous to censorship. It isn’t ‘enforced’ by anyone but the site owner, who probably already deletes comments from time to time. A man’s blog is his castle, and he can delete whomever he likes.

You could also argue filtering out spam from comments is ‘censorship,’ I don’t see anyone jumping up to put a stop to that practice.

• musashi

I appologise everyone here, starting with blog owner(s) and also to all readers / commenters.

Im new in internet, since I surf around only 12h a day everyday since 2001. there for excuse my lack of knowledge, but who is mister Oreilly to have power to push this aberation ?

Mister OReilly, you are not able to moderate a blog ? How about to moderate a 2000+ forum with over 100 new topics a day + replies ?

Maybe Im wrong, but blogs should be equivlent to a diary, a personal diary owned by one or by a group.

Badges ? Wtf ? WHO entitle YOU to evaluate who would have the badge ? Is the badge the “sign” that a blog IS under control of YOUR (personal) code of (lack of transparency of) conduite ?

While I write this, I have no idea if this blogs comments are about to be moderate. Also I dont know how violent may be mister OReillys reaction, there for I wont mention my site adress (I respect my very few visitors).

Anyway, I think , after a shallow review of issue, that actually mister OReilly started this (censored) “code” with purpose to make more traffic here or, whorst but more probable, as a race against the time to “give name to something, so history to remember him”.

Full respect for any and all human being, no respect for this particular idea.

• Nicky

Hahaha!! What a joke! Reminds me of the term control freak – I would have thought people are quite capable of looking after their own blogs and management of blogs without needing a “Code of Conduct” badge!!

Flip me, whats happening to you people! Stop trying to control everything! – if people need help, they generally ask, if they get numpties posting on their blogs, they delete them and ban their IP’s!

Dear oh dear, whatever floats ya boat mate TSK!

• Dear Tim, I’m all for the code.

We need it because everything else is going to pot. Civility is needed in this age of moral degradation on every front.

Thank you for standing firm by it.

Keep at it! If I can help, let me know.

• One man’s civility is another man’s censorship. I am sorry but it seems to me that this is a slippery slope to a total lack of individuality on the net. Are there jerks? Yes. Are there nuts? Yes. But they are in the “real world” as well and I don’t think we are gonna be seeing people walking around with special symbols on them any time soon. While I can see why you might want this, I, personally, don’t need a badge or code on a webpage. If I read objectionable content, I leave the page. End of story.

• Tim’s idea sounds good to me, barring the badges.

I agree especially with getting rid of anonymous comments. Whilst I respect the privacy of commenters and would not post any more than a nickname on the blog (unless they specifically want to), I feel that anyone wanting to remain anonymous from me, the site owner, is probably doing so for nefarious purposes.

As an anti-spam measure, I have implemented e-mail verification in my own blogging/CMS software. First post from an e-mail address must respond to a mail. Whilst helping with the spambots, this also means that I have a valid e-mail address (and IP address), in the event of any problems.

I’m glad I found this tho. I’ve been under fire from people because I stood up for myself. It’s a sick sick internet.

• Google let me down and pointed me to the older version of this discussion, so here we go again…

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. It’s a forum, and as mentioned above there are fora all over the place. 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 the truly 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 don’t care about people using pseudonyms, or keeping a disposable e-mail address to sign up. But once they start to threaten others or otherwise violate our user agreement, then I need a way to ensure that such numbnuts are gone for good. If it means alienating a whole mess of people who use a particular dial-up service, then life is hard.

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

It’s tools not rules folks. I’m sure that’s a familiar phrase to some people. Rules don’t mean squat without the complete toolkit to enforce them.

• Generally I like the effort, and I think there’s value in the discussion. Specifically restricting it, however, to bloggers is largely pointless. After all it’s not bloggers alone, it’s general internet culture. There’s far more commenters, posters, and participants than “bloggers”.

• Here is the only bloggers code of conduct one should ever need:

If someone chooses not be be civil and polite, then simply delete their comments. Your blog is your domain, you control the atmosphere. We should consider that our purpose for leaving comments is to enhance the conversation. To do this, one should make their case for their own viewpoints, instead of attacking the writer as a person. Improving our knowledge on a particular topic, and perhaps our vocabulary, increases the likelihood of polite and civil conversation.

• eli

Why should we try to standardize blogging as a medium which only encourages “civil” content?

To quote one of my professors, “some people’s first language is ‘f*ck-you'”. Some people may find this repugnant and distasteful, but not everything that needs communicating can be said in a “civil” way, i.e. in the language of dominant discourse.

I suggest that this kind of attitude is a modern transposition of the European colonizer’s attitudes in earlier centuries towards slaves and the colonized peoples. Think about that, Mr. O’Reilly….

• eli —

I’m not afraid to have values of my own and to say that if you want to be at my party, you have to play by my rules. You can have your own rules on your own site.

Re not everything that needs communicating can be said in a “civil” way, I disagree. You can make extremely strong statements while remaining civil. Just ask Gandhi or Martin Luther King.

Meanwhile, one of my favorite stories (perhaps apocryphal) was of an interaction between an English governor in India and those who defended the practice of suttee (burning widows on the husband’s pyre) as their local custom. He is said to have replied. “By all means follow your local custom. But be aware that it is our local custom to hang people who do that.”

We all need to draw the line somewhere. I advocate tolerance. I advocate respect. I try to treat people as I’d like to be treated. In my space, I’m saying I want to make sure that people treat each other decently. I want to make it easier for other blog owners to stand up for that principle. What’s so hard about that?

I actually doubt if many of the abusive types actually like being treated that way, so that’s a good test of whether their custom is a good one or not.

• I like the concept of a code of conduct, but couldn’t accept this one as it bars anonymous comments.

If all other tenets are upheld, why not allow anonymous comments?

I have a placeblog, allow anonymous comments (most are) and have emphasized from the beginning that it was to be a place to share information and news on the most local level for a better community.

With each jump in readership I’ve had to reinforce and remind readers, but it has worked (and yes I do delete comments some on a repeated basis, but people eventually get it).

I also don’t like the badge as a symbol because it represents enforcement. I’d rather an emblem that reflects civility, not a dove, but something else the opposite of a stick of dynamite.

Thanks for bringing this issue to the fore and please reconsider the anonymous comments.

Best wishes.

• Kham

Hi Tim,

There are few people whom I respect and now, even fewer. However, I do understand that your initiative was a genuine and proactive attempt at addressing a serious issue and I respect you for that. But it is a reactionary attempt, nonetheless and one which serves as a warning to us all.

Civility or ethics is something all conscientious Citizens of Blogosphere are preoccupied with. But it is only one facet of a multi-faceted society. Other facets are open-ended dialogues, humor, capriciousness, volatility and provocativeness. All those things which enrich and bring to life interesting, banal or just plain weird discussions.

I have always believed that we have more to learn (about others and ourselves) and gain from crass criticism and antagonism than the self-seeking, slavishly submissive, servile sycophantic feigning fictitious flattery. What the latter leads to is an impoverished, parsimonious and economical society filled with logorrhea. The former creates fastidious arguments and ideas mutually resistant to opponent and ally, and consistent with free thought and free speech.

Lastly, the Codes of Conduct only reverberate fear and loathing of our fellow Blogospheric Citizens. The Blogosphere is a place where all are equal (even trolls). Please leave those precepts of inequalities and hegemonic attitudes where they belong. Remember, trolls were a fictive inventiveness that warned us against interacting with the unknown. There is nothing fictitious about real people with real opinions. “tout autre est tout autre.” Words don’t kill people. Sticks and stones…. We don’t have to be in agreement but let’s agree to be.

“the dream of Order begets tyranny, the dream of Beauty, monsters and violence.”

“The headlines I had seen that morning were parables; the event they recorded, an allegory and a prophecy. In that one symbolic act, we who so longed for peace [peace of mind and freedom] had rejected the only possible means to peace and had issued a warning to all who, in the future, might advocate any courses but those which inevitably lead to war.”

• Kham — you write eloquently, but what you say makes little sense to me.

I’m with you on this paragraph: “Civility or ethics is something all conscientious Citizens of Blogosphere are preoccupied with. But it is only one facet of a multi-faceted society. Other facets are open-ended dialogues, humor, capriciousness, volatility and provocativeness. All those things which enrich and bring to life interesting, banal or just plain weird discussions.”

I totally agree with that.

But none of the things that you list in your last sentence are opposed to civility. Civility is not their principal characteristic, and none of them are harmed by civility, but any of them could be harmed by its lack.

And when you say, “I have always believed that we have more to learn (about others and ourselves) and gain from crass criticism and antagonism than the self-seeking, slavishly submissive, servile sycophantic feigning fictitious flattery.” Well, yes, crass criticism is better than sycophantic fictitious flattery, but are those the only alternatives?

How about honest, engaged dialogue that respects the other party in the discussion, and expresses the strongest disagreement necessary, but never needs resort to insults in lieu of argument?

In short, it seems to me that you’re creating a false opposition between civility and honesty. In fact, it seems to me that hostility has more potential to subvert frank discussion than civility does.

• I couldn’t agree with you more Tim. I can’t tell you how many death threats and insults I’ve received on my blog because of my religious beliefs and wanting to help people. You can count me in.

• Kham

Hi Tim,

Your assiduousness is admirable and matched by the influence you have. However, I stand adamant to my position of ‘freer speech.’ Furthermore, censorship is not honesty. Honesty is, in other words, personal truth, such that the suggested framework of truth or honesty and censorship is one which is ostensibly oxymoronic, where truths may be hidden, oppressed or suppressed.

Where there is oppression, there is a resistance. And you would only succeed in effectively ostracizing a significant number of those who would think and speak freely (and honestly).

In my most humble opinion, free speech is the only way of getting people to truthfully or honestly complain, criticize, compare, quarrel and culminate with resolutions or settled disagreements (there’s another oxymoron, I know) rather than taking it personally or threatening to kill each other.

On that note, the enforcement of such etiquette seems to require some supernatural qualities, such as the omniscience of omnipotent beings, ‘Cyber-Gods.’ Sorry about the theistic innuendo (I am not religious). There are many Cyber-Gods who do exercise control and censorship.

I have just been given permission to research a prominent British TV network that, rightly so, exercises censorship. My ‘simple’ task is the comparison and contrast of threads of ‘sensitive’ comments with those from less restrictive or uncensored sources. Being progressive, in mind, I am mainly interested in the productivity or progressiveness of these public discussions; critical discourse analysis.

The title: ‘The Cyber-God Delusion’. It will discuss many truths, in many different spaces and at many different times. I will also look into the roles and relationships of Cyber-Devils and Cyber-Trolls in terms of systematic asymmetries of power between speakers and listeners, readers and writers from a poststructuralist perspective, in order to be able to understand they cultural identify themselves and justify there actions.

This will not be an antithesis to the Codes of Conduct. I also believe that a speakers/writers identity is important, as long as we all have a healthy respect for one another – ‘tout autre est tout autre’. But how can we have a Code of Conduct for the community when ‘we who cannot completely say we,’ ‘we, if such a thing exists’ (Derrida).

There is no lowest common denominator. You are steering us into despotism – ‘the dream of Order begets tyranny’ (Huxley).

• Kham, can you answer a simple question with a simple answer? Yes or no.

Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that I’d answered your first comment (or this one) with the answer, “Kham, you’re a fucking idiot!” Would the conversation have been enhanced by that “freedom” or not?

And a second question: if I tell people on my blog that if they act abusively (mild example above), they will be kicked out of the conversation, will participants be more or less willing to speak their minds? Again, yes or no.

I believe (and there’s a fair amount of evidence in the private emails that I’ve received, from people who weren’t willing to post on the blog for fear of drawing the ire of those who are happy to vent their hostility), that hostility suppresses meaningful conversation far more effectively than a request for civility.

People who enjoy confrontation will likely still express their opinions in an atmosphere where restraint is urged, while people who shrink from confrontation will stay away from conversations where personal hostility is allowed.

No one is dreaming of Order here but you. If you can’t make a distinction between any codes of conduct and “despotism,” I’m wondering why you don’t:

* Steal a car next time you want to go somewhere
* Defecate on the street
* Have sex with your relatives
* Shoot people when they “disrespect” you or just when they irritate you (as Billy the Kid was said to have shot someone because he snored too loud)

We are all bound by countless codes of conduct that we accept. Sometimes there are codes that are wrong (e.g. “blacks can’t sit in the front of the bus”), and through the action of people who feel that those specific codes are wrong, we eventually learn to give them up. But to argue that any code of conduct leads inevitably to tyrranny is silly.

Right now, on the net, far too many sites are bound by the code that says “anything goes,” and I believe that we’re better with a code that calls for us to pause before we speak, and remember that there is another person on the other end of this very abstract communication medium, in which we type at a screen, and someone far away who we don’t know reads it at some other time.

• darf

Sonnet 73 and To Young Virgins Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick’s “To Young Virgins Make Much of Time” and William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73” have the same fundamental theme of living for the moment, even if they do approach it in different ways. Furthermore, both poets use nature to convey their deepest feelings on life. Shakespeare focuses his message of living in youth by dwelling upon the deficiencies that come with old age, while Herrick focuses the reader on the blessings of youth. Both poets also use differing images from nature to convey their messages.
The similarities of subject matter and category of imagery between both poems are abundant. The final line of “Sonnet 73” pleads for the reader to “To love that well which thou must leave ere long”, while the thirteenth line of Herrick’s poem states “Then be not coy, but use your time;”. Shakespeare and Herrick want others to advantage of the opportunities that come with youth in life. They also address the apostrophe of life as something that can inexplicably end at anytime, and thus state that all should make the absolute most of their youth. Nature is used as the most convincing argument by the poets. Herrick refers to “rosebuds” and “flower[s]” while Shakespeare references “late sweet birds” singing, and the “twilight of such day”. Nature is directly linked with beauty, and thus in the poems is used as a symbol for the beauty and happiness of youth.
While differences between the poems may be diminutive, they still exist. The specific images of nature differ within the poems, and the thrust of the poets’ argument differs, Shakespeare draws upon the consequences of ignoring his message, while Herrick focuses on the theoretical application of his theme. In “Sonnet 73” the speaker looks back on a life that, “…black night [has taken] away”. He has lived through his decisions, and is a practical example of the regret and sadness that comes with old age. He tries to convince the reader to do the same. Herrick, on the other hand, states “That age is best which is the first… But being spent, the worse, and worst” He believes it will only get worse after youth. “The glorious lamp of heaven” referred to by Herrick is used apart of the larger natural symbol of a sunset. Youth begins, and the sun is at its peak. This is the point where Herrick urges the reader to take advantage of youth. If he or she does not, then the sun of life will have already set on them. In Shakespeare’s poem, the figurative sun has already set for the speaker. “In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie”, grieves the speaker. While the fire of beauty glowed for him, all he sees are his ashes now. They are of no use to him now, and he can only helplessly look on.
On the surface, both poems seem indiscernible. Yet differences do exist in miniscule ways. Both poets tackle the same subject matter, yet their experience imprints itself on how they present it to the reader.

• hi

i think the argument for a code of conduct has both pro’s and cons
and like most things in this life certain parts of it need to be regulated,
personally one of the things i like about having a blog is that it allows me a degree of anonymity to say things that i wouldnt normally say or air in public, and i feel that to have to conform to a code of any description will have a detrimental effect on blogging in general,
The thing that attracted me this blog thin is the fact that i can say what i want how i want without being told off
i would i guess though be prepared to give it a go if it were to happen, just to see if it works

NTS

• Groucho

The root of all this bile and handwringing about “freedom” seems to be a misconception that there is a desire to impose Order.

Not only does O’Reilly know as well as anyone that there isn’t the remotest possibility of “enforcement”. Nor does he ever propose it.

All that he suggests is that each Webmaster voluntarily take responsibility for their webspace, and that each web poster take responsibility for what they post – each by way of a broadly agreed and voluntarily adopted code of practice.

No hints of despotism, fascism, communism or any other fantasy -ism there. The very foundation of Freedom is personal responsibility.

Come to my webspace swearing, raving, insulting, defaming, or disrupting and your stuff *will* get the boot, and so will you. Simple.

• I just took a look on bloggingcode.org and was kind of surprised to see many text ads and banners there. No offence, but is this whole thing just a marketing trick to lure people to the site?

• karyse

Okay, what no one has said is that I alwasy assume that a commenter (on any site) who has poor or missing logic, ridiculous cursing (I actually don’t mind cursing if it has a purpose), misses the point entirely of the originating comment, is a juvenile — I don’t mean it figuratively. I just assume that he/she is some 13 year old who got out of reach of his/her parents. If I respond at all it is to ask that he take argumentation101 when he’s old enough to do so.

• I have blogged the last 6 years following my own “code of conduct.” It’s my blog, I wouldn’t allow anything I wouldn’t want my name associated with.

It’s that simple.

I don’t need no crazy Civility Enforced badge. I’m civil enough, and my readers know that.

Thanks, but no thanks.

• Moderate Guy

I went up to the blog by that newspaper editor who posted above, Brad Warthen.

His paper was giving lots of coverage to some “neo-Nazi” groups from out of state who had come to South Carolina to demonstrate against illegal immigrants. Mr. Warthen and his newspaper tried to spin it into their being attracted by the Confederate battle flag flying at a monument to the fallen soldiers.

When people questioned this and the huge amount of free publicity given to this tiny group, Mr. Warthen called anyone who disagreed with him, “crazy”, and “stupid”, then banned several of them from posting.

If that is his notion of civility, no wonder we blogs are such uncivil places.

• These are basically the same rules for any distribution media. Internet Websites (not only blogs), TV, Radio, Newspapers.
Don’t forget that even if you’re hidden behind you computer screen, you are still exposing yourself as a social person.
Remember that you have an identity on the Internet.

• leslie

I love civility. Thanks, Tim!

• I delete or modify comments that are done just for fun or to offend people.its my blog and i dont want have my readers reading spam or commentaries like “F*?` YOU, you are Wrong!!” clean the house is always good.keep you blog clean of garbage but people are free to disagree with me but with respect.my two cents.

• Very interesting code of conduct, it should be applied to social websites and forums as well.

• Concerned Citizen

Nice idea. Too bad it won’t work. Anytime you let the great unwashed use a free resource, you are going to have to take a shower afterwards.

I can think of nothing more boring than to have to police the comments of a bunch of morons.

Yawn.

• soren

Hello there

regarding http://www.trustedblogging.com before it becomes public.

How do you like the concept?

/s

• A Consensus reigns that no universal bloggers’ Code of Conduct is possible on the internet because of impossibility of regularization of the internet. It follows from that that any Code of Conduct is deemed to remain individual. Nevertheless, I enjoy the discussion.

Kham, are you going to reply to Tim?

• whereas I agree there can be no universal blogger’s code of conduct, there could well be some kind of common sense oh how to blog and interact – and in this the porposed ideas are quite helpful …

• E Ferrill McKee

Every now and then someone coins a new phrase that gains some popularity, and a new industry is created, that brings some short lived fame and fortune for a few. If you read from a few of the books on computerese published in the late 70’s you find some examples. We might well recall that language is a fluid substance, and that “blog” too, shall pass”. Fame is quite fleeting. A few years from now, you may experience difficulty recalling what the term, “wikipedia” was supposed to mean. In 1981 I was appointed to head the glad handers for a rather large congregation of the Unitarians, and those in charge of such matters adopted my title, “The New U” to a universal term for the church. Then some literal conservative decided that a better title should be “The New UU” to more completely represent the meaning of the term, which added specificity and destroyed what started out to be a rather casual alliteration. Another advertising gimmick I started, at about the same time, under the term “Tech Talk” was picked up and put to work for CNN, first, now MIT. May we now let that term pass on to common usage, like, techtalk, sort of like cello-phane, from which we finally removed the hypen. I sorta liked that Bogey film, and “treasure” that line, “We don’t need no badges”. That line is as good as, “Here’s looking at you, babe,” in that other “Bogey-film” of a half century ago.

• I’ll be blunt (and it may be interpreted in whatever way, troll, bitch, whatever), but this is so corporate. One of the objectives of blogging, is to have some element of freedom, and as far as I can see, the ambiguity within certain classifications (of what can be deemed offensive), can alienate.

Now a person from another country, can interpret this type of code of conduct in any way they like. As for me, because I’m Australian, I interpret it as an American (corporate) concept, where everyone treads on egg shells, or where grown adults tread on eggshells because of some ‘fear’. As far as I’m concerned, I work for a corporation by day, and that’s a different thing.
But really, this code is unecessary, because public blogs like Google Blogger do have a code of conduct, so this is another problog type advice thing isn’t it?
If a person hasn’t the balls to blog without hiding behind yet another disclaimer, then they shouldn’t be the one’s blogging. A blogger shouldn’t be expected to modify their behavior to comply to some form of political correctness.

• Rules are meaningless if they can not be enforced. Who will determine who the enforcers will be?
Who will determine who consequents/penalizes who?

Is this some sort of attempt to control or gain power over the WEB?

Outrageous!! it is precisely the wild and woolly freedom of the Blogosphere that has led to it’s success in doing exactly what it is supposed to do, provide information.

It is “Joe Publics” responsibility to do the research that separates the wheat from the chaff.

Would you seek to distribute badges for books? Newspapers? TV News? Would you give one to “FOX”?

No Badge here and no support for those that hold them selves holier than though. rc

• Many people above already pointed out flaws of the proposed draft. I liked the ones from Marcus and Lazarus, later pointing out the intent of the draft being elimination of disagreeing voices. (search for their responses with CTRL_F)

“Civility Enforced”

Civility and reason do not need enforcement. If you are not intelligent enough to explain to a reader why he should be “voluntarily” polite, than problem may be in you, not the reader.

Also, read little about anonymous forum 2channel, and all the good things that came out of it.

• “2. We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.”

But we say some things online because we wouldn’t say in person…!!

• This is basically just unadulteration censorship. Civility rules for discussion/comments on an article are all well and good, but actually censoring an article’s content because you don’t agree with it?

That’s quite a bit to far.

• bizona

I find it really ironic and sad that I got to this site and article by clicking on the “Civility Enforced” badge on another website, http://www.donniedavies.com…a website which exists solely to promote the idea that “God hates fags.” So, what exactly is being enforced? It is painfully obvious that it isn’t civility.

• We have total enforcement of a civility code right now, it’s called the “delete” button.

As far as forums go, the only rule I would want to see adopted is a requirement that any forum open to public registration would have to have the addition of an “Ignore” button.

ex animo

davidfarrar

• A very small proportion of humanity use bloggs; and an even smaller proportion of them are very nasty, however these blogters have set a trend.

Their behaviour tells us little about human nature – and certainly nothing new – only that human beings will do anything within their capabilities, given the right circumstances.

What it does relect though, is the way most people have to live now: in chains and in the gutter, but some sing in their chains and see the stars – to mix Oscar Wilde and Dylan Thomas.
Will, who is probably a nice boy really, shows us our Dorian Grey in the attic, and our Gargoyle in the Garden of Eden, something that we are too scared to confront and realise what some of us have become.

While I am on: I would live to ask, did Military Intelligence direct you to pull the comments, on this blogg between myself and farther two weeks ago. I am now hiding in Spain, and need to contact my farther.

• I’m a blogger from China. Agree with your point but I just think they are too complicated. Maybe there would be a “lite version” ?

• I really welcome this initiative, but I think that it’s crucial to add something specific about how comments which are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, agist, ablist, etc, will not be published.

In my experience this needs actively stating.

• Thanks for the great post..

I have used some of your ideas for creating my blog site ‘codes of conduct’. For professionalism, it is important that blog websites are up-front with the ways in which comments and posts are conducted. This then ‘hopefully’ will create better personal/professional brading that in turn will ensure success of the posts. My website ‘code of conduct’ page is http://www.electricaltalk.com.au/?page_id=14