In response to what happened to Kathy Sierra, Tim O’Reily called for a blogger’s code of conduct. Yesterday he published his first draft of that very code. The draft fails on a number of items, but more than anything it’s completely pointless and will do absolutely nothing to prevent a re-occurrence of the recent situation or any of the other situations that have gone before it.
I can understand what Tim is trying to do. He’s Kathy’s friend and what happened to Kathy shouldn’t happen to anyone. No one should fever eel afraid to leave their house or be subject to misogynistic and violent comments and threats. I feel a great sympathy for Kathy and hope she’ll be able in time to put this behind her. But had a code of conduct for blogger’s such as the one Tim is proposing been in place prior to the recent events it wouldn’t have changed anything.
Why The Code of Conduct Fails
In all fairness to Tim, what he posted yesterday is meant to be a first draft. I believe his point for now is to open a discussion so the code of conduct can be refined. As it stands now it fails.
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,
- infringes upon a copyright or trademark
- violates an obligation of confidentiality
- violates the privacy of others
I’ll gladly take responsibility for my words. I won’t take responsibility for yours. Sorry, but you’re on your own there. I certainly will never agree in writing to take responsibility for your words since I’m sure that would open me to all forms or legal action I would prefer to avoid.
Yes there’s a limit to what I will allow in a comment on this blog and I will delete something I think is inappropriate here, but to expect me or anyone else to know what’s libelous or knowingly false, to think I have the time to check every comment to determine if it’s misrepresenting another or violates confidentially is completely unrealistic.
At the moment the comments here are few enough that I do read them all. What happens if and when they become too numerous to allow that? Or what about the occasional comment that will always sneak by me? Should you be held accountable for words you never even see.
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.
Tim please define offensive. You won’t ever be able to. I’ve got news for you, everything you’ve ever said has probably offended someone. Who gets to decide what is an isn’t offensive? As far as I know there has never been an accepted standard of what is or isn’t offensive.
If we’re each to define what is or isn’t offensive on our own blogs then how does that really change things. Keep in mind that the person or persons who made the threatening remarks to Kathy didn’t find them offensive. So they could very well have made those comments or posted them on a blog and still been within the guidelines of this code of conduct.
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.
Umm…if we’re allowing people to comment with an alias how are we preventing anonymous comments? It’s also rather trivial to guess at what’s a valid email address. It’s just as easy to harvest them with automated software. Are we expected to now email everyone who comments and wait for a reply before publishing comments?
Why The Code of Conduct is Pointless
Does anyone even remotely think that the type of person that would cross the line and leave hateful and threatening comments is going to stop because somewhere out there is a code of ethics? Really do you?
A blogger’s code of conduct is enforcible how? Seems like it would be on the honor system. Wouldn’t you say that anyone who is honorable to the point of following this code doesn’t actually need the code in the first place. The ones who would least honor this kind of code are the very people Tim is hoping it affects.
As part of this code Tim puts forth the idea of displaying a badge on your site that says your blog is ‘Civility Enforced.’ He also suggests an ‘Anything Goes’ badge that might come with accompanying text like:
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.
Because a site where anything goes is going to feel the need to recognize a code of conduct? Because someone who has no problem being abusive or threatening is going to see a badge and suddenly have a change of heart? Of course not. The badges are pointless as is the entire code of conduct.
Again I understand what Tim is trying to do. I’m not one that offends or scares easily, but I’d also be quite happy to see people dealing with each other with more civility. To think, though, that drafting a code of conduct will change anything is perhaps the most naive thing I’ve heard in a long time.
Sure, open the discussion and appeal to people to maintain a civil blog. Educate people to help them understand why some things are hurtful in an effort to get them to stop. But please don’t expect me or anyone else to adopt a set of ethics and morals that aren’t necessarily our own. And please don’t think that even if we did it would change anything.
The blogger’s code of ethics will be as ineffective as everything else that’s previously attempted to make people play nice.
Here a few places you can go for more opinion and discussion
- The Blogger’s Code of Conduct – Blogging Wikia where you can edit the code
- Talk:Blogger’s Code of Conduct – Discussion for editing the above
- A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs – New York Times
- Why O’Reilly’s Blogger’s Code of Conduct Must Die – Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim
- No Badge of Conduct Here – Kim Krause Berg at Cre8pc
Tim I mentioned above that I don’t offend easily. But one thing I’ve always found offensive is when someone believes their ethics and morality is the one everyone else should follow. I think it’s dangerous and threatening to the most basic of freedoms and rights we all hold. In accordance with item 4 of the blogger’s code of conduct I ask that you publicly make amends for offending me by apologizing and withdrawing the code itself.
Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.