Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What Blogging is Ruining Now. Pt.1: Civility.

The reverberations from the blog-based death threats aimed at Kathy Sierra continue. The New York Times ran a piece about Tim O’Reilly’s attempt to create a blog code of conduct. (h/t George who in turn tipped his to Jack/Zen)
Needless to say, Blogistan is not down. I found one good critique on Ars Technica. Surely more will follow.

Meanwhile, a nasty bit of trolling on Buckeye State (and spilling over to other blogs including this one) led to this debate about how to handle it. I thought, along with some other users, that Jerid should out the troll. He disagreed. I understand his position, though I would make a different choice.

Meanwhile, there is someone out there who we apparently know who is either utterly full of bile and vitriol directed toward me an a number of my closest online friends, or fakes that vitriol so effectively that it’s hard to believe it doesn’t actually exist on some level. I have a hard time describing how that makes me feel beyond “not good.” Not good will do for now.

UPDATE: A post identifying the troll is up. Whatever, Tim.

Back to the blog code of conduct. As I said when first posting the Sierra story, my problem with the proposed code of conduct is that what happened to Kathy Sierra should violate anyone’s code of conduct. The proposal goes farther than that, encouraging blog administrators to scrub comments that, among other things “misrepresent” someone else’s position. No one hates being misrepresented more than yours truly, but I’m a big boy and can set posters right myself.

The code of conduct simply goes too far, but that may be the point. One way to improve behavior is to set rules sufficiently stringent that the violations on the margins aren’t so bad. Kind of like speed limits. We all know that the cops won’t pull you over for 67 in a 65; what they are trying to do is keep you under seventy.

So understandable, but still I think wrongheaded. In the blog context rules like the more draconian ones proposed will most likely be applied with bias. And if not, surely when they are applied, the accused will claim bias.

Instead, what we need is a reaffirmation of some very basic rules. Don’t threaten physical harm, don’t lie and (this is mine, not universally accepted) don’t attack people not part of the discussion. The one thing the Buckeye State troll did that really got my goat was accusing me of scrubbing people for disagreeing with me. In fact, the only reasons I’ve contemplated deleting comments are those listed above, and I’ve only ever opened door number three.

Blogs will always be rough and tumble. Sure, there will be Shiny Happy blogs for people who want them, but the online world will always have its rough edges. At the same time, we can't pretend there are no limits whatsoever. We don't need to protect people from getting feelings hurt, but people need to feel safe online. Some very basic rules, and the collective will to enforce them, should be enough.


Jill said...

Hmm, not as much yup, but those doggies are cute.

ohdave said...

I don't get as many comments at my place, but I have deleted one that I felt was racist. At it turned out, that led to the guy being "outed" at for some threatening posts, and he was banned there for a while.

I don't see my blog as a free speech zone, unlike my blogfather Pierre who advertises his site as such. It's mine, and it's proprietary, and I treat it like my own little shop. I don't want people talking in ways that are degrading to people that I want reading my site.

My feeling: it's my site, I'll do what I want. Naturally if I go overboard, no one will want to read or comment there. At the same time, if anything goes, no one will want to read or comment for that reason.

Lisa Renee said...

I knew it wasn't Hickman but then again I also knew there was no point in trying to say it wasn't. In a way watching what happened was an interesting clinical experience, the rush to judgement, the name calling, the vindictiveness and then no apologies or major reaction once it turns out to not be the "evil" expected.

My comments are open, I have only deleted spammers and Tim posted on my blog too, yet the only response given was what he wrote wasn't on topic and if he had issues with you, pho, my blog wasn't the place for it. That ended it. Realistically most of the online drama would end if one side would just decide not to play.

Blogging is ruining Civility only because too many have decided to no longer be civil. Which again goes back to the theory that it takes two. Death threats are unfortunate and can be frightening, I've experienced them because of things written on on LCS as well as stalkers. It hasn't stopped me. As a blogger, if someone made that type of threats on my blog directed at anyone, I'd turn in the IP and other information to the authorities. Yet in the Kathy Sierra situation, I think most "inside" people know who is responsible for most of it, will something be done about it is the real question.

Tim Ferris said...

It's up to the blogger how he or she will be perceived. It's a fairly simple equation: You're known by your deportment.