In a time where we’ve established numerous laws against libel, copyright infringement, harassment, stalking and have empowered bloggers to manage their online experience … Tim O’Rielly suggests a Blogger’s Code of Conduct to help govern how bloggers moderate their blog’s content and comments. Due to overwhelming response, he elaborated on some lessons learned from his proposal. A blogging code of conduct will not deter abusive users.
First and foremost, this proposition is doomed for legal failure and obviously won’t protect Kathy Sierra (or any other A-List blogger) from future death threats or obscene vulgarity. While the suggestion looks pretty and legal; many people don’t understand that most online providers already have these legal protections in place, and all they really need to do is enforce them.
Blogging is probably of the easiest, purest, free and secure methods to share one’s expression online. When an entity introduces laws because they’re in a state of fear — everyone else suffers. This is evident in more than just blogging. When our nation was attacked on September 11th, congress wholeheartedly passed the USA PATRIOT Act, and subsequently two later revisions, that breaches the civil rights of our nation’s citizens. Are we really willing to sacrifice our freedom to maintain freedom? We certainly do not need to make this mistake with blogging. Instituting a law under the premise of protecting others is undoubtedly a false sense of security.
The last thing we (as bloggers) need is legislation detailing what we can and can’t say online. Seriously. I’m not even going into why … (Oh wait, I just did)
In regard to maintaining civility online, it doesn’t come down to a badge on a blog, it doesn’t come down to additional policies — it comes down to setting clear expectations and putting the foot down, enforcing those guidelines. Whether or not an A-Lister is able to moderate their blog comments on their own or not, shouldn’t be the reason why such ridiculous propositions are made. I agree that people should remain calm and civil when it comes to debating opinions.
When you’ve let the majority of your users be at the mercy of the smallest group of unruly users, you’ve failed your community.
I am actually quite disappointed that Kathy didn’t show up at her conference. I understand that she felt concerned for her personal safety.
Here’s what I would do: I’d contact the contact the police and request they send an officer to standby at the conference due to a potential death threat. Then I’d inform the event coordinators to verify photo identification at the entry, and perform a brief weapon checkpoint. (Last time I checked, no firearms fit in a PowerBook) Then I’d take a moment to talk about why everyone was searched, and had to check their photo ID’s. I’d expand on details regarding user safety, enforcement, and the seriousness of blogging and why it matters — since everyone would have been searched, they would have paid the price for her circumstances. Do I really think the troll was/is going hurt her? No. The troll in her case wanted attention and guess what — she gave him every second of it. On the other hand, I commend her for blogging about her experience, and it’s clear that this issue is serious. I just don’t think a Code of Conduct is the right solution.
That said, we shouldn’t be compromising our personal safety in the name of transparency and blogging ourselves. We should acknowledge the fact that (a) there are some unfriendly people online, (b) people are more likely than not to say obscene things, and (c) maintaining a thick skin does not mean to further engage an abusive user. If we as bloggers stand up, and put forth our own blog comment guidelines; and enforce them — we probably won’t have another Kathy Sierra. Kathy Sierra isn’t alone. Many other bloggers have been threatened and stalked, for example, go ask Darren Rowse.
Some may suspect I am cold and heartless for feeling this way. To the uninitiated, I’ve had numerous death threats and harassment thrown at me when I was in tech support. Maybe I felt comfortable because I had access to their ANI or account information, or it could be that I’ve just grown a thick skin and have a sense of what to expect out of people. We’re human. Human emotions aren’t always happy and peaceful. The key to success in managing hateful users is the agility to maintain your position and reasonably handle threats online. As you can see, this issue is serious, as blogging is simply another form of free speech and no matter how many laws you have, how many blog disclosures, badges, or page views — you can’t please everyone so you might as well prepare for it when you don’t.
I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.
Blog. Blog freely.
[tags]Blogging, Safety, Kathy Sierra, Conduct, Policy, Solution, Civility Enforced, Anything Goes, Disclosure, Web 2.0[/tags]