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Code of conduct is for bullies

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…to help them, not to stop them. Bullies like to control other people’s behaviour and compulsory codes are a great tool. If people are causing harm to others, there are laws to stop them. Compulsory rules, codes of conduct don’t make people civil or polite, they remove yet another layer of freedom from our lives and relationships. 

Doc Searls talks not only about markets being conversations but about markets being relationships. There needs to be something to relate to and the freedom to do so in order to create and sustain relationships. Autonomy is to human behaviour what freedom is to morality. Both are indispensable. It also means that in order to see genuine kindness, generosity and openness, there has to be a possibility of harshness, meanness and narrow-mindedness. Freedom to make choices for the good gives us hope that others might do the same.

There seem to be two approaches to the codes of conduct online. The authoritarian hard-liners who want to ban anonymous posts or comments.

We need to make anonymous posts illegal. Let’s devise software that
forces everyone to reveal their true identity before posting anything
on the Internet.

This is stupid and evil (I secretly hope that the author of the article was just winding his readers up). Anonymity is important and often the only way some voices can be heard. Yes, let’s devise software that will help totalitarian regimes continue suppress dissent! Surely not a price worth paying to satisfy some people’s sensitivities.

Then there is Tim O’Reilly’s call for a code of conduct, which is a set of recommendations about how to not offend others and how to communicate your tolerance to lack of civility, bad manners and more on your blog. You can take them or leave them. If someone decides to impose those on me, just stand back and watch. Most of those recommendations have already been applied by those who have a vibrant and vociferous community around their blogs. (I love the word ‘vibrant community’ especially as used by estate agents).

Samizdata.net has had very clear guidelines that are ruthlessly imposed. As editors, we make it clear who’s the boss and what we won’t tolerate. This is what it says in our comments section:

You are a guest on private property and we reserve the right to delete
anything we want to. Have fun but please be civil and succinct. Blogroaches will be persecuted, not to mention IP banned. Be polite or prepare to be deleted.


Long third party quotes or articles will also be deleted… so just
link to articles you think are germane to your comment, do not quote
the whole bloody thing.


And finally, please do not post using different names to agree with yourself, it will only get your comments deleted and banned.

Which is not exactly foolproof but we are a mere in-your-face, controversial anti-political blog… :)

I am with Euan and Johnnie on the need for codes of conduct and borrow the words from  Damien.

Follow netiquette, follow good manners, be civil, or don’t. I really
hope that something like this doesn’t spawn some elitist bully-boy
standards or code body that does nothing more than charge an admin fee
and bully people into signing up. That’s what unions are for. Freedom
of speech should not be cut back on because of a few assholes. Why on
earth do we need to impose guidelines on ourselves online when we don’t
need to offline?

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3 Responses to “Code of conduct is for bullies”


  1. Peter
    on Apr 6th, 2007
    @ 16:52 pm

    First clear and concise post I have seen besides Doc Searles that maintains freedom of speech without unnecessary regulation.


  2. Damien Mulley
    on Apr 7th, 2007
    @ 1:09 am

    Thanks for the link.


  3. One Man & His Blog
    on Apr 7th, 2007
    @ 9:53 am

    links for 2007-04-07

    Sponsored WordPress Themes: A Great Business Model An interesting idea. (tags: blogs blogging sponsorship advertising design blogdesign templates) Code of conduct is for bullies Argument of startling clarity as to why some of the reaction to the recen…

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