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Code of conduct strikes again

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Tim O’Reilly comes out with a draft of blogger’s code of conduct, named Civility Enforced. I am with Scoble on this one.

So, for now, I guess I’d have to wear the “anything goes” badge.

I do find disquieting the social pressure to get on board with this
program. Tim O’Reilly is a guy who really can affect one’s career
online (and off, too). I do have to admit that I feel some pressure
just to get on board here and that makes me feel very uneasy.

Although I don’t think it is a choice between Anything Goes and Civility Enforced. Why should I put either on my blog? My readers know me and those who don’t can find out about me quickly.

Telling people how to handle blog communications is one thing, asking them sign up to a set of rules e.g. a code of conduct is another. I am happy to see the former but will resist the latter. Apart from the obvious objection that a code of conduct, even one called Civility Enforced, will not make people civil, there is another case against it. Variety is the primordial soup of innovation – instead of a uniform code of conduct it would make sense to encourage a variety of different ways of dealing with blog trolls, false accusations, misunderstandings, even threats and libel. (Although for the last two transgressions we have laws already.) We have been ‘managing’ Samizdata.net comments section for some time and with reasonable success.

An interesting little give-away is the explanation of why the text of the code wasn’t put in a wiki.

(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.)

My question is, well, why not make it a moving target? I do understand the logic behind it – consistency and clarity of what people subscribe to. But is locking something into a static format the best way? How about making it a transparently evolving thing? Perhaps this is the crux of the problem, central and imposed rules don’t work well on the internet. In order to make them stick at all, one has to resort to locking things in.

So however good and sensible Tim O’Reilly’s proposed code of conduct might be, I don’t want to see it ‘crowd out’ other approaches. So recommendations yes, signing-up no. Social pressure can on occasion be as harmful as those who deserve to be condemned by it.

Update: Many comments ‘raging’ across the blogosphere, Jeff Jarvis’s post No twinkie badges here addresses most issues in detail and links to other bloggers with things to say.

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One Response to “Code of conduct strikes again”


  1. Al Tepper
    on Apr 11th, 2007
    @ 1:21 am

    I understand the need for civility but I remain convinced that if you have to ask for it you are wasting your time as laws tend to be for the law-abiding…

    Try telling a bully that bullying is wrong. Yeah right. 9 out of ten times the result will be more bullying. Best solution is to not give the bully any attention for their negative behaviour. Oh and hope they get to the root of their own problems in time.

    I believe Lao Tzu said in the Tao Te Ching:

    When they try to fix things by passing more laws, they only increase the number of outlaws.

    ALSO I am positive he also said (but cannot find the ref) something about ‘killing a law by writing it down’…

    Although one could also argue that, as Robert Frost put it, good fences make good neighbours…

    My rules are simple:

    1) do unto others…
    2) ignore meanies…
    3) if you have nothing nice to say…

    Namaste

    Al

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