When Tim O’ Reilly and Jimmy Wales came together to propose a set of guidelines that would filter out offensive and abusive comments from blogs, it is perhaps unsurprising that they were met by a torrent of abuse.
For example the media site 910am described it as "weapons of mass stupidity" and carried the health warning "do not read on a full stomach". What has gotten people’s goats is a draft set of rules on introducing the concept of civility to the blogosphere. They have posted a seven-point programme that would attempt to address abusive comments on the web, while preserving the free spirit of the medium. Point one of the code is that anyone signing up to it would commit themselves to a "civility enforced" standard to remove unacceptable comments from their blog.
Unacceptable is defined as content that is used to abuse, harass, stalk or threaten others; is libellous or misrepresentative; or infringes copyright, confidentiality or privacy rights. Anonymous postings are also to be removed, with every comment requiring a recognised email address, even if posts are made under pseudonyms.
To back up the code, they propose a "civility enforced" badge marking sites which subscribe to the guidelines, and an "anything goes" badge to denote those that do not. The proposed guidelines can be interactively amended by web users, until a final version is agreed.
Many blogs already do some or all of what is proposed but It is the first attempt to apply a common framework to the blogosphere (pop 71m and rising)
The draft guidelines have prompted wide debate with varying responses. Dan Gillmor of the Centre for Citizen Media, a group devoted to grassroots media attached to Berkeley's graduate school of journalism, rejects the need for a code of conduct. He says bloggers require only one simple rule: be civil. To define unacceptable behaviour is to create a monster, he says, as "Who'd be the judge of it? The government? Libel lawyers? Uh, oh."
This is the draft code of conduct is set out on Radar O' Relly and is basically thus
1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.
2. We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person.
3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.
4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.
5. We do not allow anonymous comments.
6. We ignore the trolls.
The site expands on these points. O’reilly and Wales also propose an "anything goes" badge for sites that want to warn possible commenters that they are entering a free-for-all zone. The text to accompany that badge might go something like this:
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.
To be honest, I can’t see why the code has been greeted with such a harsh reception given that many bloggers do some of these things already. All it does is codify civility! Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a web-psycho’s attentions would welcome the code, I’m sure.. or would we?
Personally I don’t violently disagree with what is proposed although I can’t see that it will make a lot of difference. If you have a blog you set your own rules as to what is acceptable (the Poor Mouth runs on the “my blog, my rules” basis”) . I don't need a code of conduct for that and I expect all but a tiny few who have commented here don't need it either.
The problem is that the trolls and psychos out there obviously wold not comply with a code and would not react positively to any attempts to make them comply (the prospect of them getting beaten to death by a man mountain might, but I am a peaceful soul and would never suggest any thing of the sort! on the other hand I wouldn't mind an hour with the arsehole who cloned my old yahoo chatroom id and some pilliwinks...).
I don't see how banning anonymous comments will solve anything. How easy is it to create an id. What does jams o donnell really mean apart from the fact that I've read Flann O'Brien's book the Poor Mouth, what's benefit do you get from asking for email addresses on haloscan comment thingies if you get firstname.lastname@example.org? many of us that use pseudonyms do so to protect our anonymity anyway.
The maxim "don't feed the trolls" is good advice for anyone.
I must create a button (who am I kidding, get someone to do it for me) that says "this blog may feature use of words like poo, bum, boobs and willy. Enter this blog at your own risk."