Weblogger Code of Conduct

by Sean Hackbarth

The blogosphere is buzzing with a NY Times story on nastiness in the tech blogosphere and a call for a “Blogger’s Code of Conduct.”

I abide by an informal code of conduct: be nice. I’ve only banned one person from commenting on TAM, and that was after putting up with his wacked-out rants for over a year. John Hawkins also has a quasi-code:

If you have a blog with “threatening or libelous comments” on it, just delete them and don’t worry about the “cries of censorship.” Your blog is like your home; it’s your house, your rules. Also, I’ve found that while you will have some complainers about deletions, the vast majority of people strongly prefer a tightly controlled comment section. I run mine like the Stasi and the biggest complaint is generally, “Why don’t you ban so and so, he’s annoying!”

A set of badges might work in that readers would go to an unfamiliar weblog see a particular badge and know if anonymous comments are allowed or multiple sources are used in a post. It would be like a Better Business Bureau label for weblogs. That’s fine to an extent, but fraud and bad business practices still occur from BBB companies.

I don’t think there’s a real market for such labels. Weblogs create a unique, personal connection between writer and reader. If the reader trusts the weblogger’s writing they’ll come back; if not they find another weblog. At least in the political blogosphere readers are fairly critical and analyze the writing based on the links and the ideology of the weblog. I know going to DailyKos I’ll get a hard-Left tinge to whatever is the subject. At Redstate it’s the Right-wing angle. About the most use of O’Reilly’s badges would be for newcomers to the blogosphere; those who aren’t familiar with how things are done and the culture of weblogging.

About the best webloggers can do is guard their sites carefully, making sure conversations don’t get out of hand. When they do they must block offenders and contact local authorities if necessary. Anonymous commenters aren’t as anonymous as they think they are. We, webloggers and commenters, need to treat each other and our subjects with respect. We can be hard-hitting and pointed, but we can still do it without crossing the line into meanness.

Another action that can be done is gathering voices together to decry incivility. An open letter like the one a group of conservative webloggers signed asking that Ann Coulter never be invited back to CPAC is such an example.

These are small efforts. But they avoid a one-size-fits-all or a multiple-rules-breed-confusion solution of a code. Ultimately we need to be nice and follow the Golden Rule.

Here are a few other reactions to the code:

And more at memeorandum.

“A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs

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2 Responses to “Weblogger Code of Conduct”

1

I hope this doesn’t catch on…

So, define “civil” behavior in blog writing and commenting. Yeah, and then ask another blogger to define them, and then ask a couple of readers, and the next thing you know I can’t say “Children should be seen and not heard.”…

2

Is that what happened to Jeff? I was beginning to wonder.

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