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Bloggers: We Don't Need No Stinking Rules

By Tim Gray
Apr 10, 2007 2:13 PM PT

Following last week's publication of Internet pioneer Tim O'Reilly's proposed "Blogger's Code of Conduct," the online community has spoken -- and they say forget about it.

Bloggers: We Don't Need No Stinking Rules

O'Reilly, a longtime blogger who coined the term "Web 2.0," and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales both began pushing for the code of conduct after some high-profile online bullying brought the issue to a head.

Although the code -- which gained steam following published threats and perceived harassment to U.S.-based developer Kathy Sierra -- asks users to "celebrate the blogosphere because it embraces frank and open conversation," some say the very idea of a code clamps down on that openness.

Censorship or Civility?

The Internet community has long been a breeding ground for foul language, strong opinions and sometimes zany thinking, giving it a "Wild West" feel. Past attempts to clamp down on this free-wheeling atmosphere have been met with quick condemnations.

It is no different now. The suggested code has set off a raging debate about placing limits on free speech, especially when that speech is bullying, hateful or offensive.

The proposed guidelines call for banning anonymous comments and deleting abusive blog posts, all of which has been repeatedly denounced by many in the blogosphere, often referring to it as censorship.

"I'm rather resentful of someone who has the temerity to tell me how they think I should behave," Jeff Jarvis, a professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York, wrote on his well-known blog BuzzMachine. "The miscreants who need their meds aren't going to sign the code, let alone adhere to it."

The code of conduct draft recommends banning people from leaving anonymous comments on blogs. It warns potential users: "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."

The code would also state, "We are committed to the 'Civility Enforced' standard: We will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it."

A Different Set of Values

The Media Bloggers Association, has adopted a set of principals for its members but believes a generalized code that everyone must use while operating online isn't feasible, Robert Cox, president of the group, told the E-Commerce Times.

"I don't see it as practical in any way and it misses the point in both what is important and what is going to work," he said.

Instead, the issue will get sorted out in time, Cox noted. "It is like a circle of trust and the trick is to being in the circle more valuable to bloggers than being outside of it," he stated.


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What's most likely to cost a company your customer loyalty?
a major product fail
major unethical corporate behavior
public advocacy of social or political views I oppose
a really bad customer service experience
stagnation -- I'm attracted to innovation
none of the above -- I'll stick through thick and thin