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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bloggers' Code of Conduct

I've been reading a lot of blog posts recently about the Bloggers' Code of Conduct, and was even emailed a link by one considerate soul. A lot of this comes on the coattails of the allegations of impropriety that have been spreading recently about Jimmy Wales and other members of the WMF board of trustees. The idea being that by adhering to a higher standard on my blog then those making the allegations do, we can all rise above such pettiness. I'm completely in favor of pushing forward, and not being trapped under the weight of endless drama. In the end, the books are really the most important part, and all the politics are just a time-wasting diversion. However, in this particular case, I'm at least partially interested to see how things play out. I don't need to get involved in the disputes myself, but I don't think they should necessarily be ignored either (although if everybody involved could try to act a little more professional about it, that certainly wouldn't hurt things).

Anyway, I'm considering applying at least part of the bloggers' code of conduct to this blog, and most definitely planning to apply parts of it to my other blogs as well since they are mostly news blogs and not personal opinion ones. I'll give a brief rundown of some of the points in the code:

Responsibility for our own words

This provision is completely fine by me. Since my real name is attached to this blog, and since I know that you know that I know that what we say on the internet can follow us around for a long time, it's certainly in my best interest to stay on my best behavior. I do take full responsibility for my own words, and there are many many things which I don't post here (even though I may want to at first) because I know that after a second glance they aren't as appropriate anymore.

Nothing we wouldn't say in person

I often find myself criticizing other people who write in the same way that they talk, with the same mannerisms and colloquialisms. That said, I still find myself inserting commas where I would have added a pause or stopped to take a short breath had the particular sentence been spoken and not written. However, even if the the quality and tone of my communications change between different mediums, the subjects don't. It's important to remember that I'm not anonymous here online, and I can't hide behind the pseudo-protection that such anonymity affords. Plus, a lot of people I know read this blog, and if I don't want those people to hear me say something, then I certainly don't want them to read me say that same thing either. This point is a good one.

Connect privately first

I've done this on occasion, and while it's a good idea in theory, I've never gotten satisfactory results from it. Few people, if they are bold enough to say something ignorant in a public place, are going to break down and apologize if confronted in person. Now, genuine misunderstanding between reasonable people are a different matter entirely. The jury is out on this one.

Take action against attacks

It's not my job to police somebody else's blog. However, I do have control over the comments on my blog, and I am free to delete the ones that are completely inappropriate. Criticism of the topic is fine, criticism of this blog in general is fine. Criticism of my person can be tolerated, but ad hominem attacks, trolling, or other nonsense has no place here.

a) No anonymous comments OR b) No pseudonymous comments

It may come to this eventually, but for now, I have no problem allowing anonymous posters to comment on my blog.

Ignore the trolls

...delete their posts too.

Encourage enforcement of terms of service

This isn't my job to do. If people are violating Blogger's TOS, and they are trolling or personally attacking me, I can certainly alert Blogger to that. Otherwise, people can take gambles and see what they can get away with on their own.

Keep our sources private

This isn't a newsblog, I'm not a journalist, I don't have sources.

Discretion to delete comments

Yes, this is probably how I'll enforce a few of the other points that have been listed.

Do no harm

This is relative. Harm to one person may be good to many. The point, I'm sure, is a reciprocal one: I shouldn't tolerate crap from other people, and I shouldn't be dishing it out myself. That's fair, I have better things to do with my time then gossip or sling mud.

Think twice - post once

This is up there with the old handyman's adage "measure twice, cut once". The goal of this is not to actually pull out your tape measure on two separate occasions (or worse, to pull out two separate tape measures), but instead to double-check yourself before you do something irreparable. A better maxim would be "wait 30 minutes before clicking 'SAVE'". How many emails in this world are written in the heat of a passion, and regretted as soon as they are sent? How many drunken phone calls to exes make sense at the time, and lead to an awkward series of explanations in the morning? If you have something charged to say, write it up and sit on it for 30 minutes. Go grab lunch, check your email, edit wikibooks (hopefully), and then decide if you still want to post it. You don't need to think about it twice, but you do need to make double-sure that it's what you want to say.

All in all, these ideas aren't all bad and I'll probably adopt a few of them. Not that I think it really matters because I consider myself to be pretty level-headed. But then again, I'm sure everybody thinks of themselves that way, and we still have endless piles of garbage to sort through every day.

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