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Posted on Monday, April 9th, 2007

Dave!Today the blogosphere is abuzz over Tim O' Reilly's well-meaning but entirely insane proposal for bloggers to adopt a "Code of Conduct." The New York Times was all too happy to jump on the bandwagon by running a page-one story entitled "A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs." This could have been an interesting piece, but once I read the opening line ("Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?") I was laughing too hard to pay much attention.

Now, before I dig in, let me state that I am giving the benefit of doubt that Tim O' Reilly's heart is in the right place here. I understand he is trying to do a good thing. Who wouldn't want to make the blogosphere a better, safer place after the disturbing events surrounding the Kathy Sierra incident? Some of the stuff that goes on in our "world" is hurtful, hateful, and just plain sick. Wanting to address these horrors is only human.

But no thank you.

I'm not signing up for anything that tells me what I can say, how I should run my blog, and how I should react to other people's blogs. If anybody cares why I feel this way, I've address Mr. O'Reilly's six bullet-points in an extended entry...

  1. I don't need to be told to take responsibility for my actions like some two-year-old. I already take responsibility for what I write by putting my name on this blog. Furthermore, I may monitor comments here, but not for the purpose of taking responsibility for what other people write.
  2. If I want to say something online which I wouldn't say in person, that's my right. For example, I may like to joke about shooting somebody because they don't sell stamps with their postcards... on my blog... but I do it here BECAUSE I would never say it in person. My conscience is my guide for what I decide to write, and I'm not going to apply some hypothetical "what if" every time I have something to say.
  3. If some other blogger says something incredibly stupid and confrontational, I'm not going to feel obligated to contact them privately before I call them out on it publicly. Sometimes people are abusive by nature, and I'm not necessarily going to waste my time trying to sort it all out behind the scenes if they've already made a public spectacle of it all.
  4. Something which may be offensive to me, may not be offensive to others. What I consider to be an "unfair attack" may not be seen as such by the people actually involved. To rush to judgment in situations where I am an outsider is irresponsible, and can lead to a mob mentality which serves nobody. And just because YOU want to try to solve something privately doesn't mean somebody you don't even know is going to extend the same courtesy. On top of all that, some people simply prefer to fight their own battles, and don't want the interference of others.
  5. If somebody leaves a comment which contributes to the conversation here, I'm not going to delete it just because it was left anonymously. Likewise, if some dumbass leaves an inappropriate comment which isn't contributing to the conversation, I'm going to delete it and feel no need to explain why (and it doesn't matter if it was left anonymously or not).
  6. It's my blog, and I'll handle trolls however I see fit. Yes, most of the time this means ignoring them and deleting their comments, but sometimes I choose to use their stupidity to further communicate my point, and will continue to do so.

When all is said and done, I think I'm fairly responsible with both Blogography and how I conduct myself on other blogs. Adding a "civility sheriff's badge" to my sidebar and lining up with people who want to police the blogosphere would imply that my own judgment somehow isn't good enough. Well, I'll be the judge of that, because it's my name that's on the top of every page. If people choose to not read my blog based on non-compliance with arbitrary rules set by the self-appointed blog police, I'm perfectly okay with that.

But here's where things are NOT okay.

For those bloggers, such as myself, who choose not to fall in line with the "New Blog Order" set forth by the "civility militia," O'Reilly has an alternative...


It's the "Anything Goes" badge, for those of us who "want to warn possible commenters that they are entering a free-for-all zone," and is suggested to be tagged thusly...

"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."

The implication here is outrageous.

Among consenting adults, "crude language, insults and other 'off color' comments" are somehow exclusive of civil conversation? By choosing not to adhere to some ever-changing definition of "civility" set forth by people I don't even know, my blog somehow becomes so dangerous that I should to warn people to proceed at their own risk?

Well fuck that shit.

Suddenly a seemingly innocent and just attempt at making the blogosphere a safer, nicer place begins to take on a much darker tone. Not only is my own judgment suddenly not good enough, but I'm a hazard to the entire blogosphere as well? Note the phrasing of that disclaimer very carefully... it's not that the forum is "unmoderated" it's that the forum is "uncensored."

And now I'm scared.

"Uncensored" is described as "uncut, complete, raw, whole, unexpurgated, and unedited" which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I would argue that it is most often a GOOD thing to have the uncut, complete, whole picture when discussing an issue. Even in a civil conversation.

It is my sincere hope that a "call for common sense and treating others with respect" will prevail over badges, warnings, and labeling. Because heaven help us if O'Reilly's movement gains any momentum... I fear where it may ultimately end up.

A civility crusade like this may not be the end of the blogosphere, but it could certainly mean the end of my blog.

Categories: Blogging 2007Click To It: Permalink


  1. Badges, Dave2, badges! Where the hell are your monkey-festooned badges?

  2. HolyGirl says:

    This really hits a nerve with me. I’m completely fed up with people wanting to censor blogs because they disagree with something that has been said there. That goes against the spirit and point of blogging.

    And who are these random people to decide what can and cannot be said anyway? I don’t remember electing them as my blog representatives. I’m livid at the suggestion that anyone should have to follow such an arbitrary code.

    When are people going to learn that they must accept personal responsibility for their actions and not attempt to make everything G rated to satisfy the masses?

    Side note: This makes me want to give a giant fuck you to that skinhead and the rollergirls and reclaim my old blog. Of course, fear of physical pain will stop me from doing that, but damn, this gets my ire up.

  3. Catherine says:

    My blog is my piece of the internet and I get really cranky when people try and tell me what to do with my piece of the internet.

    Just as I can be as obscene as I please in my own home, I can be as “crude” and “off colour” as I please on my blog.

    At my house I make the rules about whats acceptable behaviour. At my blog, same thing applies.

    Because if you can’t talk shit about your family on the internet where can you?

  4. Dave, this is a profound post, and I thank you for addressing this issue. I, for one, will not readily give up my freedom of speech OR freedom to read what I choose. So, yeah, fuck that shit! Thank you.

  5. Anthony says:

    Well said dave. Pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter too.

  6. Tracy Lynn says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. The whole idea behind civility is that is enforced by the self.

    Anyway, I don’t really have room on my blog for anymore badges, especially not ugly ones. Maybe if they blinked, or also told the weather, or morphed into Yosemite Sam or something. No, probably not even then.

  7. The Chad says:

    I laughed at that crap myself when i read it this morning. I totally agree with everything you said. My blog, my rules. Someone telling me what I can and cant do with something I pay for just irritates the crap out of me, and wont fly in my world.

    It’s a valient effort, yet ultimately ineffective in my book.

  8. Dude, I had a total deja vu reading this.

    As you probably know, BlogHer had quite a few article on the Kathy Sierra situation not long ago. On one of them, someone was suggesting that people’s reaction to the whole thing was fake and that women can’t afford to react emotionally to any situation. And, well, I kinda lost my cool…so I wonโ€™t copy my whole rant. But hereโ€™s the heart of the matter:

    …And I have a problem with someone telling me that I can’t react emotionally when I feel emotional. Who died and made other people the Reaction Police, to dictate to someone else how they ought to react, be, think, or feel? Whether or not we’re women has nothing to do with it, people react in the way they feel/think is best at the time and then they have to deal with the consequences. Last I checked that fact was just as true for men as it is for women.

    Now, I’m sure I have less tolerance than you, Dave, for what people say and how they say it and that’s fine – your blog is your blog and my blog is mine. I can’t expect people to respect my right to do what I want with my space if I don’t respect their right to do something completely different with theirs. And, quite frankly, I wouldn’t want everyone to run their blogs like I do because that would be boring…we are bloggers, not the borg, thank you very much.

    And besides, if someone says something that really bothers me, it’s my responsibility to decide whether to ignore it and leave the blog in question or to stand up for what I believe and call them out. I don’t want some Code of Conduct telling me what I OUGHT to be offended by, I’m perfectly capable to figuring that out myself and then doing something about it.

  9. Avitable says:

    I welcome censorship of my blog. I’d like to reign in the Wild West that is the blogosphere and keep creeps and weirdos from posting disgusting and offensive things.

  10. The cool thing about being a non-blog celebrity, is that no one gives a flying rat’s fuck about my blog’s content.

  11. I agree with you on most of these points – I think the code is a little goofy and I’m irritated that the Times is picking up this story to belittle our community once again. BUT:

    I think you’d talk about shooting someone who didn’t sell stamps with postcards, with friends. You might not say it to the clerk, but I suspect — I don’t think that was the point of O’Reilly’s suggestion, and granted those codes will need to be redrafted before they’re usable by anyone (though I never will, because it seems silly).

    Similarly: “Something which may be offensive to me, may not be offensive to others.” I think the Sierra incident shows that there is definitely a line at which everyone will, or should be offended. I don’t think the point is to protect delicate sensibilities, but is was no delicate offense launched by those abysmal trolls in that story.

    And again: “Among consenting adults, “crude language, insults and other ‘off color’ comments” are somehow exclusive of civil conversation?” You know and I know, that “f*** off you boring slut… i hope someone slits your throat and c**s down your gob” is absolutely exclusive of civil conversation, absolutely, finitely, forever and ever, world without end, Amen.

    I think the code needs to be revised, because — obviously there’s too much grey-area. I don’t think O’Reilly intends for you or people like you to be muscled out of the Blogosphere for being human. Am I going to adopt it? No way, the badges are goofy for one thing. But rejecting the whole thing seems to throw the baby of “Holy crap! we can’t talk like this anymore!” out with the “let’s love everyone” bathwater.

    — lastly, I do believe that’s the most opinion I’ve thrown at you ever! Hope that’s all right.

  12. Karl says:

    Yeah, I was talking with Dariush last week about a proposed “Code of Conduct” for blogs. Didn’t realize someone had actually come up with one. You are far better than I at describing why I won’t participate in such a thing. I’m all for civility, but I think the blogosphere should be about freedom of speech. And that can be scary at times, but at least it’s real.

  13. Kyra says:

    The whole problem is that the people who causing the nastiness are not usually actual bloggers. If they are, they are generally unread bloggers.

    For the most part, these people go around and use the internet as their personal punching bag for power trips. I know, because a relative of mine (that I refuse to speak to for many reasons) deliberately sets out each day to cause problems online. It’s her high. She logs into chatrooms and starts fights. She leaves nasty comments on blogs – to the point of threats (not of death, though) and so on. But SHE doesn’t blog herself.

    Most the jerks out there are only out there for the excitement of hurting another person. Not to make a statement with blogging.

    I do not like the idea that I need to be policed. That won’t stop the real problem. It’s going after the wrong people to do so. I watch my comments on my blog closely. This is my second blog, because I had to shut down my first (interestingly, because I was having such a huge troll problem, likely linked to that relative and some others.) I watch my comments closely and delete was isn’t appropriate. But nothing I do, or suggested is going to stop the morons out there from getting their high off of hurting others.

  14. sizzle says:

    well said!

    “fuck that shit” is right.

  15. Melanie says:

    Wow. I didn’t know this was going on (Blogography, starting with a ‘B’, is one of the first on my Bloglines, so you’re one of my first stops this morning).
    But I will say this: Anything excreting from the mouth of Bill O’Reilly is something I’d view with suspicion and caution.
    It’s a disturbing trend, this growing desire to censor the Internet; I worry that eventually it will snowball and actually have an effect, and then where will we be?

  16. Kyle I says:

    Goody, it’s almost like Tipper Gore all over again.

    People want to be way too nice. If you can’t handle it, don’t read it. Nobody that has a blog should have to go out of their way to make everything sugar coated because someone might be offended.

    You’re right, it has some good intentions, but in the end it’s total garbage.

  17. NYC Watchdog says:

    If the blogosphere was censored and there was no emotional outpouring on the topics discussed then why even read it? That means I’ll have to go back to watching episodes of Guiding Light for my emotional quota.

  18. Chag says:

    Nicely put. Civility breeds civility. Sure a bad apple or two comes around once in awhile, but they eventually become bored and move along. Censorship is not the answer.

    Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!

  19. bogup says:

    If censorship happens does that mean we can’t call Avitable a bastard? Just wondering…

  20. Hilly says:

    This is why we all love you, Dave. This is a well written and informative post and I could not have said it better.

    I’m really not okay with anyone censoring what I say because I have the ability to understand when I have gone too far, thanks. Maybe we should be more concerned with teaching people how to discuss things without getting ugly rather than having them slap a button on their blog and pretending that is really going to make a difference in human nature.

  21. karla says:

    Badges? We don’t need no steenking badges!

  22. Miss Britt says:

    This entire idea is fucking ridiculous. Ludicrous. What the hell happened to people who WORSHIPPED freedom of speech and abhored the beast that is censorship??? I thought those people became… BLOGGERS.

    And taking responsiblity for COMMENTERS? Really? Have we become that fucking unaccountable as a society? god. damn.

  23. diane says:

    Of course, none of this would even be necessary if adults learned to act like adults. *rolls eyes*

    What’s funny is that free speech operates in our day to day life, and yet, there are limitations due to social graces. I would not walk up to some stranger on the street and openly mock them and then draw a picture of them with a noose around their neck. Actually, if I did that in person I would probably get the cops called on me. I don’t understand why, because we can hide behind anonymity and most of us don’t really know one another, it is suddenly okay to do things on the web you would not do in person.
    Anyway, I have a slightly less liberal interpretation of free speech–it is a gift. If a grown person can’t use it responsibly (much like guns, or a car), then perhaps they are not entitled to said gift after all.

  24. Dave2 says:

    According to whose standards? Yours? Tim O’Reilly’s? Or even, heaven forbid, MINE? ๐Ÿ™‚

    But here’s the thing that most people are confusing with this issue… bloggers are NOT “strangers on the street.” When you put yourself out there on the internet for the entire world to see, you become a public figure.

    Just like celebrities, movie stars, reporters, politicians, sports stars, and every other public figure on the planet… shit is going to happen. There are going to be people who won’t like you because of what you say or do, and there are incomprehensible consequences that will result because of it. It sucks, but that’s the game. People who decide to play in it should realize this.

    Kathy Sierra is not some random person on the street. She is a high-profile blogger who was victimized because she expressed her views and opinions in a very public forum. Is this right? Of course not! But that’s what can happen when you’re a public figure.

    This is not something new. It has been going on for as long as people have dared to express their opinions publicly, and no “civility badge” is going to change that. It instead requires a fundamental shift in how people conduct themselves, and forcing a crusade for civility on the blogosphere is a step in the wrong direction towards making this happen.

  25. Foo says:

    CoC rule #5 “We do not allow anonymous comments.
    We require commenters to supply a valid email address before they can post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with an alias, rather than their real name”

    WTF? Valid email address? Yah, because it’s so hard to create one just to harass people. I had a woman steal my blog photos and talk about her life using examples from mine, down to my dog’s name…scary. Slapping a sheriff’s badge on my site thinking that will stop evil shit from happening is a complete joke. Nothing is going to stop whack jobs from being whack jobs.

    Mr. O’Reilly can take his CoC and shove it.

  26. kapgar says:

    I don’t think you’d have to worry. Something like this would never fly. There would be too much of an outcry and it would be impossible to monitor. That’s both the blessing and the curse of the multinationality of the World Wide Web.

  27. Kristin says:

    Wugh. This whole thing makes me sort of glad that almost no one reads me. I agree, Dave and applaud your statement. I don’t need no damn babysitter, and am certainly empowered enough to take responsibility not only for my own actions, but for my feelings about the actions of others.

  28. diane says:

    Dave–I’m pressed for time and have not been able to articulate myself as clearly as I would like.
    Basically, I am in agreement with you that this code is not going to cause the shift that you are alluding to. But the consensus seems to be that a shift in behavior is needed, no?
    The President is a public figure but if you threaten to kill him you will have the police & FBI on you so fast it isn’t funny. But I could threaten on your blog to kill you (extreme example) and there is no recourse? I don’t follow the logic here that because someone is a “public figure” all standards of behaving decently to one another are out the window.
    The other thing is that this badge and code is repeatedly mentioned as “voluntary”. So why are people getting so bent out of shape about something no one is forcing them to do??

  29. Dave2 says:

    Because it fosters an environment which implies that those who don’t subscribe to a “Code of Civility” are somehow not civil. I didn’t volunteer for that.

    And I think we both know that I am not advocating that it is acceptable to attack public figures, I’m just trying to put things into perspective. Portraying Kathy Sierra as some random, unknown person who was victimized indiscriminately is misleading. This, of course, does not make it any less tragic, but it does question those who are fond of making this seem like an event which could ONLY happen in the blogosphere. This is NOT a situation unique to blogging, and it is unfair that bloggers as a whole being demonized because of it.

  30. As soon as the off-line world adheres to a code of conduct, then it could be considered on-line.

    And that is a ‘non-fulfilling prophecy’ since I know the the off-line world can’t handle it.

    Or maybe I’d sign off (sell my soul) for the deal if they could promise me no more spammers ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. claire says:

    Well put, Dave. (both the post and your subsequent comments.)

    I appreciate civility, but I trust myself to determine what I consider acceptable or not without relying on someone else’s arbitrary rules. How I deal with incivility on my blog is also up to me. On other people’s blogs, I’m free to move on and read something else if I so desire. Simple.

  32. Bre says:

    You know, the thing about my blog is that it’s mine and I have the right to say on it whatever I’d like, just like I have the right to open comments, delete comments, or stop comments on certain posts. O’Reilly calling for “common sense” makes it seem like we’re all running around here in a morality-free zone and seems to me like just another way to look down upon bloggers.

    There will always be people who say things that make the people around them look awful (Imus?!?) but when are folks going to start ignoring them and paying more attention to the folks who are out there doing really amazing things with their blogs?!


  33. Belinda says:

    Karen at Chookooloonks started a “Kind Blogs” campaign at a time when the “mommyblogging” world was rife with nastiness, with anonymous sites set up specifically to trash other bloggers (things like photoshopping pictures of bloggers’ children to create offensive and hurtful images) without having to take responsibility for the ugliness.

    It was a sweet idea, and I nearly joined in, but as milquetoast as my blog can be (I mean, for Pete’s sake, I never even use profanity–EVER), I can’t promise not to reach the end of my rope one day and post something like this.

    Also, I don’t censor comments, so unless someone is horribly offensive or a spammer, they get to say just what they want in whatever way they want to say it. (In nearly two years, I have only removed ONE non-spam comment, because it was just hateful and mean, not to me, but to someone else.)

    I sometimes wonder if the people at my church who read my blog are falling over in shock at some of the comments, and then I just quit worrying about it.

    It is said over and over that the best way to deal with trolls is to deny them the attention that they crave, which is what I try to do. I have to wonder, though, if this sometimes drives the hardcore haters to the next level and beyond, out of frustration at being ignored…bleccch. Mean people suck.

  34. Belinda says:

    Awwww. You hyper’ed my links. Yooo-hoo-oooo LIKE me!

  35. Dave2 says:

    I have to hyper everybody’s links, because most URLs are so long that they cause template problems when they don’t wrap. ๐Ÿ™

  36. Belinda says:

    Would it have KILLED you to let me feel special, just for a minute?

    Seriously, though–does your software support the html code for hyperlinking our own selves? Because I DO know how, but I get frustrated typing out all that href crap only to have it not “hyper.” If I can do that here, I shall go forth and never non-link again.

  37. greg says:

    The day I let Bill O’Reilly dictate what’s on my blog is a dark day indeed…

  38. Dave2 says:

    Different O’Reilly… this is TIM O’Reilly.

  39. Kapha says:

    Yet another silly attempt by a control freak to make everything fix into two boxes. Remember that tribal mentality thing: you’re either with us or against us – blue team or red team – no inbetween.

    … or, it could be an easy way to get publicity. Say something to raise the hackles et voila…

    Reminds me of a women I talked with about a trip to Bryce Canyon who wanted to put a fence around the ENTIRE Canyon to prevent anyone from falling over the edge (which only happens to the really stupid people who jump the initial barrier and don’t read the warning signs). Control freak! If they want to jump the fence that is there, they’ll jump *any* fence you put up.

    People need to take responsibility for themselves, not have it imposed upon them. If they don’t, one of Darwin’s rules is bound to take them out of the game – and that’s been working just fine for millions of years…

    No one is forcing people to read blogs or comments or comment on them. If they don’t like a blog, they can leave. Can’t get any simpler than that.

    Otherwise we’ll end up in a world where everything has a disclaimer attempting to cover all possible bases. Impossible in this particular Universe.

    DISCLAIMER: Do not attempt jumping the fences at Bryce Canyon as a result of reading this post.

  40. Frank Mantek says:

    Every other year, someone is calling for a way to civilize the internet. Bann porn, make sure everything is DRMed, and be civilized. This is another of those pledges to make the new frontier a better place than the real world.

    It is funny to argue for more a code of conduct in blogs that is more restrained than todays television shows and lot’s of News reports are.

    At the end of the day, you act civilized not because you have a badge on your blog, or you wear a tie at work. You act civilized out of respect for the people you are addressing. Acting civilized is a very personal and opinionated term though, as Dave said, it does not apply in the same manner to all people.

    Calling for a “code” is therefore a strange way of promoting a tiny subset of values on an internet that is, one day, representing pretty much all value systems we have on earth. It’s therefore an effort in futility.

    For me, if i don’t like something, i have an easy way of expressing my distaste. I just don’t read it. The same I do with the TV – I just don’t turn it on.


  41. kilax says:

    I agree with David. I want a bad monkey badge for my blog that says “I don’t give a shit”

  42. Dave2 says:

    But Bad Monkey does give a shit… the little monster throws his shit everywhere!

  43. Iron Fist says:

    Clearly I am a slacker for not having checked my feeds in a week and missing out on this certifiably ass-kicking post. But it’d be even more of a crime not to chime in now and say “thanks” for writing this and for touching so eloquently on two subjects that are near and dear to my heart, namely those of censorship and personal responsibility. I know there are those out there who would like to police the living fuck out of the thoughts and opinions of every person on this planet, but I am big on people being accountable to themselves and saying what they have to say without others tramping all over their right to say it.

    And…good post.

  44. Miss Ann Thrope says:

    O’Reilly is disturbing as always. Pompous self righteous prick that he is. Oops, that was an uncivil vulgar statement.

    I jus hope that dumbass doesn’t find my blog…there’d be a television campaign possiblly involving Jerry Falwell to bkow my blog off the net.

  45. Webmiztris says:

    ha! loved this! this Code of Conduct bullshit is hysterical!!

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