Bloggers Code Of Conduct? Try Herding Cats
While a Blogger’s Code Of Conduct is a great idea on paper, I won’t participate in it. I have nothing but sympathy for the Kathy Sierra situation, but an ethical standard imposed on bloggers (even on an “opt in” basis) simply won’t fly. Here’s why:
- There are so many blogs out there and bloggers blogging for different reasons that finding consensus would be as challenging as herding cats. Even discouraging anonymity may not be the answer when looked at from a different angle. What makes sense for journalism (fact checking, editing, sources) would make none for a humor or a satirical blog. And by the time some standards emerge that are appealing to everyone, they’d be so watered-down as to be ineffective.
- Many bloggers (myself included) blog as a hobby, not as a profession. While I’d love to do journalist level fact checking, editing, and comment moderating, you know what – I don’t have the time, and unless someone pays me enough to supplement lost hours from my day job, it ain’t happening. Here’s an idea: make blogging as financially lucrative as a professional career and hey, you’ll attract some professional, ethical journalists.
- Who the heck would enforce said code of conduct? Will some “blog police” randomly visit blogs and report to a central authority? And what about punishment; would people’s “ethical blogger card” be taken away? That sounds like so much fun it makes me want to post fifty times a day just to test it out.
- I partly began blogging because it’s easy and so much fun anybody can do it: the barrier to entry is low. But as anybody who blogs regularly realizes, it actually can be a lot of work and quite time consuming to maintain a simple blog. Anything that imposes more work on bloggers runs the danger of being more discouraging, even if its intentions are good. It’s unhealthy to set up additional barriers for amateur bloggers.
Lastly, I just want to make a note of the confusion that’s still going on here. I’m still unclear as to whether the people labelled as being behind Kathy Sierra’s harassment were really the ones responsible.
Anyhow, I can always make a few things clearer on this blog. Here are my random rules about blogging:
- Humility. I’m not an expert on everything. My opinions aren’t gospel. Part of why I blog is to hear other opinions.
- Honesty. Everything I put on line is stuff I stand by. I don’t lie or cultivate secret identities (other than blogging as our cats). Factual mistakes are unintentional, and I’ll correct any that are identified.
- Empathy. A lot of negativity can be understood not as a personal attack but from where a person is coming from.
- Calm. When I read a comment that says I’m full of it and totally wrong, I resist the initial impulse to hit the delete key. Often, after taking a break and returning to read said comment again, I realize there are actually valid points to be made.
- The Golden Rule: Do unto others you would have them do unto you.
- Don’t blog angry.
- Slow down. Sometimes in the race to be early, mistakes are made.
- Doubt is acceptable: Just admit it, check facts and link to a source, or don’t publish it.
In terms of comments:
- I read all comments that get through the spam filters and moderate them by hand.
- Other than spam, I’ve deleted very few legitimate comments. These were outwardly hostile and were irrelevant to further discussion. I feel that I’ve actually left up many comments that were negative and rude towards me in the interest of open debate and fostering a positive commenting environment.
- I’ve never had an overt flame war or libelous comments. But in those instances, I’d treat it similarly to sexual harassment in the workplace where anything overtly negative or hurtful would be deleted.
- I look at anonymous comments more carefully, even visiting links for relevance. I err on the side of caution because I hate spam.
- I have all IP addresses and emails collected from comments, so if you’re a spamming sploggy scum bag, I’ll ban you or track you down.
All in all, I think instead of a Blogging Code of Conduct would be better as a personally written list, added to a blogger’s about page. I’m doing my part by acting locally, right here in this post, and I’ll make slight adjustments to my comments policy. Here’s a good example from The Guardian.
Additional Reading: Los Angeles Times, Monsters and Critics, Salon, SFGate