Praise be! Tim O’Reilly, aka the man who coined the term ‘Web 2.0’, appears to have decided to drop plans for a blogger code of conduct that he proposed as recently as last week.
The concept of regulating the blogosphere is so steeped in ideology that it is hard to know where to begin, back in the real world. In a nut, it is about trying to regulate ‘people’. The Stasi we are not. It would be nice if everybody behaved like adults, but in reality it doesn't always happen.
Think about it: people aren’t always civil or rational or pleasant. Whether they are online or offline is neither here nor there. You can’t easily control idiots. You can moderate their comments, but that doesn’t stop the people from wanting to make dumb comments in the first place.
A code might help provide a useful template for bloggers yet to think about this sort of thing, but that's about it. Many user policies are already in place, not to mention the established legal rules and regulations that govern online and offline media. All of this makes a code somewhat redundant.
And besides, there are some other fundamental issues. What use is a code if it is abused? Who or what will stop people from abusing such a code? Who polices and enforces the code? What happens if you breach it? Etc etc.
Make Like They Ain't Around
One part of the code suggests that bloggers ‘ignore the trolls’. If people comment in unsavoury terms, then just pretend that it didn’t happen and, I guess, only respond to thoughtful comments. There’s an argument that suggests you should embrace and enlighten the ignorant.
Then there was a rule about ‘not saying anything online that we wouldn’t say privately’. Fair enough, but since I already hold back from saying things on blogs that I happily say in private, be it on this blog or in the comments on other blogs. Maybe some people just aren’t capable or willing to participate in self-moderation? Not sure the code would sort that out.
Another rule was to 'connect privately before we respond publicly'. That's actually sound PR advice and common sense.
Badges? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges
Another possible feature that was discussed was the badging of blogs, such as to flag up that 'Anything Goes', meaning that comments are not moderated.
Do we really need labels? Do you see a ‘Parental Advisory’ logo on the front cover of The Guardian or Time Out whenever nudity is displayed, or God forbid, if the word ‘fuck’ is used within its pages, as it regularly is? Of course you don’t, so why would we expect this sort of thing on blogs? Perplexing.
Rules Are There To Be Broken
The culture of blogs and blogging appears to be so far removed from a rules-based approach that a code (essentially a set of rules to adhere to) seems doomed from the start. Such a code may give rise to an elitist group of super-civil bloggers, but my bet is the vast majority of bloggers would ignore it. And that these super-civil types will possibly turn into venomous maniacs in the offline world. Just. Can’t. Hold. It. Back. Any. Longer.
The main point here is that you can’t control what people want to say. You can delete comments, sure, thus partly controlling where they say things. But you can’t stop that person from starting up a blog full of their own brand of unsavoury comments.
The upshot is that if you can’t deal with comments, why not just turn them off?
Hat tip to the venerable organ that is The Register .