Science & Technology

Bloggers Get Civilized?


A passel of Web 2.0 gurus–the guys responsible for social networking sites, wikis, blogs, and other user-generated web content–are proposing the creation of new voluntary guidelines for fostering a more civil blogging environment:

Last week, Tim O'Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

Wales and his cohort are already big in the Creative Commons movement, which is pushing a new kind of copyright protection with looser rules for borrowing better suited to the web. Like CC, this is a sign of the coming maturity of the blog world. Some of the much-vaunted "free-wheeling" nature of blogs will be lost, but such is the nature of coming out of a niche market into the mainstream. Ah, but I can already hear the cries of "censorship!" echoing over hill and dale. Here's the intelligent response:

Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Wales talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about.

Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself. (emphasis added)

Those who prefer a totally open comments section, idle gossip, and frequent personal attacks would be free to continue. But those hoping for a different experience could sign on to whichever new code came the closest to his ideal blog world, forming more exclusive communities–a bunch of private neighborhood associations for the blog world, not a police state.

Some ideas for a proposed code of conduct are here. They're posted on wiki, so you can add to them or edit them as you please. They were inspired by the community guidelines laid out on the BlogHer network. (That's right, a bunch of chicks thought this up.) Besides limits on anonymity and stricter sourcing, they propose attempting to resolve quarrels privately over email before throwing squabbles up for public consumption.

Commenters? Trolls? Bloggers? Your thoughts? (Since Hit & Run has not yet adopted any of the proposed codes, your anonymous libelous threats against Reason bloggers and our loved ones are safe for now. Have at us.)