Web & Blogs

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.)

NEXT: Weekend Open Thread

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  1. Fuck them.

  2. Since not having to actually look somebody in the eyes while threatening to rip their heart out seems to be quite a rush to a lot of keyboard commandos, such guidelines are going to really take the piss out of a lot of people.

    What will people do with the fantastical personalities they’ve used for all these many years?

  3. I’m guessing the easiest way for the ol’ gubment to slip it’s tentacles in this would be to claim that:

    -since these groups would more than likely consist of residents of several states, and…

    -this new Internet will likely continue to have an increasing influence on commerce…

    these governing organizations will require oversight via the interstate commerce clause. Perhaps a new office, with a catchy acronym like the Federal Internet Authority (FIA!), would be needed.

    This is a great idea, assuming it remains voluntary. I just hope I haven’t given the gaggers any ideas…

  4. correction: its, NOT it’s

  5. Who the fuck cares about grammer!?!

  6. Attempts at control result will result in increased anarchy. Good luck with all that…

  7. Dese suckaz don’t know sheeat about da web. Me an’ my crew use da web to express aw feelin’s dat we dare not express in public.

  8. I’ve kinda grown fond of Edwards Supporter, Smarty pants McHollis, the late Jean Bart and all the other trollers (hello TLB!). Always good for a couple of laughs every time they post something. Though Juanita is a joke that’s long wore out its welcome.

  9. Discussion forums and blogs are the reason I could never be an anarchist. People are fucking stupid and it’s a shame that they pretty much control the government through their idiocy.

  10. Anyone using the words ‘blog’ or ‘blogger’ is not to be taken seriously anyway.

    Also, Jimmy Wales is an untrustworthy moron for stating that the use of a pseudonym equates to claiming credentials one never earned.

  11. Anyone using the words ‘blog’ or ‘blogger’ is not to be taken seriously anyway.

    Wow. Just.. wow.

  12. This is a little out of context without knowing the original controversy and

  13. A question:
    What similar certificate of authenticity do MSM outlets subscribe to indicating their commitment to truth, justice and fairness in their reporting?

    A statement:
    No seal will undo the natural bias of seeking support for our beleifs among those who say what we want to hear. Caveat emptor in the marketplace of ideas.

  14. Huh. Reason’s server really doesn’t like my second link.

    Anyway, there were death threats, toleration of abuse, and gender issues in the original controversy that prompted the effort, worse than any of the posts about Reason’s female staff (at least that stayed around long enough for me to see them–many more may have been deleted).

  15. Well, there’s always Something Awful.

  16. I will place a long bet that nothing will become of this until:

    -A Dem is in the White House (2008, definitely)
    -The blogsphere shifts some of it’s vitriol against them.

    Now right-bashing, BushHate are in vogue. Once the left begins to fuck up (and they will), you will see cries for the removal of anonymity under “OMG Faux news has planted Comment05z!”, “we can’t let this ‘slander’ go unpunished”, “these voice do not deserve to be heard”

  17. Anyone using the words ‘blog’ or ‘blogger’ is not to be taken seriously anyway.

    Wow. Just.. wow.

    What’s so “wow” about that statement? It’s a fucking website, and giving it some cutesey name doesn’t change a thing about the concept.

  18. Sounds good. Things are best when the rules are clear.

    I would prefer a set of rules that guarantees pseudonymity, but not anonymity. I don’t mind if people know who I am, but I don’t want everything I write indexed on GOOGLE under my real name. You never know whether your next potential client will be a Repuplican, a Democrat, a Green or a Libertarian. That’s why. I had to go to the mat with Phil on this principle at one time. I lost some friends here, but it was worth it.

    As the regulars will remember, I also don’t like it when other people hijack my pseudonym. I had to go to the mat with Mr. Radley Balko on that one, and ended up getting a lot of my posts here wiped, but it was worth it.

    If these principles were in “the code” here at HnR then I wouldn’t have to be so harsh on people when these “more violations” (for lack of a better term) come up.

  19. Wanna know who I am?

    Go FUCK yourself!

    This is MY internet where anyone can be anonymous
    unless someone expends varying levels of effort to figure out who we are-in which case no one is.

  20. since i spent the weekend being kinda mean – in pursuit of great justice, mind you, but still – i can appreciate a desire to tone down the craziness. especially with these tit for tat political blog fights that end up mired in death threats and people posting addresses and other personal information. (www.gothamist.com is an example of a mostly non-political blog that is always filled with all sorts of awfulness, regardless of the topic. people seem to head there just to insult the folks that run the site. there are no doubt thousands of others.)

    on the other hand, isn’t the nastiness why people read heavily political blogs anyway? just wait until the election kicks into overdrive…

  21. Without the tit for tat nastiness that takes place in the comments area of ‘blogs’, I don’t think I would even be interested in many of them.

    Granted, some of them are quite pointless, rude, and derogatory, but, as with TV programs that you don’t like, you can just skip over them. The point being, it should be your choice, not the choice of others.

    I don’t like the whole censorship idea.

  22. Requiring posters to register and maintain profiles or list working e-mail addresses will make it much easier to delete comments deemed unfit by the standards of the board, whether its the basest Trolling or a well-reasoned argument that happens to offend the orthodoxy.

    I predict this will go one of two ways. Either it will be enthusiastically embraced by habitutal posters so as to futher insulate them from troublesome dissent on their favorite sites, or it will cause a massive exodus from standards-adopting sites to non-standards sites, killing off the old guard in rapid succession.

    Either way, Huffington will adopt it like a Malaysian orphan.

  23. Hit and Run would be no fun if I couldn’t post joke comments under joke handles.

  24. For instance, if there’s a thread about somebody who said something racist, shouldn’t I be able to adopt the handle that I’m using here and post something to the effect of “I don’t see what the big deal is”?

  25. Or maybe adopt this handle in a thread about racism?

  26. Tat.

  27. To the people here who’s panties are so twisted up right now, this proposed system is voluntary. I don’t see any downside to a forum that establishes some minimum standards.

    Oh sure, I’d miss all the “motherfuckers” but if people had to spend less time on creative ways to threaten people and more on arguing their position, it might actually improve the dialogue.

    Of course since we are talking about a voluntary system, sites that enjoy the freewheeling world of unhampered debate could keep on keeping on.

  28. Simple:
    Whoever owns it makes the rules.
    Like it or lump it.

  29. correction: its, NOT it’s

    Never mind death threats, this would be worth a little fascism to enforce.

  30. ed, your disregard for the rules of haiku is a threat to all our freedoms

  31. ditto to what ed said.

    you pay the bills, you make the rules. Its not like being banned from a website or having your comments deleted violates some constitutional freedom. Go create your own website if you don’t like the rules of another one.

  32. LiT:

    Ah seenk dat vot yoo zay ‘as bien lust een tlansrashun.

  33. I woke up in 1987 and am reading news.newgroups apparently. How’d the Great Renaming go? What are the various flavors of Big 8 moderation again?

  34. de stijl – and your rugby shirt with the rubber buttons looks just as lame today as it did back then!

    bluchers, no socks, anyone?

  35. Pick me…I’m clean…I am also programmed for conversational English.

  36. I’m not sure anyone here is saying that this is akin to jailing bloggers or silencing them. Most of the (serious) comments here have focused on whether this will be effective at “raising the level of discourse.”

    I think everyone who calls themselves libertarian with a straight face must acknowledge that website owners can adopt whatever polices they like, at their own peril.

  37. at their own peril

    Death threat! Death threat!

  38. I can’t help it!
    I think in threes.
    Not haiku!


  39. I can’t help it, Judge.
    I think in threes, Your Honor.
    Not haiku, Dammit.

  40. Come on, we’re capitalists here. Make commenters pay per column inch.

  41. be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

    Er, how exactly do you silence whiny little shits and keep them from complaining about a power bloggers have – and sometimes use – now?

  42. Where’s my Easter Bonnet?

    While some may see the blogosphere and the behavior of its participants as a new phenomenon, it isn’t difficult to find an appropriate predecessor model. That model is found on the streets of any metropolitan area and it is called traffic and the prevalence of road rudeness…or in its extreme…road rage.

    Granted, personal attacks and snark on the internet are not likely to lead to fatalities, but if computers had wheels, it certainly would.

    Read more on the relationship between blog civility and Easter Bonnets…here:


  43. Always willing to expand the limits of blogging, I’ve created my own BloggingBadge at the link. It could use some work, and I’m currently trying to get the graphic artists from CreativeCommons to come up with a better version.

    On a serious note, I’ve been banned or had my CommentsDeleted from a wide range of sites. The latest is CaptainsQuarterss, who’s refused to allow a comment I left pointing out how a comment he directed at me was wrong. Other sites that have played funny games include:

    WashingtonMonthly (edited a few comments I left without noting they’d been edited)

    RedState (BannedMe after I’d posted ~75 diary entries)

    DailyKos (BannedMe way back in ’03)

    Perhaps the next step for O’Reilly/Jimbo would be a BloggerArbitration panel which would deal with bloggers who violate their own badges. Perhaps there could be micropayments to resolve cases.

  44. Simple:
    Whoever owns it makes the rules.
    Like it or lump it.

    it is so simple
    he who owns it makes the rules
    like it or lump it

  45. and your rugby shirt with the rubber buttons looks just as lame today as it did back then!

    Wait, we’re not supposed to have brought those back?


  46. What amuses me is this sort of officious enthusiasm to rush out and form a committee of ‘experts’ to design a solution. Typical.

  47. Have at us.

    I violently rant against my feigned perception of your position, including lurid non-sequiturs as well as tossing red herrings sure to inflame and distract. After that, I offer a completely off-topic rant about someone else not associated with the given topic, but in enough detail to have a fair chance of changing the topic.

  48. Apologize if this is a repeat. I first tried in safari, and the comment didn’t seem to go through at all. Now, am trying via Firefox.

    Actually it’s Tim O’Reilly and Jimmy Wales, who are working on this code of conduct. They have each used the public community guidelines we have for the BlogHer.org site as a model/foundation, but we are not working with them on this ongoing code of conduct effort.

    In fact, at BlogHer we see a difference between setting public guidelines for community participation within our own community vs. trying to come up with a code for the entire blogosphere to theoretically follow or not. That distinction was not drawn clearly in the article, but you can see more of our thoughts on that distinction at my blog: http://workerbeesblog.blogspot.com/2007/04/theoretically-going-to-be-in-mondays-ny.html, and from Lisa on a BlogHer post (in the comments): http://blogher.org/node/17887#comment-17365

    We think every blogger has the right to set their own rules. Those rights cut both ways. I am free to set my own policies for my blog. I’m also free not to frequent blog/sites that have policies I don’t like…for whatever reason. What we don’t think is that a single one-size-fits-all code for the blogosphere or internet ever could or should work.


  49. Come on, we’re capitalists here. Make commenters pay per column inch.

    Best idea I’ve heard all week.

  50. I’ve got a better one. Pay commenters per quality column inch.

  51. Say no to regulations…period.

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