Do We Need a Blogger Code of Conduct?
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Several months ago, in response in part to a moderately well-known blogger (Kathy Sierra) stating publicly that she was targeted by cyberbullies, Tim O'Reilly proposed a "Blogger's Code of Conduct." A number of others in the blogosphere have commented on it, many of them constructively. But do we really need one? And if so, what should it look like?
As a web host, many of those who host their sites with you will have blogs or forums or other communities which are either fully open, firmly moderated, or somewhere in between. It behooves you to know the issues and concerns faced by those who run such communities. Your expertise and understanding becomes a great resource -- and a reason for your customers to stay with you.
But back to the question at hand. Many have thought of the Internet as being rather like the Wild West -- a free-for-all where anything goes. That may have been true back when it was founded, or even as late as 1995 when the World Wide Web came into being, but it's not so true today. One needs only to take a look at the various lawsuits concerning copyright violations, trademark infringement, and other issues to see that the lawman has come to the Internet.
Even though it is a global phenomenon, the Internet's roots are solidly in the U.S. Historically, one of our most valued freedoms is freedom of speech. Everyone has the right to speak his or her mind, or so the thinking goes. Attached to that right is a responsibility, which is expressed succinctly in the idea that "you own your own words." This is the core belief behind the Well, one of the oldest online communities. If each person owns his or her own words, it becomes an act of censorship to delete them -- to refuse to post a comment, even if it is rude and/or abusive.
Tim O'Reilly would like to change that idea. More precisely, his proposed Blogger's Code of Conduct seeks to expand it. To his way of thinking, you are responsible not only for your own words, but for the tone of your blog, since you control the comments. As the owner of your blog, it is both your right and your responsibility to make sure the discourse is at whatever level of civility you wish it to be -- and perhaps to even warn newcomers so they know what to expect on your site.
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