Monday, April 16, 2007

Bloggers rule -- by not imposing any

posted by Andy Leff
Remember last week's blogosphere brouhaha with Tim O'Reilly's call for a blogger code of conduct? You knew it was only a matter of time before I chimed in ...

Coming up with rules for blogging defeats the purpose of blogging altogether. What is that purpose? To have an online journal where you can express whatever you want, about whatever you want, whenever you want -- similar to how a 13-year-old girl keeps a diary.

Besides, last time I checked we could say what we wanted under the First Amendment. Putting conduct rules in place online would, in effect, limit that constitutional right.

Don't get me wrong -- it's terrible that Kathy Sierra, blogger and friend of O'Reilly's, received a death threat at her site (the catalyst, incidentally, for this entire uproar). But at its most basic level, how is that message different than receiving a death threat via the post office?

Any law-abiding citizen knows that sending a death threat is illegal. Just because it came in the form of a blog comment doesn’t mean we should put restrictions on blogs. After all, we're not shutting down the U.S. Postal Service when threats are mailed.

Yet O'Reilly proposed similar restrictions last week. Among them:

  • Bloggers adopt a finished version of the code, and adorn their Web sites with an icon of a sheriff's badge bearing the words "civility enforced."

  • Bloggers averse to behavior rules can mark their Web sites with an icon of a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse and the words "anything goes."

Just think if you had to post these stupid little icons on your blog about your business or product. If someone writes a bad comment, you immediately discredit your blog -- and potentially scare away new customers -- by placing a dynamite icon in the corner.

The correct response: Deleting the offensive comment (if you have a transparent policy about monitoring blog content), ignoring it, or using it as a springboard for constructive online discussion -- the true purpose of blogging's open structure.

Instating a blogger code of conduct makes extra work where it's not needed or wanted. Such suggestions only remind me of overzealous, fanatical book burnings and literature bans from our early history -- essentially, a whole lot of fuss over a whole lot of nothing.

Labels: , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?