Blogging Considerately

In the fallout of the misconduct documented on and affecting the primary author of Creating Passionate Users, conversation has started on the merits of promoting a “Blogger’s Code of Conduct” spearheaded by tech-blogger Tim O’Reilly who is also a friend of Kathy Sierra. (A working draft of the code can be viewed here.)

In his initial post, O’Relly writes:

A culture is a set of shared agreements that allows us to live together. Let’s make sure that the culture we create with our blogs is one that we are proud of.

I agree with this whole-heartedly, and I think the best blogs around create a very good culture by setting a positive example when they write. Robert Scoble, Garr Reynolds, Kathy Sierra, and Guy Kawasaki are all great examples of this tack. As a result, by and large, the people who participate in the micro-community developed around these blogs tend to follow the given example.

The New York Times has an overview of the potential code, and the concept has seen support and adaptation from some like David Weinberger and BlogHer (whose guidelines actually served as inspiration) while gaining some thoughtful criticism from others like Jeff Jarvis and Robert Scoble.

David Weinberger writes:

We’ve always been responsible for comments: There’s always been a line we wouldn’t allow commenters to cross, or if there’s been no line, we’ve been responsible for that as well. But we need to be OK with setting out explicit guidelines.

On the other hand, Jeff Jarvis counters:

You either trust me and respect me based on what I say here or you do not, and there are plenty in the latter camp. Transparency and publicness are what drive that. Not some silly code and badge.

The way I see it is that Matthew 7:12 states it plainly: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Confucius said, “What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others,” and  the Mahābhārata states, “This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” I could really go on and on here. What we refer to as the Golden Rule has seen incarnations in several religions and cultures in varying points of history. If we try to live by this principle offline, then we should also do so online.

I don’t enable comments on this site. (I don’t have the time to read and respond to them at my current point in life.) My readership is more than welcome to send me a message at the email address on the About Robert page. However, even if I do enable comments in the future, I still don’t think I’ll adopt the O’Reilly code verbatim. There is value in anonymity as well as danger. I don’t feel I own your words. However, I do expect you to engage me the way I would engage you in conversation – fairly and respectfully.

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PS – I resent the New York Times article title. It does a little too much to equate “nasty” with “blogs” in the public mind. Also, those web badges on the O’Reilly draft are not pretty.