In light of the recent and now-famous Kathy Sierra incident, respected publisher and blogger Tim O’Reilly has proposed a “Blogger’s Code of Conduct” that would be followed by individual bloggers, and promoted with a badge (actually modeled after a Wild West sheriff’s badge) on their website.
Is a Code of Conduct Needed?
So far, the primary response to the code of conduct has been (not surprisingly) controversy and skepticism.
Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine summed up the opposing viewpoint thusly:
[W]hen I moved into the place that is my town, I didnâ€™t put up a badge on my fence saying that Iâ€™d be a good neighbor (and thus anyone without that badge is, de facto, a bad neighbor). I didnâ€™t have to pledge to act civilized. I just do. And if I donâ€™t, you can judge me accordingly. Are there rules and laws? Yes, the same ones that exist in worlds physical or virtual: If I libel or defame you on the streetcorner or in a paper or on a screen, the recourse is the same. But I donâ€™t put up another badge on my fence saying I wonâ€™t libel you.
Does It Hurt More Than It Helps?
One unfortunate aspect of O’Reilly’s move is the response from the media. It’s a great publicity move for O’Reilly himself, who’s received coverage from a variety of major media outlets, but at what cost?
The news media has, predictably, jumped on this opportunity to spin the blogosphere as a sordid and lawless colony on the fringe of society—with O’Reilly cast as the upright sheriff trying to save the women and children.
The New York Times take on it? A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs. “Nasty Blogs”? This obviously hasn’t raised the level of discourse a whole lot.
That spin is great for selling newspapers, but the net result is yet another negative tourist campaign for the Web: “Blogging: Where the Bad People Are!”
What Happens Next?
Robert Scoble had this to say:
I do find disquieting the social pressure to get on board with this program. Tim Oâ€™Reilly is a guy who really can affect oneâ€™s career online (and off, too). I do have to admit that I feel some pressure just to get on board here and that makes me feel very uneasy.
Where we go from here is up to the crowd, but my guess is that this effort will follow the path of so many others—reviewed, evaluated, discussed, and ultimately found wanting.
What’s your take on it?