Conduct.

April 11, 2007

I just spotted a news article on the BBC regarding a draft blogger’s code of conduct. The main points of the draft are as follows:

1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

2. We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.

3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

6. We ignore the trolls.

Interesting stuff, isn’t it? A nice, tidy little list of rules. Just what we all need, ain’t it? This is going to turn many heads. Ultimately, however, it will deliver little.

Upon reviewing these rule, it’s clear to me that rule 2 is a subset of rule 1 and is not required. Rule 5 contradicts rule 1 slightly, in that it does not allow us to take responsibility for anonymous comments, so let’s ignore rule 5 for the time being. This leaves us with:

1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

6. We ignore the trolls.

Rules 3 and 4 seem intertwined. Rule 4 dictates that we take action when someone is being unfair — for the moment, I’ll adopt the implicit assumption that we have a mechanism for determining fairness. Thus, we must connect (I assume they mean “email,” but they’ve dressed it up in mumbo-jumbo) with the offender, presumably to sort the matter out behind closed doors. Rule 6, however, offers a subtle contradiction — trolls, by design, unfairly attack people. So we must figure out how to detect a troll, and once detected, always remember to never use rule 3 on them.

Of course, these three rules all fall apart. We can never all agree on what is fair and what is not, what should be allowed and what shouldn’t, or what is offensive and what isn’t. As per rule 1, only the blog maintainer can make these decisions, which generally stokes the burning fire from which the unfair attacks in rule 4 originate. So rule 4 cannot be enforced without causing further offense. Without rule 4, rule 3 can never be invoked, and it becomes difficult to figure out what to do with rule 6.

So we’re left with rule 1: “We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.” Sure. I can do that.

The anonymity factor I brushed to one side is an interesting one. I do wonder why it was suggested at all, given that people can choose to post under a pseudonym. I shall take this as an aside to briefly explain my motives for blogging anonymously: I use this blog to explore my writing, to explore ideas, and to babble away without it affecting my career. Why? Because I have an astoundingly uncommon name, and everything I touch normally gets fingered by the great Google very quickly. It’s wise for me to not post under my real name. I never intend to offend, though inevitably sometimes I might; I would, however, feel picked on if I were never allowed to comment on other’s blogs anonymously again.

The beauty of the web is that I can be anonymous if I so choose. It’s purposefully decentralised. This decentralisation means that this sort of “initiative” can never totally take hold.

And I quite like it like that.

Carry on.