Bloggers Code of Conduct: Should We Censor Ourselves?

When Tim O’Reilly drafted a Bloggers Code of Conduct, it sent waves through the so-called blogosphere. While O’Reilly encourages open discussion on this draft, it begs the question: do we even need a code of conduct at all?

The concept of blogging has enjoyed a comet-like rise to stardom in the mainstream media. Suddenly it was easy to guage the opinions of thousands of “normal people” worldwide. I didn’t think I’d ever hear a journalist on CNN say “What do bloggers think about this?”, but last year: there it was.

This very same mainstream spotlight makes it profitable to write about blogging. So that’s what O’Reilly did. The code itself is pretty much what you’d expect: Be nice and be politically correct:

[..] frankness does not have to mean lack of civility. We present this Blogger Code of Conduct in hopes that it helps create a culture that encourages both personal expression and constructive conversation.

We are committed to the “Civility Enforced” standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we’ll delete comments that contain it.

We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that: – is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others – is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person, – infringes upon a copyright or trademark – violates an obligation of confidentiality – violates the privacy of others

My frank and civil opinion on this is that it can only come from someone who has absolutely no connection to the community he’s writing about.

But wait, this is my own blog, so I can also write this: Fuck your code of conduct O’Reilly. If you want to badge your site so it’s soccer-mom-safe go right ahead, but a draft of rules won’t make a vibrant community less scary for you. In fact, I predict zero effect.

Blogs come in as many sizes and shapes as LEGOs, cookies or faux impotence pills. Some blogs are like the weeds that break through the sidewalk; not quite as society intended, but tiny oases anyway. There are subcultures. Plural. It is useless to even ponder a code of conduct. Either there are already unwritten rules and secret handshakes, or actual laws that govern each country of blogger origin.

The utter futility of this draft is quite expressed. Of course we are responsible for what we say: if I threaten someone, I can be brought to justice. If I infringe on copyright, I either know I’m doing it and do it anyway, or it’s techinally a copyright infringement but no-one cares.

Blogging is an easy and accessible way to utter actual opinions. Trying to box it up and label it is not only moot and moronic but also a blow to free speech and an impossible task. Good luck with Myspace. Not that anyone cares if you succeed.

On Posting Music Samples

More than once, I’ve felt the urge to post a song here for people to download. This is obviously illegal, and so far this has stopped me from doing so. In the interest of exploring available options, I’ll ask you, esteemed reader:

  • When would it be technically legal, i.e. is there a specific bitrate at which it becomes okay?
  • When would it be “legal enough” that it wouldn’t stop you from doing it, i.e. is it morally okay when also posting an iTunes or Amazon link?

I’m pondering writing a small neat Flash app that’s easy to embed, and plays an external mp3 when clicked. It would be nice to know when the use of it is legal and when it’s not. Let me know your thoughts.

Stream of Consciousness

It was William James who first introduced the concept of the stream of consciousness – a written equivalent of the thought process. It is not always possible to describe the reasons for a certain point of view, but one might be able to deduce it based specific opinions alone, but by getting all of the the myriad of different thoughts together.

In much the same way it will make more sense for me to write a sort of stream of consciousness, than it would be to write any other individual entry on what’s been happening these last few weeks.

The atrocities committed in London just recently rocked my world again. Much the same way those in Madrid did, and like those in New York, and those I hear about every day, every where across the world. The world is not as safe as it was ten years ago.

This project at work needs to finish soon. It’s been keeping people crunching 12 hour days for a month now. I’m not sure how long people can go on like that. As Sun Tzu said, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

On the topic of warfare, Bush visited Denmark on his birthday. I went to the anti-Bush concert and later that evening followed the circus on television. Seeing the size of the whole anti-terror machine that was put in to motion reminded me of when Clinton visited some 7 or 8 years ago. Indeed the world was very different back then.

Following Bush’s few speeches, I did get some insight into why people would vote for him. He wasn’t well-spoken, quite the opposite, but with a sort of southern charm. Apparently if you charm people enough, you can get away with lying to them and even send their children to war based on those lies.

I shouldn’t even be writing this. Bad things happened to Michael when he barely whispered a politically laden comment.

Reminds me of something I read in a paper a while back. The Internet has a democratic problem. Years ago, the Internet was predicted to be the new great catalyst of democracy, but according to the author, too few places allowed “open discussion”, which led the author to the conclusion of a lack of democracy. On one hand it’s not quite that simple, on the other hand—what can we do? How do political discussions work on the talk shows, and I’m not talking Fox News or Bill O’ShutUp’Reilly? Commonly, there’s a moderator, and people use their words. How does that scale to the Internet? Well, everybody needs to be moderators. It works for Wikipedia.

In the case of my little part of the Internet, I’ve been continually impressed by the high standard of comments seeping in. It proves to me that democracy can work on the Internet and that people aren’t all stupid. Seeing as how this side project of mine has grown very quickly over this last year, I wish I was able to stop the growth, press stop: this size and no more.

It’s also fun how pingbacks work. My colleague and friend Peter used one to respond to my rant about contracts, and why we should always have them. While I wrote that entry with sarcasm in my blood and irony in it’s simplicity, he’s right—as always. In the end, client/consultant relationships are like real life relationships such as marriage. It needs mutual respect and lots of communication. Oh, and the partners involved need to be compatible. I wish speed-dating was available for client relationships.

On blogging itself, I’m satisfied that I’m able to press pause and blog less. There are important things in life, and less important things. Joshuaink decided this as well. My best wishes to him and his.

Tristan has been hard at work on Zen Photo. So have Markku been on iPAP, and so have the talented people working on Plogger. It’s ironic really; not 3 months ago, there was not a single viable solution available for people who wanted a photo gallery on their website. Now there are 3 fantastic ones. To all three projects, I hope they understand just how much people will appreciate their work.

I noticed in my daily reads a while back, that bicycling in Copenhagen is seriously dangerous to your health. I’ve always known that the exhaust fumes weren’t healthy, but that cycling should be worse to your health than driving to work in a car came as a shock to me. Turns out it’s small particles from the exhaust of huge diesel powered trucks lacking certain filters. Honestly, such trucks should be taxed to hell and beyond. When something as simple as bicycling to work becomes dangerous to your health, the source of the problem should take a punch. Tax them so highly that driving a huge circle around the city is the only viable alternative. Bleed them dry until they filter their vents. Prune them into submission.

The weather is great outside. For most of the time I can remember, Denmark has been divided into winter and July, but it’s still nice. Yesterday the temperature was almost unbearable considering I was stuck at work. It really is about time I get started on my vacation. Just thinking about that White Russian I’ve got waiting for me in that house in Sweden makes me itchy. It’s there, just beyond my reach. Hopefully things’ll be better this Friday—hopefully I will start my vacation there.

According to Jakob Nielsen, it is unlikely that you’ve read this far. Fortunately it doesn’t matter. This one wasn’t really meant for you.

About Politics & Blogs

For the last two weeks or so, my home has been without Internet access. It’s what you can expect for the price tag of shared Internet connections. In the end, the sudden change of scenery was not entirely unwelcome. I managed to do some way overdue work around the apartment.

When the Internet did return the other day, I visited my website first thing to see if it had deteriorated in my absence. Instead, I was instantly reminded why it is I have what you’d call a blog.

The Second Amendment Is Not Archaic

Just prior to my going AWOL, I had briefly written my disgust with a new Florida law that had been approved. It was only a brief note referencing an online article I had stumbled upon in my daily musings. Having allowed people to leave comments, I expected some response, but not that after only 4 replies this discussion would be of greater value than the article itself.

And that is exactly what makes it worthwhile to blog. I do not agree with half of the commentators and I probably never will. It is even likely that I won’t ever convince anyone of my point of view. But that’s not what it’s about—it’s about he discussion. Few things can make my emotions run higher than the viewpoints of people I do not agree with. It forces me to reflect on my own stance, review my opinions and make sure I still think so. It prods me in to researching subjects I would otherwise have left alone and most of all it is a priceless glimpse in to cultures I have not yet visited.

Redundancy?

Many more than me wrote about this law being passed. It’s easy to think a well-written comment will drown in the whole.

In my experience, that is not the case. All good discussions reach a point where all participants have had their say. All arguments have been discussed, turned, examined and tried. Once it has reached this point, it becomes a historical document of sorts. It’ll hold a unique glimpse into the opinions of a very specific demographic discussing a very specific topic at a very specific point in time.

I’m certain, that looking back at such documents in about 20 years time will hold chuckle or two. Heck, I’ve probably even changed my mind by then.