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Code of Conduct – Your Say

Posted By Darren Rowse 16th of April 2007 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

One of the stories that’s been appearing throughout the blogosphere this past couple of weeks is the ‘Code of Conduct’ discussion that was started by Tim O’Reilly.

As I’ve been traveling (we’re heading home tonight) I’ve not been in a position to read the full range of discussions that took place as a result of his post – so to help me catch up – I’d be interested to hear readers thoughts on it.

  • Do you think bloggers need a code of conduct?
  • What do you think of Tim’s draft one?
  • What would you add or subtract?

My personal thoughts (and I’ve given this very little thought): The idea of a code of conduct don’t sit well with me. While I find some of what Tim suggests resonates with my own personal approach to blogging (not all of it) one of the things I love about blogging the most is the diversity of approaches that people bring to it.

While I wish and hope for a blogosphere that is constructive, respectful and positive in nature – I don’t think any centralized list of do’s and don’ts will really fix anything.

Ultimately these types of decisions on how bloggers will or won’t behave need to come from individual bloggers after examining their own personal values, style and goals.

But then again – that’s just me. What do you think?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • I read a lot of blogs about blogging, because I want to learn all I can. I’m finding, however, that most bloggers that post about blogging, have a narrow vision. They seem to think all bloggers are either tech or business people. My blog is about self improvment through art.

    So, I don’t suppose that any code of conduct is going to be univerally usable until it encompasses more types of blogs than just the tech and business areas.

  • crazyhamster

    I think ultimately, it is up to the blogger to enforce his own personal values in his blog because that is what that makes blogs unique. Differing point of views being discussed in a different style. If we are to enforce a code of conduct on bloggers, the blogosphere would indeed be less interesting.

    Sometimes, we need someone bad to show how good others are :D

  • FYI, O’Reilly himself now seems to have moved beyond the code of conduct idea. In an interview posted April 13 at the Wired website, he says, “I’ve come to think the call for a code of conduct was a bit misguided,” and tells Wired that what he really wants is “better moderation mechanisms” rather than “any one policy.”

    The discussion of comment moderation is toward the end of the interview, which is at

    Wild Flora

  • Hello Darren,

    Seems Fair but I completely disagree with:

    “5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

    We require commenters to supply a valid email address before they can post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with an alias, rather than their real name.”

    If I would follow it I wouldn’t approve any of my blog comments – they are all anonymous.

  • Blogosphere is about freedom. If you wanna play by rules then join mainstream media.

  • As blogging edges out traditional media as the goto for news, opinion and such… there may be a need for conduct/ethics – but just like print media, I think it should just come down to the publication.

    As you said Darren, the best part about blogging is the diversity it brings to the medium. Censorship of any sort is a bad idea. We may not like the junk some people post, but the minute we start deciding how things should be said and what you “can” say… well…

    As a blogger in China, this is something that is becoming more and more prevalent here. Chinese bloggers (unlike expats such as myself) need register their “real name” with authorities, and are suffering much the same censorship that the country’s print media faces – causing the blogs to be bland, un-opinionated wastes of bandwidth. All in the name of a “cleaner” Internet.

    It’s a dangerous road to travel down.

  • The pessimist in me says the people who need to read and stick to a code of conduct wouldn’t, therefore a code of conduct is doomed to fail. Those that would agree to such a code probably do things in a kind and considerate manner anyway. The optimist in me says the discussion of the topic is worthwhile if it only changes a few minds for the good.

  • Most of these codes are impossible to keep to. For example – taking responsibility for comments on the blog. Who would want to do this? Would you take responsibility in court when a commenter is being sued? Would you review every comment before it is posted (and annoy your commenters?) Unless you are manging your comments 24 hours a day it is impossible to take responsibility for them. You can weed them out given time but you can’t prevent bad ones from showing up for some period of time.

    When we believe someone is unfairly attacking someone else we take action. Does that mean bloggers become Batman? What if twelve people get attacked online in one day, do you have to post twelve times?

    So unless you are a super human reviewing and blogger defense machine (and lose the time to follow your original blog objectives) it is difficult to stick 100% to the code of conduct, so what percentage is acceptable? Every time you miss a bad comment or an attack are you opening yourself to criticism? Or losing the sheriff badge?

    I think setting an example of good blogging should be enough. Other professions don’t have a code of conduct (painting, sculpture, parenthood, novelists) beyond standard laws and regulations. In my satirical post Calling for a Living Statue Code of Conduct when you try to apply a code to other art forms it looks silly.

  • I have some basic problems with the whole idea, too. I haven’t read the articles yet, but the thing that jumps out at me is that a code of conduct must be somehow enforceable in order to be useful at all. It sounds like the whole idea is very dangerous. I’ve written a little bit more of my thoughts on the matter on a post on my own blog.

  • Pingback: Blogging Code of Conduct at FreshBlogger()

  • The more I read the draft, the more I see that this is something I could incorporate on my blog. But I don’t need a strict set of rules to adhere to. I think we all should have a spot where we can view those guidelines so now and then, but we should be the ones to decide what to allow and what not, how to behave and how not.

    Blogs are of personal nature. It is not “correct” to try to restrict personal free speech. Yes you shouldn’t want to say things you “can’t say in your own livingroom”, but the good thing about your living room is that that is one of the places where you can say stuff you would not say elsewhere.

    So yes to the essence, no to the plan of action.

  • Pingback: Code of Conduct - Polski Blogger()

  • Journalists have a Code of Ethics but not all of them follows it. Is the Code useless? Christians have the Ten Commandments but not everyone follows it. Are the Commandments useless? The Code of Conduct is a guideline to those who wants to follow it. It’s not an all-out solution. But if it will make a difference, even for a little bit, then it has done good.

  • I’m with you. I really enjoy the freedom that blogging offers to me, and I love to know that “anyone” can write anything based only in their opinions and believes. I don’t think that a code would bring anything else than problems and misunderstanding.

  • I read the O’Reilly Code of Conduct and thought it was reasonable behaviour for most people to abide by. Basic common sense, really.

    People who object to the O’Reilly code of conduct say it is about the loss of freedom of speech.

    In cases like those the The Humanaught mentions (China) and recent mentions of bloggers jailed in Tehran, Egypt, China and Libya this is a real and valid issue. Yet many of those people who object to the code are not talking about this type of freedom, they actually mean their freedom to post comments on someone else’s blog. (The better moderation that O’Reilly talks about.)

    If it’s your blog, you have a right to post whatever you wish (within legal constraints), but if it is someone else’s blog, you don’t have that right.

    Take this blog, for example. It’s Darren’s blog. If he wants to delete this post he has every right to. It’s not my right to post here, it is a courtesy Darren is allowing me.

    Isn’t it time we accepted that the internet is just another form of media, bound by the same rules as other forms of media.

  • The code would be a welcomed one. I will only have problems with it once someone or a group starts going around the blogosphere enforcing the code on us bloggers.

  • “Two viewpoints – first, as the administrator of my blog; I would never put anything like this on my blog because it implies you don’t trust your readership. Second, as a commentor; I would never comment on a blog who imposed this “legislature” because it really creates an uptight environment in that comments can be interpreted a variety of ways, who knows if what I consider within the guidelines is, according to that blog author.

    I think it’s really a waste of time and energy, personally. It’s my opinion that it probably wouldn’t be successful in the outer circles of the blogosphere.”

    Those are my thoughts on the topic, I just shared them with O’Reilly. Many bloggers already have a commenting policy – who really needs this code of conduct? Honestly, the people who need to abide by a code of ethics are people who will never learn from it.

    I usually don’t go around being callous or rude on other people’s blogs. I realize that people do, but that whole thing is just stretching it. I’m not going to implement anything on my site that I’d be uncomfortable seeing on someone else’s.

  • This was the same question I asked at JohnChow…

    Will the violators be sent to Askaban ? :-)

  • I thought O’Reilly’s initial proposed code was a combination of Motherhood and Apple Pie with a nascent licensing scheme disguised as a badging exercise. The problem ought to be resolved via two related mechanisms, one technical, one social:

    First, bloggers ought to fully accept their responsibilities as publishers, not just writers. When someone posts a comment, you are publishing content written by someone else. You have as much responsibility for that content as you do for the words you write yourself; it’s published because you created that opportunity and allowed it to happen. Whatever published standards you may have for your site, deleting or not publishing content that violates those standards is well within your rights. It is not censorship. You haven’t violated anyone’s free speech rights; you’ve just rejected a piece of submitted content written by someone on notice about the need to conform with your standards.

    (What your standards ought to be is the subject for another discussion. But, even if you run a completely “anything goes” site, I think you owe to your readers and yourself to publish your standards.)

    Second, we do need better and faster moderation tools to help bloggers who attracts hundreds of comments daily. Better presentation tools, as well. For instance, I’d like to be able to optionally collapse comment threads to a single line, that readers could then expand at their option. And, then, for people who moderate, perhaps the option of displaying the moderated-so-far comments prominently, with a link that jumps to the “unmoderated and you’re on your own” pool.

  • Defining a code of conduct won’t hurt. In fact if it does a little good, then it was worthed. I agree with yuga. It’s up to you if you follow. But it can serve as guidelines. And probably save new bloggers from headaches.

  • I have already shared a few thoughts on this else where. I’m glad to see a little more discretion being shown here. I’ll be honest, I have only scanned through Tim’s thoughts/ However, when I did, I never came across any demand or pressure to make bloggers abide by the precise code, but that it was put forth in the, “hope that it helps create a culture that encourages both personal expression and constructive conversation.”

    Aim for the stars and you’ll hit the moon (or something like that), and I reckon Tim is hoping that rather than making people abide exactly by this (he’s not a fool, he knows what people are like), it will encourage more caution and promote awareness of the dangers of being abusive.

  • “Journalists have a Code of Ethics but not all of them follows it. Is the Code useless? Christians have the Ten Commandments but not everyone follows it. Are the Commandments useless? The Code of Conduct is a guideline to those who wants to follow it. It’s not an all-out solution. But if it will make a difference, even for a little bit, then it has done good.”

    I agree strongly. Ethical checklists are a useful tool for self-examination.

  • I want to add that by “moderation” I mean the blogger’s moderation. I’m not sanguine about Slashdot-style moderation because it doesn’t consistently apply any single set of standards and does allow a comment to be moderated down simply because the moderator doesn’t agree with it or doesn’t like the commenter. I’d also think that it requires a certain threshold number of commenters before it really becomes effective, which would deter its use on most tpyical blogs.

  • There’s always someone that wants to tell other people what to do. The problem is that the people being told what to do don’t always agree with the people that are making the rules.

    A code of conduct for bloggers is a ridiculous idea.

  • Continuing with the idea of blogs being personal, imagine how laughable it would be if someone tried to initiate the idea of a code of conduct for personal lives?
    People are going to run their blogs as they see fit, and they will find the audience that is right for them. It’s not my cup of tea, but there certainly is a market for “in your face” blogging these days.

  • Everything beyond Tim’s first rule is worthless. “We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.” Oh puhleeze. And all the rest of the rules have more to do with the conduct of readers which is where the real problems come in.

    And how about a real rule that the blogging world desperately needs: “No paid reviews, no exceptions.”

  • O’Reilly’s proposed code of conduct is a poor execution of a bad subject. More thoughts here:

  • I kind of feel that this code of conduct is basically protection for the blogger, not those trying to visit and read the blog. Personally, I don’t mind the idea, but it seems like the blogger is trying to pose rules to their forum and that is kind of against what blogging is all about, right? The freedom,for both bloggers and commenters. Yes, dealing with spam and stupid commenters is a hassle, but if you get yourself over the hump (and do a little bit moderation), you can go further than what you are restricted to. If I saw the conduct seal would I be turned off? Maybe a little bit. The code of conduct Tim wrote up is fine, it is just the concept of restrictions bugs me a little bit.

  • This strikes me as ultimately pointless. The internet is the ultimate free speech forum and should stay that way. But those of us who want return visitors (and who doesn’t?) will be polite and well-mannered or we just won’t get them.

    Let people do what they want. If you don’t like it, don’t go back – the ultimate blogging statement.

  • @billg – good comments. There is a responsibility on bloggers to manage comments. I disagree that a blogger is a publisher of comments as you have very little editorial control over commenters. It’s like calling the owner of a building a publisher of the graffiti that appears on that building. Unless you review all comments, which is impossible given the 24 hour window of blogs, it appears on your blog and gets held in the Google cache before you can even read it. If you get run over by a bus and spend a week in a coma are you still responsible for comments to your blog?

    I disagree with disallowing anonymous commenters. You should allow commeters who use an alias for the reasons covered in this new BBC article Bloggers’ search for anonymity, since bloggers leave comments on other peoples blog to build traffic and raise awareness this also applies to commenting:

    Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia: they are all popular with holiday makers but they also censor and even lock up journalists and bloggers.

    This is why the media rights group, Reporters Without Borders, has published The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents.

    “The first thing is don’t write anything under your real name,” said Julien Pain of Reporters Without Borders.

    “Even if you are using a pen name, then you have to be careful because the authorities can track you down on the internet.”

  • At the end of the day a code of conduct will serve no purpose than for those badger toters to hype up how they follow the code and how great they are.

    It will cause greater segmentation in an already diverse media enviroment.

    With your code of conduct badger swaggers refusing to link to anyone not following the code of conduct and the seemingly rebelious hyping the fact they don’t follow and gaining recgonition for there alternative ways.

    Infact a universial code of conduct would only create a platform for those rebels to bump-start there readership as they get exposure be it negative exposure from the code of conduct clan.

    A rough set of guidelines or ettiquete for blogging perhaps may serve a purpose but theres nothing there that isn’t already considered common sense or means of stopping other problems, I.e the requirement of email for spam etc.

    All in all, We’re all communitys. Communitys based on our subject matter myself, Hip-Hop and the culture and yourself ProBlogging. In our own field we have ‘Conduct Police’ and in most cases rightly so. The group of higher-ups who will in worst case scenarios out people for there misdeads and poor behaviour.

    A self moderated community is the best way to go. Making a set of rules that no one has the power to enforce is both naieve and a futile endeavour.


  • Ari

    I agree with Nick above. Many blogs were started by people who felt that they needed a way to write and say things anonymously because they wouldnt say them in public.

    The code about annonymous comments is silly especially for blogs directed towards non tech savvy people who arent comfortable with leaving their names and real email address with someone they dont really know.

  • The idea of a blogger’s code of conduct doesn’t sit well with me, too. I will walk my own way and do everything that I want to do. If you need O’Reilly or someone other to tell you what you have to do, there is no reason to have a blog, I think. We already have one netiquette, we don’t need more similar products. O’Reilly’s yawner idea looks like he just wants to increase his own popularity, and nothing more. And I’m afraid it may be the only one major goal of blogger’s code of conduct, in fact.

    Also, it looks like a nice topic for a post. Maybe I will deride it today on my blog. Yep, MAYBE I will PLAY a TROLL, and won’t connect privately before I respond publicly, Timmy.

  • I have been spending weeks reading numerous blogs, and have found that all the elite sites contribute constructive, respectful and positive information. The proof is in the pudding, and the precedence already exist. If you want to achieve a high level of influence within the blogging community you need to be respectful. It would be next to impossible to be influential in this medium without respecting other individuals opinions. Why bother enforcing a code of conduct when you can be spending you time refining your skills and developing new concepts. I strongly believe that the blogging community is savvy enough to notice who is providing good value on their sites.

  • With ‘old’ media’s unrelenting attack on blogs already, Tim’s “Code of Conduct” was just additional fodder for them to grab a hold of. I think he did a disservice and it was merely link-baiting. Especially since no Code of Conduct could ever be enforced.

  • >>”the rules have more to do with the conduct of readers…”

    Nope. Once someone submits content for publication on your site, then it’s your conduct that’s the issue.

    No blogger has any obligation to publish all comments from everyone at all times.

  • Code of conduct is misguided on several levels. There will always be bad apples out there but to restrict everyone from completely free speech would make blogs as homogenized as network tv and radio

  • Anonymity makes it impossible. You have no way to know if the author/commenter is 12 years old or 92 years old – whether they’re pranking or serious – whether they have an ulterior motive – etc. Too many variables. Each blog owner is responsible for dictating what they find acceptable or objectionable. And the readers of the blog will judge the blog owner – as they now do – by the content, including the comments.

  • Two random thoughts: (1) In one of my hobbies (geocaching), a code of conduct was developed by a group of people. Not surprisingly, it had some controversy and disagreement about terms among those who posted in various geocaching forums. In the end, I think that those who needed a code of conduct likely never knew of it or looked at it and those who didn’t really need one were the ones who debated over it the most. (2) I don’t like “rules” about moderating comments or taking responsibility for comments in any sort of blogger’s code of conduct. From what I have seen, that is a pretty hotly divided issue with little consensus. Also, outside of removing things that I feel will offend my advertisers, which also takes care of many truly offensive items, I tend to believe that I should let people speak. If they say something that might be deemd offensive, they own their words in their comments, not me. I tend to hope that others will take bad comments for what they are and not blame the blog owner. But perhaps I am naive on that point?

  • 10 Tips For Efficient, Effective Blogging

    See #8 – I usually ask myself a few things before publishing. Mainly, if I wouldn’t want my parents to read it, I won’t publish it.

    Why? Because if my parents are ashamed of my writing, then my boss certainly won’t appreciate what I’ve said. Sad as it is when you can be fired for what you write in a personal blog and all, it still matters.

  • 1) It’s unenforceable. What body of rule will take on the task of enforcing civility on the internet. What body has the right to do so? Who decides what is civil and what is not? And, as we have seen with SPAMers and pornography, the internet views censorship as damage and routes around it.

    2) It’s unwanted. Who wants Aunt Bea looking over your shoulder? And who decides what is added or subtracted from it? I personally don’t want the equivalent of a neighborhood association telling me I can’t use a lime green header or certain words because it makes the net look “trashy”.

    3) It’s already failed. For a better explanation of this, look up “Eternal September” in Wikipedia.

    4) On a positive note. Can it be implemented by those that want it? Absolutely! But as a deterrent to bad behavior, it probably won’t prove effective.

    In my opinion, the real question here is whether anonymity should be allowed on the net. (My answer is “yes”, due to all of the social gains from it, but others will say “no” in an attempt to keep a bad outcome from ever happening.)

  • Carleenp, suppose I run a blog that doesn’t moderate comments. Suppose someone sues me because of alleged libel appearing in the comments. I argue that I’m not responsible for what other people say. The other side argues that I made, first, the willful decision to publish a blog; second, the willful decision to enable comments; third, the willful decision to not exercise editorial control of those comments. All three of those statements would be true

    Whether I win or lose, the financial and personal costs of defending against such a suit seems good enough reason for me to pay attention to comments.

    Finally, I think that the frequent use of the description “offensive” is off-target. We aren’t really talking about comments that simply offend people. Almost everything will offend someone, somewhere. We are really talking, in the first instance, about comments that threaten or defame other people, or that may expose ourselves or anyone else to legal action. In the second instance, we are talking about the use of language that may or may not violate the standards of our own sites. What those standards are is up to each blogger, but I really believe we owe it to our readers to tell them what they are, even if it is only to say “I don’t care.”

  • Not interested in a formal code of conduct. Like others, I believe the people who need it most wouldn’t abide by one or accept one anyhow. If I don’t like how a particular blogger posts and/or runs his or her blog, I can avoid that blog without saying a word.

  • I’ve been struggling (internally) with something similar in a few of my business projects, proposals, and have been reading quite a lot of opinion on how others think blogs should be run.

    Some say “Monetize!” Other’s say “Paid Blogging or Paid Reviewing demeans your credibility.”

    Some say “follow these rules.” Some say, “no follow these rules.” Some say, “say what you want, if it’s YOUR blog.”

    What I think we ultimately come down to is that you can’t force your ethics on a person. They either share them, or they don’t.

    What I like about blogging is the freedom one has with one’s own blog. Write about what you want. But be prepared for the consequences of how you utilize your freedom of speech.

    There are some out there that abuse it, like any other freedom, but many of us are wise enough to weed those out.

    The issue comes in, however, when one’s blog, or one’s words anywhere on the net, threaten another person. I’ve heard of, and many of us may have seen people get flamed to the point of death threats. That crosses the line and should be punishable. But by what law? Who’s jurisdiction?

    And what does the code of conduct really do? Give us a law? Consequences? I don’t think so. While they may be good guidelines for many, the internet is too vast for them to apply to all.

    So what it may ultimately come down to is this code of conduct creates a pseudo “blogging elite,” that revolves around rules set out by a few, possibly well meaning, bloggers. But if most of us wanted rules laid out FOR us, we wouldn’t crave, and create the social, and moral, diversity in the metaverse of the internet.

    The only rules we really follow, are the ones we accept for ourselves. And what we write, and what we put in our blogs, reflects what we believe, and the rules we follow, without really having to spell it out.

    Agree with Tim O’reilly’s code? Adopt it. Agree with some rules, but need to tweak others more to your specific work? Adopt those.

    What I really think this will be good for, is a call for bloggers to WRITE their OWN code of conduct, for their own blog, and post it for readers to see.


    Meg Meyer

  • Pingback: Is Tim O’Reilly’s Blogger Code Of Conduct Necessary or Limiting Free Speech? » Vince Cordic’s Internet Marketing Tactics()

  • The Blogosphere is about TRUE democratic freedom of speech, to apply a code of ethics would negate what is possibly the last frontier for freedom of speech.

    If you want ethics and a code of conduct – blogging is not your form of media, perhaps look into your local news sources.

    Blogging is for many, myself included an outlet for our frustrations, our thoughts, and a great way to make new acquaintances, don’t ruin it by saying what we can or can’t say, or can or can’t allow.

    I think an ethics policy or code of conduct is unethical.

    Of course perhaps the only exception is a family oriented blog, should perhaps censure 4 letter words that children shouldn’t see, but that’s their perogative, blogs are so dynamic and different no 2 are alike, that there’s probably no possible way to centralize a blogger’s code of ethics even if you wanted to, each site might need a different twist, depending upon what topics they are on.

  • A code of conduct inn the blogosphere and on the internet in general consists of unspoken rules that are accepted among people who blog about similar things.Some conduct which is accepted on one blog about a certain topic might not be accepted on a blog with a totally different topic….

    Introducing some sort of universal code of conduct always fails, it’s been tried many times before.

  • Pingback: Why The Blogger’s Code of Ethics Won’t Work()

  • My first reaction is always how I really feel and I think its ridiculous. Blogs to me are online diaries to express how you feel or give advice in certain areas. Others do not have to read the blog if they feel uncomfortable with something you are saying. Why take the fun out of blogging?