Pardon Me While I Roll My Eyes

Okay, about this “Blogger Code of Conduct” thing:

Whatever. I’ll be ignoring this entirely (after this post, obviously). Some reasons for this:

1. This is my site and I couldn’t care less how anyone else thinks it should be run; anyone else who thinks they should have a say in how the site is run (i.e., “the community will police itself”) is going to learn all the different ways I know how to say “kiss my ass.”

2. Outside my site I couldn’t possibly care less how people run their own sites. It’s their site, let them do what they want.

3. Who elected Tim O’Reilly and Jimmy Wales the hall monitors of the Internet?

This Blogger Code of Conduct is predicated on two fundamental and fundamentally incorrect beliefs: One, that there’s a “blogosphere” community in any coherent, structured and enforceable way; Two, that the people who write blogs are sufficiently similar, in personality and output of content, that an attempt to standardize any aspect of the conversation will be successful. There’s also a third belief, reached from the first two, which is that this community of bloggers needs direction from its notable members/leaders, i.e., O’Reilly and Wales. This is equally incorrect.

People seem to believe these points should be correct, however, particularly the first of these. The “blogosphere” feels like a community, because everybody links to everybody and reads everyone else’s sites, and because people are people — there are a certain number of people who can be either convinced or shamed into following a certain mode of conduct. But it’s not the same thing, and I’m a perfect example of why not: I haven’t the slightest inclination to run my site in any other way other than how I choose to, and no amount of “community” pressure is going to change that. This is because when it comes down to it, I just don’t care what anyone else thinks of the site. I have it up for me. There’s no way for the “community” to make me do anything I don’t want, either; the blog police will not come to my door and ask to see my Code of Conduct badge, and haul me away or fine me if I don’t have it. Some people might not visit the site if I don’t have a Code of Conduct badge or whatever, but I wouldn’t want those people’s patronage anyway. There is no “community” — there’s me and how I choose to run this joint.

Does this mean my site is lawless and full of dickheads? No, because as it happens, I have a site disclaimer and comment rules which are pretty clear about what and how I will post, and what I will and won’t tolerate from people posting here. These rules have been here for years, and I regularly call them out and have links to them in the appropriate places. As the site is generally visited by people with brains who want to have a discussion rather than spew, and people know I’m not shy in enforcing my comment rules, this is a spirited but generally civil place. Occasionally one of the more obnoxious visitors will get out of line, or wish to suggest I am obliged to tolerate their presence whether I want to or not; those folks are corrected regarding this apprehension sooner than later. The article notes that some bloggers think deleting obnoxious comments is a violation of the commenter’s right to free speech. These bloggers deserve what they get.

Indeed, the reason that we’re now at a point where some self-appointed guardians of the discourse have decided it’s necessary to tell the rest of us slobs how to talk to each other is that people apparently forgot they have the right on their own sites to tell obnoxious dickheads to shut the hell up. Honestly, I don’t know what to say to that, other than I’m sorry that other people’s muddled-headed conception of what “free speech” is has allowed obnoxious dickheads to run free in blogs, and allowed busybodies to wring their hands in the New York Times about how mean the blogosphere is. It’s idiotic.

What the blog world needs is not a universal “Code of Conduct”; what it needs is for people to remind themselves that deleting comments from obnoxious dickheads is a good thing. It’s simple: if someone’s an obnoxious dickhead, then pop! goes their comment. You don’t even have to explain why, although it is always fun to do so. The commenter will either learn to abide by your rules, or they will go away. Either way, your problem is solved. You don’t need community policing or a code of conduct to make it happen. You just do it.

88 thoughts on “Pardon Me While I Roll My Eyes

  1. Right on!

    I must say, I think people who blog publicly about their families and who post photographs of their children are reckless. If I was going to suggest rules for the internets, which I’m not, that’s where I’d start.

  2. I actually love the rules of the WHatever. It’s very clear, straighforward and totally understandable. The blog is not a democracy. WHy should it be?

    I plan to copy these rules when my own blog takes off and before my Imus-implosion.

  3. John, you’re one of the few bloggers I read that deals well (i.e. effectively) with trolls. That’s maybe why you have such fun comment threads.

  4. Cripes. Who actually thinks some American constitutional notion of freedom of expression extends to comments in /this/ blog, or my blog, or any other private or corporate space on the internet?

    My web site is like my home; one’s freedom of expression ends the moment one steps into my house. Similarly, one’s freedom of expression is never guaranteed when making comments on my site.

    I agree with John that making this clear in a set of rules is fair, but this just means he /tolerates/ some modes of expression, and is telling you what those limits are. This is merely a nicety, however, and (like John) I reserve the right to pull any comment I choose, or discontinue conversation on any subject, without explanation, reason or notice.

    I’m just a benevolent dictator like that.

    Free speech does not extend into my living room.

  5. Someone needs to tell the obnoxious dickheads that the constitutional guarantee of free speech applies to GOVERNMENT action. There is NO right of free speech in private venues. You have the absolute right to refuse to publish any comment, at any time, for any reason, and it is not censorship. Go for it. One thing I like about this blog is that it is interesting nearly all the time, something I can’t say about any other discussion forum I know of. So keep on deleting, and keep on ranting. I like it your way. Anyone who doesn’t is welcome to leave.Maybe you should adopt a T-shirt slogan that was popular for a while: This ain’t Burger King. You get it my way or not at all.

  6. The article notes that some bloggers think deleting obnoxious comments is a violation of the commenter’s right to free speech.

    Commenters do have a right to free speech. They are welcome to put up their own blog and say whatever they want to. You pay money to a hosting company to put this blog up and you get to decide what is said here. They should feel free to do the same thing.

  7. Excellent Mr. Scalzi!

    “Free Speech” does not apply to blogs, especially not on a blog run by an author (and a damn fine one at that.) You get paid for your words, therefore they are not free.

    If you want to tell the V.P. of the USA to “Go #@!# himself” more power to you, but if you do it on a blog don’t be surprised if the blog owner deletes it do to profanity.

    I always thought the whole point of the internets was that they aren’t regulated. No matter what kind of person you are you can find a site populated by like minded people if you look hard enough. If I didn’t like your site I wouldn’t be on your site, call it Regulation by Denomination.

    P.S. – Are you coming to Austin on your book tour?

  8. Your house, your rules. Want me to take off my shoes before stepping on the carpet, sure. Use a coaster, why not.

    This just gives those people who used to like to complain in role-playing games, “but THAT’S not in the rules, waaa!” someplace to point to and say, “look, there’s the rules.” As I used to tell my gamers, and to paraphrase a movie line, “the rules are more like guidelines.”

  9. You have the absolute right to refuse to publish any comment, at any time, for any reason, and it is not censorship.

    Actually it IS censorship, but it’s John’s site and he’s already stated that he’s more than happy to censor anything he finds inappropriate. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    I can’t count the number of times it was pointed out to some cretinous dickhead on Usenet and IRC that only the US Govt. is barred from censoring them, and since we aren’t them, we’ll gladly moderate them out of existence.

  10. I agree 100%. Take responsibility for your “space” and make of it what you will. Some folks ENJOY spite and strife (not me) and if that’s what they want in their house, then fine. I know enough not to visit those kinds of places.

    But don’t expect to impose standards in a place where there is no such thing as “standard”.

  11. Bah. This isn’t a matter of free speech. It directly pertains to fundamentally enjoying your life.

    Justme – I post pictures of my children having fun and being artistic. I don’t post pictures of them taking baths or running around naked, because frankly that goes beyond stupid.

    I do not see a problem with sharing the joys of my family.

    Some people structure their blogs around political opinion, which obviously opens them up to all sorts of comments. Some people write about their lives, inviting friends, family and the occasional blogger to share in the joys and sorrows that happen to occur.

    My blog is a fun, friendly site open to all sorts of topics and discourse. If I suddenly find an anonymous poster who suddenly has a fetish for a 2 year old collecting easter eggs, you better believe I’ll take the appropriate action to rid myself of their curiosities.

    However, by saying that you shouldn’t be able to post pictures of your children, well, you might as well say you shouldn’t be able to take them to a park, or out for dinner, or even let them wait at a bus stop to attend a public school.

    There will always be an abundance of idiocy, crazy sociopaths and morons that will plague any civilized society.

    While you need to be aware that they exist, do not alter the way you live to potentially avoid them.

    Take action if you feel justifiably threatened and stop wasting time planning your own demise through paranoia and panic.

    Live.

  12. My understanding is that O’Reilly’s need to introduce regulations was prompted by the Sierra thing, although I’m not responding directly to that, no.

  13. Agreed, John.

    And I agree with Kate. I blog about my life and my family, and I post non-naked pictures of my kids. My friends and family are invited to visit, and others are welcome to stop by if they like. I don’t consider this to be a dangerous situation, and if I ever do perceive a danger, I’ll take appropriate steps. And I will not hesitate to delete comments that are offensive or threatening or off-topic or that just looked at me funny. Because I can.

  14. I agree – the idea that the blogosphere is a structured community is laughable, and that it is policable doubly so.

    I know Jamie beat me to this, but anyone who thinks that deleting user comments isn’t censorship is kidding themselves. But the fact is, this entire website has John’s name all over it, and the discussions on his posts also bear his name and reputation.

    To protect himself as an individual businessman and as a semi-public personality, he has the right to censor his own domain as much as he wants.

  15. I don’t think Tim is trying to be the hall monitor, just the Miss Manners of the internet. The only effort at enforcement is an attaboy medal if you subscribe to his code. I know there’s that slippery slope thing, but he’s dealing with a herd of cats, some with bacon, so I’m not too worried.

  16. Right on, Kate! As I said, I’m not interested in making rules for you or our host. I have an opinion, and I live my life accordingly, but I don’t expect you to live according to my rules.

  17. Actually, Jamie, it is NOT censorship.Censorship occurs when a “higher authority,” usually a government, tells the publisher of a paper, magazine, etc or the owner of a broadcast medium, what can and cannot be published, broadcast, etc. When that owner or publisher decides on their own what they will or will not publish or broadcast, that is simply their right. The major difference is that if the government censors something, you can’t get it published at all. This is like your local religious bookstore choosing not to sell Agent to the Stars. It isn’t engaging in censorship, and the book is abailable countless other places. If the state govenmnent ordered the book out of all stores, that would be censorship.Our fearless leader here has decided that his blog will devote its space to reasonably intelligent, reasonably civil dialog. The definition of reasonable is up to the proprietor. The “obnoxious dickheads” can still get their comments published easily. Many blogs specialize in that sort of verbal diarrhea.

  18. Ian & Jamie – Unless you are visiting a site that is appropriately named:

    Wedon’tcarewhatyousay.com
    or
    Inappropriateandthreateningcommentswelcome.com,

    whomever manages a site that you are visiting has every right to delete a comment. In many cases, they are paying for the domain and the hosting privs.

    Just like Steve had touched upon; If you invite someone to come into your house, and all they do is throw profanity laced insults at you and your family, do you sit there and do nothing while your name is being trashed and he wipes his dirty shoes all over your Italian silk couch?

    or

    Do you ask him to leave? If he doesn’t, do you take him by the collar and throw him out?

    Anyone who just sits there and takes that abuse really needs to see a doctor about some happy pills.

    You may call it censorship, but any intellectual who visits a site and leaves a logical albeit differing opinion on a subject matter that the author initiated, shouldn’t have a problem.

    If you go to a blog that doesn’t have at least that simple courtesy, why visit and even comment in the first place? Seems to me, all that person is looking for is a bunch of ‘yes’ men and women and to me, that’s even more a question of censorship then someone who deletes a threatening or inappropriate comment.

    There should never be a backlash against a blog owner who doesn’t want to put up with illogical abuse.

  19. Justme – statistically speaking, people who blog about their children are not the reckless ones. People who let their kids hang out with their friends and family, unsupervised, are the reckless ones.

    “The vast majority of crimes against children are committed not by released sex offenders, but instead by the victim’s own family, church clergy, and family friends. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, ‘based on what we know about those who harm children, the danger to children is greater from someone they or their family knows than from a stranger.’”

    http://www.livescience.com/othernews/060516_predator_panic.html

    We overestimate the threat from strangers on the internet because when something terrible does happen, it gets tons of media coverage. Whereas the majority of the cases of incest and abuse by friends of the family do not get that kind of coverage, in part to protect the identity of the victim.

    So I’m not saying that we should start posting pics of our kids in the bath, but that we should keep the threat in perspective.

  20. Amen!

    While I’m all for transparency (I’d appreciate knowing if someone is paid to write those glowing words about a product), I don’t think a code of conduct is going to make a difference. People will follow their set of values, be it a personal ethical code or the desire to be an immature jerk. No bloggers code is going to change that.

  21. Somehow, the whole concept of hand-wringing over having to deal with trolls strikes me as strange. It’s your house. While we’re here, we’re guests. According to my (apparently ancient) ideas about guest laws, duties generally devolve thus: host’s job is to communicate the situation (“oh, and try not to fall into the well”), and the guest’s job is to accomodate the situation and stay the heck out of the way. (In between, you have polite conversation!)

    Does make me wonder, though, why someone would try to tell you how to run things in your own house. Hmmm…

    Long winded – sorry – I’m just agreeing with Steve. And, oh yeah, thanks, John, for all those troll posts we *haven’t* seen, that you’ve had to get rid of. (Might not be very many of those, but thanks all the same.) I appreciate not having to work through them to get to everyone else’s comments.

  22. SGT Arnie:

    You’re welcome. There are in fact surprisingly few trolls — every once in a while a would-be one will pop up when I post about politics, but most commenters seem to ignore them, so I don’t even need to delete the post; it’s just stays there, making the original poster look foolish.

    Unrelated to this re: pictures of kids online — as I’m one of those who clearly posts pictures of his kid online and have done for, oh, her entire life, I do think one needs to exercise common sense and other than that try not to overly freak out about it. I don’t think it’s a topic to raise temperatures here at the moment.

  23. Bah, the whole thing another tempest-in-a-teapot time-and-bandwidth waster.
    What I would really like to know, sir, is how many ways CAN you say “kiss my ass”? Now THAT would be a good use of time and bandwidth.

  24. Yeah, sorry. I wasn’t intending to stir things up, but in hindsight, it should have been obvious to me that it could.

  25. No no no! You’re looking at this all wrong, Scalzi. You’ve got a huge reader base – that’s power, Man, power, snarky trollish power of almost unlimited capacity at your beck and call. Use it, come on, it’ll be fun.

    Think about it, you could set up you own “Scalzi Seal of Internet Kindness(Powered by BaconCat(tm))” – Beat the rest of them to the punch, I say. I’m thinking the SSIK would look something like the “Buddy Christ” from Dogma – except bald. And charge people to put it on their sites, charge a lot. Anybody doesn’t pay, and we, your loyal readers, will flood their sites with snarky foulness until they crumple. Bawhahahaha! You could RULE the blogosphere. World domination!

    (Disclaimer: If you delete this post you’re violating my civil rights. It’s in the Constitution, look it up. In the Ye Olde Intertoobs Section – the Blogosphere shall make no rule regarding the posting of snark, dickhead.)

  26. The article notes that some bloggers think deleting obnoxious comments is a violation of the commenter’s right to free speech.

    When people say “free speech” like this, I realize that what they actually mean is “speech free from consequences.”

    I never did see any blogger who was trying to make it illegal to be an obnoxious asshole in the comments; they just don’t want to invite the assholes over to their house.

    What the people who want “free speech”, as they mean it, is that they can say anything that they want and not only can we not disagree, but we HAVE TO LISTEN.

    Fuck that.

  27. Thank you!

    A blogger has every right to delete nasty comments, and deal with trolls as she sees fit. As a blogger, I am held responsible for the content of my blog. That also extends to the comments on entries I have written. I could be sued to the seventh hell and back again, if I, for instance, leave up a comment that basically consists of fascist propaganda (for instance).

    Instead of policing the internet in order to make it a “safe space” for the clueless masses, people should be taught how to deal with trolls – or grow a thicker skin. The first thing every blog owner should learn is: My blog, my rules, bitch!

    I really have a hard time to understand where all this screeching for “safe spaces” and “codes of conduct” comes from. Do these people even live in the real world? Or are they hung up on their pink and bubbly dreams of an ideal world where every one is just.so.terribly.nice to everybody else (in which I – honestly – would not want to live)?

    How are they going to enforce this “code of conduct” anyway? Sending the internet cops over to my house? Yeah, right.

  28. Kate:

    Main Entry: 2censor
    Function: transitive verb
    Inflected Form(s): cen·sored; cen·sor·ing /’sen(t)-s&-ri[ng], ‘sen(t)s-ri[ng]/
    : to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable &lt censor the news > also : to suppress or delete as objectionable &lt censor out indecent passages &gt

    Just because John isn’t a government doing wholesale banning, that doesn’t make it any less censorship on his part. Just because YOU may have some bad connotations associated with this word, please don’t think the rest of us do. He’s censoring out posts and people he finds objectionable. There’s NOTHING wrong with that.

  29. How would one enforce a blogger code of conduct? Fines, imprisonment, corporal punishment? Let the blog site owner handle the issue their own way, that would be the essence of the freedom that is implied in the responsibility of running your own blog.
    John’s approach is certainly the best i have heard, and if you don’t like, you should exercise your inherent right to go somewhere else on the internet.
    Don’t like someone leaving nasty comments on your blog, delete them, can’t expend the effort to delete them, don’t allow comments, or permit those with passwords to leave comments. Don’t want to do that, shut your computer off and step away from the keyboard.

    “This isn’t a democracy, it’s a cheerocracy!”

  30. I agree with all this. So does, it appears, every blogger not suffering from rectocranial inversion.

  31. I will continue to lurk and shirk responsible commenting, however I reserve the right to bloviate now and in the future.

  32. On a tangential note, thank you so very much for saying “I couldn’t care less”. As peeves go, it’s as petty as they come, but it’s my peeve and I like it.

  33. I think the purpose of the ‘blogger code of conduct’ is to give people permission to delete posts on their own blogs. It appears to give people a standard set of rules that they can use to police their own blogs, with a banner link to allow them to alert people that certain conduct will not be allowed.

    Enforcement isn’t an issue, because the blog’s own owners will be the ones doing the enforcement. Wales and O’Reilly could very well have just duplicated Scalzi’s code of conduct to much the same effect.

    Some people have the idea that because it is the internet, they can say whatever they want, wherever they want. To a certain extent, that may be the status quo – not because of any ‘right’ but because of a lack of enforcement of the kind of common sense rules such as the ones promulgated by Scalzi. This ‘code’ is really more about self empowerment than a set of rules that any blog owner will be required to follow.

    In effect, the purpose is to warn posters that certain posts may be deleted if they choose to post on a code of conduct following blog.

    So all the questions about enforcement really miss the point. Blog owners will not be subject to ‘enforcement’ – blog posters may feel the effects of it, and the posted link to the code will allow the owner to point to the rules, much as Scalzi does, to explain why a post was deleted, should they choose to give an explaination post deletion, or a warning prior to bannenation or deletion.

  34. I think you’re all over reacting.

    This doesn’t strike me at all as an attempt to “police” or “control” the Internet. It sounds much more like an affirmation process, where people who want to proclaim agreement with O’Reilly/Wales (or Scalzi/Greenberg, or Reynolds/Malkin, or Smith/Jones, etc.) can do so. If enough people affirm to one of these, then word gets out there and the affirmation takes on some value in the public arena. If not, then it fades away. Much like all of those “eTrust”-like banners that were all over the web when eCommerce took off, or the “I Power Blogger” logos that float around those sites.

    John – you obviously won’t be affirming to this or any other “code.” Good for you. That’s just as valid a choice as the people who do so. It’s precisely the unstructured, democratic (small ‘d’) nature of the web that takes this from “dangerous” and “regulation” to a harmless social experiment.

    The question around who can/can’t delete comments is, IMHO, a separate topic entirely. People who leave offensive comments on their site get what they deserve. People who complain about their offensive comments being deleted from someone else’s site likewise get what they deserve. People who post offensive things about someone else on their own personal websites (a la the death threat posts Ms. Sierra found) risk getting their asses hauled into court just like anyone else who makes threatening public statements about others. The Internet, in this case, is just the medium…

  35. Brian Greenberg:

    “This doesn’t strike me at all as an attempt to ‘police’ or ‘control’ the Internet.”

    Well, possibly excepting the part in the article about “the community policing itself” to maintain the standards, which sort of explicitly suggests that policing is part of the set-up. My point is that the policing simply won’t work, because there’s no way for enforcement to happen, and (also) there should be no way for enforcement to happen, since I don’t want anyone but me to have a say in how I run my site. So it’s both theoretically overly intrusive while being practically useless. Truly, the best of both worlds, I’d say.

  36. There is no “community” — there’s me and how I choose to run this joint.

    “And, you know, there is no such thing as society.” -Margaret Thatcher

  37. Jamie(and Ian), you are completely correct. My post was not trying to come across as attacking, and in hindsight, I think my wording may have come across that way.

    Any individual or organization has the right to ban or delete comments from bloggers who have crossed the predetermined boundaries that make up what is indecent and objectionable.

    What I was trying to state was that unless you are visiting ‘feelfreetoshitoneverywordIsay.com’ there should be common sense and logic when posting to someone’s site.

    However, what really shakes my banana tree is the fact by claiming blog writer censorship, and arguing against the dictionary definition that you provided, some people are actually fighting for the right to abuse and lace comments with objectionable and indecent material.

    The fundamental flaw of arguing for or against censorship or setting up a bloggers ‘code,’ is that everyone has differing opinions as to what is socially acceptable.

    Which takes me back to my original thought, if you’re not on a comment free zone website where anything goes, and you’ve been deleted for something;

    a.) you probably deserved it
    b.) you are hanging around on the wrong side of the web and it’s time to find better friends.

    (as an aside, I’d be curious to see how many people do associate the word ‘censorship’ negatively)

  38. I wonder if there’s a general difference between blog commenters and LJ commenters?

    I’ve turned comments on and off in my blog a number of times. Frequently, when I’ve posted about politics, I’ve wound up with some very irrational, abusive comments (and not necessarily about me, but often about the person I’ve been writing about). I have no problem deleting comments from trolls.

    I tend to see less of this kind of behavior in LJs, perhaps because they tend to be a little more “hidden;” often just restricted to one’s friends and families.

  39. “Just because John isn’t a government doing wholesale banning, that doesn’t make it any less censorship on his part. Just because YOU may have some bad connotations associated with this word, please don’t think the rest of us do. He’s censoring out posts and people he finds objectionable. There’s NOTHING wrong with that.”

    The problem is that in the common usage these days “censorship” is used as a rallying cry when “editing” is what actually happened. Hereabouts there has been a flurry over legislation to prevent “censorship” of student newspapers by the school administration. The word censorship is used because it carries emotional baggage and smacks of tyranny.

    I think a more fair definition of censorship is the prohibition of content or POV by a third party – not the publisher.

    John publishes Whatever and we are mere stringers, freelance reporters, or writers of letters to the editor. When he selects what is published he is editing. The author of the offending post is not prevented from saying what he or she thinks – they can self-blog, buy and ad, spray paint it on their roof and no one will have anything to say about it.

  40. I think one of the unintended consequences of this code and its ridiculous little badges is that they’d become the equivalent of a “Kick Me” sign. All you’d need is some forum filled with jackholes deciding to descend en masse on poor, little ILikeMyKitten.org faster than the site’s owner can delete the Photoshopped images of kittens performing unspeakable acts of depravity. It’s 2007, people! How can you not be aware of John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory or its like?

  41. >censorship defined

    Old Jarhead has it right.

    The net sees censorship as damage and routes around it.

    The net doesn’t see cleaning up a website as damage, doesn’t route around it — that’s editing at the end point, not removing info from the feed before it reaches the end point.

    Blacklists and the IDP* exist to block sources of noise, because noise can amount to a denial of service attack.

    Any claimed right to throw a punch stops at my nose.

    Any claimed right to post bills or tags stops at my property line.

    Any claimed right to recreational typing by feeding trolls on my property, likewise.

    Any assertion by someone who sends abusive email that “personal email is confidential and can’t be disclosed, so you can’t complain about what you get in emai” is a last refuge of an abusive scoundrel. It happens.

    ___________
    * complete shunning at the router level of all mail and packets, as well as Usenet messages, from the offending domain(s). [see also: rogue, UDP] — The Net Abuse Jargon File

  42. I think the purpose of the ‘blogger code of conduct’ is to give people permission to delete posts on their own blogs.

    And since when do or did we ever need the permission to do exactly that?

    Honestly, my blog? My rules. I pay for the webspace, I maintain the stupid thing. So no one but me has a say in which comments I delete or not.

    I think it is extremely ridiculous to claim that we need a code of conduct and silly little badges in order to justify normal housekeeping work in our blogs.

  43. Boy got to this one late so I’m not sure many will see this but here we go.

    Who wants to see a list how many ways John can tell the “the whoevers” to kiss his ass? I DO, I DO, I DO!

    I sounds like it should be some sort of final test for writers. An old girlfriend used to shut down guys with “kiss off horse penis breathface”, which has a superior “huh” factor as it’s most redeeming quality. C’mon John invite a bunch of you most irascible cohorts and have at it.

    Chang I’m counting on you to tip the scale here.

  44. O’Reilly’s need to introduce regulations

    “Regulations”? Holy sinister implications of government conspiracies, Batman!

    They’re, like, proposed guidelines for bloggers to voluntarily follow. There’s no suggestion that this be a ‘regulation’, or that blogs all have to follow it lest they be kicked off teh Internetz. They’re O’Reilly throwing out ideas for a voluntary code of conduct and soliciting comments.

  45. I was being mildly hyperbolic on that one, Mythago. Sorry that wasn’t immediately clear.

  46. Well, you know how the Internet is. Reading original sources is tedious, so you mention ‘regulations’ as part of a crabby rant and the next thing you know, somebody’s screaming about O’Reilly’s call to get Ted Kennedy to put toll booths on the tubes of the Intarweeb.

  47. As John said, it’s the “community will police itself” language that invites the snark. Of course, anyone attempting to police Whatever will probably find themselves in the same bit-bucket with the comment spam and the trolls.

    I’m guessing the threat of community self-policement will only be felt by those already too angsty to let themselves delete objectionable comments.

    As for me, I don’t even *allow* comments at my personal blog. Bwahaha! Ultimate censorship! Yeah!

  48. …the next thing you know, somebody’s screaming about O’Reilly’s call to get Ted Kennedy to put toll booths on the tubes of the Intarweeb.

    So would these be the sort with the smiling uniformed official inside saying “Two-fifty, please”? Or the sort with a big funnel into which you through your exact change, which encourages both people who like to see how fast they can drive through them AND people who stop and pick up all the change that previous drivers missed?

    I like those.

  49. I have no problem with someone writing up rules of conduct that I’m free to accept or reject. There are lots of times when I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel in writing up stuff for dealing with stuff as a hotel manager, the same holds true for my blog. Personally I blog on a free to me site and so I accept their rules of conduct – which I’m not likely to break. It’s the telling me what I ‘have’ to do as a blogger that’s the problem.

    I’d suggest that instead of one blogger community there are many blogger communities and so if you want to accept the ‘blogger rules’ of a particular community go ahead and if I don’t like them I’ll find another blogger community where were more in sync – and you can do the same

  50. Sooner or later, somebody was bound to play Miss Manners for the Internets. And if the *concept* of a code of conduct circulates enough to get some percentage of web plebes to straighten up and realize that there are people — real live people — on the other end of the wire, then it’s not all bad, even given that its application is completely unenforceable and consequently mute. And maybe even silly.

    What happened to Kathy Sierra (and what’s surely happened to lots of other women who simply don’t happen to be on the blogger A-list) *isn’t* silly. And it didn’t occur in a vacuum. It happened ’cause other folks who run web sites didn’t take some responsibility themselves to say to commenters, “Dude… don’t you think you’re taking this too far?” …and then to tap the plonk button when the plebes persisted.

    So maybe a web civics lesson of some sort is in order… ’cause sometimes the web feels a bit too like the Lord of the Flies. Or Files, maybe.

    Definitely not Lord of the Dance. Nosiree.

  51. “Freedom of speech” has to do with government enforcement — not with private platforms.

    Fox could not get away with their crap were it not so.

  52. Ok… for this “Code of Conduct” to mean anything at all, it would have to be enforceable, either legally or socially.

    Legal enforcement is impossible, even if a number of countries were to enact legislation. The Internet is an international community, and there’s really no such thing as international law. Simply place your server somewhere with less strict guidelines and you’re free.

    Social enforcement is even more laughable. Everyone has a different threshold between what we consider civil and obscene. And frankly, a lot of us are here on the Internet purely for the freedom it allows us. This is not to say that etiquette is to be ignored, but site owners can set whatever rules they want.

    So, not only is it completely unfounded in reality, it can’t be enforced. Figures.

  53. Well, possibly excepting the part in the article about “the community policing itself” to maintain the standards, which sort of explicitly suggests that policing is part of the set-up.

    Umm…doesn’t “self-policing” mean the precise absence of policing (by anyone other than one’s self, that is?) The use of the word “policing” doesn’t make this so evil.

    I’m basically saying the same thing as Mythago – it’s a suggestion that can be voluntarily adopted or ignored. If lots of people agree with it, it has some value. If everyone rejects it (as is being done here with great enthusiasm), then it, by definition, goes away. That sounds about right to me…

  54. Brian Greenberg:

    “Umm…doesn’t ‘self-policing’ mean the precise absence of policing (by anyone other than one’s self, that is?)”

    The article doesn’t say “self-policing,” Brian; that’s just you redefining what’s been written to fit the point you want to argue. It says “the community will police itself” which rather suggests “community policing.” Which suggests people other than the site proprietor attempting to tell the proprietor how to run their site.

    Which I am against, and which is not self-policing at all, except in the aggregate sense of a community being a “self.” However, even if that “self” exists, which I don’t believe it does, it certainly doesn’t have the right to tell this self, meaning me, what to do with my own site.

    This site is clearly self-policed; it doesn’t need an extra layer of people trying to police it, and I resent the implication that it needs the extra layer of policing, which is what this stupid Code of Conduct is ultimately about.

    What you and to some extent Mythago are eliding is the fact that crap like this Code of Conduct needs to be vigorously kicked in the head, because it’s not just a benign suggestion, it’s an attempt — arguable a very clueless one — to standardize discourse and in doing so have a certain clique of Weberati attempt to assert control over things they have no business attempting to control, even as they hand wave about the idea of “oh, it’s just voluntary.” It’s not going to work — indeed it never had a chance to work — but it’s worth deriding it so decisively and roundly that no one else, particularly high-profile, self-appointed Web moralists, gets it into their damn fool head to try to do it again.

  55. I think the simple fact that this group of intelligent and generally calm, thoughtful people (yes you) are choosing to (politely) thumb their noses and say, “yeah sure go ahead, but count us out” is clearly indicative of the unlikely future of a systematic “code” of any kind.

    In light of that, Rakunas’s comment “equivalent of a “Kick Me” sign” is all the more ominous. If we’re being politely snarky about this what do you think the bottom-feeding anger-management stunted Trolls are likely to do?

  56. Scalzi – I disagree with you on the need for the Code to get kicked in the head. Not all bloggers have the self confidence and writing ability that you have. There are a lot of bloggers, many of whom are not all that familiar with the internet who may find this not only useful, but essential to their feeling comfortable opening up their blogs for comments.

    The Code does attempt to create a community police force, and beyond the code, the community will create a set of norms for blogs that display one of their banners. Instead of facing down a horde of right or left wing commenters, for example, alone, they have the ability to delete comments, and have that decision affirmed by the ‘community.’

    I doubt that the norms and day to day decisions will be created and made by Tim and Jimmy – just like every other community, those choices will be made by the people who are most enthusiastic about the concept on a daily basis. What will decide whether it succeeds will be the transparency of the process, and the objective fairness of the decisions and norms.

    I think the Code is something that would be helpful for people who are at the ‘AOL’ stage of blogging – not enough confidence or resources to go it alone, so they voluntarily join up with a group who, in exchage for their support, will pile on people who’s comments violate the Code. For example, if a bunch of rude and nasty anti-circumcision people invade your post on why you decided to have your son circumcised, you already have the ability to delete their posts, but in addition, you get the support of tens or hundreds of people who will validate that decision. If you go overboard, and delete comments that don’t violate the Code, that community will call you on it, and at worst, ask you to remove the banner for non-compliance with the Code.

    While the concept of voluntarily submitting my decisions to the community for approval or criticism is an anathema to me, life has taught me that there are a lot of people who, given the choice between lone-wolfing it or being a sheep, will happily move into the pasture.

    I think you overestimate the sophistication and comfort level of a large number of bloggers out there, or conversely, you are setting the bar too high in terms of what you expect from them.

    There can be only one Scalzi….

  57. Lurker and infrequent commenter here to say that this entry and comment thread is why I read The Whatever every day. Some days it’s thought provoking others informative and still others silly. Some days you get all three.

    You have paid for a site for gazillions of people to come and enjoy and if they can’t play by your clearly stated rules they deserve to be deleted.

    And I always learn something new here, so that’s a plus.

    So um… Thanks John for The Whatever and for keeping the butt-heads out of the discourse.

  58. Actually, there’s not even one “John Scalzi,” since my dad has that name.

    But fair enough, Tor. I still think a conduct code is less important than a simple reminder that everyone has the right to control their own site, however, and I wish the discussion were couched in those terms instead.

  59. Agreed. And if you don’t want to be The Scalzi, like Madonna, Britney and Cher, you don’t have to be.

    There can be numerous Scalzis…

  60. And we all lead vast legions of Angry Spider Monkeys. Which are less likely to throw their own poop than Trolls.

  61. It occurs to me, as I read the last few comments here, that Scalzi may be right about viciously kicking this dumb idea in the head instead of letting it die of deserved neglect. The Hays Code was voluntary, the MPAA ratings system is voluntary, the Comics Code Authority is voluntary, the ESRB is voluntary, and the RIAA’s Parental Advisory stickers are essentially voluntary. But in each of these cases, a “voluntary” ratings system became a de facto mandatory certification, necessary to obtain widespread circulation or publication.

    I wouldn’t say any of these codes had a positive or intended effect. In some instances–e.g. the MPAA and RIAA codes–one can even point to the ratings having an opposite effect than that intended, with movies or albums adding gratuitously offensive material in the hope of getting a “more marketable” restricted rating. (For some horror movie and comedy sub-genres, an “R” rating is the sweet spot; similarly, a Parental Advisory sticker can help market certain hard rock, metal or hip hop subgenres).

    One can certainly imagine a scenario in which ISPs or gateways start requiring websites to meet “voluntary” standards as part of a service agreement or to provide access. And one can imagine folks (like our erstwhile host, John) who don’t want to submit to such a system but then have to choose between a “harmless” gesture and having a crap ISP and/or no audience.

    Sorry for the long post; hope it added something useful to the conversation. And John, thanks for having us over.

  62. An Eric:

    “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” John Gilmore…

    The day that I no longer can choose an ISP through which I can post whatever legal content I want on the internet, within reason, is the day that someone has figured out how to kill the internet. Or, I am living in a repressive threocratic state, and need to move.

  63. The article doesn’t say “self-policing,” Brian; that’s just you redefining what’s been written to fit the point you want to argue.

    Ah, John – I’ve missed these friendly discussions of ours…

    I don’t think we’re on opposite sides of this. I have a blog too, and I have no intention of subscribing to any of these codes. Also, I delete comments all the time (after all, at it’s core, is comment spam all that different than offensive/threatening comments?) So I’m firmly with you in the “it’s my site, leave me alone” camp.

    Your point about the need to decisively squash this as opposed to ignoring it and letting it go away is an interesting one, though.

    If you see this as the equivalent of a nascent MPAA or ESRB rating system, then I definitely see your point (although one could argue that voluntary systems like the MPAA’s have become basically mandatory because a significant portion of the consumers deems them useful, at which point they becomes a good thing).

    I read it as more akin to a bumper sticker on a car. If my bumper sticker says “Go Yankees” and I take my car to a Met game (or, God forbid, a Red Sox game), I don’t expect anyone to ask me to remove the sticker…

    At any rate, lashing out against the whole idea certainly does no harm, and (if we’re being totally honest here) is a little bit fun to watch, so more power to ya…

  64. The Tor, to paraphrase Jefferson, some days I tremble for my country. I don’t want to sound silly and alarmist–which is so easy to do–but there are some mornings when you look at the paper (or a favorite blog) and wonder if it can happen here, y’know?

    Brian Greenberg, if you look at the history of the Hays Code, one can make the argument that “significant portion of consumers” merely meant an extremely vocal minority that was able to cow movie producers into adopting (extreme and sometimes absurd) regulations out of fear–and not merely fear of losing a few ticket sales at the box office. One can also look to the Congressional hearings that led to the CCA and “Tipper stickers” on albums as examples of the basic fact that Congresspeople like picking up issues created by vocal minorities when those issues allow them to look concerned and vigilant; this can prompt dramatic defensive reactions from industries that would rather make a show of self-regulating than possibly litigating over Constitutional freedoms.

    (I’d also add that the ESRB system is a good example of an industry making a show that is useless to consumers but useful to companies and politicians who want to look like they’re “out front” of an issue. The ESRB allowed politicians to say they had forced software companies to change their behaviors and the companies to say they were concerned about their consumers–and yet we have a grandmother currently suing Take2 because she bought her 14 year old a game labeled as appropriate for 17 year olds which included content allegedly suitable for 18 year olds. The label was apparently useless to consumers and absurd; go figure.)

  65. I think the problem these are trying to solve is not that John can’t control his own site, but that John (or whoever) can’t control a site that allows posts that slander him or make ugly threats to him or his family. This code isn’t going to make someone run a “clean” site if they don’t want to, and since it isn’t going to be accepted widely enough to matter it isn’t even going to be helpful in finding blogs that do this.

  66. “Indeed, the reason that we’re now at a point where some self-appointed guardians of the discourse have decided it’s necessary to tell the rest of us slobs how to talk to each other is that people apparently forgot they have the right on their own sites to tell obnoxious dickheads to shut the hell up.”

    YES! This is the same mentality that causes the problems in the first place, only reversed. Only held by nice people instead of dickwads.

    I frequent a few well-moderated forums online. There are others that would interest me, but they aren’t moderated in any significant way. All three forums had initial periods of resistance, where people insisted on breaking the rules. After a while, this stopped. Sure, someone violates a rule occasionally, but they’re usually new and they learn fast.

  67. Eric: I hear you. But when I see subpoenas issued to the AG, and the fact that blogging has forced, and will continue to force, Congress and the MSM to confront issues that they may not want to confront (the White House’s private email server, for one thing), I have hope. I think that if we were going to devolve into a theocratic dictatorship, we would be a lot further along. We’re flirting with it, but I believe that the American system has enough checks and balances to keep us on the right side of the line…

    Kero aka Kevin: I don’t believe the Code is intended to shut down an independent site that posts slander about Scalzi – that would be an unreasonable goal. But as a side effect, if Blogger recieved 1,000 complaints about a site, they may be quicker to pull it than if they get 10 or 1, but I think the Code is more of an attempt to provide a tool for people to control their own sites, and to create a community of people who work together to rebuff trollstorms.

  68. As a non-Blogger who comments (albeit rarely) to a handful of them, I’m pretty sure an acute person could draw up a list of Principles that contribute significantly to making all (or most) blogs work well. I think (maybe unlike John) that there really is something that might be called “the community of blogtopia”, that it includes several different social groups, and that there are some principles that apply to the whole, with more that apply to the subsets. I’d also say that each individual blog is an entity or family unto itself, practicing “family manners”. The whole is complex enough that creating an Etiquette Guide would be tricky, but I think it could be done acceptably. Using the word “Rules”, and saying anything about “enforcement”, strike me as being Major Errors in Judgment.

  69. Some of us blog on hosted blog services. Some of us blog on our own webspace using various blogware packages like WordPress, Movable Type, etc. One of my friends blogs for our local paper. Why is this important?

    There is another layer of ‘enforcement’ in many of these circumstances. When you sign up for service with your service provider, you accept certain terms and conditions. Mostly they’re about not providing clearly illegal information in your blog or website – building nuclear bombs in your basement, or promulgating new wire fraud schemes.

    So here’s the big question: what if some form of blogger code of conduct gets added to common service provider terms and conditions? It’s not so great a leap to envision that being added to the tall stack of techno-legal babble that the customer agrees to when he/she signs up for service.

    Customers can vote with their feet (and their $$) but the whole concept is disconcerting, to say the least.

  70. I can ban trolls from commenting on my journal or my blog.

    I cannot, however, prevent the trolls from posting abuse, insult, threats, and lies about me on websites they control and I don’t.

    Nor can I prevent John Scalzi from declaring that in such a situation he prefers to have trolls abusing women and to publicly defend their excoriation of women like Kathy Sierra – or Jill of Feministe, or indeed the Rutgers basketball team – than to publicly say that he does not agree with such abuse and would prefer not to be associated with it.

    I can just note that sometimes guys can get awfully macho about their right to say what they like about anyone they like, and if you live long enough with that attitude you end up like Don Imus.

  71. Yonmei, that’s just about the stupidest thing anyone’s said on this site in good long time.

  72. Really?

    Were you talking about something else than your right to say anything you like about anyone you like trumping Kathy Sierra’s… what shall we say, preference? not to have murderously sexual threats posted about her, and Jill of Feministe’s… preference not to have male students running an involuntary online “beauty contest” using pics of her and other female law students, and, well, in general, women’s preferences not to receive the kind of abuse we do receive online?

    You took the trouble to write an entire post formally dissociating yourself from bloggers who think that kind of behavior is objectionable. So, you want to be with the mob who argue that abuse, harassment, and threats, are freedom of speech? Great: get away from me.

  73. Yonmei:

    “Really?”

    Well, not anymore, since your most recent post tops it.

    I’m not going to bother to walk through all the logical and rhetorical fallacies in your argument, save they are numerous and embarrassing and pretty damn dumb; I have other things to do with my time than to school you, and I somehow doubt you’d bother to listen. Suffice to say that I believe that if you think my rejection of the O’Reilly/Wales Hall Monitor Theory of Online Discourse somehow equates to any implicit or explicit support of those who terrorize other people (and specifically women) online, you are at best a reader of poor comprehension and a thinker of appallingly unsophisticated talents, and at worst an absolute fucking moron. You take your pick, since I don’t know you well enough to say.

    Now, please stop writing such stupid things on my site, Yonmei. It’s embarrassing to see someone get so many things so very wrong.

  74. Yeah I’ve been banned from a number sites for simply not ahering to a particular point of view, yet I’ve had commenters follow me back to my site and leave ad hominems claiming I won’t accept criticism. Whatever. I delete those.

  75. Yeah I’ve been banned from a number sites for simply not ahering to a particular point of view,

    compare with TNH: “Furthermore, the kind of jerks who post comments that need to be deleted will infallibly cry “censorship!” when it happens”

    Lesson and example, as fitted to one another as glove to hand. It’s a beautiful thing.

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