On The Oft-Mentioned Blogger's Code of Conduct, Which I Believe To Be Another Useless Thing For Bloggers To Chatter About

Quite honestly, I think that this code is pretty damn typical of the blogosphere: a knee-jerk response to a very particular (regrettable) incident, magnified through unrealistic expectations that -

  1. it might have been averted, and that
  2. people can somehow turn into civilized beings through edict

So people are now not only building upon those unrealistic expectations but also overreacting to an extent that borders on the ridiculous.

I have never bothered much with making public comments regarding blogging (mostly because Scott Adams said it best in three thousand words), and I have only written once about the real dimension blogging has (or should have) in one's life and considered the matter closed thereafter.

But then again I've made a point of employing Common Sense in most of what I do here - I've had a Disclaimer up ever since I started this site, and the Comment Policy (and the like) have been in place for a good while now, so the code itself almost makes sense to me.

What does not make sense is the way people are going on about it as if it were going to change things.

And yes, Tim O'Reilly may have the right intentions, but I'm surprised that he believes people will rally under a flag at this point - this is a civilizational issue, not something that is specific to blogs - defamation and harassment have been a mainstay of humanity since the dawn of time, and the early press (you know, back when loose sheets were posted in public billboards) was rife with this sort of thing.

But I will stop giving examples and not mention Usenet or the dial-up BBS days, since I don't want to turn this into a trip down memory lane.

Suffice it to say this is not a novelty, and that people, when left to their own devices online, will not always be on their best behavior - humans tend to be petty and mean when they can hit their opponents and walk away unscathed, and that is simply part of (uneducated) human nature.

The main difference between educated and uneducated people is that educated people know they will not walk away unscathed if they do bad things, and have adhered to a moral framework to reason things out before even considering the murkier options.

If this seems needlessly cynical to you, remember that learning from trial and error - which is what morality is supposed to be a sort of heuristic replacement for in the social sense - is a survival trait, and that survival is not usually something you waste time philosophizing about. If yours is at stake, you will grab a rock and hit your opponent, period. It's the way you're wired from time imemorial.

And, of course, the difference between educated people who actually do evil things and those who don't is that the first are indeed educated, but plainly stupid - because they think they will get away with it.

But I digress.

Anyway, my main point (regardless of the particular situation that gave rise to the "code", the current Hype regarding the code or what becomes of it ten years from now) is that if you want to have any sort of web presence, you have to think things through, and keep your head about you.

You don't need biblical figures coming down from the digital equivalent of a flaming mountain carrying a couple of rock slabs (and I personally find it absolutely hilarious that the "code" is being written in a Wiki, which is anything but cast in stone), a public stoning (or Slashdotting) of the guilty parties, or any sort of organized effort - what you need is Common Sense.

And, of course, kicking off a crusade of any kind is - demonstrably, literally, and with plenty of historical precedent - overkill.

But hey, don't mind me. Just don't come complaining when some bored flunky on some legislative court somewhere sees all the fuss and decides that, for the public good, they really ought to draft a bill regarding (and I can already see the words in my mind) "unrestrained forms of anonymous public expression on the Internet" or some similar thing.

Oh, wait...

Follow-Up On This, And Sure Signs It's Gone Over The Top

Update: I've since been following up on the rest of the chatter about this, and have been reassured that the web badges are not a joke. I still can't believe that, so I'm going to keep a copy of them here for future reference.

You know, to show my grandchildren the crazy things people did back when the Internet was young, very much like we chuckle at Victorian advertising these days.

This is supposed to be the good guy's badge. Quite american, really:

(What next, WANTED signs on "offending" sites?)

And this I suppose, is the future international standard for "end of nannied web":

I suppose they thought this one wasn't quite up to scratch:

...or that this one was too serious:

The best take on the first two, however, came to me by way of this post on Airbag (found via John Gruber) where the following color scale can be found:

'nuff said.