Some people want one and some don’t. So, nothing new when it comes to standards and codes of conduct, some people like them, some don’t.
Iâ€™m writing this post in direct response to a post written by Damien Mulley, columnist for the Sunday Tribune in Ireland. Damien is well respected within the Irish blogsphere and is responsible for creating the Irish blog awards. Ok, so itâ€™s a small country with a few people when compared to the countries that most of our readers live in, but his view (and those who commentate on his blog) is undoubtedly valuable to this debate.
Damien entitled his post Blogger code of conduct? Two words â€“ F*ck off. Note that I replaced the u.
So, I think we can gather from Damienâ€™s post that he doesnâ€™t like the idea of a code for blogs. However, Iâ€™m hoping this view is tainted by a misconception so we can have an informed debate, rather than slamming the door on his way out of the room. I also feel that many of the commentators on his blog now have a tainted view based on his own opinion, which I believe, is misinformed.
When I see companies starting up codes of conduct I think ISO certification, I think of these astroturfing â€œplan englishâ€ campaigns which charge organisations A LOT to write better documents. What happened to Kathy Sierra was horrible but this hysteria does nobody any good and it is sickening to see business people pitch their products at such a moment.
I donâ€™t wish to make any assumptions as Damien hasnâ€™t named any companies. However, Iâ€™ll state Segalaâ€™s position for the record.
I came up with the idea for a code of conduct (as Iâ€™m sure many others did) for blogs a couple of years ago. This was mainly because I saw the potential for mainstream commentators to pretend to be someone they’re not, with the aim of positively or negatively commenting on brands that they either owned, or were in competition with. In doing this, they could have a huge impact on consumer opinion and therefore make an impact on a company’s bottom line. In fact, a PR company was caught doing this recently.
Damien went onto say
Follow netiquette, follow good manners, be civil, or donâ€™t. I really hope that something like this doesnâ€™t spawn some elitist bully-boy standards or code body that does nothing more than charge an admin fee and bully people into signing up. Thatâ€™s what unions are for. Freedom of speech should not be cut back on because of a few assholes. Why on earth do we need to impose guidelines on ourselves online when we donâ€™t need to offline? A blogging community wonâ€™t tolerate people like those that attacked Kathy and will de-link from them and will just shun them and then donâ€™t need a checklist to do so.
Unless Damien is referring to a specific code that I havenâ€™t seen, I think heâ€™s blowing this whole idea way out of proportion. I agree with everything he says about bully-boy standards etc. However, who said that someone, or more importantly, some government was going to impose anything on anyone. I donâ€™t believe for a second a code for blogs could possibly become an ISO standard, nor would I like it to be. I just happen to be a qualified ISO auditor so I have the experience (and qualification) to know that itâ€™s not applicable, relevant, warranted or wanted. Perish the thought even!
What I (Segala) intend to do is facilitate debate, formalise codes and then endorse/promote them through ContentLabel.org. Itâ€™s not for us to say what is appropriate or inappropriate in a particular country or for a particular culture; itâ€™s about enabling more relevance and reliability on the Web using technology and new content classification standards.
Iâ€™m not trying to police the Internet, or suggest someone should. In fact, I hate the idea of companies such as DoCoMo restricting access to the Web.
The vast majority of blogs on the Web are not likely to follow a code, or even know that one exists. Most blogs are personal ramblings of individuals who like to share their thoughts online. There is however, a small percentage of bloggers who may consider themselves professional bloggers, online journalists, or just journalists (or something else?). Of these bloggers, some of them may wish to promote themselves as professionals of some description, as a differentiator from the long tail of blogs.
I wonder if Damienâ€™s fear of a code was due to Sam Sethiâ€™s reference to my brainchild, in his post about an unfortunate incident which involved Kathy Sierra receiving death threats from other well known bloggers.
I too am going to do two things.
1. Turn off anonymous comments
2. Work with Paul Walsh to help bring out a bloggers code of conduct which he and I have spoken about for sometime, using content labels.
Please note that I didnâ€™t write a post in response to Kathyâ€™s unfortunate situation to promote the use Content Labels. I didnâ€™t remain silent on purpose either; I just didnâ€™t see the need to talk about a (potential) code just yet. I actually wanted to put some very rough guidelines together before putting something on ContentLabel.org.
Itâ€™s very unfortunate that Sam’s post could be perceived as him and I discussing a code due to Kathyâ€™s situation. This is not the case.
So, my response is simple, if you’re a blogger and you donâ€™t like the code, donâ€™t adhere to it. If you like to read blogs and don’t care for a code of conduct, then this conversation is almost irrelevant. Perhaps more than one code is needed for different requirements, who knows?! The conversation hasn’t really started until now.
So, please feel free to keep an eye on http://contentlabel.org where the code will be created, debated, ratified, formalised, endorsed and promoted by industry.