O'Reilly's code of conduct
Monday, April 09, 2007 by Dave Winer.
We all seem to be speaking with one voice today, this code of conduct idea is not a good one. Of course the NY Times couldn't resist putting it on page one since it confirms their assertion that the blogosphere is a bad place. Maybe next time well-intentioned people will avoid the rush to perform for the big publications.
Jeff Jarvis: "O'Reilly only set us up to be called nasty, unmannered, and thus uncivilized hooligans."
Mike Arrington: "It feels like a big angry mob is arming itself to the teeth and looking for targets, and I need to choose whether I'm with them or against them."
I don't think a mob is forming this week, around this issue. The emotional rages have predictable cycles. A catalyst appears, a few days of escalating emotion, then it dies down, and people are left with a bad feeling from all the venting, and some people are really badly hurt.
The thing I'd like to see is not a code of conduct for commenters (O'Reilly's exercise proves how pointless it is), rather a code of conduct for well-intentioned individuals when mobs are forming. How can you subtract energy from the stampede? And what can you do to help the people who are being hurt by it?
If you look at how the mob formed around Kathy Sierra, you'll see a fair number of A-list and near-A-list bloggers who are frustrated by trolls. Some who were targets of abuse had never been targeted this way, probably had never even seen anyone targeted this way. I got a phone call from Maryam Scoble, who until the mob scene, considered me a friend; she was enraged that I wasn't joining in condemning the people the mob was devouring (who weren't, imho, responsible for the really nasty stuff). Her rage didn't sway me, I let my comments stand, unedited.
Today Tim is trying to justify the stampede, and the way it went after the wrong people. There's no justification. If you want to heal from this, and I gather from reading many of the posts that's the undercurrent, a good way to do it is to take back the mean things you said about the people who weren't responsible. If you don't want to retract them publicly, do it privately.
I have been at the center of these riots, some have even been led by Tim O'Reilly. The damage continues to this day, in the form of people who think what they say about me must have an element of truth to it. In a world where people don't always meet each other face to face to form their own opinions, this kind of tagging can be permanent and hurtful and costly.
If you want to reform the blogosphere, here's where to start. Have a brigade of people whose job it is to put out fires when they start. To defend the people who no one wants to defend. That, imho, would be a very positive first step.