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Angry People Prove O’Reilly’s Point

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It’s hard to put a subtle debate into brief paragraphs, but I did want to elaborate a bit on my take about blogger codes of ethics or whatnot.

Angry People Prove O'Reilly's Point
Angry People Prove O’Reilly’s Point
Angry People Prove O'Reilly's Point

It’s all too easy to wildly misinterpret a general initiative and to start rantin’ and ravin’ about "you can’t impose a code of ethics on me, buddy," that’s not what something like this is, in my mind. Of course some of the misguided substance of O’Reilly’s initial draft didn’t help.

Typical behaviors and conduct come with the territory in any industry. Consistency in conduct, and norms for said conduct, are the hallmark of any professional activity.

Of course no one should favor restrictive, tight-assed "you should communicate in this way" moralizing for the blogger community. Whoops, I just moralized. I meant, I don’t favor it.

And it shouldn’t be an overly formal certification. It should, above all, be useful. By self-identifying that they adhere to a certain viewpoint of what blogging is about, bloggers can communicate the rules of engagement for their particular publishing exercise, without having to constantly restate them.

A voluntary certification? Maybe not even that.

But if a persistent problem is hit-and-run comments – as we’ve seen in online communities since BBS days – then bloggers will begin using more robust user-identifying password systems for comments. Just a small example – but in two years I expect we’ll at least beyond the lazy debate stage where it’s seen as a complete outrage to have to log into a site to comment.

No one’s talking about taking away anyone’s precious anonymity, if they feel like spewing venom somewhere that permits it. But I have the right to opt into ways of regulating that – that’s my freedom as the publisher. In fact maybe it’s my responsibility to do so.

Doctors, lawyers, journalists, and other professionals are subject to regulatory standards to varying degrees.

We’re bloggers, not doctors. OK. But further development of blogger *conventions* is absolutely healthy.

As for some of the other quasi-journalistic regulation proposed by O’Reilly: perhaps heavy-handed. But I restate my original point: someone started a productive debate, and from the tone taken by some of those who comment on blogs, many people have lost the ability to debate or to even acknowledge the substance of the other guy’s argument before dismissing it. Could the anonymity coupled with immediacy be fueling a degree of contempt? Admittedly, blogosphere contempt can work in both directions, or multiple directions, until you give due credit for the fact that many well-known bloggers are accountable for their tone & substance alike, because they’re visible. They’re putting themselves out there.

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