Lots of buzz on the internets today about Tim O'Reilly's proposed Blogging Code of Conduct... My opinion: It's about damn time.
The conversation really kicked into gear with the NYTimes article on the 9th. Author Darcy Padilla put it this way: "A recent outbreak of antagonism among several prominent bloggers “gives us an opportunity to change the level of expectations that people have about what’s acceptable online,” said Mr. O’Reilly, who posted the preliminary recommendations last week on his company blog (radar.oreilly.com). Mr. Wales then put the proposed guidelines on his company’s site (blogging.wikia.com), and is now soliciting comments in the hope of creating consensus around what constitutes civil behavior online.
Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Wales talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about. Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself. “If it’s a carefully constructed set of principles, it could carry a lot of weight even if not everyone agrees,” Mr. Wales said."
O'Reilly wrote about the new code on one of his blogs: "We've drafted a code of conduct that will eventually be posted on bloggingcode.org, and created a badge that sites can display if they want to link to that code of conduct.
But because we want a period of review, we don't want to finalize that code yet. I've put a draft below (and you'll see it's based closely on the BlogHer Community Guidelines that I linked to last week.) But we're also working with wikia to put the draft through a wiki-based review process on blogging.wikia.com. (There's an easy to remember shortcut link at http://blogging.wikia.com/wiki/BCC) Please feel free to join in and edit the wiki as well as encouraging others to do so. We'll post the final version on bloggingcode.org, along with the html to display the badge and link to the code."
There's also a little forum there where you can discuss the code and offer your feedback.
I note this isn't the first time something like this has been discussed. Some have roundly rejected the idea as an unacceptable infringement on free speech. Others have insisted that something must be done. There's a very interesting and thoughtful discussion on all of this at the Stop Cyberbullying blog.
Is there a role for mediation to play in all of this? Some friends in the ADR field, like Diane Levin and Jim Melamed, have emailed me posing this question. Personally, I think there might be a role for mediation, but it's peripheral to the central issue, which is the overall tone of the blogosphere. Anonymous harrassment can't be mediated. But if there was some sort of voluntary process for resolving misunderstandings, that might have some value, if only as a gesture of good intentions. The real challenge is a facilitation and moderation challenge, and it sounds like the vast majority of bloggers out there are not all that excited about taking it on.
More to come, I'm sure...