April 27, 2007

Code of Conduct - a proposal I plan to follow

I have had the opportunity to discuss blogging and anonymous comments in particular with several bloggers with ties to the Outer Banks. Their experience has been similar to mine, finding that the veil of anonymity leads quickly to irresponsible use of the comment feature of this and other blogs. I was reminded of those discussions by a piece written by New York Times tech guru Dave Pogue. Pogue discusses a proposal by tech publisher Tim O'Reilly for a blogging code of conduct. A code that enforces civility but not censorship. You can read O'Reilly's post at his blog: O'Reilly Radar ; Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct O'Reilly lists 7 rules that are worth considering.
1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog
2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
4. Ignore the trolls.
5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

Some time ago I put my real name on my blog and dropped the pseudonym I had been using. More recently I have stopped allowing anonymous comments on this blog. Both of these choices were made to increase accountability for postings and comments. I was tired of the really ugly nature of some of the comments. I didn't want to delete comments because I don't believe in censorship and one of the goals of this site is to foster discussion about issues of interest on the Outer Banks and beyond. Tight control over comments doesn't foster discussion. If readers can't comment freely and fairly a blog quickly becomes a one-sided propaganda vehicle. I have, in the past, deleted comments that were abusive but I did not have any clear guidelines for the action, nor had I clearly stated any standards for acceptable comments.
O'Reilly's proposed guidelines (I don't like the term rules) make sense to me and I plan to put them into use on this blog. I will also use the standards suggested in his post as the test for what is appropriate content and what is not. O'Reilly refers to standards developed by the site BlogHer.org. Their simple community guidelines are:"We embrace the spirit of civil disagreement and we decline to publish unacceptable content. " They go on to list what constitutes unacceptable content:
We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked that is:

* Being used to abuse, harass, stalk or threaten a person or persons
* Libelous, defamatory, knowingly false or misrepresents another person
* Infringes upon any copyright, trademark, trade secret or patent of any third party. (If you quote or excerpt someone's content, it is your responsibility to provide proper attribution to the original author. For a clear definition of proper attribution and fair use, please see The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Legal Guide for Bloggers at this URL: http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/.)
* Violates any obligation of confidentiality
* Violates the privacy, publicity, moral or any other right of any third party
* Contains editorial content that has been commissioned and paid for by a third party, (either cash or goods in barter), and/or contains paid advertising links and/or SPAM or "Stupid Pointless Annoying Messages." For BlogHer's purposes, we define SPAM as anything that qualifies as nonsense unrelated to the discussion, either in comments on a blog or in our forums. This nonsense may take classic forms (e.g., simple links to unrelated content that are often advertising or e-commerce), or more insidious forms.

They also say that they are the arbiters of what constitutes unacceptable content on their site and that they are responsible for enforcing their guidelines.
I am going to use O'Reilly's Code of Conduct for this blog and will start of using the standards from BlogHer to judge the acceptability of comments. This is an effort to promote civility and not enforce censorship.
Let me know what you think and if there are other elements that need to be included. Conduct is an important element in keeping people engaged. No body wants to be involved in a ugly shouting match in person or on line. I hope clearly stating the standards for participation I will foster more discussion and less diatribe.


At 11:49 AM, Blogger Overwash said...

I like what you are trying to do, Bob. Hope it works.

Question: Will you also refuse to endorse and/or link other blogs that allow and/or write the same "trash" (for lack of a better word) that you are trying to keep out?

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Kevin Schwartz said...


Good job. I'm going to be pretty loose while mine gets going, but at the first of trouble, will limit comments. At the DTH, there is virtually no moderation and total anonymity unless someone alerts us to an issue they have with a comment. It's quite a circus sometimes. Lots of discussion in newspaper circles at the moment about comment moderation because of the sheer volume, and newspapers have a funny thing about paying people to censor other people - plus they're cheap!

-- Kevin

At 3:48 PM, Blogger barry j. brockway said...

great to find your blog bob. i am a little disappointed in the outcome of the vote in nags head but life goes on. just returned from a vist to your alma mater as my son is lokking at williams for next year.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Overwash said...

Mayor Bob,
It seems you and Mr.X over at the obxrepublic have developed a dialogue, shared with both of your readers, to which you are at a distinctive dis-advantage, even if you are acquainted with this person who compares himself to an "editor."
If your dialogue(s)continue, do you plan to allow your blog to be a sounding block for his writings?
Again, we are just curious. By the way, his Top 10 post today was his best by far. This guy may be many things, but he ain't no dummy.

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Bob Muller said...

OW- I think that OBXR has spoken quite clearly about his anonymous status and his position on comments. As I have written before it's his blog he can do what he wants to with it. I like his writing style and if I want o comment on what he writes I can do it in my blog. I don't think I am at a disadvantage at all.
If you want to comment on his posts start a blog with that purpose. You can use your blogger ID or even write anonymously. That's the great thing about blogging. The choices are up to us. I've explained my choices. OBXR has explained his. Time to move on.

I am sorry if he thought I took offense at the "was former Mayor" thing. I tried to make it clear I was amused by starting the comment off with the word "smiling".

Kevin- So glad your around. Look forward to reading your stuff again.

Barry. Best of luck to your son. It was a great experience for me (A very long time ago). It was also very cold and very snowy.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Overwash said...

And move on you should, Bob...but we are still waiting for you to respond to our first question (above) ref: endorsing and/or linking "trash" e.g. libelous/slanderous remarks made by other blogs. Will you endorse/support/link these blogs?
"Your Code of Conduct" is on trial here. What's your answer.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Ronnie said...


Great Post! I really enjoy reading the different views from the local blogs. I agree with you and I am glad to see someone local follows O'Reilly.

As for "overwash" - I believe he is missing a big point. Linking to another blog does not mean you endorse everything that author publishes. Comments are a different matter. You have every right (and I believe responsibility) to moderate comments and only allow the ones you feel are acceptable.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Overwash said...

I do not believe we are missing the point. Of course Muller has every right to link whom he wishes. But, the point is Muller is promoting ( and we commend him for it) a Code of Conduct, while at the same time endorsing a site that grossly violates that rule of conduct. Muller says he "likes his writing "style"...We say style does not trump "good taste/bad conduct". If one lies down with dogs, they are sure to get up with fleas. Muller owes his readers an explantion. It is clear that he is trying to lay down rules for good discussion/debate on his site; yet, early on he is clearly obsessed with this rogue site; one that clearly does not follow the path he wants his readers to take.

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Ronnie said...

I do believe you are missing the point. A talk radio station typically has a variety of shows on their station. It does not mean the management endorses every view of every host.

Since you applaud the Code of Conduct that Bob is adopting, will beachhuggers abide by the same code? I wish you would get your own blog - we could all comment on each other's views instead of using Bob's forum.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Overwash said...


Ignoring Ronnie's comments (above) We again remind you that you have stated, in your remarks ...."We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked that is:...(and so forth)...

Re-read this closely. Note the word "linked"...Does this wording not bind you to your own (now established) Code of Conduct?

We rest our case.

At 8:28 PM, Blogger ooOoo said...

Ouch! First off, I wasn't in the least bit offended by the Mayor pointing out my faux pas. Found it quite funny.

If any local blogger feels my blog is becoming mean-spirited, libelous, or grossly misrepresenting actual, true, facts, I am sure they will let it be known on their blogs.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Bob Muller said...

OW (et. al). I don't find anything AT ALL that comes even close to the standards I listed as to what is unacceptable in anything that OBR has posted. His recent Top 10 list is satire, in the best tradition of Swift, Mark Twain, Stephen Colbert etc. It is acceptable content. Even if it wasn't I didn't link to the post or even mention it. I am responsible for what is on my blog, what I write and what I allow others to post in the comment section. I am not going to try to police every post on every blog or site on the Internet.
I am more that satisfied that my decisions meet my standards and in this case my decision is final, as my CoC explains.
Asked and answered lets move on.


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