Monday, April 09, 2007

Why is Tim O'Reilly so Upset About Incivility Right Now?

Hadn't been over to Buzzmachine for awhile, but this afternoon, I went over there and found Jeff blasting Tim O'Reilly for O'Reilly's Draft Blogger's Code of Conduct.

All I can say is: Oh. give. me. a. break. Tim.

Is this only coming up now in the hallowed halls of O'Reilly-dom because someone he knows well got very hurt?

Where was O'Reilly last year when myself, Jimmy Bice, Grace Davis, Nancy White, and Bill Anderson were trying to have a discussion on blog civility at SXSW Interactive? At that time, all we got were a bunch of folks who ran message boards wanting to talk about their experiences and what to do about them. Where was O'Reilly when Peggy Phillip got bounced from the blogosphere? Where has O'Reilly been when any of us have got hurt by the weirdness of the blogosphere?

Ironically, Jimmy Wales is working with him on this. Now, I think Jimmy's got some great ideas (esp. his search engine), but might Jimmy want to take a gander at what's going on in some corners of Wikipedia first (asMatt Ingram suggests)?

Thing is, whether it's a blog or a message board or some other kind of online community forum, WE the administrators of that forum make our own policies. If we refuse to make any kind of policy, then shite will happen.

And because we are masters (and mistresses) of our own domains, we can disallow anonymous comments, we can moderate comments, we can even turn off comments. We can go out and blast idiots who attack us--and we can ignore idiots who attack us.

We are not obliged to protect hate speech. And we are not obliged to make blanket rules for the rest of the blogosphere based on something that happened to us. But if hate speech appears, we have the power to do something about it...that doesn't involve externally imposed rules.

Rex Hammock makes the point that suggestions regarding how to handle crapola are great. And yes, suggestions are. Dictums from On High aren't.

And just because I don't support O'Reilly doesn't mean I don't care. I do. I was massively offended by the crap on But I think bloggers handled it the best, using the tools we know how to use--our own blogs--to get our voices heard.

Another issue in the Kathy Sierra story that will not be helped by blog civility policies was emailed death threats. Emailed death threats have happened online just the way mailed death threats have happened in the visceral world. Even when the visceral world had more stringent codes of conduct, mailed death threats happened.

The only thing I can see happening with O'Reilly's code is a censoring of some bloggers for real or imagined slights. I see this kind of thing spiralling out of control to the point where there's a hard, firm line between Us and Them in the blogosphere....

Remember all bloggers are created equal, but some Bloggers are more equal than others.....

O'Reilly's code--and pressure to conform to that code--would serve only to make it clear who the Bloggers are.

Is that what we really want out here?

Think about it...

Additional good reading:Mike Arrington won't agree to it and Webomatica rounds up good links on the discussion
Update 4/11/07: Hugh McLeod posts a comment from Kathy Sierra whereby she says: For the record, I had nothing to do with the Code of Conduct (except for the obvious -- that I made that-post-I-now-regret), was never part of any discussions or "efforts" as a result of my post, and I don't think the Code of Conduct makes any sense (or would ever work). She also mentioned this in O'Reilly's comments section. Kathy is very reasoned on this--and even notes the importance of anonymity in spite of what happened to her. She knows this big bad blogosphere is about more than just her and that token gestures like O'Reilly's are silly.

Which makes me think, isn't O'Reilly being just as disrespectful by not asking Kathy to be part of the code of conduct?

Update: Finally read the NYTimes article on the situation and all I can think of is that it is a gross misrepresentation of what's been going on. And it goes to show that the msm doesn't get the blogosphere and doesn't care to. How it an quote Jory, Lisa, and Elisa and then say "many Internet veterans believe that blogs are part of a larger public sphere, and that deleting a visitor’s comment amounts to an assault on their right to free speech. " is beyond me. Further, that quote is a total misrepresentation of the reasons many "Internet veterans" aren't supporting O'Reilly's call. It's not about an assault on free speech, but about being responsible for one's own space and not wanting outsiders to interfere with the rules we want to make governing our own space. The Times makes bloggers who don't support O'Reilly into folks who'd be happy yelling "fire!" in crowded movie theaters. The Times needs a reality check. Or something.

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Webomatica said...

Hi, thanks for the link. You pretty much echo my thoughts, albiet in a more concise and amusing manner. Bookmarking your feed for future reference!

Tish Grier said...

glad you found me amusing :-) that often happens when I'm pissed...will be bookmarking you too

Bill Anderson said...

Tish, a more interesting article was published in Sunday's Times Styles section and republished today in the IHT:

This article about the growth of brutal heckling is very generative. I think we have built a culture of narcissism very smartly!

Wendell Dryden said...

What happens if (when) we start thinking of the NYT and other media outlets as other (really big, rich) bloggers? Imagine a world where readers picked up the Post and said "I wonder what [publisher & editor's names here] are on about today?" It's been 300 years since the West has seen this level of blogging (they called their blogs "pamphlets") and robust, independent, free speech.

Thks Tish Grier.

Anonymous said...

The O’Reilly Saga continues in his comments section. O’Reilly says
he knows the person who attacked Kathy Sierra. He gets the victim
and the perpetrator together on CNN – then somebody pumps up the NY Times publicity machinery for both the victim and the perpetrator. It doesn’t take a genius to see who may be benefiting from this little fracas.

Then O’Reilly starts blaming a random responder as being one of the attackers.

And when bloggers respond, most of the track backs lead to
O’Reilly’s Radar Website – and (duh! – as an Internet expert!) he is unaware that there are persistent error messages generated in his responders’ posts, so that it becomes a hit and miss game whether the post actually gets published or not.

Perhaps Tim’s involvement relates to this little gem.

Sierra’s current gig, along with her partner Bert Bates, is
developing and producing the bizarre new Head First series of books for O'Reilly.

Proud to be Anonymous