Is It Time To Focus on Why We Write A Blog and Move Forward from There?

by Marianne Richmond on April 1, 2007

Shelley Powers at Burningbird has a great, thoughtful post, called It’s All About Control and for the most part I agree with what she wrote.

Specifically, I agree that the "Be Civil" and/or "Do Not Be Mean" buttons as well as a blogger Code of Conduct are not a solution to the kind of behavior directed at Kathy Sierra, Maryam Scoble and others. Not that in the absolut sense, they are a bad idea…its just not going to stop trolls because they live outside the boundaries and constraints of civilization.

For one thing, it kind of reminds me of a comment made by a speaker at one of my children’s school…the talk was on parenting and the speaker said that most likely the people in attendance were probably doing things "right" and the people that were not in attendence were the people that probably needed to be. In other words, the people that are all ready behaving in a civil manner will probably be the ones to put the buttons on their blogs and the "uncivil" will not.

Similarily with the code of conduct recommended by Tim O’Reilly…mostly good suggestions and O’Reilly states, "A culture is a set of shared areements that allows us to live together." I just don’t believe the trolls are part of the culture so they would be unlikely to adopt or comply with a code of conduct.

Addtionally, what is the consequence for violating the code?  For Blogher, or any community with guidelines, violaters theoretically will not be allowed on the site.  Thus if a member of the community violates the rules their membership ends.  On our own blogs, we don’t have to permit behavior (comments) that offends us either. In either case, there are no "punishments" other than removal.

We can state our guidelines of acceptable commenting behavior and probably should.  And we can state what we will do if there is a violation. Hit the eject button.

At the end of the day, as we used to say as kids…you can’t make me; we can’t be made to publish a comment that we don’t want to and if we don’t monitor comments, and then are offended by something, our only recourse is to delete. There are no fines, jail sentences, or other punishments for violations of a "Code of Conduct."

It all kind of gets back to the Golden Rule, which is more of a Golden Guildeline than a Golden Law…or really an expansion of it; if you behave in a certain manner on your own blog, you will probably attract readers that behave in the same manner. If you are a mean kid, you will set that tone for your blog. So, blog onto others as you would have others blog onto you. Or something like that.  But setting the tone and hitting the delete button are the enforcement tools that we have. And as Shelley states, "threat" is in the eye of the beholder. So behold.

And this brings me to Shelley’s point regarding Kathy Sierra and the police. Shelley says that we have been asked to be jury, judge and executioner and therefore we need to know what the police response was to Kathy’s complaint. Well, I agree that there have been accusations and denials but stepping even further back, we don’t know exactly what Kathy reported to the police do we?

Isn’t that one of the problems with all of this: Death threats, hideous pictures, mean things, links to mean kids. How do we get from a link to mean kids to an accusation of death threats? The response from the police probably depends on what was being reported.

So, for one thing, harassment and cyberstalking are crimes. Linking to mean kids or even unkind words and "multiple webloggers condemed purely because they did not repudiate their friends, one or more of the Four People mentioned, which included Jeneane"are not crimes that the police would be able to respond to.

Now for my last bit of two cents….a while back, I had an AOL e-mail account; or shall I say I thought it was my email account. My ex-husband (note I use no adjectives, though of course I would like to) in the final days of our marriage was able to simply call AOL and get the password to my email account because the AOL account was in his name. He then not only proceeded to read all my email but began emailing friends of mine impersonating me.

He apparently wasn’t very convincing (That wasn’t really it;  he was seeking confirmation of one of his many theories but since what he wanted to be true, simply wasn’t, his questions were just too bizarre) because several people called to ask if I had lost my mind. When I called AOL I was told, too bad so sad, his account and he can do what he wants with it.

My point for this story is that it didn’t require any great hacking skills for him to get access to my email and AOL didn’t provide any kind of protection for this or for his impersonation. The AOL account was in his name….needless to say, I will never have another AOL account. That was the first hint that I got that there was only an illusion of protection in things. There have been many more. I will save that for another blog….

I have no idea what Kathy Sierra reported to the police or what they told her. It seems a huge leap from Jeneane‘s mean kid link to death threats. But in my experience, sometimes it is just an illusion that we have that we can "call the police" and they will arrest the bad guys or call AOL and they will stop the bad guys.

I think it is time for everyone to take a step backwards and figure out what our individual lessons learned are in this whole debacle which might very well go back to the basics: Why we write our blogs and what we are trying to accomplish with them…and then move forward from there.

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