Blogger's Code of Conduct

Not that anyone asked me, but the Draft Blogger's Code of Conduct currently being discussed here and there seems vague and subjective. Worse, it's a "solution" that is attempting to deal with an unstated, and hence unclear, problem.

A lot of the Code applies to blog comments, which (you may have noticed) we don't have here. Back when I started, comments seemed to be more trouble than they were worth; if anything, my feelings against them have strengthened. I was a denizen of Usenet for many years, and blog-comments remind me of those good old days, where each new post starts off a thread potentially containing abuse, spam, off-topic drift, and (almost always) a very low signal-to-noise ratio. Been there, done that, moved on.

Apart from the comment-specific parts:

  • The proposed Code needlessly lumps together illegal behavior (copyright infringement, libel, threatening) with rude-but-legal behavior. There are legal remedies available for illegal behavior, and the courts will do a decent job of disambiguating and assigning liability. (Not perfect, sure, but better than a "Code of Conduct" is likely to.)

  • Among the criteria for "unacceptable" content is "ad-hominem". Please. Why not just deem all logical fallacies as "unacceptable"? Even if a Code could define "ad-hominem" unambigously, what's the point? Readers can judge such content on its (low) merit.

    And while ad-hominem may be weak at making a valid argument, it can be funny. Gosh, maybe the code should say it's OK if it's funny?

  • Another verboten area of content is "abuse". Again, please. I can't abuse self-important politicians? Get over yourself. Also, prepare for endless legalistic meta-discussions whether a set of words constitute "abuse" or not. Prepare for being abused during said discussions.

  • "[We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.]" Fine. But maybe—just maybe—in that case, you'll want to use some other word besides "standards"? I suggest "whims".

  • "We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person." Why not? It's normal and acceptable to have different rules for different audiences.

  • "We connect privately before we respond publicly." That might be a good idea sometimes. Maybe most times. In all possible cases? Doubtful.

But mainly, the Code falls into the same trap university speech codes did. Shorn of rhetoric and detail, it wants to say, simply: Be Nice. Adding more verbiage to this sentiment doesn't really make it any less vague and subjective. And, eventually, an unenforceable laughing stock.

But if they really want to go after despicable blogger conduct, I wish someone would ban "This posting will remain on top". Cripes, that grates my cheese.

URLs du Jour


  • Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post pens "Lost in New Hampshire" which will amuse Granite Staters and serves as a timely warning to would-be visitors attempting to navigate our roads:

    New Hampshire was apparently created before the invention of the right angle.

    "Indeed." Joel's article was a nostalgic reminder of my Iowa-boy Cartesian confusion when I arrived in the state <mumble>about thirty-four years ago</mumble> trying to find the the University of New Hampshire. It's gotten slightly easier since then.

    I'm a little miffed that—given the route he described taking in the article—Joel was in the Pun Salad area and didn't stop by to say hello. If pressed, he'll probably come up with some lame excuse. For example, that he doesn't know me from Adam. Still, hmph!

  • At the Poor&Stupid blog, Don Luskin amusingly points out an NYT story about the recent release of monthly government data on employment. Worth noting is the paper's misleading choice of graphics in order to paint something in the data gloomily.

  • Radley Balko promises instant conversion to libertarianism for anyone reading this WaPo article describing United States Department of Agriculture subsidies provided to not-particularly-rural locales. Provincetown MA, for example:

    In a few weeks, artists, lawyers and bankers will begin arriving here for the busy summer season on high-speed ferries that take 90 minutes to make the trip from Boston. They will land at a recently refurbished municipal dock that was built with the help of a $1.95 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    If you're already a libertarian sort, the article will simply make steam come out of your ears.

  • So after the steam came out of my ears, this made my head explode:

    John Nichols of the Nation thinks Democratic candidates ought to be able to endorse a package of constitutional reforms being supported by the chairman of the American Conservative Union. The American Freedom Agenda, endorsed by several prominent conservatives, envisions such reforms as …

    "… dogs and cats, living together …" I don't have any special love for the "Freedom Agenda", but I kind of like the strange-bedfellow dissonance above.

  • Two words: Peeps Dioramas.

Last Modified 2012-10-19 1:59 PM EDT