Meanwhile, there is already a massive online community that has developed a complex and successful culture of civility. And it’s called…Wikipedia!
Before the blogosphere completely reinvents the wheel, I would like to humbly propose that mainstream bloggers take a few lessons from Wikipedia in cultivating civility.
How the Internet Works
The internet is like Star Wars.
There’s the force, and then there’s the dark side of the force.
On the dark side you’ve got comment spammers, link farm SEO, and people trying to buy blogger product reviews for $1,500 with no disclosure. On the good side you’ve got open source, altruistic sites like Wikipedia, and Skiing Ostriches.
The key to Star Wars is that Luke SkyWalker did not defeat Darth Vader by fighting him. Fighting the darkside only gives it power! The lesson for Luke was to appeal to Vader’s better nature. This is how civility works on Wikipedia, and the only way it can work on the internet.
Why The Current Code of Conduct Won’t Work
“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” – Mother Theresa
Tim O’Reilly’s blog is being hit by a tidal wave of bloggers who don’t want to post a sheriff’s badge on their site stating they censor their blog comments. Meanwhile, O’Reilly is calling for more lawyers to provide more comprehensive legalese for these badges. This is not the way to go.
Like Mother Theresa, Wikipedia promotes peace rather than fighting war. Wikipedia inventions like WikiLove, WikiHalos, Esperanza, and the Welcoming Committee, are all positive ways to promote civility. Wikipedia always assumes good faith and only blocks users as an absolute last resort.
If people simply must post a badge on their site, make it something cool or positive. “This blogger promotes Dot-Karma.” Make the Code of Conduct a list of do’s not don’ts.
I am pleased to see that Wikia is being used to help moderate the Blogger Code of Conduct discussion. If wiki people are involved, then there is a chance that Wikipedia culture will leave its stamp on this project. Wikipedians are more experienced than anyone in conflict resolution!
Voices Against the Current Blogger Code of Conduct
While I think the Code of Conduct has admirable motivations, the likelihood of widespread acceptance seems to be waning.
Michael Arrington writes that he will never agree to a code of conduct. Jason Calacanis writes in his usual poetic style, “$%#$ Conduct!” The Associated Press writes this article, “Bloggers rail against imposing civility online.” And Jim Benson suggests his own tongue-in-cheek Code of Conduct, Don’t Blog Stupid.
How to Make it Work
Wikipedia has the potential to be one of the most contentious places on the internet. And yet it has developed a culture that can mediate any debate. Remember WikiLove and Mother Theresa. Frame the Code of Conduct as a voluntary and positive list of do’s, and it will have a chance of widespread adoption.