Blogger Code of Conduct…Learn from Wikipedia

The Blogger Code of Conduct has generated a tremendous amount of discussion, made the front page of the New York Times, and even prompted this highly-blogged segment on CNN.

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.


4 Responses to Blogger Code of Conduct…Learn from Wikipedia

  1. David Gerard says:

    As a friend on LiveJournal put it: “Web 2.0 started by reinventing Usenet badly, now they’re reinventing netiquette badly.”

    I’ve been idly contemplating an AJAX-based web browser Usenet reader …

  2. Anon says:

    Unfortunately though you couldn’t be further from the truth. On the surface Wikipedia does seem like a very nice and welcoming community, and its intentions are good, but if you dig deeper you will find a lot of bad blood, arguing, various political agenda’s, power plays and more. If you cross the wrong administrator on Wikipedia you could find yourself blocked within minutes, and you’ll be almost powerless to stop it, unless you know how to work the channels (and even then it’ll be hard).

    To be fair though, it’s important to understand that I’m talking about the English Wikipedia, located at, which is pretty much the main Wikipedia, and the one the press always refers to when they talk about Wikipedia. The Wikipedia’s for other languages are much better (at least the one’s I’ve edited at), and so are all the other English projects (i.e. Wikiquote, wikisource, etc).

  3. Dr Zen says:

    The anon is quite right. The notion that Wikipedia is “nice” can only be believed by someone who has spent no time there at all. It’s a bit like a pub had a problem with brawling and decided the best approach was to ban swearing. So somebody clubs you over the head with a chair, but at least they don’t call you a cunt while they do it.

  4. Jon says:

    Duly noted, but I stand by my comments. Wikipedia has a strong culture of rewarding and encouraging civility. Those who embrace this culture are treated well by admins and the community. Those who don’t, aren’t.

    I think you only have to worry about “brawling” with admins if you are yourself a brawler.

    I am no stranger to vandals and edit wars. But there are civil channels for dealing with these conflicts on Wikipedia, as I have covered many times on this blog.

    I am not suggesting that Wikipedia is a frollicing candyland of giddy do-gooders. I’m just saying there is a distinct civility culture in place for dealing with conflicts; and a set of policies that the blogosphere can potentially learn from.


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