We ignore the trolls.When does a vigorous, challenging writer become a "troll"? When is something "nasty," so that we should keep silent (and expect you to understand the meaning of our silence), and when is it "abuse" or "libel" (so that we should respond)? If you say something mean about me and I don't respond -- and I profess to follow The Code -- does that mean I judge you to be a troll and I concede that you have neither abused nor libeled me? Or why don't we have a big discussion about the infinite subtlety of the weasel word "prefer"?
We prefer not to respond to nasty comments about us or our blog, as long as they don't veer into abuse or libel.
Here's another attempt at a blogging code.
Here's a big write-up on the codification efforts in the NYT:
A subtext of both sets of rules is that bloggers are responsible for everything that appears on their own pages, including comments left by visitors.This is a terribly damaging idea that would stultify debate. But I do think bloggers need to respond and delete when they are notified about certain things, like threats of violence, clear libel, and the fraudulent appropriation of a person's name.
[The codifiers] say that bloggers should also have the right to delete such comments if they find them profane or abusive.Should? Obviously, we do have this right! I think the point must be that other people don't have the right to criticize a blogger who deletes something if it's whatever The Code ends up saying is deletable. But that is absurd. If there is a code defining deletability, people will argue about whether the standard of deletability is met and also -- not everyone will subscribe to The Code -- about how deleting is repressive. And, of course, there will be assertions of selective deletion -- that is, people will accuse the blogger of only deleting the profane/abusive comments that go against the blogger's ideology. And these accusations will probably be correct. But we'll have to argue about whether they are correct.
Won't that be fascinating?
ADDED: As you can see from Memeorandum (and as you would predict), a lot of bloggers are writing about the NYT article. Here's Captain Ed:
This is one of those well-intentioned but doomed reform efforts that sound reasonable but will have no chance of changing anything. Before the reform leaves the dock, it has already split into several "standards", which will cause confusion on which logo means what rules and under which circumstances. Bloggers and commenters will have to look for logos, and then will endlessly argue over each individual post or comment as to whether it meets the guidelines....Ntodd -- who is always saying mean things about me! -- says:
Most of us came into the blogosphere to get away from editorial restrictions imposed by others. We allow our own judgments and values to guide our publications. That may result in some bruised feelings from time to time, but our readers make the decision as to whether we have met their editorial guidelines, and that should be good enough in a free market.
Why do we need any "recommendations" from the leading lights of Web2.0? The whole point of blogging is to bring personal styles and thoughts to bear, not to follow some guidelines that wicked smart people who earn money doing consulting think up.Virgil Libertas calls the NYT "Miss Blog-o-Manners" and tells it to "go piss up a rope."
Oh yeah, sure, they're soliciting comments, like this will be some big Come To Blogger Jesus thing and we'll all talk about our feelings, sing Kumbaya, tearfully hug each other at the end of camp and promise to write each other. Then as soon as Mom and Dad pick up us, we'll promptly go back to our old lives and friends and forget about Tim and Jimmy and the cute girl--you know, whatsername--in Tent #4 and the camp mascot dog, Sadie.
It is nice to see the Times has its eyes firmly on the important issues of our day, rather than unpleasant shit like Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Darfur....Now that I think about it, the NYT really has an interest in siding with the blog-o-niceness movement. Bloggers are a threat to the Times in part because we can do so many things that a mainstream newspaper can't. So wouldn't it be great if we were stuck with their standards? Stop being vicious and wild! Write like the NYT, and maybe people will just read the NYT.
Here's Dan Drezner:
I hereby predict it will go nowhere...I hope people wake up and notice how the Kathy Sierra story is being leveraged (something I talked about here). A woman received real threats of violence. Those threats are criminal, and Sierra's case is being handled by the police, as well it should be. Nasty, cruel, ugly, unfair, mocking, abusive speech is a completely different matter. Anyone who blends the two subjects is selling out free speech and should be called on it right away. This repressive movement is gaining momentum. Be alarmed now, before it digs in any further.
The one fascinating thing about [NYT writer Brad] Stone's story is what's not in it. Despite endless complaints about rising partisanship in the blogosphere, no example was given of declining civility in the poliitical [sic] blogosphere. That doesn't mean it's not happening, of course, but it's still surpring [sic] that Stone failed to offer up such an example.
Anyone who wants to write a nice, well-mannered blog with a kindly, benevolent comments section is welcome to do it. But if they also want to stigmatize cutting, mocking, aggressive speech, I'm going to aggressively cut and mock them. Of course, they have the freedom to try to stigmatize the bloggers like me who don't want to be nice, but all they can really do is be nice, nice, nice themselves. And readers will decide for themselves who they want to read.
IN THE COMMENTS: Mike reminds me: "I thought we had already agreed to have Eric Alterman police the blogosphere." Oh, yeah. How did I forget that! I recently wrote two -- one, two -- blog posts about it and a NYT column!