This all popped into my head this morning when there was no blood in my brain, so caveat lector.

I think what bothers me the most about this whole conduct thing (other than the silly, silly badges) is that this isn’t anything new. Dredge up Usenet archives, and you’ll find plenty of hateful, hurtful garbage. I’m sure there old APAs whose content would make anyone’s skin crawl. This is just continued proof that John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory is right: Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad.

Will a code of conduct help alleviate this situation? Hell, no. If anything, putting one of Tim O’Reilly’s little badges on your site will all but guarantee a flood of, at best, Goons, and, at worst, Total Fuckwads. If you put up barriers, people will try to push them, because that’s what people do.

Now, this doesn’t mean you throw up your hands and close off your site and say, “To hell with all this.” Instead, you do what people have been doing for a long time, ever since the first packs of Neanderthals from neighboring tribes got together to do something other than club each other over the head: you make ground rules, and you enforce ’em. I know I’ve never had a comment policy here, mostly because the only comments I get are from people I know. But if this site ever got a lot of exposure and drew a crowd, Total Fuckwad Theory says I’m going to get comments from anonymous people who will want to push buttons, either mine or another reader’s.

And you know what? They won’t be welcome back. A web site is like a house party, and it’s my job as host to make sure everyone’s plates are filled and their conversation is fun. If someone’s not having a good time, I’ll do my best to correct it. If two guests have an argument, I’ll tell ’em to take it outside. And if someone crashes the party and sticks his dick in the mashed potatoes, he’s gone (same with the potatoes).

So, that means I’ll do my best to behave on other people’s sites (which I still fail to do), and I hope people will behave on my site. This is Polite Society 101, and you don’t need a badge or a code or any of that superfluous bullshit to accomplish that.

(By the way, there’s a much better discussion of all this over here.)

3 thoughts on “Further thoughts, re: codes of conduct

  1. You had a much more polite response to this news than I did, but I enjoyed the bit about the potatoes.

    Anyway, cheers.

  2. You should see the post right below this one. I’m pretty sure Miss Manners wouldn’t have called it polite.

  3. The whole concept of blog or forum moderation can lead to some pretty heated moments. I spent 7 years or so moderating the discussion boards for my last employer, and everytime I had to sit on someone for whatever reason (nasty attacks, violation of terms of service, being a Class A Asshat), they started whining about how I was tromping on their 1st Amendment rights. Sorry, bub, but calling somebody names because they like a different type of amplifier than you do doesn’t qualify as politically protected speech, and besides, we’re not the government, but just a manufacturer trying to provide some support and community for people who like and use the gear we make. If you start attacking somebody and the single stated rule of the board is “Be Nice” posted in big letters at the top of the page, you’re on the fast track to getting your IP address blocked. As it was, lots of folks thought I was too lenient with users who got on and bitched about problems, but I figured I’d rather have them bitch here, where we can hear it and do something if it’s a valid issue, rather than set up http://www.dumbcompanysucks.org where we can’t see what they’re saying. As long as your bitching is polite, to the point, and doesn’t call our engineers dipshits because the one feature that nobody in the industry has is one that you want and you’ve somehow convinced yourself that “it would be simple to add”.

    Phew! Thanks for letting me get that out.

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