“When Anu the Sublime, King of the Anunaki, and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk, the over-ruling son of Ea, God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man…” (the Code of Hammurabi)

I have a lot of respect for Tim O’Reilly. He seems like a standup guy, and I think he wants what’s best for everyone after the whole Kathy Sierra incident. But I’m going to have to agree with Mike Arrington, Dave Taylor, Tony Hung and others (including Jeff Jarvis, Marketing Pilgrim and Ryan Sholin) that Tim’s proposed “code of conduct” for the blogosphere — which comes complete with either a cheesy sheriff’s badge or a stick of dynamite icon for the sidebar of your blog — is a dumb idea. Well-meaning, but dumb.

snipshot_d4t7rk895k0.jpgTim’s post on the code is here, and there’s a New York Times story on it here, which notes that Tim and Jimmy Wales have been working together to put the code together (if I were being mean, I would suggest that what Jimmy really needs is a better code for dealing with Wikipedia frauds like Essjay). And it is worthwhile remembering that Tim’s code is a first draft. The code is to be developed through a wiki-style process.

My friend Rob Hyndman is right that the impulse for this code is a good one. We do need to take ownership of our communities, and how we behave in them, even if those communities are made up of a few blogs roped together by a common interest. And as Cynthia Brumfield notes at IPDemocracy, comparing a voluntary code of conduct with Iran — as the Scobleizer does — is really going over the top.

Tony says that all we need is a well-formed and clearly stated comment policy, and it’s interesting that even the head of Waggener Erdstrom (Microsoft’s PR agency) isn’t in favour of the code. (If you’re interested in a different badge than the ones Tim is offering, check out Accordion Guy’s version here).

I think part of what is appealing about the blogosphere (at least for me) is that it is still to some extent a Wild West-type frontier, — although the settlers and landowners are definitely moving in — and with that comes the risk of unpleasant behaviour. What happened to Kathy Sierra, and has happened to others, should not be tolerated. But I think codes of conduct should be a personal matter, rather than a quasi-legislated thing. Just my two cents.


Wish I had thought to go with the “badges — we don’t need no stinking badges” thing instead of the Code of Hammurabi. Oh well. A bunch of people popped up with the line in the comments section of Tim’s blog, which incidentally has some comments that are well worth reading. For further reading, Shelley Powers cuts to the chase as usual, Tom Evslin has a typically thoughtful piece, and Tristan Louis takes a long look at the issues as well.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

11 Responses to “You are your own code of conduct”
  1. It’s so dumb, I’m thinking of using my http://www.meamdumb.com domain I own to make counter badges to it to honor it.

    You’re right.

  2. The bogosphere is not a “Wild West”. It is a collection of petty little medieval fiefdoms.

  3. I love the Code of Hammurabi! I think you got the picture wrong though… Hammurabi’s stone is black…


  4. Good one, Jim.

    And Alec, thanks for pointing that out — I think the one I had was the Rosetta Stone. My bad. I blame Google’s image search. :-)

  5. Matt…

    Last year at SXSW Interactive, myself and fellow blogges Jimmy Bice, Grace Davis, Nancy White and Bill Anderson were part of a panel on civility in the blogosphere…..

    The only people who showed up were some folks who ran message boards who wanted to share what happened to them and how they dealt with it or if we could help them….

    Where was Tim O’Reilly then??

    O’Reilly’s efforts smack of a certain amount of hypocracy. Now that something’s happened to someone he knows, the incivility’s a big deal. Before, he couldn’t even give it the time of day.

    I was sickened by some of the things that were said about Kathy. Yet even she admits in the comments to O’Reilly’s post that any kind of policy isn’t going to change things….

    And, you’re right. It’s about policing your own space, creating your own community. It’s also part of the rest of the blogosphere to point out when other communities have stepped over the line. But it is NOT the provice of Tim O’Reilly to start setting policies for the entire blogosphere.

  6. This badge pretty much sums up my feelings about Tim O’Reilly’s badges:


  7. Ohhh… Seth just coined “the bogosphere” up there.

  8. Thanks for the comment, Tish — that’s a good point. And Joey, that’s a great badge :-)

    As for the “bogosphere,” Juha, knowing Seth I’m not even sure that was a slip. Bogosphere pretty much sums it up, I think.

  9. I’m loving Joey’s badge too–I’ve got to install that one :-)

  10. “bogosphere” is deliberate.

  11. I knew it!

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