Comment Management Responsibility – Introduction

Internet | Familiarity
Tim O'Reilly, head of the eponymous computer publishing firm, recently tried to tackle this issue with a "Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct" last week. In the comments, he conceded that it was misleading here to use the term "blogger" (see Bloggers: Some Formal Definitions). After all, what concerns us is the publishers– the individuals who host the website and the comment threads, and thus have the ability to moderate them. Thus it's not so much a Code of Conduct for the individual comment manager, but a Terms of Service offered by a publisher.

But O'Reilly ignored his own advice. His second iteration of his idea is still titled "Draft Blogger's Code of Conduct." It has six elements, all using the pronoun "we." (The wiki version hosted by Jimmy Wales is similarly stuck on first-person plural as well) Michael Arrington, the influential tech writer, demurred from what he felt effort to pressure bloggers into submission, concluding simply:

I will point out that Tony Hung's idea of having a simple statement around a blog's comments policy (allowing anonymous or not, deleting trolls, etc.) isn't a bad idea. If a standard emerges around that, I'm willing to take a look. But it can't be a black or white, you're with us or against us, kind of thing.

I actually thought this was where O'Reilly was going originally with this. He had noted in his first post a week ago that Kaylea Hascall of the University of Chicago had suggested that sites employ "something like the Creative Commons badges."

What a sharp idea! By good coincidence, when I first wrote the Posting Guidelines for this site three years ago, I led with: "There is a surprising lack of formal framework to netiquitte ("net ettiquite"), as compared to, say, the work in copyright framework that the Creative Commons has spearheaded."

The Creative Commons is a brilliant device, for a couple of reasons. In creating it, preeminent cyberlawyer Lawrence Lessig first rejected the growing chorus of music freeloaders who had been claiming that copyright– and, by extension, any contract between publisher and user– was invalid in the digital era. CC has provided a framework for making end-user agreements more flexible than copyright. Second, it rescued contracts from the weight of legalese, by encouraging a simple code to represent the different factors of agreements. The "Spectrum of Rights" illustration explains both in tandem. In this case, we want a spectrum of responsibilities.

Thus it is high time to consider this idea in full.