Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blogging is Free-ish

Jonathan Freedland at The Guardian's Comment Is Free blog, proposes putting in place some blogging ettiquette for commenters. But his article ends up inadvertently highlighting some of the major benefits of anonymous, free-for-all blogging. For instance

i) Journalists like me have had to raise our game, knowing that a factual lapse will be pointed out within minutes


ii) If your ideas cannot withstand the fierce gale of harsh debate, then they're probably just too flimsy

Too true. This is why religious groups are demanding 'respect'. Their arguments simply do not stand up to reasoned debate.

iii) In the past, those 71m bloggers would have had to wait for a publisher to deem their work worthy of distribution. Now everyone has a platform.

And what a wonderful thing it is that journalists no longer need to be educated at private school and Oxbridge, like the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger.

iv) Web users regard anonymity as an almost sacred right. They cite the Iranian students or Chinese dissidents, hungry for outside debate, only able to take part by hiding their true identities

An absolutely crucial point.

His article is predictably long on criticism but short on practical methods to police debate. In fact he mentions only one idea,

A system of comment credits, earned by the ratings of other users. High credit would give you an enhanced standing online, perhaps pushing your comments to the top of any thread. If other users deemed you out of line, your status would fall.

But this would only end up producing 'echo chamber' blogs discouraging commenters with different viewpoints from the writers and the majority of readers. Like Freedland, i wish blog commenters would cut out the personal attacks (the ad-hominems), and the abuse experienced by Kathy Sierra is deplorable. But in the end i accept that this is part and parcel of blogging and commenting.

What do you think? Should i demand your credit card details before allowing you to comment?

Tim O'Reilly, the man credited with coining the phrase Web 2.0, has drafted a Code of Conduct.

Oliver Kamm thinks it sucks for three reasons;

I do not believe it could be enforced; I take exception to the notion that I require someone else's imprimatur as evidence of my civility; and I am opposed in principle to speech codes

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