O'Reilly's Code and OpenSolaris

I applaud Tim O'Reilly in his effort to quantify a code of conduct to encourage respectful participation in open communities on the Internet. It sounds more than reasonable to me. In fact, I see no downside whatsoever.

Tim O'Reilly: "A lot of people feel intimidated by those who attack them as against free speech if they try to limit unpleasantness. If there's one thing I'd love to come out of this discussion, it's a greater commitment on the part of bloggers (and people who run other types of forums) not to tolerate behavior on the internet that they wouldn't tolerate in the physical world. It's ridiculous to accept on a blog or in a forum speech that would be seen as hooliganism or delinquency if practiced in a public space."

I agree.

Also, for many people it's intimidating to just view attacks on others for fear of being attacked themselves. I've seen this on the Internet, of course, but I've also seen it right here on the OpenSolaris project. Our lists can get hot at times -- just as any passionate community -- but that tends to drive down traffic and push new people away. I notice this because one of my job responsibilities is to help increase participation across cultural and language barriers. So when I ask people why they may not be engaging, sometimes I'll get, "Why, so I can get attacked? No way." Now, this isn't a comment I get every day, but it's certainly enough for me to notice. And I'm noticing it more recently with nasty comments being directed toward executives, marketing people, lawyers, and even other communities. Most of the comments are extreme and unsubstantiated, of course, but I'm  getting concerned that too many of them are going unanswered. I've written about this multiple times over the past few years, but I'm surprised to see that very few see the same problem I do. Maybe I'm just wrong. Could be. So, I'm going to start documenting it -- starting with this and this and this -- and I'll come back in a couple of months and let you know what I've found. If I'm wrong, my documentation will fall flat on its face, people will flame me, and everything will go right along as it always has. Shows my bias, I know, but what can I say. But if I'm right, I think I'll have a pretty good argument to assert that we need to be a bit more respectful of others before we can earn the respect we feel we deserve.

I fully expect to find a distinct minority of flamers, but that's not my point. My point is that these guys are going unchallenged. And while mandates and decrees generally demonstrate weak leadership and an unhealthy community, so do attacks and intimidation. Sometimes, it's the simple assertion of what's positive backed up occasionally by a few key voices and the flamers are kept at bay. And I think that's really all O'Reilly is doing with the Blogger Code of Conduct -- providing a safe space for some honest conversation and allowing other voices to be heard.

Comments:

Many people cannot see the difference between critical thinking and destructive hooliganism. In face-to-face conversations, you can often interpret the body language to discern the difference. On the 'net, even smileys are not sufficient.

Posted by Richard Elling on April 16, 2007 at 07:18 PM JST #

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