Saturday, April 07, 2007

Theoretically going to be in Monday's NY Times

I say "theoretically" because I have no idea how much or how little of an interview Lisa Stone and I did with technology writer Brad Stone (no relation) will be incorporated into whatever article it is he is writing. And I have no idea how what we said will be positioned. You don't get to see or fact-check such things beforehand. So, much like the KGO-TV appearance I did 10 days ago, it's a nerve-wracking feeling. I will say this for being on the BBC last week: it was live, and only I own my own level of articulateness. They couldn't pick and choose what to air. They couldn't take things out of context. I like that.

The focus of the Times article, as I understand it, is on how the Kathy Sierra blogosphere crisis will affect blogs and bloggers moving forward, particularly as it relates to codes of conduct and community guidelines. Because BlogHer's community guidelines have been mentioned recently by such Internet luminaries as Tim O'Reilly, David Weinberger and Shelly Powers, Stone (the reporter) came to us to ask us more.

We actually tried to draw a very specific distinction between a code of conduct (which implies trying to enforce a code across the blogosphere) and our own community guidelines (which specifically address what is acceptable content and behavior on BlogHer.)

As I said earlier on this blog: "I don't believe we can institute an enforceable blogger code of conduct that is applied to all bloggers across all subject matters. I don't believe we should even try.

I do believe that each blogger and site owner should set policies and practices in place that refuse to accommodate or tolerate cyberabuse. I believe each blog or site owner is entitled to draw their own lines and enforce them. It's your web site, you can delete crap if you want to.

My most fervent hope is that the reporter does indeed draw this distinction. He did ask how long our guidelines have been in place (answer: since we launched on 01/30/06) so I hope it's clear that establishing guidelines wasn't a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. When I say that every site owner or blogger should draw their own lines, I mean quite sincerely that they should think about it long and hard and draw lines they can live with. But also be open to considering that they may have to re-draw those lines at some point...openly and transparently please! Weinberger has already taken the BlogHer community guidelines that he had inserted above his comment form and significantly altered them to reflect his voice and his sensibilities.

I think it's pretty safe to say that such policies and guidelines will not eliminate the existence of the ills that exist in both offline and online society. (Misogyny, racism, hate, violence.) But I also think that the blogosphere is the perfect vehicle for individuals and groups to take stands and defend them. Each blog's or site's individual guidelines can represent such a stand.

So, theoretically, front page of the business section in Monday's Times. With even, theoretically a photograph (which I find even more painful to anticipate than wondering how our words will be used!)

I'll publish the link if/when I get it.

I don't think any of this will have much of an effect. You can choose to delete inappropriate comments on your own blog, but that won't do anything to prevent the attacks that come from somewhere else, and it won't prevent other people from endorsing the sites with those attacks. In fact, I think there's evidence that the more you try to remove offensive comments from your *own* blog, the more likely you are to provoke attacks elsewhere.

I am completely disheartened because even within a loose community I thought I belonged to -- tech/women/marketing bloggers-- it was others who did the damage not just by allowing content I could not control or delete, but more importantly -- by continuing to point other people in our community to the site even after I had them what was up there and told them how terrified I was by it.

The people I wrote to -- a week before I went public -- had a chance to do something. At the least, I had hoped they would stop endorsing the site... would stop sending their trusting readers there once they KNEW what was up there. But that's not what happened, so a week later I felt I had exhausted all options and went public.

Nothing about a code of conduct would change the worst part of this. All this gives us is a slightly better feeling about deleting comments on our own blogs.

Like I said, it is this culture of hypocrisy that will keep me from returning to blogging-as-usual.
Thanks for the comment Kathy.

Maybe I'm naive, but I do hold out a little more optimism that this will have far-reaching effects. Greater social responsibility can start with individuals...building until you attain critical mass.

I also think that, specifically because of this, more individuals will think not only about what they write/allow on their own sites, but also about what they silently endorse with the currency of the blogosphere: links. The truth is I have links on my various blog rolls that I probably haven't looked at in months. And it never occurred to me to worry about that until all of this went down. So, individuals taking action and giving more thought to our policies *and* links is a good thing, and I hope it will make a discernible difference.

I totally agree that we cannot prevent bad actors from doing their thing. The will find a way. I don't believe any code anywhere will prevent that. There are laws with penalties against what happened to you, and it didn't prevent it. But I think the mores of society-at-large, including blogging society, can evolve and become more enlightened, and I do hope that's happening now.
Well, perhaps you're right... that this will have a larger effect in just the way you suggest...

on this point:
"The truth is I have links on my various blog rolls that I probably haven't looked at in months. And it never occurred to me to worry about that until all of this went down."

I don't think any of us can be held responsible for everything that we link to, or in some cases even in the comments on our own blogs. My issue is about the responsibility we have to content/sites we endorse and actively recommend (beyond blogrolls), when we DO know what's there--and when what's there is in direct opposition to what we claim to value.

Time will tell.

At least a lot more people are having the conversation, but I've now heard from more than 2000 people who've been driven out of the blog or other online communities for similar reasons. This is obviously not a problem about *me* -- I just happened to be stupid enough to make a public post.

My one post would never have started such a firestorm if it weren't for the huge numbers of people who related to this because of things they've seen and experienced themselves or through their family or friends. And I think that's why so many people jumped to conclusions and became emotionally involved -- they were frustrated over their own similiar stories, and mapped their own pain onto my story without reading carefully or thinking through the implications.

So, I guess with this many people talking and thinking about it, perhaps even the smallest shift COULD ripple out to a long-term larger effect (like turning the supertanker just one degree).

I'm not ready for optimism quite yet -- I'm still getting even more horrific emails as a result of going public--but this many conversations about it can't be a bad thing.

Thanks for continuing to be a voice of reason.
Your last comment hits the nail on the head!!

The reason this has resonated is not just about you; it's not just about any individual personality(ies). It's about something much larger...and actually something quite universal.

Totally agree. And that's part of what gives me that hope. I really get the sense that people aren't dismissing this as being an individual experience...they are seeing it for the symptom of other problem(s) that it is.
Hey, Elisa ... the article is here.

And I thought the picture came out just tasty. :)
Eek! Thanks Dawn. Yes, the picture wasn't attached to the article last night when the article first went live. Thanks.
The photo is great; you guys look smart and sassy.

Right on!

Betsy Aoki
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