Tim O’Reilly has decided that bloggers need a Code of Conduct

April 18th, 2007

Tim O’Reilly, almost always a provocative, innovative thinker about all things Web, has decided that bloggers need a Code of Conduct.

A colleague and I were discussing blogs and Web site feedback generally on Friday night at dinner. Last year I held some early enthusiasm over the prospect of allowing just about anyone to say just about anything on each and every topic on this Web site. Now I’m hesitating.

I have added the standard commenting feature to The Future of Publishing blog. This works the way it does on most blogs, except that I review first-time posters before allowing their comments to appear, just to keep the yahoos out.

It had been my plan to have a similar commenting mechanism throughout the site, encouraging folks to comment on any of my conclusions and allegations, and generally to contribute ideas and commentary to the debate on the future of publishing.

I haven’t bothered to do this yet, and I’m not in a hurry. The reason is that I’ve now been watching the types of comments that flow into the average blog, and find them ranging between the annoying and the banal. They are about as close to “conversation” as one can find on the Web, which is to say poorly-considered, lacking insight, ungrammatical — generally of no interest whatsoever.

I attend a lot of conferences, and often moderate sessions where the audience is invited to participate and comment. My experience has been consistent: if the audience really knows the topic under discussion, they often offer insightful and challenging commentary. If they don’t know the topic well, they natter, causing only boredom and annoyance.

It’s only human.

As are the responses on blogs.

I don’t think that Mr. Reilly’s Code of Conduct has much value as it fails to address the most fundamental issue of blogs and their respondents: neither have anything interesting to say.

I think I’m happier with my (just dubbed) “pull blog” approach. If I find something interesting on the Web I point to it, and explain why I think it’s interesting. I don’t invite the world to come and junk up my site at will: this is not community, this is not dialog. It is one person standing in a room and announcing e=mc2, and 100 others, who don’t understand physics, loudly tossing out their opinions, ignoring both the original speaker and one another.

This site has a two-part hierarchy. The top level is my essays on aspects of the future of publishing. Some will enjoy these essays and find them insightful or useful; others will avoid them. The next level is where I connect to a very broad world of reporting and commentary on various aspects of the future of publishing. The material is so rich and diverse, I don’t see how anyone (obviously anyone who is interested in the future of publishing) would fail to find value in most of these links.

What this site probably won’t have is level three, the comments from the public section. If you’d like to contribute to this site, and I AM very interested in hearing from those who are very interested, please write to me at thad@thefutureofpublishing.com.