Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Reasonable manners, in the blogosphere

Dear readers of Rupert's Read;
One thing I am pleased about about this blog is that when we have had debates or disagreements here, they have virtually always been good-tempered.
Because the norm out there in the blogosphere is often not like that. Take 'Comment is Free', for example, on the Guardian Unlimited site: the level of debate on CIF is pretty awful, frankly, in terms of civility. It is a very unpleasant place to take part in any debate, generally, unless perhaps (as most commenters do) one hides behind the veil of anonymity (which 'ain't allowed' here).
And the truth is, in case any fellow commenters reading this don't realise it, that there are many many people who get put off even reading (let alone posting to) CIF because of the volume of plain nasty comments that they risk getting, when they do.
I am slightly singling out CIF here, because I believe that this is actually one of the worst places on the blogosphere in terms of this kind of abuse. (Another particularly bad place is the comment-zone on Iain Dale's blog, but even that bear-pit is not as nasty as the comment on CIF often is.)
Long may good manners on Rupert's Read continue! Thanks to all of you reading this who help to ensure that I don't need to block anyone from commenting or moderate comments or delete comments (except very occasionally...)

15 comments:

Jim Jay said...

Totally agree Rupert, these bear pits are extremely off putting. I used to read CiF alot but the comments boxes make it just, well, a little unpleasant to look through.

We need a blogger's code of conduct!

Werner Patels said...

I agree. I require my readers to phrase their comments like letters to the editor, and I moderate my comments. Nor will I allow any comment that does not add to the topic's discussion in a meaningful way. After all, newspapers don't publish all the letters they receive either.

Newmania said...

Hey why stop at a code of conduct why not force everyone express themsleves like an applicant for a a trainnee accountancy position.
Comment is free is not poor because its rude its poor because its stupid.I detect in this maiden auntish lip pursing the first signs of the regulatory mentality. In politics , the intensely conservative rules about how you.
are allowed to speak and conduct yourself are part of the system of exclusivity and the blogasphere is doing great work breaking it up .

There is something more , not allowing straighforward expression of the way you fel as well as the "evidence " leaves out the human element that the left find inconvenient and the Greens usually do as well .

The Green party love bossing people around and making laws I bet they and the rest of the busy bodies just can`t wait g for a "code of conduct"

Bollocks to it !

That is where it begins

Dorothea said...

Newmania has a good point.

Politics is not a gentle drawing-room business. Growing State control aided by the deadening effect of big brother TV has shut down the vital forum of the street where political debate used to take place. So now we have blogs.

I’ve been blogging for well over a year now and have never had to censor out any comment, something I wouldn’t want to do anyhow, as I oppose censorship.

The principle of decentralisation indicates that people have to live with their own decisions, and makes for a lively and diverse public debate. Let each blogger set their own conditions in their own space.

Don’t forget also, that not everyone has had the dubious advantage of a university education and not everyone is nice and middle class (thankfully). Different people express themselves in different ways and they should be free to do so, criminal incitement excepted.

Rupert said...

Freedom of speech is one thing. Stupid nasty speech is another.
I hope that Dorothea and Newmania are not defending or advocating the latter? Assuming that they are not, then they can rest assured that JimJay and I are not advocating censorship, either. And then perhaps we can all be friends?... ;-)

thedharmablues said...

One of the problems with discussions on the internet is the sense of absolute freedom. Not only does an individual have the freedom to say what they want to say, but they have the freedom to say it without having to accept responsibility for saying it.

In reality, a blog is a personal forum thus the blogger is well within their rights to edit their blog as they see fit.

Freedom of expression is not being limited because a blogger deletes a nasty comment. Said commenter is well within their rights to establish their own blog and pollute their own mini-part of the internet with hateful bile.

Dorothea said...

What one person sees as "stupid and nasty" another will often see as witty or direct.

I agree with thedharmablues - there is, and should be, nothing to stop people setting up their own blogs to express their point of view.

Sadly, the world seems to be full of stupid and/or nasty people. In a democracy they all get a vote. A "blogger's code of conduct" would not change this, it would just be another piece of political repression and authoritarian do-gooding worthy of New Labour's Brave New World.

weggis said...

Please define "reasonable".

Jim Jay said...

As far as I'm concerned my blog is a bit like my living room. I'm not going to go round stopping people in the street speaking how they like - but when you come to my blog I expect you to behave as you would in my house.

I've no problem with deleting abusive comments - but have only had to do it very very rarely - once in the case of death threats.

There is a massive difference between disagreeing, sometimes passionately, and abusive behaviour. Face to face we can tell the difference very easily - but when it comes to blogs suddenly some people seem to think any behaviour is reasonable. Not so.

I agree with dorethea when she says "Let each blogger set their own conditions in their own space" and a code of conduct would not be an authoritarian piece of legislation but an agreement by those particular bloggers to a set of common principles.

As an aside I will say that lots of working class people are nice and well mannered, etc. and I don't think we should associate decency with the middle classes.

Dorothea said...

A code of conduct set out by the creator of each blog sounds very reasonable, and very different from the generalised code initially suggested (first comment).

The point about class is not that any class is better or worse, but that different classes and different groups of people have very different, unspoken, agreements on codes of speech and behaviour. This is never a problem when everyone is using the same rules, but when people from different backgrounds come together, offence may be given unintentionally.

The noun "bugger", as in "you cheeky bugger", for example, is an affectionate term in some areas of Britain, but can cause choking apoplexy in others.

Dismissing someone's valid, but discomfiting point by claiming that the language used is "stupid and nasty", for example, is a tactic I've seen used by the middle class.

However, English middle class speech and behaviour can appear very rude and obnoxious to people from other cultural backgrounds.

The gap in understanding between my proudly working class husband and myself took considerable effort to bridge, on both our parts. He was frequently offended by my middle class modes of speech and taught me that words such as "dichotomy" are not to be used loosely, and are seen as "taking the *+@!" in his local pub - "*+@!" and other venerable Anglo-Saxon idioms are not seen as remotely offensive however.

I have no problem with CiF myself, except on the few occasions when a couple of people start going round and round in circles slagging each other off without listening to each other's point of view.

Jim Jay said...

Dorothea I generally agree with both your assertions that... "different classes and different groups of people have very different, unspoken, agreements on codes of speech and behaviour." and... an "affectionate term in some areas of Britain, but can cause choking apoplexy in others"

But I'd like to guard against merging the two. Northerns are not more working class than southerners by default and what is acceptable in one group of people from the same area *and* class is not in another.

For example - I come from Essex but I bet you in every town there are different working class communities based around, let's say, a church, a factory, the tax office, the local cattle market nightclub and a youth club. All have working class groupings none have any sort of concensus on what makes for impolite speech.

You could swear in a joking way in front of my workmates, but my mum is very strict on that sort of thing (and not just to me!)

Being working class does not oblige you to enjoy football, swear continually, refuse to read books or get into fights outside pubs. And none of these make you working class if you do them.

I am working class and from essex and am peversely proud of both - it doesn't mean i need to prove it by acting in any way other than my own.

ps my proposal in the first post was for something bloggers would voluntarily sign up to - unless there's a section on legislation written in invisible ink!

Dorothea said...

Jim Jay wrote; “I am working class and from essex and am peversely proud of both”

Why is it “perverse” to be proud of being working class? Your name’s not Sidney Webb is it?

Jim, you seem to be repeatedly misunderstanding me. All human groups develop their own language and behaviour code (usually tacit). You don’t have to take my word on these matters, as it’s all covered thoroughly in linguistics, sociology and anthropology. For example Tajfel’s Social Identity theory, and “Class, Codes And Control” by Basil Bernstein.

http://www.amazon.com/Class-Codes-Control-Basil-Bernstein/dp/0415302862

http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/11/why-groups-and-prejudices-form-so.php

This all started from Rupert’s expressing concerns about CiF and Iain Dale’s blog. You then wrote, quote “We need a blogger's code of conduct!” a position from which, happily, you now have resiled, writing; “I agree with dorethea [sic] when she says "Let each blogger set their own conditions in their own space"“

I don’t share your, and Rupert’s view of CiF and Iain Dale. They are generally very polite places relative to many others, in fact Iain Dale’s blog is criticised by some for being too genteel and restrictive - but that is, rightly, his choice to make.

Weggis asked Rupert to define what he would call “reasonable manners”. Let’s have an answer to that and then we’ll all know what we can and cannot say on Rupert’s Read.

Jim Jay said...

But we all naturally know what reasonable manners are face to face - those manners are the same on the internet.

If someone is going to get abusive or rude or personal they are not abiding by reasonable manners. It's simple.

ps it *is* peverse to be proud of being from essex - but I am none the less - all the things I miss about living there are essentially its less admirable qualities.

Rupert said...

'Reasonable': I know it when I see its opposite...
And I see its opposite quite a lot on CIF. You must be unusually thick-skinned, Dorothea -- I know a number of people who refuse to go on CIF at all, because they find it often such an obnoxious environment. I, btw, find it often a really depressing place, that gives me little faith in humanity's capacity to save itself.
Personal insults without extremely good grounds won't be tolerated on Rupert's Read. That is one part of my 'code of conduct'.
I am pleased to say that none of the commenters here have ever violated it - to date! :-)

weggis said...

One could argue that a blog being a public place is more akin to a Public House rather than a private living room.
I do read some of Iain Dale’s stuff and also some blogs on CiF and it seems tame to me compared with the pub, but I may not have seen what you’ve seen. Mind you, I also expect there are far worse pubs than the ones I frequent.

What I do find off-putting, sometimes, is that some contributors do not listen or respond to reasonable arguments put forward by their opposites. This goes for both sides. These are the believers who have not thought through their position and cannot back it up with rational argument. Deliberate Flaming by Trolls is best ignored.

Using stereotypes like “hippies” to refer to greens I just find amusing. But perhaps you are referring to more acerbic comments?