May 08, 2005

Blogosphere Code of Conduct

I saw a video of a blog meeting titled, “How to disagree without being disagreeable.” I was rather appalled at the whole thing. It struck me as most disagreeable.

This has motivated me to write what I call, The Blogosphere Code of Conduct (BCOC), or “How to Disagree without Being Disagreeable”. It is a set of do’s and don’ts. Here it is in no particular order.

Do be thick skinned. The anonymity of the Blogosphere leads some people to say things they wouldn’t dare say to your face. Ignore them. Their parents probably never taught them good manners.

Don’t call people names or generalize about them – even if you want to. Sometimes one is tempted to say, “Well you just say that because you’re an a**.” This does nothing to further the debate.

Do grant your opponent credit when he/she makes a valid point. In any debate, you’re going to win some points and lose some. Acknowledge the ones you lose and move on. It’ll really disarm your opponent.

Don’t just cut and paste from some other source into the comments section. If you’re not smart enough to summarize the point, you want to make 100 words or less, you’re out of your league. No one is going to read the whole thing and you’re point will be lost.

Do have a sense of humor. In a thick and heavy discussion, a little self-deprecating humor can lighten the whole atmosphere. Making a joke about yourself shows you’re your ego is not threatened by what others think or say about you. If you can’t make a job at your own expense, get counseling. Life is just too short not to have some fun occasionally.

Don’t speak in generalities be as specific as possible. To say, “This economy stinks,” says nothing. If you say, “The U.S. economy grew at only 0.5% in the last quarter and that is the lowest quarterly growth rate since 1863,” then you’ve made a specific point that your opponent will have to counter.

Do be truthful. You can lie and get away with it for only a short period. It is just too easy to fact check what you say in the Blogosphere and you’ll be found out. Lose your creditability and you blogosphereically dead.

This has grown to be longer than I wanted and it violates my own admonition to be brief. As Strunk and White say, “Omit needless words.” Therefore, here’s the Readers Digest version.

  • Be thick skinned
  • Don’t call people names
  • Grant your opponent a valid point
  • Don’t just cut and paste
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Be specific
  • Be truthful

If you feel I need to add or omit anything, I am open to suggestions.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Attack the arguement not the debater. You can challenge the logic and facts of an arguement, but refrain from personal attacks.

Posted by Ted at May 8, 2005 07:31 PM

"Don't speak in generalities."

What, never?

Posted by: Logician at May 10, 2005 10:03 PM

Here are the suggestions that actually came out of the session (when all the fog of contentiousness was cleared). I think they are remarkable calm and agreeable:

Posted by: Rex Hammock at May 10, 2005 10:33 PM

On behalf of the adult philosophers lurking about, I apologize for "Logician" and his commentary. This is what passes for wit in the weaker of our circles.

Wait, does that break your rules? Being mean? Ambrose Bierce would have done poorly with our netiquette Emily Post's. I like Glenn and respect his (and your) calls to civility, but I'd prefer a new Bierce or Mencken to you lot any day. And that involves cruelty.

Perhaps we should have a new rule, one that trumps all the others: you can be as mean as you want, just so long as you do it well.

Posted by: James Versluys at May 11, 2005 12:32 AM

I guess it depends what your goal is. Does one want to be clever or convince people of one's argument?

I don't think personal attacks ever changed anyone's mind - unless it was at the point of a gun.

Posted by: Ted at May 11, 2005 06:15 AM

Good job Ted. Very concise list that would make disagreements out here far more productive.

Posted by: Karl at May 11, 2005 07:56 AM

The rule "you can be as mean as you want, just so long as you do it well" advocates verbal violence in a setting where safety, not violence, is what we desire. I love a good rant, but rants don't help with dialog. See Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. ( ). It's very good.


Posted by: Wince and Nod at May 11, 2005 01:00 PM

You guys and your rules are funny. What are there now, 5 million or more blogs around the world?

To paraphrase that old line about foxhunting---"the pursuit of the inedible by the unspeakable"---this is the pursuit of the unenforceable by the ungovernable.

Posted by: veryretired at May 11, 2005 02:09 PM

Ted, had your fine BCOC been in effect and adhered to during that session, it would have gone much smoother. Even given the tone, I feel it was a productive session. To quote from my post:

"Now, there was disagreement, and heated exchanges, and some DISrespect. After all, this was NOT a roomful of pansies. A challenge offered was going to be a challenge accepted. But there was also much respectful disagreement, from my viewpoint. My personal opinion is that the session was a success."

I like your list, though... sign me up.

Posted by: Greg at May 15, 2005 01:18 AM