A prominent internet writer and the head of Wikipedia have collaborated on a set of rules designed to bring civility to the world of bloggers, which can appear to be a world of endless conversational battle.
Web pioneer Tim O'Reilly, who is often credited with coining the term Web 2.0, posted a first draft of the Bloggers Code of Conduct on his website and on wikia.com, the site run by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
The code calls on bloggers— people who write and post material in online journals called blogs — to not post "unacceptable" content and delete comments that contain abusive, harassing or threatening content.
It also calls on bloggers to say online only what they would say in person, not to allow anonymous comments, to take action to defend against unfair comments and to connect privately to resolve disputes before posting public comments.
O'Reilly called fora code after prominent blogger Kathy Sierra suspended her blog in March because of death threats on her blog and threats of violence posted on other websites.
"We celebrate the blogosphere because it embraces frank and open conversation in ways that were long missing from mainstream media and marketing-dominated corporate websites," O'Reilly first wrote on his Radar blog a week ago.
"But frankness does not have to mean lack of civility. There's no reason why we should tolerate conversations online that we wouldn't tolerate in our living room."
The draft of the code was posted on Wikia to allow readers to comment and help shape the final document through a community-edited review process similar to the way entries are edited on Wikipedia.
The code has already generated controversy on the site's discussion group over issues of censorship and enforceability of the rules, particularly O'Reilly's first rule of conduct calling on bloggers to "take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog."
Also at issue is the fact thatexamples of unacceptable content include libel, violations of privacy and confidentialityas well as copyright and trademark infringement.
"Does declaring that you will take responsibility for copyright and trademark violations open you up to more legal exposure than you would have otherwise?" wrotecommenter Sethopon the Wikia discussion forum.
Another poster called Dscrimshaw suggested the code should be more flexible to allow bloggers to adopt those rules they feel suit their forum.
O'Reilly wrote that a final version of the code would eventually be posted on bloggingcode.org. Users wishing to adhere to the standard could display a badge that would link to the rules.
According to blog-indexing company Technorati, there are 74.9 million blogs on the internet.