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Great Anti-Cyberbullying Ad

I just stumbled across this excellent anti-cyberbullying ad from the US Adcouncil and had to share:

It’s simple, straight-forward and extremely effective. Show your kids. [X Post]

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Tim O’Reilly’s Blogging Code of Conduct Makes Me Nervous

As everyone from the New York Times onward has noted, in the wake of the threats against Kathy Sierra Tim O’Reilly proposed a Blogging Code of Conduct and has now written the first (draft) version of this code. While I’m heartened that so much well-intentioned conversation has surged through the blogosphere, I fear that a trying to write rules of all blogs and bloggers is a fairly silly and self-defeating thing to do. One of the models being mentioned all over the place is the BlogHer Community Guidelines; I think that these are great guidelines for a particular online community and suggest that, really, it’s not just the model but the width of applicability that matters; communities should always be able to assert their own guidelines, but the blogosphere, despite the collective noun, is at best an awful lot of communities and individuals, often with vastly different aims and intentions.

In educational contexts, for example, the process of discussing guidelines in classes from K-12 through to university is a useful one both for the issues raised, and the shared guidelines which emerge. Similarly, most communities or vague collectives have rules of some sort, but these rules differ. Some bloggers have a notice about conduct on their blog (by commenters); I think this level of transparency is great. (It’s also something I’ve always meant to do for this blog, but I fear I might not get around to until I actually have to deal with deleting someone’s comments and I’ve not had to do that to anyone other than Mr Spam as yet.)

I think Jeff Jarvis sums up a lot of the angst I’m feeling at reading about O’Reilly’s Code:

So O’Reilly only set us up to be called nasty, unmannered, and thus uncivilized hooligans. Except for Tim, of course. He’s the nice one. Me, I feel like the goth kid with premature tattoos skulking down the hall.

But the problems are far more fundamental and dangerous than that. And just gratingly twinkie, too.

This effort misses the point of the internet, blogs, and even of civilized behavior. They treat the blogosphere as if it were a school library where someone — they’ll do us the favor — can maintain order and control. They treat it as a medium for media. But as Doc Searls has taught me, it’s not. It’s a place. And when I moved into the place that is my town, I didn’t put up a badge on my fence saying that I’d be a good neighbor (and thus anyone without that badge is, de facto, a bad neighbor). I didn’t have to pledge to act civilized. I just do. And if I don’t, you can judge me accordingly. Are there rules and laws? Yes, the same ones that exist in worlds physical or virtual: If I libel or defame you on the streetcorner or in a paper or on a screen, the recourse is the same. But I don’t put up another badge on my fence saying I won’t libel you. I just don’t. That’s how the world works. Why should this new world work any differently? Why should it operate with more controls and more controllers?

Also, Tristan Louis has a thoughtful “Blogger’s Code of Conduct: a Dissection” which makes a very strong case against O’Reilly’s Code, pointing out many of the semantic, interpretive and legal difficulties such a code throws up for bloggers (and commenters) everywhere (Via SmartMobs).

It’s no shock that Dave Winer has blasted O’Reilly’s Code, but it is telling to have Robert Scoble stating he wouldn’t be able to follow the proposed Code despite the fact that his wife was also one of the people targeted by the same pillocks who threatened Sierra.

I’m all for thinking about how communities work (online and, indeed, offline) and for individuals and individual communities to be able to – within reason – set rules for their own digital turf. I just think the turf of the blogosphere en masse is so different and so wide that no single set of rules will let the grass grow properly or productively everywhere.

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The Misogyny of Connectivity?

In the wake of the misogynistic death threats against  blogger Kathy Sierra, and the huge debates which have ensued, Salon editor Joan Walsh has weighed in with a particularly insightful piece called quite simply ‘Men who hate women on the Web’.  One of the reasons Walsh’s piece is particularly credible is that she, too, has been on the receiving end of misogynistic comments, but has – until reading Sierra’s post – basically tried to brush them off as one of the grubby downsides of culture per se, but also a culture which is amplified by the shield of (supposed) anonymity online.  In her article Walsh makes that point explicit:

Attitudes toward women have improved dramatically just in my lifetime, but still the world has too many misogynists, and the Web has given them a microphone that lets them turn up the volume on their quavering selves, their self-righteous fury, their self-loathing expressed as hatred of women. […] I truly believe misogynist trolls are only a tiny sliver of the Web population. But I can no longer say they don’t matter, or they do no real harm. We have them here at Salon in politics and relationship threads; Sierra has them in the world of tech marketing. They’re probably not the same guys. That’s disturbing. What’s unique to the Web is that they can easily collaborate: A vicious prankster who’d like to rattle Sierra can make threats or even find and publish her address, and he might only want to scare her, not do her real physical harm. But he can be joined by an unhinged person who takes the address and acts on it.

While the specificities of who did what appear muddled at best in terms of the threats against Kathy Sierra, her post has re-raised and re-emphasised the issues of abuse, sexism and misogyny is very real ways.  Stop Cyberbullying Day was certainly one important response, but so too are the many, many conversations which have highlighted the many instances of verbal/textual abuse (albeit is less explicit terms that those against Kathy Sierra) that occur in the blogosphere and online (and, indeed, offline) culture.  I concur with Walsh that it’s important to emphasise that there are less misogynistic attitudes is the world today, but that doesn’t mean being complacent is the answer.  As we revel in the era of social software, the last week has given us pause and highlighted the need to continue to discuss the problems of sexism, misogyny and any other hate-speech, and never to presume the battle against these problems is won, otherwise web2.0 will end up with the equality0.0.

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Stop Cyberbullying Day

In the midst of the blog-storm — and increasingly, the mainstream media storm — over cyberbullying and far worse threats made against ‘A-List’ blogger Kathy Sierra, Andy Carvin has taken the initiative and declared today – Friday 30 March – Stop Cyberbullying Day. While Sierra’s situation is horrid and complicated in the same breath, the general principle that any bullying is bad, and cyberbullying seems increase the tendency to be really nasty given supposed anonymity, I think Carvin’s idea is a great one, so I am declaring my absolute for Stop Cyberbullying Day – and my ongoing disdain for bullying in any form, be it cyber or otherwise.

I wish I had more time to write a more detailed and thoughtful post, but as I have no time at all, please have a look at my links post for 28 March points to Kathy Sierra’s post which announced the ongoing threats she received to the blogosphere, and it also contains a number of the initial responses including those from Robert Scoble (who is not blogging this week, in solidarity), danah boyd (who tells her own story about bullying while decrying the abuse of Kathy Sierra) and Doc Searls (who knows a lot of the people said to be involved in abusing Kathy and seems to be doing a pretty balanced job of trying to get to the bottom of it all).

Then read and use these if you can:

    [X] Abc7News: Cyber Threats Against Well-Known Blogger has a brief overview of the threats Kathy Sierra received; it also has an unedited audio interview with Kathy Sierra about those threats – it’s well worth listening to.
    [X] Andy Carvin’s Stop Cyberbullying Ning (a mini social network for discussing these problems, and work on solutions).
    [X] Scott McLeod has created a some images you can use to show your support for Stop Cyberbullying Day (the image at the top of this post is one of Scott’s).
    [X] Read and comment on current blog posts in support of Stop Cyberbullying Day.
    [X] And, finally, please make your own blog post or other show of support if you can. Bullying hurts everyone.

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