Friday, January 14, 2005

Share Your Thoughts on C.O.B.E. (a proposed code of blogging ethics)

Thanks again to all of those who took the time to so thoughtfully respond to the questions I posed below via public comment and privately by e-mail. I grouped the sentiments that were shared and used them to propose a Code of Blogging Ethics.

Here is the code that emerged from the blogosphere:


1. Promote Free Expression by posting on your blog on a regular basis as well as visiting and posting on other sites in the blogosphere.

2. Avoid restricting access to your blog by certain individuals and groups and never remove posts or comments once they have been published.

3. Be as transparent as possible by revealing any personal affiliations that might effect the opinions you express on your blog.

4. Emphasize the “human” elements in blogging by revealing and maintaining as much of your identity as is deemed safe; promote equality by not restricting specific users or groups of users form your blog; minimize harm to others by never knowingly hurting or injuring someone with information you make available on your blog; and build community by linking your blog to others, maintaining a blogroll to encourage visitors to your blog to visit others, and by facilitating relationships between you and your readers.

5. Strive for factual truth and never intentionally deceive readers. Make yourself accountable for information you post online. Cite and link to all sources referenced in each blog post, and secure permission before linking to other blogs or web content.

6. Promote interactivity by posting regularly to your blog, honoring such etiquette and protocol policies that are posted on blogs you visit, and make an effort to be entertaining enough to inspire return visits to your site.

Though I welcome any and all commentary on the code, I would like to invite you to read the complete paper. Both the code and a link to a PDF of the paper are currently posted on the conference blog for the Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility conference being hosted by the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, the Shorenstein Center on the Press, politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and the American Library Association's Office of Information Technology. If you would prefer, you may comment on the code via public posts on that blog.

The blogoshere contains many different types of blogs and is populated by many different types of bloggers. Any code that might serve to guide blogger behavior will necessarily continue to change and evolve. To that end, I consider COBE to be both a beginning and a continuation of an interactive discussion regarding the emerging relationship between freedom and responsibility in this new rhetorical space.

NOTE: Some commentators have noted that this code is very similar to the standards proposed by Rebecca Blood in 2002. It is. My results seem to indicate that Ms. Blood was accurately reading "values" that would be prized in a new medium. Her standards are presented at the end of the paper (with Ms. Blood's permission) as is A Bloggers' Code of Ethics by Jonathan Dube which is an adaptation of the SPJ Code of Ethics for use by journalistic bloggers.


Blogger Andrew Watkins said...

Hey, Martin,

This is Andrew Watkins, saw your comment on Blogs of War about my DSS story, and let me return the compliment; this post is right on. Great idea, well put-together.

"in Derka-Derkastan", one of my links categories, has some great "boots on the ground" blogs, most recently found, and my new favorite, ArmorGeddon. An American Soldier, in my Military category, is getting shipped over any day now, if he hasn't already.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Malchus said...


I applaud your efforts on the COBE, but have two issues with what's currently stated:

1. Your blanket insistence that comments, once made, should not be removed is both naive and dangerous. If someone chooses to provide a comment that could result in harm to others, including litigation, it is a responsible act to remove it. Forum moderators have known this for years, hence a comment from one of the leading forum owners at the most recent WebmasterWorld conference in Las Vegas - "don't go cheap on lawyers."
1-A. Would you also chose to not remove machine-generated comment spam?
2. Notably absent from your code of ethics is anything about bloggers in the workplace. Should the code guide employers' behavior as well as that of employee/bloggers. Recent actions at Google, among others, point up a need to address this facet of blog ethics.

Once again, glad that you are addressing this issue - and am doubly pleased that your efforts are originating from Chapel Hill, where I spent many wonderful years. Go Heels.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Malchus said...


Not to spam you, but to offer another perspective re: the comment posted earlier today, please take a look at Bob Parson's rules:


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