May 30, 2011

A Blogger's Code of Conduct

RJ Walters is a busy blogger. I count six different avenues for his creativity to be expressed. I list his Waiting 4 God under "My Favorites Blogs."  Frankly, I have a hard time keeping up with just this blog. How he finds the time to manage and freshen half a dozen, I have no clue. One day I noticed something labeled Code of Conduct at the top of his Red Letter Living blog. He bases this on the words of Jesus, hence the red letter title.

RJ, who is a regular commenter on Satisfying Retirement, has posted what he expects from those who visit his site. I have no idea how many of his readers check "the code" before proceeding, but I did and found the inspiration for today's post. What follows are his words, followed by some of my thoughts. I am trusting he won't mind.

RJ's Code of Conduct:

I welcome your comments to anything I say. But I will not allow others to use my blog to vent their bitterness. As long as you comment by the code below I will post them for others to see.

All bloggers decide if they want to permit comments to be left after a post. Some decide the blog is more of a personal journal, so someone else's comments don't really fit. But, most blogs encourage and actively solicit comments...I do.

It is certainly OK to disagree with a blogger. It wouldn't be very interesting if every comment simply echoed whatever the post was about and agreed with everything that was said. A different point of view can open up a meaningful exchange of ideas and solutions to problems.

But, if you spend anytime at all reading blogs, you have probably come across comments that are downright nasty. The blogger's ideas aren't just disputed, but the attacks become personal. Name-calling and denigrating someone's honesty or integrity take place. RJ spells out what he considers the basic rules you should follow if you expect him to allow your comment to see the light of day. Being a Christian, RJ bases his code of conduct on a few principals in the Bible, hence the references at the end of each of his three "rules." Whatever your feelings about religion, I would doubt you can disagree with what he asks of his contributors:

• I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the this online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree—even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I wish this simple statement was one more of us followed in our daily life, not just when leaving a comment on a blog. I am afraid the concept of respectful disagreement is being drowned out by the shouts and rants of angry people, fully believing he who yells the loudest and longest wins.

• I will express my disagreements with other community members’ ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I am not sure American politics in 2011 could function if RJ's code was enforced nationwide. To run for virtually any elected office means inviting the worst type of personal name-calling and slanderous accusations from those who disagree. Mockery and insults are the preferred tools in public discourse.

I will not exaggerate others’ beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

Extending the benefit of the doubt means someone accepts the possibility that he may be wrong and the other person may be right. It means accepting that, as a human being, each of us has incomplete knowledge. We are not infallible.

This is not a subject that is exclusive to bloggers or retirees. It is an important topic for everyone. Common decency, or open and constructive debate are held hostage by the extreme fringes on either side of an issue. Trying to reach a consensus is required in a democracy. For whatever reason those yelling the loudest about freedom are those least likely to grant it to those who may disagree with them.

RJ's code of conduct would be a great starting point for a lot more than just comments left on his blog.

OK - notice I am inviting comments. Fire away!


  1. I stopped allowing any comments a long time ago. The nastiness was downright disgusting, to say the least. Now, if you want to leave a comment on my blog, you must have a trackable email address, so I can hunt you down, should you leave anything horrific. I won't tolerate it anymore.

    And why should I?

    The nasty comments were ALWAYS anonymous anyway. I called them "drive by commentors" They had the backbone of a snake.

    I'm happier this way. And so is my blog.

  2. Hi, found you on my Blogger "Traffic sources" and thought I'd come over and take a look. I like your summer songs. And I could not agree more with your "Code of Conduct."

    I myself have not had any problem with commenters making nasty remarks or calling me names. If anything, people seem too agreeable and too solicitous, as if they don't want to offend. Well, I had one Anonymous person ... but even that was fairly tame.

    Nevertheless, your advice is well taken -- perhaps even more relevant for people on TV and in other media, the people who shout and scream to get your attention. While I'm sure there are some crazy bloggers, the blogs I visit offer a more intelligent, more reasoned, more informative experience than anything I see on cable news.

    Anyway, glad to "meet" you; come over for a visit anytime.

  3. @ Morrison

    I tried unmoderated comments for a time but found a fair amount of spam being left. Now, I don't publish a comment until I have had the chance to read it first. In terms of nasty comments, I've not really had a problem. Maybe my posts aren't controversial enough!


    Welcome! I have your blog listed on my blog roll on the right sidebar. I ran across you a few weeks ago and liked what I saw.

    I'd agree that the problem is more prevalent on TV, certain web sites, and even newspaper letters to the editor. It is more common for a blogger to have a system to screen comments to prevent the counterproductive, personal attack-type material from ever making it to the blog.

    But, the larger point is it is a shame that our public discourse necessitates such a step. Once someone becomes an adult, a basic level of courtesy and respect for others should be understood.

    Apparently not.

  4. Bob:

    Your post makes some valid points, for which I agree. The bigger question is can we be civil to each other on blogs, while discussing our disagreements regarding a host of painful realities. The enormous government debt will negatively affect our retirement lifestyles. I think it would be unwise, and unfair to sack our children with the current financial and social burdens while we baby boomers expect to slide into a comfortable retirement. If it is our privilege in a free society to have a voice on blogs, and also our opportunity to engage in sometimes painful discussion/disagreements toward helping find solutions to the problems we’ve all contributed to creating.

  5. Adam,

    There's the rub...discussing difficult and delicate issues that have profound impact on all of us, while accepting that our solution may not be the right one.

    When I read comments on blogs I like the author if he/she allows someone to express a different viewpoint or interpretation. My admiration goes up again if he responds in a way that accepts the validity of the commenter's right to feel the way he does.

  6. Bob:

    I absolutely agree with your reply. We should not hesitate to engage in hard discussions, but it's counterproductive to make it personal with anyone, just because we disagree with particular point of view.

  7. Interesting post. I have never had anyone say anything bad on my blog. Knock wood.

    I don't moderate or anything. Once I had someone post a link to their online t-shirt store but that was as bad as it ever got.

    Maybe because I only have 66 followers. I had 67 but I lost one one day. That made me feel worse than a bad comment! HA!

  8. Bob,I am humbled by your words. Thanks for them. I know we are both aligned with being civil to one another and to our fellow bloggers. That is what we seem to have lost lately. I cringe whenever I am reading a news article on the net and the comments suddenly creep onto the screen behind them. So many of them are just screams of desperation. I am fortunate enough on all my blogs to not have to block too many but I do get seriously flamed once in a while :) I guess it comes with the territory.
    Thanks again for the kind words

  9. Roberta,

    You have been lucky, or attract a nice class of reader. After seeing your blog I'm guessing the latter. And, yes, when I see my daily views drop I worry why!

  10. RJ,

    You are welcome. I am happy I found the code of conduct. It reflects very much the way I feel. I remain optimistic that treating people well eventually gets them to respond in a similar fashion. It is really nothing more than the golden rule.

    As an unintended consequence of eliminating cable TV, I rarely have to see the screaming voices and mobs anymore.

  11. The Code of conduct is a great start for a new era of civility -- in blogging as well as in life. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about nastiness and name-calling in politics. Canada recently had a federal election which was characterized by negativity in the extreme. Too bad that our civic society can no longer discuss and argue policy questions without using tactics of demonizing proponents of different viewpoints.

  12. Good morning Jeanette,

    My fear is this path we have chosen of extreme partisanship without the possibility of compromise has no peaceful resolution. Once we begin to think of everyone who is not exactly like us as the enemy, where does that leave democracy?

    It is naive to believe this hyper-selfishness will restrict itself just to the political arena. Once this type of behavior is encouraged and successful in one part of life, I doubt the genie can easily be stuffed back into the bottle. It is disheartening and scary to watch.

    RJ's code gives me hope.

  13. Hi Bob, This is an excellent post and I can't agree more with the importance of showing respect for all. I started blogging a few months ago and have been lucky to attract some wonderful followers and almost all of my comments have been encouraging. At the same time, I am keenly aware of how the internet can cut anyone who participates. It's a whole new level of socialization and, for me at least, a continuing learning process. I hope more bloggers will get this topic out there so more folks can think about it and learn from it. Thanks again, John

  14. Hi John,

    I think this is your first comment...thanks and welcome! Welcome to the wacky world of blogging. Yes, the Internet can open you up to love and support or anonymous attacks and nastiness. You learn tolerance and patience.

    By the way, I love railroads and am a ham radio operator. I enjoyed your blog's pictures of your Amtrak trip down the west coast...a trip I've always wanted to take. When I lived in Salt Lake City in the late 70's I took the train to Seattle and LA on a regular basis.

    Your "blogs I follow" also has given me a few week's worth of new places to explore. Thanks!

  15. Bob,
    Nothing wrong with the sentiments but it just seems cold when your commenters are civil and intelligent to slam them with your notice that you wont stand for bad behavior. I'd like to think that my readers embrace those sentiments and perhaps have higher standards than mine. No need to suggest how bad they could be if they choose. That's my take anyway.

  16. Ralph,

    I understand your point completely. Personally, I like a lively discussion.

    The key to RJ's code is the definition of "bad behavior." I assume he wants to avoid being flamed on his blog, or another site, if he needs to edit or delete a comment that cross the line. By stating his standards up front he is being transparent about what he accepts.

    I have had to edit a few comments that crossed the line into what I considered unacceptable territory. In almost one year of blogging I have deleted only one comment completely before it saw the light of day.

  17. Hi Bob, I am a new visitor and now can't recall which other blog brought me here. The Code of Conduct borrowed from RJ Walters makes perfect sense, but it's a shame folks have to be "reminded" how to act towards one another. Luckily, we have not experienced any bad behaviour in blog comments. A couple of times spam got in, but those comments were quickly deleted. We just switch from embedded to pop-up comments because of more problems with embedded in blogger. Hopefully, this will not mean an influx of undesired comments. I will be looking around your blog for previous posts.

  18. Welcome Beatrice,

    I'm glad you found me, no matter what the path! Please browse around and enjoy.

    I have been lucky so far and hope that continues. I do moderate all comments first so I catch anything before it posts, but I'd hate to spend part of my day deleting or editing. Originally I didn't do that and found a fair amount of spam or comments that were strictly there to provide a link to a commercial site. Yes, it is a shame we even have to worry about such a step.

    By the way, I like your blog's "where friends are always welcome, relatives by appointment only."

    Have a great evening.