Overreacting

I hate what happened to Kathy Sierra as much as anyone. However, I'm not in a rush to solve an unsolvable problem -- online anti-social behavior. So I'm throwing my website in front of the runaway Internet locomotive that is the Blogger's Code of Conduct, supported by Internet stars Tim O'Reilly and Jimmy Wales.

If I don't call this out as bullshit, who will?

It's nothing personal. In fact, I'd be the first one to buy them a round of drinks if I ever get the chance. But the issue is serious enough that I can't ignore it. These rules are poorly thought out and ineffective against the problem that they're hoping to resolve. And the spotlight given to this by the BBC and the New York Times will only accelerate the terrible resolution we're headed towards.

History is our guide here. After reading Tim's article, I immediately thought of the Patriot Act written in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the internment of Japanese people during World War II. I don't mean that this code of conduct is on the same level as those other events, or that it carries the same weight as a law.

What I mean is that humans have a tendency to overreact, and in retrospect acts like these are unnecessary. Need some modern examples? Look at the reactions to Gmail or RFID. It's human nature to overreact in the midst of fear and uncertainty, just like setting the shower to the right temperature -- too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold.

Can we work on these rules a year from now, after our tempers have cooled off? After we've really put some thought into this and created some good solutions to the problem? That would make me feel a little better about this.

When did we leave behind discussion and cut straight into codification? Some Internet elites making this decision over a beer followed someone putting it on a wiki for everyone to edit is no substitute for a serious talk about what's the right course of action from here. I'm just trying to be a little more thoughtful about this problem before this potential blunder.

I could go through and pick apart their list of points one by one, but I don't want this to be a nitpicking fight over intent or terminology; I'm certain these people had the best intent behind their actions. Instead I'd rather have a nice, intelligent chat about the goals of what you're doing and how it will fix the underlying problem, whatever that is. That's why I want to invoke rule 4 against you:

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

You've unfairly attacked me and the millions of other Internet citizens who don't live in your ideal world, who will be affected by this. Please take action before jumping to conclusions and putting these terrible rules into place, because I certainly will take action if you don't.

Overreacting is the first step towards getting scalded by the shower.

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