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.

Raise your expectations

PC World announced their list of the Top 50 Best Tech Products of All Time yesterday. I have to say I was shocked at their number 1 pick — Netscape Navigator. Really, I was shocked at the whole list. Why wasn’t the iPod number one on the list? That single item has transformed entertainment as we know it. Hell, if Netscape was so important, why wasn’t the original IBM personal computer at the top of the list?

I know why. It must be because we as consumers (and the editorial staff at PC World) have lowered our expectations to ridiculous depths. That phrase — “Lower your expectations” — was my mantra at the first job I took out of college. It summarized everything I was aiming for in the output of my work — little effort, acceptable results. I should have put it on my office door, right next to my “Bang Head HERE” sign and the occasional notice from the American Cookie Council.

Really – have our expectations of computer technology gotten so bad that Napster is the fourth best tech product we as humans have ever created? Napster SUCKED. Sure, you could download all the music you wanted. But don’t you remember how crappy it was? It only showed 100 search results, the search results were never what you wanted, and if you did find something it took forever to download. “Best” technology my ass.

What about magnetic resonance imaging — MRI in the vernacular. It has countless applications including viewing blood flow issues, brain activity, bones and ligaments, and more — all non-invasive and it’s pretty safe. Now you tell me which technology is better — Napster, a miserable piece of software used largely by poor college students to commit copyright infringement, or MRI, which has helped doctors diagnose health conditions and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. PC World editors — I hope the next time you get an MRI, the computer they use gets infected with a virus that was downloaded when someone used Napster.

On the subject of consumer technologies, based on this list we still have a long way to go. We can develop kick-ass technologies, but we don’t. Apple has done a pretty decent job of it. But let me be clear about this — Apple is not the end-all, be-all of great technology. We’ve been conditioned in the Windows/Office paradigm for so long that we’ve forgotten what good technology experiences should be like. Apple is a breath of fresh air, but certainly not the best that technology can be.

For you people out there in charge of making the technologies that we humans use throughout our lives, raise your expectations about how great those technologies can be. “It’s good enough” is the last thought that should be on your mind. What if the person who buys your product knew you gave up on making it better — gave up on giving them a better experience when using your product? You should march down to the nearest store that sells your product and personally apologize to each person that buys it. “I’m sorry. I gave up. It could have been better. It wasn’t good enough.”

And really — who is it good enough for? Is it good enough for you? For your coworkers? For some ideal of a user that you imagine in your mind? For your parents? For a real person using it? Is there anybody who it’s good enough for? Or is that an excuse to cover up for something else — not enough developers, too many bugs, not willing to put in the work, pressure from the executives, satisfaction with what’s already there, disagreement about the features…

I’ve got plenty of time to talk about all of those issues. But for now, your goal is to start ratcheting up your level of expectations. The next time you get frustrated when using a piece of software ask yourself, “how would I make this better?” and go see if that better thing is out there. Then go to the Apple Store, play with an iPod and PowerBook, and talk to their salespeople. If you don’t leave with a new computer and music player, you either have a tight budget or haven’t raised your expectations nearly enough.