The Traveler's Code of Conduct

The blogosphere is a pretty free-wheeling place. As a result, it has developed a persona, right or wrong, of playing fast and loose with facts, with running roughshod over some posters, with allowing anonymity to serve as a shield for attackers. Some bloggers have called for a code of conduct for the blogosphere, and we at the Traveler support that movement.

As I mentioned recently, we view the Traveler as more of a web magazine than a blog. But that doesn't lessen the need for a code of conduct, both to guide the Traveler's writers and to let those who desire to comment on our articles to know there are limits as to what is appropriate.

For those who might immediately jump to the conclusion that we're implementing a measure of censorship, that's not the case at all. Rather, just as there are accepted norms for what can be broadcast and printed in mainstream media, there are accepted norms for the interchange of ideas on the Traveler. All we expect from you is a measure of civility. Here's how Colin Rule, director of the Center for Internet and Society, addresses the expectation of civil discourse:

So is it true that civility and politeness should go out the window when confronted with deep and intense feelings? Well, not to sound too much like "Mr. Manners," but I think it's at that point that civility and politeness come to matter more. When emotions get the better of someone, and that person uses language intended to incite and shock rather than reason, it creates an easy target for the other side; the most likely response becomes a similar provocative statement, and then the exchange becomes focused on the excesses of each statement rather than the issues at hand.

Beyond an expectation of civility there are times when, quite frankly, just as radio and television moderators feel a need to redirect their guests back to the subject at hand, it might be appropriate for us to steer the flurry of comments back to the topic at hand. And we won't hesitate to do that, as we have a very well specified mission statement that guides this patch of cyberspace.

With that said, here are some general guidelines that will guide the code of conduct for the Traveler (with the understanding that they could continue to evolve):

* The authors of posts take responsibility for their words.

* Abusive comments and personal attacks will not be tolerated and will be deleted.

* Those behind abusive comments and personal attacks will be contacted privately and asked to be more constructive in their comments. If the comments and attacks persist, the author will be blocked from the site.

* Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

* If a subject of a post feels they have been wronged or simply wishes to respond in a post as opposed to a comment, that will be allowed.

In general, we at the Traveler have been pretty tolerant of comments. That's been evidenced most recently by some made this past weekend that were allowed to stand. We do not want to sanitize this forum, nor do we want to create the impression that it tilts one way or the other politically or philosophically. Yet there is a line, one that should not be crossed, in the common decency of civil discourse. If all you can do is throw stones and slurs, take it elsewhere.

Anonymous comments will continue to be allowed because there obviously are times when whistleblowers want to shield their identity, when the topic is political dissent, and when the individual doesn't want his/her comments attached to the organization they work for. That said, we encourage those who do not fall under those situations to be up front with who they are and not rely on what's been termed "drive by anonymity" to attack someone.

Regardless of how you decide to identify yourself, you are expected to adhere to the points above.

Comments

Points well taken. However, there remain certain intolerable situations perpetrated and in many cases enhanced by those whose very function it is to defend our beloved natural environmental treasures and who have sworn to uphold them for the greater good of ALL (not the political or economic good of a vast minority), and to assure that we, all people, have access to unspoiled natural areas for mankind's eternity, as they were originally intended, for our mutual viewing, experiencing and personal enrichment purposes, that CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be ignored by the tax paying citizens of this great land. If particular editorial comments serve to prod, or in some cases infuriate those responsible for the violation of OUR public lands, maybe the better alternative would be for those offended parties to have avoided subjecting themselves to said commentaries by acting responsibly, for the greater good, in the first place.

Well hell, I am an old timer on the Internet and I feel you are "implementing a measure of censorship" for sure; also I am a strong advocate of online anonymity.
As for Mr. Rule and his "code of conduct" I could care less (but that is another story :-))

For you reading pleasure I refer you to my bible:
(which you may find on line at www.albion.com/netiquette/index.html)

Netiquette by Virginia Shea Part II Netiquette Basics, Chapter 3 Core Rules of Netiquette, Rule 7: Help keep flame wars under control; which states:

"Flaming" is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion. It's the kind of message that makes people respond, "Oh come on, tell us how you really feel." Tact is not its objective.

Does Netiquette forbid flaming? Not at all. Flaming is a longstanding network tradition (and Netiquette never messes with tradition). Flames can be lots of fun, both to write and to read. And the recipients of flames sometimes deserve the heat.

But Netiquette does forbid the perpetuation of flame wars -- series of angry letters, most of them from two or three people directed toward each other, that can dominate the tone and destroy the camaraderie of a discussion group. It's unfair to the other members of the group. And while flame wars can initially be amusing, they get boring very quickly to people who aren't involved in them. They're an unfair monopolization of bandwidth.

For advice on sending and receiving flames, see "The Art of Flaming" on page 71.

..anyway, along with your censoring and your statement that "Traveler as more of a web magazine than a blog." (huh?) I see no real reason to complain.

I used to think of this website as being similar to "my house", and that you all as readers and commenters are guests at a giant party I've assembled to talk about parks. As host of this party, if I didn't think you were being fair to another party-goer, regardless of your political stance, I had deleted your comment. This didn't happen often. In the last month, other than spam (comments advertising porn, etc), I have deleted no more than 5 comments total. These were comments, that in my opinion, were designed with the single intent to illicit angry retaliatory comments -- flame bait. I don't want that at my party, and as host, I didn't think other guests wanted that either.

But this weekend, it dawned on me, this isn't MY house! As Kurt and I have said from day one, this site was built to promote community, to be a virtual commons for folks to read and share with others on somewhat neutral turf. It wasn't until this weekend that the mind caught up to what my fingers were typing, which is, it isn't up to ME to decide what is appropriate speech in these commons, it is the responsibility of the community itself. As Smokey Bear might say, only YOU can prevent flame wars. If someone lobs flame bait in your direction, do everything you can to ignore it, or respond in such a way as to remove the targeted anger from your reply.

This weekend, I logged in and was prepared to delete comments with speech like "you leftists are disgusting", "the VEEP can hold target practice [on you leftists]", "[the leftists] need to move to ... some third-world hell-hole", and suggesting that the "Islamofascists" should burn in the "fires of nuclear hell". The political stance doesn't offend me. I would have had the same desire to delete these comments if they had been targeted at "right-wing nut jobs". What seemed clear to me, is that these comments were coming from a very angry place. Why so angry? Was it at the remarks made earlier in the thread which ended with "Shame on you, Dick Cheney. Stay in your cave and leave the parks alone"? It was a comment that perhaps I would not have made, but one which I didn't find so offensive, but clearly others did.

So, that's when it hit me, that the comments left on this site are not about what I find acceptable or unacceptable, it's about you. Perhaps someday I can build a way for members of the NPT community to vote on the value of comments, similar in fashion to reviews left on Amazon or comments on Slashdot. It would be a way for the community to put its weight behind the opinions of particular comments that matched its own.

This means, as editors, Kurt and I are going to use a lot of care before hitting the delete button from here on out. We may contact individuals "off-site" if we feel a flame-war is in the works, and, for the sake of the site, we feel it needs to be brought under control. But, otherwise, we would ask simply that you consider the views of others, and that you treat them with same respect you would like to see in return. It may be just a pipe dream, but that is the type of community in which I'd love to participate.

I guess I could describe myself as an "old timer on the Internet" as well, but I don't believe your "Code of Conduct" for this site is censorship. It may fly in the face of the "longstanding network tradition" Random Walker mentioned above, but who says "flaming" is a tradition everyone should embrace?

I wish everyone had the maturity to post in anonymity without resorting to using drive-by tactics in their posts, but that obviously is not the case. Personally, I believe that perceived anonymity fosters thuggish behavior, whether it be from a 14 year old kid stirring the you-know-what in an on-line forum or a zealot in a mask spewing video-taped vitriol on an extremist website. It's a generalization, I know, but from my own experience on-line and in the real world, it's little surprise that I encounter rudeness, poor manners and other boorish behavior more often from younger people, and more often yet from those hiding behind anonymous posts, forum names and avatars.

Personally, I welcome any reasonable attempt to inject a little personal accountability into any forum where people share opinions and ideas. There's a distinct lack of it in modern society as it is.

Brad Kinser
(Casually, yet cordially known to go by the handle ArizonaTraveler)

I really enjoyed the traveler when it was more of a web magazine than a blog, because it lent credibility to the issues Kurt explored and exposed that NPS employees knew about but couldn't do anything about. While folks were always free to respond to Kurt's postings, it was about the legitimacy of the information and a trusted source at that...it was different than all of the other sites out there. While I don't like the idea of censorship, I also don't like the idea of false ideas being perpetrated on the traveler site because some like to pick fights, call others names, and dominate every discussion. Those posts which contribute truly false information, defame others and deliberately provoke should be reviewed and possibly deleted before being posted to keep up the reputation of the site. Should the traveler be used by others to launch their own personal sites? Is that really the purpose?