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It IS a Village: The Blogosphere

The Internet is a great big place. Huge. More sites, more people, more blogs go online every day.

But, just like everything else in this universe, the large is composed of the small.

So it is with the blogosphere.

This week, there was another incident of a blogger disregarding the Blogger’s Code of Conduct. (Honestly, I didn’t even know there was a Blogger’s Code of Conduct, but it was developed to address situations like this. Apparently, common sense isn’t always as common as we’d like.)

Even within the blogosphere, there are niches. One of those niches is Mommy Bloggers. Whether you turn your nose up at Mommy Blogging, feel your blog is more than that, or embrace it by tattooing it on your ass, it exists.

Mommy bloggers are a vocal and influential force, often wooed by corporate suitors to attend conferences, act as spokespeople for their products, or serve as the voices that advise them on their foray into social media, and so much more.

Quite a few of the people who read my blog are not bloggers, not moms, and wouldn’t know Dooce if she appeared in their living room. They’ve never hung out in the pisser with The Bloggess, and they couldn’t pick Sweetney out of a lineup.

But, I can guarantee, each of those women will see this post. If I say something crass, they will know. If I say something fabulous about them, they will know.

Is it because I’m a big time mommy blogger?

Hell no.

Do I even have to link to them in order for them to know I included them in this post?

Hell no.

Is it magic?

Nope. It’s the Internet. If you write it, they will come.

Who will come?

First, the people who regularly read your blog will come. That’s one slice of the pie. Then, the bots that cruise around the Internet cataloging content will come. People googling village pissers will come. (I shit you not.) Finally, the people who have an online presence will come because IT’S THEIR WORLD.

It’s where they work. It’s where they play. And, if they are any good at what they do, they keep track of what is written about them, whether you use their name, a link to their site, or just allude to them in rather specific terms like where they were when you saw them performing a distinct behavior you found offensive.

And, that brings me to the title of this post. The blogosphere is a teeny tiny village, especially when you narrow it down to one of the specific niches within it.

Does this make for junior-high-style drama? It can, but it doesn’t have to if we all remember that THIS IS OUR VILLAGE.

So, in case you don’t already operate with the common sense contained in the Blogger’s Code of Conduct (as proposed by Tim O’Reily), I’ll restate the rules for you below (emphasis mine):

  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
  4. Ignore the trolls.
  5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
  6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
  7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

source: Wikipedia

And to close, I’ll leave you with a quick summary and a visual of why this is so important. It has to do with making assumptions. We all know the rule about that, and it’s played out exquisitely in this instance.

An assumption was made that by not using a person’s name or linking to the person’s blog, that the readers of a post would have no idea to whom the writer was referring.

Here’s why that assumption was wrong:


This handy tool, WhoFollowsWhom, allows you to enter the names of Twitter users to find out who their common followers are, and whom they both (in this case) follow. Since Twitter is a tool of choice among bloggers, it’s an important place to go to check for overlapping connections should you decide to express your opinions about them in what you assume will be an anonymous fashion.

For those of you who aren’t bloggers, I apologize for this tech-heavy rant, but the lessons learned here are universal.

We are a community, no matter how geographically dispersed, varied of opinion, or lacking of tact. Therefore, it is up to us to call each other on our shit, hold one another accountable, and stick up for our fellow citizens when they are being wronged. It is also our job to learn from our mistakes, which is what I deeply hope will happen here.


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Reader Comments (22)

Very interesting an very useful. You're right, it would appear common-sense is not as common as we think.

I suppose it is easier to cast aspersions in what appears to be privacy.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPenbleth
Great post. Almost like you're referencing a particular post but you just don't want to say the person's name because your blog is about you and your opinion, not the person you're referencing. I'd say that's the smart thing to do and what I did in my post. But the people who came to my post, tore it down...not because it was about an issue that I was debating with readers but because they had the self centered audacity to think it was about them.

I'm glad to know that other bloggers should be afraid to be controversial because now we have the Blog Police.

I didn't realize we were back to bullying in high school. Crazy.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Phillips
I believe you may have missed the point, which was that even withoutspelling out what post I was referencing, it is apparent to those who knowit is about them. I doesn't matter if you call them Blogger A and Blogger B,obscure their names, cover their faces, omit their URLs. This is a smallcommunity. If you are not comfortable having the person you are writingabout read what you've written, then you probably shouldn't write it.Opinion, or not.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercalifmom
I'm so weird about these things... because I'm seldom in the loop when it comes to certain types of drama - until after the fact.Then I read something like this and rather than wanting to focus on you point - that there is no 'if I don't say your name, then no one will know whom I mean' - I get stuck on trying to figure out who YOU mean.

Someone violated the code? Where? Who? in regard to Whom?Curiosity and cats and bloggers as it were.

Yet, in a way, you're kind of guilty of doing the same thing that the other person did. Every person who knows the drama will know that this is in response to the drama. :\

So it's kind of a catch-22...

It's a very good point - but it's an easy trap for anyone to fall in, even when they're pointing out the trap.

Auuuugh. It's like a meta-post about posting. Now my head hurts.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucretia Pruitt
Aw, give me some credit. You think I didn't intentionally write it to be amirror of what happened. ;-) You know me better than that.

There is no true anonymity, no matter what we relabel, avoid labeling,obscure, hide behind. If we aren't willing to say what we have to say to theperson we are talking about, we certainly shouldn't publish it on a publicblog.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercalifmom
Hi thereI wasn't uncomfortable with what I wrote because I didn't write a name. I'm not self centered enough to think that anything someone writes is about ME...esp when I'm just reading someone's opinion.

You all attacked me and I never attacked anyone. You did your job, you cut me down personally and enjoyed it I would assume. I didn't name someone and cut them down--but this carried into a school girl fight and gross assumptions about me. Blogging is about your now we can't have them? I like opinions and welcome them. When people get in a pissing match and start to pointedly talk trash about someone to defend their blog friends...that's where I just walk away.

Apparently we can't have opinions. Look in the paper--people have opinions about the President every day. Obviously it's not OK for me to write about an incident that bothered me and have the class to not mention the name. If people's egos are SO big that they round up a group of haters to come to my blog because it's "about them" then so be it.

I'm done with this conversation. You win. Happy now?
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Phillips
How is not writing someone's name akin to it not being about that person?Perhaps I misunderstood your post to be about an actual person you hadencountered. Was that not the case?

I am also struggling to understand how you define "someone's opinion" vs."an attack." I don't recall making any statements that attacked you.

I pointed out what I believe were errors in assumptions made with regard toanonymity in blogging. I do not find that to be an attack.

I pointed out that there is a general code of conduct that it behoovesbloggers, and community members in general, to abide by. It's not anenforceable code, nor should it have to be. It is meant to provide someguidelines for civility, not quash opinions.

If we're going to have a discourse, it is beneficial to avoid makingstatements likening our discussion to a "pissing match." Since we're workingto avoid assumptions about one another, I will clarify that I have read yourblog a number of times, and I am capable of independent thought. I am notpart of anyone's army, tribe, or whatever collective enemy you may feel isout to get you.

I am part of the group that identifies themselves as Mommy Bloggers, andproudly so. That is what I am aiming to protect. We don't all love eachother. We don't even necessarily all like each other, but we do our best tobehave in a way that doesn't demean one another.

Would it have been possible to effectively express your opinion in a mannerthat was less specific? Would it have been possible to address your concernsdirectly to the persons involved in the incident? Was it necessary to frameyour opinion with inflammatory speech?

These are the questions that I wish had been considered more judiciouslyprior to your post, and perhaps they were. I have no way of knowing, otherthan what you wrote, the manner you wrote it in, and the way in which youdid or did not moderate the comments left by your readers...all of yourreaders--those who agreed, and those who disagreed with your opinion.

Honestly, I am saddened that you did not permit your opinion and post toremain on your blog. It was obviously something you felt passionate aboutexpressing, albeit in a manner that I didn't agree with--but that's thepoint of comments. They can be the forum where we explain ourselves further,clarify our intent, and permit our readers to have opinions that differ fromour own.

If you did not intend to imply that the woman had HIV, then perhaps statingthat in your comment was not the best choice. When you saw that the commentson your now redacted post started to include the leap to AIDS being aconcern, perhaps that would have been an opportunity to redirect yourreaders back to your original intent of your post.

My point with this post was twofold. First, to point out the fallacy ofassuming we can express an opinion about the distinct behavior of a specificperson who is part of our shared online community anonymously. The secondwas to point out that there are some basic guidelines to blogging that canprevent situations like this from happening.

Are you welcome to your opinion? Yes. Are you protected from therepercussions of sharing it in a public forum? No. That's why the editorialsection of a newspaper has two sides.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercalifmom
My last comment on this. I don't need to be lectured about the how-to's of blogging or writing. Yes, I could have kept the post up but the attacks were getting ridiculous and ugly. I never once in my post said this person was a bad person--it was my opinion that it was something I would not do. My style of writing is the way I express myself. I'm not going to edit my style to please a certain group of bloggers who are catty and mean on other subjects. I won't get into that.

We should NOT have to say what we say and name names. That's not what the post was about. Do you get it yet? Maybe I'm just a bit foggy this morning from the full out gun fire. Opinions are one thing...attack my character (maybe not you, but others) about things NOT EVEN RELATED to the post, then you have sheer pettiness. People lost site of what the post was about. It could have been ANYONE doing the baby sharing, ANYONE. I would have taken issue with the person if it was Jane Doe, Michelle Obama or some supposedly famous blogger. The same person who was so wounded about my post has the right to be obnoxious on her own posts about others? Now that's not right. It's a two way street. I don't care what she writes and she can write about me. I am not here looking to be part of the Mommy Army. I am here to write my opinions.

Can you imagine if I made a pointed blog post stating the name of the person who made me say "hmm...that's not something I'd do...what do you all think?" in my blog? CAN YOU IMAGINE? I'd have my house burned down. Instead, I just posed a flipping QUESTION about what people's thoughts were. EGOS, ladies. EGOS got in the way. Everyone whispered "oooh she's talking about THAT blogger". Maybe so. But I didn't say a thing about AIDS and if a commenter did, that's THEIR OPINION just like you have an opinion.

Keep the post up? Are you kidding me? I don't need that kind of bullcrap in my life. I'm not bitter, over the top or mean. In this bloggy world, watch you back is what it feels like. Amazing that this group of bloggers who call themselves Mommies act more like school children than my own kids do.

You're opinion is I should have started a riot by posting the woman's name. My opinion is I was broaching a subject that bothered me and I did it in a way that I didn't have to name names because it didn't MATTER WHO SHE WAS. She was Jane Doe to me.

I appreciate your opinions and your feelings that it's ok for you to write a post about "ME" without naming "ME" but I should have done that about someone else. Come on. It reeks of sarcasm. Why didn't you name me? Same reason I didn't name the woman who apparently was the "focus" (not) of my blog post??

You're no better than me in this situation. I didn't set out to hurt anyone. Some of the commenters attacked my personal life, my health, my style, the color of my hair for goodness sake. All I talked about was sharing a baby and a breast.

I'm flattered that you'd waste your wonderful blog stating the rules of blogging and the fact that Mommy bloggers are so powerful...just because I didn't follow YOUR rules or the supposed rules that are out there somewhere in cyberspace.

I'm done being bullied by the crew of women. I wrote what I felt and attacked NO ONE. Too bad if people suddenly spread rumors that it was about someone. It was about the subject...not the person.

OK, I'm done. I hope. I have a headache and I certainly think you might, too.

Have a better day.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Phillips
Oh I give you a ton of credit! I was referring solely to my own natural response to these "cross blog conversations" - they always make my head spin.

That said? I don't know that I agree with you on this one.

Our blogs are supposed to be our own outlets. What we post to them is solely at our own discretion. Yes, you run the risk of offending someone - but there's no "rules" on the Internet. It is, somewhat, still the Wild West as much as we wouldn't wish it so.

If someone wants to publish something without naming someone on his/her own blog? That's their option. If he/she wants to delete it? Also his/her option.

I guess I just don't think that we get to police each other.

She was just as entitled to post in her own manner on her own blog as you are in yours. The problem is that I can't see whatever caused the brouhaha - but nonetheless? It really isn't any of my business *unless* the post is designed with the intent to hurt someone else and put under the guise of "well I didn't name them, so it's okay."

I'm not really getting that impression from your threads here - it seems as if the intent was to express without identifying - not to shield herself from criticism by pretending not to identify.

But I can't judge it either way, b/c I can't see it.

That said? I don't think either of you intended to hurt the subject of your posts - but it looks from the comments as if you both did. And that's kind of saddening. :(


March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucretia Pruitt

It seems that from your comment and Lucretia's that I gave the impression I thought you should have named the person, but my point was just the opposite. I don't think there was any way for you to not make it obvious that you were referring to Catherine, unless you fabricated alternate circumstances. By naming the small event you attended and the unique behavior you found offensive, and that she had already shared her behavior on Twitter, it was no secret.

Additionally, you ARE the first one who brought up HIV. It is in your comment on the post you did leave up in response to a reader named Ann. No, you did not say that Catherine might have AIDS, but you did say she might have HIV. So drop the innocent b.s. Or delete your comment like it appears you did mine. I would hate for that to be the lone relic of this mess.

I did not offer the suggested code if conduct to tell you how you have to blog, but as a possible way for you to avoid this experience in the future as it seems to have caused you quite a bit of grief. If I misread that, I apologize and you needn't accept any of my suggestions. I hope you are able to find a way to express your opinions that works for you.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercalifmom
Prob with blogs and mommy blogs in particular is you can't have a differing opinion with a blogger who is bigger and more important than you.

Because logical or fair or not...the fans will rally and you will be cast out.

While I am a fan of many online...I worry about the makeup sometimes of what makes up the followers...friends with the same opinion or people just loving the link love and connection to 'fame.'

This is in observation that is based on this incident and others in the past. Twitter has become the rallying ground for supporters to gather..and while sometimes that is awesome..fighting for chance or issues....but if it just becomes a witch hunt..that is scary.

What of the less popular bloggers who can't rally such fervent supporters to their defense, what heppens to them?

Especially when the debate that should be there is not based on personal opinion but in pure image. How can you argue that?

Again I didn't read the post...just the tweets.slam me if you like...just trying to see all points of view...even if I disagree with them.
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercrunchy
Califmom, I could not have said it better myself. Great post.
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Grace
That's an interesting point. I've seen it go both ways--where Twitter drumsup support for the underdog, as well as times it serves to rally around theblogger with the higher page rank/earnings/popularity/whatever other measureis used to determine the hierarchy.

I will tell you that I do not feel uncomfortable expressing my opinion, andI have an infinitesimal readership in comparison to many. I do not have afan base. My voice is my own. Sometimes, I think that's the easier path whenyou have a strong opinion. I have no worries of alienating my reader(s). Ihave no fear of a witch hunt.

I guess it could happen, but I do my best to support my opinions with factsand clearly own what I believe. If I have an opinion that I wouldn't feelcomfortable expressing to a person's face, I can't imagine expressing it onmy blog where I would be putting it out there for the world to see. If youwouldn't put it on a billboard, on every highway, in every town, don't putit on your blog.

Some people are comfortable with putting inflammatory statements out thereand taking the heat, others aren't. If you aren't comfortable with the heat,don't make the statements and then complain about the fallout. You know?
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercalifmom
I just came here searching for "pissing villagers". Very disappointed.

Actually, it's a good lesson to us all. I came here and immediately knew what this was about because we *are* a village. If you say something about someone you nhave to be prepared to stand up for it because the blogging world is incestuous and we are all related and opinionated and quick to take sides. I don't agree with the blogging code because I have my own: don't post something you wouldn't feel proud of later. Dissenting opinions are good and what makes blogging so interesting and these discussions generated afterward are valuable...not because people should be scared to write what they feel, but because they need to know that we are a community and that what we do and say doesn't happen in a vaccuum. There are reprecussions to each action even if the intentions weren't malicious and we as bloggers need to know that what we say gets seen and that we need to be able to either defend it, explain it, apologize for it, or to let our reputations speak for themselves.
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenny, Bloggess
As always, Jenny, you whacked that mole. Sorry I let you down with the pissing villagers. I wonder if they had giant labia...
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercalifmom
Whew! I'm tired reading all that and I have no idea what's going on (I'm so far out of the loop!)

We do have to be careful what we write. Sometimes the written word misses the mark and doesn't accurately convey the conversation playing in our minds.
You are smart. That is all. ;)
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHer Bad Mother
Man. Amazing how this stuff crops up, takes over for a day and then is gone. I know the situations to which you are referring. I think it is important to realize that just because someone is a big blogger doesn't mean they don't have feelings. And they surely have lots of friends, so unless you want meta-dirt kicked your way, don't pick a fight.

I suppose it can be tempting in order to get readership, but in the end, all you have are your good name, and if you become known as a shit-stirrer, well, that's what will stir around you.

Great post, califmom.

March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterT@SendChocolate
Yet another great comment. Thanks, T.
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercalifmom
Hey I'm in your fanbase!! But only *because* you will speak your mind, firmly, and without fear of repercussions! Why I love ya!
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucretia Pruitt
OMG! Does this mean I need to make up t-shirts? ;-)

Back at ya!
March 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercalifmom
I am (as usual) late to the party and so Jenny stole my "I'm only here for the pissing villagers" joke.

I think you are dead on. We are a very small community and even though our village is growing we all pretty much know each other at least by reputation.

Your point was proven when all of the players showed up.
March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah, Goon Squad Sarah

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