A journalist from a mass circulation Bulgarian newspaper called me today seeking my response to Tim O'Reilly and Jimmy Wales' suggested codes of conduct for bloggers. I gave him my ideas on why most bloggers behave like wild animals, explaining that they spent far too much time in front of their computers, didn't get enough exercise, had extreme libertarian tendencies, were bullied at school and had gotten out the habit of reading a print newspaper over their breakfast. The journalist listened politely to my uncivil rant and then asked me a rather blunt question:
Mister Keen, are you an elitist?
Nobody, not even a journalist from a mass circulation Bulgarian newspaper, has ever asked me this probing question before, so I was speechless. For a moment, at least. And then I had a flash of inspiration, that eureka moment which generally brightens up my afternoons. Yes, I am an extreme elitist, of course, which is why I'm such an unsuccessful blogger (I wear my yellow Minus 100 ZDNET badge with appropriate shame). But that wasn't my epiphany. No. I suddenly realised that the Bulgarian journalist had solved the great problem of the day -- why bloggers behave like wild animals. In good dialectical fashion, the answer lay in the question. I realised that the solution to the uncivility of the blogosphere is to transform bloggers into an elite (or, at least, elitists) too.
So, in response to the O'Reilly/Wales democratic code of conduct, here is my elitist code of conduct for bloggers. If you want a civil blogosphere, then it needs to be civilized. Bloggers need to acquire a touch of class. They need to be transformed from savages into gentlemen (give me another day and I'll turn this idea into a musical -- My Fair Blogger). So here we go -- the first true elitist code of conduct for the blogosphere:
1) Only post or comment if you have read at least 10 (ten) analog books about the subject. Cartoon or picture books don't count. Nor do books by left-wing libertarian bloggers or right-wing libertarian talk-show hosts.
2) You are allowed to invent aliases, but these must be wittily aphoristic references to great philosophical or fictional works in the western canon (including Asterix & Tintin).
3) Machiavelli dressed up in the full regalia of antiquity to write The Prince and The Discourses. Bloggers should also be required to dress up when they write their posts. No blogging in boxers and t-shirts.Shoes and socks to be worn on all occasions. Female bloggers should always wear a bra and panties.
4) No multi-tasking while blogging. That includes talking on the phone, instant-messaging and e-mailing, flossing your teeth, chewing gum, eating pizza or self stimulation.
5) If you must swear or question your ideological opponents' ancestry or sexual proclivities, do it a foreign language (anything except French). The more obscure the language, the more civil the discourse. Dead languages like Latin and Ancient Greek count double. In honor of my journalistic muse, Ancient Bulgarian counts triple.
6) Write your blog posts or comments out in long hand before transcribing on your keyboard. Write with a silver or gold fountain pen on papyrus. Use ancient Egyptian ink.
7) BBB -- Bathe Before Blogging. This will guarantee a much cleaner and more gentlemanly blogging discourse. I would also advise shaving. Bloggers with beards tend to be particularly prickly.