Cringely’s Code of Ethics
One of WC’s regular reads is Robert X. Cringely’s Notes From the Field, Cringe’s relentlessly self-promoting, sometimes amusing, sometimes insightful blog at InfoWorld.
[Aside: Back in 1992, WC was wandering the halls of MacWorld, the annual Apple expo in San Francisco. At the Addison-Wesley booth, WC purchased a book called Accidental Empires, written by one Robert X. Cringely. A few minutes later, WC was accosted by a fedora-topped, trenchcoat wearing guy who insisted on signing WC's new purchase. It was Cringely. The book is worth considerable money now. Largely as a result of Cringe's autograph.]
Cringe wrote on The Oatmeal Wars recently. Uncharacteristically, he was semi-serious about it, and has suggested a code of ethics for the Web. There’s some irony in this; Cringe’s business model is based upon folks leaking information to him in violation of confidentiality agreements. But still, the idea has some merit. Here are his commandments for a code of ethics:
1. Thou shalt not copy without permission.
2. If thou dost copy, thou must attribute the original author.
3. Thou shalt whenever possible link to the original source.
4. Thou shalt not pander or shamelessly promote.
5. Thou shalt make it easy to contact the author of a story.
6. Thou shalt not attempt to extort money from sites that complain when you break all of these rules with reckless abandon.
These aren’t bad rules. It would require some kind of logo, and some effort to push it into the consciousness of bloggers, who are a surprisingly insular bunch. No doubt the “news aggregators” – a friend of WC’s calls them “news agglutinators” – would ignore the Code because it would cripple their business plans. Think of places like FunnyJunk.
But WC would support the idea of such a code. WC’s nature photos turn up all over the web, usually without credit. It’s an unavoidable consequence of the decision to post them. But if shame worked on even a fraction of the internet community, it would be a start.