A Tweetchat Code of Conduct (A Workflow!)

Introductory Remarks

I participate in a lot of tweet chats: #HITsm, #HCLDR, #HealthXPH, #MakersHour, #MEQAPI, #IrishMed, #HTreads, and #KareoChat, to name a few, plus lots of one-time chats hosted by companies and organizations (especially by @HIMSS). I also host #HealthSystemsChat, a social virtual reality event, about twice a month. It’s not a tweetchat, per se, but I do occasionally need to block participants for trollish behavior. (And yes, I’m thinking of crafting a Social VR Code of Conduct for that series of events.)

Until recently, I’ve not seen a need for a tweetchat code of conduct. However, this tweet, from @GilmerHealthLaw prompted me to rethink, research, and, finally, draft (and redraft) a tweetchat code of conduct. This post contains considerable prefatory material (reasoning, research, rumination, etc.). Impatient? Follow this link to the actual draft tweetchat code of conduct.

What is a code of conduct? Here is the resource I consulted.

A tweetchat code of conduct has four parts: a description of unacceptable tweets, how the code of conduct will be enforced, how and to whom to report behavior violating the code of conduct (workflow!), and materials guiding tweetchat organizers and participants how to respond to reports of egregious behavior. A code of conduct is not a promise to be nice. It is a promise to punish the guilty, backed up by specific and well-publicized levers and buttons to push. Its existence is intended to prevent the need to execute it. But this effect only works if potential offenders perceive their costs will exceed their “benefits.”

I searched Twitter and the web via Google for an example of an existing tweetchat code of conduct. All I could find were many (excellent!) conference codes of conduct.

Conferences and tweetchats are similar in some ways (both are social!), but also differ in important ways. For example, one means of enforcing a conference code of conduct is to physically bar an offender from the conference (and possibly offer their money back). At the extreme, in the worst case, police could be summoned to remove someone from the conference. What does it mean to bar someone from a tweetchat? They didn’t pay to attend. They aren’t physically present somewhere to be barred from. So, that aspect of the analogy between conferences and tweetchats breaks down.

On the other hand, evidence for behavior violating a tweetchat code of conduct is arguably easier to gather and assess than a conference code of conduct. After all, in real-life, face-to-face situations, what would be the equivalent of a screenshot?

While I’ve borrowed ideas (and literally stretches of text) from a variety of sources, to which I link at the end of this post, I’ve adapted that content considerably, to fit into the tweetchat paradigm. Specifically, some of the following text comes from confcodeofconduct.com.

Finally, the following technically isn’t a tweetchat code of conduct; it’s a template for a tweetchat code of conduct. Substitute into it your tweetchat hashtag and date or schedule and lists of tweetchat organizers, and then publish, publicize, and refer to it during execution of what it promises to do. (So, yes, it is a kind of workflow…) That said, one could, at the beginning of a tweetchat, link to this template and indicate it applies to an about-to-occur tweetchat. But I encourage you to copy and adapt to make it your own. Then publish in a prominent place associated with your tweetchat. And tweet during the beginning of your tweetchat.


Tweetchat Code of Conduct

All in participants in our [insert tweetchat hashtag and date or schedule here] tweetchat are [required|encouraged] to agree with the following code of conduct. Tweetchat organizers will enforce this code throughout the event. We expect cooperation from all participants to help ensure a safe environment for everybody.

Need Help?

Please contact [insert list of tweetchat organizers here, but make sure their accounts are open to DM from anyone].

Prohibited Behaviors & Potential Remedies

The [insert tweetchat hashtag] tweetchat is dedicated to providing a harassment-free tweetchat experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, nationality, religious or political beliefs (or lack thereof), or technology choices. We do not tolerate harassment of tweetchat participants in any form. In particular, sexual and sexist language and imagery are not appropriate. Conference participants violating these rules may be privately or publicly admonished by tweetchat organizers, muted, blocked, or reported to Twitter (perhaps systematically en masse by other tweetchat participants).

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the tweetchat organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or approaching other tweetchat participants for help.

If you are being harassed during our tweetchat, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact one or more tweetchat organizers immediately. Supply links to tweets AND screenshots of harassing tweets. Corollary: When in doubt, screenshot first.

While this is a tweetchat code of conduct, not a more general code of conduct, we expect tweetchat participants to follow these rules at all tweetchat-related events: meet-ups, conferences, conference calls, and other social media platforms.


Closing Remarks

This tweetchat code of conduct is intended to be a living and organic document. It is potentially an authoritative draft (an oxymoron, I know!). It is authoritative in the sense that even in its draft form, it can be linked to and cited to promote prosocial and ethical tweetchat behavior and warn off and punish antisocial and unethical tweetchat behavior. But it is also a draft in at least two senses. It is intended to be improved through constructive suggestion as well as copied and adapted by tweetchat organizers.

In fact, this tweetchat code of conduct is intentionally incomplete, at least from my personal point of view. For example, I have not mentioned escalating to employers or trade associations. Nor contacting security or police.

Neither have I created an exhaustive list of prohibited behaviors. Basically, harassment is any behavior demeaning to any human being on Twitter. However, I have listed categories of human being that deserve extra protection due to historical patterns of discrimination and disrespect.

And, finally, I’ve not discussed rehabilitation and forgiveness, though I’ve not seen those topics addressed in the conference codes of conduct either. Nonetheless, I think someone who has offended but has reflected on, and rehabilitated, their behavior, should know there is a potential future route (workflow?) to back to good standing in a tweetchat community.

I, therefore, admit this authoritative draft tweetchat code of conduct is deficient. I’d love to see how others improve all four of the necessary components: descriptions of unacceptable behavior, the manner of enforcement, specific workflows, and reference materials.

What is the copyright of this blog post? You may copy and adapt for any purpose whatsoever, though I hope you use it for its intended purpose, to make tweetchats even more wonderful than they are! You don’t even have to link to here (link) and mention me (@wareFLO on Twitter). Though it would be nice of you to do so! And at the very least, I’d love to know if you find it useful in some way.

My final bit of advice? Adopt a code of conduct BEFORE you need one.

References

  • Codes of Conduct 101 + FAQs (Excellent!)
  • Conference Code of Conduct
  • Your Science Conference Should Have a Code of Conduct
  • Drafting an Effective Ethical Code of Conduct for Professional Societies: A Practical Guide
  • TED Code of Conduct
  • P.S. BTW, workflow sighting! (In: Drafting an Effective Ethical Code of Conduct for Professional Societies: A Practical Guide)

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