Kathy Sierra and Keeping it Positive

    March 29, 2007

Like many, I’m far enough removed from this particular conference & blog orbit that I don’t really know that much about Kathy Sierra, or the motivations someone might have for writing noxious comments about her and threatening her.

On the strength of the belief that what has transpired has been an act of misogyny in the professional world, hundreds have sent supportive comments and have published supportive posts. To that, I want to add: hey guys, it’s OK to stand up against injustice (in support of anyone who is being dismissed or discriminated against) before the death threats kick in. But better late than never. To date, there are 1,165 supportive comments on her blog post about this matter.

Insofar as the threats might appear to be coming from one highly identifiable individual, it becomes a bit of a sad case. It began long ago with his well-known and long-drawn-out breakup and post-breakup angst ("off topic in the extreme") carried out in an email newsletter that had been about online cluefulness. After the initial thrill of the gonzo journalism schtick had subsided, I assume readers were wide-eyed in disbelief, then saddened, by the troubling personal-life stuff. The same individual – sad and wrong again – seems to have gotten into it with a female employer in the early going of a blogger gig, and when fired, confirmed his ex-boss’s suspicions by titling his post "The Bitch Fired Me." Whatever happened probably didn’t fall into a gray area. Is this mental illness? I’m not a doctor, but that seems pretty certain.

If there were several perpetrators, some of them possibly even respected bloggers, then the situation gets nastier. And sadder.

So it’s all very sad, but possibly, a localized phenomenon. As Valleywag seems to imply, it’s really tough to understand what really happened.

The real story should be quite simply that Kathy Sierra offers deep and thoughtful content, and it would be a crushing shame if that were diminished. Check out this recent detailed post about Twitter. It’s detailed thoughts like this that give some of us bloggers, accused of rambling on a little too long, strength and inspiration. We need to ramble a little less and cite some more authoritative sources, is probably the lesson.

Being the brutally honest sort that I am, I’ll also say that in scanning her blog, I didn’t find myself liking, agreeing with, or appreciating every last word of every post. But that’s disagreement, not grounds for a personal attack.

I still haven’t made up my mind whether these kinds of attacks are or are not more likely to occur in online communication, or blogging. Or whether sarcasm counts as a lack of respect. Or whether subtle ways of dismissing people contribute to an overall climate of attack. Or whether there are just a few sickos out there.