March 26, 2007

Kathy Sierra: Stepping Back after Abusive and Violent Threats

Earlier today when I read Kathy Sierra's post, I was really stunned and very sad to see it. She has had death threats and abusive behavior directed at her, both in the comments of a blog (seems to have been removed) called and on what sounds like a spinoff: unclebobism. (Also, these abusive acts manifested in comments on her blog, and in email.)

Those two blogs were made to vent and the commenters on the blogs took things way too far. It's a slippery slope, making a publication that is mean to make fun or be a little nasty. How nasty is too nasty? And how far do the writers let the rest of their direct community of readers go in extending the fun?

It's really sick and chilling to have this happen to Kathy, who is one of the kindest people I've met. And very smart and reasonable. I can only imagine the cumulative effect of all the communications coming toward her over a month period, that would lead her to cancel speaking engagements and want to drop out of this community for a while.

After seeing her post, and the rest of the community rally around her (yea! great job blogosphere!) I searched for cached versions of meankids and unclebobism because I wanted to see what was up. I know the people who started those blogs and I wondered about how bad it could be. Well, I was disheartened to find some really nasty stuff about the Scobles that I would put in the racist, misogynist and vulgar category. By people I respected! Not funny at all. Just really mean. So I can imagine based on those words that whatever they said about Kathy wasn't good, and their readers took it as a cue for the worst.

Leading a pack of rabid animals is not something to be proud of... I hope people will think hard before they decide to create an online community like meankids again. I don't think mean speech should be illegal, but I do think the rest of us have responsibility to condemn it if we see it getting destructive and to protect the targets. And of course, threats are illegal.. so I'm happy those sites removed once they went from mean, to threatening abusive acts.

I hope Kathy sees, over time, that the vast majority of people are good, and that we will support her and stand up for her, and not let abusive and violent people win over the good she contributes to our community.

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 26, 2007 06:12 PM | TrackBack