Comments: My Kathy Sierra "death threats" accusations _Guardian_ column


IMHO, Doc has built his whole career around finding and asking good questions and then facilitating a discoussing to make some progress.

"Now what?" on the heals of the Kathy Sierra event is a great facilitating question... unfortunely the crowd has effectively moved on.

After I started to obsess with wanting to discuss the situation with one of the princiapals, he commented: "Your reflections remind me of people slowing down on the freeway to get a glimpse of some wreckage. Move along, move along. Nothing to see here."

That made it very clear that people have been harmed in this affair and they are hoping their lives can be put back to normal... they don't want to spend the next few months re-hasing the events that led to Kathy's post. They want us all to move on.

Fair enough... but Doc's question does linger.

I think it's suitable to apply some of the key learnings from the world of forums and mail lists to blogs. When someone on a mail list declares an email to be a "troll" everyone realizes NOT to take the bait and let the issue ruin the conversation.

For me, elements of Kathy's post were a "car bomb": intended to zfix blame and seek the wrath of the blogging world to see her "attackers" vilified. Unfortuntely, she didn't use complete or fair, IMHO, facts to make her case. She rubbed some inflamatory words together and linked them to
a list of people (however remote they were to those words) and implied that their blogging efforts had encouraged such threats.

It would be helpful to have a vocabulary of terms to label incediary posts that might encourage people to resuve judgement and seek more facts before creating committees or possees to fix the problem. Perhaps the problem is interpersonal or the people being suggested as the villians are actually not involved directly with the threat.

We all can see some bloggers abuse the "bully pulpit" their blog gives them to imply or defame other bloggers, public personalities or even business associates... blogs can be used to leverage great powers of influence. I consider some abuses of this tactic to be "drive by" posts.
They are targeted at a specific person.

If you see that someone posted a "car bomb" or "drive-by" post, it should be OK to suggest that more investigation is needed before rounding up a possee to go get the perp.

Bert has suggested that I have a strange ability to make the "perps" seem like the victims. I just think that this affiar had a lot more victims than clearly identifed "perps". The police will likely conclude that the crimes are difficult to solve and even more difficult to prosecute.

Let's hope "trial by blogging" and increased charges of "defamation of character" are not a result of people realizing that criminal and civil statutes apply to this world of free expression, too.

Posted by McD at April 19, 2007 03:06 PM

I agree that the blogopsphere is full of spikes, though they represent a tiny percentage of where the REAL action is.

Out of god-knows how many blogs out there, how many people really care about Tim O'Reilley's code of conduct. I'd say well under 1%.

It's easy to forget, some bloggers actually have lives...

Posted by hugh macleod at April 20, 2007 08:38 AM

McD: The subsequent posts don't seem hopeful in that direction.

Hugh, of course, a billion Chinese couldn't care less. But that's true for just about the entire rest of the world, so it carries very little information value unless someone is such a megalomanic to think that they matter on a global scale. How many people care about custom-tailored handmade suits, yet you make a huge deal over that extremely narrow (but ultraluxury, rich-man) market.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at April 20, 2007 08:55 AM

I read The Guardian article in print & was struck by how hard it was to grasp what on earth Mr Finkelstein was on about. On reflection I've realised that it enshrined the problem with blogging and why it will never catch on - it's inward looking and biased against understanding.

Posted by John Morrison at April 20, 2007 10:18 AM

Yeah, I make a huge deal over it because it's an insanely pleasant and rewarding business to be in [compared to how mist people have to earn a living, anyway]. And by having a blog, this made it even more so.

Do A-Listers and their fanclub link to English Cut these days? Not really. Does Thomas the tailor care? Not really. Perhaps that's the secret sauce you seem to be missing out on.

Posted by hugh macleod at April 20, 2007 12:19 PM


Blogging mirrors society and is slowly adopting some social conventions. Blogs are clustering into cliques and organizations.

But it's worth considering that blogging creates the potential for ideas to have equal access. In other media there are gatekeepers... Blogging has almost no barrier to entry whereas even a letter to the editor has the potential to be blocked as being too extreme.

I think Seth's major concern is the abuse of power that an A-List blogger has to tilt a "meme" towards a bias and against the standards that traditional print media has tried to hold itself... "fair and balanced" reporting.

Seth's been working this issue for a long time and is getting tired of watching the trend move away from reason and towards mass manipulation of public discourse. The "Kathy Sierra Story" has yet to be investigated... once the threat of legal exposure is removed we might get all the players to speak freely about all aspects of the story.

It appears many of the players simply want everyone to go away. It was a pure train wreck of mass hysteria and involved many victims. Many of them have simply ceased to blog about anything.


"If you fall off a horse..." Shoot the horse.

Posted by McD at April 20, 2007 12:21 PM

I noticed this was happening I for one am shocked I loved her blog and I this this is a shame.It funny that after this happens I've read about this all over the internet. I be I could use some keywords an find it in Google. I hope she continues to blog. weather is was a prank or real is unknown but I think she should continue blogging and the heck with one person.

Posted by jame kingsted - domain name expert at April 23, 2007 08:54 PM

It's just as likely that if you're an A-list blogger you're being attacked because you're so "powerful" and stuff, and then everything you'd reply is ignored because "that's from your A-list blogger perspective."

Posted by Philipp Lenssen at April 25, 2007 01:42 PM