It’s all about Control

I did not take the break I thought about, primarily because I was still involved with some communications. I also found myself somewhat obsessed with last week’s happenings.

In the end, what saddened me the most about last week wasn’t about people so much as it was about honesty. Or perhaps I should say, how honesty lost out to this never ending desperate rush to get attention.

I have been engaged in a good discussion on the issues at Blogher, in the post that Ronnie Bennett wrote. I can’t tell you how much I have come to admire Ronnie from this writing. Maybe not enough to make up for the respect I’ve lost for others, but it has helped.

I also agree with Ronnie, in her reverence for the freedom of speech.

Tim O’Reilly has come out with this code of conduct, which doesn’t interest me overmuch. He lists several so-called rules to accompany this new ‘approved’ way of weblogging.

One is the elimination of anonymous comments. Some of the more interesting comments I’ve had in my space have been by ‘anonymous’ people, and I have no intention of changing the way comments work in my place. True, I don’t get the number of comments that Kathy Sierra and Robert Scoble get; if these people want to turn anonymous comments off, why do they need our permission? They’re adults. Turn anonymous comments off, go for it. We don’t care.

Another rule is deleting comments. I’m not sure where the idea that one can’t delete obnoxious comments sprang from. If it came from a post at Tara Hunt’s, well Tara has to accept responsibility for some of this by her setting a somewhat defensive and quarrelsome tone in her responses to people, and then pulling out the ‘abuse’ charge when they respond in kind.

A lot of people don’t deal with strong debate, or with criticism. I feel any problems they have will eventually be self-healing, as people come to realize that engaging in dialog in the posts of these people is a waste of time. If they turn away the more interesting people because they won’t always respond in whatever fashion is deemed ‘civil’, those people are welcome here.

Taking a conversation offline is a good one, but risky. I’ve seen this blow up when people respond to seeming innocuous comments with a great deal of animosity. The reason is because a lot of the communication happened behind the scenes and people weren’t privy. To outward appearances, it looks like someone has blown up for no reason. So I would say do so…but do so warily, and with caution. ‘Ware, there be dragons here.

Taking responsibility for what you write in my comments? Only if you let me take credit for what you write. I have been lucky to have excellent commentary in my posts, with very thoughtful and reasoned arguments. If I’m to take responsibility for the negative, I want credit for the good stuff.

Otherwise, I’m going to pretend we’re all adults here. Do I delete comments? I have from time to time. I find, though, that my old editing capability (which I am adding back, but improved) usually eliminated most of this — the people would edit themselves after they cooled down. As for random nastiness, if the comment is on-topic, not meant to injure another’s ability to communicate, and not illegal, it typically stays.

About the rule for ignoring trolls, I agree, and think it’s the most effective ‘weapon’ we have. But this one could have an unanticipated side effect. A lot of people consider me a troll because I’m critical, and can be persistent in my criticism. My way of looking at this rule is that it works both ways: if you consider me a troll, cool; but don’t expect me to link you, comment about you, or mention you by name in the future. I wonder how long some of the webloggers who ‘need’ the attention will maintain such a code if this is the result?

The labeling system that Tim mentions is as ill-thought out as people wanting to put ‘Be Civil’ or ‘Do not be Mean’ in one’s sidebar. I can’t think of anything more likely to attract the behavior they want to avoid than this. I surely don’t know what the people were thinking of when they came up with these.

None of this is new, though. Most of these, other than the labels and badges, have been brought up in the past any time something like this happens. None of these rules inspired me to post. What did, is the following:

It now seems fairly certain that that the images posted on meankids and unclebobism were not intended as actual threats — but as long as the perpetrator remains anonymous, there is no way to be sure. In particular, as the person who is now seen as the most likely perpetrator insists, after the fact, that his computer must have been hacked, Kathy is left with the fear that there is indeed an unknown stalker at large.

There are a massive number of assumptions in this paragraph, all of which demonstrate a disconnect with the rest of Tim’s writing. There is an assumption of intent; of guilt; of convicting without proof; of deciding to toss the blame for all of this on to the person conveniently absent; of innuendo, gossip, and mean spirited finger pointing. How can one person talk such noble sentiment and then completely toss it all aside with one paragraph?

Couple that with this:

Bringing this back to the level of principle: if you know someone who has anonymously published comments that could be construed as a threat, you owe it to them, to their victim, and to yourself, not to remain silent. If there is no actual threat, you need to convince the perpetrator to apologize; if there is, you need to cooperate with the police to avert that threat.

To the Chinese, freedom is a threat. To the right wingers, criticism of the Catholic Church was a threat. To some folks in Missouri, the fact that I continually bring up issues related to Johnson’s shut-ins is a threat. Exactly how do we define a level of ‘threat’ in this new Gestapo brave new world? Is it in the eye of the beholder? For instance, Kathy feels afraid of these images, and therefore it is our duty to hunt down this perpetrator and bring him or her to justice?

This paragraph is a demonstration of a brighter future? A better world? A better world…wasn’t that mentioned in the movie, Serenity?

So I’ll respond in the only way I–and others dragged into this, since this has been tried in the court of public opinion–can respond: Kathy has said she has contacted the police on these matters. Then I believe we–asked to be jury, judge, and executioner–have a right to demand from her exactly what the response of the police was. I believe this is a very fair question to ask, considering the amount of innuendo and this seeming willingness of all participants to convict whomever is most expedient.

Or we can accept that mistakes were made in the past, much has been said, misunderstandings have occurred, poor judgment was practiced, and that all such can happen in this open environment. Oh, and that it’s time to move on.

I await response on this one. And since we’re practicing a new civility, I await response on this one, please.

Until then, this ‘code of conduct’ is really, to me, not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Absolute must-read post by Jeneane Sessum.

As my family name is raked over the coals across the web and in mainstream press, I would ask those of you who decided to tie me to these threats to spend the time I just did sitting still, considering your own motives and assumptions.

I have seen multiple webloggers condemned purely because they didn’t repudiate their friends, one or more of the Four People mentioned, which included Jeanene.

I read in a weblog, and I’m not sure where it was, perhaps at Frank’s or Rogers Cadenhead where the person was condemned because they had linked to an earlier post in MeanKids. Before, as Jeneane wrote, it wrapped itself around the tree. Just for linking to one post!

I’d like to see 1461 links to Jeneane with the words, “I’m sorry”, in the link. Better yet: “Jeneane Sessum is wonderful”. Then we’ll sit down and discuss, as Seth wrote in my comments, a code of ‘honor’, much less a code of conduct.

Karl in comments did mention that setting a comment policy can work. I also think that Blogher’s policy is a good one. The site’s comment policy is well defined and not applied arbitrarily. By all means, write out a comment policy and apply it rigorously (but also consistently).

I think, though, that setting ‘levels of tolerance’ or putting up badges is not the same thing.

A hacker is spreading Kathy’s address and SSN in hacker forums all over. Sounds like they’re making up some stuff to go along with it, too. Does this change the story and its impact on others? No, but it does demonstrate what happens when people smell a potential victim. As such, any discussion of these events leads to victims, and victims draw rats.

Perhaps it is best to let this issue die. I’m closing comments on this post. I would hope that all participants just drop this issue, chalk it up to misunderstandings and mistakes and let it be.

This entry was posted in Stuff. Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to It’s all about Control

  1. Karl says:

    I’ve seen requests for good behavior work under more than a few circumstances. They don’t always attract trolls.

    However, the idea that we become responsible for the comments posted to our blogs opens up serious *legal* concerns that are more than ominous.

    Only those with money, or those with a lot of free time (usually one and the same) can monitor their blogs comments and delete any thing there as it happens.

    Shoot – even the most equipped of us can barely keep up with spam.

    And that suggestion – that we take such responsibility over what *other* people say – will go a very long way to shutting down discourse on the Web.

    I accept a moral responsibility for the environment I help *encourage* on my blog and the services I run – but that’s *moral* responsibility over what I encourage. Not my capacity to *control* it.

  2. Shelley says:

    Good point on perhaps setting a standard of communication. I’m fairly comfortable commenting at Blogher, because I know that the standard isn’t arbitrary. I’m also aware of the standard, and am careful. Won’t comment at Tara’s though.

    I agree on the legal issues, Karl. I thought that idea was not well thought. There are other people’s weblogs where I won’t comment. Too arbitrary.

  3. Pingback: Scripting News for 3/31/2007 « Scripting News Annex

  4. Don Park says:

    I think Tim’s ‘code of conduct’ is both unnecessary and overly restricting. Social bounds are enforced by memories and fears, not by words and ideals.

  5. Shelley says:

    Good point, Don. Kind of sad, but good point.

    We remember our misdeeds much longer than our noble deeds, eh?

  6. Ethan says:

    If anyone’s interested, my long-form thoughts are here. Probably very little that anyone hasn’t read scads of over the last 96+ hours.

    As for “civility”, let’s just say “double standard unspoken here.” No, not here… I mean, well, here, for example.

    Let’s rev up the Victrola once more and shake the Snoopy Fist™ while swearing that misogyny in all its forms shall never be tolerated by civil folk.

    Or call me shrill, and humorless, and “missing the point.”


  7. Amyloo says:

    I agree there can’t be a single code of conduct. Seems to me the leading lights might look to old hands in the message board world for individual sites’ rules of the road.

  8. Bud Gibson says:

    Speaking to another theme in your post, the reason I keep on resubscribing here (I periodically clean out all subscriptions and then rebuild from new and old things that interest me) is that your writing is indeed informative and the comment stream always worth a scan. I’ll never forget your tagback post from a couple of years back. Recently, the xhtml stream has provided good food for thought. Now, we have the social dynamics of online interaction.

    So, my vote is that you keep on doing whatever it is you’re doing. It seems to be working.

  9. I want to know what the “code of conduct” is for A-lister’s abusing other people in their posts – and how it’s going to be enforced! :-(

  10. And, proving my point, see Jeneane Sessum’s post today:

    “I have been wrongly named and targeted, tied to death threats I didn’t make and tasteless posts I didn’t write. … I’m now up to 681 hits on google with my name and “death threats” combined, have received emails from people saying they’ve gotten comments condemning them for linking to or advertising with this blog because “she has been involved in making death threats against Kathy Sierra,” which is not true.”


  11. Phil Butler says:

    Great thoughts! I only wish everyone could express similar sentiments. We need to go where we are headed together and make sure it is a good place :)

  12. Ethan says:

    To Seth’s points, I think this fracas is layered in such a way as to force anyone who opts to speak about it to employ some sort of caveat, such as “not to downplay the severity of the issue”, or “not to dismiss Kathy’s feelings”, which really muddies the rhetorical waters to some degree.

    Speaking solely for myself, I do empathize with Kathy’s plight, however as someone else noted, the conflation of issues put forth by Kathy herself (admittedly in a moment of high emotion) didn’t exactly help isolate what was at stake. Had she not “named names” outside of noting the nature of the threats she perceived, this probably would not have mushroomed as severely.

    I have seen the charge put forth by certain “A-List” types that there seems to be a tacit acceptance of unwarranted abuse leveled at their kind merely because they’re popular bloggers. I agree with this assessment to a point. I think that “abuse” is a two-way street, and some of the words/deeds of A-List bloggers haven’t exactly been exemplary Golden Rule moments either, but again, are tacitly accepted because the hurt party was a “nobody”. I don’t see this issue going away because someone tossed off a code of conduct or made a nifty logo certifying “civility”.

  13. Shelley says:

    Bud, agree: I think this place fits us all just right.

    In fact, agree with all the comments here.

    Ethan your point is straight on, in that the rush to defend Kathy ended up knocking over the people who were in the way. Well, everything is calmer now…where’s the apologies? My mama taught me when you knock someone over rushing about, you’re supposed to help them to their feet and apologize.

    Seth, rings a bell from the emails yesterday, eh? Should we point this one out to David as a statistic?

    Phil, I don’t know if we need to go to the same place as much as we need to respect that we each have different places.

    And Amyloo! Long time. I think people need to drop the illusion that this is a ‘safe’ environment, more than a definition of rules.

  14. Joshua Allen says:

    Don, Shelly: call it “best practices” then. Tim’s first point is the key point — stalking, harassment, etc. should not be tolerated, and should be condemned. Locke is acting like a factory boss from the 70s winking at racism and sexism: This is the year 2007, if people think that libertarian ethos means that rape imagery is appropriate, they should retire.

  15. Shelley says:

    Joshua, have you seen the original photo that was taken from?

    The photographer also wants to find the person to go after them for using their copyrighted image.

    Bottom line, it is not to the weblogging world to find, convict, and punish people if a person feels threatened by another. Tim’s response to this was terribly inappropriate.

    Until Kathy responds with what the police said, it’s time we stop all acting like the police ourselves. It’s way past time we stop shooting at everyone who is in the way.

  16. Joshua Allen says:

    Shelley, are you referring to an earlier post from Tim? The “code of conduct” was (as you say) interesting but not terribly so — and certainly not “unacceptable”.

    Anyway, if you check my posts, I have been very consistent. Others may be channeling amateur detectives, or being judgmental, but from the start I judged the a-listers only for what they are clearly guilty of — in Locke’s case, failing to quickly and immediately condemn behavior that is unacceptable in the year 2007. Don raised the same point on his blog.

    Anyway, I agree with most of what you say here. And as long as we all agree that bosses are responsible for harassment in the workplace, and active forum owners responsible for the environment they create; it’s fine to move on to other topics.

    Maybe other people overreacted at the start, and now feel a guilty need to swing too far in the other direction to prove that they are “balanced”. But I didn’t, and this is an important principle. I am grateful that Don and Tim spoke up. I’m disappointed that Locke did not (though I can understand/excuse it, since he’s under attack). And I love that libertarians are using this as an excuse to pitch their philosophies. But please let’s don’t swing too far the other way and start acting like a-listers have no responsibility to set a good example. Speaking out strongly and quickly against conduct (not people, conduct) like this is min-bar. If we can’t agree on that, the fact that I agree with most of your other points is irrelevant.

  17. Karl says:

    Joshua – “And as long as we all agree that bosses are responsible for harassment in the workplace, and active forum owners responsible for the environment they create; it’s fine to move on to other topics.”

    Nowhere near the same situation Joshua. And I am thankful that the EFF and the law would disagree with such a blanket way of looking at it .

    Seth – damn! Too many people are getting hurt in this and there are far too many pointing fingers at others instead of looking at themselves.

    “Until Kathy responds with what the police said, it’s time we stop all acting like the police ourselves. It’s way past time we stop shooting at everyone who is in the way.”


  18. “and active forum owners responsible for the environment they create …”

    *Legally*, they aren’t. That’s black-letter law, it’s called “section 230″. Definitely NOT in the sense of sexual-harassment civil-liability.

    If you’re talking *moral* responsibility, well, some of the political blogs are utter cesspools which make this stuff look like a love letter, but the navel-gazing tech A-listers are doing a study in narcissism, so the rest of the world doesn’t matter.

    Look, this is all about A-listers creating another club to bash their opponents. They can always delete critical comments on their blog, and now they want to create a norm that even critical comments on someone else’s blog are the responsibility of the opponent A-lister. If you think about it, that’s utterly unworkable overall. But, I hate to sound so one-note, it’s an annoying demonstration that the discussion will be what the A-listers want it to be, simply because they dominate the attention (and, again, have the power to attack anyone else with no penalty).

  19. Ethan says:

    There is a fair amount of eye-rolling that goes on in the wake of any public examination of the machinery that defines a given thing, specfically the “A-List” or social blogging in general. But anyone who knows their Tao knows that the Empire may be contemplated through the Empire. So too may the blogosphere be contemplated through the blogosphere.

    The law that threatened death becomes thy friend and turns it to exile.

    What we have seen over the past week is a stark example of the machinery of the social internet, and how it may be used or misused to suit one’s own ends. The machinery that allowed for the threats of death became a friend of the threatened and turned others to exile. Rightly or wrongly.

    Speaking out strongly and quickly against conduct (not people, conduct) like this is min-bar.

    I agree, however the nature of the social internet, especially as that machinery is bent to the purposes of “personalities”, it’s very difficult to separate the person from the deed. Hence sites like “Eye on Winer”, as opposed to “Eye on Hypocrisy” or whatever. The prevailing criticism against “the four” was that they created/fostered an environment that ultimately allowed for personal attacks and similar to be posted online. The conflation came when conduct (fostering a negative atmosphere) was directly associated with people, independent of the facts. As often happens when one lashes out emotionally. (I don’t lay this solely at Kathy Sierra’s feet – mandatory disclaimer.)

  20. Joshua Allen says:

    Seth, Karl — it’s not a matter of legal/illegal. Bloggers discussing what is illegal/legal is a bit silly. The cops and courts will sort that out. I’m talking about people owning their own actions.

    KKK rallies are legal, too. But if any a-lister runs a forum where KKK rallies are openly promoted and tolerated, I’ll gladly hold a light to that behavior. Hiding behind “it’s not technically illegal” is cowardly.

  21. Joshua Allen says:

    Seth; regarding the linkage of those four to the climate, I don’t think it is unfair to link Locke to the conduct that enabled this climate. I waited until after he responded to form my opinion, and in my opinion he fell short of clearing his name. He’s going to have to own this, like the others must. He also comes across as close to saying “I did nothing wrong”. That is understandable given the reactive climate, but disappointing.

  22. Joshua, do you know that one of the political A-listers who jumped in on this, with approving links from tech A-listers, is perhaps most well-known for having “authored” a book literally, not hyperbolically, I mean literally, defending putting Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War 2? And that book is to help make it political acceptable to put Muslim Americans in concentration camps *now*? Talk about fostering a climate of intolerance, ahem.


    I expect you now to start jerking your knee vigorously in denunciation. Righttt ….

    Wow, I really don’t like the bogosphere. Like little wind-up toys, push people buttons, send them marching off, insta-mob.

  23. Shelley says:

    Seth, I confess I did not either. I wrote on Malkins book when it came out, but this time I was focused on her responses to harassment. I separate the one action from the other.

    Joshua, I don’t think Kathy Sierra ‘condemns’ Chris Locke, if the upcoming interview on CNN is anything to go by. But she did name four people, one of whom, Jeneane, was in the hospital for this whole thing. And she did not apologize to Jeneane for the pain she caused .

    Feeling pain or fear oneself is not a righteous cause to inflict pain or fear on others not responsible.

    But returning to Tim’s post today. Look at those words extolling us to go out and police the people we know online, in order to control not only what is said in our weblogs, but now other weblogs. We have always said that our spaces are our own. Now we find, this no longer true.

    What Seth said about those with power wanting to control those with less is very true in this situation–regardless of the motivation, that is the consequence. Why do you think my post is titled what it is? It is all about control.

  24. Joshua Allen says:

    Seth: Sorry, I don’t read political bloggers. I trust your characterization; I’ll remember to stay away.

    Please don’t accuse me of insta-mob behavior without reviewing my posts. I strongly feel that Locke and the others should have removed the posts immediately, and that what they permitted reflects on them personally (even Dave Winer had limits on what he permitted to be said on his comments). Locke’s refusal to do so, and unapologetic attitude, has changed my opinion of him.

    Not only do I have a right to express my thoughtfully-considered position, I consider it important to do so in cases like this. Calling me names or insinuating that I am irrational or mob-like doesn’t contribute anything fruitful.

  25. Shelley says:

    Ethan, Dave Rogers wrote something related to the social network today, as did Elisa Camahort — I’d be curious to hear you all chat on this in a discussion thread. I think it would be an interesting discussion.

  26. Pingback: Anonymity Isn’t the Problem - odd time signatures -

  27. Ethan says:

    Have their people call my people. ;-)

  28. Joshua, sorry. It’s not about being irrational, more the “control” of information and/or attention, of being able to set the agenda and focus. As in, if people have to take responsibility for enabling environments, do the tech A-listers have to take responsibility for helping the promotion of – again, I mean this literally, not hyperbolically – a notorious hate-monger? This question is NOT going to be echoed on a zillion blogs, and be part of the “code of conduct” :-(.

    Shelley, actually, the actions aren’t separate, in the sense that they’re part of the whole schtick about intolerance – i.e., the oppressors are under attack from the evil oppressed, and so must take harsh and extraordinary action in self-defense, which the oppressed brought upon themselves by not policing the extremists and so being guilty collectively (and so segue into justifying concentrations camps, which again, I mean literally).

  29. Joshua Allen says:

    Seth, sounds like we agree then. I like that Tim highlighted the BlogHER code of conduct. I think it’s a fine code of conduct, and the meankids folks would have been well-advised to have *some* code of conduct (even if more permissive than BlogHER). But I agree with you that we don’t need any regulations.

  30. Paul Bryant says:

    Note #1 – disclaimer in the other direction: I have no knowledge of, or opinion about, any of the specific people or sites named in Kathy’s original post. That would ordinarily be enough to keep me away from discussing this altogether, if I didn’t have such strong feelings about the larger issues raised. This comment, like my others on the topic, is exclusively about those larger issues.

    Note #2: this thread had 12 comments when I started writing this, it now has 29. I am clearly not cut out for life in the blogosphere…


    Hi Shelley,

    I followed the link here from Dave Winer’s blog. I did not like the excerpt he highlighted, and arrived expecting that I might disagree with what you wrote. As it turns out, I agree with a lot of it, but I did want to specifically respond to your question: “Exactly how do we define a level of ‘threat’ in this new Gestapo?” (assuming it wasn’t rhetorical.)

    In their 2003 decision on the free speech case Virginia v. Black, the Supreme Court said:

    “true threats… encompass those statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals. … The speaker need not actually intend to carry out the threat. Rather, a prohibition on true threats protects individuals from the fear of violence and the disruption that fear engenders, as well as from the possibility that the threatened violence will occur. … Intimidation in the constitutionally proscribable sense of the word is a type of true threat, where a speaker directs a threat to a person or group of persons with the intent of placing the victim in fear of bodily harm or death.”

    Intimidation is NOT protected speech, and I fear that conflating threats to one’s person with existential threats to right-winger beliefs or the Chinese government – - while a very nice rhetorical flourish – - risks obscuring the primary issue here.

    There will of course still be disagreement about the precise nature of individual threats. Was it reasonable for Kathy to be so threatened by the items she posted on her blog? I, personally, probably wouldn’t have cancelled a speaking engagement over it – - but I don’t know all of the details, and even based purely on what she posted, I don’t think it was inappropriate for her to take it that seriously. I also believe that many reasonable people would agree that what she was subjected to, in totum, constituted a threat. As such, I condemn it – and not because I’m a “coward” or part of a “mob” as seems to have been suggested in some quarters – - but rather because I recognize that the effect of intimidation, hate speech, and for that matter terrorism is to LIMIT freedom, and that it must therefore be denounced wherever it occurs in a free society. Period.

    Ok – getting off my high horse now. Thank you for listening. Just in case anyone is interested, I have a link to the relevant SC decision text at the blog I just set up, and will be adding other relevant ones as soon as I have time (hopefully tomorrow – I am just returning home from a week on the road.)


  31. Christine says:

    I still find it amazing all the uproar over this in the tech blog world, when I have seen it so many times among the “regular” (for lack of better term) bloggers. 4 years ago even. This is nothing new, and yet they act like it is.

    I used to have a disclaimer at the bottom of my comments that I had the right to delete them if I really needed to – just like I have the right to ask you to leave my house if you are there and being vile and nasty. I used it so rarely, I didn’t even keep it around for my last redesign. Hmmm… maybe I’m not being passionate enough in my writing to get people reading to make a really passionate response?

    Badges and a Code of Conduct. What will they come up with next.

  32. Shelley says:

    Paul, yes you have to move fast here.

    I appreciate your comment. It is difficult for people inexperienced in criminal investigation to understand what is or is not a threat. If all were coded correctly, such as “I’m going to kill you” or “I’m going to slit your throat” or saying that about someone else, then it becomes very easy to interpret.

    Of course, then, one has to look at the context. In this issue related to Kathy, we have the image, but we don’t have the post, the comments, the posts before the image was posted, or the posts after. Without the context, how does one interpret that image. Kathy interpreted it as a threat; I interpreted it as a stupid, childish, demeaning, sexist image, but I didn’t interpret it as a threat.

    According to Tim, what should I have done in these circumstances? If Kathy came to me and demanded I say who wrote this, do I have to tell her?

    Now, if the police did, of course I would. But do I have to tell everyone who demands such?

    No one is denying that Kathy had a reasonable right to be intimidated. The question becomes, then, do we have to respond in a specific manner to it if we don’t share her interpretations?

    As for my rhetorical flourish, I’m a writer — it’s demanded of us. Seriously, though, without a definition of ‘threat’ in Tim’s writing, and reframing it as a principle, then the other two threats are valid in the discussion. After all, how do we define threat? What is the threat, and who determines it?

    Tim wrote:

    “If there is no actual threat, you need to convince the perpetrator to apologize; if there is, you need to cooperate with the police to avert that threat.”

    If there is no threat, have perpetrator apologize–apologize for what? There is no threat. The person may have done something repugnant, but they’re also an adult. We assume that it will then be an issue between the person offended and the offender.

    And if there is police called, the issue becomes moot, as we’re required by law to cooperate.

    As a principle goes, it sucks.

  33. Ethan says:

    To follow on to Christine’s comment, Christine, I read your recent post with interest about this fracas, and in turn read an older post that your cross-referenced where you spoke out against the so-called “drama queen of the blogosphere”. I found it amusing that prior to that moment, I had never heard of that person. And yet you expressed deep concern about the consequences of speaking out. (Not to belittle you.)

    I found it instructive as to how we often believe certain people or entities to enjoy a far greater influence on our day to day lives, whereas outside of that point of reference, many people have no idea who any of those players are, or who said/did what to whom.

    Re: Comment policies, I have one, and fortunately have not been pressed into enforcing it outside of routine anti-spam cleanup efforts. It’s on the record solely to establish what it is, prominently, in the event that it is ever enforced. That way nobody can accuse us of being arbitrary in our enforcement activities. Marlena has a much lower bar for what constitutes “trolling” than I do, for example. She generally deems disagreement to be “trolling”, whereas I set the bar around either a) spam or b) personal attacks.

    Robert Scoble caught heat some time ago for declaring a “civil comments only” policy that was shortly abandoned. Nothing erodes confidence and inspires cynicism like inconsistency. Personally, I don’t care what each blogger cites as his/her policy regarding acceptable behavior, just so long as it is easily accessible and is enforced consistently.

  34. Shelley says:

    Christine, I must admit that much of this has surprised me, too. But I’ve always had a few toes in the political weblogs because of feminist issues.

    What surprises me, and leaves me concerned is how the issues related to women in technology are becoming re-framed with overt sexism, when most of the battles I’ve had to fight in this field are due to covert discrimination, and therefore so much more difficult to fight.

    I am not worried as much about obvious examples of discrimination (or misogyny). For instance, when Dan Fost at the Chronicle wrote on this, he got quotes from Tara and Kathy, true, but all the other quotes from webloggers related to this event were from men. And no one noticed the irony.

  35. Shelley says:

    “Nothing erodes confidence and inspires cynicism like inconsistency. Personally, I don’t care what each blogger cites as his/her policy regarding acceptable behavior, just so long as it is easily accessible and is enforced consistently.”

    Bingo, Ethan. I have found this week, that there was one set of rules for one’s friends or those with more influence, and another set for the rest of the hoi polloi.

  36. Shelley says:

    Curious, does it change any of your perspectives when I say that Kathy was first (and only) mentioned in based on a joking reference she made in Frank Paynter’s post that yes, she wanted to be the next one covered?

  37. I’ve now plowed my way through all the talk around this issue. What, er… fun.

    O’Reilly thinks he’s speaking to a community, but a bunch of random blogs do not form a community. Communities have shared sets of values and goals for the community itself… there’s more than just a topic and Googlejuice holding people together. And when the people in a community find themselves in conflict over values and goals, ya get a lovely, messy schism… whereas the most you can expect from an amorphous blob of blog-powered fiefdoms is a flashmob and an extra-big helping of hand-wringing until something shiny distracts everyone.

    It’s really awful that Ms. Sierra has had to endure actual threats in her mailbox. I hope the perps get prosecuted. Everything that happened after that looks like a whole lotta people becoming disillusioned with something that never existed in the first place.

  38. Pingback: Death Threats in the Blogosphere at Climb to the Stars (Stephanie Booth)

  39. Don Park says:

    On April 1st, the Lord said “What? I wasted 6 days on this and you don’t get the joke?”

  40. Locke’s refusal to do so, and unapologetic attitude, has changed my opinion of him.

    When people say this about Chris Locke, it makes me wonder how well they know his work. Part of his appeal is that he doesn’t mince words. If he thinks something is bullshit he says it.

  41. Joshua Allen says:

    Rogers, you know I’ve been here since the beginning. This isn’t about Chris being a straight shooter. If someone wants to cultivate an image of a misogynistic misanthrope, who am I to complain? But after leading a merry band of misfits into a situation that got out of control, I wouldn’t have expected him to act like a victim. They crossed a line, and they know it. Creating a climate of sexually-explicit gender-based intimidation is NOT clueful, it was a big mistake that all of them likely regret.

    And yes, I think that people with a high profile like this need to try to set a good example. Pretending to be Hemmingway/Kerouack: fine. Leading a bunch of people into a situation that devolves into harassing and intimidation, then acting like a victim: not fine.

  42. Karl says:

    Roger, at one time I’d agree with you, but using Techmeme, you see the social dynamics of a real community playing out. You kinda said it with “when the people in a community find themselves in conflict over values and goals, ya get a lovely, messy schism”.

    Communities aren’t all roses and shared purposes. A city is a community. People die in my city every day from gunshots.

    That’s what’s going on here. Others have noted that there seem to be so many of us focusing on the tech-blog community – forgetting that this has been happening for a long time in different corners of the web.

    It’s possible, only now, with the aggregation tools that are in place, that real time blog-to-blog community can actually exist.

    Except unlike the forums of old, everything we say or do is available as search results on Google. And that bears a lot of thinking about.

    Joshua, I’m starting to get a better handle on your opinion. You feel that Chris led people to do this huh?

    Is there a set of posts somewhere that I am missing?

    You see – there *is* a legal aspect to this. You are accusing a number of folks of committing an out and out crime.

    If the proof comes out that its false – and we don’t have all the details whatsoever – then what you’ve committed is libel.

    And as we continue to discuss it so blithely, without facts, we are leaving permanent trails on Google that are destroying reputations.

    Coming out in support of Kathy – good. A hunt for a gang of perpetrators without all the facts – very, very, very bad.

  43. Karl says:

    Ethan, I’m going to take your advice on the blogs I host and run. That makes a lot of sense.

  44. Shelley says:

    Joshua, Chris starting the site is a separate thing from what the people wrote. Was he foolish to think anything good would come of the site? Probably. Was it one of his better decisions? No.

    Having said that, though, what people wrote was still their responsibility. What Chris did may not have been wise, but it wasn’t deliberately done to incite riots or breaking of laws. When a post was created that Kathy found offensive, he took the site down. In retrospect, this might have been another foolish act, because we no longer have a context for that post to be able to judge what it was really meant to say.

    When legal actions enter the picture, then the dynamics of all of this changes. The stakes were upped, and people have not responded to much of this in a responsible and intelligent manner.

    As for anyone setting a good example, look at the Technorati Top 100 — how many of the folks there really set a good example? Charles at LGF? Michelle Malkin? Even Kos is more trouble than he’s worth at times.

    We don’t have to accept the mantle of being a role model. That’s a choice we can make or reject on our own.

    To me, what Tim said — getting back to the post — was that we’re now being put into a position of policing those who are friends. To repudiate those who have been judged as wanting by the ‘community’. Ah, no.

    Roger said it best: making this into a community is a rather arbitrary process. What is we don’t want to be in a community? Tim’s post made a lot of assumptions, some just not warranted.

    Rogers also had a good point — Chris is not acting now any different than he’s acted in the past.

  45. Shelley says:

    Karl, I thought Ethan’s point was also good: inconsistency is what leads people to being unhappy, not any one restriction.

  46. Bert Bates says:

    First off, thank you Paul Bryant!


    You said: “Joshua, I don’t think Kathy Sierra ‘condemns’ Chris Locke, if the upcoming interview on CNN is anything to go by. But she did name four people, one of whom, Jeneane, was in the hospital for this whole thing. And she did not apologize to Jeneane for the pain she caused.”

    Yesterday I posted a question on Jeneane’s blog. She informed everyone that she removed my question and that I’m not welcome on her site. Of course she has every right to do that. For the record, the question I asked Jeneane was this:

    “Jeneane, what was your response when on March 15, ten days before Kathy’s blog post, Kathy emailed you concerned about the ‘noose’ on meankids.”

    (This is as close as I can remember, I might have a word or two out of place.)

  47. adamsj says:


    When you say:

    We have always said that our spaces are our own. Now we find, this no longer true.

    I ask, “Was it ever?”

  48. Shelley says:

    Bert, what did the police say, Bert? I think you’ll be able to comment in Jeneane’s weblog now, Bert.

    adamsj, excellent point, but at one time, it did seem to be more of our spaces. We did seem to guard such with ferocity and persistence. Something’s happened. When the marketers arrived, independence seemed to be shoved out the door.

    Or, maybe, this will be a good reminder that we need to reassert our independence, and recreate our own spaces.

    Anyway, good point.

  49. James Kew says:

    Shelley: Without touching on the rights or wrongs, I’d note that Jeneane’s most recent comment on her blog makes it very clear that Bert’s comments there were not and will not be allowed to stand:

    For the record, I can, have, and will delete comments by Bert Bates, who is not welcome on this blog. He has his own forum and/or Kathy’s to discuss what he wishes. Not over here.

    That seems pretty clear-cut to me. Why are you speaking on her behalf as to what comments she may or may not allow? Isn’t that her space, her responsibility?

  50. Shelley says:

    Because I just talked to her in email, James.

    However, if she decides to continue to embargo Bert, than that’s fine, too.

    If he continues to come here to address comments to Jeneane, then I’ll continue to ask him: what did the police say?

    Satisfactory answer, James?