March 27, 2007

the blog post I hoped I'd never have to write...

What happened to Kathy Sierra, an utterly glowing gem in the blogosphere, and a really good buddy to me over the years, utterly horrified me.

Rachel Clarke sums it up well:

What the fuck is going on? Why does this happen again and again. The only people I know (in real life or virtually) who have been threatened and stalked have been women. What insecure, small mindedness, misogynistic behaviour takes over people to do things like this. Over 50% of the blogosphere are women, yet we continually get the refrain that they are not A-list, that they are not speaking at conferences. This is why. Put yourself out there, show that there is no difference and you get the anger and vitriol poring out from people from people who think they are better just because they have a Y chromosome.
This is why I have no trouble whatsoever deleting anonymous comments, at least, the mean-spirited ones. Identity matters. If people don't feel the need to be held personally accountable for their words, if people don't feel that what they say or do should bear any real-world consequences, then I don't want to talk to them.

Here's hoping Dear Kath is back in the saddle again, sooner than later. Kathy, we love you. Rock on.

[Follow the story on Techmeme.]

[UPDATE:] Robert Scoble left the following comment below:

The problem, Hugh, is that some people involved in meankids.org DO have identities. Let's start with Christopher Locke. He just wrote on his blog in defense of his part in Meankids.org.

But I just saw for the first time what they wrote about Maryam. Totally, totally, vile and hurtful things. We're both quite hurt and pissed about it.

I demand a public apology from ALL involved.

They certainly are NOT my friends.

Apparently these MeanKids folk were taking the occasional pop at me as well. Mommy! Mommy! Come quick! A posse of middle aged, self-loathing underachievers is being mean to me Boo hoo hoo hoo...

[Afterthought:] Highschool Metaphor: "OK, so you weren't the actual jock who raped the cheerleader. But it seems you were in the posse circling them, chanting 'Go go go go go go go...' "

Or am I missing something?

Posted by hugh macleod at March 27, 2007 5:37 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Well said, it's time people take off their "internet veil". Cheers.

Posted by: Antoine at March 27, 2007 1:32 PM

The problem, Hugh, is that some people involved in meankids.org DO have identities. Let's start with Christopher Locke. He just wrote on his blog in defense of his part in Meankids.org.

But I just saw for the first time what they wrote about Maryam. Totally, totally, vile and hurtful things. We're both quite hurt and pissed about it.

I demand a public apology from ALL involved.

They certainly are NOT my friends.

Posted by: Robert Scoble at March 27, 2007 1:45 PM

Thanks Hugh for posting this and for posting Rachel's comments.

My heart goes out to Kathy. Big time. And the fact that this behavior is supported by the industry leaders is shameful.

This kind of craziness is why I blog under pen names and on sites not even owned by myself (having dealt with unpleasant situations face-to-face, I suspected the internet would amplify those). I also prefer not to have photos of myself floating around the internet.

But as my businesses are off-line, I have that luxury. I'm not trying to build brand me on-line.

Posted by: Kimber at March 27, 2007 1:52 PM

Thanks Hugh. A post made in anger, but I'm still angry. I've worked in male dominated industries all my life, distilling and IT, and this behaviour used to be 'ok' in the work place. It's not anymore, but it's taken the law as well as change in perception; it's taken a long time and is still endemic in some places. This is bullying, something we try hard to prevent our children being subject to at school but seemingly let it happen on the web, 'cos this is the internet don't you know, you should grow a thick skin. Why should I?

Posted by: Rachel at March 27, 2007 2:08 PM

It seems like they have managed to achieve what they wanted to, 1) get attention, 2) stop Kathy from blogging.

Bunch of wankers

Posted by: Duncan Drennan at March 27, 2007 2:32 PM

Apparently these MeanKids folk were taking the occasional pop at me as well. Mommy! Mommy! Come quick! A posse of middle aged, self-loathing underachievers is being mean to me Boo hoo hoo hoo...

True, Hugh, but they don't have a picture of you choking in underwear ;-)

Seriously though.. there's a big difference between truly biting satire or parody, and hate speech / death threats.

Posted by: Peter Cooper at March 27, 2007 3:15 PM

I totally agree, Peter. Disgusting business, all of it.

Posted by: hugh macleod at March 27, 2007 3:24 PM

Unfortunate, and it invites reflection.

Posted by: Dannie Jost at March 27, 2007 3:26 PM

The whole thing is just dreadful. I do wish Kathy the best and hope that the scumbags are tracked down quickly.

Some people in various conversations have brought up this culture of violence against women being acceptable. There is a huge problem with society glamorizing violence against women - for example, America's Next Top Model just ran a photo spread where all the models were photographed as if they had been murdered, gruesomely, in some cases. It leaves little to the imagination to wonder where the scumbags who threatened Kathy and who threaten other women get their ideas. Violence against women is a mainstream, acceptable, safe for prime-time tv subject these days. Which is, of course, utterly disgusting.

Posted by: Laura at March 27, 2007 3:49 PM

Doesn't anybody get these weren't threats? They were stupid, mean, juvenile and ill-advised, but they weren't statements of intention, they were not plans...

If you think this is bad, go and look at what is online about any female celeb - do you think they would take the same line of treating puerile content as real and direct evidence of an attempt at their lives?

I hope she feels better soon, but the blogoshere is going to need to realise that the top 1% of bloggers are in no way discernbile from the bottom 25% of 'celebrities' out there and they're going to have to deal with weird crap the same way.

Should they have to? Of course not - of course society should be better. The way to fix that though is not to allow the blogosphere to be judge and jury over some juvenile content. We can handle this better than faux outrage.

Yes, it's faux outrage. It's not real. It's as insincere as you can get. I find it particularly ironic that in one post Scoble made the following two comments:

"We should spend the next week discussing how to fix this"

"I won't be blogging this week. I'll be back Monday".

Well, *there* is the way to shape the conversation and talk about the power of the blog, eh?

Then of course Hugh, you do the same double-take in one post.

Top of post: "What happened to Kathy Sierra, an utterly glowing gem in the blogosphere, and a really good buddy to me over the years, utterly horrified me."

Bottom of post: "Mommy! Mommy! Come quick! A posse of middle aged, self-loathing underachievers is being mean to me Boo hoo hoo hoo..."

Do you not see the irony and faux outrage in that?

I swear, the blogosphere has just got either a) really, really drunk and I didn't notice or b) so far up their own arses they can't distinguish reality from their own reflection.

I feel for anybody who is in fear, and I wish it didn't happen to a person as great as Kathy. The response though has just been, well, pathetic.

Posted by: Paul Robinson at March 27, 2007 3:56 PM

fuck. seriously, somedays i'm just ashamed to be a human being.

Posted by: scotty at March 27, 2007 4:01 PM

The one thing of value that Chris Locke wrote in his non apologetic post is that a YOYOW (You own your own words) ethos is a good guiding principle.

Posted by: deannie at March 27, 2007 4:19 PM

This whole issue of stalking, wierd calls and purely sick and twisted behaviour online from individuals is unacceptable. If you then add to this the suspected identity fraud that also relates to this particular case, I would be wary of posting any defamatory (or even just insulting comments from anyone)

I always moderate all my comments to make sure that on my site nothing of this nature ever gets uploaded.

What is worrying is that others a. don't do the same and b. are actually encouraging each other into this sort of behaviour. This in itself assumes that it is a valid and accepted behaviour, which as many people have shown during the course of the day, it is definately not acceptable in any form.

I for one have had issues with privacy and the internet in the past and I know that I am not alone, many others have also felt it to a lesser degree.

As a female I try not to hide the fact that I am female but it is through people doing this sort of thing that females are scared of being identified as such and also feel unwelcome at events and in social environments. (mainly because of additional attention being drawn to them being female in a male dominated industry and the fear attached to this focus on sex. ) It's quite frankly obsurd and ridiculous that this should be the case in this day and age, the sooner people start realising we are all just human and in essence the same, the better!

TBD: How to stop ID theft on Blog Commenting, Blocking the Bullies...

Posted by: Sarah at March 27, 2007 4:56 PM

I cannot understand the character and or whatever miniscule personality exists of such a vile man. Man? Sorry, a man would not do this - but that 'thing' did. To do what it did is dispicable and cowardly.

I do hope the police track it down and justice gets served up in huge dollops of hard time where I am certain the showers will be an event it will not look forward to.

Posted by: Robert at March 27, 2007 5:19 PM

Or am I missing something?

I read Locke's email this a.m. "you own your own words".

Which is fine but this is not The Well and this is not 1990. It's the web and it's 2007 - a bigger world needs different rules.

It's like expecting the rules that worked on the commune to apply on Main Street. They don't scale.

Posted by: Brian at March 27, 2007 6:41 PM

To say the least, I am shocked by the above mentioned news.

Reading your blog introduced me to Kathy Sierra's blog, which I thought was quite impressive. I read several of her articles and think she is quite a talent.

I wish Kathy, and any other bloggers that are the targets of bullying, strength and courage to continue their work.

Give 'em hell, Hugh. What can we do to help?


Posted by: RKR at March 27, 2007 6:58 PM

Hugh. You rock. And my heart goes out to Kathy.

Seeing as I left high school a very long time ago, and I've been living and breathing happily outside the Bubble, I don't consider any of those clowns 'industry leaders'... more like 'industry adolescents'.

Haven't they anything better to do with our time? ;-)


Posted by: Bradley Allen at March 27, 2007 7:45 PM

Just shy of ten years ago, something similar happened in the Quake gaming community. A well-known female player named Hellkitten started receiving "foul, disgusting, sexually perverted emails and altered images."

In response, the community started a "green ribbon campaign" to promote responsibility and respect in free speech. The Internet Archive has the details:

http://web.archive.org/web/19971221081130/grc.quake2.com/frames.html

Posted by: Vitorio at March 27, 2007 8:08 PM

We just went through something similar. This is why all personal information should be protected when online. This is why haters should be ignored. This is why it's so good that there's no way around karma.

Posted by: prlinkbiz at March 27, 2007 8:33 PM

It's really a damn shame that these people or this person can have such an effect on someone's actions. Don't let them win! Keep blogging. Keep giving presentions.

These are the people who no one wanted to play with in the school yard. They never went to the prom. They want to hide behind their computer screens and believe that the net is reality. It's not.

In truth, they won't meet you outside for some real fist-a-cuffs. They would get their asses kicked. Now that's reality. Just some pussies hiding in their pixelated world. Rock on, baby.

Posted by: Joe at March 27, 2007 8:33 PM

Hugh I think your jock cheerleader metaphor for Locke is dead on- he is hiding behind free speech which ironically makes it possible for morons like him to make a living.
There is such a thing as karma and the blog world is quick to apply it.

Posted by: Martin Edic at March 27, 2007 8:59 PM

The company we keep ...

Birds of a feather ...

There is nothing new under the sun ...

Examining / cleaning my library ...

Examining / cleaning my RSS feed ...

You are right ...

Nothing else to say ...

Posted by: MarillaAnne at March 27, 2007 11:09 PM

Disgusting. Illegal. Vile.

That being said, this sort of crap has been going on in mainline media for decades. I come from a radio background, and have seen more than my share.

This incident is less about the "dark side" of blogging than its coming of age. Welcome to the mainstream, with all its glory and filth.

And here's to the prosecution of Kathy's tormentors.

Posted by: Chris Baskind at March 27, 2007 11:24 PM

Hugh, is this the same offending blog you thought was spam (the one I mentioned to you the other day) that was making fun of your post? It has been taken down by Wordpress as I write.

I know of a case of bloggers in a very strong political NY blogging community where it wasn't just a woman, but an entire family being threatened and insulted (even their children being sexually threatened) by some lunatic. Unfortunately the same crassness and hatred that exists in the "real" world is going to spread like the plague online because it's harder to set boundaries. I don't see anything wrong with setting boundaries on one's own blog and moderating comments, but unfortunately it's impossible to control what spreads out on the internet.

Hugh you did mention something in a cartoon about controlling the conversation and some control is always necessary to keep things from sinking.

I don't know Kathy but I can totally understand her sense of being violated and I hope that she will not let this hinder her blogging forever. As a female blogger, I'm appaled on so many levels.

While it is true that blogging can develop a cult of personality people need to realize we are just writers and human beings like everyone else with private lives and anyone who tries to invade that is an unethical, uncompassionate scumbag.

That being said, I also don't agree that popular or high-ranking bloggers are like your run of the mill Hollywood tabloid celebrities. You know, was Kathy clubbing in LA showing her vayjayjay to the cameras? How many A List Bloggers are currently in rehab and on the cover of People for having anorexia? Still, there is one thing in common: you can be sure that when any celebrity is threatened, the police are right on it. And in that way, a threat is a threat no matter who you are.

Argh.

Posted by: Manola Marketblanik at March 27, 2007 11:44 PM

Hugh,

The blogosphere emulates our society, right? And our society is, plainly put, pretty messed up. So we’ve got a big issue on our hands. It doesn’t matter if people have to take responsibility for their actions, they will still do bad things.

Remember what happened to Moica Seles in ’93?

Reacting to this incident, my first instinct would be to blog, blog, blog, and tackle this problem with conversation. But that does have a negative externality – it empowers the criminal. It brings their actions into the mainstream (relatively). And this stunt is easily replicated. So I would be weary of giving someone any motivation to do this again.

But please, Kathy, Hugh, Robert, everyone. – don’t stop blogging. Your words have been too valuable. We can ‘t afford to lose you on the blogosphere or in society.

Posted by: Eric Strauss at March 28, 2007 12:11 AM

Joe, I didn't go to the prom either (Yes, I was asked but I was covering graduation for a daily and a weekly and had to phone in my columns). Please don't lump all us non-prom attendees together.

But I would meet you outside for some fist-a-cuffs. Probably kick your butt too.

Posted by: Kimber at March 28, 2007 4:05 AM

Wow.. just wow.

(as always) I'm 100% out of the loop and catching up after the fact, but somehow I see the day nearing where some says "They suffer from Internet Co-Dependency Blogging Disorder, or ICDB." If you let others define you it's never going to go well, digital or otherwise. Besides the best way to irritate the "Mean Kids" is just to ignore them.

I wonder what color ribbon ICDB awareness will be...

Posted by: Michael Neel at March 28, 2007 3:13 PM

Whoa. This is scary stuff. I do concur with Hugh's 'high school jock' metaphor. Though Locke is correct in pointing out he didn't make the threats, create the graphics, etc, I think he is...
1) overstating the notion that Kathy has painted him as a homicidal maniac/child molester, and meanwhile prattling on too much about his innocence, free speech, etc, to realize how damage he is indirectly responsible for.
2) naive in thinking that opening a blog encouraging 'mean kids' behavior WOULDN'T bring the unstable psychos out of the closet and into the ether. His answers about the purpose of meankids.org and unclebobism are curiously vague. What did he think would happen?

Posted by: Adam at March 28, 2007 6:56 PM

This is a symptom of society itself, not just the blogosphere. A lot of the feminist blogs (Like Twisty's I blame the Patriarchy) will the the first to point out that gender bias (and especially in terms of violence towards women) is endemic.

You want to try and make the world safer for women? You've got a LOT of work to do.

And quite frankly Shutting up and silently doing nothing is not 'work'.

Posted by: Rachel at March 28, 2007 7:50 PM

...This is beyond absurd. I don't know where to begin in deconstructing this. First off, it's certainly a horrible thing, and if this truly keeps Kathy away from posting, then we've lost one of the best persons and resources that the internet has to offer.

The threats in themselves are terrible, and I'll leave those to the police to handle, but the veiled support of such acts by Chris Locke and anyone of prominence on the internet is mind boggling. It's one thing to disagree with and dislike Kathy, or Scoble, or Hugh, or anyone else for what they write, and then post that. However, it goes to another level when turning such disagreement into personal attacks (and an even greater level with death threats).

Chris Locke's explanations are the most ego centric I could imagine. It's all about him, who is not the real victim here. He says that Kathy just committed character assassination on him, but 1) I doubt she really cared one bit about doing such a thing (she only highlighted that his own websites supported and facilitated her death threats), and 2) it's his own actions that have allowed this event, and in turn he deserves what he gets. He tries to hide behind his RageBoy name as, "you should expect such from me," which is not an excuse, and plays off this event as an attack on him. As I wrote already, it's one thing to disagree and write about it, but it's another thing to facilitate personal attacks and death threats, and then be complicit in event.

This reminds me a little of the recent Chiquita banana court ruling where the company was protecting their workers by paying off designated terrorist organizations. The DA in closing remarked that supporting terrorist organizations is not an acceptable or justifiable form of business, even if it was done to protect workers. The same is true for this event. Facilitation of illegal death threats is not an acceptable method of argument, disagreement, opinion sharing, blogging, or general free speech stances. If Chris Locke and others can't see that, and apologize for their roles, then they deserve all the criticism and character assassination they bring on themselves.

Posted by: MyNameIsMatt at March 28, 2007 9:19 PM

Perhaps we have just witnessed the release of ASSHOLE 2.0 We could have waited another 30 to 40 years for THAT upgrade.

Free speech and freedom of speech is and always will be a complicated issue. While freedom is liberating to some, it can also be offensive to others, lines of sense and sensibilities are drawn and crossed with each word wrote.

Reading comments made second and third hand is offensive enough, I cannot fathom what it must be like to be the recipient herself. More than once I have felt the need to apologize for those individuals who lack an internal moral compass and fail to notice that their words and behavior falls far outside social norms.

The net and blogosphere have no official rules. We are a self policing society where everyone is free to swing their arms as much as each and every individual wishes. That said, your right to swing your arms ends where my nose begins. Go ahead and say what you want to say, but the rest of us retain the right NOT TO READ the diatribe spewing forth. We retain the right to self censor.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadows of 14 year old boys with sick fantasies and mediocre photoshop skills, I will fear no evil for the delete button and on/off switch comfort me. The rest of us will lie down in green pastures of productive thought and constructive intellectual thought.

Posted by: Darcy Moen at March 29, 2007 3:00 PM

Hugh,

I happened across your site some time ago by pure chance. I'd venture to say, I'm not *your* average reader. Despite that & the fact that I haven't yet read the board posts you wrote about, I am all too familiar with what you wrote of.

I belong to one board, a simple board of mothers. We members are from all over the world, literally. I love discussing our similarities despite our distances & cultural differences. We are all so very much the same all over this globe.

But this wonderful thing called "the internet", this amazing hyped-up TV & typewriter plugged in to my cable that I set in front of everyday, has a draw back. The anonymity that is needed for basic, common-sense reasons is far too easily used to do harm.

We are all humans behind our screens. Way too many people forget that (or just don't care) and use that anonymity to do real damage to strangers & "loved ones". I could go on about the many psychological reasons as to why but it's harmful nonetheless. Even if readers & poters have "tough skins", we still carry those angry words with us through out our day... even those who spew it. It's a stain on something that could so much very good. Women & men alike from all over the world "let it all out" on the net & that's a very sad thing to witness.

I wish your blogging friend much happiness & a better tomorrow. I truly hope that experience is not one that will truly damage her spirit & joy of speaking to many.

Take much care,
Heather

Posted by: Heather (a.k.a. Momo) at March 30, 2007 8:44 PM

NZ's still safe, take a holiday...

Posted by: steve at March 31, 2007 10:34 AM

Hugh,

I have stumbled across your site completely by chance. I am not a famous journalist, writer, or really much of anything to let the truth be known. Blogging is my form of venting. Nothing more. To think that someone would make any threats of a fellow blogger, regarless of their status, is beyond me. I like to be heard, I don't care if people disagree with my opinion, they can tell me so if they like but to make it personal? That is crossing the line.

Posted by: Wendy at March 31, 2007 1:55 PM

Hack again?!

Posted by: WriglyB at April 26, 2007 12:01 AM