Kathy Sierra – A Tipping Point?

I was tempted to not write anything about the Kathy Sierra death threats, after all the entire scandal is covered in a huge number of blogs (crossing over to political blogs as well, Instapundit linked to it last night). However, to stay quiet under the dislaimer that “well I don’t know Kathy but I do read (and have linked) to her blog,” is to be complicit so I feel the need to add my voice to this raging debate, which of course is pretty one sided because no rational or sane person can excuse the behavior that led to this.

Let’s be clear about one thing, the person that made these postings on the blog in question is troubled. There are no jokes that can be made about this serious episode, what was written about Kathy reflects the inner workings of someone who has really serious issues and I hope he/she gets help before prison. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that this is a person full of rage who is hanging on by a thread.

Many blog posts are commenting on the concept of anonymity in the internet of 2007 and beyond. Personally, I think it’s a concept that has outlived it’s utility but I also understand, and accept I guess, that this is not something that can just be taken away. Anonymity has a place, no question about it, but it’s not just applied where that utility is valued but rather as the norm.

For years I have posted comments on other blogs and in forums under my real name because I figured that attaching my name to my online identity kept me honest. In other words, I wouldn’t say things to people online that I wouldn’t say to their faces when my real name and email were being exposed. Anyone who writes a blog with even limited exposure has experienced flame comments in the threads, and mark my word when I say that they are always posted under a pseudonym. What does that tell you?

If you are as disturbed by the Kathy Sierra threats as I am, then do something about it. Practice not anonymity in your daily web travels, practice legitimate identity. Let’s start a trend where there are two communities in the blogosphere, those who operate in the bright sunshine and those that hide in the dark corners. There are legitimate scenarios for anonymity but let us take responsibility as a community for making those cases exceptional rather than the rule.

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9 thoughts on Kathy Sierra – A Tipping Point?

  1. Jeff,

    I think the issues of anonymity and identity are two different ones. I agree that anonymity (or pseudonymity) is a problem, but how do I verify that the Jeff Nolan who comments on my blog, enters your email address and links to your blog, is actually you?

  2. Niall,
    Very true (identity and authentication are the two specific technical issues).

    I’m not talking about a certified and bulletproof system, I am suggesting a cultural shift to precede anything technical. The first step in diminishing the prevalence of anonymity is for people to make a conscious choice to not be anonymous. I’ll settle on the honor system to achieve that.

  3. First – appropriate post.

    Second – I’m with Niall in thinking that this is the kind of situation where the need for (for example) Kim Cameron’s work on identity is amply demonstrated. Like you, I leave a fairly clear trail as I move about the web. But there are two issues with doing that: one is what Niall refers to – it looks obvious who I am, but what confidence can you place in that? Second issue is (assuming this IS me, of course :-)) how much do I expose myself to the sort of attack Kathy Sierra has been subjected to? I think a large part of the promise of identity management as espoused by Kim Cameron and plenty of others is to provide YOU with confidence about who I am, and ME with a way to give you that confidence without having to expose more personal information than is absolutely necessary.

  4. Ric,
    I really do hear what you and Niall are saying, and btw I agree with you. I don’t have all the answers, or even all the questions.

  5. Damn, Jeff – you were a bit quick for me! Let me say again – this was an appropriate sentiment to express, and I am happy (in the absence of a more solid identity metasystem – yet) to open the kimono rather than hide behind anonymity.

  6. Jeff, hadn’t seen your post until after I commented, but we’re of the same mind here. My consideration to not post on the matter [which I ultimately decided against] wasn’t based on the fact I didn’t know Kathy; but more on the fear that we’re giving into what these imbeciles wanted in the first place: attention.

    The one thing we can’t have is further degradation in the conversational aspects of blogging. Without conversation, what’s the point?

    I think services that secure and vet our identities have tremendous value; and plan on blogging about them in support of this issue.

  7. All well and fine. Good discussion in fact. But, “tipping point”.. Let’s get real, shall we?

    As in, seems neither of you have dug into this enough to separate out what’s actually transpired here and, until you do, this discussion is purely academic. (as are most of the others I’ve seen today)

    The posts on the 2 sites in question did indeed veer into the tasteless and, yes, just plain inappropriate.

    The actual death threats Sierra received however, were from posters to her own site. While she does make this distinction on her own blog, she nonetheless also rather deftly, tries to weave them into the same sweater and, for that, I’ve lost much respect for her.

    To say the least, making these separate things
    “coonected by dots” so to speak, is subverting any reasonable effort to accomplish anything productive and not just here but across the blogoshpere at large.

    Can we please get our stories straight before continuing this firestorm?

    Have either of you read the posts and seen the pictures from the(now non-existent) two sites in question? Have you seen the “deleted” threat comments from Sierra’s site? (other than the chunklets she chose to disclose herself)?

    Yes, clearly there was some wrongdoing against Ms. Sierra. I’ve now wasted the better part of two days readin’ all about it damn near everywhere it seems.

    But, like Momma always tried to instill in us, Two (or, in this case more!) wrongs ain’t’a never gonna make a right.

    Any sort of rational discourse cannot and will not occur until some cogent sorting of the facts is presented at large. We’ve seen damned little of that today.

    I personally find it a damn shame that so many electrons have been wasted on this in this fashion. We’ve all done our self-righteous
    venting and can now blitherly go our respective “merry ways”.

    We’ve “sounded off” while tipping the brims of our white Stetsons and are are now running off in quest of the next “big thing” that will also require our cursory/momentary/self-righteous and indignat attentions.

    And 48 hours from now, nothing will have changed because of it. Our attention will by then, be elsewhere.

    ooh, wow! Big surprise.

    Too many blogs…not enough common sense between ’em to actually accomplish a damn thing.Oh, but have now all done our part, haven’t we?

    yeah right.

  8. Pingback Move on People, Nothing to See Hear : Venture Chronicles

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