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Death Threats in the Blogosphere
March 26, 2007 7:01 PM   Subscribe

"I've been getting death threat comments on this blog." Kathy Sierra, of the Creating Passionate Users blog, has currently canceled a talk at the ETech conference because of death threats on (and off) her blog. Scoble's mad, and so is everyone else. But isn't this what happens when we bring anonymity to the Internet?
posted by zabuni (122 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
How bizzare. That blog is in my RSS reader, and I read her posts from time to time. I have no idea why someone would want her dead, it's just a tech blog about user interface design.

W.T.F.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 PM on March 26, 2007


Sweet Lord. That's some disturbing shit. It's pathetic what some people will do in the name of....I don't know, shock value?
posted by jonmc at 7:09 PM on March 26, 2007


She's Jodie Foster to a million pudgy, mouthbreathing John Hinckleys. Welcome to being an attractive woman in cyberspace.
posted by The Straightener at 7:16 PM on March 26, 2007


So the Penny Arcade comic misses the real problem here. The left side of the equation should not be: normal person + anonymity + audience. It should be anonymous person + audience + non-anonymous target. The idea that a normal person would do this is not something I'm interesting in thinking about.

A similar situation was recently covered by the Washington Post with regards to autoadmit and the Reputation Defender brouhaha. It's important to note how often the defamation, harassment, and threats of violence are motivated by gender. Coming in close second would seem to be a tie between sexual identity and race. Basically, the internet trolls would have a field day with Audre Lorde.

The best solution for this is for every website to have responsible moderators to prevent this but as we all know, well moderated sites are few and far-between. Reading a horrific story like this really makes me appreciate MeFi. Thanks again Matt/Jessamyn/Cortex/SecretEvilMod.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:17 PM on March 26, 2007


Dean Barnett wrote about this a few days ago.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:20 PM on March 26, 2007


Oh I see, it's just because she's good looking and in the tech sector? It's like the "poor hot grits down Natalie portman's pants and turn her to stone" posts that used to be all over slash dot back in 99. Just this culture of totally unbalanced people in the tech world, and it only takes a few bad apples (I guess) to really come off as fucked up.

Unfortunately I think Sierra responded to this in the wrong way, by letting the troll know how much he upset her, it will just encourage that sort of thing.

Still the idea that you could change "internet culture" seems a little strange. The organized "Troll culture" or "Griefer culture" has been around for a long time, creating things like GNAA and so on
posted by delmoi at 7:22 PM on March 26, 2007


The sad part is that my first reaction to all of this was: well, at least they didn't go to her house or otherwise RL stalk her.

And I have to agree with delmoi. This doesn't even make sense from a target standpoint. If they were self-righteous or were constantly bitchint at people, then yes, there could be a point. They talk about ways to make user experiences better. I can't think of any reason for targeting.
posted by zabuni at 7:23 PM on March 26, 2007


Dean Barnett wrote about this a few days ago.

hardly. more like dean barnett wrotewhined about this all the mean wibbawals on HuffPo.

it's like he's never once waded into the cesspool that is LGF or free republic, or his own goddamn host site.
posted by Hat Maui at 7:26 PM on March 26, 2007


I'm starting to re-evaluate being a member of 4chan's /b/.

Note, I have not, ever, participated in any of /b/'s raids, attacks, and other stuff on people – even Hal Turner. It's something that always has bothered me deep down. Also, I don't even know if /b/ is responsible for this, but it has the sense of misogyny and theatrics that /b/ is known for.
posted by SansPoint at 7:27 PM on March 26, 2007


Well. sounds like she's creating passionate users
posted by mrnutty at 7:30 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Here is what I would do if I were in Kathy's position: Register a server anonymously in Iran or something and dedicate it to bashing yourself. Advertise that you're being hosted somewhere where the government will never be able to get the records, in order to give trolls a false sense of anonymity.

Then, collect their IPs, and subpoena their ISPs to get their user records, then have the trolls prosecuted.
posted by delmoi at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2007


Today when I was on Justin.TV the kinds of things that people were discussing in the chat room there were just totally disgusting and over the top.

We have to fix this culture.


Welcome, you must be new here.
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 7:33 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


No mention of contacting the police. Hopefully that's part of her strategy, as a lot of these anonymous stalkers will think twice if there's a good chance it'll lead to jail.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:35 PM on March 26, 2007


Oh, and, thanks, SCDB. I could actually feel myself getting stupider as I read that Dean Barnett piece.
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 7:37 PM on March 26, 2007


Unfortunately I think Sierra responded to this in the wrong way, by letting the troll know how much he upset her, it will just encourage that sort of thing.

You're right, because freaking out when you see a picture of your own face slit open with the caption "i dream of you" isn't at all appropriate.

I think it's safe to say that whoever's Photoshopping her face and sending her sexual death threats is going to continue doing it regardless of whether Sierra "encourages" them or not.

No mention of contacting the police.

She mentions a police investigation near the top of her post.
posted by chrominance at 7:40 PM on March 26, 2007


Couldn't hateful and misogynous and other vile speech be vetted along the same lines as Akismet does with SPAM?

Maybe if we take away the voice of these jerks, and their opportunity to see their name spelt out in glowing electrons next to their own filth, they'll go away. If nothing else, they'll know that the whole world has modded their online existence into irrelevance.
posted by deCadmus at 7:42 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, Bush Co. have created quite the anonymity killing machine. Perhaps this is time to use it. Call the FBI. They can track down some of these death threat posters and make their lives a living hell. You post a death threat on the internet, I could care less what shit befalls you. Bring on the Bush Co. storm troopers.
posted by caddis at 7:44 PM on March 26, 2007


I certainly don't agree with the offensive behavior, but I sorta agree with delmoi. She gave them the publicity they wanted. She could have certainly asked the police for help without publicizing it. That seems like a mistake.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:45 PM on March 26, 2007


You're right, because freaking out when you see a picture of your own face slit open with the caption "i dream of you" isn't at all appropriate.

Not not freaking out, but posting a blog entry about freaking out is giving the people doing this exactly what they want, her attention.
posted by delmoi at 7:45 PM on March 26, 2007


Just look what those terrible Liberal Bloggers are saying!

Support for Al-Queda Plot on Lange Blog


Death Threats and Other Occupational Hazards


Ooops. Sorry. Those are Right-Wing Blogs doing the death-threatening. Hope I haven't upset you, Den Beste.

It could be easily argued that the Right Blogosphere embracing the nastiness culture of the Wild Web has been central in helping to make it mainstream. And, oh yes, Huffington deletes death threat comments; LGF does not (unless the threats are made against its allies... but then, they delete all negative comments about their allies).
posted by wendell at 7:51 PM on March 26, 2007


While I would consider some of the speech "fighting words," I didn't construe them as "death threats." (I went to college during the great "fighting words" debate of the early '90s).

The law is clear--to encourage or suggest someone's death is just as illegal as claiming you intend to do it yourself

Is that really true? I'm far from being a lawyer, but it seems a bit weird to me. If I say (please note the conditional tense, Secret Service), "I hope somebody shoots Dick Cheney in the face" is that a death threat?

Is "I hope" or "I wish" really considered encouraging or suggesting? Now "someone should" I could understand as more of a direct threat. I suppose I'm proving the difficulty of the law ...
posted by mrgrimm at 7:52 PM on March 26, 2007


Man, I don't get this at all. I mean, at all at all.

From the things people are saying about this woman, you'd think she was Ann Coulter or something.

Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with people? Do they think this crap is funny?

I'm serious. I will not accept any such answer as "people with too much time on their hands" or "lonely internerds." This is a sign of shit totally fucked up. To think there was a human hand on the other end of those comments.

Despicable.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:53 PM on March 26, 2007


If only there was some way to moderate comments on blogs and online forums.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:54 PM on March 26, 2007 [7 favorites]


I find it very difficult to understand what the hell these people even do. They appear to have appointed themselves the experts on blogging. I've never heard of any of these people, except Scoble, and him only because his blogging project for Microsoft was such a catastrophic failure.

That said the death threats are sleazy, but the people involved here -the people behind the insipid Kat Herding Media site, this Jeneane Sessum - are quite clearly idiots, and I mean that literally. You could not pay me to read their drivel.

You know how you deal with these people? You walk up to them, in real life, at some conference or whatever, wave their death threat in their face and say "Here I am. What now?"
posted by Pastabagel at 7:58 PM on March 26, 2007 [7 favorites]


i think sierra's post intended to shine light on some of the people responsible for the personal attacks, and to bring some degree of conclusion to the pattern of threatening behavior that has been directed towards her. by "playing the victim", she addresses the issue. how much she "is" a victim or just "playing' one, however, well that's not something i can determine. i'm a big fan of parody and satire, but perhaps this crosses the line.

personally, i think its a fascinating aspect of human interaction. so is the discussion on how to regulate it. i used to be an unreal 2004 addict. the premise of the game is to kill other people. lots of shit talking. about the time i stopped playing, i remember seeing users with names like [Aryan]Nigger-Killer pop up, using aimbots to put other people out. That put a sour taste in my mouth. Thankfully, I could step away from it.

sierra is making a case for a hate crime. i think that's why she went public. anyway, it's not as if internalizing it is the answer. i certainly get the impression that there is a whole lot more to this story - re-reading her post, i noticed a lot of intentional call-outs of specific people, as opposed to say, a more generalized fear. thankfully, it's a good thing she seems to have an idea who her detractors are. maybe these threats stem from her participation in a controversial topic, thread and/or blog. So while the "blogger drama queen" approach makes me wince, I understand it, and I respect it. i certainly wouldn't wait for "the other guy" to make the first move. the last time i went to e3, it was full of misogynistic trolls being titillated by beautiful models wearing videogame character outfits. the question quite literally is - can you blame them?
posted by phaedon at 8:03 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is there no corner of the internet free from drama? It's everywhere- even in places I wouldn't have imagined, like fan fiction communities and "mommy" blogs (which are really the nastiest and most dramatic of all).

And all I can think of is that line from The Great Muppet Caper where Sam the Eagle surveys the scene after the big musical number in the hotel, and says, "You are all WEIRDOS".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:04 PM on March 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


God that's horrible stuff. I'm in the camp of totally bewildered that she'd even attract a psycho given her blog's content is totally tame, helpful essays on customer service.
posted by mathowie at 8:08 PM on March 26, 2007


They posted a photo of a noose next to my head

Why would anyone have a photo taken with a noose next to her head?

Also, death threats with serious spelling issues lack a certain .... credibility? Weight? Although Kathy Sierra is ubderstandably upset, She isn't Salman Rushdie quite yet.
posted by longsleeves at 8:11 PM on March 26, 2007


Steven C. Den Beste writes "Dean Barnett wrote about this a few days ago."

Barnett wrote:

"They wouldn’t dare make such a disgusting remark at their dinner table surrounded by their wife and children."

Actually, I'm much *more* likely to make those disgusting remarks at the dinner table, surrounded by my wife and children and in the privacy of my home than I am to make them online.

But I can't figure out what's generating the animosity towards Sierra. None of the articles give me any sense of what the beef is actually about. Is it some arcane ideological marketing dispute that's causing this passion/anger, or is it just plain old sexism/misogyny combined with standard adolescent male behaviour?

I've got a certain ambivalence about all this: I think that part of the price that you pay for putting ideas out there is being attacked -- and sometimes those attacks can get pretty nasty. But the price your attackers pay for resorting to ad hominem attacks is that they lose and you win -- in intelligent, civilized discourse at least.

I agree with Delmoi also, as I'm guessing that these aren't actually real death threats, and that Sierra is overreacting to them -- nevertheless, that's easy for me to say as anonymous cowards tend not to scare me in the slightest. If I felt more vulnerable, who knows what my response might be?

I do think that people who resort to such tactics abdicate any right to anonymity on the net. If they were posting on my blog and I could identify them, I'd out them and let the world know who they are.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:12 PM on March 26, 2007


Her face is not "slit open." Those are burguny wine colored ruffled panties.
posted by longsleeves at 8:19 PM on March 26, 2007


Could someone fill in some of the back story for those of us who don't know some of the names she mentions as participating in the abuse? I'm thinking of these snippets:

What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs... blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers. People you've probably heard of. People like respected Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Chris Locke (aka Rageboy)....

At about the same time, a group of bloggers including Listics' Frank Paynter, prominent marketing blogger Jeneane Sessum, and Raving Lunacy Allen Herrel (aka Head Lemur) began participating on a (recently pulled) blog called meankids.org...

On that day, the meankids site was down and a new "replacement" appeared, unclebobism.wordpress.com. The "Bob's Yer Uncle" site was supposedly started by Cluetrain co-author Chris Locke (who, along with Jeaneane Sessum, also authors the Kat Herding Media site) and included most of the same members as meankids.


I've never heard of any of these people, and don't hang out at sites that allow that kind of abuse, so it's difficult to know what to make of the "prominence" of the people she's accusing of death threats. Is there more back story here that would help?
posted by mediareport at 8:21 PM on March 26, 2007


Is this something you'd have to own an internet to understand?
posted by Captaintripps at 8:28 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


here's burningbird.net's take
posted by phaedon at 8:30 PM on March 26, 2007


I ran an online poetry workshop for several years and — aside from the fairly infrequent "I've added a new feature" forum post — all my contributions to the site were anonymous. Completely tame site on which I had very little presence.

But I routinely received email death threats, sometimes with Googled information about my home address and so on.

There are a ton of contextual differences here between my case and Sierra's, of course, but trolls will be trolls.
posted by rafter at 8:31 PM on March 26, 2007


I could actually feel myself getting stupider as I read that Dean Barnett piece.

Steven likes to do drive-by links to Barnett's site with no commentary of his own; he's done it before, as if Barnett's someone whose opinion we should care about more than the folks who bother to participate here. Each time he's done it, the article's have been atrociously stupid. It's a terrible, lazy a way of participating in a conversation in the blue, but that's how Steven apparently likes to do it sometimes.
posted by mediareport at 8:32 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


panties. scroll down. not flattering or nice, but still just panties.
posted by longsleeves at 8:43 PM on March 26, 2007


Cripes. You mean to say there are nasty people online? Who'd have thought such a thing could ever happen.

Better alert the media.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:48 PM on March 26, 2007


Her face is not "slit open." Those are burguny wine colored ruffled panties.

Oh. OH. Cripes. I sincerely though that was some sicko photoshopping what the inside of her face would look like when you cut it open or something. Not that panties is very much better, but at least it's not a threat of evisceration.

The rest of the drama is just weird, and I don't know why there's a hate site for taking down other people in this tech-blogging clique, but the death threats are still a bit much.
posted by chrominance at 8:56 PM on March 26, 2007


From the post at phaedon's link, comment #11:
[T]ell it to the politi-bloggers. You will find such horrific comments posted regularly on hard Left leaning or Right leaning blogs.

All the time.

It's only here - among the digerati - that the shock is so raw.
And not even just the poli-bloggers. People have been making anonymous websites in order to be mean to other people since the Internet began. And other people have been sending anonymous emails and comments to be mean, just as long.

Did this meanness cross the line? Absolutely, and I am sure Kathy Sierra feels whatever she says she feels. But it's not like this is the first time ugliness has gone down on the Internet. I guess it's just noteworthy because it's happening on a big scale in a new sphere where the A-listers are paying some attention?

I guess I'm just surprised at the pearl-clutching ("not in OUR town!!!")... from bloggers one would think had already seen it all.
posted by pineapple at 9:05 PM on March 26, 2007


panties. scroll down. not flattering or nice, but still just panties.

It was obvious to me it was supposed to represent her face wrapped in some panties, but it also kind of looked like she might have been trying to gasp for air or was being suffocated. I think that's what bothered her.
posted by delmoi at 9:13 PM on March 26, 2007


I do not want to be part of a culture of such hypocrisy where Jeneane Sessum can be a prominent member of blogher, a speaker at industry conferences, an outspoken advocate for women's rights, and at the same time celebrate and encourage a site like meankids -- where objectification of women is taken to a level that makes plain old porn seem quaintly sweet.

What does this mean? The meankids site seems to be down.
posted by delmoi at 9:17 PM on March 26, 2007


im really not familiar with this kind of to and fro. any links to put this into context would be cool. nerds picking on girls. meh.

here's a back and forth from shelley (from burningbird.net) on listics.net, which was tangentially involved:


McD // Feb 9, 2007 at 12:55

If they have any balls at all they’ll target Shelley Powers. She just finished writing a book on AJAX…. ans is about as vulnerable as she could be.

I’d pay money to watch that contest of skills.
Pure rage vs. pure logic.

I am a sick fuck. [...]

Shelley // Feb 9, 2007 at 2:50

McD, I’ve not found many people comfortable with ‘taking me on’, probably because I don’t have anything to gain, and have nothing to lose.

But feel free to do whatever based on the fact that I wrote a book on Ajax.

McD // Feb 9, 2007 at 5:55

Shelley,

I got the Javascript book but I haven’t given it the time it deserves (yet). It’s a very well done. Looking forward to seeing what you can do to illumnate AJAX for the “Abstraction Impared”.

The “MeanKids.org” site smells fishy… which is difficult to pull off using WordPress. If they come after you… It will (hopefully) be deliciously mean-spirited but tasteful.

posted by phaedon at 9:19 PM on March 26, 2007


Having had to deal with my own threats, including posting pictures of my family and home address, and vague threats against my wife and daughter, I can say that in my own case the emotional shock can be substantially traumatic. Yes, Kathy (with whom I've exchanged a few emails and she's been as nice in email as on her blog) might have conflated a few issues, but that's likely an emotional reaction to several things happening at once.

And as for whether some of those things are threats or just plain rude... at some point, when you're dealing with these things, it becomes very difficult to distinguish and you're left with just throwing your hands in the air and cringing. (My case was substantially different from hers in many ways, but I can feel a lot of empathy for someone going through that for an innocuous blog).
posted by elvolio at 9:23 PM on March 26, 2007


AJAX ... Pure Rage.

more confused as when we began. i don't think i want to know any more. there's either a lot more to the story, or there isn't.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:32 PM on March 26, 2007


Well. sounds like she's creating passionate users

This is almost certainly meant as a joke, but it's exactly spot on. Passionate Users and Engaged Consumers.

But isn't this what happens when we bring anonymity to the Internet?

I thought this is what happens when you remove anonymity from the internet. I guess it depends which direction you're looking at it from.

I've never heard of any of these people

Hmmph. They're friends of mine, Chris Locke and Jeneane and some of the others, as are Frank and Shelley, quoted above. I have no idea what the story is and hadn't heard about it -- and I pay as little attention as possible to dramabombs like this and most of weblogging in general these days, moribund co-opted whored-out cashmongering exhibitionist trainwreck that it's become ((well, when I'm feeling grumpy about it anyway) and yeah, I know, like it was different before) -- but I'm interested in the fallout, now.

Time to go read up.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:42 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


From reading around, I get the feeling that there's a small group of people that politely rib Kathy and apparently ran a blog mocking big names in blogging (including her apparently).

But what it sounds like happened afterwards was some reader with sanity/reality issues sort of took the polite ribbing to mean "go ahead and share your twisted violent sex murder fantasies on this blog".

That's what it seems like after reading around a bit. They were doing something that didn't set out to be mean spirited but someone interpreted it as such and flipped out on Kathy in their venue.
posted by mathowie at 10:12 PM on March 26, 2007


Having read Kathy Sierra's post, I see the context. Interesting.

Well, the meankids did send me an email right after they launched the site, asking if they could blogroll me. I didn't respond, because I wasn't sure who was behind it, and more importantly, I don't like being mean, or hanging with people who are.

Of course, it was just a big joke, as I understood it -- they weren't really being mean, it was just that people like Tara Hunt (this post's comment thread, I believe, was the genesis of the meankids site) weren't really good at having people actually argue with them about their marketing handwaving, and perceived relatively reasoned argument as 'meanness'.

Of course, I'd never heard of Tara Hunt before that post I just linked, or of Kathy Sierra before today.

I guess either the meankids.org thing took a turn for the legitimately mean -- I didn't visit the site after wondering what that initial email was about -- or some driveby loon mistook healthy piss-taking mockery for an opportunity to go full-on stalkereque, and he (one assumes he) wasn't shut down with alacrity.

All very regrettable, but interesting to me, because the whole shitball sort of brushed past me a couple of times as it gathered steam, it would seem. I'm pretty sure (without any evidence to back it up) that none of the people -- Chris, Jeneane, Frank -- I've known (at least on the internet) for such a long time actually made any threats, though. That they provided a forum for them, apparently, well, like Shelley Powers said, that's pretty disappointing. It sounds like Frank's feeling pretty bad about the whole thing, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:13 PM on March 26, 2007


If you hang out with a wide enough cross section of the American public, you will get plenty of non-anonymous death threats. Internet search engines just improve the signal to noise so that you can home in on them.

Oh, and I actually read FreeRepublic sometimes, and post a liberal slant, or "bait" article. Most of the replies are as polite as anything on MeFi or more so. I was quite surprised. That's not to say there aren't jerks on FR, but there are jerks everywhere. They aren't nice enough to all group themselves in the same pigeonhole for us to identify them.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:22 PM on March 26, 2007


I dunno ... smells a bit hysterical to me. Having worked in community management for small and large sites I have seen many such cases.

In communities and blogs you always have open and hidden conflicts. People making strange or violent threats is nothing new. And there are good and bad ways to deal with it. Creating such a public show is not a good way ...

You simply can go to the police in most countries and bring any Troll or Stalker to justice. 'Screaming' in your blog doesn't help, going to the police and to your lawyer does. Feeding the Trolls or the Stalkers with a huge public (re-)action only provides them the pleasure and incentive to apply their terrible tactics again.

I personally do not understand why she made it so public. Does she expect some form of odd justice or even policing from the 'net' or the 'blogosphere'. If so - dream on! It will not happen. The internet is a bad place for real problems - if you need help then get real people to help you or solve the situation. If you have a stalker threatening you a lawyer, the police and a court order will give you back your peace - endless comments and discussions have never stopped dangerous psychos. On the contrary: if you give this public a huge show and lots of excitement it will only embolden them. This perverse pleasure of a public drama is what excites them ...

And another thing: we only know the story from her perspective. Since this seems to be happening within some sort of inner circle, we will probably never know all the details that lead to this debacle.
posted by homodigitalis at 11:06 PM on March 26, 2007


well then, if I knew this was going to be a giant blame-the-victim-party, I wouldn't have RSVP'd.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:19 PM on March 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


You know, I think all it would take to make these kinds of threats stop on any given site is to get one of them arrested and blog about it. The idea that there might be real consequences behind making death threats on the internet would probably be enough to make most of them shut up and probably thermite their hard drives.

And if not? They don't exactly get internet accounts in jail. It's not as if internet trolls contribute anything useful to society.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:20 PM on March 26, 2007


Man, this is all a big WTF?
Random bloggers hate other bloggers and one of 'em went nuts? Do I have that right?
I dunno, maybe it's because I'm a guy and thus less threatened by sexualized violence, but it seemed like she went well over the top in her reaction.
And I've gotten death threats before, both over a (relatively inoffensive) column that I wrote for a magazine (old media death threats!), and on the internet (once over something I wrote on Monkeyfilter, for Chrissakes, and they're about the nicest people in the world).
So... why is this on Metafilter? Isn't it just blog-gossip chaff?
posted by klangklangston at 11:45 PM on March 26, 2007


Isn't it just blog-gossip chaff?

Pretty much, but the chum-o-sphere is going apeshit over it, so hey.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:50 PM on March 26, 2007


Also, why the fuck does techmeme(.circlejerk.com) include digg but not Metafilter in it's speshul-super-sekret logrolling algorithm? Bah!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:51 PM on March 26, 2007


Terminally bored with the banality of the navel-gazing antics of the blogosphere here, I surfed over to mental-floss, where the very first link I encountered was the incredibly ill-advised SameLane, a social-networking site which ( in an act of breathtaking stupidity) aims to attach your vehicle licence-plate number to your cell-phone.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:18 AM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Good thing we are better than those other sites and reserve our misogynist bile death threating ways for Rachel Ray.
posted by srboisvert at 12:40 AM on March 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


PareidoliaticBoy, get with the times, I'm busy attracting VC interest for my site that mashes up the serial number of your microwave with RSS feeds of your friends and family's bowel movements. I'll email you when I'm ready to send out invites for the beta. Watch this space.
posted by Jimbob at 12:41 AM on March 27, 2007


To be honest, I'm wondering about the wisdom of blogging it at all. The matter has been turned over to the police, and wider reporting on a site not ostensibly about such things is surely only going to start a bitchyfest and get the ill-informed weighing in with gusto.

....

Oh damn.
posted by Sparx at 1:17 AM on March 27, 2007


Up next ... Jitter
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:45 AM on March 27, 2007


Whenever this crazy blog drama starts up, and I realize how painfully little I know about blogging in any real sense, I start to feel old and out of touch. And then I'm like, wait, I'm not really old at all, and all of these people are older than me, and I start to feel young, and I feel very proud of this youth, and angry about these old people and their new-fangled contraptions breaking down the social barriers they built before the young usurpers can do the job.

And then I feel robbed of my youth, and so very alone.
posted by The God Complex at 2:26 AM on March 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


See, back when blogs looked like this and this, drama like this didn't happen.

Now that people are insisting on, you know, focusing their blogs on broadcasting their opinions and personalities, all hell breaks loose.
posted by Jimbob at 3:15 AM on March 27, 2007


thanks for the summary, mathowie. I'm still kind WTF about it though... Random death threats because of your tech blog? Not addressing why this all went down? Strange.

From reading phaedon's link -
Kathy and I have made peace from past angers; ...
...she knows that most of my criticism has been based on acts, not the person as a whole.

- it seems as though she might have a penchant for pissing people off somehow.

GTK fanboys?
posted by dozo at 3:22 AM on March 27, 2007


I like the expression 'chum-o-sphere' ... that's a good one ...
posted by homodigitalis at 4:19 AM on March 27, 2007


I personally do not understand why she made it so public.

I think it was to explain why she was cancelling her public appearances.
posted by mediareport at 5:23 AM on March 27, 2007


chum-o-sphere-in-a-box
posted by pyramid termite at 5:49 AM on March 27, 2007


Disgusting and saddening, and only marginally less disgusting are the people who react with "haha welcome to teh internets what did you expect dont get your panties in a twist lol." The woman didn't deserve this any more than women deserve having guys holler obscene comments at them and expose themselves and all the other charming things fucked-up guys have done to women since the beginning of time. This is one of those situations where you pretty much have to take sides, and if you don't take the side of the woman who's been threatened to the point of canceling a public appearance and contacting the FBI, you're pretty much an asshole (IMHO).

Once upon a time, I was quite fond of Shelley/Burningbird, because she's outspoken and passionate and defends free speech to the hilt. Sadly, I got turned off by what I perceived as basically justifications for being nasty, and her response to this is much in that vein:
I have been critical of Kathy in the past, and most likely will be again. We're two very different people. ... I might even use satire in my criticism, though I tend to be pretty direct when it comes to people. ... The only time I'll use any biting humor, sarcasm, is when I know the person can take it and dish it back. Kathy doesn't deal well with this type of humor–yes, mean, nasty, snarky humor–but at the same time, she's not very good at ignoring it, either. She and her partner Bert do respond in comments, and sometimes this can exacerbate an already volatile situation, and can increase the level of meanness. Does that excuse the meanness and hate? No, but it may provide some balancing context. ...

Do I think the photoshopping and the meankids.org is a 'cool' thing? No. At a minimum, it encourages aggression and leads people to do and say things they wouldn't normally do and say. But I'm not overfond of hiding 'meanness' in sweet words and 'clever' drawings, either. The cruder might be more obvious, but the subtle is, by far, the more harmful.
The final sentence (my emphasis) sums up her whole approach, and I think it's deeply wrong. Too many smart people are seduced by their contempt for hypocritical "niceness" into thinking that nastiness is the only way to be truly honest, and that people who appear to be nice must be hiding their true feelings and should be taken down a peg. This tends to put them in the company of true assholes, and, whether they like it or not, they get judged by that. Lie down with dogs, etc.

Women, even attractive women, should be able to participate in public life, even on the internet, without being insulted, humiliated, and threatened. And those who claim that she's overreacting or should have just kept it to herself are in the same boat as those whose first reaction to any account of rape is to wonder if the woman was wearing the wrong clothes or hanging out in the wrong part of town or "leading him on."
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on March 27, 2007 [26 favorites]


delmoi: Here is what I would do if I were in Kathy's position: Register a server anonymously in Iran or something and dedicate it to bashing yourself.

So... use Iran as a sort of... "honeypot". Intriguing.
posted by LordSludge at 6:44 AM on March 27, 2007


Women, even attractive women, should be able to participate in public life, even on the internet, without being insulted, humiliated, and threatened.

not to be threatened, yes ... not insulted and humiliated? ... sorry, but not only are people jerks, they have the right to be jerks and they WILL be jerks, some of them ... those who admin web sites should consider deleting mean comments about 3rd parties, but, again, they don't have to

well, if that puts me in the company of assholes and i get judged by that, then people can just build their little straw men and get on with it

i had a job once where people would call me on the phone and threaten to "shoot my ass dead" ...

none of them ever tried to do it ... not even the ones whose friends' rooms got raided and guns and a couple of pounds of coke were found

it's the people who never warn you that you'd better worry about

if she feels something can be done about the threats with the police, fine ... but the meanness and the crudeness is just out there and all she can do about that is to tell herself that THEY are the ones with the problem ... and not try to "win" a war with them
posted by pyramid termite at 6:49 AM on March 27, 2007


it's the people who never warn you that you'd better worry about

I'd just like to point out that this little tidbit is spectacularly unsupported by the real world evidence about violence towards women.

Good on her for calling attention to it and pursing it. When a place I am part of turns into the kind of place where mean spirited bashing becomes the norm I move on to somewhere else.

I think metafilter has been dancing back and forth over that line and too many threads here have turned into "This post iinvolves a woman. I'll post about how much I'd like to bang her". I'm a guy and it makes me uncomfortable (mostly because I don't want to be associated with that kind of assholery). I can't imagine what it is like for women to have to read that crap everywhere they go on the web.

I would really prefer if this place didn't jump the fark.
posted by srboisvert at 7:01 AM on March 27, 2007 [12 favorites]


Kathy's in the marketing business. Worse, she's not a marketer for any given product or service, she's a marketer for marketing itself. Like most marketers, she has a vested interest in shutting down any criticism of herself and creating an environment where any criticism is "unacceptable" and a violation of the standard PC-buy-me-thinking. And so she's made a deliberate attempt to use the threats of a single idiot to tarnish all of her critics. Those who can empathize with Kathy (read: other marketers a la Scoble) are of course similarly outraged. They can also smell the blood in the water.

It's revealing how the politics of outrage operates in such an atmosphere. The aim is no longer any sort of retribution or punishment. Actually all possibility of real violence is removed from the system. The primary focus is now to censor your enemies or, best of all, to make them apologize and get a recanting of their words. It's a sort of 'justice of the theater' where death and exile isn't enough, the bad guy must feel regret and the morals of the audience thereby reaffirmed. If you can never engage her critics and actively silence them the only other option is to play the victim and try to make them silence themselves. I suppose theater people operating must really believe that any and all criticism is traitorous and so they'd be naturally inclined to find the weakest and most despicable of their critics to reinforce their preconceived ignorance.

The political bloggers already had their "outraged by the outrage" moment a long time ago. It was about the time they started posting each other's addresses and pictures. No reason other bloggers shouldn't follow such a path.

Let's not pretend that going into hiding is a rational response to anonymous internet death threats. Such speech is unacceptable (there we go!) in polite society but the appropriate behavior isn't a melodramatic exit stage left. In real life when anonymous nobodies begin shouting obscenities and threats at us (this ever happen to anybody else?) we ignore them and walk away. If we think they're serious we call the police.
posted by nixerman at 8:06 AM on March 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow, I take back what I said earlier. I had read burningbird's response and took it at face value that maybe a few internet jokesters were poking harmless fun but a friend showed me one of their fun jokey entries:

World's most annoying pregnancy

This is an entry trying to "out" Scoble's wife as annoying and stress that she had gastric bypass surgery to lose weight and how awful it is to read about her pregnancy. It's totally unwarranted and fucked up, and it always seems to be some guy doing it to a moderately successful woman.
posted by mathowie at 8:12 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


These people are all adults. WTF. Does blogging make you stupid?
posted by chunking express at 8:20 AM on March 27, 2007


Who is Kat Herding? Is she a real person?

If so, why has she removed all of the posts on her site that reference meankids.org, RageBoy, etc. What is she/they trying to hide?

Everything about the site looks like a not-so-clever parody. The obvious stock photography. The fake press release about landing an account. The snarky writing. The lame project-playlist audio that autoplays on their Blogger-powered blog.

My opinion is that the same person(s) who are behind katherding.com were behind the over-the-top posts on meankids.org.

My other guess is that this whole thing was an elaborate practical joke on Web 2.0 that went wrong.
posted by camworld at 8:34 AM on March 27, 2007


it always seems to be some guy doing it to a moderately successful woman.

In my experience, it's usually women doing it to other moderately successful women.
posted by pineapple at 8:57 AM on March 27, 2007


“So... use Iran as a sort of... "honeypot". Intriguing.”

heh heh
posted by Smedleyman at 9:03 AM on March 27, 2007


World's most annoying pregnancy

These are ADULTS? This is supposed to be FUNNY?

Meanwhile, Chris Locke responds. I mean, I think Kathy way overreacted and went indiscriminately postal. But Chris Locke is an ass for saying this, and I'm sure he and Saddam would have much to discuss about being a victim.

These people are all adults. WTF. Does blogging make you stupid?

We've had blogs in some form for what, 13 years now, and you don't know the answer to that?

Peeple are dumb, selfish, short-sighted, and brutish in packs. No amount of religion or rationalism will ever rid the whole human race of that.
posted by dw at 9:49 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


um, so she created some passionate users, eh?
posted by quonsar at 10:28 AM on March 27, 2007


Was her response rational? Has anybody actually been attacked after some guy blogged about her being assaulted? Who here has been threatened with violence in bars, and streets, and lines for the movies? Perhaps my experience is unusual because I am very large, but I always have strangers talk about if they could "take me" in public places. They love to go on about my knees being my weakness or that they would "punch me in my balls" Am I a woman? no, but I also know that the vast majority of random threats of violence are just that, random threats and nothing more.

She is far more likely to slip and break her neck in the shower than for some guy of the internet to track her down and smother her with a cheap pair of panties. She might be better off with a nice pair of shower shoes rather than going into hiding and avoiding her professional commitments.
posted by Megafly at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2007


mathowie, wow—that post is incredibly vile, you're right it's beyond what you'd think the site's content would have been (ie. it's not just fratboy/fark-type one liners, it's a concerted effort at scraping the barrel of gratitious nastiness.)
posted by Firas at 11:15 AM on March 27, 2007


you oughta see some of the hate mail that Michelle Malkin gets on a daily basis from alleged "tolerant liberals."

Kind of like the crap that people spew on Daily Kos.

I think that she did a really stupid thing by writing a big post about how she's terrified to leave her house. Chances are a lot of these threats/etc were posted from Tor proxies or foreign countries and there's going to be very little that she can do about it. In fact, one of the threats she posted came from 62.37.152.243 - which reverses back to some hostname in Estonia. (243.pool62-37-152.dynamic.orange.es.)

If she's going to be driven into hiding by a bunch of snarky idiots with Internet Balls, well, that's too bad. She's just given them a whole lot of encouragement.

One of the reasons I ditched an MT blog I had years ago is because of the idiotic trolls. I posted something about what I thought was a shitty concert review and the trolls came out of the woodwork, spamming the hell out of every single comment that they could. The onslaught was relentless. I ignored them and after a day they got bored and moved on. I scrapped MT after getting hit with thousands of comment spammers shortly afterwards.
They were just a bunch of idiots. I had some of them emailing me with stuff like "Aww you took your ball and went home." Mostly these were people that wouldn't have the balls to say anything of the sort in person. Someone posted my address online. It was incorrect, as they had obviously picked it off of whois. They thought they were some sort of Internet sleuth.
I said "Fine, assholes, come on over. I dare you to say this shit to my face." and named the time & place.

Nobody showed.

The internet has given a loud voice to millions of complete chickens.
posted by drstein at 11:38 AM on March 27, 2007


drstein: .es is Spain. And, yeah, death threats on the Internet is clearly a "liberal" thing.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:54 AM on March 27, 2007


Question: Can anyone explain why a wrinkly middle-aged man calls himself Rageboy?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:59 AM on March 27, 2007


I really wanted to find out exactly WTF whent on, which was difficult because most of the related sites have been shut down. It seems like a few people posted some links, etc, but I'm at work now and I'm guessing I probably shouldn't be clicking 'em.
posted by delmoi at 12:28 PM on March 27, 2007


Can anyone explain why a wrinkly middle-aged man calls himself Rageboy?

It's short for "Rage Boy Oh Boy Have I Got A Lot Of That Buddy"
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:33 PM on March 27, 2007


you oughta see some of the hate mail that Michelle Malkin gets on a daily basis from alleged "tolerant liberals."

Pff, that's hardly comparable. Malkin's opinions are repugnant, where as this woman blogged about user interface design. Obviously if you attack people, you're going to get attacked back. I suppose you feel just as bad for all the crap Amanda Marcotte got from "Tolerant Conservatives"
posted by delmoi at 12:35 PM on March 27, 2007


What an absolutely brilliant piece of self-promotion by this marketing expert Sierra.

She's bashed some of her enemies - Chris Locke's response makes it clear that he had nothing to do with anything other than a bit of plain old nastiness, given that he sees her as a 'dipshit', but she's managed to make it seem as if he was personally responsible for issuing these death threats - and nevermind the chumosphere, she's made headlines on the BBC.

In the end she's certainly turned this negative into a positive for herself personally, and while it's hard to argue against her without seeming like you are trying to defend threats of violence against women, it's a) also hard to find any actual credible threats, though there clearly was a great deal of unpleasantness, and b) the sites containing these things have been pulled by the very people she accuses of condoning them. So they weren't condoning them. Someone is being just a teeny bit misleading, but oh, violence against women. Which every one is quite rightly so against that part of the brain actually disconnects the minute it is mentioned.

Sorry, what was the issue again?

The triumph of style over substance and spin over fact could not be made more plain by this story. What's worse is that in the meanwhile actual violence against women continues and the fallout from this will not do anything to make it stop.
posted by motty at 12:48 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know that it's correct to assume that the Kathy Sierra of the excellent blog is the same Kathy Sierra in either business or private life. It's entirely possible that the face she shows via her blog and her behavior in other arenas are totally opposite. And that can be shocking and extremely disappointing to people.

Writing for the public in any form is done, in part, by people who seek approval. This isn't necessarily a negative thing so long as one has a fairly solid self-image. If not, however, when the approval dissipates or turns to rejection, then reactions tend to be rather extreme.

I, personally, do not see anything in the material Sierra posted that warrants the level of fear she claims for herself. I certainly do not see them as death threats. And the whole thing does have a whiff of being about something else entirely.
posted by gsh at 12:58 PM on March 27, 2007


You'd have to be willfully dense not to see what was posted on her site as an actual threat, especially since she's a quasi-public figure and her whereabouts at defined times and places can be easily figured out by anyone. Come on.
posted by footnote at 1:38 PM on March 27, 2007


What an absolutely brilliant piece of self-promotion by this marketing expert Sierra.

Ladies and gentlemen, the chum-o-sphere's anwser to "She was dressed like she wanted it."
posted by dw at 2:01 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I understand her fear, death threats are no laughing matter. Journalists get them all the time, even those journalists whose work is not particularly controversial.

I do question, slightly, why she exactly dragged in her marketing competitors etc. into the conversation. Perhaps she saw this as a good chance to give back to people who don't like her, but that's slightly irresponsible since it appears unlikely that those people were behind the threats.

For example, once I posted a kind of mean comment directed at a (now banned) contributor on this site. In response I got a really vile email. That's fine, I put my self out there for that, but if I did write a post about how disgusting that (now banned) contributor was, I wouldn't drag Mathowie or even that member's ideological cohorts into the debate-- unless I wanted to make a bigger point about how, in general, those ideological "enemies" are bad people. That conflation seems to have confused the issue here, as far as I can tell.
posted by cell divide at 2:39 PM on March 27, 2007


" And, yeah, death threats on the Internet is clearly a "liberal" thing"

I didn't say that it was. Stupidity comes from both sides, and I usually see it sprouting up because of political arguments.

"Pff, that's hardly comparable. Malkin's opinions are repugnant,"

So because you don't like her, it's OK to spew death threats? The two are quite comparable.

"I suppose you feel just as bad for all the crap Amanda Marcotte got from "Tolerant Conservatives""

While I think that she's a moron, I most certainly don't condone anyone sending her death threats.

Both sides are full of idiots. The Internet is full of idiots. I think that it's actually getting worse.
posted by drstein at 3:19 PM on March 27, 2007


The Internet is full of idiots. I think that it's actually getting worse.

And a sizeable chunk of Americans (close to 1/3) could care less about it -- Many Americans See Little Point to the Web.
posted by ericb at 3:28 PM on March 27, 2007


In the grand scheme of things this kerfuffle and its fallout appears to the casual bystander to have been ignited by likely long-standing animosities between various bloggers: Sierra vs. Locke, Locke vs. Others, Others in support of Locke. A number of others chime in.

Old rivalries and the clash of "cults-of-personality" seem to also be at play in the "back-and-forth" swirl of online conversations.*
posted by ericb at 3:48 PM on March 27, 2007


you oughta see some of the hate mail that Michelle Malkin gets on a daily basis from alleged "tolerant liberals."

Oh NOES. Genocide girl gets hate mail?
posted by dhartung at 3:50 PM on March 27, 2007


I have to say that while I was initially shocked at the accusations, I have to wonder. It sounds like the sites that had been taken down were basically general snark sites where people made fun of pretentious marketers. It's hard to tell, though, since they've all been taken down now. Sierra's lumping the site admins in with the creepy trolls does seem like a rather bitter thing to do, but it's easy to understand why she might feel that way.

So because you don't like her, it's OK to spew death threats? The two are quite comparable.

We're talking about a woman who tacitly encouraged death threats, and publicized the home addresses and telephone numbers of collage students who she disagreed with. Those students then, guess what, got death threats.

It's not that I disagree with her, it's that she's incited the exact same thing towards people she disagrees with Michelle Malkin complaining about internet death threats is the height of hypocrisy.

And yeah, there is a difference between a 'disagreeable' opinion, and a 'disgusting' opinion. I'm sure you would agree that we shouldn't have to be polite about people like Osama Bin Laden or other Jihadists who want to destroy America, right? So why should we be polite about people who think we ought to round people up and put them in camps based on their racial or religious background? You know who else wanted to do that?
posted by delmoi at 4:10 PM on March 27, 2007


FDR?



(I keed... sort of)
posted by cell divide at 4:23 PM on March 27, 2007


The final sentence (my emphasis) sums up her whole approach, and I think it's deeply wrong.

For what it's worth LH, you're quite wrong, about Shelley, about her 'whole approach' and about how wrong or right what she says might be (in my opinion). But judging by how many people favorited your comment, many agree with you. *shrugs*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:29 PM on March 27, 2007


"Trolls provoke. Flame wars run out of control. Decent citizens flee. I just don't want to be part of this any more, writes one commenter on Tim Bray's blog. That's an only slightly hyped-up summary of the kerfuffle since web marketing guru, Kathy Sierra, accusing web veterans such as Chris Locke of complicity in death threats against her.

The irony: the blogs emerged in the first place because they forced writers to own their own words, and allowed readers to route around idiocy and vitriol. They were, in part, a reaction to the anarchy of Usenet, the first online discussion platform, which was itself overwhelmed by spam and spite. Weblogs are more robust than Usenet, because it is still easy for sensitive readers to avoid the most malicious sites.

But we've been here before: this week's soul-searching over unmoderated blog commentary sounds much like the dying agonies of Usenet. Let this, from a bitterly disappointed Usenet participant, be a warning:
'We have allowed Usenet to become the way it is because we have been poor stewards of our neighborhoods. System administrators no longer take Usenet complaints seriously, partly because we haven't demanded that they do. And, whenever the decent citizens of any neighborhood abandon it, the sleaze and negative element comes in.

I recently rediscovered just how bad it's become recently on a visiting of some of my formerly favorite newsgroups. They are all now a complete wasteland of trolls, inappropriate crossposts, and absolute crap. It's a shame.

So, my proposal is: TURN IT OFF! It is, by in large, a waste of resources, populated by losers and malcontents who think violating the laws of common courtesy (or even, for that matter, the literal laws of society) is some kind of twisted adventure. Usenet is a wasteland of detritus, a mere shell of the powerful communications tool it once was.'

[Chris Sullivan, in 2002, calling for ISPs to shut down Usenet.]"*
posted by ericb at 4:33 PM on March 27, 2007


For what it's worth LH, you're quite wrong, about Shelley, about her 'whole approach' and about how wrong or right what she says might be (in my opinion).

Well, you're her friend, so I discount for that, but you've read a lot more of her than I have, so that balances out the discount. All I can say is that for a while I did read a lot of her, I used to read Burningbird daily, and I finally got turned off by what I perceived as paranoia and excessive aggressiveness. To me, the preference for "meanness" over "niceness" does sum up an important factor of her (online) personality, and I do get the distinct sense that she finds it hard to believe that niceness is genuine. I may, as always, be wrong; I may be influenced by the fact that I've had friends with the kind of psychology I'm attributing to her (not to mention the fact that here at MeFi I'm constantly stepping around the comments of people who clearly believe truth is only achieved through Maximum Nasty). I'm just callin' it as I sees it. But I certainly respect your opinion, and will adjust my uncertainty factor accordingly.
posted by languagehat at 4:53 PM on March 27, 2007


Anyhoo, I suspect the favorites are more for the wymmyn-supportive tone of my comment than for the snark about Shelley.
posted by languagehat at 4:56 PM on March 27, 2007


Hmm, speaking of blog sphere nastiness this discussian between Ann Althouse and Garance Franke-Ruta is certainly interesting.
posted by delmoi at 5:17 PM on March 27, 2007


The irony: the blogs emerged in the first place because they forced writers to own their own words, and allowed readers to route around idiocy and vitriol. They were, in part, a reaction to the anarchy of Usenet, the first online discussion platform, which was itself overwhelmed by spam and spite. Weblogs are more robust than Usenet, because it is still easy for sensitive readers to avoid the most malicious sites.

It's correct to say that they were in part a reaction to Usenet; there were certainly many other reasons for their rise, not least the simplicity of script/database-based websites, compared to upload-your-HTML-by-FTP websites. And as I suggested above, early weblogs weren't really about long form text and debate, like they are now. For the first few years I ran my blog, comment systems were rare; Slashdot was about the only mainstream "weblog" that had one, as was Metafilter. Personal blogs generally didn't have them.

People tend to forget this, I don't know if it's because of the "September 11 sprouted weblogs" myth. Weblogs were something completely different than they are today. And that's fine. Things can change, and things can evolve, but the kind of sites we're discussing here, that are attracting drama and death threats, are really long-form opinion and discussion sites, not "logs of interesting links on the web". I never got death threats on my weblog from posting links to some cool flash games. I did get people looking up my home address from my DNS records when I accused hard-right bloggers of hypocrisy and hate. Weblogs aren't the problem, information is.
posted by Jimbob at 5:24 PM on March 27, 2007


Thanks, LH. For what it's worth, I think Shelley's perspective is much like my own (but I cannot really speak for her, of course, despite the fact that I'm doing so here): that while true meanness is never acceptable, 'niceness' is not it's counterweight. In other words that being 'nice' for the sake of nice isn't the opposite of 'mean', and that honest communication is more possibler when both are eschewed.

But that when one is attacked personally, the gloves can rightly come off, despite the fact that things may be said that will be regretted.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:37 PM on March 27, 2007


I do get the distinct sense that she finds it hard to believe that niceness is genuine

For my part, I think there's a disjunction between legitimately nice (which is good, and which is what I try to be) and the kind of smarmy, neuro-linguistic-programming salesforce evil grandma snarl-behind-the-smile nice that we encounter too much.

One of the welter of catchphrase-y injokes amongst my gang of swell pals at university, more than 20-years ago, was how 'niiiiiiice' people could be. Which meant: cloying, false, dishonest, fake. Dislike for that sort of thing has stayed with me.

I speak for myself, of course.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:43 PM on March 27, 2007


More on the Althouse incident.
posted by homunculus at 5:55 PM on March 27, 2007


Wait, so let me get this straight: Chris Locke goes back to the "you own your own words" ethos of The Well to justify setting up a forum that tolerates abusive posting? And then when things get too disgusting even for him, he nukes the entire site out of some kind of moral stance that prioritizes shutting down the forum over moderating the disgusting comments?

Puh-lease.
posted by mediareport at 6:16 PM on March 27, 2007


Not sure I follow you, dw. Did you read the other paragraphs in my comment or just the first line?

Your reply would make sense if the first line had stood alone, but it was in fact accompanied by a number of other lines which not only explain it but also make the point that this particular case does not in any way seem to work towards reducing violence against women - an issue which I suspect you would agree with me was of some importance.

You have made no reply to those other lines, which preemptively make the comment you did make seem somewhat incomprehensible to me. Or are you actually backhandedly supporting my claim that this is a case of style over substance?
posted by motty at 6:27 PM on March 27, 2007




I am of the opinion that when you are in "Rome", you at least know how the Romans might feed you one night, and then eat you for dinner the next. Is it possible that Ms. Sierra had no clue what the "Roman" internet had in store for her? Sure it's possible. Likely? I say no.

I must admit, I had no clue who this woman was before this post. I would have liked to know more about her, but now it is all second hand....and we know how whisper-down- the- alley works. The "Romans" have perfected whispering and innuendo, and I am old enough to declare myself half deaf when it suits me.

What was that you said?

Good thing we have the likes of Chris Locke around to teach us a lesson in Roman eating habits, and an ever better thing we all have a place to crap.

Dontcha just LOVE ROME?
posted by Penny Wise at 8:47 PM on March 27, 2007


delmoi, I was just using her as an example. And I don't recall saying that she was complaining about getting death threats. What I did say was that she does get death threats. In my opinion, she handles them a lot better than this Kathy Sierra person.

Also, I've never heard of Kathy Sierra before I saw this thread. I am really surprised that people spewing death threats on the internet is news to anybody.

From a link above: "The Internet used to be a university. Then it became a shopping mall. But now, it's a war zone. I think Robert Scoble has the right idea -- stop blogging for a week. In fact, I've got two blogs and I was planning to pull one of them down because I didn't have the time to work on both of them. But now, I think I'm going to pull them both down permanently. I just don't want to be a part of this any more."

If people pull their blogs offline en masse, the Internet will still be here. The Internet has been a war zone for a long time.
posted by drstein at 10:48 PM on March 27, 2007


As far as niceness/snarkyness goes, I think the important thing is to be respectful. You can disrespect someone with sweet words and innuendo just as much as you can with crazy photoshops and masochistic imagery.

delmoi, I was just using her as an example. And I don't recall saying that she was complaining about getting death threats. What I did say was that she does get death threats. In my opinion, she handles them a lot better than this Kathy Sierra person.

Well, she does. But she's a bad example because she has (at least in the past) engaged in some pretty thuggish behavior herself.
posted by delmoi at 11:04 PM on March 27, 2007


I think Shelley's perspective is much like my own

Yeah, I know, and I think our differing reactions are in part due to our differing perspectives. They don't differ that much, just enough to skew us opposite on this.

One of the welter of catchphrase-y injokes amongst my gang of swell pals at university, more than 20-years ago, was how 'niiiiiiice' people could be. Which meant: cloying, false, dishonest, fake. Dislike for that sort of thing has stayed with me.


See, although I certainly know what you're talking about, and I don't like fake "niiiiiiceness" either, I didn't run into as much of it as (I guess) you and Shelley did, so I'm not as (hyper)sensitive to the possibility of it. My default assumption is that people who seem nice probably are nice. When I read Kathy Sierra's post, I didn't think "Hmm, this is probably a passive-aggressive person who knifes people in the back and then smiles sweetly, and she probably deserves the pushback she's exaggerating" (not imputing this reaction to you, just caricaturing an extreme opposite to the view I hold), I thought "Here's a nice gal who's getting shat on by morons for no good reason." Since there are a lot of morons out there on the internet, and since I've read about lots of moronic attacks by thugs who do it purely for the fun of thuggery, this seemed a reasonable thing to think. And when I read responses like Shelley's, they piss me off not because I think the person making them is evil but because I think their reflex support for "honesty" and "pushback" and fear of "niiiiiiceness" is leading them to give aid and comfort to thugs.

I actually felt bad after posting my previous comments, because it sounded like I was attacking Shelley, who I actually deeply respect. It's just that reflex "honesty" of the "pushback" sort (which always seems to carry a heavy whiff of "bring me the switch and drop your drawers, and remember, this hurts me more than it does you") gives me hives the way "niiiceness" does you.

I should add that one of the things I've always respected about you is your refusal to embrace your occasional belligerence as the unavoidable concomitant of being the Last Honest Man; when you feel you've crossed over from good honest contentiousness to unnecessary aggressiveness, you always apologize, and I've tried to follow that path myself. To snark is human; to worship the snark is a good way of winding up living on Asshat Avenue.
posted by languagehat at 5:25 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Aye. Well said, and thank you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:32 AM on March 28, 2007


Thanks, LH, for putting into words what I've been thinking, and far better than I could have.

The thing that really aggravates me is her continuing assertion that Scoble has no dog in this fight. He doesn't in the main fight, true. But, and I'm probably speaking as a married guy entrenched in some ancient patriarchal tradition that is anti-feminist or something, saying he can't demand apologies for the despicable things said about his wife is ludicrious. It's his wife and the mother of his future child that was sullied. Why shouldn't a spouse rush to the defense of his/her spouse in a situation like this?

I mean, yeah, it's Scoble, but I'd be looking askance if he weren't demanding pistols at ten paces. Spouses should stick up for each other when they're wronged, you know? (Within reason, of course.)
posted by dw at 9:35 AM on March 28, 2007


Spouses should stick up for each other when they're wronged, you know?

Abso-damn-lutely.
posted by languagehat at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2007


Violent Acres weighs in.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:40 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Someone else is getting death threats for his web activity.
posted by ericb at 11:46 AM on March 28, 2007


TPS: Too bad Kathy Sierra can't get a license to carry in California. The anti-gun folks have done a nice hatchet job on concealed carry in California. Even if she goes to the police and says she's getting death threats, the chances of anyone approving a CCW for her in a timely manner is somewhere between "slim" and "none."
Otherwise, that Violent Acres article was pretty funny.

And delmoi, the whole thing about Michelle Malkin posting crap about those college kids? Yeah, she's been getting death threats well before that. Also quite a few foul comments from the Gawker Media folks.

I don't agree with everything she says, but I think this entry of hers is spot on.
posted by drstein at 4:25 PM on March 29, 2007


I think this entry of hers is spot on.

only if you accept the hidden premise of her article, which that it's all about her and not kathy sierra

malkin does nothing but appeal to anger and outrage ... she literally has little to say except "oh, look what THEY did!" and "oh, look what THEY didn't complain about that i want them to" and "help, help, i'm being repressed!"

after a few months of reading her, just to see what her game was, i quit

and THAT is the most threatening thing you can do to her
posted by pyramid termite at 5:35 PM on March 29, 2007


Malkin somehow forgot to mention that some of those responses were from when she encouraged torture. It's hard to feel much sympathy for someone who wants to threaten violence against others, but complains when she's confronted with it.
posted by klangklangston at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2007


Yeah, Malkin is leaving one key fact out of her little article: Kathy Sierra has never sought attention through scandalous or contrary opinion.

Between the torture stuff and the support for internment and about a thousand other things she's done to put herself in the fore of right-wing public opinion, Malkin has attracted a large number of haters and detractors. Kathy Sierra didn't do anything other than be a blonde woman with a smallish niche audience saying all sorts of relatively non-controversial things.

Sierra gets a death threat, it's "oh you poor thing, you don't deserve that." Malkin gets a death threat, it's "please, call us when you actually have news."

Malkin, Marcotte... they're out to get a rise out of people. If they're dishing it, they're going to get an angry reaction, and to expect otherwise is a sign of a feeble brain.

For Malkin to demand that the greater metropolitan chum-o-sphere to give her some outrage is like the rich guy angry that people aren't showing him more sympathy over having one of his 14 yachts sink.
posted by dw at 6:32 PM on March 29, 2007


Men who hate women on the Web
posted by homunculus at 9:22 PM on March 30, 2007


Tim O'Reilly and Jimbo Wales are proposing a code of conduct for bloggers, in response to the threats against Kathy Sierra. Here's the draft.
posted by russilwvong at 10:46 AM on April 10, 2007


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