Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kathy Sierra and the Aftermath

Until a short time ago, few people had heard of Kathy Sierra. She is a woman in her forties, writes books, blogs about technology issues, and as far as is known has never harmed anyone. During the week of March 29 Sierra was subject to vile personal attacks. These included death threats, misogynist comments and a photoshopped picture of her being strangled in underpants. She felt compelled to cancel plans to speak at a tech conference.

In response to the treatment given Kathy and others, her publisher Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly media has proposed a blogger code of conduct:

1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

We are committed to the "Civility Enforced" standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it. We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:

- is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
- is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,
- infringes upon a copyright or trademark
- violates an obligation of confidentiality
- violates the privacy of others

2. We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person.

3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.
When we encounter conflicts and misrepresentation in the blogosphere, we make every effort to talk privately and directly to the person(s) involved--or find an intermediary who can do so--before we publish any posts or comments about the issue.

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.
When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we'll tell them so (privately, if possible--see above) and ask them to publicly make amends. If those published comments could be construed as a threat, and the perpetrator doesn't withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with law enforcement to protect the target of the threat.

5. We do not allow anonymous comments.
We require commenters to supply a valid email address before they can post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with an alias, rather than their real name.

6. We ignore the trolls.

Thank you, O'Reilly. When someone has something constructive to say, there should no problem with revealing the commenter's identity. The majority of "anonymous" comments are negative. They are a venue for personal attacks, false allegations and comments polluting friends' blogs. Personal attacks are an attempt to distract from someone's ideas and undermine her support. Educational level makes no difference, for some of the worst attacks have come from PhD's. Given past experience, the anonymous comment is a weapon which humanity lacks the wisdom to use.

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Blogger Kea said...

I am learning that threats can take many different guises. And that even mentioning threats, as if they are real, can lead to a risk of being locked up in a hospital without communication.

3:14 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Heaven forbid that happening. All this technology hasn't made people any wiser.

6:55 PM  
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