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EBSQ: Art Meets Blog
News from the Self-Representing Artists Community
In support of Kathy Sierra
This was originally posted in my personal journal, but I felt it was important to cross post it here as well. 

I  discovered Kathy Sierra's blog, Create Passionate Users, roughly 18 months ago, via a mention by Amy Jo Kim, whose book, "Community Building on the Web" I had just finished reading. Kathy's blog opened up a whole new world to me, since I was at that time a relative newb to the tech blogosphere and the whole web 2.0 movement of which we hadn't even realized we had been a part. Kathy and her cohorts radically impacted how I think about my business and how well I am able to do my job. Her blog has remained a must-read, and a great many of her posts have been forwarded to our team at EBSQ as "required reading" as we move forward with the next version of our site software and improved user interface.

Jump to present day. I had noticed on Twitter some talk about sexual harrasment and threats on the web, but wasn't sure of the context since I wasn't an active part of that conversation. Well, it became abundantly clear yesterday when Kathy posted this on her blog. The story that unfolded was sickening. Terrifying. I am not ashamed to admit I ended up in tears by the end of the post. Whether Kathy realized her role in my life or not, she's been a mentor to me, and one of my business goals for next year was to get the chance to see her speak in person. How can that happen now? What sin has this woman committed that she has been threated and harrassed thusly that she's cancelled her speaking gigs and may never blog again? How many other people are out there, like myself, that are dependent on her good work for making effective changes within their small (or not so small) businesses? How many people will ultmiately been impacted by the loss of Kathy's uncommonly good sense because she has been effectively silenced?

The kind of behaviour cited by Kathy in her blog is not cute. It is not "edgy" or "artistic." It's not satire. It's greatly disturbing. And yet, I see it more and more. I've seen it in EBSQ's own community (to a MUCH lesser degree) where people used our forums to be "free" of political correctness by spouting trash because they felt they could, and because it amused their inner circle. I am thankful things did not go so far down the spiral, but it could have if gone unchecked. Has politcal correctness (which has become this past decade and half's word for what people used to call "good manners") become such a noose that a segment of society is vocally opposing it for opposition's sake? And when you bring misogyny and threats of violence into the mix, the landscape of the blogosphere is altered irrevocably. 

Web 2.0, among other things, was supposed to be about bringing down barriers. About making connections. Transparency. But when I see something like this happen to someone I so greatly admire, someone who is admired (or at the very least, greatly respected) by so many in the tech community, it all feels like bunk. It makes me want to friendslock every personal post I've ever written, close off the pictures of my kids on flickr, and just retreat back into my walled garden. So I can hardly blame Kathy, at whom the actual threats were leveled, for doing so.

Be well, Kathy. You'll be missed. And god willing, we'll see you again soon.  

-Amie Gillingham, co-founder, EBSQ

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4 comments or Leave a comment
From: toucanne Date: March 31st, 2007 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I had not heard of Kathy Sierra before reading this post. I went and read everything I could within reason. I read Chris Locke's non-response, where he opts out of any responsibility for this. Looks like he knows who did it, but won't say and doesn't seem to care. Not nice.

However, please don't liken this public persecution to what went on on the EBSQ forums a few months ago. I don't agree this is similar, Amie, even with the disclaimer. This is death threats, for heaven's sake. What we had was distasteful to some, but I don't remember any personal attacks, much less threats. I certainly hope we never have anything worse.

As far as pictures of your kids on Flickr, I must say I was surprised at first. I'd like to think it's not a risk, but you never know. My daughters don't want me posting their kids on Flickr and I respect that. I do have some family photos, but limited to friends and family. I like the fact that you can do that on Flickr.
wickedgillie From: wickedgillie Date: March 31st, 2007 02:32 am (UTC) (Link)
My mention of the most recent kerfuffle on EBSQ regarding what is/isn't obscenity and what is/isn't acceptable in a community forum wasn't meant to be likened to the threats received by Kathy. Nor was what happened on our forums the whole story since a lot happened privately as well. I was simply speaking to the point that even harmonious communities like ours have had to deal with obscenity, vulgarity, people being picked on, others complaining that they feel sexually harrassed by some of the material in our non-art related forums, and when the people in question are asked to tone things down, we get arguments regarding how we're trampling on their first amendment rights. As much as I hate to admit it, at times we've had "mean kids" of our own. It's a challenge as a community administrator to walk the line between safe-guarding freedom of speech and living harmoniously as a community.

What happened to Kathy has started a firestorm online, one that I hope catches the person(s) who have so altered her feelings of security. But they've also opened a can of worms regarding nettiquette vs personal liberties. And I think that debate will continue long past this unfortunately catalyst.
From: toucanne Date: March 31st, 2007 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)
It's a challenge as a community administrator to walk the line
I'm sure it is, and I feel for you having to make these kinds of decisions. I just didn't think there was any comparison between that and what is being done to Kathy Sierra.
wickedgillie From: wickedgillie Date: March 31st, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Muriel, I respect and mostly agree with that opinion. I just want to reiterate that my post is speaking from the perspective of someone who has been involved in these types of kerfuffles from behind the scenes as well as with an administrator's view of how our community has evolved over the past seven years. No question whatsoever that what happened to Kathy is above and beyond anything that has happened here. But I disagree that there is *no* comparison, only a difference in the degree in the severity in what I've seen our members do to each other (or in some cases, ME) over the years.
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