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