Quo Vadis, Kathy Sierra?

Well, I’ve delayed comment until now, but the dust is settling and it’s time to say something. Not to kick up the dust that doesn’t need disturbing, but because I feel that somethings ought not pass without comment, and this is one of them.

Firstly, if you aren’t up on the blog-world, you won’t have a hot clue what I’m on about, or who Kathy Sierra is. But you should. Kathy is one of the brightest lights in the blogosphere, and her blog, Creating Passionate Users, should in my humble opinion be required reading for anyone who designs software, user interfaces of any kind, for people who manage such projects, or for anyone who is particularly in the wired end of the business world. Kathy is a thinker and a writer, and some of my all-time favorite blog posts have come from her virtual pen.

The Wikipedia entry for her contains more biographical information and a brief description of the events which precipitate this discussion. The short version is that last week Kathy announced on her blog that she had cancelled public appearances and was locked up in her house under fear of death threats. Indirectly implicated was another “A-List” blogger, Chris Locke (a.k.a. RageBoy), also of Cluetrain fame. In the final analysis, it became a significant news item, peaking with Sierra and Locke meeting for the first time during a CNN interview for the story. Unfortunately others who were filmed for the segment were cut out according to Robert Scoble, who comments further after taking time off in recognition of Kathy’s ordeal.

For my part, I’ve bloggrolled and un-blogrolled Chris Locke several times… ultimately, I just don’t care for his tone and the club-like nature of his ramblings and rantings. I like a lot of what he’s written in print, but online I tend to take a pass. The guy needs an editor, but that’s just my opinion… others seem to like him. What I really want to do though, is come out in support of Kathy Sierra. Not in a choosing-sides way, but in a “this is rediculous and we support you Kathy” kind of way. Nobody should have to deal with what she’s had to, and though it’s most likely a life-altering ordeal, I hope she’s able to move past it as much as possible and as quickly as possible. By my observations, she’d be doing it with the sweeping support of the blogosphere, which is buzzing with her name at the moment. Sadly though, her blog has gone silent with the publication of a joint statement between her and Chris Locke. She does indicate she’ll be back, but when is anybody’s guess at this point.

As has been notetd, censorship is not the answer — but as Kathy aptly notes, the offending material is not protected free speech. Tim O’Reilly is calling for a Blogger’s Code of Conduct, which isn’t an altogether bad idea. It would have no real teeth, but if it was set fairly strictly, it could potentially help mark a distinction between the more professional or serious-minded blogs and the others. Strictly speaking, Tim’s 7-point proposal doesn’t do this… but akin to the badging of each blog with its tolerance for abusive comments (point #2), a badging of a blog with its general nature might help. What I have in mind is a categorization of blogs between professional, hobby, or personal and a degree to which off-topic discussion is tolerated. This last point is fairly significant in my view, and I guess would be point #8. Teeth or not, I’d support Tim’s proposal… whether or not we dub it “The Sierra Accord,” a community response of some type would be appropriate.

And most importantly in the meantime, I’m keeping Kathy in my RSS reader. I want to know the instant she returns, and for me, it won’t be soon enough.