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 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.