Years ago, when my blog was still ItSeemstoMe, I wrote a piece cause-based ice cream brands. It was a fairly light essay, but it invoked a vitriolic, anti-Semetic comment from someone who demonstrated he or she knew where I lived, knew my wife's name and owned a gun. It scared me and for a long while I stopped mentioning Paula's name and that I live in San Carlos, CA. As it turned out, I never wrote about gun control again and I cannot tell you whether it is coincidence or not.
Kathy Sierra has suffered a great deal more than that, and apparently a good number of women have also suffered disturbing and outrageous offenses. I feel for her and I am saddened that what has occurred has done so. The fact that it occurred on the blogosphere is not a key point to this story. It just makes it more personal for me because the Blogosphere is one of my global neighborhoods.
It is the same as learning that something violent or criminal or ugly happened in my physical neighborhood, or that some women I knew in college was sexually assaulted. Maybe it shouldn't be this way. Maybe we should all focus on the more massive ugliness that takes place every day in places like Darfur.
But we don't. We ignite when something bad happens close to home, or to someone we know or knew.
I say all in response to the lead story in today's San Francisco Chronicle by Dan Forst entitled "Bad behavior in the blogosphere."
Forst, conducted some decent journalistic legwork, getting good quotes and providing a very clear chronology of the events leading up to this controversy. But what bothered me is that the useful and informative stuff was buried, after the story jumped inside the paper. The Page One sections seems to me dominated by Tabloid type inferences that exaggerate a serious and complicated issue.For example:
The Blogosphere is a pretty transparent place with very few curtains except maybe in Amanda Chapel's cross-dressing room. The more "outrageous comments" are regularly taken down by most bloggers and therefore they get no attention. Women have legitimate complaints about their treatment by some men in general. This is not unique to the blogosphere. Personal attacks are defended by free speech in general. it's a Constitutional thing. Personal threats is another story. They are illegal online or off and should be.
"The incident and its aftermath have drawn back the curtain on a computer
culture in which the more outrageous the comment, the more attention it gets.
It's a world that many women in particular see as still dominated by men and
where personal attacks often are defended on grounds of free speech.
In addition, many of the newest tools of the Internet are coming into
play. Blogs and online communities were supposed to herald an era in which "the
wisdom of crowds" guided online behavior to a higher plane. Instead, instances
of mob rule appear to be leading the discussion into the sewer."
I wish people would actually read The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, which i considered a brilliant book. But a few comments on a blog, or a few hundred comments on Digg doth not a wise crowd make.What Surrowiecki is talking about is that a largecrowd--an electorate, or visitors to a county fair, very often comes out with a more accurate answer than does a panel of so-called experts.
My point is this: What has happened to Kathy Sierra is a bad thing. It is not a BAD BLOGOSPHERE thing. It shows that their is ugliness in our neighborhood. If Dan forst wants to see a high incident of neighborhood, violence, threats, female abuse and ugliness, he only needs to walk out the doors of the San Francisco Chronicle building in San Francisco and walk one block in any direction.
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