Onward!

Glad to see that Kathy Sierra and Chris Locke are getting along and have made a joint statement and appeared this morning together on CNN (I, and several others who were filmed for this, were cut out). I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to say this morning for a week and it just comes down to sadness. I’m having a tough time getting back into blogging, which is why I broke my silence with an April Fools’ joke. In a lot of ways it isn’t fun anymore. It’s a business now. Might explain why I like hanging out on Twitter more lately (no anonymous jerks named “Joey” get into my account there).

Attacks are part of this business. And mobs are too. I’m sorry that four people had their names dragged through the mud for something that Maryam and I believe they didn’t do. It makes me very worried about my comments. Am I responsible for what people write here? I’ve come very close to closing my comments up. It makes me realize why many well-known bloggers don’t have comments anymore. It’s hard enough taking responsibility for what I write here, much less what other people write. I have turned on some moderation (new posters are held until I can approve them).

Regarding attacks. There are few things that’ll quickly attract a crowd: a fight or an pileup on a freeway or a mob breaking windows. This story became some of all three.

Bloggers know this. In fact, some blogging businesses even use this knowledge to build an audience. They pick on people on purpose to try to attract an audience, which they can then sell to advertisers. In the case of MeanKids (one of the sites that attacked my wife and Kathy) it wasn’t necessarily about business, but they did want to attract a crowd around attacks on other bloggers.

This is all well and fine. If we all were machines.

I’m not. Kathy’s not. My wife is not. It’s very hard to not focus too much energy on attacks. In the past few weeks hundreds of people have come up to me at various events and said “I love your blog.” I don’t know that I can name more than a few of those people (I have business cards, though, heheh) but I can name tons of people who have said something nasty about me over the same time period. Something wrong when we give those who hate us more time and emotional energy than those who love us. Guilty as charged.

Over the past week I’ve received tons of emails from people online who gave me tons of details of attacks. Lots of bloggers hate them, but know they better not speak out against them. Kathy, last week, got MORE attacks AFTER she wrote that post than before. So, bloggers, if they are in this for the long haul, learn they should keep their mouths shut. That said, they certainly don’t appreciate the attacks. We ARE human, after all. And don’t like hearing the constant banging of stones on our screens from those who think we deserve a good stoning.

My frustration over the past week is there really isn’t much any of us can do. It doesn’t matter if you’re silent. It doesn’t matter if you are loud. The attacks will come and come often.

One thing, though, that I won’t support: more rules or laws or, even, more “guidelines.” I value my freedom of speech. This is not a “theory” for me. My mom grew up in Nazi Germany where free speech wasn’t allowed. My wife grew up in Iran, where free speech still isn’t allowed. You’re definitely not allowed to attack the government in Iran, even today.

UPDATE: Matt, in my comments, notes that death threats are not protected speech and are already against the law. He’s right that I shouldn’t tie that kind of speech to those issues. The problem is that some people are calling for expansions on those already-existing laws to other kinds of offensive speech online. That’s what I’m resisting.

I’d rather put up with a few rotten strawberries on our meme shelf than go with a system where we all need to be “nice” to each other.

That said, there’s some things +I+ am going to do.

1) Reward people who teach me something and/or uplift people and companies rather than tear them down. If you read my Link Blog you’ll see I don’t point to attacks and only link to the best of tech blogging/journalism.
2) Work harder on my video blog to expose to you companies and people who are trying to improve our lives.
3) Watch more Galacticast (yesterday’s version was funny).

Really, the only one I can control is myself. That’s how I’ll get back to having fun again. In the meantime there’s always Twitter. Where all attacks are 140 characters or less. Ever notice that a good flame is hard to write short?

PS: I’m still bummed out that Kathy isn’t blogging. I love her blog and put her stuff up on my link blog frequently and often.

UPDATE: This post leaves James Robertson exasperated. Um,  I think he missed the point I was trying to make. There’s a huge difference between laws and written-down-guidelines and morality and manners. Yeah, I wish people wouldn’t attack me. But I sure don’t want to see some sort of set of guidelines or, worse, laws. Should we go with the 1950′s version of politeness? Or todays? And, are we going to be able to attack our government after such a set of guidelines gets written? How about Robert Scoble? (Not if I write it, think about that one for a moment!)

127 thoughts on “Onward!

  1. I am writing under an alias because of the nature of the topic. I have had people harassing me on my blog and my comments are on modertion.
    I don’t think using abusive language even if it is not a death threat is freedom of speech. In real life would you associate with nasty unreasonable people? It is possible to disagree in a polite way and we need a code of behavior for blogging otherwise sensitive souls are going to never come here. If a person wants to abuse say a film star he can’t get near him but it is so easy to abuse others through comments. for no reason at all! its sick and i think we are to some extent responsible for the kind of comments we allow.

  2. I am writing under an alias because of the nature of the topic. I have had people harassing me on my blog and my comments are on modertion.
    I don’t think using abusive language even if it is not a death threat is freedom of speech. In real life would you associate with nasty unreasonable people? It is possible to disagree in a polite way and we need a code of behavior for blogging otherwise sensitive souls are going to never come here. If a person wants to abuse say a film star he can’t get near him but it is so easy to abuse others through comments. for no reason at all! its sick and i think we are to some extent responsible for the kind of comments we allow.

  3. This past month has taught me some very valuable lessons, the big one= like attracts like.

    I really like your new stance here, to focus on what is good in the blogosphere. I’m definitely going to take a page out of that book.

    I’m glad you’ve decided to continue onward.

    Hazel.

  4. This past month has taught me some very valuable lessons, the big one= like attracts like.

    I really like your new stance here, to focus on what is good in the blogosphere. I’m definitely going to take a page out of that book.

    I’m glad you’ve decided to continue onward.

    Hazel.

  5. @62″there are calls for prosecution, civil actions, and even legislation that would purportedly leave no one in a government’s jurisdiction anonymous on the Internet.”

    I can’t speak for other countries, but here in the US there are already laws against threatening people with death or harm, as well as using the internet for predatory purposes. So, we have sufficent speech regulation on the internet, as I see it. Anything short of breaking a law, the govt doesn’t need to get involved. And if they do, the it becomes Constiutionally risky. The last thing we need is MORE regulation or laws. Although there are some that like to think so, or wish that it were so, there are no laws protecting you from being offended or getting your feelings hurt.

  6. @62″there are calls for prosecution, civil actions, and even legislation that would purportedly leave no one in a government’s jurisdiction anonymous on the Internet.”

    I can’t speak for other countries, but here in the US there are already laws against threatening people with death or harm, as well as using the internet for predatory purposes. So, we have sufficent speech regulation on the internet, as I see it. Anything short of breaking a law, the govt doesn’t need to get involved. And if they do, the it becomes Constiutionally risky. The last thing we need is MORE regulation or laws. Although there are some that like to think so, or wish that it were so, there are no laws protecting you from being offended or getting your feelings hurt.

  7. Discussion of free expression, as in what forms and terms of expression one would choose to accept, not accept, or editorially control, should be ongoing. Constitutional freedoms of speech and of the press are narrower issues, but they pertain to the subject of accountability and do bear discussing; after all, there are calls for prosecution, civil actions, and even legislation that would purportedly leave no one in a government’s jurisdiction anonymous on the Internet.

    Jurisdictions must be specific by nation or nations, state, province, or locality, but the Internet generally cannot be. No legislature will arrive at a cure for all Internet misconduct.

    Confusion and dishonesty over Internet identity persist year after year. Generalizations about cowardice and having something to hide never aid discussion, and those generalizations are usually self-serving on the part of those making them. Ironically, not many individuals who make the generalizations give us all the items of information we would need to vet them thoroughly; those items include full name, address, contact information, and references. We all draw a line somewhere, don’t we. And why is that?

    There are persons in the world who are denied access to the Internet by governments. Otherwise, anyone with Internet access can proceed to use the web to blog or for other purposes, quitting temporarily or permanently as desired or deemed necessary. Speaking out against crimes and incivilities, and discussing strategies for safety and for management of discourse, can help to render efforts at harm less effective, especially if we clarify thinking on identity/anonymity issues. It’s not all hopeless.

  8. Discussion of free expression, as in what forms and terms of expression one would choose to accept, not accept, or editorially control, should be ongoing. Constitutional freedoms of speech and of the press are narrower issues, but they pertain to the subject of accountability and do bear discussing; after all, there are calls for prosecution, civil actions, and even legislation that would purportedly leave no one in a government’s jurisdiction anonymous on the Internet.

    Jurisdictions must be specific by nation or nations, state, province, or locality, but the Internet generally cannot be. No legislature will arrive at a cure for all Internet misconduct.

    Confusion and dishonesty over Internet identity persist year after year. Generalizations about cowardice and having something to hide never aid discussion, and those generalizations are usually self-serving on the part of those making them. Ironically, not many individuals who make the generalizations give us all the items of information we would need to vet them thoroughly; those items include full name, address, contact information, and references. We all draw a line somewhere, don’t we. And why is that?

    There are persons in the world who are denied access to the Internet by governments. Otherwise, anyone with Internet access can proceed to use the web to blog or for other purposes, quitting temporarily or permanently as desired or deemed necessary. Speaking out against crimes and incivilities, and discussing strategies for safety and for management of discourse, can help to render efforts at harm less effective, especially if we clarify thinking on identity/anonymity issues. It’s not all hopeless.

  9. @55

    Well said LayZ. I’m never had the priviledge of being a citizen of the USA (cf the cool allusion to Casablanca). But even I can see that the First Amendment is a completely ridiculous and irrelevant point to bring up. Yet again and again it is.

    Just having the First Amendment, which I happen to think is a great idea, part of what makes America great as an example to other nations, disn’t guarantee that the culture of the USA was going to be great or is going to be great in the future.

    The First Amendment didn’t produce Louis Armstrong, Saul Bellow, HL Mencken, Terrence Malick or whoever you would choose. Sure, it helped allow them not to be persecuted. But it couldn’t produce them. Fortunately, other positive forces in the culture meant that America and the world were enriched by such as these.

    Now, I’m not sure Kathy Sierra would ever have risen to quite those heights.

    But it is absolutely outrageous for people to be angrily quoting the First when the one certain result of the current debacle, right now, is that Sierra has been forced out of the much feted ‘blogosphere’.

    Your culture stinks, people. It is leading to anyone anywhere with a grudge being able to shut down all the good people, one by one. And you are seriously calling that Freedom of Speech!

    Well, God bless America. You’re going to need it.

  10. @55

    Well said LayZ. I’m never had the priviledge of being a citizen of the USA (cf the cool allusion to Casablanca). But even I can see that the First Amendment is a completely ridiculous and irrelevant point to bring up. Yet again and again it is.

    Just having the First Amendment, which I happen to think is a great idea, part of what makes America great as an example to other nations, disn’t guarantee that the culture of the USA was going to be great or is going to be great in the future.

    The First Amendment didn’t produce Louis Armstrong, Saul Bellow, HL Mencken, Terrence Malick or whoever you would choose. Sure, it helped allow them not to be persecuted. But it couldn’t produce them. Fortunately, other positive forces in the culture meant that America and the world were enriched by such as these.

    Now, I’m not sure Kathy Sierra would ever have risen to quite those heights.

    But it is absolutely outrageous for people to be angrily quoting the First when the one certain result of the current debacle, right now, is that Sierra has been forced out of the much feted ‘blogosphere’.

    Your culture stinks, people. It is leading to anyone anywhere with a grudge being able to shut down all the good people, one by one. And you are seriously calling that Freedom of Speech!

    Well, God bless America. You’re going to need it.

  11. Goebbels, I suggest you get a life, rather than live vicariously through Robert. You think you come off as tough and clever, but your continuous negative comments just show how pathetic you are to keep demanding attention here.

  12. Goebbels, I suggest you get a life, rather than live vicariously through Robert. You think you come off as tough and clever, but your continuous negative comments just show how pathetic you are to keep demanding attention here.

  13. @58

    “Weakness can be provocative by enticing others into adventures that they otherwise would have avoided.”
    - Donald Rumsfeld, 1977

  14. @58

    “Weakness can be provocative by enticing others into adventures that they otherwise would have avoided.”
    - Donald Rumsfeld, 1977

  15. Mark gets it right, here:

    Interesting how you just now have become aware of the ‘death threat phenomenon’. Maybe if you ‘got out a little’ you might see this is old news.

    As I wrote on my own site (the second post is long but seems like helpful remedial reading, under the circumstances), the content of the original offensive posts isn’t particularly shocking to people who’ve spent much time taking part in genuinely freewheeling online communities. Or spent time with Internet-enabled adolescents, for that matter. What’s stunning, though, is the fact that self-identifying Internet professionals – like Robert Scoble, for instance – can be surprised and outraged that such nasty speech goes on outside their own comments threads.

    Mr Scoble, I thought you acquitted yourself poorly in your original post on this matter; shows of sympathy may be well-meaning (and of course I don’t doubt the sincerity of your concern) but the self-importance and hermeticism on display on this blog were and are pretty remarkable. I’ve no strong opinion one way or the other about Kathy Sierra and her blog but the fact remains that her very public reaction seemingly (seemingly!) had more to do with the belated recognition that this sort of stuff happens all the time than with the specific utterances in question.

    Invocations of Nazism in a blog post like this one, Mr Scoble, should be called out just as contemptuously as similar invocations anywhere else. You sound surprised that your blogging – which is, after all, your primary source of notoriety and apparently business contact – isn’t ‘fun’ anymore. No offense, mate, but you used to shill for Microsoft for a living (which today’s AppleTV post suggests you’re embarrassingly happy to do for free), and now you play Web-tech Pollyanna for the copious-free-time set. It’s always been a business.

    Worst, you write:

    I’m sorry that four people had their names dragged through the mud for something that Maryam and I believe they didn’t do. It makes me very worried about my comments.

    Shouldn’t that make you very worried about Kathy Sierra’s blog post? That’s the mud-dragging you’re referring to, right? Shouldn’t you be considerably more worried about your own post, and the conversational bubble you apparently live and work in?

    Danah Boyd’s response to all this is fairly sensible (her troubling telling of a troubling story from her past notwithstanding); that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since she reads this sort of thing all the time. It’s her responsibility as a public intellectual and as a citizen of the wider (digital) world. As a figure in online business, you have related (though not identical) responsibilities. Perhaps that’s part of your shock last week: finding out you’d been shirking them.

    Good luck.

  16. Mark gets it right, here:

    Interesting how you just now have become aware of the ‘death threat phenomenon’. Maybe if you ‘got out a little’ you might see this is old news.

    As I wrote on my own site (the second post is long but seems like helpful remedial reading, under the circumstances), the content of the original offensive posts isn’t particularly shocking to people who’ve spent much time taking part in genuinely freewheeling online communities. Or spent time with Internet-enabled adolescents, for that matter. What’s stunning, though, is the fact that self-identifying Internet professionals – like Robert Scoble, for instance – can be surprised and outraged that such nasty speech goes on outside their own comments threads.

    Mr Scoble, I thought you acquitted yourself poorly in your original post on this matter; shows of sympathy may be well-meaning (and of course I don’t doubt the sincerity of your concern) but the self-importance and hermeticism on display on this blog were and are pretty remarkable. I’ve no strong opinion one way or the other about Kathy Sierra and her blog but the fact remains that her very public reaction seemingly (seemingly!) had more to do with the belated recognition that this sort of stuff happens all the time than with the specific utterances in question.

    Invocations of Nazism in a blog post like this one, Mr Scoble, should be called out just as contemptuously as similar invocations anywhere else. You sound surprised that your blogging – which is, after all, your primary source of notoriety and apparently business contact – isn’t ‘fun’ anymore. No offense, mate, but you used to shill for Microsoft for a living (which today’s AppleTV post suggests you’re embarrassingly happy to do for free), and now you play Web-tech Pollyanna for the copious-free-time set. It’s always been a business.

    Worst, you write:

    I’m sorry that four people had their names dragged through the mud for something that Maryam and I believe they didn’t do. It makes me very worried about my comments.

    Shouldn’t that make you very worried about Kathy Sierra’s blog post? That’s the mud-dragging you’re referring to, right? Shouldn’t you be considerably more worried about your own post, and the conversational bubble you apparently live and work in?

    Danah Boyd’s response to all this is fairly sensible (her troubling telling of a troubling story from her past notwithstanding); that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since she reads this sort of thing all the time. It’s her responsibility as a public intellectual and as a citizen of the wider (digital) world. As a figure in online business, you have related (though not identical) responsibilities. Perhaps that’s part of your shock last week: finding out you’d been shirking them.

    Good luck.

  17. Interesting how you just now have become aware of the ‘death threat phenomenon’. Maybe if you ‘got out a little’ you might see this is old news.

    I have to wonder just how geniune your ‘crusade’ is, really.

    Many of us deal with death threats becuase of our opinions on a daily basis, and not just in the last few months. Maybe now people will wake up and see the Truth. Then again maybe they will see this as a vacous attention getting PR stunt.

  18. Interesting how you just now have become aware of the ‘death threat phenomenon’. Maybe if you ‘got out a little’ you might see this is old news.

    I have to wonder just how geniune your ‘crusade’ is, really.

    Many of us deal with death threats becuase of our opinions on a daily basis, and not just in the last few months. Maybe now people will wake up and see the Truth. Then again maybe they will see this as a vacous attention getting PR stunt.

  19. ““At the same time, we need to look closely and carefully at the implications for free speech. The First Amendment allows and protects language that many find noxious.”

    Can we stop associating this with Free Speech? Free Speech is only relevant when the govt is involved. The govt is the only entity that has controls on how it can or can’t limit speech. A private entity can do pretty much whatever it wants in regards to regulating speech. Scoble, for example, is well within his “rights” to decide what can and can’t be posted here. If he doesn’t want “noxious” speech on his blog, he can regulate that. And he would NOT be infrining on anyone’s free speech rights if he were to do so.

    So, any private citizen can bring up a site and allow or disallow any comments they want.

    Where the problem comes into play is when we start talking about inacting laws to regulate comments and anonymity. (And to his credit, Scoble is against that.). Now, when that speech begins to infringe on the rights of others (i.e. death threats) then the govt (read:law enforcement).

    I’m curious why at the very first perceived threat Sierra didn’t shut down comments until she got to the bottom of it?

  20. ““At the same time, we need to look closely and carefully at the implications for free speech. The First Amendment allows and protects language that many find noxious.”

    Can we stop associating this with Free Speech? Free Speech is only relevant when the govt is involved. The govt is the only entity that has controls on how it can or can’t limit speech. A private entity can do pretty much whatever it wants in regards to regulating speech. Scoble, for example, is well within his “rights” to decide what can and can’t be posted here. If he doesn’t want “noxious” speech on his blog, he can regulate that. And he would NOT be infrining on anyone’s free speech rights if he were to do so.

    So, any private citizen can bring up a site and allow or disallow any comments they want.

    Where the problem comes into play is when we start talking about inacting laws to regulate comments and anonymity. (And to his credit, Scoble is against that.). Now, when that speech begins to infringe on the rights of others (i.e. death threats) then the govt (read:law enforcement).

    I’m curious why at the very first perceived threat Sierra didn’t shut down comments until she got to the bottom of it?

Comments are closed.