Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

O'Reilly, Locke, Winer on Kathy Sierra situation

Posted by Richard Koman - March 30, 2007

Tim O'Reilly, who publishes Kathy Sierra's books, said in yesterday's Chronicle that bloggers need to set limits for what users can say on their blogs.

"We need to say this is not acceptable behavior," said Tim O'Reilly, CEO of Sebastopol's O'Reilly Media, which publishes Sierra's books and runs the ETech conference where Sierra was scheduled to speak this week. "If you start making offensive comments, they will be deleted from a blog. Don't give people that platform."

O'Reilly brokered a conversation between Sierra and Chris Locke - who started the meankids.org site where the threats were first posted, but who has denied making the threats. He accuses her of engaging in character assasination.

Reached late Wednesday night, Locke said he was having a "productive and open exchange" with Sierra, and he hoped to bring the conflict to a resolution, ideally by having the perpetrator take ownership of the comments. Locke drew a distinction between the death threats that were made on Sierra's site and the less threatening images that were posted on the sites he was connected to.

"There is no linkage between that," he said. "There was an inference in the way that she blogged about it that these were related incidents. We got tarred with the brush that we were homicidal stalker killers."

Having said that, Locke also acknowledged that "the stuff that got posted was despicable."

On his blog, Locke posted a response to a Computerworld Australia writer about the situation.


Kathy Sierra was receiving "death threats" in *anonymous* comments to her blog, they did not come from me or, to the best of my knowledge, from anyone I know. That she would make such an inference based on no evidence whatsoever is outrageous, no better than the comments she so forcefully objects to that were made about herself. And *none* of the statements or graphics she quotes were made by me, as I'm fairly certain she already knows.

I found some of what was written on the meankids and unclebobism sites in extremely bad taste, yes. And as I said, I immediatetly took down the site when I saw Kathy's understandably strong objections. I think her response, as it pertains to anything I personally wrote, was unjustified -- but highly effective -- character assassination. As a result, I'm sure I'll be explaining for years to come that I'm not really an ax murderer and child molester. Nice work.

I did write two comments on the "Bob's Yer Uncle" site, which I am happy to repeat for the record: 1) "Kathy Sierra is a hopeless dipshit."; and 2) "The only 'passionate users' I know are crack heads." I do not like Kathy Sierra. I like her even less after her post of Monday. If she is waiting for me to apologize for something I did or said, she is going to have a very long wait.

Finally, a combative post from Dave Winer, never one to shy away from combat.


Sometimes people say things that are designed to hurt other people. Locke, Sessum, Paynter and Head Lemur are the kinds of people who do that. I read yesterday that Denise Howell considers them friends. I've asked other people who do, like David Weinberger and AKMA how they can support that -- I asked when I was a target of their attacks. All I got was silence. I think people need to come to terms with that, and speak up whenever people say or do things designed to hurt other people. That's how we prevent explosions like the one we dealt with this week. Permalink to this paragraph

So if we have a code of conduct, it can't just talk about how trolls behave, because truly we have no control over that. It should talk about responsible people whose names we know with reputations they care about -- what should they do when abuse happens? That is something we can do something about. There should be 18 steps before something like Kathy Sierra's post appears in the midst of the blogosphere, and it shouldn't come from teh person who has been victimized, someone else should stand up for them and explain what happened. For so many reasons this is a much better way to go, and I'm sure the victim would like it better too (I speak from experience). Permalink to this paragraph

You know there's nothing worse than being hunted and having no one care enough to speak up for you. That's what we need to work on folks. And when we solve this problem, we can go to work on Iraq -- because that's much heavier and much worse, but kind of the same thing. Why aren't we angry at all the wasted lives? I think we'll find the answer to that question is related to why we're so bad at dealing with situations like the one we tried to deal with this week

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