22:26 PM

Kathy Sierra, death threats and the Blogosphere

Kathy Sierra, formerly known as a leader speaker on creating user communities, says she is scared for her life after death threats and violent sexual fantasies were directed at her on websites operated by some leading bloggers. She cancelled a speaking engagement at O'Reilly's ETech con. And she responded by outing a number of people apparently involved - including Cluetrain co-author Chris Locke. But Locke's involvement may have been tangential. He says so. The blogosphere is riling over this one. It will prove to be a defining moment. Here's her post, followed by a selection of commentary in our next posts.

Sierra's post is tough going (and not for children):

As I type this, I am supposed to be in San Diego, delivering a workshop at the ETech conference. But I'm not. I'm at home, with the doors locked, terrified. For the last four weeks, I've been getting death threat comments on this blog. But that's not what pushed me over the edge. What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs... blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers. People you've probably heard of. People like respected Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Chris Locke (aka Rageboy).

At about the same time, a group of bloggers ... began participating on a (recently pulled) blog called meankids.org. At first, it was the usual stuff--lots of slamming of people like Tara Hunt, Hugh MacLeod, Maryam Scoble, and myself. Nothing new. No big deal. Nothing they hadn't done on their own blogs many times before.

But when it was my turn, somebody crossed a line. They posted a photo of a noose next to my head, and one of their members (posting as "Joey") commented "the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size."

Sierra posts a copy of a truly repulsive Photoshopped image of herself with her mouth agape and a thong over her face. We won't repost it here. She doesn't know who created it but she is not afraid to sling names.

That pushed me over the edge.

Was the photo itself meant to be a threat? The police believe so, yes... especially when taken in the context of the other posts and comments. A pattern of intimidation is clear, and it worked.

I don't know which particiant actually made the picture. It may have been Joey, or Chris Locke, or perhaps Allen Herrel ...

And so, perhaps, blogging ended this week forever for Sierra, although she suspects she will post again.

I do not want to be part of a culture--the Blogosphere--where this is considered acceptable. Where the price for being a blogger is kevlar-coated skin and daughters who are tough enough to not have their "widdy biddy sensibilities offended" when they see their own mother Photoshopped into nothing more than an objectified sexual orifice, possibly suffocated as part of some sexual fetish. (And of course all coming on the heels of more explicit threats)