Robert Scoble, someone who I admire as a tech blogger, has decided to stop blogging for a week in support, or protest, of what has happened to Kathy Sierra. Kathy writes the well-regarded Creating Passionate Users blog, which is an intelligently thought out, well reasoned and – well, not controversial blog. I have often read her blog and it has really good ideas about how to create effective, user friendly, online applications. So far so good. But a few months ago she started to get “lampooned” on another website. Actually it was more than that, it was bullying. The people who were carrying this out denied any wrongdoing, and still reckon that they were doing it for fun. But I have seen some of the stuff involved, and its not funny. Then to top it all she received a “death threat” email and postings to her blog. That was what pushed it all over the edge. She cancelled a speaking appointment at an upcoming conference, and has announced that she is to stop blogging. That is bad enough, but a trip to her website will confirm that she has a lot of support, but also some dangerous people who are also leaving really, and I mean really, abusive comments. She feels under attack, and vulnerable. I think that it is unacceptable for her to have to feel this way, no matter what the other protagonists may say in their defence.
The whole affair, besides making Robert Scoble stop blogging, and that is a major event in itself, has made the blogging community stop and think. If it can happen to Kathy, can it happen to me? After all you really dont get anyone more inoffensive and personable than Kathy. I dont know her personally, but you only need to read the back articles to see that she doesnt go out and try to make enemies, far from it. It is a power thing I guess, with the people doing the attacking jealous of the fact that she is an intelligent and successful woman. I have read the defenses, and they dont add up.
I have been a victim of bullying, and it is unpleasant, and it is often difficult to prove to others. But we should always listen when such allegations are made, be sensitive to the person who is being bullied, and try to help them. And that often also applies to the people doing the bullying. They do it for a reason, usually something lacking in themselves is to blame. They need help too, although its often hard to feel compassion for them at the time. The developments in the past week are disturbing and mean that anyone who has an online presence where they express their opinion, on any subject, needs to stop and think carefully about what they say, to whom and why. That cannot be good for freedom of speech.