March 26, 2007

O brave new world, that has such people in't!

Welcome to Web 2.0. Welcome to the social web.

Via Walt, the kind of thing that's sadly all too common on the web these days. Cyberbullying, and racism I knew about, but death threats against bloggers!

It seems that Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users has been subject to some very serious death threats from commenters on her blog and other blogs.

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).


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)

This is what Robert Scoble has to say on his blog, Scobleizer.
The Internet culture is really disgusting. Today when I was on Justin.TV the kinds of things that people were discussing in the chat room there were just totally disgusting and over the top.


It’s this culture of attacking women that has especially got to stop. I really don’t care if you attack me. I take those attacks in stride. But, whenever I post a video of a female technologist there invariably are snide remarks about body parts and other things that simply wouldn’t happen if the interviewee were a man.

It makes me realize just how ascerbic this industry and culture are toward women. This just makes me ill.

I agree 100% with Robert. This makes me physically sick.

The issue that concerns us here, of course, is that we, as librarians, as educators, we want to build social spaces where people can interact, learn, have fun, be themselves and maybe even grow up a bit. The problem is, how do we keep the creeps from ruining it for everyone? Because you know, I know, we all know, that if this happened on one of our systems it would become a campus-wide issue, that the library would suddenly become the focus of a lot of not-so-great attention. Eventhough most of the systems we build will probably have login/authentication, we can't just brush this kind of thing off; when we implement social systems we have to have a plan for (hopefully) preventing this kind of thing and have a plan for dealing with the fallout when in inevitably does.

(Of course, Web 2.0 is also the best thing ever. It was trivial for me to find the Shakespeare quote that's the title of this post using Google to find the Wikipedia page of Shakespeare quotes the Huxley's Brave New World.)


Janet said...

The really sad thing is that she canceled her speaking engagements. I can understand why, but imagine if she's used those opportunities to share what had happened to her. The way to stop this abusive behavior in otherwise respectable circles is to make it unacceptable, just as racist or sexist comments are now unacceptable in the workplace or in polite conversation. But before that can happen, the behavior has to be dragged into the open and challenged.

John Dupuis said...

Thanks for the comment, Janet. I agree it would have been great if she'd felt she could talk in spite of the threats. I think the first step to making sure such behaviour is no longer accepted in polite online behaviour is for us all to take a stand, to refuse to allow it, to denouce it. I really believe that the 2.0 systems we want to deliver to our patrons will in large measure depend on users being at least respectful if not actually polite. How do we create that culture?