Scripting News for 3/29/2007

A decade in a download 

Yes Virginia, no fooling, April 1 is the birth date of this weblog, and this April 1 (Sunday) is the 10th birthday.

In the spririt of item #2 below, I’m going to offer the full archive of Scripting News, a full decade, downloadable in a single archive, free, no charge — let’s party! :-)

Today’s links 

NY Times: “Many of the fired prosecutors were investigating high-ranking Republicans.”

NPR: “Under questioning from a string of antagonistic senators, Sampson repeatedly contradicted his former boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.”

Ponzi and Chris sent a really cool house-warming present. :-)

Story of My Life.com, “launching soon, is a unique way for you to preserve your life’s memories and stories, pictures, videos and more to be treasured for generations to come.”

IHT: “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has told Arab leaders that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is illegal.”

Rex Hammock: Why I Blog.

Steve Rubel: The Value of “Why I Blog” Posts.

Fox News: “As Cathy Seipp lay dying, her nemesis took his parting shot on the web.”

Four ideas for the future 

1. I love public radio and television, but it’s time for them to become two-way media. Next time we go to war, and we seem to be doing that all-too-regularly, we must be certain that the kinds of conversations that ordinary people have about the motives of our political leaders make it onto the airwaves. And I’d like to know what the pundits are saying when they go out to dinner, not just when they’re on the air. Many people thought Bush was lying in the lead-up to the war, now let’s reform the media so those thoughts get proper coverage in time to avoid future national catastrophes.

2. I’d like to be able to pay a web company like Amazon or Google a one-time flat fee to host my content for perpetuity. I’d deposit my writing with them, on the web, and not worry about whether or not my heirs will keep paying the hosting bills to keep it alive. Today I’m hosting the weblog of my departed uncle (who I miss terribly!), I don’t mind doing it, but what will happen when I pass? I’d gladly pay $10,000 to be sure my site and his survive my death. Long-lived institutions like Harvard University or Mount Auburn Cemetary (in Boston), even insurance companies, could get into this business. Think of it as a personal endowment, it would work like the money richer people leave behind as memorials to their own lives, or lives of loved ones.

3. Another idea along these lines, I’d like to pay a few bucks to beam my thoughts to a nearby solar system that might have intelligent life. Back in the seventies, I thought it was really cool when we sent a satellite into the cosmos with a copy of the Magna Carta and Declaration of Independence and some Chuck Berry tunes (and Beethoven and Bach as well). I think this should be available to ordinary people like you and I, possibly for a fee. Maybe they could run a contest or have a reality show for people who don’t want to spend the money.

4. I’m in favor of ideas that capture the imagination, because I think we don’t have enough of them when it comes to solving problems we must deal with. If I were Bill Gates, I might send a copy of Windows Vista to Alpha Centauri (of course with a computer to run it on) and hold a contest for kids to write software that aliens might appreciate. One can be pretty sure that because of global warming or the war on terror or loose nukes that our terrestrial backups probably aren’t much good, long-term, but the stuff we send out into the cosmos might actually survive us. Do we have any ideas worth preserving? Hmmm. We might generate some if we had a reason to.

Not looking for sympathy or anything 

This turned into a long piece and I don’t have time before a breakfast meeting to edit it. Please read this with a generous open mind. I mean well, please try to assume that. Thanks.

Just want to get on the record as Michelle Malkin did yesterday, that the kind of abuse that Kathy Sierra reported is not anything new, it’s been going on for a very long time. Without going into detail, because I’ve found that just creates more of the kind of crap we don’t like.

People aren’t going to like this, but it’s true — when a woman asks for a riot she gets one, and almost no one comes to the defense of a man who is attacked. Who’s more vulnerable? Well, honestly, it’s not always a woman.

Those who provided the riot Ms Sierra asked for, unknowingly, I’m sure, attacked at least one person whose health is pretty fragile. I wonder how y’all feel now that you know that. I wonder how you’d feel if that person died in the midst of the shitstorm. Someday if we don’t change the herd mentality of the tech blogosphere, that is likely to happen. I don’t want to be part of the herd on that day, that’s why I won’t join herds.

Yesterday I said I don’t support the kinds of rules of conduct that Tim O’Reilly was calling for. Giving Tim the benefit of the doubt, I think he doesn’t fully unerstand what was going on in the blogging world, and I’m not claiming I do either, but he was running a conference this week, and it couldn’t have gotten very much of his attention. And you know what, that’s a good thing, and we should all strive to keep our perspective, before we create the kind of fantastic graphic imagery that was created around this event.

If anyone had a reason to want retribution against the “mean kids” — I have it. They’ve been on my case for years. They’re really nasty people. That’s why I have some credibility when I tried to put the brakes on the mob. Next time, let’s have some more people do that too.

To the credit of the mob, very few people attacked me for doing what I did. That’s cause for hope! At least some sense of perspective remained.

And out fo all that was said I think Doc nailed it — we got used by a few trolls, and no one knows who they are. Everyone played a role in this, the people who stopped blogging, the people who threatened their friends, the people who called it a gang rape, and yes indeed, the mean kids. But they’ve paid enough. It’s time to welcome them back into the blogging world, and in a few weeks, ask them to reflect on what they learned. These are all intelligent and creative people, who have acted badly. But they didn’t deserve what they got.

The time to act is way before it escalates into the kind of post that Kathy Sierra posted. There should be people who are willing to provide personal support to others who are ostracized this way — and that support should be available regardless of gender, age, or other circumstances. I won’t support anything that only offers support to women and not men, we must help unpopular people, even people who we think are mean. It’s no crime to be unpopular, and you can measure our humanity by how good we are to people we don’t like.

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.

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).

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.

I gotta go now. See y’all later. :-)

It’s still the motto 

As Jerry sang: “I know the rent is in arrears, the dog has not been fed in years…

“It’s even worse than it appears.”

Which has been the motto of Scripting News for quite a few years (it’s the universal response to people who flame), and btw, is the weblog version of WMSS. :-)

16 responses to this post.

  1. I’d like to be able to pay a web company like Amazon or Google a one-time flat fee to host my content for perpetuity. I’d deposit my writing with them, on the web, and not worry about whether or not my heirs will keep paying the hosting bills to keep it alive.

    Their website makes no mention of fees, one-time or recurring, but Archive-It seems like they’re worth a look. If their fees are ongoing, you could set up a trust to pay the hosting bill. Complicated, yes, but it’s an option.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Anonymous on March 29, 2007 at 8:06 am

    An excellent reflection on the Kathy Sierra situation.

    Reply

  3. Even with Archive-It the average person may feel that their personal history has little to do with the types of materials normally archived for posterity. It needs to be viewed more intimately, as a family heirloom might be preserved and passed along to those who would value it. I’m not sure preserving *all content* is the key here, but the fact that we no longer keep diaries or correspondence unless it is in digital form is a social change not lost on many people. It would be comforting to know I could be confident that those writings I consider valuable would be transferred upon my death to people I love. I just wish I knew the correct vehicle for that to happen. I have a few ideas, but promising long term preservation is problematic, even for the Internet Archive.

    Reply

  4. Posted by jenn on March 29, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Honestly, I have only just heard about the Kathy Sierra situation and came to your blog right away to see what you thought about it.

    I think that it is too much Drama – with a cap D.

    Curious to know what you mean by women calling for a riot — honestly, I have had many threats from wackos back in the days of the Usenet, but we could just write their sysadmins and have their e-mail accounts yanked back then.

    I don’t have any interest in becoming a high profile blogger — can’t help but think I would have handled things differently. It seems like an excessive response to what you confirm happens quite often – there are bozos out there who spend too much time sharpening their axes and wanking around with photoshop. Ugh. Wankers.

    Reply

  5. Thinking about the Kathy Sierra situation, I’m reminded when I was on Usenet (a whole lot more than I am now) about this type of situation. When someone became a troll, the best policy was to ignore everything they said. A troll is trying to get attention, good or bad. So when we have the kind of outrage like we did in this situation, the troll(s) still win.

    I’m not saying steps shouldn’t be taken to curb this type of behavior. Death threats which seem legitimate should be forwarded to law enforcement. But I agree with you in that the storm that followed accomplished what the trolls wanted: attention. So I don’t believe it was the right answer. And you’re right… by changing our behavior (such as when Scoble said he wasn’t blogging until next week as a show of support), we have allowed said trolls to affect what we do, which is something else we want. That’s not the right answer, either.

    Reply

  6. Actually, we are kind of vulnerable. IMO among other reasons Kathy’s plight struck such a chord is because it’s emblematic, not just about her and her popularity. Beneath a veneer of enlightenment and equality there are still an awful lot of men wanting to put women in their places in ugly ways. We get raped on campus, beat up in our homes, jeered at and frightened online, and harassed at work, and the international situation is horrible — every bit as much of a problem in its own way as the war. The problem can be treated in the blog world along with the nasty hunting behavior you describe, but it is different and needs a different kind of medicine.

    Reply

  7. If the threats had been made over, say, a telephone instead of via a blog, would reactions have differed? If so, why? Does the tool used to convey a threat influence the seriousness of the threat?

    Reply

  8. I’d like to see people’s outrage about Kathy Sierra translated into a broader determination to push back against people who blog hateful bullying stuff about women OR men, e.g.

    (nsfw) http://www.rageboy.com/2003/10/that-asshole-dave-winer-ad-googlem-new.html

    If I read you correctly, you’d like to see third parties step in to denounce such bullying. The trouble is that — without the wide public outrage that Kathy has managed to generate — it’s hard for an isolated lone-ranger third party to make an impression inside a comment thread where she’s vastly outnumbered by sekrit clubhouse folks all claiming the nastiness posted was just good fun.

    Should third parties get attention with some kind of group blog devoted to “outing” offenders? Or is that the kind of mob justice you deplore? I’m still confused about what you think should happen in the case of Meankids vs (among others) Kathy Sierra, aside from not mobbing Frank Paynter or Jeneane Sessum–and on that, I totally agree.

    I also agree that there should be some better solution than waiting for future Kathy Sierras to come along, get attacked, and grab two full minutes of the blogosphere’s attention before everybody heads back into Twitter. But I myself don’t know what that solution is.

    Reply

  9. It’s interesting Betsy that you’ve cherry picked your friends out of those accused. If you think on it, you just demonstrated the real heart of the problem — we defend those popular, or we like, or who we trust, or who is like us.

    Malkin’s point, and Dave’s, though he turned it into a man/woman thing, is bullies exist–even noble A listers can be bullies.

    We can turn credible threats into the police, and learn to hit the delete key with the rest. We can stop forming posses based on the fact that one person is popular, or as Dave would say, a popular woman. We can start using our heads for once — though I think that’s asking a lot.

    We can stop picking sides. We can stop giving our friends a pass, while we condemn those who aren’t.

    We can start being fair. We can think as individuals. We can act like adults, including taking care of our own bullies.

    We can stop bringing up silly sidebar icons and “cyberbully” days. Good lord — do we have to have permission to think?

    We can accept that openness comes with a price.

    Women have to fight battles having to do with our sex. But we need to learn to stop being paralyzed with fear when someone tosses sex into a threat. Why? Because that just encourages it!

    We can grow up. All of us.

    I’m lecturing.

    Dave, we’ve battled off and on in the past. But you are one of my blogging godfathers (remember that meme?) I’m just not sure today whether I’m that thankful for the intro into this world. Not after this last week.

    Anyway…I’m not going to be around for a while. Yes, I’m going to miss your 10 year, as well as cyberbully day. I wanted to say, congratulations. I hope you have a fun day. Eat cake.

    Reply

  10. Wow, Shelley–I’ve “just demonstrated the real heart of the problem.” Great, that clears things up. The real villain of MeanKids has been discovered, and it was (drumroll) Betsy Devine, for her villainous crime of defending Frank and Jeneane as well as Kathy.

    Hey, except for the part where you wish Dave a happy blog birthday, I’m taking issue with just about your whole comment.

    Stop picking sides, you say? Stop giving friends a pass? When sexual insults are used to humiliate women, the women insulted are the ones who need to “grow up”?

    If we don’t “pick sides” to defend someone who has been hurt against somebody who repeatedly goes around hurting people, the world we live in gets uglier and sicker.

    If we passively toss our friends’ reputations into the angry hands of people who don’t know them, the world we live in gets uglier and more ignorant. When Doc defends Alan Herrell, I might be skeptical about the odd claims that Herrell is making, but I totally honor Doc’s defense of his friend.

    I also think you’re way off base in condescending to Kathy Sierra for being “paralyzed with fear” by the sexual insults tossed in her direction. She wasn’t so paralyzed that she didn’t fire off one heckuva devastating blogpost, long and detailed and very persuasive, rounding up one heckuva a large angry posse.

    Kathy is a grownup, professional writer…even in distress. She used (and good for her!) her smarts and expertise to get wide web attention on the ugliness some cyberbullies had aimed her way. Did she “exaggerate” the threateningness of those death threats? Her detractors have made that a central point of their defense. Unlike her detractors, I’m not a mindreader. I can’t intuit how threatened she actually felt when someone expressed a wish to see her head ripped off, or another someone thought that a noose would look good around her neck.

    But look at the good results that came from Kathy Sierra’s anguished blogpost. People are not just saying “Oo, death theats are bad.” People are revved up to push back against the anti-woman obscenites many geeks typically treated as background white noise. People are revved up to push back on cyberbullying whether aimed at men or women.

    Hmm, well it’s 3:36 a.m.here. I think I’ve said enough about my own opinions.

    Reply

  11. Thanks Betsy, what an inspiration.

    I think maybe we’re on our way to healing after years of really awful abuse.

    Reply

  12. Well, so much for intentions of breaking away.

    Betsy, why didn’t you include Alan Herrell and Chris Locke in your defense of the four? Don’t people we dislike have just as equal a right to protection as ones we do?

    And if our friends do wrong, do we give them a slide because they’re our friends? Doesn’t this make us a hypocrite?

    Did I say that I was somehow lessening Kathy’s fears? But what are we supposed to do? Not publish? Quit? Or should we give up the freedom of the internet so we can make it ‘safe’?

    Kathy also has to accept the consequences of her action. She wrote about getting threats in her comments. But then she brought in these two weblog posts and these two images and basically insinuated that Jeneane, Frank, Alan, and Chris were responsible for the comments she received. And then it hit the press and all across weblogging – - can you not see how damaging that can be? Distressed or not, she will also have to accept the consequences of her action. It may not be a popular viewpoint in weblogging — but it is a reality.

    I am a geek. I know exactly how things work.

    Good things from Kathy’s post? Not a bit of it. I see no good at all happening from that post. People react to words, a lot of cyberbully talk goes on, and then nothing will happen. Other than lasting harm to the people intimately involved in this act.

    As for picking what we believe and who we promote — god what hypocrites we are. As Dave demonstrates by ignoring me, and complimenting you.

    Reply

  13. Shelley, please use your own space to explain yourself, as you so often have told me in the past.

    Reply

  14. Dave, I really appreciate your response to this affair, and though I disagree with some of the specifics early on, I ultimately agree with your conclusion – that this points to a much larger problem, and that we need to take responsibility for ourselves and speak out and lead by example.

    If you get a chance, it’d be cool if you could check out my full response to your post at http://blog.frivolousmotion.com/2007/03/responding-to-dave-winer.html .

    I think it’s high time we stop all of this bickering about who’s been harmed most, and start brainstorming solutions. How can we start the right conversation and begin to move forward?

    Reply

  15. Dave, I am posting a memo to you, on my web site because I can’t find an email address for you, and because I don’t know how to get listed in Techmeme and because it is too big to post to your comments. Here is the link, I hope that you will read it and respond via email.

    http://nationalcomputerassociation.com

    Doug Skoglund

    Reply

  16. Shelley, I don’t agree with your views on Kathy Sierra. And I don’t agree that “the four” deserve equal defense.

    I like Kenneth’s idea of brainstorming some practical solutions.

    Maybe people could subscribe to a technorati feed for the tag “stopcyberbullying”? So if some not very-well-known blogger was being attacked, that blogger would have a way to ask for help?

    Maybe we could try to hammer out a consensus about what kinds of speech are abusive and what kinds are not. I don’t think anyone is looking for a world where Xblogger can’t yell at or even, on occasion, make fun of Yblogger.

    Stumbling around here, but would we save the word “bullying” for repeated abuse like what happened to Kathy? If Xblogger sets up a “funny” site or blog section about Yblogger–if Xblogger’s pals use the comments of that blog for jeering at Yblogger on a regular basis–if a Technorati feed on “Yblogger” repeatedly turns up hateful remarks by Xblogger and pals– I think that’s bullying whether the jeering is sexual or not. And part of the trouble is that this kind of ugliness acts like a magnet for sick anons eager to feast on the fear and discomfort of poor Yblogger. (Block that metaphor, somebody!)

    Dave, are you willing to host such a discussion? Or maybe this comment thread is already long enough.

    Reply

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