The blogosphere is atwitter today over Kathy Sierra avoiding public appearances for fear of her life. This is not the first time I've heard of bloggers saying they received threats that frighten them.
(It's never happened to me, although I sometimes receive negative comments. I leave them in, unless the comment defames other people -- as has occurred twice. Only once did I get upset, when a spineless reader complained about the subject matter. Hey, bub, it's MY blog. If you don't want something talked about, then get your own blog where those subjects are banned! Stupid book burner, mumble, mumble,...)
So here is the second case in a week where I've read of a (female) blogger announcing their fear, because of death- and rape-threat comments. (The other case occurred in Canada, which I read about in Macleans magazine -- our equivalent of Time magazine.) Let's break it down into steps:
1. Blogger blogs.
2. Readers make threatening comments.
3. Blogger blogs about her fear of those threats.
4. News media and/or other bloggers distribute the story.
What should the appropriate response be? There is a defensive and offensive position that can be taken at each step listed above:
1. Defensive: don't blog; Offensive: blog.
2. Defensive: turn off commenting; Offensive: turn on commenting and respond in kind.
3. Defensive: blog about your fear; Offensive: blog about hunting down the angry commenters.
4. Defensive: shut down co-blogging, as did the Scobleizer; Offensive: use co-bloggers and IP addresses to out the haters.
Blogging is young, and so we do not have a system in place that deals with hate-filled commenters. Consider these two incidents as training, as aids for learning that systems do need to be put in place. Since blogging involves community, white-hat bloggers can enlist the community to help defend themselves.
Best article I read on this mess is by psfk.com ("ideas, trends and inspiration"): Are Scoble & Sierra Wrong To Stop Blogging?. A couple of his points:
* All frequent and well known bloggers live a life that is indicative of the lives that the rest of us will soon lead: a lack of privacy.
* You try to wear a black coat and hide from the eyes, or you wear a red coat and project an image that you want to manage.
* A post explaining your [Kathy Sierra's] decision to stop blogging and naming names is rather feeble. Sorry. But it is. Why not delete/ignore the buggers and get on with it? Or why not use your own platform as a place to attack and lob bombs back.
Another set of good comments are by Brian Oberkirch (caution: some foul language), who writes:
* Not talking about it (or going on blog strike: what’s next, no Wii till this thing gets wrapped?) is no solution.
* This isn’t about Internet culture.
* We fight spam, phishing, identity theft, and we’ll deal with this, too.
Remember this, you anonymous commenters: we bloggers always know your IP address. And it's only by grace that we don't out you.