Kathy Sierra’s situation has now made it onto international news where they seem, in my opinion, to miss the point in a rather important way. They quote Tim saying that we need a bloggers’ code of ethics, or code of conduct, or something. The thing is, we have one. It’s called common human decency.
The sickos are in the minority. It only takes a handful of sickos to poison the water. Kathy is a great writer, a phenomenal speaker, giving what I believe was the very best talk at OSCon last year, and from all accounts a delightful person.
So how is it that some sick perverted (no word suffices – use your imagination) can intimidate her, cause her to withdraw from public life? Is it because bloggers, as a whole, are sick and perverted people, unable to differentiate the disgusting things they write in black-on-white from actual things said to actual people in the actual world? No. It’s because in any group of people, there is a certain subset of deviants. When the group gets large enough, the deviants start to stand out, and the press will be quick to label them as the norm. Viz. Pat Robertson.
Is it something that a code of conduct will fix?
No, of course not. Because the type of people that need the code are the type that won’t follow it.
I think that Kathy has the right idea when she says:
These people are interested in rage and they think that if you aren’t enraged then you are part of the problem. It seems that they hate my optimism.
Kathy’s talk at OSCon inspired me specifically because of her optimism that we, the software developers and content producers and writers and technology people, can make the world a better place, if we focus on what’s important – people, and helping them achieve their dreams. What I do, day after day, is create tools so that people can express themselves. That’s my job as a web application developer. If I lose sight of that, and create tools because it’s cool to create tools, then I’m becoming introverted and self-serving. But when I can talk with actual customers, and see what dream they are trying to achieve, and then be a part of helping them achieve that, then I am in turn achieving my dream. Indeed, this is why I became involved in Apache – because I could help people achieve what they were trying to do, while at the same time I was expressing my own talent for writing.
Some perverted juvenile criminals – and let’s not lose sight of the fact that what they did is criminal – have undermined the work of a great woman. This does not mean that the rest of us producing content on the web are all perverted criminals. Yes, we absolutely need a code of conduct. That code of conduct is this: Understand that who you are online is not disjoint from who you are. Understand that the people you speak to online are people, and not merely digital constructs. And if you are speaking to people online in such a degrading, criminal manner, you are unwell. You are sick. You are insane. You need to seek professional help, because what you have is dangerous, life threatening, and catching.
Kathy, I’m so sorry that there are monsters in the world who don’t know how to conduct themselves in civilized society. Please know that they are in the minority, and all sane, normal people who have heard you speak respect what you have to say, and respect you.