I’ve been a little surprised at the furore created the Kathy Sierra story. Kathy received “death threats” from a deranged poster, over reacted (in my opinion) and pulled out of ETech. She then blogged about it, posting up the fotos (photoshopped with bondage thing on) herself, posted up copies of the emails (which were disgusting) and called for the blogosphere to control the speech of wierdos. Scoble has come out in support. BBC has reported on it. Traffic to her site has increased.

What to do? Grab IP address (MAC if you can), email the ISP that manages it, notify the police, ignore it. If they show up on the doorstep treat it as real, otherwise, trust me, it’s just a freak. I’ve let them get as far as calling me on the phone before notifying someone, but that’s my choice.

What not to do? Post up the nasty emails and forum postings and fotos. It gives the perpetrator what they are seeking – attention. Use the situation to attack other Web 2.0 personalities. Valleywag here. Create a situation where being “politically correct” is more important than thinking the issues through.

Kathy’s pulling out of the ETech conference disappointed everyone (except for the perpetrator who was undoubtedly ecstatic) and is unprofessional. Why unprofessional? Because if you are in the public eye, and representing a public issue, these things will happen. And what I don’t understand is, is this the first time this community has received this kind of attention? It sounds as if it is, and it’s surprising.

If you can’t cope with the fact that wierdos and perverts also have access to easy-to-publish technologies, it’s time to quit. Too harsh? No. I mean it in a kind way. People who are sensitive to abuse need to reconsider opening up dialogue with unknown people – and publishing a blog with comments enabled and speaking at conferences definitely attracts all types. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t go near the kitchen. We discuss all the time that companies have no control over what is said about them on the ‘net; for bloggers it’s no different.

Ok, I’ve had hundreds of death threats (from my work in games and forums) and I’m immune. They can email me, post about me, send me goat-se style pictures, and so on, because on the ‘net, it’s easy to do. Only once did they cross over into “real life” and ring. I do differentiate between online wierdos and real life situations – not that they are remarkably different, just in intensity. Inworld threats rate a 1, real life rate a 10. Read A Rape In CyberSpace by Julian Dibbell for an alternate argument. So, for me, this sort of drama diminishes the important issue of women being stalked in real life. Not by pixels. And a friend if mine had a real situation develop from an online forum by a real life stalker who physically hung around her physical door. Now THAT was scary.