Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Off-topic: Kathy Sierra

This is an off-topic post.

I spend a great deal of time on this blog. The act of writing helps me clarify things in my mind and, of course, I hope that those who take the time to read it also benefit. There are many, many blogs out there and I know that everyone's time is precious. Please believe me when I say that I feel honored by the number of people who take time out of their lives a couple of times a week to drop by and check up on my exploits.
I also feel lucky that the community, the ham radio community, the DX community, and those of us who love the idea of DXpeditioning, is largely comprised of gentle, thoughtful, and generous people. It is rare that I run into anybody mean-spirited (and those few occasions were confined to one particular web site).
Why am I saying all this now? You know I blog about ham radio stuff but I've also blogged about computer science topics on java.net and Artima. I've not spent much time on the professional blogging stuff recently (this blog and my DXpedition planning has been very time consuming!) but I still read and follow other people's professional blogs. It is about these blogs that has prompted me to write today. Something dreadful has happened in that other arena.
Kathy Sierra, a long time force in the computer industry and one of the big brains behind the Head First books published by O'Reilly, has received death threats on her blog. I am appalled, saddened, and angry. This is ugly, ugly stuff. Ms. Sierra was forced to cancel a public appearance for fear of her safety. We're talking about educated professionals threatening other educated professionals in ways so heinous I dare not describe them here.
Words matter. If you have the stomach for it, and if you can tolerate exceptionally coarse, hateful, and violent language, take a moment and read her account. Be warned: her description and recounting is deeply disturbing with language equally shocking.
This new medium where anybody can publish and collaboration is pervasive and immediate is amazing. We can shape it in any way we like and hold it to standards we set. And, it is up to us to reject the kind of savagery shown to Ms. Sierra. Just as we should "police" ourselves on the ham bands, we should hold each other to the highest standards here in the blogosphere. We must not cede our civilization to barbarians on our streets, or our screens.
My rule-of-thumb on these things is simple: I won't accept behavior on-line that would be unacceptable face-to-face. Again, I am incredibly thankful that everyone in my corner of the world is civilized, thoughtful, and helpful. Let's keep it that way! And, if you are a computer professional, take a moment to send a message of hope and support to Kathy. Thank you.


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