Mean

{If you came due to a link from a Boing Boing, the link you’re looking for is here. My own “ten years later” link is here.}

It’s been months, now, and the furore has died down. Kathy Sierra has issued a joint statement with Chris Locke; she no longer lumps him and Jeneane and Frank in with whoever was allegedly sending her anonymous emailed death threats. Life goes on.

In the interim, Shelley points out that Tara Hunt (proximate target of “the mean kids”) has raised the question of reality-testing the actual dangers involved in last winter’s dust-up. Is anyone actually at any greater danger if they participate in public life online? To be fair to Kathy and to what Tara herself said earlier, there’s an extent to which “actuality” can be deployed to excuse abusive threats; if vulnerable people hear a threat, they need to take it more seriously than do people who are insulated from danger. Still, even vulnerable people can overreact. Part of their friends’ role is to help them tell the difference. Tara now wonders whether Kathy might have been better served to hear that she didn’t need to be afraid.

In a related retrospective deliberation, have you noticed Blogarians en masse adopting Good Housekeeping speech codes, as Tim O’Reilly suggested they do? Clue: I don’t see a badge, a credo, a promissory note, or some other public asseveration of good behavior on the home page of Tim’s own blog (maybe I missed it). At the time, some observers suggested that badges of good citizenship wouldn’t solve the problem, wouldn’t provide a workable framework for inculcating respect and civility.

In the interest of not repeating an incident that has cost several people a lot, it would constitute a great favor for us all if reporters, online writers, opinion-makers, and fanboys and -girls gave this event more than casual consideration. If anything would strengthen the sense of shared civil norms, it wasn’t pledges and badges. It’s the kind of relationships of mutuality that Tim himself drew on to help defuse the fireworks, and that subsequent conversations between the principals strengthened and extended, that engender more civil discourse.

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