It’s not uncommon for a blog (and a specific blogger) to attract nasty comments, even death threats.
For that reason, many personal bloggers simply turn off the Comments feature on their blogs. However, professional bloggers and people whose blogs are part of their business marketing don’t have that option; comments (as many as 100 on a good post) are a key part of the blog’s value. (For an example, see the comments about my recent post on TrenchMice; the post raised questions; the commenter addressed them.)
As a rule, most sites use the comment-moderation feature (part of their blogging software) to handle off-the-wall comments. For instance, when someone posts a comment on Writer Way, I receive an email notification and log in to Blogger to read the comment and publish it. On rare occasions, I choose not to publish it. (The comment may be “comment spam” promoting a product and having nothing to do with the Writer Way blog, or it may contain what I consider to be offensive language.)
“Offensive,” of course, is a matter of taste.
Recently a group blog run by several leaders in the “A-level” blogging realm allowed several comments to be posted, some of them with photos, that contained extremely crude smears about a well-known blogger and expert on user-friendly design, Kathy Sierra. Some of the comments waxed enthusiastic about ways Kathy could be killed.
It all sounds like some high school kid’s MySpace slambook, but, no, this was really appearing on a blog run by well-known tech types. Who apparently were having a collective Lord of the Flies flashback.
My initial reaction when I learned about this (from reading Kathy’s blog post) was simply to resolve never to have anything to do with any of those folks. I was truly appalled to learn that one of those involved with one of the blogs that tolerated the offensive comments is Jeneane Sessum. She’s a prominent member of the women’s organization BlogHer (where I’m a member).
But I then read Bill Humphries’ blog; his remarks (“It’s Not Funny”) point to Liz Henry’s call to action. Liz is right. Behavior like that at unclebobism.wordpress.com (which replaced the original offensive blog, meankids.com) is comletely unacceptable. Liz writes:
“Kathy rocks for speaking up. She rocks for calling this out and exposing it on her blog. She rocks for calling the cops and the FBI, and for saying so. She wasn’t shamed into silence or afraid of being called ‘too sensitive’ or ‘humorless’, two things which often stop women from speaking up.”
Liz’s post goes on to focus on the tone of woman-hating that characterized the attacks on Kathy Sierra, but I don’t think that’s the only key issue — I’ve seen sexual slurs and threats used to attack male bloggers on political blogs. For me the crux of the matter is the issue of blogging community standards and the need to shore them up.
I urge other bloggers to post about the Kathy Sierra situation and to talk with their non-blogging friends about what’s going on. If the mainstream press reports on this situation, wouldn’t it be great if they could also report that the blogging community has taken a strong stand against a tiny minority of foul-mouthed bullies?