Kathy Sierra cancels NZ workshop

I was looking forward to seeing what Kathy Sierra had to say about creating passionate users. She has been running websites that are ‘fun’ even when for serious for ages, and she spoke last year at the webstock conference to much acclaim.

Well, I was disappointed to find out today she’s not coming to Aotearoa New Zealand next week afterall. But she has very good reasons.

Kathy is a victim of death threats received in the comments section of her blog, and published on other blogs. Some of the posts and pictures threaten sexual violence (see an interview with Kathy in Computerworld Death Threats Force Blogger to Sidelines) and are deeply hateful. Kathy is so scared for her safety she has cancelled speaking engagements and is reconsidering whether she’ll keep blogging and being a public figure.

There is a real sense of unease rippling through the blogging community at the extreme anti-social behaviour exhibited. I share this unease.

Somehow I tend to see the Internet in optimistic shades. Seeing it almost exclusively as a force for good. About freedom from the tyranny of received untruths and embedded power structures. Striking a blow for the people, together and stronger. All that and more. But, in the harsh light of reality I probably would admit it’s just like the real world with it’s share of brutality, oppression and alienation.

Best I keep looking for the postive shades in everything (including the transformative potenital of the Internet). From what I gather optimism is at the heart of Kathy’s message. Fortunately, I get to learn about this as a replacement has been found to deliver her workshop.