Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I dunno. I'm not entirely convinced. What is the Head Lemur saying here?

It sounds like he's trying to create a miasma of an impression that he isn't responsible for posting about Kathy Sierra without actually coming out and committing himself with a categorical statement that "I did not post mean stuff about Kathy. That was someone who hacked my identity."

Maybe that's what he's trying to say and he's always so circumlocutious? Or maybe he just lacks the courage to come out and lie outright?

Whatever.

I don't like witch-hunts either. But I'm pretty unimpressed by the degree of whining, self-pity from the Mean Kids. I'd have hoped for them to come out and say something like "yeah, sorry. I fucked up! That was over-the-top. My bad for getting involved." I'd even have more respect if they just said "get a thicker skin. That's life on the internet, bitch!" But all this "Look how I'm suffering from that horrible Kathy Sierra and her wicked false accusations. My reputation is in ruins and it wasn't even my fault!!! Honest!" leaves me cold.

My betting is that some of the quite heavy stuff really *was* from A-Listers, getting carried away with the prank in an environment where the consequences weren't obvious. And all the equivocation now is failure of courage to own up to that.

The fact is, we can all get seduced by the internet as a place to role-play at being another person and to experiment with saying things that are out of character. We look for freedom from our internal constraints. We play at being aggressive or seductive or clever when in real life we feel ourselves to be timid and boring and ignorant. Why the hell shouldn't nice, warm, caring, respectable middle-aged men and women, want a place where they can play at being the absolute worst juvenile jerks? How glorious to get out of the straight-jacket for a while. And, yet, how mortifyingly, embarrassingly awful to get caught and called out on it. To be confronted by someone who can legitimately claim to have been hurt.

As a friend of mine used to say : "it's all fun until someone loses an eye."

4 comments:

Kaunda said...

"My betting is that some of the quite heavy stuff really *was* from A-Listers, getting carried away with the prank in an environment where the consequences weren't obvious. And all the equivocation now is failure of courage to own up to that."

If your betting, my hunch is it's a good bet.

I think that people getting carried away "playing" or acting out is a part of online conflicts. But so many of the conflicts I encounter are people being their own selves.

Doc Searls says: "If Alan is right, everybody on this giant thread has been taken for one of the oldest rides in the park." Like you, I'm skeptical, as easier solutions seem far more probable.

Either way, I'm troubled that most of the discussion deals with exceptional rather than ordinary conflicts. My betting is that the roots of this follow familiar patterns of ordinary online conflicts that we all have to navigate.

Some of the most nettlesome problems collaborating online ironically are caused by "awfully nice" people.

On a social network I engage in, there's a poster who's quick to scope things out and minces few words about the deficiencies. But overtime I've noticed her judgment is uncommonly good. I can't say enough nice things about her. There is another poster who does so much good stuff, but takes too much of what the first poster says as personal criticism.

Boring details, but damn, it's personal dynamics like this that get in the way of productive collaborations.

The trouble is the poster who in my estimation is clearly off-base in her grasp of the reality of the situation is also part of a cadre of crusaders to make everything safe at the social network. It's an old story, but the "road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Dave Winer's piece hits some of the right notes: A mob of do-gooders is a mob nonetheless.

The posts that Kathy Sierra is reacting to are unacceptable, as is a slew of utterly vile speech online. But as the discussion turns to what to do about that, Winer's comment: "I'll tell you what -- the mob that's going after them looks a lot more dangerous than they do." really resonates with me.

phil jones said...

Look. I'm not claiming to be a good judge of human nature. I'm pretty lousy at reading people.

And, I really don't like the witch-hunt aspects. But in the places I'm reading I don't *see* much witch-hunt. Don Park may be. But Dave, Doc, Mitch Ratcliffe, Shelley, Liz etc. all calling for calm reflection and worrying about mob mentality and talking about identities being stolen.

The worst I see from the witch-hunters is calling for a fulsome apology from people involved. Which, to my mind, shouldn't be too hard to come up with.

Of course, I may be doing a terrible injustice to the people involved but I can't help thinking like this :

If you were the sort of person who wanted to steal an identity, hack into a site and post a picture of, say, Naom Chomsky with a noose around his neck, would you do it on Little Green Footballs or Daily Kos?

You see what I'm saying? There's no *point* in doing it on LGF.

Mean Kids was (allegedly) *already* a vitriolicly anti Kathy Sierra site. Is it likely someone *stole* an identity in order to be able to post even more extreme anti-Sierra stuff there?

Kaunda said...

I think you're an excellent reader of human behavior! Yes I agree with you the computer hacking excuse seem highly improbable.

This Katha Sierra story has escaped well beyond the realm of technologically-oriented bloggers. I read a education blogs and philanthropy blogs and it's making the round there.

Being in Bush America is tougher than you imagine. How to cope with people who are religious and convinced of their own righteousness yet oblivious to their own cruelty?

I know I'm reacting oddly to a situation where common decency and apologies are in order. But the piling on over this issue does worry me. "Right-thinking" people can indeed be very scary.

phil jones said...

Kaunda : I agree with you about the "How to cope with people who are religious and convinced of their own righteousness yet oblivious to their own cruelty?" question.

It's disturbing.

Does this *invalidate* the idea of making moral judgements? I don't think so. Sometimes people are convinced that what they're doing is morally right, but it turns out that they're wrong. At the same time, sometimes people are convinced that their column of figures adds up to $74.98 but they turn out to be wrong. That doesn't invalidate arithmetic.

But, yeah, the mob is getting less and less funny. I'm also reading some fairly over-simplistic and misleading versions of this story turning up in the wider media. So I'm starting to feel some sympathy for the Mean Kids.

OTOH, not that much. I'm still quite disappointed that Locke, Sessum and Lemur seem to be so self-righteous about the whole thing. Like it would really hurt them to have to admit that anything they participated in was over-the-top or that Sierra might have really been upset and that they could feel sorry about that.

The new Dave Winer post
says a lot of sensible things. That, yes, you don't want a "code of conduct" or a witch-hunt, but you do want people to notice, and members of the community to stand up and say when they think one person is mistreating another.

But I'm mystified that having spent the last 10 years telling everyone that the blog lets you control your own words and give your side of the story rather than be misrepresented by others; he thinks it's better that someone who feels victimized shouldn't talk about it themselves, but should get a third person to do it for them.