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Blogging For The Right To Exist

In an extreme example of online heckling, anonymous comments directed at Kathy Sierra, a software expert behind the blog Creating Passionate Users, devolved from criticisms of her musings on technology to threats of suffocation, rape and hanging.
Alex Williams, New York Times

One of my blogroll links on the left side of my little blogsite The View From (Ab)Normal Heights (as in less than 100 visitors a day) is BlogHer – Where Women Blogger Are. As a male-to-female transperson, I wanted to add my voice to the sea of women bloggers on the web, perhaps in a place where I could garner some positive notice for the transcommunity.

I blog in large part to be a transgender voice talking about public transgender issues where there are few voices discussing transgender related news; I blog to raise awareness about my transcommunity existing in the real world, and our right to exist in the real world.

I post to Pam’s House Blend and the Ex-Gay Watch for similar reasons — In a sea of gay, lesbian, and bisexual blogging voices, the voices of transpeople need to be heard need to be heard in that wide LGBT community if we’re truly to be an LGBT community .

Well, over at BlogHer, I found a post by Elana Centor on BlogHer Founders Featured in New York Times. It seems the founders of BlogHer are among the prominent voices calling for A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs. From The Times article:

Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

Why has this come up? Kathy Sierra. She removed the photos from her initial post explaining why she’s leaving the blogosphere, but the text of her initial post is still there. The Times says this about her recent cyberstalking/death threat experience:

(more after the flip)

Mr. [Jimmy] Wales [creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia] and Mr. [Tim] O’Reilly [a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0] were inspired to act after a firestorm erupted late last month in the insular community of dedicated technology bloggers. In an online shouting match that was widely reported, Kathy Sierra, a high-tech book author from Boulder County, Colo., and a friend of Mr. O’Reilly, reported getting death threats that stemmed in part from a dispute over whether it was acceptable to delete the impolitic comments left by visitors to someone’s personal Web site.

Distraught over the threats and manipulated photos of her that were posted on other critical sites — including one that depicted her head next to a noose — Ms. Sierra canceled a speaking appearance at a trade show and asked the local police for help in finding the source of the threats. She also said that she was considering giving up blogging altogether.

In an interview, she dismissed the argument that cyberbullying is so common that she should overlook it. “I can’t believe how many people are saying to me, `Get a life, this is the Internet,’ ” she said. “If that’s the case, how will we ever recognize a real threat?”

Ms. Sierra said she supported the new efforts to improve civility on the Web. The police investigation into her case is pending.

The initial draft of the civility guidelines Wales and O’Reilly are proposing are taken from the BlogHer community guidelines, which is, I’m assuming, a large part of why BlogHer has a prominent post on the Times article.

Frankly, I’m all for civility. I agree with the concept of civil discourse and reasonable blogging/blog commenting behavior.  I don’t think one can legislate this effectively with voluntary blogging guidelines, but more power to the folks for trying to at least illuminate the issue of the cyberbulling that’s occuring in relationship to websites and blogs.

Yet, this incident and the reaction gives me some pause to think. When Kathy Sierra quits blogging because of bad blogger behavior and perceived death threats, she’s leaving because blogging about tech issues — the issue she blogged about — isn’t worth dying for. I agree. I haven’t as yet been on the receiving end of cyberstalking (unless one considers this post from AFTAH’s Sonja Dalton to rise to the level of cyberstalking — which I don’t think it does), nor have I received any death threats, yet if I was the target of cyberstalking or death threats, how would I respond?

I’m blogging for my right to exist as a transgender woman in a world that doesn’t always recognize my right to exist as transgender woman. Cyberstalking or not, I’m not going anywhere. 

As Martin Luther King Jr. said:

I submit to you that if a [wo]man hasn’t discovered something [s]he will die for, [s]he isn’t fit to live.

And, although the existance of my transgender peers and me would be worth dying for, frankly I want to die of old age — sometime waaaaay into the farflung future.


Reference: Draft Blogger’s Code of Conduct.

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