Posted by Amanda Chapel
The Ultimate Failure of “Naked Conversations”
Well, if you've been following the soap opera "As the Blog Turns," in this week’s drama we have speaker, trainer and prominent blogger Kathy Sierra being harassed off the air so to speak as a result of a series of blog comments. They were indeed of a most graphic and sexual nature. One commenter reportedly wrote “fuck off you boring slut.” Certainly, off color; when combined with “I hope someone slits your throat and cums down your gob,” vile and depraved. In a word, Yikes! And then add the fact that it seemed to be coming from other prominent bloggers Frank Paynter, Jeneane Sessum, and Allen Herrel. Double Yikes!! It was when these “meankids.org” posted a photo of a noose next to her head, and apparently one of their members commenting "the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size," that the refs blew the whistle. OUT OF BOUNDS!!! The stadium erupted and a virtual riot ensued.
1. Kathy canceled public appearances and suspended her blog.
1. The comments were certainly ugly.
WHAT IT MEANS
Here’s the deal. Maybe humans are NOT supposed to be “naked.” Maybe, “open community” is an oxymoron. Maybe at our very core, past all the PR and manufactured smiles, we’re just not that nice. That in mind, Kathy’s words have far greater import: “I do not want to be part of a culture where this is done not by some random person, but by some of the most respected people in the tech blogging world. People linked to by A-listers like Doc Searls and Chris Locke. I do not want to be part of a culture of such hypocrisy where Jeneane Sessum can be a prominent member of Blogher, a speaker at industry conferences, an outspoken advocate for women's rights, and at the same time celebrate and encourage a site like meankids -- where objectification of women is taken to a level that makes plain old porn seem quaintly sweet.”
Bottom line: "Naked Conversations" is a dismal failure. So’s Cluetrain for that matter. Who would have thought that when we marginalized communications power and leveled all hierarchies... that the commons would become the cesspool of human existence? Well, I’ll tell you. Pretty much ANY idiot with common sense, anyone who’s ever studied history, anyone who’s had siblings and shared a bathroom, anyone who’s ever been to a Cubs game, or taken public transportation. I skeeve. There's a reason why the sale of Purell hand-sanitizing lotion is brisk.
So... now what do we do? Better question: what do the A-List leaders (blog demagogues) do? Answer: They can either take their ball and go home (Scoble, Rubel, Weil and others would have to actually get real jobs); Or what they can do is call for certain controls, the very antithesis of their platforms, the very things they all along told us they were dismantling on our behalf. In effect, forget the old rules; here are the new rules. Ironically, here’s the new hierarchy. Such is the cycle that defines history. We, of course, need new rules to protect the new rulers. Remember that.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
The boys told us how natural it would be to take a hike in the woods; now that there are snakes allegedly, the girls want to pave the forest. The boys wanted to play ball on the highway; now that someone’s got hit, the parents move to ban traffic.
No. The consequences of banning things that are essential to free speech, commerce and democracy, even if Kathy had actually been harmed let alone the mere perception of threat, is FAR TOO GREAT a price to pay. Debbie Weil says, “Anonymity breeds the worst, foulest behavior in the blogosphere.” For Debbie, surely. Those with weak arguments are some of the loudest voices to ban anonymity; and who can blame them? What they look to ban is criticism.
However subtly, groups use identity to control. "Naked Conversations" co-author Shel Israel recently told a junior who was disagreeing with him: “You do a really fine job of representing yourself and Topaz Partners with integrity. I'm sure this unique style will attract to your agency precisely the clients you deserve.” Dripping with sarcasm, the point was clear: You’re out of line with the accepted belief that I control; there will be negative consequences.” This is how weakness keeps its grip. Disregarding Shel's threat, Adam was subsequently banned from Israel’s blog for doing nothing more than expressing an opposing view.
Ironically, Cluetrain co-author David Weinberger clarifies the issue:
“I” dentity, not our-dentity. It belongs to me. I chose anonymity. Unlike Kathy who recoils, I will fight against any culture (let alone lightweight moron) that thinks it can take that away from me.
Blogging Needs a Code of Honor not a Code of Conduct
First read the latest incendiary post by Amanda Chapel on Strumpette, Sierra Porn Incident Inspires Ban on Anonymity; second, read my response......
Weblog: Chris Abraham - Because the Medium is the Message
Tracked: Apr 10, 15:58
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Thanks! I hope Strumpette readers (and bully pulpit lurkers like Shel Israel) will excuse the mutual admiration society, but I think you nailed this one.
After being banned from leaving comments, I sent an email to Shel with my phone number - he must be too busy booking his next book tour (bet he skips Woburn, Mass.) to call me and have a real conversation.
I woke up thinking I'd skip the Shel Israeli blogicide bombing for a day, but I just skimmed his "Kathy Sierra Receiving Death Threats" post to find this gem of a comment:
"I do not want to be silenced by the bad guys. I didn't stop flying after 9/11 and I'm not going to stop blogging now."
WOW! Shel, has your blogging status (and importance to the world) equaled the level of NYC fire fighters, police officers, pilots and soldiers in harm's way?!
(Side note; Shel is so proud that Naked Conversations or whatever he's calling his next crap book-blog is a top 1100 ranked blog that today he buries that lead in a comically long and boring 1442 word treatise "ICE Conference, grazing sheep & Cattle on the same land." Yawn)
Shel, some advice: turn off the computer - take a break from the blogs. go outside, enjoy some fresh air and an actual conversation.
Cheers, Adam (aka Junior #41)
Honestly, on the Well and Brainstorms and TMN.com, there was always anti-social freaks. We called the tactic to get rid of them as various and sundry versions of the "bozo filter." If all of this results in a dumbass "Blogger Code of Conduct” then the bozos have won. Using this sort of emotional FLAMING as an incentive to throttle open and honest conversation, merely because of totally untoward and appalling comments, allows the terrorists to win. This is really stupid, moronic, and of course anonymity is still an important thing to allow.
The main reason why people are still attracted to tmn.com, the Well, and Howard Rheingold's Brainstorms is because there is no anonymity there. Even so, there are still bozos. Much like a private school, online virtual communities like the Well can eject dumbasses.
Blogs are amazingly vulnerable places. Bloggers are amazingly vulnerable. Most polarizing red state blogs don't even allow comments.
Each blog and each community should have its own TOS and "code of conduct" but to try to "legislate" one is absurd and I, personally, feel that this is a Strumpette Joint witch hunt -- be it for laughs, for attention, or for controversy.
That said, I admire that kind of "interruption" but if it comes of anything, then shame on you; and, if you bring shame to either Cluetrain or Naked Conversation, I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you!
Love and kisses, Chris
Just prior to the MeanKids.org / Kathy Sierra incident I happened to write about how the push toward a more ‘social web’ was rapidly and naturally erasing the boundaries between personal self and public self. And, at the time, I came to the conclusion that the loss of anonymity forces personal responsibility which is not such a bad thing. But you raise some good points in this post. And in particular what David Weinberger says about anonymity protecting whistleblowers, abused women who want help, or people with health issues who would otherwise not seek information really made me expand my thought on this topic. I thank you for that.
But still, it’s hard to defend people’s rights to anonymously threaten someone. And I believe the answer can be found in a middle ground. Perhaps, anonymity should still be an option when people browse for health information, report a crime, or any number of other situations where it makes sense. Let lawyers figure that out. But when posting threats? That falls outside the acceptable use of anonymity or any social conduct. People that post depravities as was the case with Kathy should not be protected.
It’s not a black and white, anonymity or not situation. It’s more complicated and I’m glad a discussion has begun about this has begun.
I simply needed to drop a comment and say "thank you".
Thanks for the dose of common sense all neatly served up.
I don't know much about this incident, but allowing anyone to post anything in your comments section is irresponsible. I very rarely have to delete a comment on my blog but I see so much garbage on other people's blogs.
I take the view that I am under no obligation to publish other's comments on my server. I do't mind comments being critical, but they must add to a topic, and if they are off-color then they don't get published.
I'm not hurting anybody's right to self-expression, they can publish their comments on their own server or get a free blogger account and do it there.
And now for the other point of view. Not saying I agree, just pointing it out. Seth Godin writes: "Three years ago, I posted about anonymity. I still agree with every word I wrote. Anonymity hasn't made the web a better place. Instead, it has allowed some of the worst ideas ever to get published."
What did Seth write three years ago?
"Virus writers are always anonymous.
"Vicious political lies (with faked photoshop photos of political leaders, or false innuendo about personal lives) are always anonymous as well.
"Spam is anonymous.
"eBay fraudsters are anonymous too.
"It seems as though virtually all of the problems of the Net stem from this one flaw, and its one I’ve riffed on before. If we can eliminate anonymity online, we create a far more civil place."
While I'm still mulling all this over, one cannot dismiss the thoughtfulness of Seth's point of view.
Hey, socialistic totalitarianism looks good on paper.
Being a recreational blogger, and having through this medium learnt a heck of a lot of things both in my field of work, as well as met many different people, I must honestly say that I've become addicted to this form of expression and communication.Of course openess entails responsibility (as does freedom of speech and democracy) but not all people are responsible in the same way that not all people "good".
I kinda hope that we can stop this mudslinging (or at least keep the dirty laundry to ourselves) and concentrate on the +ve aspects of this form of expression. Now I know the world isn't perfect, but I still tend to use basic economics to weight things, and for me clearly the marginal benefits of this medium/fashion/trend (or whatever you wanna call it) called blogging, clearly outweights the marginal costs.
I think you did a great job of summarizing and analyzing a very complex conversation.
I don't think anything has happened that makes Naked Conversations a total failure. People have been having Naked Conversations since they were huddled in caves. Now we have them online. But if you are talking to some hateful slimeball who won't give you his or her real name, that is not a naked conversation.
You also do not have to suffer the diatribes of idiots even when they identify themselves. You have the right to choose with whom you have a naked conversation. You wouldn't do that in the tangible world. Why would you do it here?
First off, before I respond to your note specifically, I'd like all our readers to note, the overwhelming hypocrisy of Shel commenting here but barring criticism on his site. Awfully hypocritical and smarmy of ya Shel.
With regard to your comments:
"I don't think anything has happened that makes Naked Conversations a total failure."
Well, maybe you haven't but most everyone else has learned that people are more comfortable transacting dressed. People shield themselves from vulnerability as you tried to do here and on your site. The "release control" crap which is the cornerstone of your "naked" proposal is... platitudinous crap.
"People have been having Naked Conversations since they were huddled in caves."
People have been humping quite a bit, too! However, society has norms re: time and place. You and Scoble tried to break those norms and got whip lashed. "Naked Conversations" is a dismal failure. Sure you have a modicum of celebrity. So does Rubel and Paris Hilton.
"If you are talking to some hateful slimeball who won't give you his or her real name, that is not a naked conversation."
So what the fuck is a "Shel Israel"?! Real name? Amanda Chapel is a real name as much as your name.
As to being "hateful," I am not in the slightest. Rather, it is a total revulsion to people that are full of shit. If you are feeling criticism, rather than blaming the critic, reexamine yourself. Unless, of course, you relish the heat; apparently you don't.
(Sound and visual effect: snapping finger with wave of the hand in reverse S motion)
Amanda is right. These left wingers are basically control freaks just like the Nazis. They cannot tolerate anything that irks them and their first remedy for everything is "there outta be a law".
Well, that's how we got a lot of idiot laws with unintended consequences and even officialdom quoting Mr. Bumble. ("The law is a ass.")
The "market of ideas," the human spirit, and ingenuity will find a way around, over, or under any control-freak solution. If you banned anonymity, we wouldn't have The Federalist Papers, you numbskulls.
Freedom of speech includes freedom of silence and freedom of expression. You want your votes not to be secret anymore like the communistic unions do?
They passed an election reform law (these control freaks) to restrict political spending and Free Speech and then blogs and YouTube came along. I love it.
Wow... it took all of twelve posts to prove Godwin's Law.
Privacy can indeed be liberating. Since the cessation of my own blogging efforts six weeks ago, my life has vastly improved, my business has spiked upward, my blood pressure has dropped, my girlfriend is much more...ahem..."giving." Blogging is for the birds and this kind of mean-spirited snafu just illustrates how truly dangerous it can be.
Ooh let's get the CEO doing it now! What a great idea!
I wondered over here for the first time since you probably started strumpette by following a link while skimming the Kathy Sierra kerfluffle (and kerfluffle it IS - criminal matters are for the police, not the mob to decide and those of us who've actually been using the internet since before web 1.0 know that trolls, anonymous hate speech, righteous indignation and dogpiling have been online since mailing lists and usenet and are part of the real world as well).
Always good to see a thoughtful response to anything that others are jumping into gut-first - Good work.
I might have had more to say - but the Kathy glamourshot mit thong photo right below a banner ad for luxury lingere seems to have locked my brain into a full-fledged irony grand mal.
I think THAT was the kind of witty commentary meankids was trying for before the whole thing blew up.
Regardless being a NAMED a$$hole, or an anonymous a$$hole, the fact remains that an a$$hole is still an a$$hole.
Adding mandatory identity features to web 2.0 will not necessarily result in a$$hole 1.0 being re-released as a new and better a$$hole 2.0. In fact, it will most likely result as a re-branded a$$hole 1.0 as a more readily recognizable @sshole 2.0. Future releases will only reinforce the brand while doing little to improve features, reduce annoying bugs, or improve compatibility with Socially Acceptable 9.2(stable). Again I say, an @sshole is likely to remain an @sshole, regardless of it Release Candidate status.
Anonymity does not create the evil power enjoyed by virus writers, political liars, ebay fraudsters, etal. Anonymity merely protects them from retribution.
Their power comes from us and our willingness to trust, as seen on tv, people who are completely unknown to us, whom indeed we know are significantly likely to be dishonest or outright evil.