Are Scoble & Sierra Wrong To Stop Blogging?


Marketing blogger Kathy Sierra has decided to stop blogging because of threatening comments and emails. Robert Scoble, who brought this to our attention, has also 'gone on strike'. The threats cover throat slitting, hanging, suffocation and sexual threats.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 27 march 2007

Marketing blogger Kathy Sierra has decided to stop blogging because of threatening comments and emails. Robert Scoble, who brought this to our attention, has also ‘gone on strike’. The threats cover throat slitting, hanging, suffocation and sexual threats. She says:

As I type this, I am supposed to be in San Diego, delivering a workshop at the ETech conference. But I’m not. I’m at home, with the doors locked, terrified. For the last four weeks, I’ve been getting death threat comments on this blog.

It’s not the first time bloggers have stopped because of verbal attacks: only recently Russell Davies, another marketing blogger, recently stopped blogging for a while because he found someone taking the piss out of him on another site.

Not nice. But it reminds me of the paper I wrote called Red Coat, Black Coat which looked at future privacy. The paper was written in reaction to my realization that through PSFK, Likemind and beyond I had much wiped away any traditional idea of privacy. All frequent and well known bloggers live a life that is indicative of the lives that the rest of us will soon lead: a lack of privacy.

In the paper, I suggest two routes: you try to wear a black coat and hide from the eyes, or you wear a read coat and project an image that you want to manage. I’m reminded by what people say about people in celebrity magazines – “If they want to be famous then they have to expect the invasion of privacy.” We have to learn from celebrities who handle these magazines well: It’s time to manage your image and reputation, not hide from it.

It’s dreadful to hear about Kathy but, as a blogger, I feel that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Once you’re out here, you have to give them as good as you get.

A post explaining your decision to stop blogging and naming names is rather feeble. Sorry. But it is. Why not delete/ignore the buggers and get on with it? Or why not use your own platform as a place to attack and lob bombs back.

More importantly your blog is also a place to rally and get a bigger voice. Robert Scoble’s strike is daft, full of poor judgement and the wrong thing to do. His actions fill me with contempt. On his blog he says:

So, since she doesn’t feel safe. I’m going to stop blogging in support of Kathy, who I consider a friend and someone who’s voice would be dearly missed here. I’ll be back Monday.

Scoble has created this position as a very powerful influencer even though he seems to spend most of his time navel gazing. When finally someone – Kathy – needs his help, what does he do?

He disappears!

Scoble misunderstands the power of his blog. When he’s gone, no one cares. He’s not supplying medical data or stock market feeds. No one cares about what Scoble doesn’t say or doesn’t do. But people do care about what he does say – and by going on strike he fails Kathy Sierra at a time she needs him most. He could really bring out the big guns this week, just when they’re needed. Next week, the blogosphere would have eaten this all up and this whole subject will be left to be discussed on panels at conferences none of us go to. It will be too late.

Of course, there are other routes that can be taken. You can phone the person in question, or their wife. Or their boss. You can call the police. Comments are not anonymous: you have their IP address, that’s a start. And if that doesn’t work you could do what WPP’s Martin Sorrell is doing by tracking them down using forensic science and suing the bastards:

Mr. Sorrell is suing two Italian advertising executives, Marco Benatti and Marco Tinelli, for libel, contending that they are the authors of an anonymous blog that refers to Mr. Sorrell as a Godfather-style figure nicknamed Don Martino. Mr. Benatti and Mr. Tinelli are also accused of distributing an e-mailed image of Mr. Sorrell and Daniela Weber, the chief operating officer of WPP Italy, that their legal team described as “grossly offensive.”

The case is the first to be tried in a flurry of lawsuits stemming from Mr. Sorrell’s dismissal of Mr. Benatti last year as WPP’s country manager for Italy. Ms. Weber, who had a personal relationship with Mr. Sorrell in the months before the firing of Mr. Benatti, according to testimony in the case, has joined Mr. Sorrell in suing Mr. Benatti and Mr. Tinelli for breach of privacy.

OK. This might all feel a little heartless but I’m just trying to discuss what will happen to all of us one day in the same way spam hits our in-box today.

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