Those who found themselves in a weblog-free cave for the past 24 hours might have missed the huge storm that erupted over the head of Kathy Sierra, the fantastic weblogger and author of more than a few great programming-related books; in a nutshell, a handful of people in the weblog world have been treating her to death threats and other pretty awful harassment for a few weeks now, and it finally reached the point where she cancelled her presentations at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology conference out of fear for her own safety. To say that the community response has been overwhelming would be a far, far understatement, and I won’t pretend to have something more profound to say than nearly all the folks who’ve weighed in on this already.

That being said, during my time in the pool today at lunch, I kept returning to a point that I think is worth making, so I figured I’d put it out there. Chris Locke, co-author of the original Cluetrain Manifesto and general crank-about-town, was named in Kathy’s post as involved to some extent, and we’ve learned since that he was one of the founders of, a weblog devoted to ripping various internet personalities apart and the home of some of the harassment against Kathy. Similarly, when went away, Chris started another weblog ( for the same purpose, and it was there that yet more harassment of Kathy started taking place. And when asked about all this by a reporter yesterday, Chris unrepentantly defended his involvement in the whole situation; his specific justification was that he was never the one posting awful things about Kathy, and that he has a guiding life principle that prevented him from taking down the posts of those that did, the “You Own Your Own Words” principle of the online community The WELL. The point I kept returning to in the pool is that in the 15 years since he was introduced to YOYOW, Locke and many others seem to have lost touch with the first “O” in that acronym, the concept of ownership. The YOYOW ethic at The WELL is rooted in the fact that the community doesn’t allow anonymity in any form, a situation which stands in stark contrast to the anonymity under which everyone participated in both and (and sites like Digg, Slashdot, and YouTube). In Locke’s little fetid nests, there wasn’t a single shred of ownership taking place; truly horrible posts were just shat out without a lick of accountability for the shockwaves they caused in people’s lives. And as a result, we all find ourselves here, with a reasonably prominent author and community member literally worried for her own safety due to the behavior of a few people operating under the anonymity granted to them by Locke and the others who ran both weblogs. (Incidentally, it’s also a great advertisement for communities like MetaFilter, where the combination of a reasonable barrier to entry and a strong moderator presence keep things incredibly civil and reasoned most of the time.)

You’d think that Locke, the author of the Cluetrain Manifesto would be able to hear the cluephone ringing loudly at his side, but apparently, his rage has made him deaf to the sounds of reason.