Civility online?

Earlier in the week I was posting on a Lifehacker thread about cold-weather gear.  As someone who has spent a lot of time in extremely cold climates over the past 30+ years I thought I had something to contribute. And then “that guy” showed up – the one saying nobody needs all that fancy stuff and plain-talkin’ folks get by fine with flannel-lined jeans.  I responded to say we were talking about something a little more specialized than that and it began:

  • You’re a liar – you have never been where you say you have
  • You don’t know what you are talking about
  • I googled some things to prove you’re lying
  • Various insults and homophobic slurs

It left me annoyed and rattled and made me want to just step away and disengage completely.

And then I realized this is a tiny fraction of the degree of what many women online suffer every single day. I read Kathy Sierra’s heartbreaking and awful account of her history of threats and attacks. Penny Red has been bravely talking about her similar experiences over the years on her blog and twitter.  Linda Sandvik is another great source who is unafraid to call out those small (and large) putdowns that too many women get every day in tech.  When I read about the horrors that these women (and hundreds or thousands more) have to face every day, my brush with trolling and incivility faded into the minor annoyance that it was – but it gave a sliver of insight into what they face.

If I felt so shitty after one interaction with an aggressive troll, how do Kathy, Penny, Linda, and others deal with it every day?  I received no death or rape threats, stalking, or vile personal attacks (well, a little, but it’s not an insult to be called gay by a fool) – all of which are apparently common.

I don’t know how this can be stopped.  I guess those of us who are straight, white, middle-class males must stand up alongside everyone being abused online for whatever reason and make it clear that it’s not OK.  These horrible, evil trolls will presumably find something else to do, but in the meantime I’ll do what I can to support everyone’s right to participate online no matter who they are.

<Update> I don’t know how helpful the above message is. It just makes me so angry and frustrated that talented, smart, thoughtful women are being chased off from online participation and careers because of horrible small-minded shitheads.

I guess all I wanted to do is stand up and say “this is not OK”

<Update 2> Realized today that pretty much anything that Linda or Laurie say on Twitter will be contradicted by a dude trying to prove he is smarter or better than them.  There are very few (if any) guys in the world who have to deal with that – even if the response is just condescending rather than overtly offensive or threatening.

<Update 3> This is helpful and way more articulate than me.

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