Kathy Sierra just published a long, disturbing post about the death threats and awful statements of sexual violence she received. She's canceled all her public speaking engagements. Instead, she's "at home, with the doors locked, terrified." The general consensus seems to be that she has become a target simply because she is a smart, successful woman.
I received a death threat when I was with Excite, back in 1997. It came after we redesigned our bulletin boards without - gasp - telling our users first. I laughed it off, but the fact is it was really creepy. Someone took the time to find out that our Austin office was behind the product, and that I ran that office. And they were so angry with me that they actually had thoughts of killing me. I didn't have the feeling it was serious in any way, and I wasn't concerned for my safety, but it was very disturbing.
Now, with Halsoft (parent company of VPchat), I'm more of a target. Or I was, anyway. The first couple of years with VPchat I was doing all the customer service. The threats and vitriol that came my way were unbelievable. I posted some of the disturbing mail I'd get on a blog called Yikes! What if they vote? I don't keep up with it any more, but the letters are still there. When one customer claimed to be moving to Austin and started threatening to hunt me down, I was really alarmed. I called the police, who suggested I contact the FBI. I contacted them and basically learned there was nothing to be done. I got scared, and I got mad - this asshole had made me feel unsafe in my own home. For a few weeks I was always looking over my shoulder, always nervous when I'd get home in the dark. I'd wake up at the slightest noise. Even though I was pretty sure there was no real danger, I was freaked. Fortunately, nothing came of it, and the feeling passed. I feel safe in my home again.
Kathy Sierra is an inspiration to many of us. If we lose her presence in the industry and on the web, it will be a terrible loss. My heart hurts for her. I hope they find the bastard who's making her life hell and put him away.
And I hope the blogosphere steps up, and says This Shit Is Not Okay. This kind of hateful behavior is unacceptable. Don't host it. Don't link to it. We're better than this.