Very disturbing article in the LA Times yesterday about Internet trolls posting anonymous death threats and vile sexual remarks about Kathy Sierra, one of the luminaries of the Java world. She is a former Sun master trainer, the author of Head First Java, a founder of the JavaRanch web site, and the author of the marvelous Creating Passionate Users blog. It is on her blog that the first threatening comments appeared, followed by worse stuff on other sites.
The attacks caused Kathy to cancel her appearance at the O'Reilly ETech conference and may possibly cause her to stop writing her blog, which would be a loss for all of us who care about the profession of software. You can read her account of the incidents here.
Besides being immoral and disgusting, posting threats is illegal, and posting threats against women is especially despicable. Just recently, some weirdo at my wife's gym was behaving in an intimidating way toward her. This took place over several days, and really caused her a lot of frustration and anxiety, so I can imagine just a little of what Kathy is going through. The anonymous nature of the Internet makes this kind of vicious behavior all too common, and all too easy.
Kudos to Tim Bray and Rich Sharples for talking about Kathy's plight on their blogs. My sympathies go out to Kathy, and I hope the pathetic losers who pulled this stunt get what they deserve in the ongoing police investigation.
Update: Tim O'Reilly has weighed in on the cyber-bully problem, calling for a self-regulated bloggers' code of conduct. Excellent idea, but I think it's clear that threats need to remain subject to criminal prosecution.