ETech 2007: Fun, Games, Magic ... and Intimidation
ETech 2007, Part 2: People, Power, Patterns and Practices

ETech 2007 BoF: How can we support Kathy Sierra (and other women in our "community")?

As I noted in my last post about ETech, amidst the fun and excitement at the conference, I feel angry and sad -- and feeling frustratingly helpless (and even a bit embarrassingly male) -- about the acts of violence that have been perpetrated on Kathy Sierra (who had been the scheduled opening keynote speaker), including vulgar photos and comments posted on various sites intimating [other] harm and death. This morning, I checked danah boyd's blog, and was saddened further -- but, unfortunately, not as surprised as I wish I'd been -- to learn about a similar experience she had years ago.

Last year, I remember reading (and hearing) Liz Lawley and others talking about the relative low proportion of women among the ranks of people speaking at ETech. I've never attended the conference before, but it does seem that there are far more men than women on stage (and in the audience). If the ETech community really wants to offer an environment that is more welcoming and supportive of women, then I'm thinking that maybe this is a good venue in which to hold an open discussion about what happened to Kathy -- and/or other prominent women [bloggers] -- and to see what kinds of actions we might take, individually and collectively, socially and technologically, to support Kathy in this dark period, and help ward off such evil attacks in the future.

I am concerned that in organizing this Birds of a Feature (BoF) session, I may be addressing my own needs (channeling my anger and sadness, and reducing my helplessness) at the expense of exacerbating the challenges faced by Kathy (and/or others). So, if engaging in an open discussion about this issue is not helpful to her (or others), I may cancel the session. But my intuition suggests this could be helpful, and after a quick sanity check with some trusted [women] friends, I've decided to move forward.

So, if you're reading this and you're at ETech, or know someone here at ETech, or want to suggest any issues or perspectives to consider at the session, please post a comment, create a trackback, send an email or otherwise join the discussion. We'll be meeting in Gregory A from 9:00-10:00pm tonight.

[Updates: Tim O'Reilly attended the BoF, and subsequently posted a Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct; Kathy Sierra has posted an update and a joint statement with Chris Locke representing a partial rapprochement.]

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