I was disappointed to see Kathy Sierra leave Twitter, but respect her decision to do so. I read her writing about why she left, but I also dug through past Twitter postings with the individual she references, Rob Graham. Twitter is not the best of places for thoughtful discussion when parties agree, but it is especially bad when two people have views that are diametrically opposed.

I knew the people involved with Kathy’s original leaving years ago. Or I should say, I knew a group of people who got conflated with others in a case of rotten timing.

Three different events happened in the same period.

1. A group of people wanted to start a site where people could speak freely, even critically. Abusive, childish photos were posted related to Kathy, as well as racist comments made about another well known woman in the tech community. The site was immediately shut down by the originators. Rogers Cadenhead wrote a good summary of this event.

2. In comments to a weblog post Kathy posted, a man suggested the worst, most violent act be committed on Kathy. Later, we discovered he was a British ex-pat who lived in Spain.

3. Another individual posted personal information about Kathy, including her Social Security Number and address. He did so in a highly fabricated context, making the act that much worse. In a 2008 New York Times article, a man who goes by the name “weev” took credit for the posting. Weev’s real name is Andrew Auernheimer. Auernheimer also took credit for the posting in an article for Esquire.

Individually, these three acts would be enough to stress any individual, but coming at the same time, it could feel like a conspiracy to the impacted person. But it was not a conspiracy. Each was an individual act, not some form of black internet ops of the unknowns against the famous. It is important to understand that the acts were independent of each other.

Andrew “weev” Auernheimer was arrested and convicted for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) for an unrelated incident, but was exonerated and released earlier this year. He was somewhat of a cause célèbre in tech and transparency circles, where the CFAA is universally loathed. Understandably, Kathy was less than happy about the celebration of a man who claimed responsibility for a posting that caused her so much pain.

Fast forward to recent events. October 4, Rob Graham, who tweets as ErrataRob got into a Twitter discussion with Kathy Sierra (@seriouspony) and other individuals. I managed to capture a PDF of the tweets and replies, though by this time Kathy’s tweets are gone. You’ll have to dig through the recent postings until you get to the right day (October 4). The links to conversations work, so you can expand the discussions if you wish.

Graham believes, strongly, that weev was incorrectly prosecuted for violations of the CFAA. Evidently, one or more individuals expressed an opinion to Graham that weev should be jailed for what happened to Kathy. He disagrees with this because, as he later wrote. “there is no evidence supporting such a conviction”.

As I pointed out on Twitter, we can’t believe Weev either way. He is notoriously unreliable. We can’t trust his denials today, but at the same time, we can’t trust his statements from 2008. As I pointed out on Twitter, Weev has claimed credit for trolls that he was at best only peripherally involved in. Yet, Kathy Sierra insultingly claims this means I somehow believe Weev.

Kathy wrote of her reaction:

But a few days ago, in the middle of one of those “discussions”, this time with @erratarob, I realized it wasn’t worth it. He concluded that I was just trolling so people would troll me back. I asked him what he thought I should have done. And his answer was “don’t feed the trolls.” “Ignore it and move on.” Perhaps Rob didn’t know that I’d already tried that for six years, but that it was weev who kept that damn thing alive no matter how gone I was. He managed to tweet to my social security number not long before he went to prison, and well before I resurfaced. No, I didn’t troll him into that. I didn’t “engage”.

But Rob didn’t do anything wrong. He was saying what he truly believes. What, sadly, a whole lot of people in tech believe. Rob just happened to be the last “you asked for it” message I wanted to hear. So I just stopped.

What Graham had said was:

@seriouspony you are a passive-aggressive troll, a different kind of troll than weev’s naked aggression, but a troll nonetheless.

Graham stated he politely responded to Kathy’s Twitter posts; I can’t quite see the politeness in this response. Regardless, it’s important to understand the context of Kathy’s “you asked for it”.

Rob Graham and Kathy Sierra approached this Twitter discussion from positions that are black and white. Graham doesn’t believe weev’s claims, and definitely doesn’t believe that weev should be prosecuted for something without proof. Kathy believes the claims weev made in the past, and while she isn’t advocating jail time for him, she is not happy with the acclaim weev is receiving in tech circles. There is no middle ground, no gray area where they can meet and find some commonality.

This really is the end of the story. Rob Graham did not drive Kathy off of Twitter, the web, or the internet. Kathy decided Twitter was not a healthy place for her, and she left. They disagree on whether weev is the man responsible for the posting of her personal information. They disagree in how trolls should be handled.

There is no need of a posse. Nothing needs to be done about this specific event. No change needs to be made, and no larger story needs to be told.

That tech women have been the recipients of harassment is a larger story, and continues to be written. The never ending flow of naughty boys and girls who infest our online lives is another larger story, and I don’t see an ending for this one. But the exchange between Kathy and Rob is not a chapter in either story. It’s just two people who don’t know each other and who profoundly disagree discovering no number of 140 character or less posts will change these circumstances.

If you respect and/or care for the individuals, you should support them whatever the cause of pain and discomfort, but that doesn’t mean you have to find someone to hang over the nearest branch. Not every difficult event that happens to people we care about requires a posse.

Legal, Laws, and Regs

Judge tosses suit leaving Koster with egg over face

broken egg on red paper

Photo courtesy dfinnecy licensed cc by sa 2.0

Judge Kimberly J. Mueller tossed the multi-state lawsuit instigated by Missouri’s own AG, Chris Koster, against California’s new egg laws.

As the decision notes, the plaintiffs had no standing. Koster may claim that the lawsuit was brought about to help all of the citizens of Missouri but, as the judge rightfully noted, the lawsuit would benefit only a tiny minority of large egg producers, and therefore the states don’t have standing to sue.

It is patently clear plaintiffs are bringing this action on behalf of a subset of each state’s egg farmers and their purported right to participate in the laws that govern them, not on behalf of each state’s population generally.

It is patently clear that Koster brought about this lawsuit in order to pander to the large agricultural business interests in this state. And he used taxpayer money for this purpose. Thankfully we have a Judge in California stopping all this nonsense before more public money was wasted.

Previous stories on this lawsuit:

Koster’s Right to…collect large campaign contributions from big Agribusiness Interests

Koster’s Missouri Egg Challenge

Legal, Laws, and Regs Political

Missouri Dives into the Rabbit Hole with Amendments 1 and 5

person standing in doorway to castle ramparts

Photo by Stefano Corso, used without edits, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Missouri’s “Right to Farm” Amendment 1, and the gun support measure, Amendment 5, both won last night. The vote on Amendment 1 was so close that we’ll have an automatic recount, but I think the result will be the same: a win for Amendment 1 by a very narrow margin.

Both results are disappointing. Newspapers across the state noted before the election that our Constitution is already bloated beyond recognition, and all the amendments were either unnecessary, or should have been handled by an increasingly chaotic and under-performing state legislature. And Amendments 1 and 5 were the worst of a bad lot

Amendment 5 just creates confusion about enforcement of existing gun laws, and will take tax payer money for the court challenges the language will generate. But the court costs associated with Amendment 5 are nothing compared to the costs associated with Amendment 1. The very wording of the ballot measure is going to be used to challenge attempts to “enforce” this incredibly vague amendment. The proponents added the word “citizen” to the ballot, but the word “citizen” isn’t included in the amendment, leaving the protections open for foreign-owned farms and ranches. That Secretary of State Kander allowed this insertion was disturbing. That he eventually came out in support of the Amendment was a shocker—especially to the many people who supported him in the last election.

What helped pass both amendments was placement in a primary, rather than general election, and poor voter turn out in the cities. In addition, when Attorney General Koster decided that big agribusiness interests and the NRA benefited his personal ambitions more than environmental, animal, gun safety, or food safety interests, his actions in support of both amendments just added to the confusion about what they were really about.

So both Amendment 1 and Amendment 5 passed.

OK, the pity party is over. Now, it’s time to move on, and see these votes as a win, rather than a loss.

We have had a state legislature (and leadership) that is increasingly in the pockets of both the NRA and large agribusiness interests. Our cities are grossly underrepresented, real work isn’t being accomplished, and it seems every legislative session is focused either on undermining every single environmental, consumer, and animal welfare law related (even remotely) to farming, or to increasing gun interests. The legislature even tried to redefine deer as livestock in order to undermine the Department of Conservation’s efforts to add essential safety restrictions to captive deer hunt businesses.

Now the supporters of these two amendments have successfully embedded extreme and vague measures into the Constitution, and they’re probably indulging in a fit of self-congratulation. However, they haven’t realized that the aggressors have now become the defenders.

Take Amendment 1, the “Right to Farm” bill. Or as we’ve come to know it, the Right to Harm bill.

Previously, those who fought against this Amendment have also had to fight to defend our water, our air, our animals, and the safety of our food. We’ve always been in positions of being the defender, except when we pulled together enough people to pass Proposition B, the puppy mill bill. Even then, we had to defend the sanctity of our vote, and suffer disappointment when its necessary restrictions were undermined.

Now, we’re no longer in positions of defending against the bad laws, the bad laws have been passed. Now we can turn our attention to the fight. Now we can be the aggressors. We can be the challengers in the courts, the watchful eye on every state decision related to farms, the ones who scrutinize every back room deal. Now we can be the ones who chip away, day by day, year by year, at the platform on which those who would profit from these bad laws now stand.

AG Koster believes that two years from now when he runs for Governor, we’ll forget his actions, or no longer care about them. He assumes that most environmentalists, animal welfare folks, and food safety and sustainable agriculture people are Democrat, and Democrats will vote Democrat no matter what.

He is in error.

Every foolish act, and there will be many, resulting from the passage of Amendment 1 will be brought to light and documented in intimate detail. Every connection to elected politicians will be traced and exposed. We will follow the money down to the penny, and every drop of water contaminated, every fluffy puppy harmed, every person made sick by contaminated food, and every necessary law that is undermined, will be used against those who brought about such actions.

We’ll keep a tally of the costs to tax payers for every court case arising from the Amendment, and paint this tally in big, bold letters. We’ll read every court document, and make sure the best bits are disseminated in weblog and newspaper, and in Facebook, Twitter, and the other social media engines. By passing Amendment 1, the backers have forged disparate groups concerned about the environment, food safety and sustainability, public accountability, and animal welfare into one single, solid unified force with but one focus: stopping the “Right to Farm” supporters from causing harm.

Enjoy your day of victory, Amendment 1 supporters. Tomorrow is a new day, and you’re no longer the ones setting the rules of the fight.