From the A-List to the Blacklist

Tris and I have been Skyping back and forth about the latest post by Kathy Sierra where she discusses death threats among other things that have recently surfaced.  At first I was so shocked I didn’t have words, then I was pissed, and yes I don’t often get pissed.  As I read through the post, I saw some familiar names as Kathy continued to pour out her fear onto the page I was reading.  I went to each of the bloggers’ blogs mentioned. 

Chris Locke, Frank Paynter, Jeneane Sessum, and Allen Herrel,

After a good look around, I found no responses from any of these bloggers.  I can only assume that this means they are in custody and being questioned for their involvement in something so heinous. I hate making assumptions.  I try very hard not to judge people and I always thank people that give me the benefit of the doubt before making judgments.  I want to give these bloggers that same benefit, but the fact that they are associated in any way with this behavior makes it difficult to overcome my anger at not seeing a statement from them.

Other links associated with the post are also barren of any mention about their own thoughts on the issues at hand.  The people at BlogHer, an organization I support financially as a sponsor and as a evangelist has no response to one of their prominent members being named in the scandal.  At the time of this post, I could not check one last time whether they had a response to the article.  It could be they are down as a result, with all of their other readers wanting to know what they think.

Doc Searls was mentioned more than once in the piece and after a visit to his blog, I see no reference to the story nor that he has in any way reached out to his co-author for a statement.  I too would ask that Doc give us some help in determining the nature of Chris Locke’s involvement and what he intends as leader in this community to bring this to a close.

At the time I post this, not a single response in the comments from anyone that might shed light on this for the rest of us.  That is a poor PR move.    I invite all of you to give me just a note that you are doing your own investigation and that this transgression will be met with the full power of your own abilities.

UPDATE (5:36 MST):  This comment I found from Frank Paynter.  Scoble is taking a week off from blogging, and that in itself is sad.  I am going to take the other approach, I will post about this until the matter is resolved.  I will not turn my back on this despicable act until it is finished.  I’ll keep updating as I find information.

UPDATE (7:43 p.m. MST)  Stowe Boyd posts while traveling that Jeneane Sessum contacted him to say "she is sick with concern about her incidental involvement in this mess. She is heartsick about this turn of events."  At the time of this updated post Jeneane’s concern is still absent from her blog.  I can only think that she is at a loss for words.  Even that would be something she could tell us. 

UPDATE (8:18 p.m. MST)  I think that we should allow for a reasonable time and not rush to judgment in hanging the parties named.  Shelly Powers has a good post, and I appreciate some of the comments.  I liken the this to the short story by Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.  Let’s not hang the innocent just yet. 

Jon Husband refers to an update to a post by Jeneane Sessum in my comments, but I did not see it on her site.  I did ascertain further Jeneane and is afraid of the legal ramifications of posting at this point.  At this time, that fear is realized, and the mere mentioning about it is good enough for me.  I consider the rest of them in the same boat with the problems of lawsuits and anything at this point becoming evidence.  I would like to know about the other evidence we know of at this point.  I will keep posting as I learn of other developments.

UPDATE (9:58 p.m. MST) Frank Paynter has now posted about his thoughts on this issue.  As I also suspected, Kathy Sierra responded in the comments with graciousness and understanding.  This is how blogging should be. 

UPDATE (10:23 p.m. MST) Robert Scoble also puts to bed his thoughts to Frank which is heartfelt.  Do you think it would be possible to actually have the parties involved in this to all have a moment of nakedness to allow themselves to shake hands and walk away with understanding?  I am always an optimist but I think that with these people it’s possible.  These are leaders in this industry and a Blogger Gone Bad scenario is trumped by Bloggers Gone Good! 

UPDATE (10:37 p.m. MST) Jeneane’s comment on her blog for whatever reason is now visible to me and I want to point out her response.  I only had Update Number 2, but now Update Number 3 is visible.  I would say Jeneane should make a statement on her on blog much the same as Frank has done.  I don’t believe that she is the one that is behind any of this.  I also have taken note that "Joey" is now working on damage control on Kathy’s blog in the comments.

UPDATE (11:38 p.m. MST) Joey is now wanting to turn himself in as a fugitive in the comments at Kathy’s post.  Not sure why he would do that at this point, but in the comments section, he has asked that he be allowed to turn himself into the authorities.

UPDATE (8:15 a.m. MST 3/27/07)  After trying to get a little sleep last night, which turned out to be futile due to sick children, I am going to try to catch up on the latest in the blogosphere about the above.

Lisa Stone of, responds to the being discussed in Kathy Sierra’s post, and provides BlogHer’s position on the matter.  As I expected nothing less from Lisa and her group, it was handled with class and professionalism.  I too would look to the folks of BlogHer to be the voice of all women in Kathy’s position and would look to them to carry the banner here.  Great Job Lisa.

Doc Searls responds with an answer to my call for his help and leadership.  As is predictable from Doc, he is level headed, transparent and very intelligent in his response.  That is why I believed him to be a leader, and why I called out to him for his guidance.  His wisdom includes:

It will be easier for everybody if those involved disclose what they know.

My last post before this one was a pointer to the new Principles of Citizen Journalism site. The first principle is Accuracy, and it begins, Getting your facts right isn’t always so simple. No shit. But that’s what I’m trying to do right now. I suggest the rest of us do the same.

I have been following this as much as anyone and trying to keep my own facts straight without adding my own emotion is difficult.  Thanks for the pearl Doc.

Last night I left Frank Paynter’s post open about Mere Anarchy, The reason is, it looked as though he was beginning a decent conversation about what he knew and about what he felt.  In the comment section, Robert Scoble left a comment giving kudos to Frank for coming forward with the post, and I commented right after him with this comment: 

I think all of the named parties involved could post a comment here and have Kathy address them…it could show just how rational people work. Good exchange Kathy and Frank.

When I rushed into my office to catch up with the conversation there, Roberts comment had been deleted and m ine is still awaiting moderation.  Just when I thought the proper route was gaining traction. 

I do want to touch upon why I would have an emotional response in my own thoughts about this terrible situation.  I have met both Maryam and Robert Scoble and consider them to be friends.  They are gracious, intelligent, and very people oriented.  They have also been nothing but the best from the moment I met them.  When I read the things about them, it caused me to be somewhat enraged.  I think Robert is now feeling that more than ever, as I have seen that he is calling for a public apology, and rightly so given the comments made.  I’m merely trying to report an aggregate of information I can find here, and if I tend to get heated in my own thoughts, I wanted to explain my not so objective reporting.  I would love to see this all resolve with handshakes and hugs.

UPDATE (8:54 a.m. 3/27/07):  Chris Locke has a response to the Kathy Sierra post.  He is interviewed by Liz Tay of Computerworld Australia, and published his response to her questions.  I have never met Chris, and only know of him as an author of a great book.  After reading the responses to the questions posed, I must say I am at a loss for words. It is obvious that he has a distaste for Ms. Sierra, and I’m not exactly sure why, but nonetheless, I cannot help IMO but see the dichotomy of his responses.  The first try at a vitriolic site was not enough, a second was started to continue the one that was taken down.

UPDATE (9:16 a.m. 3/27/07) Shelly Powers updates that Allen Herrel, The Head Lemur (the link appears to be broken) has ended his blog after 7-8 years.  His thoughts are that he is guilty until proven innocent, which is a travesty in itself.  I would ask that he provide us with more of a statement than:

character assassination by image and psedonym (sic)

believe what you will

get some help


Let’s not compound the problems here by making others quit the blogosphere.  Turning your back now will only cause more people to be part of the mob and cement their own opinions of your guilt.   

UPDATE (10:38 a.m. MST 3/27/07)  I have been waiting for Tara Hunt to make a statement that I could link to given the fact that she was also a person singled out in the Mean Kids.or case and part of the reason they called the site "mean Kids" in the first place.  It seems that Jeneane Sessum was instrumental in taking down the sites after being asked by Kathy in the instance of Mean, and UncleBobisms site in reference to an email from Tara.  As we know Jeneane was hospitalized until recently so it is unclear if she received the email while in hospital and was directing others to take down the site.  She brings up an interesting point about Mena Trott that I had forgotten about until her mention of it.  Thanks for the post Tara.

UPDATE (8:29 p.m. 3/27/07)  It has been more than 24 hours since I began posting about this incident and I am no closer to solving the issues as I was when I started.  I have learned of a number of new people I have met and spoke to and I have seen some things I found interesting and things that made me shudder. 

Doc Searls has been great at updating his own look into what he knows and has found.  I have read literally every post I could find on this, and as part of that I have read every comment.  Yes, I have been doing a lot of reading.  I do intend to add my own opinion when the dust settles and I’m actually able to spend a moment of my own time reflecting on all that has transpired.  I know that this incident has caused a number of people to sit back and stare at their computer and wonder about their own situation, their safety, their part in what we call our blogosphere.  What I can’t seem to nail down is the one true path that is the perfect path.  There are as many opinions and thoughts about this as there are blogs.  I have learned this today. 

The people I believed to be good and the people I look to for mentoring and leadership were nothing but stellar.  People like Lisa Stone of BlogHer, Doc Searls and others have all made me feel proud that I had them identified correctly–to you folks I applaud you.  To those of you that have not yet made any statements, apologies, or otherwise, I ask you apologize where necessary, take ownership of responsibility where needed and be sure to make clear your thoughts if you are in no way involved.  I will be the first to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in any of those circumstances.

UPDATE (9:07 a.m. 3/28/07):  Jeneane Sessum has made a statement about Kathy Sierra’s post and is obviously not able to make any further statements at this time.  Thanks for the post Jeneane.

UPDATE (12:23 p.m. 3/28/07)  Doc Searls has posted an email from Alan Herrell regarding this matter.  As we can now plainly see, this has been more than just about a death threat and fear.  The storm that has hit, has hit everyone, real people with real feelings.  All actions have a certain reaction I suppose and this is unfortnate.  It looks like most of the people named have come forward with some type of statement.  Where do we go from here?

Tags: Kathy Sierra, Chris Locke, Frank Paynter, Jeneane Sessum, Allen Herrel, ,


  1. Jon Husband says:

    I think it’s useful to read carefully. I take this update from jeneane’s blog to be a response … I may be mistaken, but I interpret this update from her as disavowing any relation to the situation described, other than perhaps reflecting on her past participation in meankids and any contribution it may have made, attitudiinally, to this mess.

    “Update 3: Let me be more specific — I did not join or logon to uncebobism. I did not add myself to the blog. When i linked to the blog in this post, it had a witty post about twitter. By the time I got out of the hospital, the blog was gone and I had not read it in days.

    For the record, the only group blogs I participate on are Blog Sisters and BlogHer. I started Blog Sisters in 2001. It is a blog I am now seriously considering ending. I have to ask some questions about blogher as well. I will be doing that this week.

    Whose words are we a part of online–i am the words written here and in comments I leave. My group blogging experience has been part of what I do online that I think has been valuable since I started blog sisters in 2001. But I am no more than my own words. It comes down to that. And so I am currently looking at ways to end my group associations.”

  2. The comment referred to above is on Jeneane’s blog here

  3. Jim, I saw your post and wanted to check in.

    I spent the day offline at Berkeley, evangelizing blogging to a group of journalists, and just uncovered this discussion tonight.

    Rather than go into copious detail here, I’ll add my link to further thoughts:

  4. I just was sent what they wrote about Maryam on Totally vile stuff. Everyone involved in that site owes me and Maryam a public apology.

    Let’s start with Christopher Locke. He’s trying to defend his part in the site’s creation. Christopher, take responsibility for the hurt those words (which you didn’t write, but you allowed, through the creation of this site).

    I’m quite pissed. The people involved here deserve all the public scorn they are getting. When you write vile stuff (or allow it to be published without comment) you are over the line.

  5. Sherry Lewis says:

    My God, what is happening here?

    I’m a newcomer to the world of blogging and I believe it to be very dark in certain quarters. I also believe that it is sometimes dominated by undeserving big egos that enjoy notoriety at the expense of other HUMAN BEINGS. Consider the depth and meaning of those two words: HUMAN BEINGS. It’s so easy to hide in the shadow of anonymity and to wantonly hurt others…..but WHY? Does it feel good?

    Kathy, my heart is with you and I hope that the perpetrators of your terror are outed. It is notable that your fears have ignited a firestorm of outrage and disbelief from fellow bloggers who are undoubtedly saying “There but for the grace, go I…” Good for them, because no one should be subjected to the threatened horror of losing anything, no less one’s life.

    How would I (a total stranger) suggest you get through today and tomorrow? Gather strength and hold dear the support you’re getting from around the blogosphere; and as soon as you are able, get back to work. Drawing upon these experiences that render you terribly frightened today, will be a source of inspiration to others as you transition back into the world that you obviously love, and have earned a following from.

    Over the past year and a half my entire family has been under seige by a blogger whom we have never met, and has resulted in the loss of employment, our home, and our health. The feelings of devastation are compounded by the masked hatred of it all….hatred that most of us on any level, cannot process nor understand.

    Where are the Random Acts of Kindness? My God, what is happening here?

    Kathy, my thoughts are with you.


  6. Sherry Lewis says:
  7. Regardless of free-speech rights, what I don’t understand is how someone can form an opinion about someone if they don’t know them. Why would anyone care what I have to think about someone. Why should anyone develop an opinion based on my opinion about someone else. Such narrow-mindedness, and incredibly childish behavior. These people involved, if only marginally, claim some desire for anarchy, all-the-while living in a society that gives them benefits that anarchy would not afford them. Anarchy is were everyone’s life is always threatened, where no one is safe and no one cares about your civil rights. Sounds like a child rebelling from their parents while still eating their food. How pitiable.

  8. No one will be in custody that fast. Police don’t understand blogging and therefore will take them awhile to make the case…

  9. Yes James, and to make it worse, in this case you may even have to deal with extradition since I believe that we’ll find this person is not on American soil.

  10. Just a quick note to respond to your concern that I closed my comments. I did so in order to continue my communication with others who are directly involved in privacy. I am not sure how much I owe “the community” in terms of exposing both my own and others personal anguish and the desire to heal wounds. Also, I had started to get the kinds of comments that do more harm than good.

    While I understand your desire as a chronicler of these events to stay up to the moment with anything meaningful that is being said in public, the immediacy of the feedback loop on the web does not always serve the best interests of the community or of those who have been hurt.

    I hope in a week or two a meaningful picture emerges with offenders and offended finding truth, reconciliation and forgiveness.

  11. Thanks for the comment Frank. I had assumed that was the case. My only comment to that and question I suppose would be whether you feel the closing of your comments due to hurtful comments is somewhat of a hypocritical situation here? Moderation of comments does not seem to be the norm given the nature of the sites and the comments that were being produced.

  12. Jon Husband says:

    As I said to Jim Turner in an email exchange, I do not find the title of this blog post to be a helpful addition to the discussion raging on some blogs. It adds fuel to a fire that is perhaps burning more than it should.

    This is far from the first time hateful things have been said on blogs or in blog comments, and it is as much wrong to indict people without proof as it is to deliver threats via posting or links.

  13. I will stand again by my post title Jon as it really does describe what has happened. The “A-List” if it really is that, has imploded on itself, and it is now calling for blacklisting and McCarthyism. I do think that is wrong, but it does go to show what can happen.

  14. Jon Husband says:

    I initially interpreted the blog post title as sending the suggested perps to the blacklist, and as you state there has been no small amount of that dynamic floating around.

    But if you are speaking out against blacklisting without proof and link-driven McCarthyism, then I understand better now.

  15. I agree Jon, after stepping back I now understand why my wife looks at me with that look sometimes of “what the hell are you talking about?”

  16. FWIW – You immediately assumed guilt on the part of everyone Kathy mentioned (Chris Locke, Frank Paynter, Jeneane Sessum, and Allen Herrel) and one has to read quite far down to see the story unfold.

    Perhaps when you put together more of a summary of what happened at your feelings about it you could put a link to it in the top? I think you owe that to the people accused as much as they owed explanations to Kathy.

  17. I disagree Jonathan, I did not assume any guilt. My initial look was to go and find out their side of the story. I could not find a single person named had anything to say about the Sierra post. I did say my initial response was an emotional one and I wanted to stay objective and that it was hard to remain objective. I tried to make that apparent throughout. Am I still pissed. Yes. My head has cleared somewhat from my initial reaction. I am right now working on my own summary and opinion based on what I have learned and upon what I have seen, read, and surmised from what is available. It’s taking longer than I thought because I want to make sure I am not missing something. I do appreciate your comment.

  18. I’m not seeing any assumption of guilt here; the hypotheticals and suppositions are clarified and identified as such. And the call for the owners of those names involved to come forward and simply state their innocence if they in fact did not make those posts can only help to add clarity to a murky situation. A statement from those people that the remarks that purport to be from them are not, and that they reject those remarks as heinous, would go a long way towards restoring reputations.

    Failing to make any comment on the nature of the remarks is, as Voltaire says, a kind of statement in and of itself; that is an assumption on MY part, reading over the story on many pages; it’s not an assumption that Jim has put in his post.

  19. This isn’t an assumption of guilt?
    “After a good look around, I found no responses from any of these bloggers. I can only assume that this means they are in custody and being questioned for their involvement in something so heinous.”


    I’ll agree that the meankids site was cheap and mean-spirited – it was also boring and insular, which is why I stopped looking at it after the first couple days. But the Kathy death threats appear to be a matter of identity theft and trolling:

    Dogpiling the principles is only making a bad situation worse and the people you and Kathy have called out have explained themselves. But once Kathy involved the police anyone with sense would talk to a lawyer before making ANY public statements. Jeneane is the only one of the people called out who I really know, but she has been as much a victim as Kathy – the difference being she has almost no one looking at HER side of things.

  20. Indeed, it is not an assumption of guilt; it is an assumption that they are being investigated to determine guilt. And an attempt to bait them into making a response. Surely as Jeneane’s friend you want an investigation so that it can clear her of the charges once and for all?

  21. Anyone who knows anything about the law knows that when legal and police actions are threatened, you’re better off keeping your mouth closed. But the mob of blog justice interpretted that silence as a tacit admission of guilt. FWIW – at this point all of the principles have now answered Kathy and she has not responded in kind.

    SHE has not answered Chris Locke’s statement (ie. that he took down meankids because of the abuse when she told him about it, and THEN took down unclebobism for the same reason).

    Unless Chris is lying, I’m at a loss why Kathy would have done what she did. As I said in a different post comments – I’d be interested in seeing a timeline of known facts instead of assumptions and assertions.

    I’m sure that’s what the police would be looking for as well.

  22. Jonathan: that is ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. Any good lawyer will teach you how to work in both the real world and PR spaces as well as the legal spaces and I’ve never had a lawyer say “shut up.” Of course, I’ve never been guilty either of something criminal that I was being accused of.

    Truth does stand up. If you’re getting attacked and you are truly innocent then saying “I am innocent” won’t get you into legal trouble. That said, I’d see a lawyer. I’m not a lawyer. I am NOT giving legal advice here. Go see a lawyer, etc., if you’re ever in a similar situation.

    But, all this means is that these people didn’t have good enough legal representation, or good enough PR skills or representation, or both.

    They have all been in contact with me and my wife and have apologized and explained what happened and that they didn’t write the attacks on Maryam and I accept all their apologies.

    At best, though, they did create a site that was designed to attack and injure. They might have thought it was fun (bullies always do) but a site named “meankids” is pretty clear in what its intent was: be mean to other people. At worst, by leaving the site open to anonymous posters, they could be complicit in its postings (a Web site/blog isn’t quite the same thing as a forum and might be judged under a different legal standard. Forums have a fairly loose legal standard if they aren’t moderated/edited but blogs, because there’s usually only one, or a small group of posters, are usually held to a higher standard for stuff like libel/slander. At least that’s what my legal friends tell me they’d be prepared for).

    The fact that meankids blew up once and then was reopened AGAIN (meankids was deleted by Frank Paynter after an anonymous person, Joey, posted some really vile things about my wife. Then Chris Locke opened up a second site, where the same shit happened again. That should have been a cautionary tale to those involved that they were creating a monster that was going to go out of control).

    Taking it down was the right thing to do, but from what the four told me it was Frank Paynter who took the site down, not Chris Locke.

    The potentially criminal (and reprehensible) posts, though, was NOT done by Chris/Frank/Jeaneane/Allen. That is VERY clear to me now.

    Why did Kathy do what she did? You can listen to an audio interview with her here:

    It’s pretty clear from listening to her that she’s still hurt and scared and that she’s seeing even worse attacks now than she did before she posted.

    The stuff I’ve seen in her comment area just makes me ill and someone has found her address and social security number and has been posting that on various forums and comment areas.

  23. Robert – you’re right about the lawyer. The point I was trying to make is that THIS post – and many others assumed that silence equated to guilt.

    I assume the silence indicated that a bunch of people were burning up the phone lines and emails trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and possibly figure out if they needed to get in touch with a lawyer.

    The mob decided quickly where the guilt lay and I’ll bet you a month’s salary that 20% of the people who were outraged enough about this to blog about it when Kathy’s story took off will never update the story to point to Kathy and Chris’ joint statement.

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