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My Favorite Graphs... and the future

Outinspire

This blog has always been about optimism, creating better user experiences, helping users spend more time in flow, and learning. There are 405 posts here. More importantly, there are nearly 10,000 comments from y'all that add so much more to the topics, and from which myself and others have learned a great deal. I don't want the last thing people remember about this blog to be The Bad Things.

So, I've moved my original "threats" post--something many people find very difficult to look at-- to a different web page -- rather than keeping it as a post here. If you want to read the original content of the post (it lost some formatting), it's here.

But I want the thing people see when they come here now to reflect what this blog has always been about, so I'm including a few of my favorite pictures from the last two years here.

As for the future of this blog, I know I cannot just return to business as usual -- whatever absurd reasons have led to this much hatred for me (and for what I write here) will continue, so there is no reason to think the same things wouldn't happen again... and probably soon. That includes anything that raises (or maintains) my visibility, so I will not be doing speaking engagements--especially at public events. (And of course it's not just me, it's anyone with a lot of visibility. Think: Scoble. He can take it, I can't.)

I made no money from this blog -- it was always a labor of love. Contrary to what the critics have been saying, I was never on the "paid" speaking circuit, never used it to gain "lucrative consulting contracts" (or even a single contract). I don't have Amazon affiliate links... this blog was because I love helping and teaching and learning from readers.

That leaves me with... what to do next?

I have a few ideas, but I'm now asking for any suggestions OTHER than simply returning to this blog and doing what I was doing before. These are just some wild possibilities that many of you have come up with and sent me emails about. Some are more reasonable or appealing to me than others. I'd love to hear more ideas, plus thoughts on the ones listed below.

1) Get a real job doing this, so that I can continue with the same kind of work, but without raising my own visibility. In other words, it would be for a company and the focus would be off of me.

2) "Ghost write" for someone or something else. I got myself into the Technorati Top 50, I could help someone else (if it's for the right reasons) raise their readership.

3) Create a fake persona and write as that fake person. Unfortunately, almost everything I do has a look and style, and I don't think the quality of my writing is suddenly going to improve, so it would be pretty obvious that it was me. Still... a rape fantasy about a fake person who lives thousands of miles from where I do would not effect me as deeply or as personally as when the dream/imagery is about the real me I don't like this idea as much because anonymity--NOT Owning Your Own Words--is one of the biggest contributors to the problems that have driven me and thousands of others off their blogs or other online communities.

4) Turn THIS blog into a real group blog... with a LOT of authors, and I would take more of an editorial role. That way, I represent only a small percentage and the hatred/anger/threats would be more distributed. Kind of a share-the-attacks approach ; ) More like 37 Signals, less like Scoble, where all personal attacks are directed at him instead of The Blog.


5) Right now, I couldn't pay anyone else so the blog would have to be sponsored to pay other authors. I would agree to sponsorship only if it was by someone/something I already love (Apple? Adobe? Google? Anyone interested?)

(And of course I'd also need authors, so if it looks like a group blog is the way to go, there will be a call for participants)

6) Make the blog private -- where only registered members can see it. That way, it would be much more difficult (and probably less fun) for others to attack it and/or me. It would simply be a private community. My visibility would drop dramatically, yet I'd still be able to write about the same topics. This idea is one of my favorites -- but at the same time it is much less user-friendly (you'd have to log-in, no public RSS feed, etc.) and that would be a really bad idea.

7) Do something else on the blog -- podcasts, video, e-books -- something other than the posts. This might not make any difference, though. But perhaps without the words and pictures... it could just make it worse since it would still be my voice (podcast) or worse, my FACE (video), although I've considered cutting videos that wouldn't have to show me at all.

8) ? ? ?

Please help. This will be the last post here quite some time, until I figure out what to do next. Please enjoy the pictures... most of them have been inspired by y'all.

(I will leave comments open, of course, but moderate with abandon. There will be nothing nasty or personal in this thread. Like I said, I want the last thing people see on this blog to reflect the spirit of this blog and its readers.]

Beginnings

Buythis


Caring


Dumbgroups2


Glibwin


Zombiefunction


Userhierarchyofneeds


Kickasscurvetwo


Riskaversion2


Incremental1


Featuritis

Posted by Kathy on April 6, 2007 | Permalink

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Comments

1. If I had money and ran a company, I'd hire you to come in and give me suggestions. Alas.

2. In doing this blog and thinking about this stuff, have you ever had any ideas for what kinds of tools (software, that is) that people could use to do things like share creative ideas in groups, create customer community, etc. etc.?

2.5. What about a tool that makes it easy to quickly set up cool visual communication graphics like you often do?

3. Write another book?

4. Create an email newsletter? It's so last-century, it's possible that only us folks who are interested in your great ideas will care.


=> Anyway, please make an occasional post here keeping us up to date on new ventures.

Posted by: Reed Hedges | Apr 6, 2007 1:11:01 PM

Way to go, Kathy! Good to see you back, glad the bullies didn't win (because they usually want to silence people).

You wrote the following idea: "Turn THIS blog into a real group blog... with a LOT of authors, and I would take more of an editorial role."

Actually, I'm doing exactly that with Contentious right now, which I'm relaunching this weekend. We should talk about that. Maybe we could help each other.

- Amy Gahran

Posted by: Amy Gahran | Apr 6, 2007 1:21:27 PM

Use your passion and geek expertise to liberate the latent creativity that resides in readers, something that works better than the linear, sequential and fast fading stream of comments (yeah, this is recursive). Comments are writing, but lets have something not as we know it. Writing in this box just feel a little klunky, there must be a better way, make a better blog :)

Something that talks not just to the brain (I luv that, tks!), but connects with the deeper feelings (gut-feelings and heart-felt courage).

PS. we LOVE to hear from you too!

Posted by: ken | Apr 6, 2007 1:29:00 PM

Is there a way use some sort of third party forum moderation to cut through this problem? Then you could go on in whatever way you are comfortable, your forums could coninue to buzz and anyone that's up to no good would hit a brick wall (or get a call from their local authorities, as appropriate). It's just a thought.

Posted by: Tim Costello | Apr 6, 2007 1:36:49 PM

I hate to see us lose your input but I wonder if simply publishing articles with no comments enabled and having a members-only forum wouldn't be a good compromise. There's something about the immediacy of the response form and the lack of accountability available from anonymity (oh, hypocritical me) that seems to encourage people's awfulness.

That aside, I think that a multiple-contributor blog would give you support and provide some other perspectives. You could combine this with your ideas on coaching/ghostwriting and work with 'intern' contributors to hone their skills, see their work supplying your site, and give them the tools they need to take your philosophies and understanding out on their own tangents. It might give you a regular supply of fresh, new writers and keep things going while allowing you to step back a little. (If you did go with the intern idea, drop me a line, will you? *g*)

Whatever you do, I wish you luck and peace. I'm so sorry this has all been so hard on you.

Posted by: Ande | Apr 6, 2007 1:44:21 PM

Honestly said, I don't think you can do anything to fend off the attacks. I don't think you got attacked because of something you did, but because lots of people admire you and your work. That's apparently enough for some people to hate you. Only by unpassionating your readers, can you hope to actually stop the haters. I hope you will reject that option.

I do think that by working in a team, it will make it easier for you. The passion moves away from you and to the team of writers, the hate will move with it. Being a part of a groupblog would be a good solution.

One condition would be that the groupblog would adopt your style. Similar to how the headfirst books have the same style but different writers. If you join the 37signals blog where you put up highly visual articles, in a see of more textual posts, you will still stand out.

Posted by: Jan | Apr 6, 2007 1:48:32 PM

I hate the fact that they have stopped you from blogging as you have been... This has been one of the few blogs where I read every post.

Ok.. with that said...

1) Make this a private blog... kinda. What I mean is that you could insist on registration for comments and disallow email addresses from Yahoo, Hotmail, etc that can't be tied to a person. If that doesn't provide enough comfort to you I'd vote for one of the next 2.

2) Make this a private blog... I'd signup in a heartbeat. Of your options above, this is my fave (aside from simply seeing you continue to blog of course)

3) same content, in an email newsletter. I don't like this as much since a) it's email and b) I think it will be more work for you to make the email look like your posts do, and the visual aspect is important, at least to me.

Posted by: rick gregory | Apr 6, 2007 1:49:27 PM

I suggest having a wiki/blog. That can be community enforced and can be controled from a single pc. I suggest you buy a crappy pc that costs £150 because it sucks, and install a programme called moin moin on it. That allows you to run a wiki from a pc. Then just get a DNS address for your IP address (at first it will be an ip address). Voila, total community policing.

Oh and to those bullies who abused you, i am a staunch believer in karma, therfore, well... you get the picture.

Keep up the good work, Love the blog.

Matthew Hughes

Posted by: Matthew Hughes | Apr 6, 2007 1:53:34 PM

Could also do your (wonderful) thing around the blogosphere for a while (just not always here). Keep the juices flowing, continue to help people, foster even greater community growth, and not be an (ugh) static single target.

I think greater interaction among groups would result (mix up the tech bloggers and the marketers and the VCs and the usability people and, hell, even the sex bloggers) ;) and really spark some awesome conversations.

It would also make it a lot harder for bullying to take place, since anyone stupid enough to try it would be taking on a potentially even bigger community, as well as whoever happened to be hosting you. (Anyone who did host would have your back 100% and be able to manage comment moderation and such so you'd never even have to see the garbage.)

It'd be kinda like the group blog idea, but with more of a "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" vibe. And who didn't love playing that? :)

Oodles of bloggers great and small would give a #1 Technorati rank (or insert personal thing of inestimable value here) to be able to host Kathy Sierra as a guest blogger. (Myself included.)

In any case, whichever path you choose, you have our full collective support.

Posted by: Melle | Apr 6, 2007 1:55:05 PM

Nice to see you back, Kathy.

It makes sense about not continuing with "business as usual" — I couldn't do it, either. But I can't see ghost writing as being satisfiying for someone with as strong a voice as yours. Being an evangelist for the likes of Apple or Adobe might be cool, but would that let you continue with the stream of consciousness riffs that have obviously been satifsying for you — and been so energizing for us, your readers? Don't know.

Maybe the private blog is the way to go, though I suspect you'd need some time to get revved up for that. The pod/video angle sounds great, but that raises a lot of other questions. And it loses the immediacy that you enjoyed so long, which is one of the most unfortunate losses in all this.

Meanwhile, did you ever finish that video project, or did all this erupt while you were mid-stream?

Regards,
J.

Posted by: John Windsor | Apr 6, 2007 2:00:39 PM

I like the idea of a private blog if getting the RSS and reading posts was as simple as public. If there are too many hoops just to get notice of and read a single post it will get frustrating.

I also really enjoy the idea of a group blog mostly because I've always been a fan of group blogs a la 37signals. It's a different take on things that I tend to enjoy, getting to see different opinions, group dynamics, etc.

Having said all of that, I wonder if Ande's idea isn't the best (regardless of what format you choose to go with for the blog). If it was still public with no comments, but you cross-posted entries in a private forum, you could allow people to respond and discuss in a controlled/private environment, but still keep the blog itself public. I'm not sure how much extra work that would be for you, but if it was negligible I would say that's the best option for running your site the way you have and seem to love, but keeping the riffraff at bay.

Posted by: Rachel | Apr 6, 2007 2:04:06 PM

Kathy,
It sucks that you're really not going to be continuing this blog, but I understand that you've gotta do what you've gotta do. I personally would never, ever stop anything I do out of fear from threats or comments, but that's just me and I respect your decision and wish you the best of luck in whatever comes next for you.

Anyway, enough of the past...here are my suggestions for the future. Your blog has been a favorite of mine since the first day I came across it. I think two ways you could continue to offer such great articles would be to either publish an email newsletter or publish your blog with comments turned off. I know that comments can still be made about you elsewhere, but you just have to avoid the negative places like that.
No matter what you choose to do from this point on, I'm thankful for what you've given me and the rest of your readers on this blog. You rock!! Best of luck!!

Posted by: Mike | Apr 6, 2007 2:05:50 PM

Kathy,

I suggest you go back to the CPU book project while you think about next steps. And when that's done I'd be happy to put up with the hassle of a private blog.

Mike

Posted by: Mike | Apr 6, 2007 2:09:47 PM

Kathy, the content you have graciously shared with us every once in a while is both inspiring and entertaining. And a blog is the perfect medium for this. A lot of the content is about your style and creative personality. Thus, I would rule out the community-based ideas. I would probably only read your stuff anyway.

I see two basic options for you: Reduce visibility and do something completely different, or stay visible and continue publishing your own stuff under your own name. All the options you cite can be assigned to one of these two categories. I dearly hope you go with the second option, even though I would totally understand if you decide otherwise.

Posted by: Armin | Apr 6, 2007 2:10:04 PM

Something about this reminds me of a great post I once read called "Be brave or go home"...

"Creating passionate users is NOT about finding ways to make everyone like you. It's about finding ways to use your own passion to inspire passion in others, and anything with that much power is bound to piss off plenty of status-quo/who-moved-my-cheese people. Bring it on."

I would hate to see this blog disappear because of the people who stoop to the level of personal attacks. However, I think if something has to change, then I would prefer that you make this blog private. As Rick Gregory said, I would also sign up in a heartbeat. You have a lot of passionate users (readers) here and I hope that somehow we can all help you beat the bad guys.

Posted by: Natasha | Apr 6, 2007 2:10:39 PM

Kathy, thanks for keeping all of us updated. I don't have any additional suggestions-- though I think several of those you listed sound like wonderful options. Please keep us posted on your decision; I would like to continue learning from your wise and excellent insight.

(By the way, I'm a big, 6'5", 300-pound stock of bulk and intimidation, and would gladly stand by your side to ward off the nasties of the opportunity arose. Just FYI.)

Posted by: Ed Eubanks Jr. | Apr 6, 2007 2:11:47 PM

In the private blog idea, it is possible to have private RSS feeds. A popular idea is to have the authentication in the URL. Instead of one single RSS URL used by everyone, each member has their own RSS URL, that contains a unique alphanumeric string used for authentication. For example, instead of the RSS being /atom.xml, it would be /atom.xml?reallylonguniquestringthatisimpossibletoguess, and the server would return the feed only if the string matches a member. 37signals and others do this. So, it is not such a bad idea. It just may require some custom code (but some blog platforms may already have private feeds).

Posted by: James | Apr 6, 2007 2:22:56 PM

Welcome back Kathy!!!!!

Posted by: Colin Henderson | Apr 6, 2007 2:22:59 PM

I view several blogs a day, but the first ones I always read were Seth Godin's, David Armano's, Techcrunch and yours.

I would look at a blog without comments. I understand people want to interact, but it's worked for Seth and it should for you too.

If you go private, I'm willing to even pay a small subscription fee for it.

Thanks for the inspiration. I'm sorry for the turmoil this ordeal has caused to you and your family.

(BTW, I'm not as big as Eubanks, but I grew up in NYC during the 60s-80s. I wouldn't mind joining him as part of the crew.)

Posted by: Ed | Apr 6, 2007 2:24:32 PM

I needed a little refresher at "You are a marketer. Deal with it." and read the news, your statement, and a bunch of related articles/posts. I was deeply disturbed, but I also realized that you know who you are and you will rediscover your flow. Whatever those choices are, we will understand, support, and love you for it.

Posted by: Mike Harmanos | Apr 6, 2007 2:25:11 PM

Hello Kathy;
I think that you'd probably do well in a consulting role where you are helping companies who want to improve in the area of creating passionate users (products and websites). Your knowledge of the field is shown well by your blogging, and maybe getting out in front of people will give you more of a reason to stay passionate about this subject area (if not the blog itself).

I do hesitate to run with the other commenters that say you should monetize this, but you should make it at least a part-time passion where you are getting to stretch out on the things you write about, and then allow experiences to craft other posts.

Thanks for what you have given thus far. I'll be continuing to keep you in my prayers.

Posted by: Antoine of MMM | Apr 6, 2007 2:27:33 PM

A book would be great that explains all this "learning theory stuff" and how to make it work in real life -- in a non-scientific Passionate User kind of fun way. I'd buy that in a second.

Anything that keeps you blogging on this topic would be great of course, whether that means joining another blog like 37signals or going semi-private. Anonymous won't work, because if it's your writing people will know.

It would be sad to see you and with that your knowledge disappear. I hope that in time you'll be back better than ever.

Thanks for all your fantastic work so far.

-- K

Posted by: Karsten | Apr 6, 2007 2:33:18 PM

Good stuff.

But, the pictures all link to... the pictures. Could you link them to the posting they first appeared in? It would be great to click through to these older articles.

I don't remember reading Where To Start, for example.

Thanks!

Posted by: Yo | Apr 6, 2007 2:34:07 PM

Don't give up, Kathy - you have some of the best content out there.

As it is already, I don't like when others post here...I wish the blog was just yours. I say take a small break, come back and see if things have improved at all. I'll leave your feed in my reader where it will wait patiently for an update.

Posted by: Jeff L | Apr 6, 2007 2:35:36 PM

Thanks for coming back to update us all on this. I've been following your blog for some time now through RSS and have found your posts insightful - and the graphics interesting and fun. Your death threat incident and everything that has happened following has both my wife and I closely watching and waiting for your reactions. My wife has been blogging for some time now as well and has started receiving extremely negative troll-type comments and has decided to moderate with a heavier hand. She does this reluctantly as she is afraid it will quash some desire to comment openly.

Whichever road you choose to go down next, I hope we can continue to read what you have to say. Thanks again Kathy!

Posted by: Rob Brewer | Apr 6, 2007 2:37:52 PM

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