Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Technorati's Tracy Williams is alive and safe in a local hospital (facebook.com)
184 points by wijnglas on Nov 7, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

I haven't been able to read this status update (it keeps timing out for some reason), so I'm just going off the title here. *

The downside of these hugely public, and permanent, appeals for information on someone is that everyone will want to know every detail of what happened, will discuss it, and dissect it publicly.

Imagine a situation where someone in our technology community quietly embarks on a suicide plan, as many people do every day. Once the word has gone out and a public search starts, there is an enormous pressure to go through with it successfully. Knowing that you're going to step back into a shitstorm of thousands of people asking what's happened. Which is going to encircle your name for a long time, if not forever.

I'm not saying there's anything to learn from this - it's just something to consider. I am in no way questioning the judgement of friends raising the alarm. It's just that strangers will feel, rightly or wrongly, that having read, and perhaps spread, an appeal that they are entitled to know the details of the outcome.

* I have absolutely no idea what's happened in this case.

The headline says it all. Both the Facebook page and the website offer no additional information. I'm glad she's safe.

Or if she fell victim to a crime - sadly more likely for a woman gone lost in a bar.

Or was in a car accident. Or had a heart attack. Or any number of other possible events which would result in someone being unconscious and treated at a hospital.

You are right. I do find myself wondering, even though it's none of my business, and suspecting the "worst" about a woman I don't know.

Hopefully, she just went on a bender, had a absolute blast, but it got a little out of control- perhaps resulting in dehydration or something else without too much social stigma.

> Hopefully, she just went on a bender, had a absolute blast, but it got a little out of control- perhaps resulting in dehydration or something else without too much social stigma.

As long as we're using the absence of details as a springboard for wild speculation, we should also consider the possibility that she was kidnapped by a pack of wild monkeys.

Who do you think is speculating? Hint: try reading in context. It works better.

A friend posted a suicide alert as a joke on Facebook a couple weeks ago and two days later the police came knocking. They ended up keeping him in hospital for two days "just in case". The only reason he was there was that someone doesn't get his humor and reported it even though most people knew he was fine.

edit: I guess it is worth noting that the misinterpreted public post and resulting hospital time was worse than whatever minor crisis than he was dealing with at the time. Fortunately no major medical bills (Canada) but he definitely lost a few contracts.

"We're never safe from people's kindness", says French comedian Jean-Marie Bigard...

Yet I suppose it's still a good thing in such cases that people care enough to do this ?

When it really becomes a problem is when the "kindness" is really misguided (religious nutjobs, etc.)

I'd say the attention span nowadays helps in cases like this one. People will carry on and nobody will know about her in the near future. Hopefully.

That's nice speculation, but not how suicide usually works. You commit suicide because you feel there's no one left who cares about you. The idea that there are thousands of people asking you what happened works somewhat counter to that.

Do you have a source for that?

Did the OP?

I don't really want to intrude on her life to ask just what happened---it's not any of my business---but I would like to know if, whatever did happen, the technorati/HN/FB/etc publicity helped find/save/help her.

From the Facebook comments:

Timothy Joseph: Thank God! I'm so happy to hear this! What a great company to have done this. I wonder if my employer would have done this for me.

That is an interesting question. If someone where I work (ClearChannel, owner of over 850 radio stations, and dozens of high-profile websites like RushLimbaugh.com and GlennBeck.com) went missing, I wonder what company resources would/could be used to aid in a search effort.

Thank God. I'm not used to stories like this having this kind of ending, so this is a welcome sigh of relief.

Seeing how her friends and coworkers cared enough to start a massive online campaign to help find her reminded me of the importance of making connections and having people in my life who are looking out for me.

God had nothing to do with it. Pretty sure of that

Not all missing people stories have a happy ending. I have a relative who's been missing since Sept. 16, last seen in Riddle, Oregon. More info at http://findmark.org. We recently realized that he had his iPad with him. If you have any ideas on how we could use it to find him, I'm all ears.

I assume you've already checked this, but just in case you haven't: is Find My iPad setup? If so, and if you can get access to his Apple account, then you can track it that way.

Sorry to hear that he is still missing. :(

Thats great to hear. A little surprised it took 3 days to find her in a hospital. Hope she is okay.

She may have only just checked in recently.

I wondered myself why it would take so long to find someone in a hospital -- that she checked herself in recently makes a lot of sense.

Not too surprising, really. Due to privacy laws, asking for information about a hospital patient these days is like asking the NRO for the source code to the latest spy satellite.

So what happened?

While lots of us are nosy enough to want to know, the answer is that it isn't any of our business. If she wants to say, she will... presumably after she gets out of the hospital.


[everybody attempts to help]


[everybody: YAY! Gald to hear it - what happened!]



Yeah screw that. People will feel less inclined to assist - because they feel that they are an excluded outsider. If you are not told the outcome/reason for the situation in the first place - you are then further removed from the person/situation in question. Thus, you will have less emotional tie with the situation. Without any emotional tie - you will not help situations like this in the future.

The call for help is highly emotional "Our friend, and trusted colleague, who is a great and nice person is missing" -- you feel compassion here, as you would hate togo missing yourself - and you know how great you are as a person. So, you'll assist in this case through empathy.

Take that empathy away, and it gets worse for everyone.

First, I don't work for Technorati. I didn't call for help but I'm glad the community responded.

Second, I have enough empathy and imagination to think about how she might be feeling... and in none of the circumstances I can imagine does anyone owe you, random community member, anything more than the exact "Thank you! She's safe!" you mentioned above. I can get my empathy fix just fine from that.

My point was that this only will work for so long... you make calls to the community for help, people provide that help based on their empathy. If you take away any and all emotional payment for what you receive - people will be desensitized to such requests and will not respond.

Classic "boy who called wolf" syndrome

When someone asks for help, you either give it, or you don't. Your aid ought not be contingent on what you get out of it.

It shouldn't be. But it is. People want to get "paid" in information.

It doesn't help that the requests for help were made to sites like HN where the demographics of those sites tend to consist of information-curious people.

Yes. And empathetic yet rational beings can then remind themselves that they have no right and no need to have the information, and can quietly let it pass.

Of course. But they still want it.

A nice person would ask, but not press the point. A rare person would not even ask. And some will demand to know.

Some won't ask. We can't control the world, but we can influence this community. And I think it would be nice if people here chose to be empathetic and rational human beings.

No, that's just you.

You believe in a world governed by profit and financial transactions.

The real world is not like that.

Once invited to join a tribe by requesting assistance for someone, others who have joined that tribe by becoming concerned and investing time into worry and concern are not expecting to be paid, they are merely wanting to know what happened to the person they have been ASKED to care about.

It is exceptionally cynical and economically oriented to cast requested concern for a fellow human into something it is not.

You are taking the word "paid" over-literally. I put it in quotes for a reason.

"wanting to know" without also having the ability to help and without the other party appreciating your concern (i.e. it's not a personal communication) is not "concern for a fellow human" - it's curiosity. There isn't anything wrong with that, but don't make it out to be nobler than it is.

An observation.

You are ascribing nefarious intent to people motivated by concern and empathy for the welfare of a fellow human being, whom they were specifically requested to care about.

I find such projection malicious in itself and unwarranted.

I hadn't thought of that, but I think you have a valid point. I remember being asked to help save a dehydrated kitten. From that point, being asked, forward, I was committed to concern for the kitten's welfare.

It is human nature that once you ask for help you are asking others to be concerned. It is not reasonable then to not expect others to continue to be emotionally invested and concerned.

This is somewhat poorly stated, but a valid point. I'd phrase it as someone is being asked to behave as if someone were a personal friend, then asked to instantly stop behaving as if a personal friend. That's jarring.

If you are on HN and work at or with said hospital, stay off these threads. Even an inadvertent indirect information slip could be enough to get you fired under HIPAA and other similar statues.

It's probably better not to ask...

Its a nice story - when people don't show up for work I think the usual attitude of the employer is to do nothing but blame the employee and penalise them to the maximum extent possible. This is less true in the privileged roles most web people have - but lets say you are 90% of the population who work in manufacturing, service industries etc...

Just saying.

Have any of these all points bulletins for a missing person ever worked? I'm not trying to be a smart ass, just curious if this method has been affective in the past.

The official ones seem pretty ineffective. A child went missing 300miles from here a month ago, the freeway signs were all announcing an amber alert. But the first thing the police in the next state - less than 10miles from his home - knew about it was when it reached the national news, apparently only federal crimes require contacting neighboring forces.

So glad to hear this news.

All this banter reminds me of... .../missy.html

glad she's safe

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact