Kathy Sierra

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Kathy Sierra
Kathy Sierra 1a.jpg
Sierra speaking at eTech in 2008
Born 1957 (age 59–60)
Alma mater Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UCLA
Occupation Programming instructor, game developer

Kathy Sierra (born 1957) is an American programming instructor and game developer.[1][2]

Education and career[edit]

Sierra attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a major in exercise physiology and spent 10 years working in the fitness industry. She changed careers after attending programming classes at UCLA, later returning to teach a course on "new media interactivity" for UCLA Extension. She also led the new media team at Mind over Macintosh, a Los Angeles training center that provided training to advertising and entertainment corporations adapting digital technologies in the mid 1990s. She was the lead programmer on the computer games Terratopia, a 1998 children's adventure game released by Virgin Sound & Vision, and All Dogs Go to Heaven, a film-based game released as a free cereal premium by MGM. She also worked as a master trainer for Sun Microsystems, teaching Java instructors how to introduce new Java technologies and developing certification exams. In 1998, she founded the Java programmer's online community JavaRanch.

She is the co-creator of the Head First series of books on technical (primarily computer) topics, along with her partner, Bert Bates. The series, which began with Head First Java in 2003, takes an unorthodox, visually intensive approach to the process of teaching programming. Sierra's books in the series have received three nominations for Product Excellence Jolt Awards, winning in 2005 for Head First Design Patterns, and were recognized on Amazon.com's yearly top 10 list for computer books from 2003 to 2005. In 2005 she coined the phrase "The Kool-Aid Point" to describe the point at which detractors emerge purely due to the popularity of a topic being promoted by others.[3]

Sierra says that her interest in cognitive science was motivated by her epilepsy, a condition for which she takes anti-seizure medication. "My interest in the brain began when I had my first grand mal seizure at the age of four," she wrote on her personal weblog.[4]

After years of being mostly absent from the open internet, in July 2013 she started the site "Serious Pony" including a blog,[5] together with a Twitter account, although as of October 2014 the latter had been deleted due to ongoing harassment.[6]


In March 2007, Sierra abruptly canceled her appearance at the O'Reilly ETech conference in San Diego due to threatening blog posts and emails, including death threats.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13] One blog post included an image of Sierra next to a noose. She wrote: "I have cancelled all speaking engagements. I am afraid to leave my yard, I will never feel the same. I will never be the same."[7] The harassment increased after the threats were reported in the news: a false account of her career was posted online with her address and Social Security number, possibly by hacker Andrew Auernheimer.[12] Auernheimer has denied this charge.[14]

The issue triggered public discussion on the concept of a bloggers' code of conduct. Some bloggers, including Robert Scoble, author of the technology blog Scobleizer, temporarily suspended their blogs in a show of support for Sierra.[7] One of the larger issues Scoble felt was highlighted by the incident was online hostility to women: "It's this culture of attacking women that has especially got to stop," Scoble said "[W]henever I post a video of a female technologist there invariably are snide remarks about body parts and other things that simply wouldn't happen if the interviewee were a man."[7]


  • Mike Meyers' Java 2 Certification Passport (McGraw-Hill Osborne, 2001) ISBN 0-07-219366-2
  • Sun Certified Programmer & Developer for Java 2 Study Guide (McGraw-Hill Osborne, 2002) ISBN 0-07-222684-6
  • Head First EJB (O'Reilly Publishing, 2003) ISBN 0-596-00571-7
  • Head First Servlets and JSP (O'Reilly Publishing, 2004) ISBN 0-596-00540-7
  • Head First Design Patterns (O'Reilly Publishing, 2004) ISBN 0-596-00712-4
  • SCJP Sun Certified Programmer for Java 5 Study Guide (McGraw-Hill Osborne, 2005) ISBN 0-07-225360-6
  • Head First Java (O'Reilly Publishing, 2005) ISBN 0-596-00920-8
  • OCP Java SE 6 Programmer Practice Exams (Exam 310-065) (McGraw-Hill Osborne, 2010) ISBN 0-07-226088-2
  • OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide (Exams 1Z0-803 & 1Z0-804) McGraw-Hill 2014
  • Badass: Making Users Awesome (O'Reilly Media, 2015) ISBN 1491919019


  1. ^ Edwards-Onoro, Deborah. "Fluent Conference: Kathy Sierra on Developers and Cognitive Resources". Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Walker, Alissa. "Kathy Sierra's Guide To Making Breakthroughs Happen". Fast Company. Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Sierra, Kathy. "The Kool-Aid Point". Wired. 
  4. ^ Kathy Sierra (2005-04-11). "Who's in charge--you or your brain?". Creating Passionate Users. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  5. ^ Sierra, Kathy. "Serious Pony". Retrieved 10 October 2014. You may know me from javaranch, the Head First books, or my old blog from a previous life, Creating Passionate Users, which I ended in 2007. This new blog is mostly about the science of badass, with a little UX, learning theory, game design, DSLR video, horses, and code. 
  6. ^ Sierra, Kathy (7 October 2014). "Trouble at the Koolaid Point". seriouspony.com. Retrieved 8 October 2014. I didn’t “rage quit”, I just walked away. I shut off a big cognitive resource leak. From the beginning of my time tweeting as Seriouspony, that I tweeted I was not likely to stay and that I was looking forward to where we would end up next. I’m not GONE gone. I’m just not on Twitter. But I have to add I'm not surprised to see my leaving Twitter framed as, once again, an example of someone who "just shouldn't be on the internet". Because nothing says "unbalanced" like having the freedom to walk away from a social media network. Because you can. Because you have a choice. Because you have the most beautiful and awesome ponies on the planet. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Blog death threats spark debate", BBC News, March 27, 2007.
  8. ^ Wagner, Mitch (2007-03-26). "Death Threats Force Designer To Cancel ETech Conference Appearance". Information Week. Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  9. ^ Havenstein, Heather (2007-03-27). "Death Threats Force Blogger to Sidelines". Computerworld. 
  10. ^ Tweney, Dylan (2007-04-16). "Kathy Sierra Case: Few Clues, Little Evidence, Much Controversy". Wired. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  11. ^ Finkelstein, Seth (2007-04-19). "Accusations of sex and violence were bound to grab the headlines". Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  12. ^ a b Schwartz, Mattathias (2008-08-03). "The Trolls Among Us". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  13. ^ Kathy Sierra; Christopher Locke. "Coordinated Statements on the Recent Events". Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  14. ^ Andrew Auernheimer (2014-10-09). "Comment on "Women in tech", doxing, Kathy Sierra, and the koolaid.". Archived from the original on October 12, 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-11. 

External links[edit]