2009-06-20 13:42:26 | Blog
A friend of mine died today. There are some of us who still use irc as a place to hang out. Fifteen years ago, quite a few of the old veterans from usenet and the legendary channel #norge on irc gathered on an irc channel which was an invite channel only. Among them was Erik Naggum.
It was very unusual that Erik would quiet for long periods of time in our channel. Therefore I started thinking a couple of days ago that I should try to get in touch with him via other means. However, time flies and last night I realised I hadn't chatted with him in seven days. After sending him an sms without receiving a reply, I expressed my concern in the channel Another member of the channel then got in touch with his parents, and this morning we received the sad news that he had been found dead in his bed.
Erik is…I'm sorry, this is going to take some time getting used to.. was probably one of the biggest usenet celebrities. Among the people who didn't exactly appreciate him, he was known as the person who would eat newbies alive, and make them wish they had never even pressed the Submit-button on their newsreader. Truth be told, there were times I think Erik was out of line in his flames, but they were darn funny to read. If you weren't on the receiving end of the firestorm, mind you…
If you engaged in a debate with him, he would make you sweat and work hard on your replies. He was especially good at making you question your own conclusions and why you believed that the truths you cling on to really were true. Erik felt that a lot of people couldn't cope with that, and according to him they often replied with personal attacks claiming Erik had made them feel bad and had hurt their feelings.
However, if you're reply was backed with well formed arguments and showed that you actually had a clue about what you were talking about, discussing with Erik was enormously fun and not least, educational.
I've learned a lot from Erik. He was a very intelligent and smart man, who in some regards maybe lacked some people skills. He was our irc-channels very own Dr. House. And I mean that in a very loving way, and I think he actually would take that as a compliment.
If you actually took time to read his writings, you could see that he was very knowledgeable. Sure, he could sometimes have benefited from an editor who could tell him that he should kill his darlings, but is articles were always intelligent, witty, insightful and interesting. I think a shining example is this article where he patiently answers the question on why he really loathed XML. He was, in his own words, an infoholic. He read an unbelievable amount of articles, books and newspapers every week.
I've known Erik for fifteen years. In the beginning I thought of him as a one of those Mr-know-it-alls you ran across on usenet. After I matured, not least intellectually, I realised how wrong I had been. Around ten years ago we started to chat a lot via private messages, and seven years go we had developed a good friendship, which really helped me four years ago when my family broke up.
I've learned a lot from talking to Erik. It's no exaggeration that he during these years really changed the way I look at the world. He really appreciated it when I told him this, and he replied that he liked the fact that I didn't take everything he said for granted. That meant he too had to work hard to question his own beliefs. He often asked for my opinions on articles, before he published them, and I did the same vice versa. He would first dig in to all my grammatical mistakes, of course, something I never could call him on. His grasp of English and Norwegian was fantastic.
In all these years I've only met him in person five times. One of them was the very final time he went out for a beer with the rest of the irc channel. The last time was only a month ago, on the very same day I attended the Jean Michel Jarre concert. He was visibly very ill with back pains, which he had been struggling with for the past six months. This came on top of his ulcerative colitis, which he was diagnosed with twelve years ago. He never complained much, and even when I was visiting him he was more interested in talking about Mathematical books, his gun hobby and the articles he wanted to share with me.
I will miss him very, very much. I will miss our talks, I will miss everything I was supposed to learn from him in the future, I will miss his generosity for sharing information and files, I will miss the gratitude he displayed when one did the same in return and I will really, really miss his puns.
And as for his humour and great wit? Well, you can always go back and read his quotes. Or you can check out what he meant for quite a few people out there.
Rest in peace, Erik.