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Erik Naggum

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.


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RIP Erik Naggum. You were a very knowledgeable and interesting man. I only knew you from the Usenet, but even though I thought your flames could be over the top, and on occasion was on the receiving end of them myself, I always respected you. May you be able to continue your confrontal-no-bullshit-no-holds-barred style wherever you have passed on to.

Posted by: Jarle Date: 2009-06-20 14:18:34

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I have known Erik since I first ventured on to the Internet back in the late 80s.

When discussing anything with Erik I knew that I had to sharpen my mind before replying or posting a followup to whatever he was writing. The really good thing I learned to appreciate when talking with Erik was that it forced me to ask my self WHY I had the opinions I had.

For the last 15 years we did not had many public discussions on USENET, but where part of a close group of old "netcitizens". It was during this time I really learned to know Erik on a personal level.

You will be missed, old friend.

«If this is not what you expected, please alter your expectations.»

Posted by: Ruben Date: 2009-06-20 16:08:32

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A lovely tribute, Hogne. I am so happy I discovered the truth about Erik: That he was indeed just demanding that we all put some thought into our communication with each other, preferably our own thoughts. He really didn't like the herd mentality. I felt I could learn a lot from him, but discovered that too late. He will be missed.

Posted by: Keera Ann Fox Date: 2009-06-21 01:10:48

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Oh dear. He helped me learn Norwegian haha... huff. I was horrified to receive the news yesterday. We had discussed a bunch of things lately, and he had wanted to come to a meeting (that I was organizing) in June but couldn't for both financial and health reasons, and we were both all like "well, we can arrange something this fall..." *grrrr*

He was such an interesting person. He will definitely be missed.

Posted by: isfugl Date: 2009-06-21 02:36:08

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Nydelig og flott skrevet, Hogne. klem

Posted by: Eirin Date: 2009-06-21 10:53:14

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Yes, Erik was kind of intelligent - but not in a good way.

Life goes on!

Posted by: Paul Date: 2009-06-22 05:37:20

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Erik was a brilliant man, way ahead of his time, and unfortunately stuffed with demons. However his thoughts were almost always bulls eye, and if anyone claims they have nothing to learn from him and his ideas then they are either lying or they are (to use one of his expressions) morons...

I wrote something about him myself today at; http://ra-ajax.org/who-was-erik-naggum.blog - together with an encouragement of preserving his works. Like for instance why on earth doesn't this guy have his own WikiPedia article...?

Anyway, great write up, I think you nailed it. Though I'd focus more on his ideas, for two reasons. A he had many brilliant ideas, B he would have liked that his ideas survived his death and came to mature and possibly even manifest into this world...

Posted by: Thomas Hansen Date: 2009-06-22 09:24:45

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Oppdaget denne karen i går og klarer ikke legge meg til å sove. Denne karen var et filosofisk geni!

Posted by: Martin Date: 2009-06-22 20:23:23

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@Jarle: Erik could very easliy have a beer and a nice chat with people he had flamed earlier.
@Keera: Thanks. I'm glad you found that out about him.
@Isfugl: Yeah, we had planned to meet up again this fall. :(
@Eirin: Takk.
@Paul: Yeah, life goes on. And part of it is rememberance, contemplation and some time to grief. It's obvious you didn't know the Erik I did, even if I knew the Erik you're referring to.
@Thomas: Yeah, I know what you mean, but I wanted to focus on his friendship. There are several other memorials about him in various blogs that focus more on his work. I just read yours, and it was very good.
@Martin: Fortsett lesingen. :)

Posted by: Elf Date: 2009-06-23 14:12:53

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Your tribute is testament to the honest friendship you shared with Erik.

Please check your mail. I sent you a message through Facebook.

Best wishes

Posted by: anonymous Date: 2009-06-27 06:24:59

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I am a bit late for this, but I am saddened to read this news today. I never met Erik but used to read his "roasting" of newbies/trolls to CLL and Lisp in general. His posts were always vastly entertaining and informative to read. Sadly missed.

Posted by: Pete Gilbert Date: 2009-07-10 04:28:21

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You have received an award from me. read my blog to see what it is about.eirin

Posted by: Eirin Date: 2009-07-10 14:39:48

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