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Nov 16, 2011

Ilya We Hardly Knew Ya

Part of the weekend was dedicated to a new product launch, part to the usual things that occupy our time. It was a busy weekend and I almost passed over the news. While the industry still reels over the loss of Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie, we had lost another luminary. We lost him before we even had a chance to know him. Lots of people heard, but the world mostly missed the tragic loss of a young visionary this past weekend. Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of the open source social networking project Diaspora committed suicide at the age of twenty-two. I first heard of Diaspora a little over a year ago. I was instantly turned on by the project, it promised to bring together three things I’m passionate about: open source, personal privacy and a disdain for Facebook -- I enlisted immediately. The project got a good start; lots of good buzz and chatter. Some funding was raised via Kickstarter, apparently even Zuckerberg threw a few dollars their way. Then things got slow -- real slow. In fact almost a year went by when there was no news about Diaspora at all. Perhaps the funding ran out, the passion was lost, people got real jobs … Then after almost a year, news! First it was a reaffirmation of the vision, then a request for community assistance. Then on November 1 came the notice that Diaspora was online. A simple email invite with a three-step call to action: Get Connected, Be Yourself, Have fun! Then within days the headline: “Co-founder of Diaspora, dead at 22”. I never met Ilya, I wish I had, a couple of email exchanges were all we ever had. I don’t know what his personal daemons were, but I do know this, software is hard, startups are hard and standing your ground against giants is harder still. Godspeed Ilya, creating stuff for the universe truly is awesome.


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