R.I.P. Dion Gillard (1967-2008)

Although I never met Dion in person, I knew him through various ASF mailing lists. May he rest in peace and may his family find some solace; there were many souls who appreciated his kindness and technical help in the open source world.


I was reminded of Dion this weekend when my IM client started popping up “Add to contact list?” notifications from Dion’s hotmail account. It was already late at night, and I had been slogging through a very difficult set of email threads, so it was a very spooky experience to suddenly see him reaching out for me. The most likely explanation is the technical one: I had just upgraded to Trillian Astra, so in setting up my new contact list and notification preferences, it presumably found some long lost invitations Dion had sent me.

This brings up an interesting point, however. While there has been plenty of punditry about the longevity of online identities – sometimes surpassing human lives – how much concrete policy has been made about the issue?

Seriously – how many of those endless Terms Of Service agreements you click through when joining a new website, or making an order online address the subject of what happens to your online data when you die? How would a family member realistically go about presenting a certified death certificate to TheLatestSocialNetwork.Com to get the deceased’s page updated? What does it mean to the social networking connection hierarchy of “friend; family; best friend; no, really best friend who can share secret messages; co-worker; other” of link status when someone you know has passed away?

Heck, what should (in the geeky technical sense, not the legal or moral sense) happen to someone’s online data, presuming that they didn’t specify what they wanted to happen. There’s historical and social value in leaving URLs around, since someone somewhere will be looking for that data someday later on. Maybe some of Dion’s friends want to keep his name in their FaceBook friends list, as a way of remembering him?

OBEY Cheese Friday: A Fish

This one goes out to Y-T, glen, the Stratton crowd, and everyone who knows the 4th Dimension Man.

Last Science Friday’s show on NPR was about cheese – well, at least a little. I listened with appetite, since I like cheese, but what really struck my ear was one of the public radio supporters who was mentioned during the non-commercial break. It was Shepard Fairey. Now I do like his art, and I am from the Boston area and have seen the MFA show, but I always found it a little cheesy that a street artist who started as counterculture has gone so far corporate in self-promotion that he’s turned around to be a non-advertiser (supporter, right?) of NPR. Especially during a show on cheese.

R.I.P. Andre, as well, he seemed so nice as Fezzik.

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WARNING: if you are planning on seeing District 9 (the movie), and suffer from motion sickness, USE CAUTION. The film features extensive use of steadicams. Was fun.

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Watching Moon was much more thought provoking, and a better movie overall. GERTY totally makes up for almost everything that HAL did.

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Flickr reportedly hosts “1 photo per every 2 people on the planet”. Does that represent a greater dis-proportionality of effective voice per person than ever before, or what?

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I realized one of the reasons I love summer: the smells. There are a lot more – a half-dozen very strong ones (from manure, to cooking food, to skunk, to fresh grass and pleasantly moist summer air) on my late-night highway drive tonight. They were surprisingly well defined, and lasted quite a long time even as I was speeding along with all the windows open.

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Oh, and the fish is a reference to that classic joke:

How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

Take Back the Beep – purposeful inefficiency is unforgivable

Open letter to AT&T

Please add a clear and obviously explained option, for both callers and AT&T customers, to permanently disable the carrier-provided messages for voice mail.

A suggestion for your business model: realize that in today’s age of excessively fast information, your customers actually do care about the details – and if they don’t now, some blogger will remind them of it soon.

Comments like this (from the David Pogue NYT article):

And yes, several attendees (cell executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the voicemail instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime, thereby maximizing ARPU.

will alienate your company from larger and larger segments of your customers in the coming years. And it’s not just the cost issue, it’s the efficiency issue. Your fellow industry leaders have admitted that they’re PURPOSEFULLY wasting our time. While I can understand that your purpose is to make a profit, it’s just insulting to be doing it by explicitly being inefficient.

Thanks for your time,
– Shane