Erik was a flamer’s flamer, back in the golden days of Usenet. He was reflexively averse to the mainstream; a proponent of SGML before descriptive markup was fashionable, he peeled away from the community when XML hit the big time, vanishing in a puff of pungent sulfurous smoke. I think he’s left an important lesson behind him.
First, I have a story. In 1993 the European SGML conference was in Rotterdam; I went for a random walk around town and at a canalside café there was Steve Pepper, an Anglo-Norwegian pillar of the markup tribe. He waved me over and I settled down gratefully for a cold beer with Steve, and a handsome guy with what I took for a US accent; that turned out to be Erik. His English was always awesome.
I was a little tense because Erik and I had crossed swords on a few occasions; in those years I still indulged in flaming from time to time for its own sake — not at Erik’s level of course, but still.
No worry; we sat and drank and talked through a couple of hours of a warm Dutch evening; it’s a golden time in my memory. And I suspect that after that Erik moderated the flames a little when I was the target.
Erik was a smart guy and an articulate guy and he cared about a lot of the same things that I do. I’m glad to have known him.
Let me end with a question: When you’re gone, would you like to be remembered as smart and articulate, or as a famous flamer?