Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sheldon Brown's Passing

If you follow the cycling community at all, you are likely already aware that Sheldon Brown died this week of a heart attack at 63. I have linked to his site since I began this blog-- he holds the definitive answer to all things cycling related. Granted, his site looks like an HTML time warp, but it is truly the bicycling encyclopedia. Sheldon is the primary reason I started riding fixed gear, or built my own wheels, or figured out compatibility issues for my frankenbike. What was unique about him is that unlike Lennard Zinn or Jobst Brandt, Sheldon never came off as a blow-hard "expert." Rather he was entirely sincere and enthusiastic about his love for all things bike. He also showed his human side, rather than hiding behind a shroud of anonymity on the internet. He would even post at cycling forums under his own name from time to time. I almost felt as though I knew him.

It is strange when there is a real death in a virtual community. I worry about the fate of Sheldon's website. It belongs in the Smithsonian. There was another odd death a few weeks ago--- a teenager who crashed his car on a private runway in Florida, killing himself and four passengers. There was an elaborate postmortem dissecting his postings at a high performance BMW forum. It was fascinating reading his postings after the fact, knowing that his quest for high performance would ultimately lead to his death. There have also been a few deaths noted at from any number of causes. What is odd is how any number of people leave this online communities by simply no longer participating. They are alive, but sort of fade away. Not unlike all of the abandoned blogs out there, begun with good intentions, then left in a state of stasis-- for there is no decay in a well-designed digital world. If you never update your photo, you never age. Eventually the design elements will pass from fashion, and any external links may soon be broken, but the core content remains for eternity, or at the very least, cached on the waybackmachine.


Becky said...

Sorry to hear about the death. It's a small world in Blogland. Speaking of which ... on a much lighter note ... I wanted to ask you about something. But I don't see your e-mail address anywhere. Would you mind sending me an e-mail?

filtersweep said...

I don't see your email address anywhere, either. I can be reached at