He was a man, take him for all in all

Chris Lightoot died a year ago today (or yesterday, by a few minutes).

I’m just sitting here reading the very first emails I ever got from him, back in 2003. Within the first few mails he’s invented and hacked up the idea that is now Richard Pope’s PlanningAlerts.com, coded and developed the idea that persuaded YouGov to donate vast amounts of free polling data to form PoliticalSurvey2005.com (a wider understanding of which would greatly help in the US election if the methodology was only applied there) and in this post he’s foreseen the Google maps mashup craze and offered it on a plate to the Ordnance Survey to pioneer, two years before Google started.

The invention and brilliance comes so thick and fast reading these mails that I now realise that I’d persuaded myself over the year that I’d mis-remembered quite how insanely creative he was, trying to correct for rose-tinted lenses. But he was a proper, bona fide, no-holds-barred cantankerous genius. Most days I think about Chris at least once: I try to make sure we live up to his standards (he wouldn’t have tolerated my use of ‘But’ at the start of the last sentence, for example). Reading these mails tonight drives home the scale of what we all lost, amongst our friends, on the Internet and in society at large. It aches to contemplate.