A good man is hard to lose


I remember talking to Nick Givotovsky the first time* at an early Internet Identity Workshop, when he pulled me aside to share some ideas, and immediately stripped my gears. The guy was as smart as they come, and articulate to an extreme equaled by few. I had to stop him every few sentences to get him to dumb it down a bit, or at least to let me catch up. Many conversations followed, in many settings. Every encounter with Nick was engaging and mind-sharpening.

We became friends, or as close as people get when they’re mutually engaged in too many projects while enjoying each other’s company, minds and hearts. I called him “Nicky G.”

Best I can recall, Nick came to nearly every IIW, plus workshops on VRM, networking and much more. He always contributed, always brought a warm smile and good sense of humor. He was serious, but didn’t take himself too seriously. A rare combination. Also notable was Nick’s mode of engagement. He was always original, often challenging, but never hostile or obstructive. And his mind was always open, always curious, always ready to step up and participate.

As I recall, the last I saw Nick was at the IIW this past May. He left a bit early to get back to his farm in Cornwall, Connecticut. I remember him talking about this old tractor he had, and how much he enjoyed operating it. He died this last Friday after falling off (what I assume is) that tractor. More of the story is here and here. (I share those links there for the record, but they are not pleasant reading.)

Nick’s last post on one of the many lists in which he participated told the story of his older brother’s death. “I think he did it astonishingly ‘right’, if such a thing can be said of dying,” Nick wrote.

Alas, Nick could hardly have died more wrong, and at just 44 years young. He leaves his wife, two kids, and many shocked and saddened friends.

*On 28 June 2020, this piece by Steve Larsen, about what in retrospect I believe was the most seminal gathering in the history of the Internet as we’ve come to know it since, revealed to me that Nick and I were both at there (in 1996), and I actually knew Nick from way back then.

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21 Responses to A good man is hard to lose

  1. Pingback: Friends of Dave (friendsofdave) 's status on Wednesday, 08-Jul-09 03:57:16 UTC - Identi.ca

  2. Pingback: R.I.P. Nick Givotovsky | Iain @ Internet

  3. Doc,

    Thanks for the kind words about Nicholas. I had the opportunity to work with Nicholas on several projects over the years and and can affirm that he was a brilliant mind who fiercely advocated for user’s rights and interests. I spent many an afternoon with Nicholas at his cabin-office in Cornwall from where he reached out and touched the world. He will be deeply missed.

    Here is a link where Nicholas laid out his vision in his own words: http://groups.google.com/group/dataportability-public/browse_thread/thread/d8f95ef337214525

    RIP Nicholas….


  4. Pingback: Nick Givotovsky, Internet Identity Trailblazer, Dies at Age 44 | koala eye

  5. Pingback: Nick Givotovsky, Internet Identity Trailblazer, Dies at Age 44 | Techdare

  6. Pingback: Nick Givotovsky, Internet Identity Trailblazer, Dies at Age 44 - ComponentGear.com Feed - ComponentGear.com

  7. Pingback: Remembering Nick Givotovsky « steve larsen

  8. Russ Nelson says:

    I have an old tractor and a bush hog. I hope Nick died quickly, because there are many horrible deaths I can imagine one might receive at the hands of a bush hog.

  9. Doc Searls says:

    Russ, I can only hope too. I also just don’t want to know. I just don’t want to have that knowledge in my head.

  10. Suzanne says:

    Doc – thanks for the story. Nick and I were friends and colleagues many years ago after doing a very intense project together. Incredibly brilliant and likable guy. Was just reminded of him last night while watching a Hugh Grant movie. Still really in shock from this…

  11. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Suzanne. We’re all still dealing. Nice was an ace. He’s missed as a friend and colleague. And what he’s not contributing is missed too.

  12. Thanks for a great memory of Nick, Doc. I met him at the first Jerry’s retreat I think, and always enjoyed our great long talks. In the last few years they tended to focus on our kids, as dads often will. I’m so saddened for his family, and especially for those kids who will miss his influence as a real mensch in their lives.

  13. Russ Nelson says:

    I can but wish for Nick what I would hope for myself in the same situation.

    (I saw a Friend–Bonnie Tinker–lying badly injured and dying a minute after a bicycle accident while at the Quaker Gathering a few weeks ago. … There but for the Grace of God go I. But I’m not going to let her death stop me from bicycling, nor Nick’s death from bush-hogging.)

  14. Doc Searls says:

    Whoa… Bonnie Tinker… Did she have any connection to Guilford College, by any chance? She seems very familiar to me. We’re about the same age. I went to Guilford, married a quaker girl… might have crossed paths somewhere back there.

  15. Wes Kussmaul says:

    Oh, what distressing news!

    What a loss!

    Nick had as keen a grasp as anyone of the real issues around protection of privacy while living life in the information world. I recall a wonderful conversation with Nick and Owen Davis about bringing authenticity and privacy to child-oriented social networks. A very insightful guy, and lots of fun to klatsch with about not just privacy but his family, his farm and… his tractor.

    My heartfelt condolences to Laura Ellen, Nina and Sasha, if they happen to read this.

  16. I am an old friend and colleague of his wife Laura. I first met Nick on one of their first dates, backstage of the American Place theatre where i was in a play. One of the amzing things about Nick was he felt equally comfortable chatting with artists about the meaning of art as he did chatting with those in your fied about the important work you are all doing. He was always ready for a conversation about what was up with any person he ran into on the street whom he had passed time with. As you all have said, a wonderful man.

    Thanks for this clarity on this news.

    Gratitude for that picture of Nick.

    Perfect image of his grand welcoming smile . The first glimpse of his ferocious curiosity.

    Joe Hamilton Clancy

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  18. Russ Nelson says:

    Bonnie Tinker was the founder and executive director of Love Makes a Family, an advocate for eliminating discrimination against families who are out of the majority for reasons of sexual or gender identity. She attended Grinnell College, was a firebrand even then, and may very well have visited or spoken at Guilford.

    I wish I’d known Nick. We would probably have enjoyed tractor-geeking.

  19. Adrian Blakey says:

    I am oh so sad about this. I met him last year at the IIW in Santa Clara – he pitched the “digital deal” – what a plainly simple great idea. I am crying.

  20. Doc Searls says:

    Adrian, we are trying to get details of that “digital deal” together. Can you write down or share with us what you remember of it?

  21. Adrian Blakey says:

    “Digital Deal” – a simple idea as I remember it – let me try, (ask Johannes Ernst about it too).

    A consumer often unwittingly agrees to the terms or an agreement presented to them by a service or product provider by either checking the box marked “I agree” on the web page, or by “opening the box.”

    The terms are often presented in a manner that are hard to understand. And, for the vendor to make money their business model (might) have to claim rights that an unsuspecting consumer might not give up if they were fully understood the agreement.

    There is no explicit description of that exchange of value between the provider and the consumer that is written in a form that is easy to understand. If there was, it might be branded “the digital deal.”

    If I remember rightly he was very concerned that as technologists we were the people who should be engaged in this debate, since we were unwittingly creating complex systems with embedded rules that have enormous consequences and impact people’s privacy and fundamental rights. Sure as heck government is not helping the consumer, so why don’t we help ourselves, and at least expose it? At the time Johannes was also proposing a reestablishment of “digital human rights”, which he should talk about (also remember Bush was still around …)

    Just taking this a step further. If there was such a thing, maybe it would open up the opportunity for a consumer to negotiate their own deal. This might not be such an extreme thought if you add up – ownership of your own digital identity+the long tail+Web 2.0+collaborations etc. PLUS an explicit rendition of the terms and then maybe negotiation protocols?) It might facilitate a more equinanimous distribution of wealth – maybe Google would be more like a mutual society than a (not so) evil empire 😉

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