July 13th, 2013

In Memory of Seth Vidal

Today, I said goodbye to Seth Vidal. Eunice, his partner, asked me to speak at his funeral, on behalf of those of us in the open source community. I've read a lot of fantastic remembrances in the last several days, and honestly, I'd tried and failed to write my own several times. The words just seemed incomplete, that they couldn't do him justice. Nevertheless, last night, I sat down and wrote something that was the best I could do. I wanted to share it with everyone else who could not be at his funeral today.


Seth was a good man, and that is a rare thing in our world. He believed that our world is what we make of it, and he was determined to make it better. He was passionate in his beliefs, but never a zealot. He was brilliant, the sort of brilliance that lights up a room. When I first met him, 15 years ago at a Linux Users Group meeting, I thought to myself that this was someone I wanted to know, someone I wanted to learn from. His flame burned so brightly that you were just drawn to him, you wanted to work with him, and you couldn't turn away. I was lucky enough to have that chance, as a co-contributor to the Fedora community, and eventually, as his manager at Red Hat. I remember giving him problems to solve, difficult problems. You could see him thinking it through, dissecting them, asking questions, and working out solutions, and it was just inspiring. I've read so many stories in the last few days about how he planted seeds in other people, how he inspired others, how he made them better people. He truly cared about everyone (and everything) around him, and would selflessly give of himself, his time, his talents, and his heart. His code is used by millions of people, all over the world, but his generous spirit, his passion, and his caring, that lives on in the hearts and minds of so many. Those seeds that he planted in us all, he contributed without a second thought, representing the purest spirit of open source. To put it simply: his legacy is not only that he made the world a better place, although, he did, but truly that he inspired us all to do the same, and to do it together.

I think it is telling that my favorite memories of Seth are not tied to work or code, but rather, of laughing with him, playing games with him, suggesting books to each other, even listening to him sing Beastie Boys songs in the worst New York accent ever. I remember him comforting me when I was sad, calming me when I was angry, and always, always, being honest with me.

Seth was humble, I think he'd be a bit bothered that I said all that about him.

Carl Sagan once said, "For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love." Seth made our corner of the universe bearable with his love, and we all miss him terribly.